Bolshoi Drap

It’s hard to come up with a plausible scenario in which the Axis wins WWII. But what do I mean by ‘plausible’?  No aliens intervene, nobody gives the Germans perfect foresight, or detailed plans for a minimal cost-and-time nuclear weapons project ( based on centrifuge separation, natch).

Plausible means that something happens differently, but that something is in the class of events that would not have surprised anyone at the time, or for that matter today.

It helps if you know how nations have lost in the past.  One way is panic: you don’t have to have been already crushed by force majeure, you just have to conclude that the day is lost.  People run. Sometimes it just takes one guy losing his nerve, like Darius at Gaugamela.

In October, 1941, the Soviet Union was in trouble. The Germans had just taken another huge bite out of the Red Army, capturing half a million men in the Vyazma and Bryansk pockets. At this point the Soviets were badly outnumbered, for the only time in the war,  and the Germans were about 75 miles west of Moscow.

On Oct 13, the Germans took Kalinin, northwest of Moscow.

On Oct 15th, Stalin ordered the evacuation of the Communist Party, the General Staff and various civil government offices from Moscow to Kuibyshev (now Samara).  “October 16th became known as the Bolshoi drap in Moscow, the day of the “Great Panic.” The Soviet government began to evacuate across the Ural mountains to Kuibyshev, over 600 miles away. Party officials jammed the roads and railway stations while offices and factories emptied out; the general public took their cue and joined the exodus. Looting was extensive in the empty streets without any police force to keep order. ”

“Stalin himself had ordered his special railway car prepared for evacuation on the sixteenth. However, he did not leave the city. He pondered whether or not Hitler might not be willing to come to an agreement similar to the Brest-Litovsk treaty of 1918, in which Russia exchanged huge swaths of territory for peace with Germany and the continued existence of the Communist government. He rejected this remote. He called on Zhukov and implored him to give assurance that Moscow could be held. Gaining Zhukov’s assurance, he then made the decision to stay.”


He was thinking about leaving: that railway car wasn’t for decoration.

What if he’d run, like Darius?


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195 Responses to Bolshoi Drap

  1. So, Stalin capitulates, and then Japan attacks Pearl Harbour anyway, and then Roosevelt….

  2. gyddyn says:

    Samara (then Kuibyshev) is not “across the Urals”. Moscow is closer to the western border of Russia, than to the Urals (not counting 1815-1914 and 1945-1989 periods) :))

    Than, if speaking about AH. It depends on Washington. If americans fight on, than we have nuked Europe (as in Army-BDSM writer Stuart Slade novels). And yes, Axis lose.

    If Washington prefer to have “Peace with honor” (Vietnam, Iraq) – than you have European Union from Atlantic to the Urals, with massed Muslim immigration and all-powerful Berlin bureacrats.

    • dearieme says:

      “Americans fight on”? But the US was a neutral in October 1941.

      • gcochran9 says:

        The Japanese would still have attacked Pearl Harbor, the Germans would still have declared war on the US afterwards.

        • dearieme says:

          How can you possibly know that?

          • gcochran9 says:

            The Japanese plans for attacks on southeast Asia and Pearl Harbor were already well under way. In practice, although countries could change their minds at the last minute, they never do, While if Hitler was willing to declare war on the US while neck-deep in Russia, should have even been more willing if the Russians were collapsing.

            • JMcG says:

              I had thought the only plausible reason Hitler declared war on the US was because he was neck deep in the USSR.
              I assumed he was hoping to get Uncle Joe into a two-front war of his own. I can remember the cartoon exclamation point and question mark appearing over my head when, as a young boy, I learned that Hitler had declared war on the USA, rather than the other way round.

        • Curle says:

          Herbert Hoover in Freedom Betrayed says the Japanese were working mightily pre-Pearl Harbor to reach rapproachment with the US. Roosevelt wouldn’t engage with them on a diplomatic basis at all. Hoover suggests it was by design and an indication Roosevelt was determined to enter the war by any means necessary including forcing their hand towards aggression. Hoover clearly believes Roosevelt knew about the attack before it happened.

          Further, the damage done to our Navy and merchant marine in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor was enormous. Were Mr. Kaiser’s nation saving innovations in ship building really as preordained as we now assume?

          • gcochran9 says:

            Well, if Hoover, said that, he was full of shit. The Japanese were a bit torn, in that different factions wanted to fight different wars. Some talked about attacking Russia, others India, others the Philippines and Southeast Asia, etc. Bit they all wanted to take advantage of the weakness of the Western powers ( France and he Netherlands defeated, Great Britian busy with Germany) .

            Key fact: to the extent that Roosevelt wanted to get into the war, it was against Germany, which he (correctly) saw as the major threat. Fighting Japan would be a distraction from that. And who could anticipated that a Japanese attack on the US would lead to a German declaration of war? That was not required by the Tripartite Pact, and was sheer lunacy, since the US was the strongest state in the world.

            • Konstantin Voschanov says:

              The why Roosevelt imposed an embargo on crude oil supplies to Japan? It was the main reason for the Japanese attack

              • gcochran9 says:

                Again untrue. The Japanese wanted to expand their empire, and thought that German victory in western Europe made the conquest of Southeast Asia and Indonesia easy, with France & the Netherlands conquered and Britain busy with Germany. They were correct: it was easy. They considered that the Philippines were a threat to that drive and were prepared to attack the US as well.

                These things take time to prepare. Hitler had decided to attack the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940, while the Japanese had made their decision before the oil embargo.

          • Bulldog Bill says:

            I believe that Mr. Kaiser’s shipbuilding innovations were actually in work at the time perhaps not by Mr. Kaiser but in the nature of American manufacturing and in the tremendous industrial talent and natural resources available. Further, there was a bigger navy under construction in American shipyards than was lost at Pearl.
            A. Japan was an insular nation with a code of Bushido that fundamentally misunderstood America.
            B. Hitler was mad.

    • Cantman says:

      I don’t find Slade’s alternative history persuasive. With the whole European continent and USSR (or just European USSR), Germany would have a greater industrial potential than the USA, so there’s no reason to assume historical superiority of the US nuclear programme or air power.

      I also think Americans would find a sudden nuclear genocide of Europe without any intervening battles, or captured evidence of war crimes etc., to be strange and objectionable, much more so than we see it with hindsight as an alternative history, but it is a much lesser objection.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        In Robert Heinlein’s remarkable short story “Solution Unsatisfactory,” which he finished on Christmas Eve 1940, the US ends World War II in 1945 with an atomic strike on the Axis.

        Differences with our timeline: the atomic attack is on Germany instead of Japan, and it’s not an explosive, but radioactive poisons are dropped from American bombers flying out of Britain.

        So Heinlein, who was roughly an FDR Democrat at the time, could foresee the US going to war with the Nazis without a Japanese provocation. That’s not to say it would have happened like that, but that’s one center-leftist’s view of the next five years between the Fall of France and the invasion of Russia.

  3. Frau Katze says:

    The USSR was just too big and too cold for the Germans. Good old General Winter, invaluable with both Napoleon & Hitler.

    The Nazis did get as far as seeing the city in the distance. The part about Stalin ordering much of the government east but staying himself was well described in Simon Sebag Montefiore‘s book on Stalin. The engine kept running, Stalin pacing around the station.

    Even if he had retreated, it’s hard to see the Nazis winning. But they might have forced Stalin out of the war. It worked in WW 1.

    Hitler was an idiot among other things. What if he’d not invaded the USSR?

    • Cantman says:

      The USSR would have invaded Europe when its military-industrial development cycles peaked in around 1942.

      • Frau Katze says:

        Says who? Citation?

        • Cantman says:

          What’s the use of a citation for a hypothetical unhistorical event? I’m saying it. If two people say it, does that make it twice as probable.

          • Frau Katze says:

            OK, I thought you were referring to a historical fact, that Stalin planned to invade westward. I hadn’t heard that, but it’s the sort of thing Stalin might try.

            • Anonymous says:

              I don’t think we know what was going on in Stalin’s mind with much accuracy.

              But the strategic logic was obvious: Germany’s conquests had made it too powerful in terms of raw potential, but they weren’t being fully exploited yet, and the UK had not yet made peace. While those things remained true the USSR was much stronger than it would be in the future: an early attack was the smartest move. On the other hand many of their key weapons weren’t in full production, and they’d shot all the generals, so they probably were not planning to attack in the summer of 1941 as some have claimed.

              Stalin was going to attack in 1942 or 1943 or he was a fool.

            • Cantman says:

              I don’t think we know what Stalin was thinking, but it seems unlikely to me that he was going to wait for the UK to make peace and Hitler to fully capitalise a pan-European empire. He probably was not going to attack in 1941 because the USSR had its share of problems too, but he was better off attacking in the next few years than waiting.

        • Konstantin Voschanov says:

          I have a link for you, but only in russian.

          It’s a long article of Mark Solonin, russian historian, on now Stalin planned to invide Europe. It seems, Hitler was only a few weeks ahead of Stalin.

