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World War II: "Japan First"

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  • World War II: "Japan First"

    Hitler's declaration of war on the United States in December 1941 made for an easy decision, one favored by General Marshall and Secretary Stimson: hold the line in the Pacific and concentrate on Germany first.

    What if Hitler hadn't declared war?

    - Would Roosevelt have initiated war through a hostile act? (or, would the American public, at war with Japan, grow tired of war and reject a second front with Germany?)

    - If war did break out, would the Third Reich have become too strong on the Continent and in the Mediterranean/Africa to eject by the time war broke out with the United States (if it ever did)?
    "There are only two professions in the world in which the amateur excels the professional. One, military strategy, and, two, prostitution."
    -- Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

    (Avatar: Commodore Edwin Ward Moore, Republic of Texas Navy)

  • #2
    Originally posted by Jon Jordan View Post
    Hitler's declaration of war on the United States in December 1941 made for an easy decision, one favored by General Marshall and Secretary Stimson: hold the line in the Pacific and concentrate on Germany first.

    What if Hitler hadn't declared war?

    - Would Roosevelt have initiated war through a hostile act? (or, would the American public, at war with Japan, grow tired of war and reject a second front with Germany?)

    - If war did break out, would the Third Reich have become too strong on the Continent and in the Mediterranean/Africa to eject by the time war broke out with the United States (if it ever did)?
    I still think the Russians are going to eventualy chew them up just a while later.

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    • #3
      I agree with copenhagen. The Soviets were going to chew Germany to bits with or without the US giving concrete combat aid to the cause. Normandy and Torch wouldn't have happened without the US, or they would have happened far later, but Germany was doomed from the moment it couldn't knock the Russians out of the war.

      Without the US getting involved in Europe, the best Germany could hope for would be to throw enough weight into the East to stop the Russians at the German/Polish border. Then maybe they could negotiate some sort of peace where they keep Austria and a smidgen of land in France and the Low Countries in exchange for peace. That's a best case scenario.
      Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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      • #4
        Where the biggest difference may be seen is the reduction in strategic bombing. This might make it possible for the Germans to actually produce in numbers some tigers or panters and jets. Which might be enough of an edge to grind down the Russians enough to sue for peace. Key word might. With Hitler in charge though I do not think it would of been enough because there would of probally been some suicdal attack or something that would of wasted his additional resources. Probally something like a Battle of Britain 2.

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        • #5
          Good point about strategic bombing. But the effect would go beyond more German factory production. It would have meant significantly more Luftwaffe presence in the east, plus many of the anti-aircraft German resources against the RAF and Army Air Force could have been devoted east. Even with Hitler's bungling might the Wehrmacht have held the Polish-Rumanian border?

          About Japan. I've always wondered why the opposite strategy of Germany first wasn't pursued. Devote enough resources to keep Britain and the U.S.S.R. effectively active while put the major effort to eliminating the weaker foe (which would also ease Russian need to keep major forces in Siberia).

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          • #6
            This is a stupid thread (not the question, the development), and it's already been hashed before. What's even more stpud is the persistant notion the Soviet Union would chew up the Germans as they did hsitorically (which is still a raging debate). This is revisionist nonsense.

            Fist: kill ratio. Germany had 85 million people, the Soviet's 180 IF you beleived the 37 redone census, and the number was probably much lower, which is why Stalin sent the original team to the gulags and ordered it redone. Germany has a 2:1 disadvantage...until you take into account the kill ratio of the Germans which never went below 3:1 and in 1941-42 was close to 9:1. The Germans could very well win a war of attrition on those grounds alone.

            Second: Industrial capacity. No one can contest that even in 41 and 42 the Russians outproduced the Germans. What we forget however is that German war economy was unrationalized until after Kursk AND at the time of Babarosa Germany and the Soviet Union had parity in industry. The Germans's most producitve year was 1944, after rationaliztion began to come to fruition. This is all while Germany was being devestated in the first half of the year and being totally f***ing destroyed in the last half, particularly starting in September. Now, imagine what 44 and 45 would have looked like WITHOUT the bombing campaign. Let's add in the last half of 43 to be sure.

