Author Topic: Opportunity Lost  (Read 877 times)

Offline GTX_Admin

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Opportunity Lost
« on: December 14, 2019, 05:28:53 AM »
Opportunity Lost

On 12 March 1938, Hitler announced the unification of Austria with Nazi Germany in the Anschluss. Immediately thereafter he turned his attention to the ethnic German population of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia.  In 1938, in a desperate effort to keep the peace, Britain and France agreed to German demands with the September 1938 Munich Agreement. US President Roosevelt supported Britain and France in this action. In March 1939 however, Hitler flouted the Munich Agreement by occupying the remaining portions of Czechoslovakia. In response, the British, supported by the USA announced their commitment to defending Poland, which many assumed Hitler would attack next.  They were not to be proven wrong.

1939-1941 European War

In September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, and France and Britain declared war in response. Though few Americans wanted to intervene in the war, an October 1939 Gallup poll showed that over 80 percent of the country favored Britain and France over Germany. Using this as a trigger and relying on an interventionist political coalition of Southern Democrats and business-oriented Republicans, Roosevelt called Congress into a special session to revise the Neutrality Act. Overcoming the opposition of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh and other isolationists, Roosevelt won passage of the revised Neutrality Act of 1939.  This not only allowed belligerents to purchase aircraft and other combat material from the United States, it would more importantly allow the use of US forces to support their use.  Roosevelt used this as the legal basis to deploy an American Expeditionary force to Europe.
 
That said, this force would not be a significant.  In 1939, estimates of the Army's strength range between 174,000 and 200,000 soldiers, smaller than that of Portugal's, which ranked it around 19th in the world in terms of size.  Similarly, its tank force, which had been originally created in the first World War had been allowed to stagnate throughout the interwar period.  Indeed, from the end of World War I to 1935, a total of 15 tanks were produced. At this stage, there was also no independent air force with the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) instead falling under control of the Army.  The US Navy was somewhat better prepared though still only a fraction of what other nations had having been constrained in part to international limitations on naval operations in the 1920s. Battleship production had restarted in 1937, commencing with the USS North Carolina, though this was still to enter service,  As such, the American Expeditionary Force as it was known, was only a small addition to the forces of Britain and France.  All up, the force would consist of a combined force of a single Infantry Division (the 2nd) and a single Cavalry Division (the 1st).  Supporting this would be the entire 2nd Wing of the USAAC which included some 15 Squadrons equipped mainly with a combination of Douglas B-18 bombers, Northrop A-17 attack aircraft and Seversky P-35 and Curtiss P-36 fighters.  It was hoped that this force would make a meaningful contribution.

During the so-called "Phony War," Roosevelt tried desperately to negotiate a peace, but Hitler was uninterested in such a possibility. Japan, meanwhile, grew increasingly assertive in the Pacific, which increasingly competed for US focus, a point incessantly highlighted by Roosevelt's detractors in the US.  The Phony War would come to an end in April 1940 when Germany invaded Denmark and Norway and more so in May 1940 when Germany invaded the Low Countries and France.
 
During the Battle of France the US units were spread evenly between supporting the British and French forces and thus suffered the same fate as they did.  By successfully implementing new blitzkrieg tactics, the Wehrmacht rapidly advanced to the Channel and cut off the Allied forces in Belgium, trapping the bulk of the Allied armies in a cauldron on the Franco-Belgian border near Lille. The United Kingdom was able to evacuate a significant number of Allied troops from the continent by early June, although abandoning almost all their equipment.  In the air, despite the valiant attempts by their crews it was obvious the the US aircraft were simply no match for the Luftwaffe.  Although US companies had new aircraft coming such as the P-40, P-38 and others they would be too late to see action in the Battle of France. 

USAAC Seversky P-35 somewhere over France, 1940

German troops using an abandoned American M3 Stuart tank for cover somewhere in France 1940 - American tanks were only few in number and were no match for the Panzer IIIs used by the Germans.