          • gcochran9 says:

            I can’t read Russian, but that’s just as well, since it’s all nonsense.

          • gcochran9 says:

            There was a lot of trade going on between Germany and the USSR in the first half of 1941, flowing out of the Hitler-Stalin pact. The terms of trade were favorable to the Germans: the soviets, scared shitless of the Germans, thought that the Germans wouldn’t invade if they got everything they wanted. Towards the end, the Russians were shipping more and more stuff, over and above the agreed amount, because they were trying to placate the Germans. Grain, oil, lots of stuff. So much so that the Germans had trouble trans-shipping it all. While the Germans were shipping less and less: explaining that the check was in the mail. Every German ship left Russian ports before the attack.

            If the Russians were planning an attack in the near future, they would have acted as the Germans eventually did – stiff the trading partner you’re soon going to be at war with. There were many other things that the Germans did in preparation for the attack – many recon flights into russia, sending in sappers to cut phone lines on Der Tag, etc – the Russians did none of those things.

        • Bulldog Bill says:

          Not really a citation but Military Historian Victor Hansen says in an online lecture about WWII that the Soviet-German pact was simply two adversaries agreeing that they wouldn’t attack each other yet.

  4. Dave Pinsen says:

    I think you’ve read Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad book, which also covers the Moscow situation during Barbarossa. He writes that Stalin didn’t just consider the possibility of a deal, but, IIRC, asked the Bulgarian ambassador to Russia if he could be an intermediary. The ambassador told Stalin Russia would win the war even if they had to retreat beyond the Urals first.

    Would Russia have folded it Stalin abandoned Moscow? Darius turned tail during the heroic age of warfare. I’m not sure Stalin pulling back from Moscow, by itself, would have had the same effect. Maybe if it were accompanied by him slipping into a depression?

    • reinertor says:

      Many subordinates and generals, and even ordinary soldiers, might have taken the clue to try to save themselves instead of saving the Motherland. There was, probably, a real chance of disintegration.

      • Dave Pinsen says:

        I dunno. If Russia were that fragile, you figure that might have happened during the beginning of Barbarossa, when they were getting routed and Stalin was scarce.

        • Woof says:

          The only shot Germany had of winning was not to be racist hateful scum. The Ukrainians were well and truly sick of the communists after the Holodomor and forced collectivization and were ripe for recruitment. Many Russians and others were too. Most fought on against the Germans because they were seen as worse than the communists.
          If the Germans hadn’t starved the millions of POWs they’d taken in 1941-42 to death they could have recruited a large percentage to fight in an anti-communist crusade. The USSR would have collapsed quickly if they had been up against a Pinochet rather than a Hitler. An anti-communist instead of an anti-slav.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was thinking the same. The French government largely pulled out of Paris in the days before the Marne, and considered doing it again in 1918, but the fight continued. The American capital was captured in the Revolutionary War and again in 1812 but the war continued. The capture of Richmond in the Civil War didn’t end things.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Paris itself is important: moving the gov is one thing, losing the city would have been another. As it was in 1940.
        No capital mattered much in the revolution, although capturing the Continental Congress would have been bad.

        The capture of Richmond pretty much did end things. Not least, loss of Tredegar Iron Works.

        • magusjanus says:

          People usually bring up Napoleon-Moscow as some argument why Germany taking Moscow in ’41 wouldn’t have been a war winner. But the economic/industrial/transportation/political situation in ’41 was completely different.

          If somehow Germans had taken Moscow (and held it, very important given flank exposure, winter, and SU counterattacks), beyond huge propaganda morale blow to SU it also means Northen front is basically cut off, so Leningrad almost certainly falls soon thereafter as well as all Karelia (likely annexed by Finland).

          And the Russian logistical situation would be a nightmare across the board whereas German would improve. With fall of Leningrad and Moscow it’s very hard to imagine SU not pulling back to behind Urals and suing for some Brest-litovsk style peace.

          • FkDahl says:

            If Leningrad falls, Karelia falls, and then the rail line to Murmansk is cut. No lend-lease on the northern route.

            • magusjanus says:

              right. Though most lend-lease i think came from iran. murmansk was only a quarter. also its impact in first few years is a bit overrated.

              but yes. if moscow falls and is held, leningrad likely falls, so does karelia, logistics for germans are greatly eased (leningrad port, rail to moscow), and it gets pretty freakign hard to not imagine a german victory.

              it’s why Halder’s initial Barbarossa (then called Plan Otto i think) involved a straight lunge for Moscow. Hitler insisted on spreading out to ukraine/caucuses and leningrad thinking moscow was of secondary importance. they ended up not taking lenignrad, not taking moscow, and not cutting off the oil.

              had they focused from initial stages on just moscow, then lunging north west to leningrad, they likely might have won. sweep up ukraine/caucuses in ’42. sit pretty for two years trying to get pipelines built/etc. and try to get some accommodation with uk/us for medium-term (likely a Cold War in practice).

              Fatherland by Harris kinda deals with scenario like this (though in his case Case Blue works, and uboats starve UK, but the point is the post-war settlement)

      • earplugs says:

        Richmond was captured, and Lee surrendered while fleeing in the aftermath (within the week). Once the Army of the Potomac wasn’t in it, and Richmond was occupied, all the other Confederate forces …just gave up, essentially as soon as they reliably heard of it.

        This was exactly what the one dissenting staff officer to the decision at Appomattox predicted: If they surrendered, so would everyone else.

        and so they did.

        This supports the idea way more than it detracts from it.

  5. gyddyn says:

    Everybody looks at “great Stalin”. That’s not so much important.

    It’s Moscow industry (including towns around it), human resources and road hub what matters. Who controls Russian heartland (Valdai to Nizhniy Novgorod), controls Europe east of Vistula. If we’re speaking about XV-early XXI century.

  6. MattxXx says:

    Germany lost mostly because they made too many and too powerful enemies. So a path to victory would involve making less enemies. I think of the US and England in particular.

    1b. Both the Germans and the Japanese failed to consider the long term economic (and therefor military) potential of their enemies, especially of the US. You don’t poke a bear ten times as big as yourself. If you do you must be able to take him out fast. Taking out = destroying his ability to mobilize his economic potential for war.

    Better cryptography might have changed a lot, both for the Germans and the Japanese.
    Attacking Russia one month earlier and sending proper winter equipment for the troops in time, as well as better preparation for Russian winter in general, might have been enough to defeat Russia.

    • Frau Katze says:

      He had to clean up some disastrous invasion of I think it was Greece by Italy. Italy’s military was not very good. This pushed back the invasion of USSR.

      • We kicked the Italians' butts though! says:

        Not sure if Unternehmen Marita, or any other German action in the peripheral Balkan war theatre, had any real effect on Barbarossa’s outcome. Wehrmacht officials themselves have claimed that the 1941 Balkan campaign was not the reason for the delay, despite Hitler having played the blame game on Mussolini for his failure in the East.

        There’s many reasons, though, why this theory remains popular, especially in Greece, where the children are still being taught in school that the Greeks were instrumental in stopping ze Nazis.

  7. akarlin says:

    1941-42 was an extremely close run thing for the USSR as it was so I don’t buy the theory that Hitler attacking the USSR was a mistake (hindsight is 20/20 and all that). There was plenty of discontent with the Bolshevik regime, so just being somewhat less maniacally genocidal (at least until the new borders were securely established at the Urals) might have done the trick.

    In a timeline where the US entered the war as it did, it would have come down to the question of German air defense capabilities vs. US atomic progress. The former would have been more formidable – many more resources could have been shifted to AA from 1942 than IRL, and that in turn may have been enough to prevent German industrial production stalling from mid-1943 due to Allied bombing. Nonetheless, the US would acquire enough atomic weapons (50 IRL) to start waging what one might call democidal atomic attrition from 1948.

    Of course by that period the Project Amerika missile should have been ready, and with no Eastern Front to suck up resources, the Germans might also have worked their way up to the nuclear bomb by that point. Production would initially be very low, but a successful strike on London or NY could have forced peace negotiations. If the Allied held out, though, by 1950 they’d have thousands of nukes, enabling them to turn Germany into an unviable radioactive ruin while at worst suffering the loss of perhaps a dozen of their major cities.

    • R. says:

      so I don’t buy the theory that Hitler attacking the USSR was a mistake

      He said in private to Mannerheim that had he believed the figures about Russian tank numbers he’d never have invaded.

      to start waging what one might call democidal atomic attrition from 1948

      They’d also need to develop IC or sub launched missiles. You can’t bomb Germany if its airforce isn’t engaged elsewhere..

      • gyddyn says:

        “You can’t bomb Germany if its airforce isn’t engaged elsewhere..”

        Learn something about Luftwaffe allocation during the war.
        And getting a single bomber through AA defence with a nuke is much easier than making a thousand-bomber raid.

        • reinertor says:

          The single bomber could be shot down, though. And then, unless the bomb was detonated by the crew, the Germans would have a fully functional A-bomb to reverse engineer. And the fission material.

