With Hitler dead...
As I told Christos; history could have taken a dramatic turn if Hitler had died in April of 1941. The Russian campaign would have been delayed, with the troops that would have been commited Rommel could have beaten the British in North Africa, severing the Suez canal, the Navy still stinging from their one failure in WWI could have used their assets to rip the covnoy system to pieces, and to make it happen the way I postulate, I only have to make one additional change.
Fact: The primary stumbling block the German fleet faced was named Adolf Hitler. When the Graf Spee was sunk he immediately ordered the Deutchland renamed Lutzow to avoid the propoganda victory of the British claiming to sink a ship with the Nation's name. It took the better part of a year before he allowed Scharnhorst and Gneisenau to sail, and it was their successful cruise that convinced him to allow Bismarck to sail.
But after Bismarck, all naval operations had to be cleared by Hitler, which is why except for some inconsequential raids, they did little else for the rest of the war.
When the game Great Naval Battles of the North Atlantic came out, I decided to experiment. First I chose the Kriegsmarine at normal setting, and pretty much did what I think Admiral Raeder would have done. I also saved games only after battles, so if I lost a ship, it was gone.
Results? By the end of the game (September 1943) I had destroyed or crippled every British Battleship. I had destroyed all of their cruisers and destroyers, and was attacking unescorted convoys with Destroyer hunter killer teams. The cost? seventeen destroyers, one Heavy cruiser, one pocket battleship sunk. Everything larger was in the body and fender shop, but soon to be operational again.
Fact: When Genral Tojo delivered his declaration of war with the US, the Emperor did not sign it. Historically, he read it, set it down, and walked out of the room. Tojo later waved the unsigned document in victory as he left the Imperial Palace. But what if Hirohito had taken a leaf from the Emperor Meiiji in the Last Samurai? What if he had stood up to his government and forced another option?
Fact: Yamamoto, CINC of the Imperial Navy came up with the Pearl Harbor attack because he had to think of some way to cripple the US fleet. To paraphrase his own words when he was told they would fight the Americasn, 'I can run wild for perhaps 18 months. But then their production will drive us under'.
Fact: Roosevelt had spent the last two years doing everything he could to force Germany into war with the US. The sinking of Reuben James, the attack against USS Kearny and USS Gridley, the first accidental (As I commented in my review the US had almost 200 ships of the same classs still in service) The second because Gridley was actively hunting a U Boat outside the Neutraliy Zone with the assitance of a British long range bomber. All so that he could wave the bloody shirt to convince the Congress to vote for war. In fact one attempt was by sending the fleet (But not the fleet train) to Pearl Harbor, 2000 miles closer to Japan in July of 1941.
The reason this was provocative is that without the fleet train, the fleet was restricted. Assuming war had been declared with Japan, the Fleet would have immediately sailed to the Phillipines. However once they arrived, they would have been low on fuel and with only the ammunition in their magazines. That is what the fleet train is for, after all.
The worst part of history in reality is that the Navy was using the Mahan Doctrine for plan Orange, the Rainbow plan for a war with Japan. It required the fleet to confront the Japanes there off Luzon, not in Hawaii. The only two pluses that came out of the Pearl Harbot attack is that instead of being sunk by long range aircraft, as would have happened, the battleships were crippled in harbor, and except for USS Arizona survived to gain their revenge in 1944 off Luzon. The second was that without battleships to fight it, the Carriers were forced to shoulder that burden, which is why that after WWII no new battleships were ever built.
So is anyone interested in what could have happened?
All right, here goes. Note that all of the operations and decisions mentioned happened when I specified, and could have been altered by a different man being in charge in Berlin:
The North African campaign, like a lot of the secondary operations the Germans had leaped into, began as an Italian fiasco. An attempt to drive to the Nile was beaten and driven back to El Agheila Libya where 130,000 Italians of the 10th Army surrendered in February 1941. In response to this, and to deny the British an easy victory Hitler sent a blocking force of one light division under command of Erwin Rommel in Operation Sonnenblume ("Sunflower"). The British XIII Corps had gone into defensive positions there, and the bulk of their troops were replaced with ill trained Colonial troops except for the veteran 7th Armored Division, which had been pulled back to the Nile. The troops withdrawn were sent to Greece.
