America’s desultory participation in WWII began on December 2, 1941 when Imperial Japanese forces attacked the Dutch East Indies in order to seize vitally needed oil, tin and rubber resources. The Dutch could put up only a token resistance with five cruisers against Japanese battleships and aircraft carriers.
Throughout the operation, the Japanese were scrupulous to avoid harming any British or American interest. Nevertheless, the British felt forced to defend the interest of the Dutch government in exile and declared war on Japan on December 28th 1941. There quickly followed the loss of the battleships Repulse and Prince of Wales and the fall of Singapore.
FDR did not wish war with Japan because he was focused on the threat of Fascism in Europe. American public opinion remained stubbornly isolationist until February 14th 1942 when the American cruiser Indianapolis was torpedoed by an unknown submarine with substantial loss of life. Using the incident, FDR narrowly won a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan on March 7th 1942. Many have since argued that FDR hoped that Hitler might follow through on his Tripartite treaty obligation and declare war on the U.S but Hitler never rose to the bait.
The declaration of war was followed by a series of stinging and humiliating defeats for America. Japan seized Guam on March 9th and destroyed two battleships and cruisers that had been sent to defend the island. Following a long established plan, the entire U.S. Pacific fleet of 13 battleships and four aircraft carriers had previously moved from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines. They sailed to the relief Guam on March 21st and encountered the combined Japanese fleet on March 24th.
Unfortunately, the U.S. forces were commanded by the inept Kimmel who was a big gun battleship man to the core. By contrast, the Japanese commander, Isoroku Yamamoto was a world class innovator in the use of naval air power. Yamamoto deployed seven of Japans 9 carriers in the battle against Kimmel five carriers. The warnings of the Col. Claire Chennault of the Flying Tigers in China about the quality of Japanese aircraft and the skill of their pilots were ignored. The Enterprise, Lexington,Hornet and Wasp were sunk and the Yorktown badly damaged against the loss of just one carrier for the Japanese. The Japanese competence with battleships likewise surprised the Americans during the subsequent night actions.
Kimmel limped back to the Philippines just in time to suffer a surprising and devastating air attack by long range Japanese bombers from Taiwan. Two carrier based attacks soon followed. Shorn of air cover, the American battleships fled the Philippines leaving the islands open to invasion on April 14th. The battleships were harassed by Japanese carriers all the way to Australia and by submarines all the way back to Pearl Harbor.
Yamamoto placed a capstone on his brilliant actions by launching a long range carrier strike on Pearl Harbor on June 5th 1942. He caught two of the last three remaining American Carriers, the Ranger and the Saratoga in port and destroyed them. (They had survived the battle of Guam by being in transits from the Atlantic at the time.) Then, almost as an afterthought, he seized Midway Island.
In a span of three short months, the Pacific had become a Japanese lake. Although five American aircraft carriers were being built at the time, only the wrecked Yorktown was still afloat and it could not possibly stand against Japan’s seven fleet carriers and their superb pilots and aircraft.
In August, faced with the very real possibility of an invasion of Australia, the British sued for peace. America soon followed. America had entered the war sharply divided and a stunning series of defeats in open battle had proved to many that isolationism was the way to go. Few Americans saw anything in the Pacific worth fighting for and Japan had proved itself a worthy and honorable foe. The peace was signed in December 1942 and America’s 9 month participation in WWII came to an end. FDR lost resoundingly to the isolationist Dewey in 1944.
The major effects of the Pacific war were felt in Europe. The Pacific war caused a wholesale shifting of American military and manufacturing priorities to the Pacific. American lend-lease dried up and America’s covert war against the U-boats ended. Strangled by U-boats, Britain was forced to sue for peace with Germany in February 1943.
For a time, it appeared that Fascism would overrun the whole of old world but by 1944 the vastnesses of Russian and the shear numbers of Soviet military began to tell against even the wonder weapons of the Third Riech. As inexorable as a glacier, Stalin’s armies fought their way to Berlin in 1946.