USAAC B-18s over France - these bombers were no match for Luftwaffe fighters.

Northrop A-17 of the 37th Attack Squadron USAAC somewhere over France.


The disaster in France significantly damaged Roosevelt's reputation back home.  The complete rout of Allied forces and the news that American forces had made no real contribution to the battle saw many criticising Roosevelt for a wasteful throwing away of American lives in a war that had nothing to do with the USA at a time when there were still domestic problems at home.

Never-the-less, US forces, primarily in the form of aircraft, though also naval ships such as destroyers, continued to be sent to reinforce Britain.  During the Battle of Britain (Jul - Oct 1940), USAAC fighters found themselves fighting alongside their RAF brethren and taking a toll on the Luftwaffe.  The first units to be equipped with new P-39, P-40 and even a couple of P-38s (the latter on combat trial having been rushed to the UK) all performed well thus re-earning some pride following the fall of France.

USAAC P-40 seen over the English Channel September 1940 - alongside the Hawker Hurricane the P-40 was seen as a solid performer though was able to be well matched by Luftwaffe BF-109Es

USAAC early YP-38 seen over southern England late 1940 - a small number of this fighter were tested in combat against the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain and performed superbly.

Election of 1940

The fall of France and the associated losses of American forces couldn't have come at a worse time for Roosevelt.  In the months prior to the July 1940, there had been much speculation as to whether Roosevelt would run for an unprecedented third term. As Germany swept through Western Europe and menaced Britain in mid-1940, Roosevelt argued that only he had the necessary experience and skills to see the nation safely through the Nazi threat. However the Democrat party's political bosses feared that this would result in a severe backlash against the party as voters associated them with the losses in France.

As such, at the July 1940 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Roosevelt was challenged by his former campaign manager James Farley and his Vice President, John Nance Garner.  It wouldn't really make any difference though as a few months later in November they were soundly defeated by a Republican Ticket of Thomas E. Dewey and Charles Lindberg who, acutely aware of strong isolationist and non-interventionism sentiment, promised there would be no involvement in foreign wars if they were elected.


President Thomas E. Dewey

The aftermath

Following the inauguration of President Dewey in late January 1941, it was quickly declared that US forces in the UK would be coming home.  The new US administration reached out to Germany and requested a ceasefire.  Despite the protests of the British Prime-minister Churchill, the news that the new US Administration intended to see the original Neutrality Acts reinforced and thus aid to Britain ceased, forced his hand.  In return, Hitler promised that Germany would never attempt to invade Britain. 

Months later in mid May, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa.  With no need to worry about its Western or Southern flanks the Wehrmacht was able to commit almost its full forces to the invasion.  Indeed, they were even joined by contingents from Britain and France who now felt that the chance to rid the world of Communism was a fight worth joining.  The subsequent war would be fought on a scale that was unprecedented.  Huge battles of encirclement at Kiev, Smolensk and eventually Moscow would see hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops captured.  By early September, Stalin had been defeated and the Soviet Union broken up.  The majority of European Russia was under German control with moves already underway to expand further East.

The German War against Russia was a swift one and avoided the dreaded winter that had crippled Napoleon's 1812 invasion.

Meanwhile in the East Japan had been watching closely.  With the Soviet Union no more and the territory it once held being in disarray, the expansionist Japanese Government saw that the time was now right to strike to satisfy the increasing demand for resources.  An alternate plan of striking south was quietly shelved especially given the fact that it would have necessitated a striking at the US in order to prevent any interference in the Pacific.  This was also underlined by the fact that because of the details of the US-German treaty signed earlier in the year, Germany made it clear that it would not support any war against the USA.

Thus in October 1941, Japan launched the first attacks from its territories in Manchukuo.  These initially made quick progress but by mid November the Japanese forces found themselves having to cease operations due to the Winter.

Imperial Japanese Army troops in East Russia December 1941

And so ended 1941.  If only things had gone differently...
« Last Edit: December 15, 2019, 04:00:37 AM by GTX_Admin »
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Offline elmayerle

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2019, 05:38:08 AM »
And so Japan ends 1941 with the first moves into the Northern Resources Area instead of the Southern resources Area.  'Twould be interesting to see how these changes work out.

