1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

History Questions Not Worth Their Own Thread VIII

Discussion in 'World History' started by Flying Pig, Jan 22, 2017.

  1. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,435
    Location:
    Earth-51778
    Maybe. The Army, however, was not exactly a free agent.

    The decision-making timeline is relevant for our purposes here. In April 1941, the Matsuoka mission visited Germany and the USSR on a mission to try to expand the Nazi-Soviet commercial pact to include Japan. When Matsuoka visited Berlin, the Nazis basically ignored his proposal and instead encouraged Japan to attack Singapore (!). The Soviets signed a neutrality pact with no commercial agreement. However, the pact was of very limited utility because of the Army's propensity to just fight regardless.

    What the Matsuoka mission did help to do was create confusion. By June, there were several different groups arguing for different plans in the Army alone (to say nothing of the government). War Guidance wanted to invade southern Indochina. Operations failed to make up its mind but recommended flexibility. Military Affairs wanted some sort of vague attack on the British and/or Americans. Meanwhile, the Navy strongly disagreed with an attack on the USSR because it would conflict with the southern strategy, and Matsuoka (!!) demanded an invasion of the USSR. Finally, Anami Korechika wanted more troops in China to facilitate an attack on Changsha.

    After the outbreak of the war, the general staff submitted an estimate that suggested war in Siberia was only feasible if the USSR withdrew half of its infantry (15 divisions) and two-thirds of its air force from the Far East. If the Kwantung Army were built up to General Staff recommendations (eventually 22 divisions, with 16 in the first wave), the General Staff believed it would have a two-to-one advantage due to the smaller size of Soviet divisions. The operation would also require full use of all Manchurian railways and the reassignment of something like a third of Japan's rolling stock: a massive logistical effort even for the famously logistically averse IJA. And if this massive set of preparations were to swing into motion before the end of 1941, then the Japanese would have to decide almost immediately: before the end of August, or the attack would have to be postponed.

    The numbers are clear: the Red Army did not reduce its Far Eastern forces quickly enough to meet the IJA's timetable. Instead, mobilization continued, but at a slower pace, until the first echelon of 16 divisions was massed (early autumn). They were to remain in readiness for an invasion in the spring of 1942. Meanwhile, the General Staff's prized flexibility would ensure commitments against the Western powers and against the Chinese could also continue. Only after the American oil embargo, imposed largely because of the invasion of southern Indochina but also to forestall the Japanese mobilization of the Kwantung Army, did war against the West become virtually inevitable. The same embargo also vastly reduced the likelihood of a war with the USSR, because while the Army possessed the straight-leg infantry for a march to the Urals it lacked the fuel to run its mechanized, motorized, and air units for two years (to say nothing of the Navy's deficiency).

    From the Army's point of view, war against the USSR was the primary mission. (And, as several people upthread have pointed out, it was ironically monstrously inadequate to fulfill that mission.) But the side conflicts that prevented the Army from massing its full strength against the Soviets weren't just distractions. They were in large part byproducts of the Army's own methods for achieving the goal of defeating the USSR. And many of them, like the oil embargo, were not really the sorts of things that they could ignore.

    This is where Khalkhin Gol really mattered. Before 1938-39, the IJA was institutionally confident of victory over the Red Army. After Changkufeng and Nomonhan, that was no longer the case. The IJA's demand of two-to-one operational superiority in the Far East is astonishing when compared to the sorts of ratios it regularly massed against even, say, the Americans, to say nothing of the ratio of 1904-05. Had they not been defeated so soundly, perhaps the estimate would have changed to one that IGHQ could have supported. Whether that estimate would have been realistic is another matter. Despite literal decades of preparation, the IJA was woefully unprepared to fight in Siberia from a logistical and operational point of view and had little means of inflicting a decisive defeat on the Red Army. There was not much, if any, prospect of cooperation with Nazi Germany. I think that the general verdict is that Japanese involvement would not have helped Hitler that much and that the Japanese were primarily there to pick up the pieces of a defeated Soviet Union.
    He wasn't equivalent to Hitler and Mussolini. He was very visible, but was mostly brought in as prime minister to try to get everyone working in the same direction (which Konoe had failed to do and for which he was removed after the chaos of the Indochina debate). He failed in that goal, as well, although he was arguably better than any other Showa prime minister at getting the Army and Navy to kinda sorta not really cooperate.

