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What if Germany had been first to create atomic bombs in WWII?

Assume they had additional scientists and resources so that none of their other research/projects was slowed down, yet they were still able to complete two functional atomic bombs (extremely similar to fatman and little boy).

Assume they would have completed the atomic bombs in the Autumn of 1944. This is so that D-Day has already happened, but Germany is still a long way from surrendering, and the USA is not close at all to completing its own weapons.

Questions to Answer:

  • Where would Germany have used the bombs?
  • How would this change the direction and outcome of the war?
  • BONUS: Where should Germany have used the bombs, with hindsight and knowing what we know today?

How close Germany actually was

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    $\begingroup$ One important thing to note about the U.S. is we only built two because we only needed two. If memory serves me right, the U.S. would have started building hundreds of nuclear bombs. The Germans would have as well. $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 11 '15 at 2:52
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    $\begingroup$ Let's be a bit more honest... at least the second one was built to prove it was possible, and was used to show that the cheaper plutonium bomb worked as "well" as the first, the uranium version. It may be dusputable, but at least with hindsight it seems very likely that the japanese would have surrendered with a slightly less forbidding treaty proposal. $\endgroup$ – Burki Aug 11 '15 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ Actually from what I understand, the bombs actually made very little impression on Japanese government. They were much more afraid of incoming Red Army, which was now mostly free from its eastern front duties. $\endgroup$ – Darth Hunterix Aug 11 '15 at 10:44
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    $\begingroup$ @DarthHunterix ...which was the west front in this context. $\endgroup$ – his Aug 11 '15 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ The autumn of 1944 is really too late for nukes having a positive impact. 1 year earlier – Leningrad, 2 years earlier – Stalingrad, 3 years earlier – Moscow. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Dec 3 '15 at 20:11
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If Germany had the Atomic bomb and some of the other advanced weaponry as you suggest, I think the Germans would have started by using a jet bomber to attack Moscow. The logistic would be difficult (and essentially a suicide mission), but the speed and surprise of such an attack would have decapitated much of the Soviet Union's command and control infrastructure, and even its logistical infrastructure (many of the rail lines deliberately passed through Moscow, a legacy of the Tsarist Empire and a means of control by being able to dispatch troops and supplies from the Imperial Capital), effectively stranding much of the Red Army and blunting their ability to continue offensive operations against the Nazis in Eastern Europe.

Attacking London would be much more problematic. While it would be easier to send a jet or even a conventional fast bomber, the Germans actually had a certain amount of "respect" for the British, and Nazi "mythology" was receptive to the idea of an Anglo-German partnership in the New Order. (Like a lot of other ideas floating around in the Nazi universe, this wasn't well defined or spelled out in a lot of detail). The Nazis also knew that "decapitating" the British Empire was not going to work at one stroke the way it might against Soviet Russia. Churchill himself spelled it out in a speech ("We will fight on the beaches"):

We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.

Bombing the UK would bring about redoubled efforts from the nations of the Empire (Canada alone had more than a million men under arms by this point, and the world's 3rd largest navy, despite being a very thinly populated nation at the time), and even with the resources of all of continental Europe under the command of the Nazi empire, they still would have been badly outmatched by the resources of the British Empire alone, much less America and the rest of the Allies as well. This does not even take into account that most of the British Empire was well beyond the reach of any conceivable Nazi war machines being built or contemplated in 1944; how would the Germans be able to stop the raising of armies and industrial plants in Australia, India and South Africa, for example?

The other point that should be noted is there were lots of notional "allies" like Brazil and Mexico, which were supporting the Allies and nominally part of the alliance for diplomatic and economic reasons. The unleashing of atomic weapons on European targets by the Nazi regime might well have been a tipping point for some or all of these nations to change from notional to "real" allies. There would have been a lot of pressure from the senior partners like the Americans to contribute (having these nations as allies up to this point was more to keep them and their resources away from the Axis), and the example of nuclear attacks could also have convinced them that the Nazis were not just a theoretical evil or threat, but a clear and present danger. (Alternatively, this could also have been enough for many nations to renounce their membership in the Alliance and become Neutral, with lots of second and third order effects. One can Imagine the Americans invading and occupying nations which could provide a springboard for Nazi shipping and aircraft, for example).