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2019, 01:19:14 AM »
And so Japan ends 1941 with the first moves into the Northern Resources Area instead of the Southern resources Area.  'Twould be interesting to see how these changes work out.

Indeed.
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Offline apophenia

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2019, 10:08:58 AM »
Ouch! So the Soviets end up being the meat in the sandwich  :o
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2020, 04:29:22 AM »
Ouch! So the Soviets end up being the meat in the sandwich  :o

That's one way of thinking of it.  Given one of the premises of this story is that the US exits the war in approx Feb 1941 thus forcing the UK to also accept a ceasefire - remember that in the real world, by 1941 the UK had already liquidated so many assets that its cash was becoming depleted and indeed, in Dec 1940 Churchill had warned Roosevelt that the British were no longer able to pay for supplies. This led in part to the Lend-Lease initiative.  In this alternate timeline though, Roosevelt would already have been a 'lame duck' president and thus unlikely to have passed such legislation.  Moreover, the new administration would be already signalling its intent to get out of the war.  As such, Britain would already be facing the prospect of not being able to continue the fight in 1941, despite a 'victory' sorts during the Battle of Britain (though arguably this would only have been recognised in hindsight).  Thus I believe a US brokered truce would have been accepted even if reluctantly.  Whether Churchill would last long in the PM role would be debatable too.

Assuming therefore that the Western Allies accept a ceasefire/truce in early 1941, it would be expected that the original German plan of invading the USSR on May 15, 1941 would be able to be adhered to as Hitler would not need to be concerned by his southern flank.  As to what might have happened in the Mediterranean theatre in this timeline is debatable.  For one, you would probably have no Afrika Korps.  Potentially it might have either:

  • Turned into a stalemate with Italy unable to conquer by itself and restrained by Germany (possibly as a side bar to the Germany-UK-USA truce) and Britain also exhausted in its ability to continue the fight; or
  • Have it continue as a lower level conflict but one that saw nether side really able to gain an upper hand and generally be contained.

Either way, by being able to commence Operation Barbarossa on the original timeline of ~5wks earlier and without the need to first expend resources in the Balkans/Nth Africa/Mediterranean and then to continue to keep forces both there and on the Western front (roughly 100,000 German troops were stationed in France alone in 1941 plus their associated equipment), I believe the German invasion would be more successful not only avoiding winter but in fact witnessing an even faster capitulation of the USSR since they would presumably not be getting any British or American aid (military and otherwise) in 1941.

Again in this scenario, you would also see the Japanese seeing the USSR as an easy target (or carcass worth picking over)not to mention an opportunity for some payback following the Battles of Khalkhyn Gol.  Moreover, again there was the likely pressure from Germany not to antagonise the USA.

It is a dark scenario that i have penned but I believe it is entirely possible especially when one considers just how unprepared for war the US actually was in 1939/40.  In some respects, the Japanese decision to attack the US in Dec 1941 couldn't have come at a better time.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2020, 04:31:10 AM by GTX_Admin »
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Offline apophenia

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2020, 11:02:52 AM »
Yep, without Lend-Lease, I can't really see how the UK can realistically continue the war. If 'lame duck' FDR  had gotten Lend-Lease passed, doubtless, Dewey et al would have simply cancelled it later. That said, a BoB 'victory' at least gives Whitehall something of a bargaining position for those ceasefire negotiations  :P

As you say, without Allied aid in 1942, the Soviet are in deep trouble. In OTL, the GKO  didn't get serious about the 'evacuation' of Soviet defence factories until July 1941. Too late in a lot of cases ... far too late in your alternative timeline. So, no foreign aid and, with crucial factories overrun, no real way to make up material losses. The outcome would be inevitable.