            Then third: military performance. The Red Army was like every Russian army ever fielded. Big, nasty to look at but more toothless than size would indicate. I'm not saying the Russians couldn't hurt the Germans, they did and badly. But pound for pound, the Germans were much better fighters. That has a lot to do with a a much better officer corps as well as better doctrine. The year of 10 victories was not brilliant moves by the Russian high command, it was a very well equiped Red Army against a starved, half strength German army. And that army still stood it's ground at every oppurtunity until the Russians cracked Berlin itself, taking obsene causualties in the process. Imagine a Germany with being bombed in to the Paleolithic, whose fighters could have been produced in quanties of 5,000 a month, who gas supply had no been severed by allied bombing of refineries and synthetic plants, to were the Germans need not use wood powered training tanks and could train pilots with real airtime. I've heard a bit about Russian deep battle, and supposed German doctrinal bankrauptcy, and yet the Germans continued to kill more than their share. You can't expect an army to fight with neither reinforcements nor supplies, things with could have been supplied by not having to fight in Italy and in France.

            Now, if that is the truth, and it is, how did the Red Army triumph? LEND LEASE. A milion Studbakers, tanks, spare parts, chemicals, SPAM, 50,000 locomotive engines and cars etc. The Soviet Union had more than a good chunck of their war effort logistics bought and paid for by the US goverment. Even with a Stalingrad, and even a Kursk, the Russians could not have have the logistic train to make the sweeping moves it did into the Ukraine and Belorussia. The Germans could have then gone over to the defensive (and Hitler OKed that after Kursk we must remember), and chewed up the Red Army in Elastic Defense, counter attacking where it hurt, just as they did in WWI. And Soviet lend lease aid was controversial in times of peace. Roosevelt will be able to send little to Britain and NONE to Stalin.

            Now if Germany does not declare war on the US, Hitler would negotiated a peace with Stalin, at best, with a boundry more of less along the 1939 Pact lines. At worst, the Soviets would eventually be compelled to surrender. The Soviets could not permanently sieze the initiative from the Germans, and the German bite would have become ever more painful.

            As for Japan, it would be invaded by 1944, if not on the Home Islands, than in China, to cut off ALL hope of Japan retaining any of it's Empire. I suspect Kyushu would be invaded, but American leaders occassionally have great insights. MacArthur's causualty estimate might do just that.
            How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
            275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

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            • #7
              Japan would have been much more difficult to reach first. They had a mush larger area under their control, reaching it was mostly an amphibious operation, a kind of warfare that had yet to be perfected.... and Japan was still expanding its empire at a blinding pace all through the first half of 42. By August, they controlled every Asian port between India and Vladivostok.
              Not exactly a push-over.

              And without Western aid, the peace-faction in the USSR would have been scrambling to find a way out when things looked worst. That time would have been the summer of 42.

              No Torch, no sudden surprises in 42, no reason for the army in the east to look over it's shoulder.
              But then, neither does STAVKA.
              "Why is the Rum gone?"

              -Captain Jack

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              • #8
                Japan would have been defeated in early 1944 with Japan first policy, even quicker if the Japanese stripped China and abandoned the island conquests in order to create an army capable of attacking Russia. The United States would not have remained neutral against Germany for the simple fact that the US government, at many levels, had come to recognise Germany as the only real threat to US interests. Japan was a paper tiger. A declaration of war against Germany would have followed once the initial panic over the Pearl harbour attacks had subsided.

                What few realise is that the frontier with the USSR between Vladivostok and Outer Mongolia was longer than the front between the Baltic and Black Sea. The Japanese army was an all infantry force using WWI doctrine, poor weapons and doctrine and an almost complete lack of modern armour (or doctrine) that could compete with the BT-7 and T-26 much less the T-34.

                After the strike on Pearl Harbour the Japanese attack in to Siberia has to wait for spring (Japan was no more prepared for Arctic conditions than were the Germans) and has what objectives? There are no Russia resource or manufacturing centres within at least 500 miles of border and as 1939 showed, a few tank divisions and motorised infantry brigades absolutely destroyed the numerically superior attacking Japanese army. The Red Army, literally, ran circles around them.