This would be a fascinating contra factual to explore in more depth. We have not even looked at how Imperial Japan or Fascist Italy would have looked on Germany newly armed with atomic weapons, for example.

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  • $\begingroup$ What other advanced weaponry do I suggest? I didn't intend anything besides the atomic bombs. $\endgroup$ – carrizal Aug 11 '15 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ The USA wasn't exactly out of reach: Just drive an U-Boot into New York harbor. $\endgroup$ – Reinstate Monica - M. Schröder Aug 11 '15 at 21:08
  • $\begingroup$ True, and this might have been considered if conditions were bad enough, since it would essentially be a suicide mission in 1944. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Aug 11 '15 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ Carrizal, you assume all their other research projects are viable/not slowing down, so there are jet and rocket aircraft, Ballistic missiles, advanced submarines, guided missiles of various sizes and even gas turbine powered tank prototypes. Various advanced infantry weapons are also coming into service at this time as well, including assault rifles and infrared night sights. Germany had lots of advanced projects on the boards. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Aug 11 '15 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Thucydides I'm not saying they were able to complete and integrate all of their research into their strategies, I'm just saying that the nuclear stuff shouldn't interfere with stuff that they were actually working on, whether they were able to use it or not. $\endgroup$ – carrizal Aug 14 '15 at 14:43
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Where would Germany have used the bombs?

Germany had already bombed civilians in London with traditional explosives (both in WWI and WWII), so it wouldn't seem unlikely that they would bomb civilian areas with a nuclear weapon. Likely many places in England and Russia where civilian populations were high. They may have also bombed the US to stop the war, but if my memory serves, they weren't exactly on the harshest of terms. Don't quote me on that.

How would this change the direction and outcome of the war?

Britain and Russia easily would have sued for peace. The Japanese were unlikely to come out of war before the 2 nukes that were dropped, but they surrendered almost immediately afterwards.

BONUS: Where should Germany have used the bombs, with hindsight and knowing what we know today?

Probably on military areas rather than civilian areas. While it would be no skin of a Nazi's back, the people living under Nazi rule may be angry after the war that their government killed thousands of innocent civilians. It would be hard to tell if there would be a revolt, a movement, or just some online comments on the nazi-web that criticize it, but there'd be something.

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  • $\begingroup$ It seems like you made arguments both for and against the Nazis using the bombs on civilians. Kind of hard to tell which one you're suggesting. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 10 '15 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ Why would you think that Britain and Russia would have sued for peace? Especially Russia has already lost millions of military and civilian lives. A hundred thousand more would not have been likely to break their spirit. As for Britain, the strategic air bombing campaign of Germany against Britain cost tens of thousands of civilian lives, as did the allied bombing campaigns against Germany. Neither managed to cause a surrender. $\endgroup$ – Hackworth Aug 10 '15 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ Also, it is questionable that Germany would even have been able to deliver the bomb to a strategic target outside its own airspace. The earliest nukes were far too heavy for the V2 rocket, and Allied air superiority at the late stages of the war would have made it very difficult to deliver it via bomber, a problem the US airforce did not have over Japan. $\endgroup$ – Hackworth Aug 10 '15 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ "nazi-web", chills went down my spine $\endgroup$ – PyRulez Aug 11 '15 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ Another reason we only dropped two was that we kinda dropped them as we got them. General Grover's book "Now It Can Be Told" pointed out that the scientists were basically told that they would get the material for the bomb within 2 weeks margin of being able to build it. Everything had to be ready to go, because the material was the critical path. We dropped the second basically once it got built. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 11 '15 at 4:13
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Where would Germany have used the bombs?

Eastern front. Nothing was more important for Germany than stopping Russia. They could negotiate with Americans (especially after demonstrating on Russians how powerful bombs they have), but they knew perfectly well that with USSR they are totally and utterly screwed.

Forget about big cities. Germans had little to no chance to deliver the bomb outside the territory they controlled. Luftwaffe had lost air superiority very long time ago, V1 and V2 rockets were not dependable enough for such precious payload, and transporting the bomb on the ground would bring the risk of delivering it to the hands of the allies.