Although Rommel had been ordered to simply hold the line, an armoured reconnaissance soon became a fully fledged offensive from El Agheila in March 1941. In March–April, the Allied forces were forced back to Sollum in Egypt. The Australian 9th Infantry Division had fallen back to the fortress port of Tobruk,] and the remaining British and Commonwealth forces withdrew a further 100 mi (160 km) east to the Libyan–Egyptian border.
With Tobruk under siege from the main German-Italian force, a small battlegroup continued to press eastwards. Capturing Fort Capuzzo and Bardia in passing, it then advanced into Egypt, and by the end of April had taken Sollum and the tactically important Halfaya Pass. Rommel garrisoned these positions, reinforcing the battlegroup and ordering it onto the defensive.
With Hitler dead, and the plans for invading Russia shelved, The high command sees that a quick victory in North Africa will limit the front they must defend. Instead of sending a division or two, they instead reinforce the two divisions with attachments to eight creating Panzergruppe Afrika.
During Operation Crusader, the British now a full Army (8th) rather than a single corps was able to push the Axis forces back to El Agheila again in November/January 1942. But Rommel blindsided them. pushing back through North Africa, capturing Tobruk, and were finally stopped at the first battle of El Alamein in July of 1942. The build up continued, (My timeline) with over half a million German troops and an equal amount of Italian troops. With more troops than his enemy, Rommel builds up Halfaya Pass (Known because of Operation Battle Axe as Hellfire Pass) with German panzer units holding the southern flank which had been broken in Operation Crusader.
When Montgomery broke through at second El Alamein, he ran into the secondary defenses at Hellfire pass, and the offensive was shattered. Rommel sent a collumn of 5th and 21st Panzer to cut off the British retreat at El Alamein, and Mongomery's army was crushed between them. Two weeks later, the Afrika Corps stops briefly at Suez.
With scattered forces facing him, Rommel pushes North, capturing Jerusalem in December 1942 and Damascus Syria in Febrary 1943, completing the conquest of both nations and Lebanon by the summer.
With the forces released to face the British in North Africa, the decision about the 'Final solution held in september 1941 was instead of extermination to relocate them if and when Palestine was captured.
The primary problem previously had been that Britain had bowed to Arab sensibilities, limiting the influx of Jews into Palestine with the White Paper of 1939. Going into the concentration camps, the Jews were relocated to Camps in Crete (Which actually happened when the war ended, but administered by the British). At the same time, the Jews were told by Martin Bormann that once Palestine was captured, they would all be relocated there. To show their willingness to do so, the captured Jewish Brigade from North Africa was relocated to the camps, and armed by the Wehrmacht. Secret negotiations were opened between the Haganah (Which had been formed to resist the Arabs and British) and they were promised German and Italian equipment. On Christmas Day 1942 the first Haganah troops were landed at Tel Aviv. On the same day, Nazi Germany declares the Nation of Israel as a free nation and ally.
Kptlt. Jost Metzler commanding U 69 Took SS Robin Moor, an American merchant ship carrying munitions to South Africa and sank her 21 May 1941. Because Metzler had failed to radio the survivor's position, the US declared Germany an Outlaw nation and closed all of their Legations across the US, leaving only their main embassies. But even this did not drive the Americans to war. The sinking of USS Ruben James in October again did not do so.
The Japanese occupied Northern Indochina in September 1940. in June 1941 the Americans froze all Japanese Assets in the US and embargoed cargoes not already shipped.
On September 5, Prime Minister Konoe informally submitted a draft of the decision to go to war with the US to the Emperor, just one day in advance of the Imperial Conference at which it would be formally implemented. On this evening, the Emperor had a meeting with the chief of staff of the army, Sugiyama, chief of staff of the navy, Osami Nagano, and Prime Minister Konoe. The Emperor questioned Sugiyama about the chances of success of an open war with the Occident. As Sugiyama answered positively, the Emperor scolded him:
—At the time of the China incident, the army told me that we could make Chiang surrender after three months but you still can't beat him even today! Sugiyama, you were minister at the time.
