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Yes. Another "What if"



  • What if
    Churchill didnt get elected or was killed, or if it was FDR in the same situation
    Would the Axis have been able to win the war
    Have fun



  • 100% no change.



  • If you look into the numbers and do the math, I doubt that a small country with 70 million people and no domestic resources, would be able to subdue the rest of the world. Even if UK surrendered I figure the nazi revolution would end some where in Russia. The only change they had was to be not racist, not intolerant, but in that case, they would not be nazis, and they would not start a shooting war. So basically, if a mouse start a fight with a bear, its gonna lose big, man.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Churchill very nearly did get killed in December 1931 (in New York City, of all places) when he was hit by a car after getting out of a taxi.  You can read more about this incident in the Wikipedia article on Edward F. Cantasano, the driver of the car in question.  Williamson Murray published an article, titled “What a Taxi Driver Wrought”, in a special issue of the Quarterly Journal of Military History (later reprinted in the book “What If? The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been”) in which he speculates about what might have happened if Churchill had died on that occasion.  As I recall, the most likely immediate outcome would have been that when P.M. Neville Chamberlain lost office in May 1940 his most likely successor would have been Lord Halifax (who nearly got the job in real life, since he was viewed as a safe establishment candidate, in contrast with the controversial figure of Churchill).  Halifax was more open than Churchill to the idea of a negotiated settlement with Hitler (he even floated the idea after Dunkirk), so it’s not impossible that as Prime Minister he might have worked out a deal to end Britain’s involvement in the war.


  • 2019 2018

    Even in the unlikely event of a UK surrender to Germany (assuming in 1940, shortly after the fall of Paris), what of Japan?

    Does UK no longer needing to field troops and a navy in the Atlantic free its hands to defend its Asian colonies from Japan?

    Could the presence of a large portion of the Royal Navy in and around Singapore possibly have prevent its capture by the IJN in 1941?

    IMO, If Japan fails to capture Singapore it in turn would fail to hold Indonesia, the Philippines and Indochina long-term, due to the presence of an enemy fleet in close proximity. If Japan struck out that badly in 41 I believe it would have greatly accelerated the end of the Pacific War, especially if you consider how rashly the IJN began acting when it was losing the real war (I’m specifically thinking of the Philippines campaign in late 44 here).

    With Japan eliminated, the European Axis now have to deal with the full attention of the US/UK, who would definitely rejoin the war in the ETO, even if they had exited previously.

    The Soviets would definitely have ended up in worse shape than they did originally without UK Support, but American Lend-Lease would still be entering the USSR from Alaska -> Kamchatka, as it did in the real world. I can’t see the Nazis pulling off a win against the Soviets, assuming in your scenario they’re employing the same strategies, tactics and genocidal behavior that they did in real life. None of Germany’s mistakes on the Eastern Front (aside from pulling forces out of the army that was going to attack at Kursk (Operation Citadel), I think) were due to pressure that the UK in particular put on Germany.



  • Surrender is the incorrect term, that would require German and Italian units sitting on the King’s Thorn itself before the government would even think about such a “foolish” act. Peace, Hitler wanted peace with UK under the threat of invasion since UK and Germany could not strike at each other and German and Italy was bombing UK.



  • If Churchill had been killed by a Taxi driver in 1931, as Marc suggest, then Operation Pike would never have been launched. Churchill had a great desire for action, would bombard the Imperial Staff with crazy ideas, like Operation Catherine, sailing the Royal Navy into the Baltic Sea in a kamikaze raid, or the fiasco in Norway, or moving hundreds of Bombers to RAF Habbarye in Iraq, to be ready to bomb the Russian oilfields in Baku. With no Churchill there would be no Norwegian Debate, since it was Churchill that made the fiasco in Norway, and with the Bombers in UK and not in Iraq, the great 250 km long  traffic jam of 41 000 German Tanks and trucks from Group Kleist on the first days of the campaign in west, I am not sure France would fall in 4 weeks. Maybe no Churchill would be a short war ?


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016

    Good point, Caesar – it’s interesting to think about the limits of political power in the 1940s. After France’s surrender, the UK had no army capable of invading mainland Europe, and they didn’t have the capability to build one in less than five years. After losing the Battle of Britain and the scuttling of the French fleet at Mers-el-Kabir, Germany had no navy capable of invading the UK. Without a land invasion, I don’t think the Nazis had any way of imposing a fascist government or fascist values on the UK. But without regime change, what good is a peace agreement? Britain would still resent, dislike, and distrust Nazi Germany, no matter what the treaties say. They would be looking for the next good opportunity to get back into the war. Even if a treaty required them to disarm, e.g., their bombers, they could always manufacture more or receive lend-lease from the United States. Besides, how is Germany supposed to detect whether the bomber fleet was actually dismantled or simply flew off to cold storage in Saskatchewan? I like to think that even Lord Halifax wouldn’t have been stupid enough to disarm the UK’s fighter planes just on Hitler’s verbal promise of peace.

