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What if the US had gone to war in 1939?

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

    I got this one from another site. How would the prosecution of the war been changed by both sides? In 1939, the US had an outdated, antiquated, cadre army the size of Portugal's and could initially commit only 3 understrength Divisions overseas. The US Marine Corps numbered only 19,000+ officers and men. The US Air Corps was slowly upgrading to P-35 and P-36 Fighterplanes. All of the WW II Fighterplanes were still on the drawing boards. The B-18 Bolo Bomber was its mainstay, although the B-17 was in a position to being placed in full wartime production.
    "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

  • #2
    The US did a small ammount of improvement between September 1939 and July 1940. Mostly a increase in funds for development and slightly accelerated procurement of already scheduled weapons. Most of this was directed at the Army Air Corps and the USN.

    A major improvement outside the military was the large ammount of cash the French & Britsh laid onto US industry in 1939. Even before the war the French were negotiating with US aircraft manufactors for new planes and large contracts were signed shortly after the war started, with other even larger orders made in subsequent months. The French paid huge cash advances for these and presented impecable credit for the balance. The Brits did likewise. Large orders were also made for chemicals (ammunition), alloys, machine tools, and maintiance contracts with US shipyards for overflow of catchup work the French British industry could not get to quickly.

    This cash infusion did a lot to start expansion of the US aircraft and war industry a year before the US Congress took any interest in this.

    After France collapsed the various Emergnecy War Powers Acts threw blank checks at the US arms industry and mobilization of the Ground Forces begain with all due speed. Entry into the war in 1939 starts the mobilization to war posture ten to twelve months earlier. it also means US War Department and USN purchasing agents are lined up with the French and British at the factory sales offices. Actual deliverys of new weapons may only be accelerated a few months rather than a year. Depends on prewar events in 1938/39. Perhaps the sense of emergency in the US would start much sooner?

    The Army Air Corps & USN would be flying more of the older model aircraft since they would be ordering designs available in 1939. The bulk of the weapons of the ground forces were deigned and ordered long before the war. M1 Rifles, air cooled MMGs, all wheel drive trucks, the basic artillery park, were all already in production. The cannon and automotive components used for the M3 & M4 medium and M2 light tanks were already existant. It was just a matter of writing up specs and working out how they would go together. Probablly a lot more of the M2 medium tanks would be fielded and maybe some to the older heavy tank designs built.

    The USN was already writing up specifications and drawing plans for things like fleet oilers, Essex class carriers, ect... many details still had to be settled for the ships of 1944, but the basic concept was already there.

    The bottom line is the military the US had in mid 1944 will exist sometime in 1943, with whater modification combat experince suggests.
    Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 26 Dec 07, 07:34.

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    • #3
      It's not what the US had in 39 that would have mattered, it's that Germany would have KNOWN they were in it deep in 39 that would have counted.

      The British and French as well as any other nation involved would have KNOWN the US economic muscle WOULD be involved that would have counted.

      It's that the other involved parties would have likely made considerably different choices as a result of the US joining in 39.

      Focusing on what the US had in 39 is pointless unless you are wondering where they could have attacked in 39, which is silly, they wouldn't have.
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      • #4
        What would an AEF in France look like on May 10th 1940? maybe a Corps sized formation increasing at the rate of maybe a new division every two months (?) but well equipped, of high quality, motorised and supported by, for their size, a powerful airforce.

        Likely they would be kept out of front-line until the Expeditionary Force was much stronger so where they might be assembling could be important - somewhere 'safe' like around St. Quentin could be very interesting.

        Was their enough port capacity to share the French ports in Britanny and Normandy with the BEF or would the AEFs LOC stretch to the Gascon ports and those in the Mediterranean.

        The key consideration to me is, despite whatever military success the Germans would still enjoy, can the Allies with the modest increase in military power but great increase in French confidence hold a bridgehead in France somewhere? Weygand thought the 'Breton Redoubt' could be defended by fifteen divisions whilst Bordeaux and Marseilles are far away enough from Germany to stretch German logistics and LOC to snapping point.

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        • #5
          some questions before to answer:

          what would bring the USA in war in 1939? and against who? and why?

          against Japan for it's actions in China?

          against Germany for it's agression - some would say legitimate - on Poland?