And they didn’t stop. On the pretext of “liberating” Nazi occupied Europe, the massive Soviet Armies swept into Western Europe, Spain and Italy. Britain, acting on the authority of the governments in exile, attempted to stop them but found itself brushed aside. By 1947, the Soviet Union stretched from Normandy to Vladivostok. From then on Communism seemed unstoppable. In the next decade, even as America stirred itself to resist, Communism swallowed up China, India, Indochina and much of Africa.
In 1952, the Soviet Union detonated the first Atomic bomb and used that threat to secure all its gains. (It would later be revealed that the U.S. had begun an Atomic bomb project in 1942 but Dewey canceled it in 1944. Some believe that Communist agents within the program supplied the Soviets with the preliminary designs for the bomb.) Had they chosen to use it before America built its own bomb, they could have conquered the world.
Today, only America, Canada, Australia, a toothless England, the South African Union, most of Latin America and, ironically, the island portions of the Empire of Japan remain outside the Communist’s grasp.
In his memoirs, Yamamoto revealed that many in the Japanese military had wanted to attack America outright at the end of 1941. Yamamoto and others had convinced them to follow a more subtle course that drew America to Japans strengths. However, Yamamoto reveled that had the Japanese government demanded outright war with America, he had planned to launch a devastating surprise attack on Pearl Harbor with the goal of wrecking the Pacific fleet at the outset of the conflict.
In retrospect, we can’t help but wonder about the long term political ramifications of such an act. Although, surprise attacks prior to a declaration of war were accepted in Japanese culture, such an attack would have not doubt enraged American popular opinion. Instead of having to be goaded into attacking the Japanese first, Americans would have viewed themselves as moral justified in responding to a despicable act. Instead of winning grudging admiration for their diplomacy and skill in open battle, the Japanese would be viewed as a treacherous and dangerous people with whom no reliable peace could be made. Had Yamamoto carried out his initial surprise Pearl Harbor attack, America would have fought the war to victory regardless of how many defeats we suffered along the way.
As long as we’re dreaming, we might also note that in his memoirs Albert Speer said that Hitler did toy with the idea of declaring war on the U.S. in March of 1942 in support of his Japanese allies. Imagine if he had. The U.S. would have entered WWII perfectly united and would have viewed itself as under unprovoked attack from two fascist powers. All the resources of America would have been poured unhesitatingly into the war in both theaters.
One can only imagine the outcome but surely we would have salvaged at least Western Europe from the Soviet grasp. Fueled by fears of a German bomb, the Atomic Bomb project would have proceeded and it is likely that we would have had a bomb by late 1945 or 1946 with which to contain the Soviets even if they had an overwhelming conventional advantage. Perhaps deprived of the vast resources of the Middle East, Asia and Africa the Soviet Union might have eventually faltered and fallen. Maybe 80% of humanity would not today live under Communist tyranny.
It is strange to wish a devastating attack upon ones own country but one can’t but wonder if Yamamoto’s surprise attack might not have actually made the world a better place in the long run.
31 thoughts on “Happy Isoroku Yamamoto Appreciation Day”
You’ve got a couple of 1941s in place of 1942s.
I have an alternate history book titled “Rising Sun Triumphant” which has a number of alternate scenarios, including the invasion of the home islands after the US decided not to drop the atomic bomb. I cannot find it on Amazon and picked it up in Hawaii years ago, possibly at the Arizona memorial bookstore. The chapters are essays by well prepared, often military, authors. I cannot find it now so someone has probably borrowed it. The two most realistic, aside from your scenario, which I have believed for many years to be accurate, are the loss of Guadalcanal and the invasion of the home islands.
I also saw a reference somewhere recently to the British generals’ book “World War Three,” which was another alternate scenario exercise. I noted that they inaccurately described the end as a victory in spite of everything. That was not the ending of the original book. That one ended with the surrender of Britain, whereupon the Soviets hung the supine Labour politicians who had hopefully anticipated the outcome. I have always suspected that the ending was written with considerable relish. A later, modified, version changed the ending with additions to include Carter’s belated awakening and the beginning of the rebuilding of the US military. I believe the original book came out in 1977.