          Overall, the risks might’ve been considerable.

          • gyddyn says:

            Could be. But a single bomber is much better at evading fighters (look at flights across Europe by Allied transports/recon planes and German recce flights over England late at war; also – 1944s Blitz over London – Luftwaffe did hit targets).

            That’s the problem with nukes which became apparent after the war. You can’t destroy all bombers. But a single bomber do hit a city :).

        • reinertor says:

          The Germans could also have retaliated with chemical weapons on London and later perhaps New York and other American cities.

          Another point to consider is that Germany might’ve moved its industry and population east to Russia. Basically, pulling the same stunt as Stalin did. They’d certainly have ample time and resources to do that. The German air defense and air force might be stationed in nuked Germany, but the industry and the population in the east where American bombers cannot get through.

          I think that it’s questionable how the US could’ve nuked Germany to submission so easily as is usually imagined.

          • akarlin says:

            While attrition rates for the bomber fleet was high, the vast majority of bombers in any one bombing raid survived (even in 1943). Sprinkle a few bombers with nukes in one such raid, and you’d be guaranteed to wipe the area in question.

            Would chemical weapons really be that effective? As far as I’m aware they weren’t, plus the Brits had actually prepared for gas bombings. I imagine it would result in a few thousand deaths (irrelevant) at the cost of further cementing hate towards Germany and a desire to fight to the end.

            The way I imagine it is that you would have a close race between growing Allied nuclear power vs. German AA + German catchup in nuclear weaponry (though German delivery systems would be based on IRBMs – it wasn’t going to successfully build a heavy bomber that late in the game). If the Germans luck out, they manage to score a retaliatory hits with nuclear-mounted A4b missiles (modified V-2’s with enough range to hit Britain) and perhaps a few A9’s (Project Amerika) in the late 1940s and force negotiations. If they don’t, though… note that the growth in the US nuclear arsenal was strongly hyperbolic, going from dozens in the late 1940s to the many hundreds by 1950 and the many thousands by the mid-1950s. This growth would have been even quicker were the US to still be engaged in a total war with Nazi Germany during this period.

            If Nazi Germany didn’t force the war to a close by the late 1940s, my take is that its survival would become progressively unviable. Good luck trying to build any kind of retaliatory nuclear capacity – and eventually, sustain any kind of production at all – when you are getting splattered by dozens and eventually hundreds of nukes monthly.

            • reinertor says:

              We’re talking about dozens of nukes dropped on Germany. What are the chances of one plane being shot down and the nuke getting relatively intact into the hands of the Germans? I’d guess it approaches 100% after a few dozens of such raids, especially if the German air force and air defense was significantly stronger (with a lot more resources being poured into it). And the German scientists would’ve been in overdrive trying to figure the thing out. (Probably even anti-Nazi scientists, after seeing German cities being nuked, one after the other.) One of the biggest nuclear secret was probably the fact that it was easily doable. A lot of things could’ve been figured out just by looking at the remains after the explosion. I guess German scientists could’ve figured out if it was plutonium or U235, etc. Had the Americans used both Little Boy and Fat Man, the Germans would already have known that both were relatively easy to produce. If, after a while, all American bombs were Fat Men, then they’d have known with certainty which was easier to mass produce.

              Regarding Germany collapsing, I think that pretty early on they’d have started to move their industries and population deep into Central/Eastern Europe. All of their resources would’ve gone into nuclear research, the air force, and air defense. They’d have had considerably more resources than they did. So I think there’s a strong case that they’d have the nuclear bombs figured out within a couple years after the start of the bombings. And then, yeah, it’s difficult to know.

              However, I think if Hitler had defeated the USSR in 1941-42, he might’ve conquered Britain by 1945, so it’d have been somewhat difficult to nuke Germany.

              Regarding chemical weapons, did the British even know about nerve gases? I thought neither the Germans nor the Allies had known how much better the German chemical weapons were. But yeah, they were probably pretty useless, at least relative to nukes.

              • ziel says:

                But the Americans would have sent over hundreds of decoy nukes to get captured in the event of shootdowns, with many different non-viable variations that would have had the Germans flummoxed as to which might be the actual real McCoy.

              • Steve Sailer says:

                My guess is that Stalin in 1939 had a pretty reasonable plan based on WWI: make a deal with Germany, wait for them to attack France and then get inevitably bogged down on the Western Front just like in 1914. After a few years of disastrous trench warfare, the tottering capitalist powers would be ripe for revolution, at which point the Red Army would invade Western Europe and pick up the pieces.

                Unlike Hitler, Stalin was a worrywart and preferred to be opportunistic rather than adventurous. For the Soviets to attack the Germans before the Germans were severely weakened by years of war with the French and British would be suicidal. The Germans had proven themselves brilliant counterpunchers in the Great War, while the Russians had not distinguished themselves on offense. But if the Soviets sat out the first few years of WWII and built their strength, they could come in at the end like the Americans had in 1918 and prove decisive.

                But when the Germans conquered the French in 1940, this prospect evaporated and Stalin was left without much of a plan other than being nice to Hitler in the hope he wouldn’t attack.

                My vague impression is that Russians/Soviets aren’t that good at coming up with a Plan B until desperation forces them. Stalin had a pretty decent Plan A — wait for Germany to exhaust itself fighting in the West. But when Plan A became untenable, Stalin went into a funk for a year.

              • Bulldog Bill says:

                The speculation above about the German ability to develop nukes and the means to deliver them is just not plausible in the timeframes suggested. The Luftwaffe never fielded a 4 engine bomber. I can’t remember how many B-24’s, B-17’s, Lancasters, and B-29’s were produced but something exceeding 10,000. A successful conclusion of the Eastern front theater would have freed up resources but primarily infantry and armoured divisions. The air defenses over Germany were formidable beginning in 1943 and remained so through 1944. The air campaign there was a classic war of attrition where the Germans devoted tremendous resources to protecting German airspace at the cost of the destruction of the Luftwaffe. The Allies suffered tremendous casualties in men and material in air but continued to devote increasing resources to that until thousand plane raids were commonplace. This stark comparison likely means that adding the slave labor of the Soviet Union to the German war machine would have slightly delayed the destruction of the Luftwaffe and delayed Normandy perhaps a bit more. But not long enough for the development of a nuclear capability and a delivery system.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Industrial resources used to make tanks and artillery could certainly be redirected to fighters, or to long-range bombers. There’s no secret to a long-range bomber: and if there was, having a few thousand crash, some in pretty good condition, would give plenty of materiel for reverse engineering.

            • Pale Primate says:

              An interesting historical fact to note: the USA dropped Germany as a target for atomic bombing in 1943(?). The bomb would only be used against Japan. The reason for this was that the Americans were afraid that if they dropped one on Germany that was a dud, the German’s had the psychics know-how to reverse engineer it & the industrial base to build some of there own. They thought that Japanese were much less likely to be able to do this. Even if Germany had kept fighting for much longer, it would not have been nuked (unless policy was changed – maybe in time US would become confident in being able to build nukes without fear of building duds).

              • Pale Primate says:

                It is true. I heard a program on the radio where they talked about the Americans making targeting decisions before the bombs were even proven and Germany was taken off the list for that reason. I don’t remember what the program was called so I can’t find it now, but I did find this:

                “In a memorandum Groves prepared for President Truman on April 23rd, 1945, shortly after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, he resolves another mystery—whether we would have used the bomb on Germany had it been ready before the German surrender in May. “The target,” Groves says he told the President, “is and was always expected to be Japan.””


              • gcochran9 says:

                If it had been ready in time, of course we would have used it on Germany.

              • Pale Primate says:

                Found the info I was looking for:

                “The first targeting discussion—insofar as can be determined from declassified documents and Manhattan Project histories—seems to have occurred during a meeting of the high-level Military Policy Committee on May 5, 1943. [3] The discussion that day ranged over a variety of topics—personnel issues, technical problems, commissioning a study on radioactive poisons, and even a “story to be allowed to leak out on the Los Alamos project to reduce the curiosity of the local population.”

                According to Groves’s summary of the meeting:

                “The point of use of the first bomb was discussed and the general view appeared to be that its best point of use would be on a Japanese fleet concentration in the Harbor of Truk [in the Pacific, north of New Guinea]. General Styer suggested Tokio but it was pointed out that the bomb should be used where, if it failed to go off, it would land in water of sufficient depth to prevent easy salvage. The Japanese were selected as they would not be so apt to secure knowledge from it as would the Germans.” [4]

                The discussion was surely a blue-sky exercise. The Manhattan Project was still at an early stage, D-Day was more than a year away, the war in the Pacific was not yet going well for the United States, and no one could have predicted how important the Japanese fleet or Truk might be by the time the bomb was ready.

                Nevertheless, the discussion suggests a line of thought that would have astonished Manhattan Project scientists, if they had been privy to it. In fact, it surprises them today, although the existence of the memo has been revealed before. (See, for example, page 253 of The New World, an official history of the Atomic Energy Commission by Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson Jr., published in 1962, which mentions it.)

