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What if the US had gone to war in 1939?

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  • #31
    Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
    Actually the BEF was split, with the combat ready corps off the Louvain sector on the Dyle in Belgium, some third rate divsions remaining on fatigue duty in the BEFs assembly area in northern France, and one other divsion (51st?) off on front line duty on the Fraco German border. I'd guess the same for the AEF.
    I wouldn't say the three divisions engaged on labour duties were third-rate - their manpower was first class Territorials, but they had as yet no artillery, anti-tank, signals or engineers and their heavy weapons issue was about a third of normal scale. They were not yet intended for battle but to complete their training in France whilst building positions and airfields.

    Yes the 51st (Highland) Division (+) was in the Saar region on 10th May supposedly to acquire combat experience but any actual provoking of the Germans was heavily discouraged by the French.

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    • #32
      As Carl Schwamberg said 3rd rate Divisions. No artillery, anti-tank, signals or engineers and missing about 60% of their heavy weapons and according to your post not trained up. How else could they be rated?

      HP
      "Ask not what your country can do for you"

      Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

      you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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      • #33
        Originally posted by Half Pint View Post
        As Carl Schwamberg said 3rd rate Divisions. No artillery, anti-tank, signals or engineers and missing about 60% of their heavy weapons and according to your post not trained up. How else could they be rated?

        HP
        Eh? They shouldn't be 'rated' at all, if they were to be called anything it should be what the British called them - Labour Divisions. Third rate implies similar to the French 'B' class and the German later Welle infantry divisions, less well equipped than their compatriots, undertrained and with older men but nevertheless still expected to play their part in the battle. Those three BEF divisions were not expected to play any part in battle until they were complete and on the same scale of equipment as any other BEF division but they were in the main composed of young or experienced volunteers.

        The fact that they were even sent to France was in great part because of political pressure from the French for Britain to do more.

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        • #34
          Active divisions today are also classed based on training status, equipment readiness and manpower available.
          I wouldn't say the three divisions engaged on labour duties were third-rate
          You said there were 3 divisions. Were they first, second or third rate? What was their unit ID's? You listed the major shortages that they had in crital equipment. They were not combat ready.
          "Ask not what your country can do for you"

          Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

          you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

          Comment


          • #35
            Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
            Not true. This is one of the myths of the campaign. Its not mentioned by legitamate historians of the campaign such as May, Chapman, Horne...

            There were a least 16 divsions assigned to the "Stratigic Reserve" under the control of Georges. These included infantry, motorized infantry, and DCR. None were committed to front line poisitons along the border, or to tasks with the 1st, 7th, & 9th Armys as part of the Dyle plan. There were various contingency plans written for these divsions, but they were only contingent and execution not automatic or required by the Dyle Plan.

            On 10-11 May Several of these, the 71st Infantry & two DCR were released to the 2d Army and to the Army Group entering Begium. The remainder were released slowly over the subsequent days, mostly to rebuild the defense on the south shoulder of the enemy exploitation. Those that reached the 9th Army sector along the Meuse River were destroyed in the German mechanized corps exploitation.
            Righto, I had forgotten/didn't know that.

            Slowing down the breakthrough of the mechanized group along the Meuse is the most likely outcome of reinforcing the 9th Army. When the two Pz Corps started crossing the river on the 13th May there were only three infantry divsions defending, and two were B types without motorized transport, only two regiments of each were in place and most of those men had only arrived the previous day after a two day road march. On the left flank of the 9th Army was posted a motorized infantry divsion which had arrived complete and been preparing its defense for over 48 hours.

            Another good quality motorized divsion arriving quickly thickens the defenses of the Meuse River. Two more good quality divsions helps even more. It took Rommels 7th Pz about 48 hours to create the bridgehead acrss the river an break the incomplete defense of the French 18th Infantry Div. More better quality & better prepared battalions are likely to slow that attack by another 24 to 36 hours.

            The 1st DCR & a North African infantry divsion had been ordered to assemble in the rear of the 18th Divsion and counter attack against the 7th Pz bridgehead. When Rommel broke free of the bridgehead on 15 May both those divsions were still on the road, and directly in his path. Just 12 more hours would allow them time to complete their march and deploy, even given the slow speed usually acredited to the French.

