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

Bugs in the building – is there an antenna in the top floors of the US Embassy in Moscow?

Bugs in the building – is there an antenna in the top floors of the US Embassy in Moscow?

US Diplomatic mission in Russia is facing some issue, since a couple of weeks ago Russia announced it has to reduce its personnel by 755 people. While it is an interesting move as a reaction to the tightening of the sanctions, we are not going to talk about politics. This turn of event made us remember the building of US Embassy in Moscow. Will it be empty now? Do you know why is it called New Office Building?

First things first – US Embassy in Moscow is not going to be empty. Employees of US Diplomatic mission in Russian Federation are scattered around through a number of cities and different facilities. Also, while we’re on the subject, Russians are going to suffer from this the most. American citizens, who will be forced to leave this diplomatic mission, will go home and will receive positions somewhere else in the diplomatic corps. However, most of people who are getting fired since the 1st of September are going to be Russians. Furthermore, because of lack of human resources, some consular services will take longer to fulfil. So it is a nice publicity move, but it will mostly affect Russian people. It did bring our attention to the building though.

Existing Office Building – that is how the old building used to be called. (NVO, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

The main building of the Embassy of the United States in Moscow, called the New Office Building, looks recently built. This is kind of odd, having in mind that US had an embassy in Soviet Union. We looked at why the building had to be changed and found out it was always getting spied. That had to be one of the motifs to move to a modern, more secure type of building.

For example, bugs were discovered in the old office building of Embassy of the United States in Moscow in 1964. It was removed and everything was checked, but the spying eye did not look away from the building.

In 1977 there was a mysterious fire on eighth floor of the building. Some valuable documents were lost. While we can be sure that some of them were lost in fire, some of them were definitely stolen. It is known that some of the fire fighters were KGB agents, who were well-informed about the structure of the building and information kept on that particular floor.

And so a new building was needed. Fire did not damage the old office building too badly, but it was too easy to spy. Constructions were officially started in 1979 and in 1985 they found bugs in the new building. They were installed by construction workers or, more precisely, KGB agents dressed like construction workers. The spread of spying equipment was so vast it actually caused a bit of a diplomatic problem. US did not let Soviet diplomats to move to their new embassy in Washington, until American workers were allowed to finish the construction of the new embassy in Moscow.

New Office Building –
are top floors used to listen to the “Moscor air”? (Pars, Wikimedia)

Of course, before the building could be finished, part of it had to be destroyed, since the possibility of spying devices was so large. The New Office Building was finally opened in 2000. The top floors, built by American construction workers, are now used to deal with classified information, while the lower ones are dedicated to consular work. Still, who knows if it is not being spied at the moment, but some believe it is actually a piece of spying equipment in itself.

The very top floors look different, because there are virtually no windows in them. Igor Korotchenko, editor of a magazine called National Defence (Национальная оборона) once commented that the top floors of the main building of the Embassy of the United States are actually an antenna listening to “Moscow air”. Although US does partake in a healthy dose of spying itself, this theory sounds funny and almost ironic, having in mind why these floors look the way they do.

Driving a tank in WW2 – check out where drivers were sitting in the most famous tanks!

Driving a tank in WW2 – check out where drivers were sitting in the most famous tanks!

Many people get interested in military history because they like the weapons they see on movies or in museums. However, usually you can see these marvelous machines from the outside only and can merely imagine how the interior looks like. Several days ago we introduced the most beautiful steering wheels in the world, so we decided to follow a weird path and show you some driver positions of famous tanks of the Second World War.

If you didn’t see our collection of the most beautiful steering wheels in the world, we invite you to check it out. But now let’s see where drivers were sitting in famous WW2 tanks.

Panzerkampfwagen V Panther driver’s position

Panzerkampfwagen V Panther – one of the most well-known German tanks of the WW2. It was a bit newer and more modern than Tiger I, but smaller and lighter and, therefore, was considered to be a medium tank. It was quicker, had a slanted armour and was still prettty good off-road. While experts still consider Tiger I to be a more effective tank, it was double the price of a Panther.

Panther Ausf. G without a visibility slot for the driver. (Stahlkocher, Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Panther also had a simpler steering system – the usual manual levers. It was mechanical and reliable. The problem was that there was not much space for the driver, which was usual for the time, and pedals were extremely close together. Also, visibility was an issue (again, like in most tanks from WW2), especially when in 1944, its Ausf.G variant faced the removal of the driver’s visibility slot. Then the driver used only the periscope.