    DoManMacgee, I think there’s a real possibility that a British fleet near Singapore would simply have been sunk by Japanese aircraft, much the same way that the HMIS Prince of Wales and the Italian fleet at Taranto went down. Until the great powers learned the importance of providing air cover for their fleets, it doesn’t much matter how many battleships you send to guard a port; the battleships just become so much scrap. Besides, most of the invasion of Singapore was overland, using troops carried by bicycle along the Malayan peninsula. Possibly the Japanese would have diverted enough of their carriers from Pearl Harbor to Singapore that the Pearl Harbor attacks would have been delayed, weakened, or cancelled. I’m not sure how that shakes out in practice – the US starts the war with another 4 battleships, which are marginally useful, but maybe they’re slow to learn the importance of building carriers, and they lay down a bunch of battleship hulls instead of carrier hulls, putting them at a disadvantage in 1943. If the battleships get sunk by the Japanese air force in 1942, then Japan might wind up doing better than its historical par, not worse. I still don’t think it’s enough for Japan to come anywhere close to winning, but it might be enough to put a real crimp in the US’s willingness to ship supplies to Kamchatka. If Japan winds up able to successfully maintain a naval base in the western Aleutian islands and park a carrier there, for example, then I don’t see much Lend-Lease getting through to Russia. Kamchatka was in many ways a less convenient port than Archangel or Basra for shipping Russian aid. If Britain is technically out of the war, does Persia still wind up getting used as a lend-lease conduit? Maybe Russia takes over all of Persia, with British acquiescence?

    I’ll be the first to admit that Churchill had tons of bad ideas, but he also had some good ones, like building fighter planes, armed resistance to the Nazis, and invading the northeast Mediterranean to limit the spread of Soviet influence post-war. If the Nazi-Soviet alliance had remained stable, then putting strategic bombers in Persia to bomb Baku might have been exactly the right idea. It’s not obvious to me that a couple hundred strategic bombers would have been able to destroy enough German tanks to prevent France from falling…the 1st Army Group was not going to break out of its encirclement in the Low Countries, and without the 1st Army Group France had little or no will to fight on.

    I think on balance if Churchill dies in a car accident, then the war is likely to stretch into 1946 or 1947, and maybe even end in stalemate, where the Allies are bled to exhaustion and agree to allow Hitler to remain in power. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one going back in a time machine to mess with Churchill!


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Narvik:

    With no Churchill there would be no Norwegian Debate, since it was Churchill that made the fiasco in Norway

    It should be noted that even with no Churchill and no Norway Debate, Chamberlain wouldn’t have lasted in office very long anyway because he was gravely ill.  He underwent an operation in July 1940, was found to be terminally ill, and died in November 1940.



  • Axis notion of victory was strange. Germany wanted to corner UK and scare her into peace, the fall of France with the bombing of London was Hitler’s dream of doing that, the problem was Churchill who had no problems telling Hitler to kiss his @ss. In the same way that Japan end goal was China and only attack US to prevent it from striking Japan hence why they went after US colonies fast and hard in hopes of scare them into peace. The long term problems with these idea is that while it technically makes sense, what’s stop it from working? If UK accepted peace from Germany, then what? What is to stop UK from building back up and attacking again? What is to stop the US from having a peace agreement with Japan, build back up and attacking again?


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Caesar:

    In the same way that Japan end goal was China and only attack US to prevent it from striking Japan hence why they went after US colonies fast and hard in hopes of scare them into peace.