            Further south in the Givet area the French defenders did not even have any one behind them and the exploitation was even faster. A single infantry divsion shattered by a Pz Div backed by a infantry divsion. Again a additional good quality unit buys the Allies a precious 12 or 24 hours for the fw units enroute to properly assemble, which further delays and equally importantly attritions the pz divsions. So, perhaps through this cascade of delays the advance of Kliests mechanized group can be slowed so the Allied armys in Belgium withdraw south.
            Good summary.

            Given the extra delay and cost to Army Group 'A', the disunity typical in the German command and the liableness of some to panic it's easy to believe the Germans may abandon the Sichelsnitt in favour of seemingly less risky 'short envelopments' to the north and south of the breakthrough.

            Quite so, but the Allied air defense would not be anywhwere near the scale of that in Britian. The critical radar & command systems would be lacking. I cant see even half the weight of the Luftwaffe being required for this task.
            Even before the end of the campaign the Luftwaffe was down to about half its May 10th strength. As it was the evacuations south of the Somme, Operation Aerial, were, with the singular disaster of the Lancastria, little troubled by the Luftwaffe. Even a few squadrons of fighters in Brittany would be little harrassed by LW bombers flying unescorted from their bases in Belgium or even Germany. Airfields nearer would take weeks to get established at a speed no quicker than Allied airfields could be created and reinforced, predominantly by the RAF but with some significant contribution by the USAAC.
            In time an air defence system evolved around mobile radar stations, which were already in service in the UK, could be established.

            A couple more good qualty corps are not enough to create this redoubt. It would require an entire army with pleantifull artillery ammunition. It took only a couple weeks for the Germans to realign two army groups to attack south of the Somme and on to Paris, Bourdeux, & the Swiss border. Brittianny is not so far out of the way. This Britiany gambit would be useful as a distractor or delay, but little else.
            The assumption I was making is that there would be two or three good French corps, the AEF corps and a small but rapidly growing corps of the 2nd BEF. Brittany is a long way even from Paris - 200 miles to Rennes - maybe 500 miles from Germany, the German advances south of the Somme were the Panzer and motorised divsions enjoying a mostly pleasant and trouble free Tour de France, it would take a couple of weeks hard marching for the German infantry divisions north of the Seine just to get to Brittany. The Allies could ship in supplies and reinforcements even from America more quickly than that. And given a reasonable level of destruction of the track and evacuation/destruction of French rolling stock the Germans would be relying on an extremely stretched LOC. The Panzers if they make the initial foray would have no more ammunition than they could take with them, enough for a days intensive fighting perhaps.

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            • #36
              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
              Even before the end of the campaign the Luftwaffe was down to about half its May 10th strength. As it was the evacuations south of the Somme, Operation Aerial, were, with the singular disaster of the Lancastria, little troubled by the Luftwaffe. Even a few squadrons of fighters in Brittany would be little harrassed by LW bombers flying unescorted from their bases in Belgium or even Germany. Airfields nearer would take weeks to get established at a speed no quicker than Allied airfields could be created and reinforced, predominantly by the RAF but with some significant contribution by the USAAC.
              In time an air defence system evolved around mobile radar stations, which were already in service in the UK, could be established.
              Perhaps. This is assuming the resources would be made available. Dowding kept a firm grip on what he thought needed to defend Britian, and he's likely to be thinking about what happens if the Germans ignore Brittiany and try for Britian.

              My own take is the Luftwaffe was about 60% of starting strength by the armistice. But its going to depend on how the aircraft & crew are counted which is straying into the realm of quibbling..

              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
              The assumption I was making is that there would be two or three good French corps, the AEF corps and a small but rapidly growing corps of the 2nd BEF. Brittany is a long way even from Paris - 200 miles to Rennes - maybe 500 miles from Germany, the German advances south of the Somme were the Panzer and motorised divsions enjoying a mostly pleasant and trouble free Tour de France,.
              Now we are delving into the lesser studied campaign. I've been told the Wehrmacht suffered the majority of its casualties during this second half of the battle, tho I've not researched this myself. There were four or five days of hard fighting in the Somme defense zone, and a series of declining actions over the next two weeks as the campaign spun out. Theres a lot of material in French about these battles, which I've never had the time to translate. Karslake 'The Last Battle' and a artical from the Journal of the Royal Artillery have some bits about evacuating the remnanats of the BEF through that area. From the latter I have the impression the Wehrmachts infantry were no further behind the mechanized lead than during the May campaign, 1-2 days.