          I wonder what would make the What if plausible?
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          • #6
            Originally posted by piero1971 View Post
            some questions before to answer:

            what would bring the USA in war in 1939? and against who? and why?

            against Japan for it's actions in China?

            against Germany for it's agression - some would say legitimate - on Poland?

            I wonder what would make the What if plausible?
            To answer those questions you need to look back to the1920s and consider alternatives to the failures of US & European diplomacy and planning. The failure of the US to join the League of Nations was one step along the way. Various other diplomatic/political initiatives to bring the US away from from its isolationist leanings failed as well.

            Possiblly a much earlier war with Japan could have changed things. Britian had concerns with Japans aggresive imperialist policys too. So a Pacific war may have changed some attitudes in the US were the two to become allied agaisnt Japan. If the French and Dutch are dragged into a Pacific war then the connections become a bit stronger again.

            Coming at a time of general economic decline a Pacifc war of the late 1920s or in the 1930s may have weakend the US and Britian economiclly as much as streangthened them militarily.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
              What would an AEF in France look like on May 10th 1940? maybe a Corps sized formation increasing at the rate of maybe a new division every two months (?) but well equipped, of high quality, motorised and supported by, for their size, a powerful airforce.

              Likely they would be kept out of front-line until the Expeditionary Force was much stronger so where they might be assembling could be important - somewhere 'safe' like around St. Quentin could be very interesting.
              Perhaps something along the lines of the BEF. A couple corps of combat ready soldiers, and maybe twice that many partially trained and equpped units.

              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
              Was their enough port capacity to share the French ports in Britanny and Normandy with the BEF or would the AEFs LOC stretch to the Gascon ports and those in the Mediterranean.
              While there were problems, the port capacity of WWI was adaquate to supply a much larger AEF, plus the flow of US supplies to French industry in 1918. The same in 1945. The Allied army then required a much large weight of supply per many than in 1940 or 1918 but the problem was solved despite the destruction of many ports and failure to capture others.

              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
              The key consideration to me is, despite whatever military success the Germans would still enjoy, can the Allies with the modest increase in military power but great increase in French confidence hold a bridgehead in France somewhere? Weygand thought the 'Breton Redoubt' could be defended by fifteen divisions whilst Bordeaux and Marseilles are far away enough from Germany to stretch German logistics and LOC to snapping point.
              This depends on if one considers the battle of France to be a Greek tragic opera with the result fore ordained by the gods, or if it was the result of specific circumstaces that might altered at the moment.

              Consider the effect if those one or two US corps are added to the weight of the Dyle plan in May 1940. If they are used along side the French 9th Army then Rommel will find his river crossing defended by full strength combat units echeloned in depth, instead of the thinly spread and incomplete defense by the partial B class infantry divsion he defeated historically.

              A Breton redoubt is not stratigiclly usefull by it self. It might be used to buy some time for the French army to retreat south. It might also encourage Reynauds ministry to move the French government to Africa, rather than resign and allow the appeasers to negotiate the armistice.

              Surviving US soldiers and aircraft evacuated to Britian or arriving reinforcements diverted from France would definitly change the equation for the battle of Britian.
              Last edited by Carl Schwamberg; 26 Dec 07, 12:34.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                Perhaps something along the lines of the BEF. A couple corps of combat ready soldiers, and maybe twice that many partially trained and equpped units.



                While there were problems, the port capacity of WWI was adaquate to supply a much larger AEF, plus the flow of US supplies to French industry in 1918. The same in 1945. The Allied army then required a much large weight of supply per many than in 1940 or 1918 but the problem was solved despite the destruction of many ports and failure to capture others.



                This depends on if one considers the battle of France to be a Greek tragic opera with the result fore ordained by the gods, or if it was the result of specific circumstaces that might altered at the moment.

                Consider the effect if those one or two US corps are added to the weight of the Dyle plan in May 1940. If they are used along side the French 9th Army then Rommel will find his river crossing defended by full strength combat units echeloned in depth, instead of the thinly spread and incomplete defense by the partial B class infantry divsion he defeated historically.