                The Red Army in Siberia was more than competent to hold off the Japanese. Even if the Red Army is forced to retreat in places there are no rail line into Russia except via Vladivostok,... so the Japanese have no place to go except into sub-arctic tundra and forest. Meanwhile, in the Pacific, the lack of troops to take the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Malaya mean the smaller allied forces there will likely hold. The Japanese would cause some problems in naval battles around the Phillipnes for awhile but by the summer of 1942 a Japanese fuel crisis would likely bring Japanese operation in the Pacific to a near standstill while the US would have learned its lessons and then simply swamped Japan with the produce of their factories.

                Truk could be bypassed as could most of the eastern Japanese islands. Midway and Wake could be developed as a staging base for air reinforcement flights to the Philipines as well as providing land bases for air cover for convoys and anti-sub work.

                In Russia, there was little aid of consequence between 1941 and mid 1943 anyway so the Russians need do little more than they did. With lend-lease they simply hold the Germans and then start driving them back as they did long before the western allies had made a meaningful advance into Europe (Salerno and later).

                The strategic bombers , being diverted to rail and fuel targets were the main reason German production increased so dramatically in early/mid 1944. As such, there likely won't be any more Tiger tanks around (no fuel for them anyway). With Japan's defeat in early 1944 the Pacific bomber forces could be transferred to Europe and gone to work on the factories in late 1944 as happened anyway. The biggest change would be the allied return to Europe would be delayed by Japan-First or the smaller allied thrust would have to push up from the south through Italy, the Balkans or southern France.

                The Red Army's drive into German in 1945 would probably force a near German abandonment of the western front which would allow a smaller "Overlord" to link up with Anvil-Dragoon and a pursuit to the German border in late 44 or early 1945. US and British tanks would likely meet the Red Army either along the Rhine or between the Elbe and Rhine sometime in the summer of 1945.

                The war is extended in Europe a few months, the Russians and Germans bleed more, more Jews, Gypsy's, Poles, homosexuals and other Nazi "racial undesirables" are killed but Germany is still destroyed and Japan ruined.
                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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                • #9
                  Good summary Purist but in this scenario the US stays out of Europe completely which would mean the production would be higher no matter what. Fuel as you would point out would still be a problem but less so without as much bombing of there fuel facilities. Does this affect your conclusion at all.

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                  • #10
                    Purist has always been very dismissive of Axis capabilities in that war.

                    Something that does not bode well for our little war game.
                    "Why is the Rum gone?"

                    -Captain Jack

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                    • #11
                      Although, I think that our little game, with more intelligent command than was previously exercised by the Germans, is making Purist rethink at least a handful of his original ideas.
                      Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Well, unlike Wolery, I do NOT consider this a stupid thread and I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner as I've always been intrigued by this "what if" since, to me, it has the greatest potential for subsequently variable results.

                        First, let me suggest that the German/Russian war would have gone on for much longer and, at least as best as I would guess, barring US combat involvement in Western Europe, inconclusively. The implied argument that Russia could not have won without US Lend/Lease is specious at best since Lend Lease would have continued going to Russia whether the US was at war with Germany or not. It was going before, why wouldn't it subsequently? As to Germany, the Strategic Bombing campaign had little effect on German production until late 1944 and some members of the Strategic Bombing Survey, notably J.K. Galbraith actually argued that it had a positive impact on German production by prompting them to rationalize earlier than they would have otherwise. The myth of German industrial capacity never seems to die, but the latest attempt to put one more nail in that coffin, Adam Tooze's "The Wages of Destruction" might be an enlightening read to the otherwise unconvinced.

                        Second, the Pacific War was essentially a naval war and redeploying some significant portion of the 90 divisions to that theater earlier would have begged the question, "where are we going to use them?" The US deployed the majority of its naval assets in the Pacific and by 1944 its hard to argue whether a few more carriers or battleships would have made that much of a difference to essentially an already overwhelming force. Furthermore, the War in the Pacific would (actually hopefully) have not ended any sooner since it depended to a large extent on the production of the A Bomb.

                        Third, war between the US and Germany WAS inevitable. How it would have occurred is certainly open to speculation. I would think that Hitler would have had a REAL problem with all that Lend Lease aid going unmolested to Russia, particularly when that war began to drag on inconclusively. He would also have been lobbied heavily by the Japanese when their war began to go sour, so my bet is that Hitler would eventually have either declared war or done enough to provoke US involvement (probably by attacking US shipping). Hitler also understood, as did the Japanese, that a prolonged war would favor the US and not them. However, it is highly unlikely that the Soviets would have ever negotiated with Hitler to end the war without a complete German evacuation of Soviet territory, something Hitler would not have contemplated.