    Tojo was responsible for monstrous orders and war crimes but never came close to appropriating the sort of national demigod language or imagery as the other two Axis leaders did.
    If anything, crossing the Gobi Desert, Altai Mountains, and Central Asia would have been even more of a logistical nightmare than a more northerly route. The Tang dynasty didn't have mechanized armies, and didn't try to sustain a million-man army in Central Asia. The Qing dynasty didn't have a million-man army either, but it still took the Qianlong Emperor and his predecessors literal decades to build up the logistical infrastructure to fight the Zunghar Wars. Fighting through the Tarim Basin wasn't a serious consideration for the IJA. Nor was it a serious consideration for the USSR when the time came for the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation in August 1945.

    Neither option was incredibly feasible, but the slightly-less-ridiculous one for Japan was the one that attempted to use existing rail infrastructure.
    Yes. Operationally, Japan did not have to attack the Philippines to invade the South Seas and the IJN's institutional failure to notice this was a massive strategic error.

    US Navy assets in Manila Bay were vanishingly small. Any one of the invasion convoys dispatched south could have made short work of them with its organic naval assets, to say nothing of the massive combat fleet waiting in the wings. The only other strike force available was the set of B-17s at Clark Field, which the Americans erroneously believed could interdict ships maneuvering at sea and create a vast "no-go" zone around Luzon that would prevent the Japanese from moving south. This was a comically exaggerated view of the effectiveness and accuracy of high-altitude level bombing and there's not even any evidence to indicate that the Japanese shared this view. Simply put, there was no reason to preemptively strike even the Philippines, let alone freaking Hawaii.

    Attacking Britain was probably inevitable, because of the importance of Singapore, but fighting the Americans could wait (if it ever happened). Some American starred officers commented after the war that this might have been Japan's best option, and it's hard to disagree.
    Please don't.
    The sticking point for me is the oil embargo, which was fundamentally about Japan's China policy and its preparation to invade the USSR. (And the China policy itself constituted a leg of the preparations to invade the USSR.) There was no consensus for a southern invasion until after the oil embargo, with good reason. The oil embargo made it necessary.
     
    Ajidica and JohannaK like this.
  2. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Boba Fett

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,309
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away
    I heard somewhere that the Japanese could have done far more damage the day of Pearl Harbor, but chose not to because they greatly overestimated how prepared the Americans were, while equally underestimating how many strategic targets they had left. And were it not for that, things would have been very different. Is this true?

    One thing I've noticed is that the allies were very good at breaking the axis countries code (so they could spy on them and learn of their operations and plans) but the Axis were virtually ineffective at doing the same to the allies.

    If this is true, why? Were the axis behind in technology to be able to do it? Is it because they underestimated how important it was?

    I know the Battle of Midway, in particular, was a decisive turning point against Japan and that it wouldn't have been possible without the United States breaking their code to figure out their plans (without them realizing it).
     
  3. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,435
    Location:
    Earth-51778
    The actual Pearl Harbor plan was a bizarre combination of audacity and timidity.