    Given that it was Japan’s attack on the US which caused the US – which up to December 1941 was trying to avoid getting involved in the Sino-Japanese War in Asia and WWII in Europe – to declare war on Japan, it’s hard to grasp the notion that Japan’s attack on the US was intended to prevent the US from attacking Japan.  (If that really was Japan’s plan, then one has to conclude that Japan’s plan backfired spectacularly.)  Japan’s decisision to go to war with the US did have a connection with the Sino-Japanese War, but it was a decision which involved a chain of causes.  The Sino-Japanese War, and Japan’s occupation of French-Indo China, were strongly disapproved of by the US, which eventually imposed a trade embargo on Japan.  This embargo included oil, of which Japan had no domestic supplies.  Given that oil was vital to powering Japan’s military forces (particularly the Navy), and that Japan only had about two years’ worth of oil reserves stockpiled, Japan found itself in a “use it or lose it” position: it had to use those two years to secure new sources of oil, whch meant conquering the Dutch East Indies.  This, in turn, meant eliminating the British and American colonial / territorial possessions along the shipping lanes between the DEI and Japan, notably Malaya, Hong Kong and the Philippines, which meant going to war with the Dutch and the UK and the US.  But I agree that Japan’s long-term thinking about victory conditions was at best overly optimistic and at worst naively delusional.  The concept of hitting those colonies “fast and hard in hopes of scare them into peace” is roughly what Japan had in mind; more specifically, Japan planned to clobber the UK and the US resoundingly at the start of the war, wait for the US Navy to sail across the Pacific to engage the Japanese in Japan’s home waters, sink the Americans there in the same way that Japan had sunk the Russian fleet at Tsushima, and then – having proved Japanese superiority – offer a negotiated settlement to the war-weary Americans on the assumption that the Americans would happily let Japan have its way in the western Pacific in exchange for peace.  This line of thinking reflected a dangerously flawed understanding by Japanese leaders of how the Americans would react to a surprise attack against their home turf, Pearl Harbor, without a declaration of war.


  • 2019 2018

    I’ll respond to your arguments one at a time because I feel like I did not make some of my points clear enough in my initial post.

    @Argothair:

    DoManMacgee, I think there’s a real possibility that a British fleet near Singapore would simply have been sunk by Japanese aircraft, much the same way that the HMIS Prince of Wales and the Italian fleet at Taranto went down.

    I neglected to note that the lack of a war in Europe would free Britain to move some elements of the RAF and land reinforcements to Asia as well. Assuming UK made peace with Germany shortly after the fall of France, they would have over a year to work out the logistics on this and presumably no U-Boat threat, so I’m certain they’d be able to reinforce Singapore by time Japan made their way down there.
    @Argothair:

    Until the great powers learned the importance of providing air cover for their fleets, it doesn’t much matter how many battleships you send to guard a port; the battleships just become so much scrap. Besides, most of the invasion of Singapore was overland, using troops carried by bicycle along the Malayan peninsula.

    You neglected to mention that the Japanese invasion of Malaysia was accomplished via amphibious landings in Thailand, which gave their attack a greater surprise factor and speed (Thailand surrendered to Japan in 5 hours). A stronger Royal Navy may have allowed UK to intervene on Thailand’s side in the event of the Japanese invasion, which may have bolstered the Thai will to fight. A long, drawn out Thailand campaign would probably devolve into a stalemate with moderate gains for Japan a la Burma.

    You also neglected to mention that the UK’s Fighter Squadrons were miserably outclassed and obsolete, in addition to being outnumbered almost 2:1 by the Japanese Air Force. Again, I apologize for not mentioning the possibility of an increased RAF presence in British Asia as a possibility in addition to the presence of the Royal Navy, but my point is that throw a couple Spitfire Squadrons in Singapore and suddenly the fight becomes a lot less one-sided.

    @Argothair:

    Possibly the Japanese would have diverted enough of their carriers from Pearl Harbor to Singapore that the Pearl Harbor attacks would have been delayed, weakened, or cancelled. I’m not sure how that shakes out in practice – the US starts the war with another 4 battleships, which are marginally useful, but maybe they’re slow to learn the importance of building carriers, and they lay down a bunch of battleship hulls instead of carrier hulls, putting them at a disadvantage in 1943.

    I don’t buy this explanation. The USN already at least somewhat grasped the importance of Aircraft Carriers, as they had already laid down the hulls for Lexington, Yorktown and Saratoga in the 30s. Just to give a few examples.

    @Argothair:

    If the battleships get sunk by the Japanese air force in 1942, then Japan might wind up doing better than its historical par, not worse. I still don’t think it’s enough for Japan to come anywhere close to winning, but it might be enough to put a real crimp in the US’s willingness to ship supplies to Kamchatka.
    If Japan winds up able to successfully maintain a naval base in the western Aleutian islands and park a carrier there, for example, then I don’t see much Lend-Lease getting through to Russia. Kamchatka was in many ways a less convenient port than Archangel or Basra for shipping Russian aid. If Britain is technically out of the war, does Persia still wind up getting used as a lend-lease conduit? Maybe Russia takes over all of Persia, with British acquiescence?