Even after Pearl Harbor: If Hitler had not declared war on the U.S. first, I wonder if it would have been politically possible for FDR to declare war on Germany? I doubt it, since Pearl Harbor focused so much popular rage on Japan.
Alternate Scenarios – over the years I have read a few things about what if Operation Downfall had to be used. IIRC the casualty estimates are somewhere in the ten to twenty million range. It would have probably made Berlin or Okinawa look like tiddly winks. It hurts my head to think about it.
The alternate scenario for Downfall concerned the great typhoon that arrived during the planned operation. It was devastating and sank several hundred US ships. There were actually two typhoons and this discussion makes the point that the second one, which no one remembers, would have struck at the height of the invasion,
This is quite plausible, especially the 1941-43 segments. I had always wondered what would have happened had Plan Rainbow been implemented. Although I suspect that with Britain out of the war (which would have required Churchill’s government to fall) Stalin and Hitler would have negotiated a compromise peace in 1943. Russia would have had a hard time sustaining the fight without Lend-Lease and the Murmansk convoys.
I believe the Roosevelt admiinstration knew on December 8, via Magic (American decrypts of Japanese radio messages) or Ultra (British decrypts of German messages), that Hitler had assured Japanese ambassador Oshima that he would honor the Triple Alliance and declare war on the U.S. I.e., we didn’t declare war on Germany when we declared war on Japan because we knew that Germany would declare war on us. I don’t recall where I read this.
There is a fascinating book titled, as I recall, Hitler’s Japanese Confidant, which goes into some detail on how valuable our Magic decrypts of Oshima’s reports to Tokyo were to our understanding of what the Germans were up to.
I do remember reading somewhere that the Americans and British had agreed, if the Germans ever learned of our decrypts, to save Ultra by leaking details of the Magic decrypts of Baron Oshima’s messages. I.e., we’d lead the Germans to believe that their superior Teutonic Enigma machines were still invulnerable, and that the whole problem was inferior Japanese codes.
It is indeed almost traitorous to suggest that Pearl Harbor was for the best. Let’s say the US had been prepared, stopping the attack before the first wave was launched. Japan quickly sues for peace. We gain a few islands — say the Mariana’s, to serve as pickets. We also end the embargo against oil going to Japan. The US public is upset somewhat by the planned attack, but sees no reason to involve ourselves in Europe.
Seeing that his best hope to drag the US into war is gone, Churchill opens secret negotiations with Hitler — after all, both were big anti-Bolsheviks. This lightens the load on the Western front, and German forces have enhanced effectiveness against the Russians. They are joined by vast reserves of men from the Ukraine and the Baltics, men who have recently seen their own people suffer genocide under Soviet rule. With the pressure off somewhat, Hitler and his henchmen can be more ‘magnanimous’ in Eastern Europe — Churchill successfully negotiates a deal to get the Ostjuden out of peril — 3/4 go to Palestine, securing Isreal’s longterm demographic future.
Eventually the rump Soviet state sues for peace. Hitler insists on that communists be eliminated from its government, but otherwise Russia is left largely to its own devices. The Ukraine decollectivizes farms, and becomes the bread basket of Europe again. While life is grim in Hitler’s Europa, things gradually liberalize as the old man mellows. He dies shortly after Von Braun’s team succeeds in sending the first man to the moon.
A number of alternate histories in the science fiction genre deal with WWII. One excellent book is James P. Hogan, The Proteus Operation. its premise is that the 1940 Selective Service Act, which passed by one vote, instead fails. the US stays out of the war, and Germany/Japan win. by 1974, Japan and Nazi Germany control the whole world, except for the US, Canada, and a bit of South America. We, the Japanese, and the Nazis are heavily armed with nukes, and everyone is awaiting armageddon….
The only problem with your scenario is that it is a real open question whether the germans could have ever defeated the Soviets without using weapons of mass destruction.