    Japan massed all of its fleet carriers in a single high-risk strike against the main US naval base, which was audacious. Putting six carriers in a single formation was highly intelligent; it obeyed the principle of concentration of force, which actually had multiplicative effects. The carriers were also under orders to focus on destroying the American battle line and carrier fleet, both of which were excellent and valid targets by the naval thought of the day. However, the Japanese strike was also bizarrely timid. Having placed all the carriers in a single vulnerable spot, the plan was for them to launch two attacks over the course of the morning with an option for a third, and then leave. Yet after the first two strikes, it was or should have been clear that there was no possible force the Americans could muster to counter six fleet carriers. That timidity prevented the Japanese from destroying the American fleet carriers or from destroying the vast fuel bunkers on Oahu, either of which might have set the American advance back a year or more.
    The Allies did have a technological advantage over the Axis in decryption. More importantly, however, they had well-developed institutional frameworks for generating and disseminating signals intelligence. The Germans, Japanese, and Italians were able, from time to time, to break some of the Allied codes. Determined people can sometimes make cryptological breakthroughs. The Allies had more determined people, more money to fund them, and better institutions for making sense of their information - so they had more consistent and sustained breakthroughs.

    It would probably be going too far to say that the Allies valued signals intelligence more. They did, however, bureaucratize it better. German signals intelligence collection and analysis was generally quite poor, as was the state of German intelligence in general.

    And yes, the Americans fought the Battle of Midway with a key advantage gained through cryptology: their fleet was positioned in a place that would allow it to surprise the Japanese attack force. That advantage, on its own, did not win the battle, although it did condition the rest of it. The Japanese also made serious mistakes in choosing Midway as a target, organizing the operation, and planning it - mistakes that were arguably far more serious. However, for the most part, the Americans did not gain the sorts of advantages from signals intelligence in the Pacific that they and the British gleaned in the European theater. ULTRA was valuable at every level for basically the entire war, with information only starting to dry up after the fall of 1944 when the Germans fell back behind their frontiers and reduced (but did not eliminate) their use of radios transmissions.
     
    caketastydelish likes this.
  4. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2006
    Messages:
    10,389
    Was there any chance of the japanese conquering Hawaii, if they had tried an even more ambitious plan and added troop carriers?
     
  5. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    44,412
    Location:
    US of A

    The question there becomes one of whether Japan had the logistical capability to do so. This means tankers, troop transports, and supply ships. The answer is probably yes, but, it would have been a stretch. Japan is a very long distance from Hawaii, and Hawaii wasn't really that strongly defended. But the amount of logistics needed to do it would have made it something of a shoe-string operation. And they would have had to put all of their actions in other places on hold while they did so. No dividing it up to attack Hawaii and the Philippians at the same time.

    What would that have accomplished? Most likely it would have taken the US a couple of more years to win the war. Pearl Harbor played an immense role in American activity in the war. And the US was also a very great distance from Hawaii, so would face the same problem in taking it back.
     
  6. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,435
    Location:
    Earth-51778
    Pretty much, yeah.

    Logistically, it would have been an impossible ask.

    The Oahu garrison wasn't small - about 40,000 - and the harbors on the southern end of the island were defended by heavy naval guns. The possible landing beaches were fortified, and reefs made amphibious landings with 1941 technology difficult. The island's relatively small size meant that the Americans had garrisons at the potential points of ingress, and that alone would have made any Japanese commander extremely nervous. Opposed amphibious assaults were thought to be anywhere from "impossible" to "so costly that they would never be worth it". The ghost of Gallipoli still scared people, and so the Japanese made a point of avoiding direct assaults on defended beaches in 1941-42. IJA doctrine was to land unopposed whenever and wherever possible, and turn the flanks of defended coastlines from the interior of the country, as at Singapore, Hong Kong, and Manila. When that was impossible, at Wake Island in December 1941, one Japanese assault was repelled and the island's tiny garrison had to be reduced by repeated bombing raids and overwhelming numbers.

    If a direct assault wasn't in the cards, the Japanese would have had to occupy some of the outlying islands - say, Molokai and Kauai - to use as airbases to mount the same kind of siege that they did at Wake. And that would have been extremely dangerous. Their logistical tail would have been vulnerable and required a huge amount of available sealift. Hawaii was not even self-sufficient in food in the 1940s, to say nothing of fuel and ammunition. Finally, the opportunity cost would have been tremendous. The goal of the war was the conquest of the Malay archipelago. Diverting multiple divisions, large amounts of aircraft, and the fleet's aircraft carriers to Hawaii indefinitely would have prevented the Japanese from completing their conquests in East and Southeast Asia, which would have been a bit like having the tail wag the dog.
     
