5 mistakes that prevented Allied from winning WW2 sooner

5 mistakes that prevented Allied from winning WW2 sooner

Alternative history is a tricky business. We cannot objectively judge decisions from the past using categories of today. However, now after more than 70 years have passed we can look at WW2 from a different perspective. We can see mistakes opponents made in their efforts to reach the ultimate victory. In this article we are going to briefly look into 5 mistakes that did allow the Allies to reach ultimate victory sooner.

One has to keep in mind that this is not a serious scientific article and it does not pretend to be one. We have information about consequences that people making decisions during the Second World War did not. Therefore, we are breaching the principle of historism, which does not necessarily bring any value to the field. However, it is a fun thing to do, so let’s just jump into it.

Underrating military power of Japan

You all know how it went – Japan attacked Pearl Harbor without declaring war. This later was considered a war crime and the success of the operation was attributed to the surprise factor. But why was it such a surprise? Partly because US completely underestimated what Japanese military was capable of.

Japanese submarine B1-type I-15 (N. Polmar, D. Carpenter, Wikimedia)

Japan was consider severely underdeveloped and people were thought to be somewhat of savages. However, this view had to change quickly as Japan started occupying one island over the other. Japanese submarines proved to be quite advanced and soldiers – devoted and brave. History enthusiast Dougas Stychas says that there is nothing as vast as Japanese advance in the beginning of WW2 – it was the biggest offensive operation in history.

If US evaluated Japan better, maybe it was possible to prevent Pearl Harbor attack? Or maybe the entire war could’ve been prevented if US with allies closed Japan preventing it from expanding its territory and power?

Demanding “unconditional surrender”

So called “unconditional surrender” doctrine came out of Casablanca conference. It was somewhat of a surprise to Winston Churchill and it is not entirely clear if Franklin D. Roosevelt fully understood his demand. But after it was said, it was basically set in stone, meaning that the war had to end with Germany surrendering unconditionally.

Casablanca Conference, where Roosevelt schocked the world with his ‘unconditional surrender’ statement.

This worked on the side of German propaganda. Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister, used this as an opportunity to mobilize Germany, saying that the state is going to be drawn into slavery if it loses the war. This demand really prolonged the WW2 and made negotiations completely impossible.

Late introduction of convoy system

German U-Boats were notoriously attacking American merchant and supply ships sinking one after another. The reason why this hunt was so easy was lack of protection – convoy system was not in place at the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic. Once it was introduced and war ships started protecting ships carrying important supplies, German Navy has a much more difficult job attacking and sinking them.

Convoy system helps protecting important merchant shipt against German U-Boats. (U.S. Navy Naval History Center, Wikimedia)

However, some historians say that convoy system could not have been introduced earlier, because of lack of war ships. Unsuitable convoy is worse than merchant ships sailing alone. On the other hand, if convoy system was introduced, assuming it was possible, a lot of ship losses could have been avoided and supply chain to Europe would have been reliable from the beginning.

Defending Philippines in 1942

Philippines were essentially lost in 1942, but General Douglas MacArthur decided to defend these islands for as long as possible. This caused a major loss for US forces, 76 thousand American and Filipino soldiers being captured. Abandoning the plan to defend Philippines in such a difficult situation could have saved these people and a lot of resources.

American POW carrying their fallen comrades in Philippenes, in 1942. (Wikimedia)

Operation Torch

While we can’t say that the entire operation was a mistake, the beginning of it was marked with some questionable decisions. In 1942 Allies understood the strategic value of Tunisia. Occupying these lands could help secure Egypt and pressurize Germany from the South. British wanted to start the operation from Algeria – as close to Tunisia as possible. Meanwhile US feared that Gibraltar is going to be lost as Spain may enter the war on German side. This would mean isolation of forces in Northern Africa and supply ships could not enter Mediterranean. Compromised was reached and in November 8 of 1942 US forces landed in Casablanca, and British – in Orano and Algiers. Germany took over Tunisia and defended until May 1943. Spain, of course, never entered the war.

Scheme of the Operation Torch. (Wikimedia)

But who knew that Spain is not going to stand side by side with Germany? While operation Torch was successful, it did not ensure quick domination in Northern Africa.

That is all we have for this article. What other mistakes Allies made that you would include in this list?

We invite you to read other articles about alternative history of WW2:

5 ways Hitler could’ve won the Second World War

5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning the Second World War

5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning the Second World War

5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning the Second World War

Alternative history is not the most productive hobby to have. It also sort of goes against main principles of historism. We stand on our pile of books and look down on historical decisions, judging them using information that people at that time simply didn‘t have. However, some pieces of alternative history are actually quite interesting. We introduce 5 mistakes Axis made that contributed to its ultimate loss in the war.

It is note the first time we indulge in alternative history – we already listed 5 ways Hitler could’ve won the Second World War. However, this time we will look at the matter a little more serious and will include other Axis states as well. So what were those 5 mistakes that prevented Axis from winning?