The war in the East rapidly turned into a war of attrition across a vast front. The Soviets were going to win that kind of war eventually. WWII was a war of mass production and the Soviets had the germans beat on that. Even worse for the germans, the Soviets had technological parity and even superiority in some many cases. The T-34 was an all round better tank than the Tiger. The il-2 sturmovik was a better ground attack plane than anything the germans had.
The Germans didn’t even have the logistics necessary to carry the war to the Soviet Industrial heartland. The further east they went, the weaker they got and the stronger the Soviets became.
It is highly likely that the Soviets would have eventually won a straight up Hitler-Stalin slug match. If they had, they could have well overrun all of Nazi occupied/allied Europe as well.
Many of these scenarios indirectly stress how Winston Churchill was paramount in building the new world order that emerged from the war.
Even if a prepared Pearl Harbor had repelled Yamamoto’s raid with minimal damage, the Japanese invasion of he Philippines, which was anticipated, would have still gone forward. An undamaged Pacific Fleet would have then executed Plan Rainbow, with problematic results. We could well have lost most or all of our carriers off the Philippines, and many of the battleships as well.
If we had been willing to lift the oil embargo, the Japanese wouldn’t have attacked in the first place.
And if the Nazis had been willing to treat the Ukrainians halfway decently, they might have won even in our world with everything else the same. But then, they wouldn’t have been Nazis. And if they weren’t nazis, they wouldn’t have started the war.
Actually there was a Nazi faction, mostly of ethnic Germans from the Baltic states, who did advocate treating the Eastern Europeans as genuine allies. Their vision was more of an Eastern European commonwealth under German hegemony, which was an entirely realistic goal. But they were a minority within the Nazi world, and they weren’t really trusted. They lost, and then the Germans did. One of the more interesting scenarios is one in which this faction won out and implemented their policies, and unleashed Vlasov and his army. A quite different world, possibly.
The biggest problem I have with your scenario is that the Soviet Union is unlikely to have survived the Nazis without help from the West. The U.S. sent considerable war materials and supplies to the Soviet Union through Murmansk in order to help keep the Soviets in the war. The Nazis very nearly did knockoff the Soviet Union in 1941, but failed because of Hitler’s insistence that Barbarossa not commence until June 22 of that year (he wanted to “punish” the Serbians for something I cannot remember).
I think had the U.S. not entered the war, that the Nazis would most certainly have won and the Soviet Union would have disappeared into history. The Japanese would have continued to be rapacious in China, and the world would have entered another semi-feudal period with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan as dominant players in Eurasia. Since ethnicity was the basis of both powers, the rest of the world would also have organized itself more along ethnic lines (Hitler foresaw this happening). I think civil rights (for blacks) would not have come to the U.S. either. Germanic-oriented white nationalists would have been far more influential in our own government and society and the least significant effect would have been that segregation would not have been dismantled. Indeed, there would likely have been more persecution of blacks in the U.S.
I think scientific and technological innovation would have been slower as well. What is not well-known today about Nazi ideology was that the early Nazi philosophers were quite luddite in their attitudes towards technological innovation. They believed that unrestrained technological innovation was disruptive to social order and it is well-known that Nazi ideology, if anything, was about static social structure to the core. Similar attitudes were common in Imperial Japan as well.
A victory on the other side would have resulted in a much nastier world, if more stable and stagnant world.
One other nitpicking point. Dewey would not have been elected in ’44. He wouldn’t have had a chance. The democratic party was too popular. Instead, Joseph Kennedy would have challenged FDR for the Democratic party nomination and probably would have gotten it. Old Joe Kennedy himself would have been our next president and, as we all know well, he was very pro-Germany in the 1930’s. Indeed, it was his pro-Nazi position that made him unacceptable as a presidential candidate once we entered what was to become WWII.
Was this the introduction to “The Iron Dream” by Norman Spinrad?
One other nitpicking point. Dewey would not have been elected in ‘44. He wouldn’t have had a chance. The democratic party was too popular.
The Democrats wouldn’t have been popular had they dragged America into an unpopular war and then suffered a catastrophic defeat.
I think had the U.S. not entered the war, that the Nazis would most certainly have won and the Soviet Union would have disappeared into history.