    Phrossack and innonimatu like this.
  7. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Boba Fett

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,309
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away
    How strategically important would Hawaii have been, though?

    And considering a large percentage of Hawaii being Japanese at the time. Could we safely assume they wouldn’t give the Japanese a warm welcome?
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019
  8. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    44,412
    Location:
    US of A

    For keeping the US out of the central pacific, critical. The US had no comparable bases within 1000s of miles. Really, all the way to California. Further, many of the ships not lost at Pearl Harbor were disabled, and would not have been able to escape. So taking Oahu would have inflicted the critical damage to the US Navy that attacking Pearl Harbor didn't really accomplish. Pearl was a huge part of the war effort for the US Navy. Fuel, supply, repairs, the works. Doing all of that an additional 3000 miles away would have badly hampered what was left of the USN.



    Despite what people feared, Japanese living in the US and American territories weren't loyal to Japan.
     
  9. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    18,485
    I know one of the reasons Japan went to war with the United States when it did was due to FDRs economic warfare, but looking back (hindsight is 20/20), was there a reason they had to attack the US and instead limited their attacks to the British and Dutch holdings in South East Asia, taking on the US in the Philippines once the British and Dutch were taken care of? Even with the bulk of Japanese forces tied down in China and fighting the US, it still took the British until late in the war to mount serious operations against Japan. The Philippines could be attacked later when the Japanese were able to better concentrate their forces.

    Or, was the Japanese government sufficiently aware that they were never going to be able to match a peacetime America undergoing rearmament, let alone an America at war, and they tried to take all their immediate objectives to hopefully knock their opponents off their feet?
     
  10. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,435
    Location:
    Earth-51778
    The IJN spent decades training for and rehearsing naval strategy to fight America. Everybody believed that the war would begin with a Japanese attack on the Philippines, whereupon the US Navy would charge west from Pearl Harbor to rescue the islands. On its way, the IJN would lie in wait and annihilate the Americans in a multiday running battle along the lines of the Tsushima victory over the Russians. This was the core assumption of almost literally every Japanese naval exercise or war game. This assumption dominated Japanese planning to the degree that the few officers who briefly suggested that it might be possible to avoid fighting the Americans were ignored.

    I don't think it'll ever be clear whether they were right or wrong.

    If Japan could not avoid war with America, then attacking Pearl Harbor was the least-worst option. Striking the Pacific Fleet, destroying its carriers and battle line, wiping out its fuel storage, and wrecking its machine shops would have been the correct choice. Japan would then have had command of the Pacific Ocean and could go about assembling its defensive perimeter to wear down the Americans at will. However, if the Americans would not fight for Borneo, then ignoring the Philippines (to say nothing of Pearl Harbor) would have been much better, avoiding the massive American naval buildup and virtually-inevitable victory.
     
  11. r16

    r16 not deity

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2008
    Messages:
    4,707
    downside of issues of USB problems , so that ı won't be able to read it at home , so no wall of text . "But" Germany was supposed to fight Russia , kill Russia for the benefit of Capitalists and share the loot . When France was "accidentally" kicked out of the war , it broke the deal . Encouraged Hitler to think he was Grofaz , the biggest soldier/commander of all times ? Yes . It also woke up the Americans , about 3 years early , when compared to "original timeline" . Germany found itself in a world war ; disregarded the Japanese to no little end and the Japanese were also utterly wary of the Soviets . Germans and Italians tried to fly long range planes to Japan , for "closer" coordination and every single one of them was an adventure , while the Japanese diplomats could simply take the train across Siberia .

    pearl Harbour should be counted as one of the biggest blunders of all time . It gave legitimacy to D.C. in a way no one could challenge , despite the campaign that started almost in 1942 , now that Tora Tora was on just last night on some DVD channel , made Americans cagey and the meat grinder took place months later in Gudalcanal , at the end of the Japanese tether , instead of using all the bases in Central Pacific , or Rabaul , depending on the American direction . And the Japanese could not avoid fighting America with only taking the Dutch possessions . Britain would love to get those after "liberating" them and we all know Americans are so "loyal" to London .
     