Mk IV Churchill driver’s position (Mapleleafup.net)

Mk IV Churchill – British heavy infantry tank, used in 1941-1952. It was heavy and somewhat old-school looking for its time, which is why nowadays many war enthusiasts don’t really like it. People think it was too heavy, too slow and too clumsy when compared to other tanks of the same period.

Take a look at the interior of a Churchill tank

However, while Churchill could go at a max speed of only 24 km/h, it had some redeeming features. It could, for example, turn around on its axes with both tracks rotating at different directions. And while its tall tracks made it look like a WW1 machine and impaired the driver’s visibility, they also provided protection for the infantry – something that a tank was designed to do. And it was pretty good off-road too, allowing for some different modifications to use this extremely stable platform.

Steering was achieved using a tiller bar – something quite unusual. It was hydraulically connected to steering brakes. People who tried this seat say that it is actually pretty comfortable. More pictures from the inside of Mk IV Churchill – Mapleleafup.net

Unrestored interior of soviet T-34 (Pitkäkaula, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

T-34 is a legendary Soviet medium tank. It does not receive such criticism as the Churchill tank, because it was dependable, modern for its time and was respected by the enemy. In the picture you see an unrestored example of T-34, so it is all quite messy and some instruments are missing. However, you can see the main driver’s arrangement in the tank.

T-34 tank in a museum in Brussels. (Musée Royal de l’Armée, Wikimedia)

The driver was using the three usual pedals (clutch, brake and accelerator) and two levers. Levers are actually how most vehicles with tracks used to be driven – some still are. During the war, the U.S. did get a few examples of T-34 and noticed that some components were poorly machined and the transmission’s technology was already outdated. This, together with steel clutches, meant that the tank was pretty harsh on the driver. However, some other sources state that it was not too difficult to shift gears or operate the levers so it was not too bad. Although the soviet and Russian lack of attention to ergonomics is well-known until today.

Driver’s seat of Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger.

Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger probably has the biggest crowd of fans between WW2 enthusiasts. It was a German heavy tank, featuring design, which later evolved to modern day tanks. It was heavy, yet quick, large, but maneuvrable. And was decently good off-road.

Take a look around Tiger’s inside

One of the unique features of the Tiger I tank was its steering wheel –  something unseen in other tanks. People say that it actually made driving easier and pretty much ahead of its time. It had power steering too. In case this mechanism failed, the tank could be steered using a couple of levers on both sides of the driver’s seat.

Driver’s seat of M4 Sherman (Alf van Beem, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

M4 Sherman – the most recognizable U.S. medium tank from WW2. It entered service in 1942, but it was still in use up until 1957. In fact, for a long time it was a weapon of choice, despite the more modern, better armed and armoured M26.

M4 Sherman tank from the outside (The shadock, Wikimedia)

The steering of a Sherman tank was not really special in any way. Except, maybe, that both levers were very close together. In the picture you can see the driver’s seat in a Sherman tank, but the backrest is missing. While no one is really comfortable in a tank, Sherman’s drivers had little to complain, as there was more space for them than in some other tanks.

Of course, this list could be expanded with pictures from other tanks. But we hope it was enough to get you interested in the history of tanks or WW2 in general.

Man vs. Tank – peculiarly artistic instructional videos from WW2

Man vs. Tank – peculiarly artistic instructional videos from WW2

Tanks are probably the most interesting piece of military machinery. In fact, in the language of common people tank is not a universal word for any other military vehicle with a large barrel. Obviously, in a war situation enemy tanks are intimidating and soldiers have to know proper techniques of defeating them. Here are a couple of instructional videos from the Second World War, teaching how to deal with enemy’s tanks.

Instructional films are a very interesting piece of military history. While it is intriguing reading manuals, old training videos are so easily available – YouTube is packed with them. People unfamiliar with this type of video may get surprised about how well they are made – they almost look like pieces from an actual movie. However, they do have some important things to say, so here, take a look at this instructional video, which was used to teach US infantry how to defeat German tanks.

As you can see, the narrator is having a beer during the filming of this video. And he is reading a script – he is basically an actor in this case. You may also notice the slang he is using – it is all increase relatability with the subject.