              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
              it would take a couple of weeks hard marching for the German infantry divisions north of the Seine just to get to Brittany. The Allies could ship in supplies and reinforcements even from America more quickly than that. And given a reasonable level of destruction of the track and evacuation/destruction of French rolling stock the Germans would be relying on an extremely stretched LOC. The Panzers if they make the initial foray would have no more ammunition than they could take with them, enough for a days intensive fighting perhaps.
              Again we are deep into unkown territory here. My take is the Wehrmachts logistics trains were not that slow. Both Army groups A & B advanced deep into France and kept the men fed the vehicals fueled, and artillery ammunition supplied for the battles that did occur. A shsrp attack into the Breton Redoubt in late June or early July does not seem unreasonable.

              Perhaps there is some expert on the latter half of the battle of France who can enlighten us?

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              • #37
                What if the impossible happened

                Erased and removed to a new topic.
                Last edited by johnbryan; 01 Jan 08, 20:51.
                "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                • #38
                  I do not think an AEF would have been put in the line at all but rather would have been placed in reserve. Had the US entered the war in Sep 39 there would not have been enough time to train and equip a fullly capable force in just eight months other than perhaps one corps sized unit with precious few AT, AA or armoured assets.

                  The idea that it would have been used to back up the Ardennes also does not fit French strategic thinking in 1940. The deployment of both 9th and 2nd armies along with the four mech cav divs and other light infantry in the forest was considered more than adequate. Thus the role in reserve seems likely.

                  The commitment of this corps could happen in one of two ways. Case one has it committed during the breakout from the Meuse in which case it would probably be quite roughly handled and either defeated in detail or driven back over the Somme. Case two would see it deployed in the front during the June battles where it would still be suffering from poor doctrine and lack of modern equipment. It would most likely have to beat a hasty retreat for the ports along with BEF II in early June or face the prospect of surrender.

                  There is only one army that is going to defeat the Germans in 1940 and that is the French. If the 96 divisions of the French army cannot stand, nothing the ten British or four to six odd and indifferently equipped US infantry divisions could do would reverse that.

                  The French campaign was not lost on the Meuse, at Gembloux or on the Somme, it was lost in the 1920s when training times were sacrificed to political infighting and the entrenchment of Methodical Battle in French military philosophy.
                  The Purist

                  Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                  • #39
                    Taking this beyond the battle of France; The French leader Renaud was not ready to give up. He briefly considered the Brittany redoubt proposal. His mistress did not care for the Breton hotels, and Renaud and his military advisors had serious doubts about the ability to set up a defense before the Germans arrived.

                    Renaud also proposed the removal of the government to Africa. France had a sizable army there, the ports were adaquate for the navy, and there were modern civil and military airfields adjacent to allthe cities. More ever the French airforce was already evacuating its best aircraft to Africa and optimistic about getting all of them away. (A pity they could not have been as efficent at attacking the Germans.) Large orders of munitions and equipment from US industry were enroute to Europe and would be available to rebuild the French military in Africa. There were contracts with US shipyards for maintinace on French navy ships.

                    All this would be strengthend were the US allied with France, providing a incentive to the other French leaders to support Renauds proposal. So assuming Renaud can badger enough French government Ministers, Generals, elected Deputies and whatever, into flying off the Algiers what then?

                    1. What remnants of the French military can be saved in the final weeks (and how long does it take for the Germans to secure & close all the ports).

                    2. What are the short term effects of the French remnants remaining in the fight?

                    3. What are the longer term implications?
                    Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 06 Jan 08, 19:31.

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                    • #40
                      I suppose the answer to the above would come down to how the French planned on supplying whatever forces made it overseas. With the supply bases and factories under German control there are no spares, no new production, POL would be a problem until the LOCs were redirected.

                      Continued French resistance overseas may have forced the Germans to push on into Tunisia while the initiative was still their's and Spain may have become involved in exchange for Gibraltar and Morocco (for example). I think it all still ends badly for France and the allies but the fight may delay Barbarossa which would work to the USSR's advantage.
                      The Purist

                      Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                      • #41
                        Back to the main thread for a moment....

                        If the US did become involved in 39 it would mean that the materiel purchased from the US (P-75 Hawks, etc) would probably have been retained for the US forces. As these forces would still be small and under or ill-equipped in 1940 I think it would have created additional problems for the French airforce in the spring of 1940.