On the Med, a victorious Reich would eventually turn its attention to the Suez Canal. Perhaps control of the canal would be part of the ceasefire negotiation? With the rout of the Italians after Sidi Barrani, I can't see Berlin putting much further faith in their ally. Without the DAK (and the Greek diversion), would O'Connor have taken Tripoli? If so, that too would give the Brits some bargaining power (eg: 'We'll return Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to the Italians, but we get to keep Egypt, right?')    

OT: Researching Portuguese colonies, I was interested to see how much German diplomatic effort (extending into the early Nazi period) went into having control of Portuguese colonies - especially Angola and Mošambique - transferred to 'competent' German managers. So, would their Neuordnung and Gro▀germanisches Reich satisfy the Nazi leadership in victory ... or would they be pushing for an overseas empire too? If so, a betrayal of their traditional Portuguese ally, might take some pressure off the British Empire (other than likely being forced to give up former German West, South-West, and East African territories).

I liked Evan's notion of Japan substituting a 'Northern Resources Area' for the 'Southern resources Area'. I'm thinking that the wealth of natural resources in the Soviet Far East would not have been quite so apparent in 1941 as it is now. Still, as you suggest, would Tokyo be able to resist the apparently easy pickings. That makes me wonder as to whether the Japanese would try to make overtures to White Russian exiles in the Far East?

The creation of Manchukuo put the Harbin Russians (including the looney-tunes of the RFP) under indirect Japanese control (and having whatever remained of Semyonov's Transbaikalian cossacks with you in Siberia could be handy). That suggests an opportunity in also recruiting from the larger ethnic Russian population in Sinkiang - old White Guard troops and their sympathizers. In yet another dark scenario, the Japanese could attempt to divide and conquer by restarting the Russian Civil War in Siberia while carving off the juicier bits of the Soviet Far East for their own empire.
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Offline Kelmola

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2020, 12:17:51 AM »
OT: Researching Portuguese colonies, I was interested to see how much German diplomatic effort (extending into the early Nazi period) went into having control of Portuguese colonies - especially Angola and Mošambique - transferred to 'competent' German managers. So, would their Neuordnung and Gro▀germanisches Reich satisfy the Nazi leadership in victory ... or would they be pushing for an overseas empire too? If so, a betrayal of their traditional Portuguese ally, might take some pressure off the British Empire (other than likely being forced to give up former German West, South-West, and East African territories).
Germany was very much planning for an overseas empire for sure (including the former Portuguese colonies), but the Greater German Reich would have let Britain also keep some of theirs. The entire reason why Hitler initially thought Britain would ally with Germany in the first place was that they would both remain as colonial powers and respect each other as such.

The planning at one point extended to German allies as well, at one point (1941-ish) there were diplomatic overtures for offering Finland either the former German South-West Africa or Belgian Congo (!) as a reward for co-belligerency once the war was won. (Considered to be a lot of hot air even at the time; Finland would hardly have had the resources to manage even the former, much less the latter...)

Another German plan was of course the infamous Madagascar Plan, forced resettlement of Jews to the island and hoping that the nonexistent living conditions would take care of the rest (cf. Armenian genocide). In OTL this was canned due to Battle of Britain being lost and the war continuing in the high seas, but in a reality where a peace is made in the West, it would remain a plausible alternative to the Holocaust. Especially considering that with antisemitism being fashionable at the time, the Poles had cooperated with the French already before the War, planning to do the same.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2020, 05:42:07 AM by Kelmola »

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2020, 02:57:54 AM »
That said, a BoB 'victory' at least gives Whitehall something of a bargaining position for those ceasefire negotiations  :P

I doubt it would have given much bargaining power.  After all, what would they say "we won the air battle recently and avoided invasion, so..."?  The new US administration could respond with "So what, you lost mainland Europe plus a heap of our troops and equipment...plus what's to stop Germany simply finishing the job in '42?".  Remember that at this time the invasion of the USSR had not commenced nor had the German involvement in the Balkans/Nth Africa/Mediterranean.  Therefore there would have been every expectation that the full forces of Germany would have been confronting the UK in 1941.  Also, the Allies would have also lost over a million tonne in merchant ships by that time with major combatants such as the Bismarck and Tirpitz yet to enter the fray.  Therefore, things would still be decidedly dark looking on the Allied front.   I would also contend that the BoB win would not yet be recognised as definitively having occurred.  We have to be careful of relying too much on hindsight..