Hard to say, the German did not have the ability to strike into the Soviet industrial base. The sweeping victories of Operation Barbarossa were mostly due to Stalin’s paranoia and stupidity. Once that stopped, so did the great German victories. Lend lease certainly helped the Soviets a great deal but a don’t think it was absolutely critical.
Niether Germany nor Japan had any chance of winning any war of attrition. Once the Germans failed to knock out the Russians in the first year of the war, I think their fate was sealed. They were doubly doomed by their own brutality that made a negotiated settlement or acceptance of German rule, impossible for all non-Germans in the East.
We should always remember that the great tragedy of WWII is that is should never have happened in the first place and could have been easily prevented. The sweeping victories of both the Germans and Japanese in the opening rounds of the war were almost entirely the result of unpreparedness, arrogance and stupidity on the part of the allies. Once the allies shaped up even marginally, the fascist got stopped cold.
I would say the greater tragedy was the First World War, which was truly inexplicable. I think the Kaiser, with his juvenile jealousy of his English relatives was the prime mover. In 1914, as in 1972, everyone in the elites was convinced that the key to peace was trade. Once WWI occurred and ended as it did, WWII was almost inevitable. In history, I think it will be seen as one 30 years war.
“… the First World War, which was truly inexplicable…”
Not really inexplicable. The Germans wanted a war, for reasons that seemed compelling to them at the time. Their target was England and their goal was dominance of the world.
That may sound nutty, but we Americans have gotten so used to living in the country that dominates the world that we have forgotten what it was like to live in some one else’s shadow, believe them to unworthy, and resent it.
Everybody was expecting it for years before it finally broke out. One British Admiral showed up for work every day saying, “one day closer to the German war.”
I cannot ever picture a scenario with the Germans and the Japanese winning the Second World War. Not because they represented evil but for other more logical reasons.
Both Germany and Japan were defeated by vast and resourceful states.
I think that at the end of the First World War, it passed unnoticed to nations immersed in the maelstrom of the frantic events of those times, that the world had now been ushered into a new era of vast and resourceful super states like the United States and the Soviet Union with the unlikelihood of nations like Germany or England ever defeating or eclipsing these new world titans.
If the Allies’ victory was somehow an indirect outcome of Pearl Harbor, The Marshall plan was a direct outcome of that victory, and the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and NATO were both a direct outcome of the Marshall Plan and a much better world emerged from there on.
I think the Kaiser made the war inevitable. His father died of botched cancer of the larynx. Had he survived, I doubt the war would ever have come. It was Wilhelm who began to build the high seas fleet. I tend to be a believer in the Dreadnaught theory. Bismarck was set against any conflict with England. Wilhelm’s father, Freiderich, was pro-English having married Victoria’s daughter. Unfortunately, his wife favored an incompetent English physician over far more up to date German surgeons when her husband’s cancer appeared. Medical factors tend to be ignored in history. Napoleon’s army, for example, was decimated by typhus, not the Russian winter.
“I think the Kaiser made the war inevitable.”
Germany had inadequate political institutions, sitting atop a world-class military-industrial-scientific complex. Idiotic diplomatic and strategic decisions were possible, and there were no checks or brakes in the system. It is the luck of the genetic draw whether a monarch will be a genius or an imbecile, or more likely, mediocre. Having a system that gives actual power to a hereditary monarch and his entourage, and equipping with the full panoply of a world power, makes it only a matter of time before something very bad happens.
Having a system that gives actual power to a hereditary monarch and his entourage, and equipping with the full panoply of a world power, makes it only a matter of time before something very bad happens.
Austria-Hungry and the Russian Empire had the same problem as did the Japanese. WWI and the Pacific part of WWII were in fact the last dying gasp the military aristocrats.
Shannon, agreed. A democratic system is much better at processing possible strategies and culling out bad ones and gravitating toward optimal ones, making course corrections if a strategy is failing, and having a legitimate successor in the wings (without recourse to street violence and revolution) if the government leads the country into a disaster.