—China is a vast area with many ways in and ways out, and we met unexpectedly big difficulties.
—You say the interior of China is huge; isn't the Pacific Ocean even bigger than China? Didn't I caution you each time about those matters? Sugiyama, are you lying to me?
Here is where one man changes things. Instead of keeping to the usual "Imperial Presence and silence', The Showa Emperor orders his military high command to find a way to gain their supplies short of war with the US. Only after every such effort is exhausted will he agree to fighting the Americans. He asks officers he trusts (Not the High command obviously) to monitor their efforts.
Part of the warplans offered had been to disable the American fleet which had been moved to Pearl Harbor while simultaneously occupying Dutch and British territories in the South Pacific. However while not yet at war with the US, technically, as allies, they are at war already with the Dutch and British, though they have not yet actively acted against them. An alternate plan is put forward; To declare war against Holland, and occupation of the Dutch East Indies. England would not be party to it, because the Germans believe still that the British will surrender or sign a peace if left hanging alone.
In October 1941, Ambassador Kurusu is sent to Washington to bolster Ambassador Nomura. They lay the following statements before Cordell Hull:
Japan will declare war on Holland, as mentioned above. British possessions and American possessions will be left alone unless Japan is attacked by either party. After delivering the documents, the two Ambassadors call a press conference to explain what they are doing; that they are leaving alone the two major allied nations intentionally. Kurusu also states that the Japanese Navy will be arranging a 'fleet visit' to Pearl Harbor. in the second week of December 1941.
Yamamoto, who never liked the idea of a war with America agrees to the plan put forward under the Emperor's auspices. It would place the onus for any war that came out of it firmly on the US.
On December 7 1941, 186 aircraft of the Japanese fleet take off. They are completely disarmed except for light series carriers with 5 lb practice bombs. Twenty minutes before their arrival, the Japanese Legation calls a press conference where they say that the Japanese Navy will hold an aerial display by unarmed Japanese aircraft above American military bases and Pearl Harbor. The Military attaches of Sweden and Switzerland had been apprised of this the day before, and The Swiss representative goes to Wheeler field (US Army Air Corps) while the Swede goes to CincPac.
The Japanese aircraft arrive, and the military panics. Fighters take off from Wheeler to attack them, because the lower echelons had not been informed. The ships in Pearl Harbor open fire as the bombers pass over, dropping practice bombs. Twenty five Japanese aircraft are shot down, one crash landing at Wheeler where it is verified that it was completely unarmed. American losses are two aircraft rammed by Zeros in an attempt to break up the attack against the 'aggressor' forces over Wheeler. Still harried by the Army aircraft, five more are shot down before armed Zeros orbiting north of Oahu break it up, shooting down fifteen American Tomahawk fighters to a loss of three.
At 3 PM Eastern Standard time(When the original of the document that started the war was delivered two hours late), The Japanese deliver their protest. A friendly game to show what they could have done to the American fleet had gotten ugly, and almost a hundred unarmed Japanese airmen had been brutally murdered by the US. They demand that the US either declare the war they seem to be wanting, or apologize.
So without popular support for a war, and with the US branded as the 'outlaws' this time, what does Roosevelt do?
Fact: The 'Final solution' was not agreed upon until september 1941. Before that the Jews had been held, and some of them horribly treated, but the cost in lifes was less than a quarter million.
Fact: The Emperor did not want a war with the US, and his arguments listed above did occur. The only change I have made was having him be more vehement publically about his disagreement with his government.
The aircraft listed in the 'display' are the exact number on the first wave of the Pearl Harbor attack. Disarming them means that they are unable to fight back, and would have been a telling point in the US Press
Very interesting indeed. But I have a question: With Hitler dead, wouldn't Göring or Himmler be named as his successor? And wouldn't that be more detrimental to the war effort because Göring, and especially Himmler, didn't have much experience when it came to tactics and war, and were just as megalomaniacal and obstinate as Hitler? For example, If Göring came to power, all of the funding and the resources would go to the Luftwaffe, and in Himmler's case probably to the SS.