As you say, without Allied aid in 1942, the Soviet are in deep trouble. In OTL, the GKO  didn't get serious about the 'evacuation' of Soviet defence factories until July 1941. Too late in a lot of cases ... far too late in your alternative timeline. So, no foreign aid and, with crucial factories overrun, no real way to make up material losses. The outcome would be inevitable.

I don't think the factory move would have made much difference here.  The ability to start the invasion 5wks earlier would have been critical in avoiding the Rasputitsa/Winter conditions that commenced around Oct 1941 with German forces being able to be entrenched in major cities before then.  The effect of taking the central Communications node of Moscow would have especially been critical.  Moreover, because Hitler didn't need to worry about his Western/Souther flanks and thus be able to commit fully, there would be even more forces on the Eastern front along with little UK/US assistance.

On the Med, a victorious Reich would eventually turn its attention to the Suez Canal. Perhaps control of the canal would be part of the ceasefire negotiation? With the rout of the Italians after Sidi Barrani, I can't see Berlin putting much further faith in their ally. Without the DAK (and the Greek diversion), would O'Connor have taken Tripoli? If so, that too would give the Brits some bargaining power (eg: 'We'll return Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to the Italians, but we get to keep Egypt, right?')    

I'm not sure here.  Remember that in this scenario there may not be any German involvement in theBalkans/Nth Africa/Mediterranean at all.  In the real world, the first units of the Afrika Korps under Erwin Rommel didn't start to arrive in Libya under Operation Sonnenblume until mid Feb 1941 and the invasion of the Balkans was in April/May 1941.  However, because peace discussions would have been conceivably underway already (probably since November 1940 when Dewey would have won the election and definitely since late Jan 1941) there is every chance that things may not have developed further in Nth Africa due to:

  • The Germans not wanting to upset things, especially given their eyes would have been turning towards Russia already; and
  • The British wanting to consolidate what forces/possessions they had given the likely financial exhaustion already and the expected withdrawal of US support.

It certainly does offer plenty of room for additional whiffing though.  I am tempted to develop this initial small story into something far larger... ;)
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2020, 03:06:02 AM »
Further to the above, there's one whiff already:  By having the Germany-UK-USA war end early 1941, we would see Bismark avoiding its fate in late May 1941 and thus both it and its sister, Tirpitz, being available for activities such as shore bombardment in the East, especially around Leningrad.  You could also conceivable see them given upgrades further in their life...
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Offline Volkodav

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2020, 11:00:23 PM »
Further to the above, there's one whiff already:  By having the Germany-UK-USA war end early 1941, we would see Bismark avoiding its fate in late May 1941 and thus both it and its sister, Tirpitz, being available for activities such as shore bombardment in the East, especially around Leningrad.  You could also conceivable see them given upgrades further in their life...

And Hood (and Repulse) surviving to receive her complete modernisation along the lines of QE, Barham, Renown.  With the U-Boat war over resources could be put back into the armoured fleet carriers, Vanguard, KGVs and Lions

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: Opportunity Lost
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2020, 02:51:07 AM »
With the U-Boat war over resources could be put back into the armoured fleet carriers, Vanguard, KGVs and Lions

Ah, but would they?  With resources largely depleted already and without the backing of the US things may at least take longer to occur.

Other whiffs that might develop from this scenario:

  • Potentially no UN;
  • No Cold War - or perhaps a Cold War eventually develops but with Nazi Europe vs ???;
  • Effect on large decolonisation post war;
  • Potentially no Korean War (as we know it at least) and no Vietnam War
  • Delayed development of gas turbine aircraft;
  • Delayed development of nuclear weapons.
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

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