Your scenario assumes that the war ends by mid ’42, which would have given the democrats two years to put it behind them for the election of ’44. Joe Kennedy could have run on a populist platform of representing the “true” democrats (anti-war, pro-labor) against the “war-monger” faction lead by FDR (influenced by big business). Or he could have changed parties if it suited him (Kennedy would not have had any problem with doing this). I maintain that Joseph Kennedy would have been our next president had the war had ended differently (your scenario) or we had never entered it. Having won in ’44, Joseph Kennedy would have been re-elected in ’48.
It is true that the Soviets may have prevailed in a war of attrition, but they received a considerable amount of war material from us during the war. Stalin forbade discussion of the issue, but some of his military people admitted privately (and anonymously) that they could not have survived the German offense without the war materials supplied by us.
I think the Nazi regime would have been more stable than the Soviet Union (Germany did have a free-wheeling commercial economy up until mid ’43) and would probably still exist today had they won. I think imperial Japan would have eventually run into financial problems by now had they won. It was financial problems during the Taisho period (20’s to early 30’s) that lead to the partial economic collapse and subsequent military coup in ’31. I think Imperial Japan would have repeated the experience had they won the war. Indeed, the real Japan today has a financial problem brewing with their government debt being 200% of their GDP.
Both the Nazis and the Soviets repeated the French error of driving the Jews from the country. In the French case, it was the Huguenots who were driven out but the effect was the same. The country lost the inventor class. This has been referred to as a self-administered prefrontal lobotomy. The Nazis might have had trouble maintaining their control. The Soviets collapsed not long after the Jews were allowed to emigrate.
Japan was working on an atomic bomb at the end of the war so they had a home-grown inventor class that had produced the Zero and a number of other high quality devices. Once Deming helped them with quality control in volume, they took off. One reason they lost the war was the training system for carrier pilots. It was too much like samurai training and the number of pilots was always too small. They could not replace the losses. The US trained so many pilots that they were cutting back in 1944 on training. In a medical school faculty meeting, I once referred to the US Army as the greatest educational institution in the world, pointing out that it taught 240,000 young men to fly during the war. I’m sure you can imagine the reaction.
The British Commonwealth trained about 200,000 pilots through 1944, over half in Canada and the rest divided between Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Rhodesia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Commonwealth_Air_Training_Plan). I wonder how many the Soviets trained.
You can see the scope of the Axis’s problem. The Allies had huge resources of people, material wealth, productive capacity, and just lots of elbow room. Much of this was added in the 50 to 70 years before WWI as we finally acquired the technology (railroads, barbed wire, repeating rifles) to settle the wide plains of the world and convert them from untamed wilderness inhabited by horse nomads to hugely productive farm and ranch areas. This altered the equation enormously against the small, hemmed-in central European powers who had nothing like it. This was the big aim of the Kaiser and Hitler both — to acquire as much of the steppe land of Eastern Europe and Russia as possible, and build their own empire there.
We’re so used to it we don’t think abut it. But the conquest of the plains was a huge revolution by historical standards.
I am particularly fond of Joel Mokyr’s books on the history of technology to learn those points you raise. He has a lot about the Middle Ages and the evolution of agriculture. Unfortunately, my daughter’s class in US History completely misrepresented much of the post 1877 period. She will have to relearn it some day.
People are pretty ignorant in general about the history of technology, but they’r even more ignorant of the history of agriculture. I have to laugh when I read people describing Old Order Amish farms as “medieval”. I grew up in an area with Amish and Mennonite farms. If you want a good feel for what the Agricultural Revolution in the 18th century had brought, an Amish farm is as good of an approximation as you can find, although it’s actually a bit too modern for that.
I have to agree with kurt9. Without the United States help, it is questionable if the Soviets could have won against Germany. However, as it is your alternate history, and the issue is a close call, you can have it your way. My alternate history would start with WWI and not have the United States join the side of the state sponsored terrorists (Serbia and the Black Hand), negating the entire USSR issue.