When he made his trip to England in May of 1941, Hitler abolished the post, and the post of Head of the Party Chancellery was created, with Martin Bormann taking the office.
Your argument has some merit, but Goring, while megalomaniacal was not the spellbinder Hitler was and knew even less about Naval or Army operations. The Navy was already ticked off at him for his refusal to allow the Navy it's own air arm. The Army didn't like him because he was so busy trumpeting how great the Luftwaffe was in comparison to the other services, yet he'd lost a lot of support as a 'great leader' due to the failure of the Blitz and the bombing of German cities by the British.
Supporting Hitler when he said 'Now for Russia' was one thing, but saying it himself and expecting enthusiastic support was another. The army would not have supported Goring. After all what he knew about ground warfare could have been written on the inside cover of a book of matches with a laundry marker, and there was already too much being spent (In the Navy and Army's minds) on new planes that so far had proven less than perfect.
Himmler while a powerful man was also a lackluster one. He restricted his speeches to the SS meetings because he was not a great motivational speaker. Also he never aspired to more authority, as being in charge of the secret police was more than enough. He also would have admitted that he had no knowledge of strategy, so he would have been asking advice from those military commanders more often than either Hitler or Goring would.
Picture it as if it were the Death of Stalin back in the 60s, but compressed because while every one knew Stalin was ill, no one knew who would take over, and the death by assassination of Hitler would be unexpected. There'd be a press blackout as the Nazi leaders fought out the succession. The additional troops for Rommel I mentioned initially were what the German army wanted to do, but Hitler had been focused on Russia. So without someone to tell them no, OKW (The High command) would have been free to send them.
As much as people credit Hitler with the early victories in Poland France and Greece, it had been plans laid out by the OKW that won them with Luftwaffe support. France was the ancient enemy of the German army, and the plans used in 1940, with the exception of going through Belgium and Holland, were the same ones used under Friederick the Great in the Franco Prussian War.
The same is true in Greece, because the attack by Greece into Albania and the Central Power's reposte matched the one used in 1915. This time however, with Hitler's permission, the German Army didn't stop.
After all, Hitler left the service as a corporal, unlike Napoleon, who had at least been a Colonel.
With Hess still nominally in charge, it would have come down to the General Staff, Goring claiming authority, Goebels trying to maintain his position, with Himmler and Martin Bormann sitting in the wings quietly, waiting for the dust to settle.
I expect the Nazis would have left Hess in the position because they wouldn't have wanted to let one of the others have it at least in the interim.
What I envision is Hess in charge, but mainly a figurehead, with the actual control of the nation a little further down; Goebels, Ribbentrop and Speer, none of whom would have been willing to ram unnecessary orders down military throats. The military would have supported that. Hess, like the British queen would smile and wave and be the visible portion of the government.
Goring, Raeder and Jodl would have been next in charge, and without Hitler to unilaterally say 'He's right, do it that way' it would have been a hectic fight for supremacy. Only Goring would be in it for the power at that point; Jodl would want to run his own shop rather than have people without a clue giving the orders. He'd dealt with that with Hitler already.
Raeder is included for several reasons. First, the Nazis built a navy because a 'modern nation' had to have a navy. With Raeder as it's architect, it was (except for the older light cruisers and two WWI battleships) the most modern navy in the world. Hitler had originally planned to begin the war in 1947, so the fleet had to be built and ready by then.
As envisioned under Plan Z, the fleet was to be:
Scharnhorst, Gniesenau, Bismarck Tripitz, and 9 new design battleships and battlecruisers. To see what they could have had, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-class_battleships
4 aircraft carriers
15 armored ships (Panzerschiffe) In addition to the three already built, the remainder of the newer M class.