                Hans Bethe, who headed the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos, was astonished when I discussed the memo with him in February: “I am amazed both by the conclusion not to use [the bomb] on Germany and secondly by their reasons [for targeting the Japanese fleet]. We [the scientists] had no idea of such a decision. We were under the impression that Germany was the first target until the German surrender. That was my belief. Obviously, it was wrong.”

                Glenn Seaborg, who headed the team that first isolated plutonium, concurs. In an interview with me in February, he said: “So far as I recall, right up until the time the Germans surrendered in the spring of 1945, we thought that the Germans would be the target for the atomic bomb. As their demise became more and more predictable, perhaps we somewhat drew away from that feeling. But certainly we thought in 1944 that Germany would be the target.”

                David Hawkins, who was a special assistant to J. Robert Oppenheimer (the scientific director of the Los Alamos Laboratory) and the historian for the Los Alamos effort, agreed. When I asked him in February about the memo, he said that the scientists had no idea that Germany had been discussed and apparently rejected as a potential first-use target as early as May 1943. Indeed, Hawkins and others I interviewed—including John A. Simpson, a group leader in the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory and a founder of the Bulletin—do not recall targeting discussions among the scientists taking place until well into 1945.

                Rotblat seems to have been the exception to that. He left the Manhattan Project in December 1944, after it became clear to him that Germany was no longer a nuclear threat. But once he announced his decision to leave, he was not permitted to talk about it with his colleagues.”


              • gcochran9 says:

                Groves was never going to make that decision: it would be people like Marshall, Eisenhower, King, Nimitz, and the political leaders. And if you think that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in deep water??

              • Pale Primate says:

                In the radio interview I heard, it was stated that there was a big fear that if they dropped a dud on Germany, the Germans could figure out how it worked and had know-how and industry to build their own. That is why Japan was targeted well before the bomb was even ready, because the feeling was that the Japanese would not be able to do such a thing. That they lacked the know-how and right industry. I can’t find the program, but I just did prove that they were thinking along those lines and that they were focused on Japan, not Germany, even in 1943.

              • gcochran9 says:

                They weren’t. Next question?

              • Anonymous says:

                Okay, here’s my next question. Since I have provided a documented source for what I said, do you have any?

              • Pale Primate says:

                Okay, here’s my next question. Since I have provided a documented source for what I said, do you have any?

              • Pale Primate says:

                “In May, 1943, the Military Policy Committee concluded that the Japanese fleet concentration at Truk would be the best target for the first bomb. Later the same year,
                Groves approved arrangements to modify a B-29 for operations with nuclear
                weapons.” The choice of the B-29 over the British Lancaster, the only other
                plane sufficiently large, reflected the disposition to use the bomb against Japan.
                Had Germany been the primary target, the choice would hardly have
                fallen on an aircraft never intended for the European theater. Grove’s availability
                estimates of August 7, 1944, all but settled the question.”

                VOLUME I
                A HISTORY OF
                THE UNITED STATES
                THE NEW WORLD, 1939 /1946
                RICHARD G. HEWLETT
                OSCAR E. ANDERSON, JR.

                Page 253

              • gcochran9 says:

                Flying a B-29 out of East Anglia would have broken the laws of physics. That’s sarcasm. ” never intended for the European theater” means nothing.

              • Pale Primate says:

                I was never arguing that Germany never would have been targeted under any circumstances, only that the US decided in 1943 to used their first bombs against Japan instead of Germany due to fear that if one was a dud, the Germans would learn way more from it than the Japanese and would be more likely to then be able to build their own. This is an established fact. Just because you think that it was a stupid idea doesn’t mean that it wasn’t what was done. You might be right that Germany wouldn’t have been able to do much with a dud atomic bomb, but the Americans at the time thought that they could, and so didn’t want to give them the chance. Maybe after bombing Japan a few times they would have used it against Germany if Germany was still fighting, but from 1943 on, the first target was going to be Japan. This was the plan that Truman was briefed about the bomb when he become POTUS.

                I’m really not sure why you are so resistant to this. Is it because as a physicist you don’t like the idea of physicists being kept in the dark about what the real plans were for the bomb? I showed you something you didn’t know before. Isn’t that a good thing? I’ve learned a heck of a lot from you about many, many things, including about WWII. But you are just wrong about this and I have provided a legitimate source to prove it. You have yet to provide any. Just making snarky comments won’t change that.

              • gcochran9 says:

                I think you’re just wrong. If you dropped a plutonium bomb that splattered, nobody would have been able to make anything useful out of it unless they themselves had mastered implosion. Which would probably take more than a year, even for Germany. While nobody even thought you needed to test a U-235 bomb: it was a sure thing.

                The decision whether, and where, to drop the bomb wasn’t up to Groves. it doesn’t much matter what he thought about it.

                The idea that you needed to drop in in a place where, if a dud, it would be unrecoverable obviously went away, because we dropped it on cities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not Waterworld.

                The idea that it would be unrecoverable if we dropped it on Truk was silly: it’s a shallow atoll. People scuba there to look at all the sunken ships.

          • Frau Katze says:

            The US didn’t have any nukes till 1945, and then only two.

      • akarlin says:

        Sure, Hitler expected the USSR to be a bigger Poland – if even that. But Hitler was hardly an unbiased observer of his own behavior. Those tanks would have meant little if Russians had continued surrendering en masse – had surrender not been a near certain death sentence, had the collective farms actually been dismantled instead of being taken over to feed Germany, etc. He wouldn’t even have had to cancel the Holocaust, most Russians and Ukrainians would have been indifferent to it given the preceding 25 years.

        About half the Luftwaffe was engaged on the Western Front after 1943 (maybe plus minus 10% but general figure is correct). Obviously upping that to 80% would make the Allied bombing campaign harder, but certainly not unfeasible.

        • sthomson1971 says:

          One related question, for you or anyone who knows — the Germans weren’t worried about deferring Barbarossa until June 22, I understand, because they expected to destroy the Red Army by September. And indeed they had won huge victories by then. So why were they wrong? I know the Soviets had more tanks than the Germans expected, but was the Red Army also just a lot larger than the Germans had realized?

          • gyddyn says:

            (wordpress ate my comment TWICE :(((( )

            Permanent mobilization in Russia (burning through your future now) + stable totalitarian regime (but without it there would be no catastrophe of 1941, so it’s double edge sword) + mistakes by Nazis.

          • Dan_Kurt says:

            There is a book that answers your question. The late Professor Stolfi’s: Hitler’s Panzers East: World War II reinterpreted. Many sources exist on the internet for used copies. Highly recommended.

            Dan Kurt

    • Dave Pinsen says:

      Maybe the most surprising fact from Beevor’s fall of Berlin book was the high level of German armaments production as late as the end of 1944.

    • Frau Katze says:

      It’s true it wouldn’t have taken much for people to turn on Stalin and Communism but what other goal could Hitler have had, if not to seize land, for Germans?

      He didn’t have enough Germans to fill the new land either. His total stupidity keeps coming through.

      • J says:

        To solve German unemployment and famine of the thirties by conquering new farm land in the East was a pre-industrial economic concept. It was thought that it would solve Germany’s demographic problem, because the population was falling. This has never happened before in peacetime and it frightened them.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “1941-42 was an extremely close run thing for the USSR … snip … There was plenty of discontent with the Bolshevik regime, so just being somewhat less maniacally genocidal…”

      that’s what i wonder also – a bit more anti-Bolshevik crusade and bit less lebensraum.

      one aspect particularly – mistreating prisoners when you have millions more to fight is dumb because it hardens resistance (even if your long term plans were genocidal) which makes me wonder did they do it deliberately or did they just not calculate in advance (extrapolating form France, Poland etc) how many prisoners they were likely to get – and thus never planned for how they’d feed them all?

      if so they’d probably have been better off just releasing all the Russian prisoners they took in the initial invasion. if the level of anti-Bolshevik sentiment was high enough i could see that leading to a collapse in the Soviet regime.

  8. Enochian says:

    I can think of lots of different scenarios in which the axis could have won. Stalin wasn’t exactly universally loved, and the Soviet Union wasn’t exactly a utopia – what if there’d been a coup, or the whole place had just collapsed into anarchy? What if the Great Purge hadn’t happened?

  9. JayMan says:

    For the curious, the idea of the Axis winning the war is central to the plot of Amazon’s series Man in the High Castle. Season 3 out now, which is their best so far.

    • teageegeepea says:

      Winning the war is one thing, occupying America (though Germany never managed to invade across the Channel) is another. There’s really no plausible scenario for that.

      • PrinzEugen says:

        In the show, they develop the A-bomb first and nuke Washington DC, with the implied threat of more nuclear detonations, leaving the US with no choice other than capitulation (just like Japan in real life).

        The Nazi A-bomb is referred to as a “Heisenberg device”, which implies that Werner Heisenberg developed it (even though in real life, despite being a physics genius, he wasn’t even part of the Nazi team of scientists investigating the possibility of a nuclear bomb; Heisenberg was actually struggling with the anti-science policies of the Nazi, like their rejection of “Jewish science”, i.e. scientific theories developed by Jews such as Einstein).