I think a very good alternate history could be written about the results of a Franco-German war of 1914. I shocked a friend, who is a retired Royal Army Medical Corps colonel, by commenting that maybe we should have stayed out of WWI. I quickly assured him I meant both of us. That is why I think the Kaiser was so culpable because he was the one who decided to build the High Seas Fleet, thereby alienating England. Anyway, the disasters of Passchendale and the Somme wrecked England. If France had faced Germany alone, I wonder what the result would have been ? The Germans were not interested in the subjugation of France; they were afraid of Russia. Alsace and Lorraine had been lost in 1870.
Well, we’ll never know but it couldn’t have turned out much worse except for Hitler winning.
Shannon, it is very difficult to predict what would have happened based on what did happen. Many of the events of the war were completely unforseen by the participants. Adolf Hitler was extremely surpised that the English and French would enter into a war with Germany just because he had annexed another weak neighbor. This meant Germany was going to have to return to the brutal butchering battlefields of the Great War, a prospect that no one on either side was keen about, and they seemed to avoid it for all of eight months.
When Germany did bring the war to Western Europe, no one anticipated them overwhelming one of the major militaries of the world in just six weeks. Unthinkable. When England stood alone, few thought they could hold out, or that they had the determination to stay in a war that they were clearly losing and suffering from. It was Churchill’s leadership and stubborn determination that kept them in the war. Churchill was fighting to save the world from being dominated by tyranical fascists, not just England, and it was a fight he was willing to pursue to the bitter end. No deal would be made to sue for peace, though overtures would be entertained if the delays they entailed were thought to be useful, as at Dunkirk. Churchill believed they would be successful if the US would join the war. The German invasion of Russia was very fortunate from the British viewpoint, and keeping Russia in the war was a major concern. Even in 1943, promises from Stalin were sought to ensure that the Soviets would see the war through to its conclusion, despite the tremendous costs in Russian lives lost. The German’s never realized that their Enigma device had been cracked, and they had the unfortunate notion that it was uncrackable. Unthinkable. And as they had a very heavy regard for command and control, most everything was reported ahead of time using the Enigma device. Thus, U-boats in the North Atlantic routinely notified Admiral Doneitz of their location to allow him to organize the wolf packs, air and freighter transports carrying supplies to North Africa reported their departure from Italy, and so forth. How much more difficult would the war have been if we didn’t know the enemies mind, or worse still, if they determined their code had been broken and set the Allies up for some disaster with bogus communiques? Of all the unknowns, certainly Churchill never thought that a war which the United Kingdom entered to save Poland from tyranny would end with himself making the deal with Stalin that left it in Russia’s control.
There are so many what if’s. What if Hitler had accepted Stalin’s offer to yield control of the Ukraine to Germany in exchange for an armistice, and the war on the Eastern front came to a close in late 1941 or 1942? What if England had simply not gone to war over Poland, and there was no Western front in the war? What if Lord Halifax had become Prime Minister following Chamberlain rather than Churchill, would England have stayed in the war all alone, or would the more practical Lord Halifax had agreed to the peace that Germany was negotiating for in 1940? What if the war with the Soviets had been delayed until 1944 or 1945 as Hitler and his military planners were anticipating?
What was, was. I think we are coming at it pretty high if we think we can forsee how events would have turned out if this had happened different or that had happened different.
What if indeed.
I really have enjoyed your writing, especially on the Hadley CRU code issues. Your articles and the discussions that followed each were very helpful and fun reads. Good stuff.
One more what if…
Isoroku Yamamato was strongly opposed to the Tripartite treaty Japan entered into with Italy and Germany. For this reason military leaders in the Imperial Japanese Army dispatched military police to “guard” Yamamoto. The IJA felt assassination was an appropriate method to advance their power and eliminate resistance, and Navy Minister Mitsumasa Yonai reassigned Yamamto from his land based duties at the Navy Ministry to Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet. Once at sea Admiral Yamamato was safe from his enemies at home.
What if the Imperial Japanese Army had succeeded in silencing Isoroku Yamamato by assassinating him in 1940? How different would history have been?
“You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.”
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto
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