    If there was no Pearl Harbor attack and the IJN had to use a large portion of its navy to sink the UK Fleet off Singapore (something I argued would probably not happen but I’m assuming your scenario here), I can’t imagine that they’d also be able to swing that navy back to the Northern Pacific, destroy the USN at a Midway-esque battle with a larger disparity in force than they had historically and broken codes, and then proceed to take and hold the Aleutians.

    Additionally, the US was able to ship Lend-Lease to the Soviets because Japan and the USSR were neutral and the Japanese feared provoking a Soviet invasion of Manchuria. Unless they USN was completely and totally eliminated I doubt Japan would have made any real effort to interrupt the flow of supplies to Russia.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016

    Very good points, and I mostly agree. What follows is nit-picking for the fun of it.

    As you might guess, I agree that deploying large numbers of modern fighters to Singapore along with a cadre of experienced pilots would have prevented the fall of Singapore (and almost certainly saved the British Indian fleet), which in turn would have almost completely neutered Japan’s 1941-42 expansion. I’m not sure more foot soldiers would have made any difference – the British already outnumbered the Japanese 5:2 and lost anyway – but the fighters sure would have been helpful. I’m also skeptical that Britain would have been able to respond rapidly enough to prop up Thailand if, as you say, Thailand surrendered in only 5 hours. General Percival notoriously waited over 24 hours to order artillery assaults, reinforcements, etc. in response to Japanese landings on Malaya’s beaches, believing, incorrectly, that each assault was merely a feint or prelude when it fact each assault was part of the primary offensive.

    It’s true that the USA already had a few carriers at the outbreak of WW2, but naval aviation was mostly thought of as an auxiliary weapon, good for helping battleships improve their targeting against other battleships by acting as a “super-tall” mast that provided long-range tactical recon, and perhaps for worsening the aim of enemy battleships by forcing them to engage in some evasive maneuvers. There was a minority faction that advocated for switching over to a carrier-based navy as early as 1925, but their lead admiral was court-martialed for publicly criticizing the dominant Navy doctrine (which was not actually overturned until after the devastating losses at Pearl Harbor). There’s a good monograph available about all of this at http://www.ijnhonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/hone_doctrine-in-the-usn_-rev10-02.pdf , especially pages 28-29.

    Finally, as far as the Battle of Midway, it really could have gone either way; it was very swingy. Although all of the US codebreakers agreed that Midway would be Japan’s next target, there was some infighting in the US intelligence community about what the date of the attack would be, and if the other faction had won, then US carriers could have been caught slightly out of position or somewhat less prepared, which in turn could have radically swung the outcome of the battle. http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/11/20/u_s_in_world_war_ii_how_the_navy_broke_japanese_codes_before_midway.html

    Part of what went wrong for the Japanese at Midway was that they got overconfident and indulged in an excessively elaborate plan with a diversion of 2 of their 6 carriers to Alaska. If they had lost a carrier attacking the British at Singapore, perhaps they would have been more humble and sent all 5 of their remaining carriers directly against Midway. With only 3 carriers to oppose them, it’s not obvious that the US would have won, even with an advantage in military intelligence.

    Again, I don’t want to over-extend myself here: I largely agree with your conclusion that a massive, timely reinforcement of Singapore with modern aircraft would have been devastating to Japanese expansion and could have resulted in an earlier, easier end to WW2, even allowing for the setbacks Russia would have faced without British support in 1941 and 1942. Moscow could potentially have fallen, but I don’t think that would have been the end of armed Soviet resistance, and ultimately the Allies would have been likely to make a clean sweep of things, defeating Japan in 1943 and Germany in 1944.

    I think it’s an interesting question whether a Prime Minister Halifax would have actually ordered a massive redeployment of modern fighters – the primary instrument protecting the UK against an otherwise triumphant Germany – to Singapore, which is literally at the opposite end of the globe. That seems like a ballsy move for a relatively conservative man.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 '12

    I hate to take on my brother Argothair [he is an intellectual giant, fyi] but the US realized the dominance of carrier in 1940.

    On June 18,1940, after less than an hour of debate, the House of Representatives by a 316–0 vote authorized $8.55 billion for a naval expansion program, giving emphasis to aircraft. Rep. Vinson, who headed the House Naval Affairs Committee, said its emphasis on carriers did not represent any less commitment to battleships, but “The modern development of aircraft has demonstrated conclusively that the backbone of the Navy today is the aircraft carrier. The carrier, with destroyers, cruisers and submarines grouped around it[,] is the spearhead of all modern naval task forces.”[6] It was enacted on July 19, 1940.