Invasion of Greece

Mussolini, a loyal Hitler’s companion, was feeling left out of the war in 1940. He wanted to contribute to the ultimate victory of Axis, so he devised an invasion to Greece. The problem was that he did so without consulting Hitler, being obsessed with an idea of having his on achievement. Mussolini said that Hitler will find out about the occupation of Greece from newspapers.

Mussolini decided to start invasion of Greece without Hitler’s help – this decision eventually cost Germany several weeks and precious resources. (Muzej Revolucije Narodnosti Jugoslavije, Wikimedia)

Italy invaded Greece in October 28, 1940. Italian forces were motivated to move forward, but were soon pushed back. Battles continued, but Italy could try again breaching forward only in March 1941 only to be pushed back again. Situation was not pleasant for anyone and did not help settling situation in Balkans. So Germany had to invade Greece in April and by June the country was occupied completely. This, of course, had impact on Hitler’s plans of invading Soviet Union. It is said that this unplanned operation postponed invasion for about 5 weeks.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

At the beginning of WW2 Japan’s situation was not good. It had several newly occupied territories, but pushing forward to obtain more was very difficult. Japanese ambitions were hindered by lack of resources, economic sanctions, U.S. supporting China and some other factors. It was decided that one blow could eliminate U.S. Navy from the Pacific theatre, which would allow Japan to concur more islands and to strengthen its dominance in the region.

Attack on Pearl Harbor was a mistake in itself,
but a third wave could’ve prolonged the war for 1-2 years. (Wikimedia)

On 7th of December, 1941, such blow was delivered on Pearl Harbor, but, as you know, it wasn’t successful and U.S. Navy quickly regained its power to soon rule world’s oceans again. Japan created a wave that it could not withstand and was thus defeated. Furthermore, because attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out without officially declaring a war and with no warning, it was later considered a war crime.

Even if you don’t think attack on Pearl Harbor was a mistake, there is another mistake that was done during this operation. Three waves were planned, but after the second wave Japanese aircraft carriers, submarines and battleships decided to withdraw from the scene. American anti-aircraft defence was getting stronger – two thirds of Japanese losses happened during the second wave. Also, location of U.S. aircraft carriers was unknown and they could’ve came back unexpectedly.

Third wave was planned to demolish ground targets – dry dock, torpedo warehouse and so on. Now historians agree that if third wave was carried out, war would’ve been longer at least by 1-2 years. 14 out of 16 ships damaged during the attack came back to service.

Failure to involve Turkey and Spain

Turkey was fighting side by side with Germany during WW1 and Hitler aided Francisco Franco during Spanish Civil War. However, neither of these two states got involved in the Second World War. It is difficult to say it was Axis mistake, since they could not control everyone, but the war could have developed much differently, if Spain and Turkey got involved.

Searchlights in Gibraltar in 1942 (Dallison G W (Lieut), Wikimedia)

Spain could’ve helped Germany to deal with Gibraltar – a territory of Great Britain, which controlled the passage between Atlantic and Mediterranean. As it was, Spain remained neutral and didn’t even allow German troops to cross its territory (for example, Sweden did). Meanwhile Turkey could’ve helped establishing dominance in Caucasus, which was rich in resources. But instead Turkey declared war on Germany when WW2 was already almost over.

If these two states got involved, German dominance in southern Europe would’ve been immense and operations in Northern Africa would’ve been easier.

Treating people like slaves in Japan’s occupied territories

When Japan occupied islands in Philippines and Indonesia, locals considered Japanese liberators. They were sick of European rule and thought that Japan is going to be a much better ally. However, Japan blew this image to pieces when it introduced forced labour, regular physical abuse and capital punishment for small crimes. People were treated like slaves and so could not possibly be loyal to Japanese rule.

American POW carrying their fallen comrades in Philippenes, in 1942. (Wikimedia)

And so, as war progressed, some people from Philippines and Indonesia started guerrilla operations against Japanese forces. Others were informing Allied about Japanese positions and plans. If Japan was treating people properly, we could imagine that it would’ve had stronger support, which would result in a strong resistance to coming U.S. forces.

Hitler’s decision to start a war in first place

This one is kind of weird – how one of the biggest mistakes in a war can be starting it? But the truth of the matter is that Germany was expanding its influence without any military action already. It was growing and its influence was getting stronger. History professor Robert Citino thinks that Hitler wanted a war from the very beginning, but did not realise his goals can be achieved without an active conflict. Sometimes a bluff is strong enough.

It is known that Hitler did not always use information provided by his generals if he didn’t like it. Opposing Hitler’s view was never a good option. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L18678, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

However, Hitler wanted a war as a tool, regardless of what a goal was. Victory without a massive war was not satisfactory for him. If he settled with smart, aggressive diplomacy, who knows where he would stop. Citino thinks that using diplomatic measures alone would’ve helped Hitler achieve everything Wehrmacht did in the first three years. Now we can only imagine what could’ve been, but we will never know for certain.

What other mistakes of the Axis would you include?