  12. innonimatu

    innonimatu Warlord

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2006
    Messages:
    10,389
    Thanks, I dond't knew Ohau was so well protected. The quick falls of the Philippines and of Singapore had given me an impression that the Allies were feeble everywhere in SE Asia during those initial months.
     
  13. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,435
    Location:
    Earth-51778
    Both Singapore and Luzon were also well-protected, but they were much more vulnerable in important ways than Oahu. They were, of course, closer to Japanese bases, which reduced the logistical requirements for capturing them. But more importantly, the Japanese could attack both of them without risking an opposed amphibious landing. They attacked Singapore from the landward side across the muddy Johore Strait and landed at Lingayen Gulf with almost no organized opposition.

    Numerically, the Oahu garrison was smaller than the Singapore garrison, but Oahu was a much harder target to crack.
     
  14. caketastydelish

    caketastydelish Boba Fett

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2008
    Messages:
    7,309
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away
    Two questions I have:

    1) what realistic chance would the Nazis have of invading Britain were it not for their attack on the Soviet Union, thus forcing their armies to split in two?

    2) Without Hitler attacking the Soviet Union, would Stalin just do nothing and not get involved in the war if left unprovoked? If so, would this have made it almost impossible for the allies to win?
     
  15. Imaus

    Imaus Chieftain

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2016
    Messages:
    134
    There was no realistic chance. The Nazis had barely any capability to transport troops across the sea. The Afrika Korps was an exception, but prevailed due to some episode of Italian control of the sea which soon evaporated. The Home Fleet and every armed hulk the UK could bring to arms would had flooded the channel and the RAF, home units et al simply would not stop until whatever poor batch of paratroopers sacrificed for appeasing Hitler were dead or captured.

    Stalin would had probably engaged Hitler in '43 or '45 at the latest. The pact they made was simply a breather. Hitler struck first and caught Stalin off-guard not because he considered him a friend or manageable but simply because it was too soon in his mind. The war would had lasted a bit longer but not much would had changed, especially if the US still props up the UK and goes on to liberate France and Italy thereof. They might had not had pushed into Germany, and the Soviets would simply grind down the East, and it'll be two wars ongoing at the same time, but the result would be the same.
     
  16. r16

    r16 not deity

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2008
    Messages:
    4,707
    it would take real concentration on part of the Nazis , staying defensive and making sure their preparations were seen by the Soviets . Taking control of the Suez Canal on the minimum , "humiliating" London to maximum extent for a negotiated peace . If not , be wizards in tech to have maximum amount of toys they were forced to develop but could not deploy in time for a landing in '43 to '44 . But the entire thing is still moot as the deal was Germans destroying Bolsheviks and the similar . The accident of France was exciting but Adolf soon returned to "factory settings" .
     
  17. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,435
    Location:
    Earth-51778
    Oh, the Nazis were eminently capable of invading Britain. Invading wasn't the issue.

    Although it took a long time for the Wehrmacht to amass extemporized shipping, by late summer of 1940 the Germans had an assortment of craft that were sufficient to get several divisions onshore. (By the winter of 1940-41 they had even better, purpose-built landing craft of considerable value. Those craft would later prove excellent for use in the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas.) They also had their Fallschirmjäger formations. The RAF was seriously weakened, although of course never destroyed, and German initiative, light naval forces, and airpower would have made opposing a dash across the Channel difficult for the Royal Navy. British naval forces took a great deal of damage in the Mediterranean and Aegean at the hands of German dive bombers, even late in the war, and the E-boats and S-boats could do a lot of damage as well. German inferiority in capital ships and destroyers was a real but not insurmountable obstacle.

    But, well, that's landing. And after the Germans landed, they would have had to fight.