    The Act authorized the procurement of:

    18 aircraft carriers
    2 Iowa-class battleships
    5 Montana-class battleships
    6 Alaska-class cruisers
    27 cruisers
    115 destroyers
    43 submarines
    15,000 aircraft
    The conversion of 100,000 tons of auxiliary ships
    $50 million for patrol, escort and other vessels
    $150 million for essential equipment and facilities
    $65 million for the manufacture of ordnance material or munitions
    $35 million for the expansion of facilities

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-Ocean_Navy_Act


  • 2017 2016 2015 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Not starting any war at all would have made Japan better off. They would never had to let go of Manchukuo, Korea or Formosa. I bet taking most of the Dutch islands (sake Borneo) could have been done without a general war if it was done before Nanking. That massacre burnt alot of Japans capital and got them labeled as outlaws. China is basically worthless, while the gold was in those islands. Then they could have build up the perimeter defense and over a period of decades drove out the British by inciting revolts/rebellions in India.


  • 2017 2016 2015

    RE Singapore one thing Winnie couldn’t have done was this:
    The Japanese invaded with over 200 tanks, while the British Army in Malaya did not have a single one. Indeed, Churchill himself had diverted some 350 older-model tanks from Malaya to the Soviet Union following the German invasion, as a show of good faith between the Allies. As these older infantry and cruiser tanks were more than a match for the light and medium Japanese tanks used in the invasion of Malaya, their presence could well have turned the tide of battle.

    https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/general-percival-a-convenient-scapegoat/

    Doesn’t mean whoever was in charge couldn’t have, but if they were at peace with Germany, it seems doubtful.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016

    Karl7, thanks for the link, the quote, and the flattery! I stand corrected. The US came to its senses all by itself, without Japanese assistance, a full 18 months before Pearl Harbor. Those extra 18 months of carrier construction may even have been crucial to winning the war! I wonder why the US Navy changed its mind at that particular time – it’s the week that Paris fell to German tanks; there don’t seem to be any obvious naval battles that could have been the proximate cause. Taranto wasn’t until November 1940. An entire squadron of British bombers took out one German cruiser in April 1940, but that’s not necessarily that impressive.

    Barney, very good point about the tanks, although I question how useful tanks are in defending a fortified city surrounded by jungle when you’ve got a 5:2 advantage in infantry and weeks to prepare. If General Percival had even some decent field guns, he should have been able to put them in buildings or bunkers and knocked out the tanks as they advanced. Some British light tanks would have been handy for defending the rest of Malaya, though.



  • @Argothair:

    I wonder why the US Navy changed its mind at that particular time –

    You may find some answers in the book “Mr. Roosevelts Navy” by Patrick Abbazia, covering this time of decisions.


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer

    @barney:

    RE Singapore one thing Winnie couldn’t have done was this:
    The Japanese invaded with over 200 tanks, while the British Army in Malaya did not have a single one. Indeed, Churchill himself had diverted some 350 older-model tanks from Malaya to the Soviet Union following the German invasion, as a show of good faith between the Allies. As these older infantry and cruiser tanks were more than a match for the light and medium Japanese tanks used in the invasion of Malaya, their presence could well have turned the tide of battle.

    https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/general-percival-a-convenient-scapegoat/

    Doesn’t mean whoever was in charge couldn’t have, but if they were at peace with Germany, it seems doubtful.

    Well Japan only built 700 tanks during war and later in war they did make a few Med tanks but mostly they went to Philippines. As Arg stated cant move or move fast in jungle. Thats why in my game I have All Motorized Units M1 only in Asia and Siberia
    and cant move period in Monsoon season ( I need to add Bicycles so Inf can tow Art  Ha ). Besides Japan needed most oil for navy.


  • 2019 2018

    @Argothair Others already brought up the US prewar Naval Doctrine so I’m not going to beat a dead horse on that one. Only other thing I wanted to discuss was:

    @Argothair:

    I think it’s an interesting question whether a Prime Minister Halifax would have actually ordered a massive redeployment of modern fighters – the primary instrument protecting the UK against an otherwise triumphant Germany – to Singapore, which is literally at the opposite end of the globe. That seems like a ballsy move for a relatively conservative man.

    I guess that decision comes down to a few extra factors I hadn’t though of before, such as:
    1. The deployment of German forces in Europe - Would a British-German armistice/truce/ceasefire accelerate Germany’s plans for Barbarossa? Surely the UK wouldn’t attempt to support the Greeks (or Yugoslavians, but I don’t recall if they had any direct help from the British) while trying to pacify Germany. Would a lack of British support for Greece facilitate the Italian invasion? Even if Italy still failed miserably in Greece, would Germany still be willing to delay Barbarossa to help Italy without the fear of the British sending forces to the Balkans/using Greece as an airfield to bomb Romania?