5 heavy cruisers
60 light cruisers
158 destroyers and torpedo boats
Of course with the war starting in 1939 instead, only three of the H class, and three of the M (Pocket Battleship) along with two carriers were laid down, and only one carrier was launched (Graf Zeppelin) though never completed.
You see, Hitler had never had a clue as to how to use a navy, and it showed. Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of England (where anyone would expect the navy to take a major role) assumed the navy would be the taxi service shuttling troops across with a few destroyers and light cruiser guarding them, no more. In other words, an infantry man's view of such an invasion. Part of this of course was Goring's contention that the Luftwaffe could replace those big nasty battleships (Two WWI battleships were still in the German inventory).
When the battle of Britain failed, that left the navy with little to do, and too little to do it well, and the loss of Graf Spee didn't help. While ordering single raiders to avoid action when possible, Raeder had always envisioned the fleet as taking those risks. He had protested renaming the Lutzow because it made the German Navy look like cowards. As John Paul Jones said (And Raeder no doubt knew) 'It seems to be a law of nature, inflexible and inexorable, that those who will not risk cannot win'.
Goring had even less of a clue what a Navy could do, and without Hitler to come down on his side of the argument, would have been ignored. Saying the Luftwaffe was supreme was fine, until you got more than 1000 kilometers from the coast. With Britain kicked out of North Africa as described, and Japan pulling the the teeth of the US, Raeder could have at least had a chance to shoiw what his navy could do. After all, U Boats had to move in packs to take on convoys, while major combatants (Battleships, battlecruisers and heavy cruisers) would not
He had rammed through Operation Berlin (The cruise of Scharnhorst and Gniesenau) in December 1940, though it didn't actually occur until January-March of 1941. But the greater success they could have achieved had been hamstrung by Hitler's refusal to risk the ships, which meant that two convoys escorted by old battleships (Ramilles and Malaya respectively) were bypassed. Yet as I found in checking the ballistics and capabilities of the different guns, Lutjens could have taken either one of those ships with two modern battlecruisers, just as Graf Spee was forced to flee after fighting one heavy and two light cruisers.
Using GNBNA, I took out Malaya (Which was one of those escorting battleships escorting convoys) using Graf Spee by merely trailing the convoy until dusk, running in, firing a couple of quick salvos, then running until I was out of visual range, but still within radar range. A few days later I took out another battleship (HMS Renown) in daylight. After that I did have to return due to damage, but picture the propoganda victory; two battle ships sunk by what the Germans had defined as an armored cruiser! By using two of them together (Lutzow and Scheer on the next voyage) I was picking off convoys on a regular basis regardless of their escort after sinking those warships, and when I ran Scharnhorst and Gniesenau back out before the British could damage Gniesenau the destruction included modern battleships as well.
More embarassing for the Brits, using two heavy cruisers (Prinz Eugen and Hipper again with rader) and again attacking at dusk, I had Prinz Eugen fire and lead HMS Warspite away by playing tag from beyond visual range and had Hipper tear up the convoy left unprotected. Yet compared to even a destroyer commander, I have no actual tactical experience. Raeder could have done better.
Also three French battleships of the Richelieu class were still free of Allied hands; Richelieu herself in Dakar, Clemenceaus captured before she could be completed., and Jean Bart which had been rushed to Casablanca also uncompleted. The old battleship Provence and The Dunkerque class battlecruisers Dunkerque and Strasbourg were in Mers-el-Kébir, in Algeria when the British attacked them on 3 July 1940. Dunkerque was disabled and later went to Toulon. Provence, Richelieu Strasbourg and Dunkerque were moved to Toulon France where they sat out the war until scuttled on 27 November 1942. However the scuttling did not occur until after the Torch landings.
If the US had not officially entered the war (Again what reasoning could Roosevelt use to convince the US to enter it?) they would have merely sat there.
I forgot to mention; Clemenceau could have been completed by the Germans well before the end of the GNBNA scenario mentioned. Having another fast battleship with 15" guns on the German side; especially after I had decimated the British threat, would have caused the tide to turn well before 1943. Again, the reason the Germans never considered completing her was Hitler's 'The Navy can't help anyway' attitude
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