                        Finally, Roosevelt would have been nagged continually by Churchill and would have always maintained a significant strategic reserve aimed for deployment in the West.

                        In the end, my best guess is that the war would have gone on longer, but Japan would have surrendered first.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I like this kind of stuff, and have read several good books on the subject.

                          If someone here has already said this, my bad, I did not read every post word for word, but everything I did read is irrelevent.

                          The first one to get Nukes wins. That's all there is too it. Nothing else matters. If the British, or whoever, take out the German heavy water plant and Hitler does not push for nukes (both as historical) then Germany has no prayer because the USA is gonna nuke them into the stone age.

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                          • #14
                            Japan's capabilities are grossly over rated by so many who have not examined the economics of war. Had it not been for surprise and allied distraction is Europe, Japan would never have even made it as far as she did. The Japanese could not even manage to defeat China without coming to the verge of economic ruin so there is no possibility of her managing to raise an army that could invade Russia,... there simply was not enough resources.

                            The entire point of going to war was to gain resources in southeast Asia and the western Pacific island. Considering just how weak the Japanese army turned out to be I fail to see how anyone could expect the Japanese to fight the United States, Britain, Holland, China and Russia at the same time. As I noted, Pearl Harbour comes in Dec 1941,... the Japanese army is not going to attack Siberia in December with an army made up of WWI leg infantry divisions made up of conscripts. They tried a rather bold attempt in good summer weather and got chopped to pieces by a Red Army just recently "purged" by Stalin and his supporters.

                            There is also no possibility of the US staying out of the war in Europe, especially once allied to Britain and other as a result of Japanese attacks in the Pacific. Hitler's declaration of war is a bonus, but not a requirement for the US to put its war plans into effect. As has been discussed in other threads the entire expansion of the US military and strategic asset allocation, production, capital expansion, etc., since 1938 had been pointed towards Europe. Japan was no threat to US interests except in the localised area of the Pacific and a few western Pacific islands,... none of this was critical to the US prosecuting a war (as the loss of the Philippines, etc. clearly showed) nad the planners in Washington knew this. The complete loss of Europe, Africa and the control of the Atlantic by the Germans and Italians would have been a direct threat to US interests as well as a potential destabilising influence and threat to South America. This *was* a concern to the US and goes a long way to explaining why and how the US was able to so quickly produce the tools needed to defeat Germany first.

                            Even with the Pacific taking a definite back seat in resources the US was able to get the upper over the first line strength of the Japanese naval and air forces within one year. With China holding down the vast majority of the Japanese army, and even this was only controlling mostly coastal regions, there simply was little support for the Pacific let along a Russian campaign. The only place for Japanese to get more troops for the fight against the US in the Pacific was from very carefully selected withdrawals from China. There are no troops for new front even larger than the China front (yes, a drive into Siberia would require more resources than CHina did). The Japanese military was staffed by stupid men. They were not going to wage a war against everyone when they already knew the incredible risk they were taking in fighting the US.

                            Warfare since the ACW, if not Napoleon, was no longer a matter of bigger battalion but of economic output, strategic resources, resource management, macro/micro-economics, comparitive advantage, capital investments, logistics planning, and global power projection. Tactics, sloped armour, rate-of fire, the magnification power of gunsights, etc. are largely irrelevant.
                            Last edited by The Purist; 16 Jan 10, 16:36.
                            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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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by dave123 View Post
                              The first one to get Nukes wins. That's all there is too it. Nothing else matters. If the British, or whoever, take out the German heavy water plant and Hitler does not push for nukes (both as historical) then Germany has no prayer because the USA is gonna nuke them into the stone age.
                              It's not as easy as it seems. A few hours a nuke had exploded over Berlin dozens V2s armed with all kinds of bacteriological and chemical stuff would've flown to England. I suppose Hitler could make it clear to the Allies. I doubt the Brits would've agreed to this exchange.
                              www.histours.ru

                              Siege of Leningrad battlefield tour

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