    I bring these points up because as soon as the Nazis enter the Soviet Union it basically gives the British a green light to redeploy their resources to Asia, even if they distrust Germany’s intentions. It’s just a matter of whether Barbarossa kicks off before Japan reaches Southeast Asia, IMO.

    2. Does Italy call off its war with Britain/Egypt? And, if they don’t, does Germany withdraw the Africa Korps as a sign of good faith to Britain? This thread is about a UK/German (temporary) peace/ceasefire but we’ve never gotten into the terms of said hypothetical surrender. If it’s just a ceasefire that’s one thing but as eaerly as August 1940 the North Africa campaign is already underway, and by mid-September Germany is already in Libya propping up Italy’s lackluster efforts.

    I bring this up for two reasons:
    A: If Britain was forced to cede Egypt to Italy (and probably Jordan and Sudan as well, to ease Italy’s supply route to Ethiopia/“Abyssinia” and for Mussolini’s PR stunt of “recreating the Roman Empire”), it would seriously hamper the British supply route to Asia, since I assume the Axis would not allow the UK to freely move resources (civil or military) through the Mediterranean/Suez Canal. This would mean reinforcements bound for Singapore would have to waste valuable time circumnavigating Africa, which brings back memories of Russia’s debacle at Tsushima in 1905.

    B: If the war in Africa continued, the UK would not be able to send 100% of its free resources to Asia, as they would need to go out of their way to cripple the Italian Navy (Taranto would probably still occur here) and defeat Italy’s armies in North Africa/Ethiopia to end that war. As pathetic as the Italian army was in North Africa, mopping up would still be a time consuming process that may take long enough to allow Japan to strike before adequate British reinforcements reach Asia.

    As for everything else, I think we can agree to disagree on the more minor points since our general conclusions are similar. Thanks for the good discussion.


  • 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    Interesting discussion about various hypothetical Singapore scenarios.  Here are a few additional thoughts.

    If I’ve followed the thread correctly, the starting assumption is that Britain, under someone other than Churchill, reaches some sort settlement with Germany after the conquest of France, and is then free to carry on with its imperial business-as-usual.  I’m a bit sceptical that Britain could have gotten than good a deal from Hitler (presumably a deal basically saying “Let me have uncontested control of continental Europe and I’ll let you keep Great Britain for yourselves and let you keep uncontested control of non-European waters”), but let’s assume for the moment that such a deal has been worked out.  The next assumption, again if I’m following the thread correctly, is that Britain, now secure at home, sends massive naval and army and air force reinforcements to Singapore, and that these reinforcements end up derailing Japan’s plans to conquer Malaya.  On the surface this seems plausible, but I think there are a few potential flaws with this scenario.

    First: Britain’s imperial power was ultimately founded on the (historically) overwheming power of its navy, not of its army.  I’m not saying Britain didn’t have a good army; it did.  But I’m pointing out that Britain, relative to continental powers like France and Germany and Russia, operated on the basis of having a small but highly skilled professional army rather than having a much larger conscript army of uneven quality, and that this comparatively small army used the mobility conferred upon it by the Royal Navy as a force multiplier.  So when we talk about Britain sending a large army force to Singapore, we have to keep in mind that Britain didn’t actually have that large an army in a quantitative sense, even if qualitatively it was a good one.  And also remember that by 1940 Britain’s historically preeminent weapon, the Royal Navy, wasn’t as preeminent as Britain liked to think: between the huge econonic hit that Britain took during WWI and the effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the R.N. had suffered much from the effects of budgetery austerity.  (For example: as an economy measure, Britain at one point – I think it was around 1930 – started operating on a so-called “ten-year rule” which assumed that a war would not break out for another ten years and thus that it was safe to limit military spending in the current fiscal year.  The problem is that, as each year passed, the 10-year assumption simply got renewed rather than having one year subtracted from the original figure.)

    Second: Although it’s an obvious point of geography, it’s easy to overlook one of the key reasons why Japan was able to “run wild” and overwhelm the Dutch, the British and the Americans in the areas it conquered in just six months from December 1941 to May 1942: because Japan had the advantage of fighting what was essentially a local campaign, whereas the Dutch and the British were operating on the other side of the planet from their own home turf and the Americans, though somewhat better off, were still about 6,000 miles away.  By the end of WWII, the Americans had built up the equipment and the skills to sustain massive naval forces across that much distance, but at the beginning of the war even the Americans didn’t have either of those elements in place…and the British certainly didn’t.