        Probably one of the greatest ironies of history is that Nazi Germany could only have won with the help of the Jewish scientists who fled Europe and participated in the Manhattan project in real life.

  10. sthomson1971 says:

    You can spin out quite a few scenarios. Maybe Stalin makes a Brest-Litovsk-type peace, then subsequently he gets assassinated and the Nazis are able to install a fascist government. The United States would still be able to defeat Japan, but maybe the Americans don’t even try to invade Europe in that scenario.

    Here’s another. Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, the day the Germans attacked France, because of the Norway fiasco. But maybe if Norway hadn’t gone so badly — Dietl is forced to surrender, say, and the Allies aren’t defeated so quickly further south — Chamberlain doesn’t fall, the Germans attack, people decide it’s no time to be switching prime ministers, and the French are defeated in a few weeks, just as in real life. Maybe Chamberlain then makes peace. Or, more simply, the Germans don’t dawdle, but crash through the defensive perimeter and wipe out the BEF on the beaches at Dunkirk.

    • akarlin says:

      The Nazis were uninterested in installing fascist puppet regimes in any of the Slavic lands (experiments such as the Lokot autonomy regardless). They were for Germanic settlement. They did become more interested come 1944, but that was clearly driven by situational considerations.

      I wrote about what would happen if there had been a negotiated peace between the USSR and Germany in 1943 in the link at my original comment above. It would be similar to the scenario in that comment, but even worse for Germany, since 1. they’d spend a further 1-1.5 years fighting a land war, spending money and manpower needed to counter Allied bombing; 2. would have less territory to requisition food and energy from, and to carry out covert nuclear research far from Allied bombers, etc.

      • sthomson1971 says:

        Thanks, very interesting. I don’t see the United States launching a long-term campaign of attrition via nuclear weapons against occupied Europe, though. If nothing else, the risk of reprisal would be too great — you’d never be confident enough that the Nazis couldn’t develop their own bomb and smuggle it to NYC or Washington, or (as you point out) deliver it via missile.

        I guess you’re right about the Nazis not installing friendly governments in the East, but they might make an exception for a rump Russia, particularly if they thought of it as a temporary measure. In the long term, if they had succeeded, they would have had to set up some kind of local government for the Germanized, helotized areas they controlled.

  11. jamienyc says:

    If Germans had cut off the BEF from the sea by taking Dunkirk, taking thousands of POWs, the Churchill’s government would probably have fallen, to be replaced by Hallifax. Lord Hallifax was an appeaser and would probably sue for peace. Then, British industry would be at German disposal for the duration of the war.

    • engleberg says:

      Halifax was an appeaser when the whole Brit establishment was appeasers. He changed his mind before the BEF went to France. He never gave any sign he’d change it back.

      But I was reading Allenbrooke’s diaries a few months ago, the Brit Chief of Staff in WWII. During the battle of Stalingrad he flew to Moscow from Iran and looked out his window to check the Soviet defenses for their oil lifeline. One anti-tank ditch, minimal support. He told Stalin that if Hitler put one of those armies he was throwing away at Stalingrad east of the Black Sea, he’d cut the oil line for sure and maybe just plain conquer Iran. If Russia had run out of petrol, oil, lubricants in the middle of Stalingrad, and if the Germans had the oil themselves, I could see them just plain conquering the Soviet Union.

      • gyddyn says:


        “He told Stalin that if Hitler put one of those armies he was throwing away at Stalingrad east of the Black Sea, he’d cut the oil line for sure and maybe just plain conquer Iran.”

        17th Army and 1st Panzer did moved “east of Black Sea”.
        6th Army and 4th Panzer at Stalingrad HAD cut oil lines from Baku (because you can’t move oil without rail link and with krauts at Volga).
        Moving oil from Caucasus to Germany was very problematic. Not counting problems with repairing oil wells and other local infrastructure.

        • engleberg says:

          Double face-palm Allenbrooke. It’s true that taking control of the oil supply would be orders of magnitude harder than cutting the line. But cutting the line would be as easy as setting fire to oil. And conquering Iran? Longer shot, but all the Germans needed was the oil wells and mines at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and the Shah wasn’t Germanophobic. And Soviets without petroleum, oil, lubricants? Not a mechanized army.

    • Cantman says:

      There isn’t any way Britain would have agreed to a surrender in 1940 or 1941. It’s an island that still had some margin of air superiority, and a huge margin of naval superiority – why would it?

      But even a neutral Britain means Germany faces no second front in the air or third front at sea, each of which consumed comparable industrial resources to the whole Eastern Front, and lesser but still considerable human resources. It also doesn’t leave a very plausible avenue for America to practically intervene, though lend lease to the USSR would likely have gone ahead at comparable to the historical levels .

      • albatross says:

        Would the US have been interested in fighting the Nazis if they’d made peace with Britain, had their arrangement with France, and were attacking the Soviet Union?

  12. reinertor says:

    I think destroying the BEF at Dunkerque and then Britain suing for peace is more realistic.

    Regarding Stalin, if I understand it correctly, the idea is not necessarily Stalin capitulating, but simply the USSR leadership disintegrating in the face of a perceived total military defeat.

    • Frau Katze says:

      The Germans didn’t try to invade the UK very hard. Is a narrow channel of water really that good of a defence? I suppose that with the technology available at the time it was. Damned planes!

      The Vikings didn’t have any such problem.

      • Rich Rostrom says:

        The Germans sent two armies east of the Black Sea toward the Caucasus. They couldn’t break through the western Caucasus mountains, and literally ran out of fuel in the north Caucasus plains about 500 km from the Caspian Sea oilfields around Baku.

        With a lot more supplies, the Germans might have gotten to the Baku oilfields, but taking the area would be problematic. Marching another 1,000 km across mountainous Iran, at the end of a very long supply line, against a fair number of Allied troops? Not practical at all.

      • Jason says:

        The Vikings weren’t contending with the British Navy at the time.

        • Gord Marsden says:

          Yes Britain had air superiority and still had the British navy, I suppose at the time of the Vikings it was they who ruled the seas .

  13. amac78 says:

    Re: cryptography. In real life, the Allies enjoyed the advantages of Ultra decrypts through 1945 because (obviously) the Germans were unaware that Enigma had been compromised. That ignorance was more of a close-run thing than generally appreciated.

    Pre-war, the Poles had shared their progress with the French. 1939-40, signals intelligence of the French Army conducted the key work in the Paris area. The unit was evacuated to the south of France circa June 1940; it continued to exist under Vichy control. This was in knowing violation of the Armistice, which had terms that compelled the French to disclose such activity to the Germans.

    As the Germans increased their presence in the South, there were a number of close calls, where the French Enigma principals were almost caught in dragnets. The Germans had a sense that something was going on, without knowing exactly what they were looking for.

    According to Wikipedia (and my memory rather than links — apologies).

    By itself, this wouldn’t have turned the tide for the Axis. But it could have had a significant effect at the margins, with respect to some of the other alt-history scenarios being discussed.

  14. g wood says:

    The allies controlled 97% of the world’s oil reserves. Hard to overcome that.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Very good point. There was some oil in the Caucasus, I think in Chechnya. The Germans never made it. There wasn’t a lot there.

    • Coagulopath says:

      Right, although the Germans used a lot of synthetic fuel. I think about 25-50% of their energy came from coal lignite.

    • David Chamberlin says:

      “It’s hard to come up with a scenario in which the Axis wins World War Two.”

      I disagree. Take yourself back to 1940 -1941 and look at the war from that perspective. Hitler sure didn’t look like a delusional idiot at that point in time. The Germans badly needed oil for their war machine and they had multiple choices to obtain it besides engaging Russia in a land war. Japan also badly needed raw materials, if they seized those locations that could provide them with oil and other needed resources and stayed out of an idiotic land war with China they too would be vastly better served,

      Now I’ll grant you Hitler was a delusional fool who could not and would not settle for peace rather than a war he could not win directed at total and complete world domination, but if he was rational he would not have attacked Russia, he would have headed straight for the oil fields. In 2018 it might look like the Axis could not win, but what if Hitler had listened to people smarter than him in military strategy like Stalin learned to listen to General Zhukov.

  15. glenndc says:

    You win and lose at the margins. Ask Sherman and Grant.

    A single paranoid German cyphernaut is all that was needed to maintain encryption prophylaxis, and prevent the Allies from inflicting all the thousand cuts that bled the beast to death.

    Greg, is there anything known about German genetics, and tendency to authoritarianism, and honor/respect submissiveness as well. There must be something, Remember the infamous case of the Korea Air Lines Freight flight leaving England that crashed because neither the FO nor the FE dared tell the captain (Col. rank in KAF IIRC) his flight attitude data was frozen/broken. Cockpit tapes are fascinating, they new they were going to die, yet didn’t dare take control of the plane from the captain!