So what did we learn? You have to wait for a tank to get closer and then open fire at it to make its crew “button up”. It reduces visibility, which can be pretty much eliminated altogether by shooting at vision slits and periscopes . Then, when tanks get very close, grenadiers have to start shooting rifle grenades. Finally, time comes for some Molotov cocktails.

If you think this film was kind of artistic, you should see what German soldiers were shown during the war. This video is longer than the American one, but also much more movie-like. Take a look.

This is just a good old action movie, except that it was meant to instruct the soldiers. Here you can see mines and other types of explosives being used. And the storyline is quite a bit more dramatic.

WW2 instructional films are very interesting to see. Similar movies were made to just inform people about what is happening in the war zone. For example, how tanks are being repaired – a subject we covered in a previous article.

How were tanks repaired on the field during the Second World War? (Video)

How were tanks repaired on the field during the Second World War? (Video)

Some people might not know, but the history of the Second World War has a rich community of enthusiasts on the internet. People love analysing battles, personalities and, of course, weapons. However, there is one area of the history of the Second World War that is rarely touched upon and does not have as many enthusiasts as others. Do you know how tanks were repaired on the field during the biggest conflict in humanity’s history?

Track and suspension repairs were probably the most common. No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Wikimedia

This article will not attempt to solve any mysteries of the WW2. It will not try to improve your knowledge about tank repair operations to an unprecedented level. Instead, it will briefly go through some interesting details of tank repairing that some people still get wrong. It is meant to invoke your interest and to show a peculiar side of military history that not many people think about.

Tanks were extremely important in the Second World War. In some places, people still believe in legends and myths that damaged tanks were left behind. While that certainly happened in some cases, tanks were usually rescued and repaired. Not only they were expensive to make, they were extremely valuable in a battle and different units could not afford to wait for new machines to arrive. If repairs were not possible (if the tank was too badly damaged), machines were salvaged for spare parts, so that lightly-damaged tanks could be brought back to battle.

Specialized vehicles had to rescue damaged tanks from the battlefield. No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Chetwyn (Sgt), Wikimedia

Usually, the tanks were not heavily damaged at all, but were immobilized by broken tracks or minor powertrain problems. Abandoning such valuable vehicles was never an option. Therefore, special repair and rescue vehicles used to be sent into the battlefield to recover damaged tanks and other heavy machinery. Some of these vehicles were made using actual tank’s chassis, to give its crew more protection. They would pull immobilized tanks out of the military action zone so that they could be repaired in location or could be sent off to larger repair shops.

Cromwell tank armour gets welded. Mapham J (Sgt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Wikimedia

In some cases, crews had to improvise. For example, when tracks get broken and lack some segments, they are shortened – as long as they cover the driving star, the tank will move. Not very fast and not very smoothly, but it is certainly enough to move to a new spot for further repairs.

Broken tracks had to be repaired on the run. You can see a Churchill ARV – repair and rescue vehicle – in the background. Mapham J (Sgt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Wikimedia

Sometimes working in field conditions required some unconventional methods and creativity. For example, when the British Churchill tanks were going through some field tests, crews struggled with gear selector levers – they were bending and breaking because of the light-duty metals used to make these rods. Mechanics quickly found a solution – semiaxles from Ford vehicles fit perfectly and were much stronger.

In some cases, an entirely new engine had to be installed. Gee (Sgt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Wikimedia

In Algeria there were many damaged Churchill tanks, but around 60 % of them sustained damage to the turret only, and were perfectly drivable. Meanwhile, there were two other problems – a large number of damaged Sherman tanks and the shortage of 6 pound ammunition for British tanks. Percy Morrell decided to take the action into his own hands and try and fit Sherman 75 mm gun to damaged Churchills.

Authentic video report about repair operations of American tanks

It took some fettling around, since in American tanks the loader sits on the left and the gunner on the right, while in British tanks their position was inversed. This meant that the breach opened to the wrong side. Morrell solved the problem by simply rotating the gun 180 degrees. The “new” tank was so effective that there was an immediate order to start converting damaged Churchill tanks like this everywhere and around 200 of Churchill NA 75 were made in total.

Tanks with more severe damage were repaired in specialized repair shops. Keating G (Lt), War Office official photographer, Wikimedia

Tank repair was a task that required some hero characteristics from people. They had to be experienced mechanics, but also be able to work under pressure. A lot depended on these people, although now they are not as well known or researched as people who experienced war in front rows. Hopefully, we will revisit this topic in the future, to try and find more interesting details about tank repair operations in the Second World War.

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