The only safe way to use the bomb was to set up a trap and detonate it in the right moment. That however, would limit it's usefulness to only a couple dozen thousand of enemy soldiers (at best). And this leads us to the next question

How would this change the direction and outcome of the war?

Everyone would start beating the crap out of Germany even harder. After D-DAY it became more of political rather than military matter who will get to Berlin first (watch the movie "Patton" to see how it went: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patton_%28film%29), and Americans were kinda pulling their punches to let the Soviets grab more glory (and more casualties, but as much as Americans wanted to limit their death toll to minimum, Russians didn't care). After atom bomb, everyone would be like "OMG WTF KILL IT WITH FIRE". No more politics, just pure genocide.

BONUS: Where should Germany have used the bombs, with hindsight and knowing what we know today?

One on Wernher Von Braun https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun, to make sure that Americans won't get his knowledge, and the other on Simon Wiesenthal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Wiesenthal to make sure he won't hunt Nazis down after the war. It may seem like an overkill, but like I said - using them on the actual military target would rather piss the Allies off, rather than stop them.

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    $\begingroup$ "watch the movie "Patton" to see how it went:" That prevented my upvote. Well, and maybe the "WTF OMG" part. $\endgroup$ – his Aug 11 '15 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ Why? As any movie, "Patton" isn't perfectly accurate, but they got that part quite right. War is the continuation of politics by other means, and politicians prevented Patton from beating the Soviets to Berlin. By the "WTF OMG" part I wanted to indicate that at this point, Allies would abandon all reason and ethics, as nothing would be more important than stopping Germans by any means necessary. If you know how to express such state of panic in similarly short and simple way, please share. I'm always eager to improve my writing skills :) $\endgroup$ – Darth Hunterix Aug 11 '15 at 10:41
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    $\begingroup$ -1. It is unreasonable to conclude that you should continue attacking a nation which has just obliterated the capital of one of its strongest enemies using a superweapon you don't possess. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Dec 4 '15 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @MarchHo Considering the only real-life use of atomic bombs, you are wrong. After Hiroshima Japanese command generally didn't see the bomb as such a big deal because a) It's probably one-time event b) the damage wasn't that big compared to "business-as-usual carpet bombings" c) nobody really knew about long term consequences of radiations. What finally got Japan to surrender was rapid advancement of the ferocious Red Army. Also, you completely ignored my point that Germany has no means to deliver the payload to said capital, which renders the discussion pointless. $\endgroup$ – Darth Hunterix Dec 4 '15 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ + for the "OMG", had me in stitches, and @MarchHo: actually, it is reasonable that your would do everything to decapitate something that could wipe you out, knowing you have either to kill it, or it kills you, and the more time you give it, the more likely it gets you first $\endgroup$ – mike-m Feb 2 '18 at 14:09
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Eastern front. Hitler hated the Slavs, it was one of the reason that he lost (the people of the CCCP had seen him initially as a liberator from the communism, he could have made the worst anti-communist resistance fighters from them).

Although the Soviet government moved in the war from Moscow to east, the Germans knew, where is it.

It is possible, but not probable that he had killed large cities en masse. In the beginning, the nuclear bomb production was very small even in the U.S. The strategy of the US was its deterring force: they didn't said to the Japans, that they don't have more bomb and they would require at least months to produce yet another. Probably Hitler had followed the same tactits. The problem is that Stalin hadn't fear this, he had probably fought until the last shot.

Hitler knew it, and thus he had probably attack Stalins headquesters with his very first bomb, despite that it had been in a small city.

During the war, the Russian air force was nearly not-existing at the begin. Later it overwhelmed the German, the Luftwaffe.

After defeating the Soviets, the problems had been still strong on the West, but he could have focus their forces to the western front. The western powers are also sensitive against blood loss (for example: the U.S. had lost aorund 70000 soldiers in the Western front, the Soviets has lost 20million lives in the war).

Hitler probably didn't attack England, his country were too bored already at this point. But he could have reached a de facto peace with England. A peace treaty had been improbable, Churchill were very dedicated for that.

The newborn German Empire had had probably very much problem with resistance fights overall.

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