    The state of British coastal defenses was somewhat poor, and the formations mobilized to defend the south were of dubious value and certainly of lower quality than the early-wave Wehrmacht divisions. But they were something. And while the Royal Navy and RAF might have been hard pressed to oppose the initial landings, they could absolutely have wreaked havoc with German supply lines after the invasion.

    Ultimately, the whole thing would have rested on British morale. If the defenders cracked like they did in the Low Countries, the game was up. If they could stay in line and make the Germans pay for their ground, then that would've evened things up considerably. And nobody really has any idea how the British Army would have fought: some of its leaders were very pessimistic and some were not. It's an unanswerable question, but the Germans absolutely had an outside shot at successfully invading Britain if they stayed focused (both grand-strategically and strategically) and if they got one or two within-the-realm-of-possibility-if-not-probability breaks.
    We don't really know. The case for eventual Soviet intervention used to be significantly stronger before the collapse of the Icebreaker thesis made most of the assertions connected with it untenable. RKKA war plans remained oriented to the strategic defensive, although operationally the Red Army General Staff suggested a spoiling attack to break up German concentrations. Ultimately, however, Stalin would have made the decision and he left no guideline to his thought whatsoever. Any comments made after 22 June 1941 are suspect. It was convenient for everybody to deny that they thought the arrangement could last after it collapsed, but the USSR's leadership continued to make moves indicating the value of the non-aggression pact and the close relationship with Nazi Germany up to the actual invasion.
     
  18. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    18,485
    I've heard it described that the only way the Nazis could have successfully invaded Britain is if the sailors of the Royal Navy fell off their ships laughing to hard at the jury-rigged barges and Rhine pleasure boats the Nazis were planning to use as landing craft. If the Nazis delayed their timeline for Sealion they would end up in an even poorer position as the British Empire was in full on rearmament mode by 1940s and were marshaling the resources of the largest empire in the world - ruling a quarter of its landmass and a fifth of its population. The Nazis quite simply couldn't compete (and that is without mentioning the United States).

    Could you elaborate? I've read it on this forum often, and by posters I generally respect, that it was a pretty uncontroversial statement that Stalin and the Red Amy were planning a general offensive into central/western Europe in the mid to late 40s.
     
  19. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,435
    Location:
    Earth-51778
    That's a ridiculous description.

    The British defense of the home islands was deeply flawed in and of itself and susceptible to numerous vulnerabilities. Edmund Ironside dispersed his forces dangerously (to the point that he even deployed troops in the West Country to guard against a phantom invasion from Ireland) and only held the coast itself with a thin outpost line due to manpower deficiencies. Defense was designed to be passive and involve withdrawal from phase line to phase line. Ironside did not even create a general reserve. Those dispositions were changed after July 1940, but only slowly, so that maldeployment persisted well into 1941. Even when the British started to focus on likely targets and collect reserves, they picked the wrong ones. Alan Brooke decided that the Germans were most likely to target East Anglia because it was good tank country, even though virtually all of the Wehrmacht's actual planning emphasized a Channel crossing to the southern English coast. Most reconnaissance assets were over the North Sea, meaning that the British were most likely to detect the German invasion as many as six hours after it actually left harbor. Much like the oft-mocked German defenders of Western Europe in 1944, the British of 1940 and 1941 made an awful lot of mistakes in preparing for a German invasion.