    Third: Let’s not forget the “Would you turn you back on this man?” argument.  Let’s assume that Britain and Hitler had reached a deal in the summer or fall of 1940, presumably because Britain had concluded that Hitler was unbeatable in continental Europe and because Hitler had concluded that Britain was un-invadable in the short or medium term due to the combined obstacles of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.  Would any sensible British Prime Minister have concluded from this deal that “it’s now safe to send a large portion of the British Army and the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to the other side of the planet,” given Hitler’s abysmal track record with regard to compliance with non-aggression treaties?


  • 2018 2017 2016 2015 '14 Customizer

    @CWO:

    Interesting discussion about various hypothetical Singapore scenarios.  Here are a few additional thoughts.

    If I’ve followed the thread correctly, the starting assumption is that Britain, under someone other than Churchill, reaches some sort settlement with Germany after the conquest of France, and is then free to carry on with its imperial business-as-usual.  I’m a bit sceptical that Britain could have gotten than good a deal from Hitler (presumably a deal basically saying “Let me have uncontested control of continental Europe and I’ll let you keep Great Britain for yourselves and let you keep uncontested control of non-European waters”), but let’s assume for the moment that such a deal has been worked out.  The next assumption, again if I’m following the thread correctly, is that Britain, now secure at home, sends massive naval and army and air force reinforcements to Singapore, and that these reinforcements end up derailing Japan’s plans to conquer Malaya.  On the surface this seems plausible, but I think there are a few potential flaws with this scenario.

    First: Britain’s imperial power was ultimately founded on the (historically) overwheming power of its navy, not of its army.  I’m not saying Britain didn’t have a good army; it did.  But I’m pointing out that Britain, relative to continental powers like France and Germany and Russia, operated on the basis of having a small but highly skilled professional army rather than having a much larger conscript army of uneven quality, and that this comparatively small army used the mobility conferred upon it by the Royal Navy as a force multiplier.  So when we talk about Britain sending a large army force to Singapore, we have to keep in mind that Britain didn’t actually have that large an army in a quantitative sense, even if qualitatively it was a good one.  And also remember that by 1940 Britain’s historically preeminent weapon, the Royal Navy, wasn’t as preeminent as Britain liked to think: between the huge econonic hit that Britain took during WWI and the effects of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the R.N. had suffered much from the effects of budgetery austerity.  (For example: as an economy measure, Britain at one point – I think it was around 1930 – started operating on a so-called “ten-year rule” which assumed that a war would not break out for another ten years and thus that it was safe to limit military spending in the current fiscal year.  The problem is that, as each year passed, the 10-year assumption simply got renewed rather than having one year subtracted from the original figure.)

    Second: Although it’s an obvious point of geography, it’s easy to overlook one of the key reasons why Japan was able to “run wild” and overwhelm the Dutch, the British and the Americans in the areas it conquered in just six months from December 1941 to May 1942: because Japan had the advantage of fighting what was essentially a local campaign, whereas the Dutch and the British were operating on the other side of the planet from their own home turf and the Americans, though somewhat better off, were still about 6,000 miles away.  By the end of WWII, the Americans had built up the equipment and the skills to sustain massive naval forces across that much distance, but at the beginning of the war even the Americans didn’t have either of those elements in place…and the British certainly didn’t.

    Third: Let’s not forget the “Would you turn you back on this man?” argument.  Let’s assume that Britain and Hitler had reached a deal in the summer or fall of 1940, presumably because Britain had concluded that Hitler was unbeatable in continental Europe and because Hitler had concluded that Britain was un-invadable in the short or medium term due to the combined obstacles of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy.  Would any sensible British Prime Minister have concluded from this deal that “it’s now safe to send a large portion of the British Army and the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to the other side of the planet,” given Hitler’s abysmal track record with regard to compliance with non-aggression treaties?

    I definitely agree on your last remark about Hitler. Once he knew UK would be thin at home Bam he would have attacked London.


  • 2019 2018

    @CWO Mark I can’t speak for others, but I was mainly focusing on increasing British Naval/Air presence in Singapore (to prevent Japanese amphibious operations on the Malaysian Peninsula and surrounding waters) , not necessarily a massive increase in army presence (I mentioned an increased presence but I didn’t imagine the British sending their whole land army to Asia). The UK didn’t have enough manpower to wage much of an effective land war against Japan (as the Burma campaign proved). Plus, to your point, the British would have to keep the vast majority of their ground forces in Europe to deter a possible (although extremely unlikely) Sealion.