    I know there are behavioral indices (name escapes me) by national groups for submissiveness/self-effacement, etc. and that Koreans are highest national group for that, Mexicans pretty darned high too… What do you know about this?

    • Lot says:

      There is no reason to think Germans have significantly different genotypical personalities than other Europeans, especially their close French/English relations that are the two next most important groups in Europe.

      • Hugh Mann says:

        Dunno, I’d say the Germans are more conformist than the native Brits, legendarily an awkward bunch. That’s good in some fields, bad in others. Look at the 2015 immivasion, where they clung to their leaderin (no Gestapo necessary) while she u-turned and opened the borders.

        • gyddyn says:

          Germans had several revolutions in the last century, not counting coups. Whataboutbrits?

          • Frau Katze says:

            Very true. Is it just a coincidence that both Britain and Japan are on islands but that are still close enough to be a part of the mainland in some ways (Japan was more unstable but so was their mainland.)

            Germany was very different geographically.

  16. Bob says:

    What if the “Strike North” faction won out? Japan doesn’t launch a major offensive into Soviet territory because of the IJA’s lack of armor and mechanized equipment and its experience at Khalkin Gol, but it takes Vladivostok with the help of the IJN, which disrupts Lend-Lease. Japan doesn’t make a huge incursion, but enough to pin down Soviet Siberian troops, which then can’t reinforce the battle against the Germans back west.

    • JMcG says:

      That’s what I was getting at. I always assumed that Hitler hoped the Japs would get the Soviets into a two front ear of their own.

  17. Eli says:

    What if Germany hadn’t declared war on the US? My understanding is that even after Pearl Harbor, FDR couldn’t get Congress to declare war on Germany. Until Germany when ahead and declared war on us to support the Japanese.

    • Zenit says:

      At this time, it was widely believed that Japanese planes at Pearl harbor were piloted by Germans (because slanty eyed Japs cannot shoot and fly straight).
      I have no idea whether this rumor was planted by Brits or Soviets, but it was effective.
      Add the American ships sank by German subs, and you have more than enough reasons to declare war.

    • Rich Rostrom says:

      A Gallup poll was taken after the declaration of war on Japan, and before Hitler declared war on the US. Over 90% of respondents agreed that the US should have declared war on Germany as well.

      • Eli says:

        Congress did not declare war on Germany after Pearl Harbor. Due to lack of popular support.

        We declared war against Japan but NOT Germany.

        It was only after Germany declared war against us that FDR was able to get Congress to reciprocate.

        • zinjanthropus says:

          Rich Rostrom just said that there was 90% support for declaring war on Germany after Pearl Harbor. What is the basis for your claim that there was a “lack of popular support” for war with Germany?

          If I remember my dates correctly, Roosevelt made his “Day of Infamy” speech on December 8, and Hitler declared war on December 11. So it’s not as if lots of time elapsed.

          • gcochran9 says:

            I’ve never seen that poll, or anything equivalent.

            • Gord Marsden says:

              A poll in that era would have been a hands up around the cabinet table .

            • Rich Rostrom says:

              Here is a posting at which includes a citation of that poll.
              In fact, it includes an image of the page in Gallup’s book of collected poll results with that poll question.

              P.S. Do not dispute historical fact with the cited poster, “David T[enner]”. He is unquestionably the most knowledgeable about history person that I have ever encountered. He comes up with amazingly obscure yet significant historical events, and provides citations from authoritative sources. I have caught him out once in about 15 years – and I’m no slouch.

      • Lot says:

        I really doubt that Gallup rushed out a poll right after the PH attack like that. Polls were rarer, slower, and more expensive to conduct. Gallup did a few polls a year which were planned well in advance.

  18. Jack Strocchi says:

    It’s hard to come up with a plausible scenario in which the Axis wins WWII. But what do I mean by ‘plausible’?

    The Nazis lost WWII because Hitler did not know when to sit on his winnings, the biggest failure of the gambler. The two biggest unforced errors were declaring war on both the US state and the Slavic and Judaic peoples, more ir less at the sane time – end 1941/start 1942.

    Hitlers declaration of war in the US was not indicated by Germanys strategic interest. It essentially signed his own death warrant, as Stalin acknowldged that the Allies only won through “British [strategic] brains, American [economic] brawn, and Russian [ethnic] blood.”

    Hitlers declaration of a race war of extermination against untermenchen Slavs and Jews was likewise not indicated. It Turned potential assets into liabilities. Most Slavs writhed under Bolshevik oppresion and many welcomed the Wermacht as liberators, until the Nazis proved themselves as even worse oppressors, employing totalitarian methids in the service of genicidal ends.

    Also most Jews were, underneath it all, were Germanophilic. Yiddish is a Germanic language and Jews respected the higher Teutonic educational and occupational standards. Azkhenazi after all means “Northern” ie Nordic Jew. Jews and Slavs civilans could have been used as mental and manual labourers for the Reich. Instead they became powerful sources of opposition to Nazi rule, bith within (partisans) and without (Manhattan Project) the Reich.

    No doubt these factors were important in Wermacht staff descision to assasinate Hitler. Also, Hitlers refusal to abandon untenable defensive positions – Stalingrad only the most egregious example – caused astronomic losses in the Wermacht.

    The Eastern Front war was itself not unwinnable, after all in WW1 the Kaiser armies had defeated the Tsars armies in 1917, even while fighting a more formidable foe on the Western Front.

    But loading the US economy and Slavic/Judaic ethnicity onto the othsr side of the scales probably tipped the balance.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Even better, he shouldn’t have started any wars at all. Just work on rebuilding industry so as to get back to pre-1914. The whole Jew-hate thing was plainly stupid. There were even Jews who liked Hitler’s politics except for that major exception.

      He had the Sudetenland and Austria. With no shots fired. Sounds promising.

      • dearieme says:

        And the Rhineland and the Saar. His attack on rump Czechoslovakia was what eliminated the uncertainty about whether he was a Bismarck or a Napoleon.

      • Ursiform says:

        He needed the Jew-hate to have someone to blame for losing the last war. How do you have a culture of superiority when you just lost to someone worse than you are? You identify an internal, treacherous conspiracy by some identifiable group.

        • Frau Katze says:

          Yep. So he created an even worse disaster. I was speculating what a more rational person might have done.

          • Lot says:

            Taking Sudetenland and Austria and Polish Prussia by negotiation and force if needed was mainstream among the German right and center before Hitler.

        • Irate eye rater says:

          He didn’t need the jew hate. It didn’t even help.

          Blaming Communists would have been quite sufficient. And indeed, being the only ones doing anything about reds running rampant in the streets was a lot more important to the Nazis popular appeal than scapegoating jews.

          Ratcheting up the anti-communism probably wouldn’t do much for peaceful prospects with the Soviets, however.

    • Coagulopath says:

      Jews and Slavs civilans could have been used as mental and manual labourers for the Reich. Instead they became powerful sources of opposition to Nazi rule, bith within (partisans) and without (Manhattan Project) the Reich.

      They did provide labour for the Reich. You’ve heard of Arbeit macht frei?

      The loss of Jewish physicists was a blow, but I’m not sure Germany politically had it in them to develop a bomb, even with von Neumann, Teller, and so forth. Hitler had trouble thinking long term: if something didn’t produce immediate results he tended to lose interest in it. Germany’s R&D during the war is a long list of fascinating but half-baked toys (such as early stealth bombers, and a 700mph rocket-powered plane) that just didn’t get the love they needed.

      The Manhattan Project employed 130,000 people and cost $2bn. Hitler would have seen it as reichsmarks down the sewer, in pursuit of a white elephant.

  19. Cantman says:

    The easy answer is that Britain makes peace in the year or so in which it was the only great power at war with Germany. The Germans and their allies and vassals would have defeated the Soviets without outside intervention.

  20. Unladen Swallow says:

    I was always under the impression that the German delay in invading ( 3 weeks I believe ) combined with Hitler’s inability to stick to one primary objective is what doomed the invasion. I thought he changed it like 3 or 4 times over the first six months, causing huge wear and tear on the German troops and machines that then had to move hundreds of miles to get to a new theater of operations, instead of fighting. After the Russians counter attacked he of course screwed up even more by choosing to fight a war of attrition against a bigger enemy.

  21. Coagulopath says:

    They had to win at Stalingrad to have a hope.

    If they’d taken the city, they would have controlled the Volga, and cut off the USSR from the Baku oilfields. Would Germany win under those conditions? Maybe not, but they could have made a decent go at it.

    The Azerbaijanis used to say “our Stalingrad is in every well”, communicating the idea that the oil was the true objective. I think about 80% of Soviet petrol came from there, all told.

  22. Enochian says:

    After the ally victory, the west had to spend the next half century fighting proxy wars and trying to contain communism. What if America had simply sat back in the 1940s and let its two greatest potential enemies, the communists and the fascists, destroy each other? Or would one of them almost certainly have emerged a strong victor?