    Britain was indeed amassing impressive resources backed by a vast overseas support network. But those resources were in turn cavalierly dissipated on the trivia generated by that vast overseas support network. Britain sent valuable planes and troops to North Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, India, and Singapore even in the dark days of summer and fall 1940. This was not because Great Britain itself was well protected. It was in spite of Great Britain's dangerous vulnerability. At the very moment when the RAF was reeling from Luftwaffe attacks and warning orders were going out to prepare for a German invasion in September 1940, the Royal Navy was sending 4,200 Royal Marines, two battleships, five cruisers, and twelve destroyers to Dakar to fight Vichy France for no obvious strategic reason at all. The British victory in Operation COMPASS in December was quite impressive, but victory in Cyrenaica over the Italians was purchased at the price of the 2nd and 7th Royal Tank Regiments and 3rd Hussars, dispatched from Great Britain in August. More of Churchill's pet projects consumed resources during these crucial months, like inaccurate "Z-battery" rockets, trench-busting "Nellie" vehicles, and "Beaverette" armored cars. The "Nellie" in particular, officially called "Cultivator No. 6", was a massive 130-ton vehicle with no weapons and paper-thin armor designed to circumvent fortifications from World War I. It was, as Robert Forczyk says, every bit as ridiculous as the infamous Maus tank and its development continued well after there was obviously no point in making it at all. This dispersal of resources meant that at the sharp end of a battle for the Channel and the south coast of England, the British would have been quite a bit weaker than their production numbers might have called for. Hell, even their manpower was poorly distributed. While the regular forces of the British Army languished with low replacement levels for virtually the entire war, large numbers - perhaps as many as half a million! - of teenagers and men in their twenties stayed in the useless Home Guard formations.

    While the RAF possessed a solid core of fighter aircraft and reasonably competent level bombers, neither asset would be particularly useful against an incoming invasion fleet. British close air support and dive bombing units were both small and poorly armed, and very vulnerable to air interception. They lacked the capability to mount a sustained and well-coordinated fight against an invasion fleet in the Channel. The panic response to the "Channel Dash" in 1942 exposed the weak state of British air and sea defenses there for what they really were: no German warships were sunk and a negligible amount of crewmen were killed against disproportionate British losses in airframes and pilots. Against an invasion fleet, the British would have had little room for embarrassment. And finally, while the RAF's Fighter Command was very good at defensive GCI radar intercept missions in daylight, it took frightening losses all the same. While Fighter Command's available airframe and pilot numbers grew during the Battle of Britain, that was largely due to cutting the number of hours required to qualify pilots and paring Fighter Command's actual mission down to, essentially, GCI and nothing else. Now, once the invasion was already underway and German forces were already on English soil, the RAF would be much better positioned to fight - but only if the British avoided hurling the kitchen sink at the Germans during the actual invasion as a panic move. There is no particular reason to have any overwhelming amount of confidence in the British military of 1940 to avoid panic.

    The Royal Navy was also not well deployed to fight the Germans in the Channel for the very good reason that the Royal Navy's leaders thought that the Channel was a potential death trap for capital ships. Charles Forbes had only five capital ships in home waters in September 1940 and only one, HMS Revenge, was on the south coast of England (and only then after Churchill gave him a direct order to deploy it to Portsmouth). It was backstopped by seven light cruisers and thirty-eight destroyers and destroyer escorts. Most of the vessels available for Channel service were Great War vintage or older. They would not have deployed against the five invasion fleets en masse but rather attacked in waves to avoid fratricide at night; based on response times from invasion threats, they were only likely to be able to even engage two out of five invasion fleets. The Germans had extensive minefields to cover their flanks, which would further slow the British response. The British lacked surface radar on the Channel ships, meaning that their hit probability was quite low. The barges were shallow-draft, which some historians have argued would mean that they could just be swamped by bow waves from the destroyers, but closing to that range would've been extraordinarily dangerous against the defensive assortment of weapons on the invasion barges (let alone the escorts; the Germans had modern destroyers and S-boats). And finally, Royal Navy success rates at attacking other German convoys during 1940 and 1941 were not great. Even the most aggressive destroyer leaders usually failed to kill more than one or two ships in any given convoy. In particular, the Royal Navy's failures north of Crete in 1941 fighting against lone Italian escorts were particularly embarrassing. German casualties during the invasion would most likely be inflicted by mines, not by the Royal Navy's surface assets.

    Like the RAF, the Royal Navy would be better poised to fight once the Germans landed, but that fight would be a struggle of attrition with no clear and easy victor. The Luftwaffe would be likely to make things extremely dangerous for anything other than British (and Dutch) submarines.