A piece of alternative history – 5 ways Hitler could’ve won the Second World War

A piece of alternative history – 5 ways Hitler could’ve won the Second World War

Alternative history is a rather weird hobby. People analize events and decisions and try to guess how history would‘ve changed is some decisions were different. It is not really a productive thing to do, but many people enjoy alternative history and consider it to be a mental exercise. Therefore, we present you with a little piece of alternative history – 5 ways how Hitler could‘ve won the Second World War.

No one knows how war would have ended if Great Britain was the main target of Hitler and not Soviet Union. (US Government , Wikimedia)

It is important to note that none of these speculations are by any means serious history science. We are judging past events from our current perspective and we have so much more information than people who were making decisions back in a day. We see everything from a top of our book shelf, we know personalities from both sides of the front and we can now identify some decisions as mistakes – it certainly looked different 70 years ago. These theories are the most interesting ones we fished out from the internet.

Germany attacks Great Britain instead of Soviet Union

Many WW2 enthusiasts agree that attack on Soviet Union was one of the biggest Hitler’s mistakes. At least its timing. There is a theory, stating that invasion to British Islands might have been a smarter decision. After France fell, a lot of British heavy armour was left behind and thus forces of this country were weakened. A well-planned an organized invasion could’ve removed one potent enemy from Hilter’s path to ultimate victory.

Of course, there are holes in this theory. Royal Air Forces were already pretty strong and defeating them would not be so easy. Furthermore, Germany would’ve had to consolidate its forces. That little bit of time could’ve been enough for Britain to prepare for possible invasion and to discuss situation with its allies. Also, it is not clear whether this decision would’ve helped avoiding fighting on two fronts – what would Soviet Union do later in war?

Hitler does not star Holocaust

This is one of the more interesting theories. Hitler was always seen as a cold-hearted tyrant, who partakes in ethnic cleansing  as a maniac he was. But what if he wasn’t this way? What if he did not hold strong policy against Jewish people?

Holocaust helped mobilizing against the Third Reich. (Muu-karhu, Wikimedia(CC BY 2.5)

Some speculate that in this way Allies would’ve had a harder time mobilizing themselves for a fight against Hitler. Furthermore, a lot of resources, both material and human, were simply wasted in this bloody campaign. And some public support was lost because of Holocaust, not excluding people directly affected and murdered.

On the other hand, this basically means that Hitler would’ve been a different person all together and would have surrounded himself with different people too. So in a way, no one can tell how it would have changed the course of history, if Hitler himself did not hold anything against Jewish.

Germany strengthens its navy before the war

Dominating world’s oceans is a huge asset to have. However, Germany could not enjoy any kind of dominance (maybe under water), since its navy was not fully developed. Having a stronger fleet of surface ships could have led to stronger pressure against Allied forces were they least expect.

German Navy of WW2 was strong in U-Boats, but it was not enough to dominate oceans of the world. (Riksarkivet (National Archives of Norway), Wikimedia)

Furthermore, it could have allowed a closer coordination of actions with Japan. In essence, strong germane navy with alliance with Japanese forces could’ve dominated world’s oceans and seas, but there is one condition.

This means that war would have to be started later. In fact, at least a decade later – around 1949 seems like a reasonable time. And at this point in history everything would’ve been different.

Germany does not halt its advance in Dunkirk

In 1940 when France fell Germany was pushing hard on somewhere around 350 thousand Allied soldiers, most of whom were British. German tanks were fast in their way to encircle their enemy while Luftwaffe was smashing them from above. However, on 24th of May Hitler ordered to halt the operation for three days. It is believe that this decision was influenced by Field marshals Gerd von Rundstedt and Günther von Kluge – they did not want unconsolidated German forces to encircle Allied soldiers, because they thought they would easily break out.

Although more than 300 thousand soldiers managed to evacuate, a large number got killed in battle or captured. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B14898, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

This gave time for Allied forces to establish defence lines and evacuate relatively safely. A lot of heavy weaponry was left behind as well as 68,111 British soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. But most of them left France relatively unharmed. Great Britain already considered conditional surrender at the moment when Germany halted its advance.

Many believe that Hitler missed a chance to eliminate Great Britain from war with one easy blow and who knows now how it would’ve changed the course of the war.

Hitler does not interfere too much with strategic decision making

It is a well-known fact that Hitler enjoyed being in charge of all military operations of Germany. Not only he was aware of the situation in places thousands of kilometres away, he was commanding operations by himself, sometimes removing his generals from the equation. However, this did not mean he was a flawless leader.

It is known that Hitler did not always use information provided by his generals if he didn’t like it. Opposing Hitler’s view was never a good option. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L18678, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

In fact, Hitler had experienced and well-educated military personnel, which he did not take full advantage of. He got mad if someone opposed his opinion and sometimes gave irrational orders, especially as war was coming to an end.  Had he listened to his generals and involved them more in strategic planning, some moves in was might have been different and some mistakes could have been avoided.

Alternative history is really not accurate and goes against the principle of historicism. However, it can be a fun thing to do, allowing yourself to immerse your brain into something that is as much fiction as it is history.

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