  23. Rich Rostrom says:

    It’s hard to see how the Axis could have won WW II. A lot of AH buffs have worked at it, with little success. The basic problem is that the Axis cannot project power to the vitals of its greatest enemies: Britain, the USSR, and the USA. They can bomb Britain, but British naval supremacy is an impregnable shield. They can invade the USSR, but can’t march far enough to conquer. And they can’t reach across the ocean to the USA. Britain and the USA also control or lead a vast swath of colonies or satellites which the Axis can’t touch either.

    And it is very difficult to win a war against a determined foe that one cannot strike to kill.

    The nearest to a realistic scenario would be if Britain, led by someone other than Churchill, made peace in 1940, and the US elected an isolationist President that November. Then the Axis, free of blockades and air attacks, could all go after the USSR.

    • Le Ed says:

      Your last paragraph sounds reasonable. Churchill was really a hero and without him things would have turned out differently. The criticism towards him are made in hindsight by persons which with zero insights.

      • albatross says:

        Yeah, I think the first part of this alternative history story is Churchill getting shot by a Boer guard as he’s escaping from his POW camp, and the next part is a string of dedicated isolationists with a slight pro-German tilt getting elected in the US, instead of FDR. For added irony, make sure they all use “He kept us out of war” as their campaign slogans. When WW2 starts in Europe, the US is genuinely neutral. Maybe let the BEF get wiped out, and the British make peace with the Germans on relatively favorable terms. Then maybe have the invasion of Russia start earlier in the year (I think it was delayed partly because of trouble in the Balkans). Stalin retreats, Moscow falls, and the USSR collapses. And then, before he’s gone full nutcase with the genocidal crap, Hitler drops dead from a heart attack and some “moderate” Nazis take over and manage to remain at relative peace with the rest of the world while they digest their conquests.

  24. If any are WWII Wargamers, I recommend Compass Games
    Expensive at $150, with an $85 extension, but the designer knows his stuff.

  25. Citizen A says:

    Everyone is missing the obvious. If you Bismarck France and the low countries, give back Norway to Sweden(guarantee of friendly neutrality), and then make peace with Halifax. Without spreading the peanut butter too thin, you can then think about using the reparations from France to finance preparations for war with Stalin. Then, allow Stalin to attack, bleeding the USSR white, and ending communism. Then grow old and die in bed. Further, outsource the winter war to the experts,the Finns.

    Think of the manpower not wasted in occupation and foolishness.

    And build infrastructure- the rail lines were still piteous throughout occupied Poland.

    Without allies, and without most of the causus belli, the war effort in England will collapse as well.

  26. biz says:

    What about if all of the following go the other way:

    1) Hitler decides not to clean up the botched Italian invasion of Greece, and decides that the Baku oil fields aren’t worth it just now, allowing him to invade the Soviet Union 6 weeks earlier, so they get to the outskirts of Moscow in early September rather than October.

    2) Stalin gets on that train, abandoning Moscow.

    3) The Polish refugees who had the partial enigma machine get killed or captured.

    4) Germans are actually successful landing agents in the US to carry out a-Qaeda style terrorism and sabotage in North America.

    Could we end up with a situation with the USSR effectively out of the war where the war is such tough going in Africa and the Pacific with such high casualties that the US calls it quits due to domestic political pressure? As part of the cease fire with the Axis, the US agrees to a non-proliferation treaty type arrangement, ending the Manhattan project, and a neutrality cause, prohibiting lend-lease and economic boycotts.

    Then the British have to sue for peace because they are in it alone, surrounded, and have soon surpassed WW1 casualties. This peace treaty gives Germany formerly British colonies in the Middle East, and Japan all of the formerly European colonies of East Asia.

    Now the Axis have free reign and the natural resources they need. Meanwhile, seeing the way the tide is going, there are Axis-allied fascist coups or election wins throughout Latin America. The Axis begin an economic boycott of the US and the US heads into a long recession with the accompanying civil strife. Then after a decade the Axis begins the fight against the weakened, disarmed US.

    • albatross says:

      I think #4 would make it more likely the US would come into the war, not less. It will work better if there’s a big surge of isolationist/pro-German feeling among the large German-descended population in the US, and the Germans go out of their way to offer no provocations to the US, and in fact to court US opinion. (Not so easy to do given the nature of the Nazi regime–that wasn’t ever going to play well in the US.)

  27. Ananda H. says:

    Axis victory where Germany puts its industry on total war footing near the beginning of the war instead of waiting until 1943 to begin the process, which was not consummated until the summer of 1944 (even then it was still ‘in-process’ but could not advance any further on account of the accumulation of strain from the war). If I remember correctly German tank production peaked in August 1944, more than a year after the near-complete destruction of Hamburg by Allied bombers, not to mention the ongoing Allied naval embargo of occupied Europe and bomber raids targeting the Ruhr. That the Germans reached the peak of their industrial capacity – at least in terms of tank production – under these circumstances is so goofy it would seem implausible if it weren’t true, and shows you how much they were fucking the dog for the first half of the war. So the “what if” here is something like, what if Operation Barbarossa had substantially more Panzer and motorized infantry divisions to work with? Like how about twice as many? In that case, the blow should have been hard enough to knock the Soviets down; it almost was even so.

    It doesn’t seem so implausible; it’s 1939 or 1940, you’re at war with France and England, you’re thinking long-term about invading the Soviet Union, you’re in what most sensible people would consider a “serious situation.” You’re Nazis, so you have the necessary control over society and the economy to accelerate the production of war materials. Why the hell didn’t they do it? In the first half of the war, Nazi Germany made less effort and less sacrifices to put the economy on a war footing than democratic Great Britain.

    More tanks in 1944 than 1939-42 combined! Ridiculous! No wonder they lost!

    • Coagulopath says:

      If I remember correctly German tank production peaked in August 1944, more than a year after the near-complete destruction of Hamburg by Allied bombers, not to mention the ongoing Allied naval embargo of occupied Europe and bomber raids targeting the Ruhr.

      And by that point, petrol shortages were cutting them off at the knees. They doubled down on tanks right when their ability to fuel them was running out.

      They ran out of lots of stuff in 1944. German steel relied on molybdenum for flexibility and toughness, and after the USSR denied them the deposits in Yugoslavia they had to substitute vanadium. Afterwards, German plate armor was brittle, prone to spalling, and handled kinetic penetrators like shit. A direct hit would fill the hold of a Panzer with flying metal shrapnel.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Oddly enough, the Nazis thought that homefront morale was fragile and needed cossetting; – they blamed morale collapse for the loss in WWI. And then they thought winning would be easy.

  28. Greying Wanderer says:

    “It’s hard to come up with a plausible scenario in which the Axis wins WWII.”

    releasing all the Russian prisoners they took in the initial invasion

    (on the assumption that a German win in the east would eventually lead to the US accepting a draw)

  29. Stoolie Andrews says:

    I wonder what might have happened if Britain and France had managed to successfully move soldiers into Finland to fight the soviets during the Winter War of 1939 – 40 (plans apparently called for the reinforcement of the Finns with 50,000 troops). The convoy transporting troops was delayed by the the Finnish-Soviet armistice on March 13, 1940 and plans were only cancelled after the Nazis invaded Denmark and Norway on April 9th. What if the Allies had ended up in a war against both the Nazis and the Soviet Union as a result?

  30. MBlanc46 says:

    You’ve zeroed in on the crucial point. If the whole rotten edifice collapses when the Germans kick in the door, the Germans are still in with a chance. Perhaps they can negotiate a cease fire with whatever outfit, if any, takes over from the Bolsheviks. Or perhaps the USSR falls into chaos for a year or so. Now the Germans can move a lot of those divisions into Western Europe and North Africa. The situation of the British changes from serious to desperate. When the Japs attack, the US has a tough choice. Stop the Jap advance (as we—and our allies—did at the Coral Sea, Midway, New Guinea, and Guadalcanal) or use all of our resources to bail out the British.

  31. mapman says:

    The Soviet government began to evacuate across the Ural mountains to Kuibyshev.

    Kuibyshev/Samara is on Volga river, way to the West from Ural mountains.

  32. Hitler has a bad salad and dies of food poisoning right after the fall of France. Instead of picking new fights, Göring starts chipping away at the British empire, starting with Suez, Malta, Gibraltar, working their way east towards India until the British sign a peace treaty.

    • gyddyn says:

      Napoleon from 1809 to 1812. Didn’t work in those years.

      • I thought about that, but he went and invaded Russia didn’t he. With a carrot and a stick, I’m sure the Germans could have whipped together a Napoleonic continental order and passed through Spain/Turkey to wipe out British possessions around the Mediterranean. Also, planes and railroads.

  33. Denis says:

    I just have to nitpick that Kuibishev isn’t across the Ural Mountains.

  34. Henry Scrope says:

    Only way I can think would be if German intelligence had heavily bribed, or blackmailed, key politicians in Britain and France, maybe also America, from about ’35 onwards. There could have been no war in the West then, maybe.


    Also what was Canaris’s game?