    It would be up to the British Army to fight the Germans, and although there were slightly over a million Commonwealth soldiers on the island during the summer and fall of 1940 they were mostly support troops or AA crew. The Territorials existed but were of highly dubious quality in actual combat, and were half-trained at best. Less than two hundred thousand trained infantry, tankers, and artillerymen actually defended Great Britain, and as mentioned before those that were defending the island were poorly deployed. Even in important sectors, the British deployed companies where they would be engaging regiments, in poorly sited fortifications (some of which dated to the Napoleonic Wars) whose positions were known to the Luftwaffe. Artillery support was sparse and communications were by wire, not radio. AT defenses were almost nonexistent and were husbanded into "anti-tank islands" inland, while AP mines were nonexistent (yes, the British Army had no AP mines in 1940) and were "replaced" by Mushroom mines with large amounts of explosive that killed British soldiers and civilians alike and were liable to be swept into the sea or set off by sympathetic explosions from Luftwaffe bombing runs. These were far more laughable countermeasures than the mocked Atlantic Wall (or the unfairly-maligned German efforts to scrape together an invasion fleet), and much less likely to stop an invasion.

    So what of the inevitable counterattack? Alan Brooke, after assuming command over Britain's seaward defenses in July 1940, viewed most of the commanders in both the regular and Territorial forces as unfit for service and did his best to weed them out as soon as he could. "As soon as he could" was, as it turned out, not very quickly, because Churchill's penchant of mounting overseas expeditions meant that many of the best commanders went elsewhere. Furthermore, British tactical doctrine remained deficient and technical capabilities were generally poor. It took until late 1942 to work out these problems in the Western Desert; in September 1940 Britain's most recent military experience of Germans was getting utterly trounced on the Continent three times (once in Norway, twice in France). And it's worth comparing British ability to counterattack to that of the vaunted Germans, who historically had difficulty organizing large-scale armored counterattacks against amphibious assaults in both Italy and France. Britain had never even fought an entire armored division together by fall 1940. Infantry divisions were significantly less mobile and under-supplied with motor vehicles, not much better than the infamous "static" divisions the Germans put in the Atlantic Wall. Why anyone would expect the British response to an amphibious invasion to be better than the German one is beyond me.

    The issue almost certainly would've come down to attrition, Guadalcanal writ large. Germany could get to Britain but lacked the kind of overwhelming power that allowed the Allies of 1944 to land multiple armored divisions in a protected beachhead. Britain faced inferior numbers but possessed few viable offensive military assets not already in Egypt. Further attrition in southern England would seriously threaten control over the Empire. Either way, it would've been a roll of the iron dice - not a slam dunk for Blighty. And as possible as it is to imagine the Nazis going home in a prisoner exchange, it's equally possible to imagine the brittle British collapsing and opening the way to London.
    It's speculation. There are plenty of historians willing to indulge in that speculation who believed that Stalin also considered the USSR and Nazi Germany to be fundamentally incompatible and viewed the 1939 agreement as a truce to clear the decks for the real war. But the simple fact is that we have no evidence one way or another about what Stalin planned to do. There are no offensive war plans for the RKKA that predate June 1941, apart from the one that as mentioned clearly described a last-ditch attack to weaken a Nazi invasion. The RKKA was only in a state of partial mobilization.

    Now, these things are not conclusive evidence that Stalin didn't want to attack. Far from it. He might very well have planned to attack Nazi Germany, either before the Soviet Union was fully ready or after a period of adequate preparation. But we don't have hard evidence that he did, and while it's perfectly reasonable to hold the opinion it remains, ultimately, one that is difficult to substantiate.

    The reason I connect that to the Icebreaker thesis is that most of the alleged evidence in favor of Stalin preparing a grand offensive into Europe in 1941 is either circumstantial, wrong, or both, and most historians agree on this. But most of the evidence about 1942 or 1943 is actually pretty vaporous too.
     
    Imaus, Phrossack and caketastydelish like this.
  20. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    18,485
    Wow, thanks Dachs!
     

Share This Page