                        The benifit of the 1939-40 "Cash and Carry" policy of the US government was that it did clear a lot of old inventory from the US warehouses and did expedite delivery of newer aircraft such as the P-38 and P-40.
                        The Purist

                        Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                        • #42
                          I dont know anything about what was in inventory in any warehouses. A accquaintance has been doing research on what was actually in the hands of the French Airforce. Here is the part about what France purchased from the US, which he passed on to me. He did not present this as a complete list, or as confirmed through alternate sources. Just the list as he had compiled early last year.

                          Originally posted by Louis View Post
                          Curtiss H-75. 200 ordered prewar, last ones assembled in September '39.
                          135 A3s ordered in October '39, all shipped March-May '40, last dozen or so captured by the Germans on the assembly lines. 285 A4s (Wright engine) ordered March '40, 81 shipped before the armistice, 30 or so assembled and flown to North Africa, none served in combat units. The Wright engine was found unsuitable for fighters, so some of the airframes received P&W engines (i.e. A3 version).

                          Curtiss H-81 (P-40): something like 500 ordered, deliveries would have started in July or August.

                          Douglas DB-7: 100 ordered in February 1939 and another 170 in October. First contract finished shipping in late April but assembly was delayed due to the lack of critical component (this would also be a problem with British-purchased U.S. aircraft). At the time of the armistice and in round numbers, the French had assembled 70 or so with an additional 45 or so in assembly or in transit. 14 were lost in combat, a very high number considering that they weren't engaged for long. These early versions lacked armor and self-sealing tanks. IIRC others were on order but I forget how many.

                          Glenn-Martin 167F: 115 ordered prewar, 130 ordered in late '39 for delivery by Summer 1940, 200 GM-187 (that one was the Baltimore in RAF service) ordered for delivery starting in October 1940. over 200 shipped by the time of the armistice, of which 30 still in crates, others in assembly. 40 or so lost from all causes.

                          North American NA-57 trainers, prewar contract of 200: all shipped and assembled, second contract of (no time to look this up) 111 shipped, no time to look up how many were assembled, certainly not all as the last shipments left NYC May, 28th. Around 140 were still around in Vichy France and colonies, plus losses plus whatever number was captured by the Germans.
                          As far as I can tell from the text all these were manufactored post order rather than drawn from a inventory. The total on this list is something between 1700 to 1800 aircraft ordered during 1939 and the first four months of 1940. I suspect there were others possibly training models that were in addition to this.

                          What is the signifigance of these numbers? My old standby, Ellis's 'Brute Force' gives in Table 41 of the Statistical Appendix total US aircraft production for 1940 as 3,806 of which 1785 were combat aircraft. 1939 is not given for the US. Although it was probablly less than the 1940 production I'll assume for the moment it was similar. So, French orders ammounted to at least half of the US combat aircraft production in 1939/1940. Probably more. The British also ordered aircraft from the US, tho I dont have any friendly Brits feeding me those numbers. The most important aspect of all these orders has little to do with the outcome ofthe battle of France. What all these aircraft orders did was trigger the expansion of th US aircraft industry a year sooner than orders by the US government would. I dont have numbers at hand here, but can say that US oders for combat aircraft for 1939 were increased some over previous years, but not in any order of magnitude.

                          Now, refering back to Ellis the US combat aircraft production is shown as:

                          1940 - 1,785 2,885

                          1941 - 8,531 957 2,561

                          1942 - 23,396 4,695 3,440

                          1943 - 53,343 23,807 4,667

                          1944 - 73,876 33,179 5,041

                          The second column is US aircraft in "front line service" and the third is German aircraft in combat service. These are as of December of each year.

                          One might think that the US entry in 1939 would set this production schedule ahead by roughly one year. In the short run it does not mean much due to trade offs between the US taking more of the early 1939-1940 production and the French/Brits less. Plus there are the training of pilots and provision of grounds support to take care of.

                          The acceleration becomes significant as the production of 1942 becomes available, to a USAAF that has been in the fight two years. In other words the Allies have opportunity to accelerate the attrition of the Luftwaffe a full year earlier.

                          I suspose one can do the same with all other types of US production. However there will be some distortions.

                          1. The US will not enter the war fighting Japan, so while much of the US fleet will remain in the Pacific to watch Japan a fair portion will be available to sink submarines and chase surface raiders in the Atlantic, or fight the Italians in the Med.