    • Hugh Mann says:

      “if German intelligence had heavily bribed, or blackmailed, key politicians in Britain”

      Someone else got there first – Churchill was bailed out of near-bankruptcy by Henry Strakosch in 1938.

      Can’t speak about the 30s, but German Intelligence on UK during WW2 was pretty poor – mostly due to Enigma/Ultra. Which brings us back to the temperamental differences between Brits and Germans – they followed Enigma as they followed their leader as their bombers followed the radio beams (which were being interfered with by the Brits).

  35. Craken says:

    If one of the assassination plots against Hitler had succeeded between the invasion of France and Barbarossa, and if his successor had been competent and comparatively sane–the Axis might have won a less ambitious war. The Nazis might have retained France, the Low Countries, Norway, Denmark, western Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and maybe a few other small countries; the other continental nations would be fascist allies. The Japanese might have held Korea and Manchuria and let the Americans alone. However, had they attacked Pearl Harbor, the result would be the same. But, this did not entail war with Germany, absent Hitler. With the hot war over, the Germans could then have developed nuclear weapons, leading to a 3 or 4 sided Cold War. I think Stalin would have consented to this arrangement. And to fight the Germans without Russian help might have been too much for the Anglo-American team. On the other hand, the Anglo-Americans might have calculated that Stalin would enter the war once they had sufficiently weakened the Nazis. It seems a reasonable calculation. In that case, the Germans would probably lose once again, being numerically outclassed.

    The more I read about Hitler’s war and the thousand mistakes he made, the more I think he wanted to lose in a Wagnerian Götterdämmerung.

    • Provoking a war with the UK and France, the Norway campaign, embracing the Manstein-plan, huge risks that paid off. Invading the USSR, declaring war on the US, huge risks that didn’t pay off. His successes and disasters were all a result of the same risk-taking, “expert”-resenting persona. Not sure Germany would have done better with a Gamelin-type leader (although they couldn’t have done much worse in the end, off course).

      • Jim says:

        And of course his earlier successes no doubt made him even more reckless. It also meant that other Nazi leaders became less likely to counsel a more risk averse policy.

  36. Just thought of another, Turkey joined Barbarossa.

  37. Thorfinnsson says:

    I can think of two major things:

    1 – The H-man doesn’t indulge his Anglophilia. German foreign policy and military doctrine assume from the beginning that Germany will have to fight and defeat the United Kingdom.

    2 – Better leadership in the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. Let’s say Goering, Milch, and Raeder die in a train derailment or something.

    The German Army would look much the same in 1939, but the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine would be prepared for a commerce war. More u-boats and long range aircraft. Potentially more cruisers as well.

    After overrunning France, Germany issues an ultimatum to Franco. Let us in to do Operation Felix, or we invade. Gibraltar falls. German and Italian armies then go onto overrun Egypt.

    In this Battle of Britain, the Germans have drop tanks on Bf 109s from the beginning and probably a decent number of four-engined heavy bombers. Germany wins the Battle of Britain, after which it begins systematically mining and destroying Britain’s ports. Next up it starts attacking Britain’s coal infrastructure.

    Germany still needs to win Barbarossa here, but Britain is defanged and can be invaded after Barbarossa is wrapped up. Additional German and Italian troops are available this time as well, which helps.

    As for invading Britain before Barbarossa, even with air supremacy (and lets say the Germans just happen to have actual landing craft this time) it seems extremely risky to cross the Channel when the Royal Navy is afloat and has plenty of fuel.

    • Magus says:

      Gibraltar was not sticking point for takin Egypt. Few British ships ran through their. Main issue wasn’t even Rhodes though that’s more relevant.

      Main issue was logistics of fuel / repairs/ parts in North Africa desert while Brits control most of Eastern sea. So you need trucks to drive fuel up to front, farther the harder.

      You’d need better investment in logistics corps, Italians build better railways pre war, etc.

      Rommel was a bit of a strategic idiot. Tactically great, strategically dumb. There’s a reason some wiser generals in OKH and OKW thought he should be pulled even while gaining “victories”.

      His leonizing is a function of British mythology to some extent.

      He was a great tactical commander though and seems to have been honourable. But he’s no Von Manstein or Von Rundstedt.

  38. J says:

    Hitler’s Anglophilia did him in. He had the British Expeditionary Army encircled, demoralized and disorganized. He let them escape through Dunkirk. Should it have been destroyed, the British Islands could be easily invaded and a pro-Nazi branch of the Royal House installed as puppet. Without Churchill, Britain’s relentless attack on the margins of the German lines, that led to the first victory in El Alamein, and the pulling of America into the war, would not have happened. Then, all that useless suffering could have been avoided by prohibiting the use of nerve gas already in WWI, but it was not and caused corporal Hitler to suffer temporary blindness and infernal hallucinations.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Hitler wasn’t an Anglophile.

      • Coagulopath says:

        His initial hope was for a German/British alliance, I think. The two countries have a lot of historical and linguistic ties, and the British Empire would have seemed like an obvious model for the Third Reich to aspire to.

      • Thorfinnsson says:

        Read Mein Kampf and Zweites Buch. He was definitely an Anglophile. He admired the British Empire and wished to preserve its role in the world.

        He did, however, hate the United States. And in Zweites Buch he writes hopefully about a victorious German-British cooperative war to destroy America around 1980 or so.

        • J says:

          The 2 Buch is unavailable on the internet. Anyway, it is obsolete and wrong. A century after, his weltanschauung appears very provincial, did not foresee that by 1980 power would shift to East Asia. And his obsession to acquire more bread producing lands was typical of a limited peasant and anachronic.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Actions, not words. Lots of people, when they get to the point where they’ve won, need to ruthlessly cash in on that victory to achieve optimal results. But often they don’t. In the Battle Off Samar, Kurita had achieved the unlikely goal, had capital ships in proximity to the supply fleet for the Leyte invasion. He could have destroyed them all: he had three battleships, six heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, 11 destroyers. But, exhausted and confused, he screwed the pooch, let Taffy 3 stop him.

          Was this because Kurita was secretly a fan of the United States ? Probably not.

  39. The Monster from Polaris says:

    There’s a book full of scenarios for a Nazi victory: Third Reich Victorious, ed. Peter G. Tsouras.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Nothing, population would just continue fighting on, fractured, maybe, but still combative. Mistake that comic figure prop called Hitler and vestige of Charlemagne called Napoleon made would be done again

  41. ChrisA says:

    Great discussion. Most plausible case for me – Stalin and Hitler do meet to negotiate after Barbarossa in 1941, someone plants a bomb at the meeting and both die. Better leader leader takes over in Germany (one of the Generals perhaps), Russia goes headless chickens and red army breaks into two or more factions. Germany takes Moscow and Stalingrad in the confusion, now controls most of Europe either directly or via allies. More reasonable German leader makes peace with UK (Churchill forced out by Moderates). Spends next 5 years building superweapons (including nuclear bombs) and massive fleet of subs and then renews attacks on UK. US finally wakes up too late, coordinated attack by Japan and Germany on US mainland using missile technologies only they have.

  42. Dersu Usala says:

    From what I have read, I understand that Stalin leaving wouldn’t have changed things.
    The URSS had entire armies in their eastern frontier facing the japanese. Just three years before Zhukov stopped any japanese ambitions over that territory in the little know battle of khalkhin gol.
    When the germans where near Moscow, those Siberian armies (well trained and equipped) just descended from the trains that had brought them and entered immediately into the battle. They repeled the germans and inflicted on them their first land based defeat.

  43. brokenyogi says:

    Simplest way for the Germans to win WWII?

    Hitler invades Russia on schedule in April of 1941, rather than late June. That way he gets to Moscow before winter hits. Also, stocks up on warm boots and winter clothing for the troops, just in case.

    The problem was that Mussolini’s invasion of Greece was a failure, and so Germany had to send a dozen divisions in to help him out. Those divisions had been set aside to invade Russia, so that had to be postponed. That delay lost them the war most likely.

    One could also cite the failure to retreat from Stalingrad.

    But that only brings out the bigger, insoluble problem, which is that Hitler was insane. His early successes blinded him and his general staff to his basic lunacy and incompetence as a military commander. So I would tend to think that even if some things had broken his way, he’d still have found a way to lose the war.

    Similar problem with the Japanese. There was no way they could win a Pacific War against the United States. But the leadership believed the Americans were weak people, lacking discipline and fortitude in the face of adversity. They thought the Americans would fold after being attacked. Yamamoto knew better. He told the Emperor that he could run wild in the Pacific for six months, but after that, they’d lose. And they did. The Japanese were insane also. If they’d had sane leadership, they could have done much better. But then again, if they were sane, they wouldn’t have started WWII.

  44. brokenyogi says:

    Also, given that invading Russia was a bad idea, especially by early summer, the smarter thing to do would have been to concentrate all their firepower on England, and invade with everything they had. Knocking England and thus America out of the European war would have changed a lot, and would have been worth any losses incurred, no matter how big. They could always have invaded Russia later on.

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