                A Breton redoubt is not stratigiclly usefull by it self. It might be used to buy some time for the French army to retreat south. It might also encourage Reynauds ministry to move the French government to Africa, rather than resign and allow the appeasers to negotiate the armistice.

                Surviving US soldiers and aircraft evacuated to Britian or arriving reinforcements diverted from France would definitly change the equation for the battle of Britian.

                A US Battle Fleet stationed in British Waters would also categorically rule out the possibility of any German invasion of the UK should France fall in 1940.
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                • #9
                  I wonder too, if immediate US participation in WWII wouldn't have moved Germany and the USSR closer together in a military alliance of the Axis Powers. Great Britain came very close to declaring war on the USSR as it was. Perhaps this might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. The Allies could have ended up fighting both the Nazis and the Communists in WW II.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                    I wonder too, if immediate US participation in WWII wouldn't have moved Germany and the USSR closer together in a military alliance of the Axis Powers. Great Britain came very close to declaring war on the USSR as it was. Perhaps this might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. The Allies could have ended up fighting both the Nazis and the Communists in WW II.
                    That would have been a nightmare scenario. But at the same time, I doubt very much that Hitler and Stalin keep to the terms of their agreement. No matter what alternate future we come up with, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would've fought each other. Sooner or later.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Paul Maud'dib View Post
                      It's not what the US had in 39 that would have mattered, it's that Germany would have KNOWN they were in it deep in 39 that would have counted.

                      The British and French as well as any other nation involved would have KNOWN the US economic muscle WOULD be involved that would have counted.

                      It's that the other involved parties would have likely made considerably different choices as a result of the US joining in 39.

                      Focusing on what the US had in 39 is pointless unless you are wondering where they could have attacked in 39, which is silly, they wouldn't have.
                      Paul makes good points here, especially the last sentence.....the US didn't have much of a war making capability because the US populace wasn't interested in getting lassoed into a war. Isolationism kept US armament at a dismal state; it would still have taken quite a bit to get up to speed. But there's no doubt the US's entry would have stirred the pot considerably!
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                        I wonder too, if immediate US participation in WWII wouldn't have moved Germany and the USSR closer together in a military alliance of the Axis Powers. Great Britain came very close to declaring war on the USSR as it was. Perhaps this might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. The Allies could have ended up fighting both the Nazis and the Communists in WW II.
                        Thanks Johnny, this point was in my mind also. However, I was more curious about the question's effect on Barbarossa. With the industrial power of the US committed earlier, would Stalin have launched his attack instead?
                        A question.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by holly6 View Post
                          Thanks Johnny, this point was in my mind also. However, I was more curious about the question's effect on Barbarossa. With the industrial power of the US committed earlier, would Stalin have launched his attack instead?
                          A question.
                          Historically, Stalin always behaved very ham-handedly, in that he didn't care what critics thought of either him or of the expanding Soviet Union. The only thing that he respected was the unvarnished use of raw, unrestricted power. Therefore, I believe that he would have still overun Lativa, Lithuania and Estonia, before invading Finland. If anything, America's entry into WWII would have prompted Stalin to attempt negotiating even closer economic and military ties with Germany, perhaps even to the point of actually joining the Axis Powers.
                          "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Carl Schwamberg View Post
                            Perhaps something along the lines of the BEF. A couple corps of combat ready soldiers, and maybe twice that many partially trained and equpped units.
                            The British army, whilst still small compared to the armies on the Continent, was much larger than that of the US on September 3rd 1939, near 900,000 all ranks of which about 60% were Territorials. Even so they struggled to field the 10 division BEF by May 1940 though the flow of new battle-ready divisions was speeding-up.

                            While there were problems, the port capacity of WWI was adaquate to supply a much larger AEF, plus the flow of US supplies to French industry in 1918. The same in 1945. The Allied army then required a much large weight of supply per many than in 1940 or 1918 but the problem was solved despite the destruction of many ports and failure to capture others.
                            Good points, I just wonder that with the idea of a long and large campaign the 1940 AEF would want to have its own ports under control.

                            This depends on if one considers the battle of France to be a Greek tragic opera with the result fore ordained by the gods, or if it was the result of specific circumstaces that might altered at the moment.