                          2. The US starts accquiring combat experience much earlier. Precisely what this means I'll leave open to debate, but suggest it wont be a bad thing.

                          3. Cash & Carry supply to the Allies would be replaced by a more effcient system. Again this may not mean much to the battle for France, but it has implications for the African/Med theatre and for the USSR.

                          4. Development of the A bomb starts as much as year earlier.
                          Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 10 Jan 08, 23:38.

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                          • #43
                            Have been playing around with the mobilization schedules, training programs timeline, and production numbers a bit more. Projected them according to two time lines. One assumes the US starts mobilization and military production in the autum of 1939, as has been discussed above. The other starts the mobilization a bit earlier, triggered by the Cezch crisis and later German occupation of the entire Cezch nation. The latter mobilization I assumed would be slower as it would not be on a emergency basis. The main difference it seems to make is in the preperation for military production and the preperation for training new active service formations.

                            Either way it is increasingly clear the Axis are in trouble much earlier in the war. I've not yet gone over the top by plotting curves or making up bar graphs. The numbers from Ellis & elsewhere show the US is able to field a military comparable in size & fire power in early 1943 as it actually did did in mid 1944. Some aspects like naval or perhaps airpower seem to mature much faster, ground forces a tad slower.

                            Several varibles that could influence this are:

                            1. More effcient distribution of resources amoung the Allies without the tricks of the Cash/Carry or later Lend/Lease policys.

                            2. US ground & air combat experince in Europe start in 1940, vs very late 1942. And, naval combat experince, mostly vs submarines, starts in 1939 vs 1942. Different aspects will be accelerated at different rates so one has to consider differeces in Allied policy and strategy for assesing this.

                            3. USN & the Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1941.

                            4. A more coherent or coordinated Allied policy/strategy towards Japan.

                            #3 is important as the transfer to US combat power to Europe is hindered or helped by the outcome of the battle against the submarines in 1940-41.

                            Another political variable is how the Allied negotiations in early 1939 with the USSR are affected by US participation. Would the US backing Frances position cause the USSR to decline their treaty with Germany?

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                            • #44
                              Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg
                              ...Another political variable is how the Allied negotiations in early 1939 with the USSR are affected by US participation. Would the US backing Frances position cause the USSR to decline their treaty with Germany?
                              If the US is backing France prior to Sep 1, 1939 there would be no war. I don't think even Hitler would have been so stupid as to risk war with Britain, France and the US over Poland. If the US is "undeclared" and Hitler makes the historical moves and is not waved off by the US name on the ultimatum then the US would be trounced along with the French and Brits in May 40.

                              On the positive side, by 1941 Hitler would have already lost the U-boat war and Britain would have a large US force based on the isalnd for a 1942 invasion or the US army could have been available for operations in Africa, tghus destroying the Italians early and preventing any worthwhile intervention by Rommel. It is questionable whether Hitler would have been able to invade the USSR with as large a force as he did. If he goes ahead with a smaller force the German military is probably nearly shattered in Russia and not able to recover its position by Mar 42.

                              If the eastern front cannot be stabalised in the summer of 1942 and the allies land in France Germany is finished by the end of the year or early 1943 at the latest.
                              The Purist

                              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                What if the US had gone to war in 1939?

                                FDR probably would have lost the 1940 Presidential election. His Republican successor would almost certainly have been an isolationist...

                                I think the war would have gone very badly...Particularly if it US intervention lead Hitler and Stalin to extend their non-aggression pact.

                                July 25, 2005
                                How Willkie Ran, Lost and Helped Win the War
                                By TODD S. PURDUM

                                WASHINGTON, July 24 - It is June 1940. France has just fallen to the Nazis. A conservative, isolationist Republican Party, incensed at the prospect of a third term for Franklin D. Roosevelt, nominates a liberal, interventionist political newcomer named Wendell Lewis Willkie. His moderate candidacy gives Roosevelt the cover he needs to pass a draft, swap American destroyers for bases from a beleaguered Britain and win re-election by five million votes...LINK
                                In 1939-1940, the US public sentiment was still very isolationist. Had FDR gone to war in 1939...the Republicans would have run an isolationist candidate. The 1940 race was much closer than FDR's 1936 re-election...An unpopular decision to go to war and an isolationist opponent might have been enough to unseat FDR and cause the USA to become even more isolationist.
                                Last edited by The Doctor; 21 Jan 08, 14:50.
                                Watts Up With That? | The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change.

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