    Your point about the UK needing to retain a strong enough presence to deter a German truce-breaking invasion is valid though. I elaborated on in a bit in more detail in the post before yours, so I won’t repeat everything I said there, but in-short the UK’s hands would be tied until Germany commits to Barbarossa, which would require 100% of the Germans’ attention. To me, whether Britain reinforces Singapore in time comes down to how early/late Hitler pulls the trigger in the east.


  • 2018 2017

    another great discussion by the Axa Grogmunity

    While I can imagine a lasting Phoney War, its hard to see the UK making a separate peace.  WW1 experience showed how vulnerable the UK was to a siege by submarine and sea lanes.  Making a short-term peace with or just failing to keep the pressure on Germany would at some juncture lead to a total and unrelenting siege of the UK, one not limited by a two-front war or other distractions.  Even without Churchill to say it so eloquently, the war was one of national survival–because the Germans had already accomplished their WW1 era objectives, closed out the western land front, demolished the balance of power, trading partners, alliance system, and threatened all the choke points—basically disrupting 300 years of work that made the British empire a viable proposition.  At some future point, before, after or during the defeat of the USSR and even during an open war with the USA, the UK could expect a siege without end, even if all the ships could not be intercepted, the economic “mercantilist” system would be impossible in a world where all the colonies, markets, and canals were threatened…all despite having a powerful (but in this reversed situation, not particularly valuable) surface navy.  That was the German version of Napoleon’s “continental system”.

    HK, Singapore the Philippines ended up being traps for the Allies–as the threat of war escalated they were tempted to commit more and more of their forces and resources to shore up those frontline bases and create a false deterrence, but these bases (as other pointed out) were far from their empires and were essentially frontier forts that were also subject to siege by land, sea, and air.    No matter how powerful the forces were that garrisoned these outposts, they were essentially trapped by Japanese domination of the interior sea lanes (entire asian coast) that would cut lines of communication from home.    The idea that some level of commitment or reinforcement would have slowed the Japanese war plans ignores how quickly these already substantial (though outnumbered and outdated) forces were—surrounded and defeated and the immense momentum that Japan gained by its rapid and coordinated open to the war.    The Prince of Wales/Repulse debacle showed that the UK Navy was vulnerable from air and submarine attacks, tactics that the UK could not bring to bear at that time on Japan.  The Russo-Japanese war showed that cut off colonies, forts and an unsupported navy far from home could become liabilities, not assets.

    The European war was a prerequisite to Japan’s war plans as they all relied on the Allies being preoccupied with events elsewhere, having to face all the Allies alone and at once would have dissuaded the Japanese DoW or any bold surprise opener.    If we assume a stalemate around 1940 BoB era, and that the UK did not expect an imminent invasion, it is still too much to presume that the defense of these Asian colonies would have been successful or purposeful, especially if the Suez or ME fell and cut the sea lanes in a different place, or if Germany had defeated a Russia standing alone, the regional dominance of either Germany or Japan would have made the British Empire impossible to continue.

    If we reduce the war to just Ger v Rus and UK vs Japan, we also cant be entirely sure what the US would have done–the threat of the defeat of the UK was a big reason for the US entry, also Pearl Harbor may have been cut in order to focus Japanese assets on the non us colonies and a war with UK and Russia without provoking one with the US



  • @suprise:

    What if
    Churchill didnt get elected or was killed, or if it was FDR in the same situation
    Would the Axis have been able to win the war
    Have fun

    I belive it did not matter. Churchill and FDR were not dictators, they were not above the Palace of Westminster or Capitol Hill, even with no Winnie then Halifax would still have to listen to the public opinion, and so did FDR. All the other candidates at the 1940 election, like Wendell Willkie, Cordell Hull, Farley, Garner, Tydings, Wallace, Taft and Dewey, were not likely to follow a radically different policy than FDR did. They could not bypass Capitol Hill and declare a personal war, neither could they ignore any Axis threats to the national security. So bottom line is, democracies never have that great freedom of choices, they must obey the public opinion. Ian Kershaw is discussing this issues in his book Fateful Choices 2008. The only persons that could have made a difference were dictators like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, they never listened to the opinion and would follow their own way. No Hitler and no Stalin ? Yes, the WWII would for sure turn out in a different way than it did historical. No FDR ? Wendell Willkie could have done nothing different than FDR did. USA would enter the war in dec 1941 like a train on a railway.


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