                            Consider the effect if those one or two US corps are added to the weight of the Dyle plan in May 1940. If they are used along side the French 9th Army then Rommel will find his river crossing defended by full strength combat units echeloned in depth, instead of the thinly spread and incomplete defense by the partial B class infantry divsion he defeated historically.
                            No, I don't think the 1940 campaign was fore ordained by any means, but it would have to be pretty serendiptous to have the American forces near enough to the Meuse crossings to stop the Panzer divisions. But even then the Germans might wait for their Motorised divisions to arrive before launching a new assault and if they were blocked there was a mass of infantry divisions following behind.
                            But yes, the most desirable postioning of the US forces from the Allies POV if not the troops themselves in this ATL and whether by accident or design, would be directly in the path of German Army Group A.

                            A Breton redoubt is not stratigiclly usefull by it self. It might be used to buy some time for the French army to retreat south. It might also encourage Reynauds ministry to move the French government to Africa, rather than resign and allow the appeasers to negotiate the armistice.

                            Surviving US soldiers and aircraft evacuated to Britian or arriving reinforcements diverted from France would definitly change the equation for the battle of Britian.
                            A Breton redoubt would be very valuable, with the major ports of Brest and L’Orient/St. Nazaire and several minor ports available easily able to supply considerable forces whilst it is in short flying distance from England allowing the RAF to reinforce at will. Even to cover the 150km line the Germans would be forced to commit a significant part of their forces as Britain & alone would be able to reinforce at the rate of 2-3 divisions and 2-3 tank regiments per month. The further away from Germany the German army advances the weaker it becomes, the French government might need never evacuate metropolitan France.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                              Good points, I just wonder that with the idea of a long and large campaign the 1940 AEF would want to have its own ports under control.
                              In WWI there was a sort of split administration of the docks and transportation. The existing French port authorities had US soldiers and Naval pers. overlaid whos authority extended to specific supplies headed for the AEF. So some docks,wharehouses, and train loading area were exclusively for the US use and others were for the French, and others shared or changed as needed. Since specific ports were designated for the AEF as supply transit ports then in that sense the AEF 'owned' them. This was more or less the same system that had been establsihed for the British over the previous years.



                              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                              No, I don't think the 1940 campaign was fore ordained by any means, but it would have to be pretty serendiptous to have the American forces near enough to the Meuse crossings to stop the Panzer divisions. But even then the Germans might wait for their Motorised divisions to arrive before launching a new assault and if they were blocked there was a mass of infantry divisions following behind.
                              But yes, the most desirable postioning of the US forces from the Allies POV if not the troops themselves in this ATL and whether by accident or design, would be directly in the path of German Army Group A. .
                              I illustrated just one case. Overall wherever the AEF is used along the front it can create a greater density in the main defense zone, or add weight to the French stratigic reserve. The 9th Armys sector From Namur through Montherme was the thiniest & had the lowest quality average units, so it would be a logical place for filling in any additions. Any extra motorized units would be logical as reinforcements. Two extra motor infantry divsions, either French or US, would make a difference between the 13 and 18th May.



                              Originally posted by Gooner View Post
                              A Breton redoubt would be very valuable, with the major ports of Brest and L’Orient/St. Nazaire and several minor ports available easily able to supply considerable forces whilst it is in short flying distance from England allowing the RAF to reinforce at will. Even to cover the 150km line the Germans would be forced to commit a significant part of their forces as Britain & alone would be able to reinforce at the rate of 2-3 divisions and 2-3 tank regiments per month. The further away from Germany the German army advances the weaker it becomes, the French government might need never evacuate metropolitan France.
                              I dont think the Germans would simply contain such a enclave. Instead of a Battle Britian there would be a Battle of Brittiany, with the Luftwaffe concentrated against it, and no anoying Channel to cross. While Allied airforces in Britian could easily reinforce that location they would not have the advantage of a properly sited radar warning system or the elaborate command communications and extensive ground support. The fighter defenses would be flying from a hastily arraigned airbase system without the advantages of the Britiah air defense system. A Breton redoubt could distract the Germans for a bit to give the French army time to reorganize far to the south and delay attacking Britian. But, as soon as the Germans concentrate on the place its time to cut the losses and run.

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