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A common topic in alternate history fiction works is the question what would have happened if a major war had been won by the other side. These usually focus on the events after the war, and the change itself is not depicted in a realistic way: it's either not discussed, or attributed to a superweapon or deus ex machina.

I know that WW2 was a very complex war, with a huge number of social and economic factors in it so that there was no single realistic "miracle" which would have guaranteed a certain different outcome, therefore I list a number of disclaimers, in order to make this question fit into the topic of this site.

  • It doesn't have to guarantee an Axis victory, but it has to significantly increase its probability.

  • A victory doesn't necessarily mean global domination (which neither power had any realistic chance of achieving). If Germany ends up in control over most of Eastern Europe (like the Soviets ended up doing in real life after the war), with a Soviet Union unwilling to fight, and with a peace treaty with the western Allies at least slightly favorable to Germany, it would count as a victory for Germany.

  • The change has to be a single event, or a collection of tightly coupled and interdependent events. It has to happen either during the war, or not more than a few years before it. The war should, at least in the beginning, look very similar to what happened in real life: the alliances should be roughly the same, the events like the conquest of Poland, the occupation of France, an attack against the Soviet Union, and a naval war between the USA and Japan should occur (or at least begin), even if at different dates or different order. The major participants should be the same.

  • The change should have a realistic justification (so no secret nazi superlaser), I would think in the following changes: events progressing slightly faster or slightly slower than in real life, a single large battle or series of interconnected battles won by the opposite side (if that had even a small chance of happening)

I'm thinking along the lines of Germany and its allies advancing faster against the Soviets and crushing them before they had any chance of putting up a good defense, or Hitler not antagonizing scientists so they could develop even better equipment or maybe even a nuclear bomb, or Japan winning the battle of Midway and keeping the USA from entering the European theater, or a different sequence of diplomatic events leading a peace on one front which in turn could lead to a victory on the other front, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ The nazis not invading Poland and thus turning the USSR against them. $\endgroup$ – Jake Dec 2 '15 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ The axis chances were actually not that great, they started with a huge standing army sure, but couldn't keep up with the rate the others could build up forces so it was just a matter of time until attrition took them down. The biggest change though would be a simple one, never attack Russia! They lost allot to Russian winter, and having an extra flank to defend divided what forces they had. I don't know rather or not it alone would have saved them, but I know avoiding attacking Russia would be a huge boon, and doesn't require a spectactical change, someone realized it was crazy $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 2 '15 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ I'd go with "not invading Russia" -- Napoleon. $\endgroup$ – Criggie Dec 3 '15 at 3:38
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    $\begingroup$ Considering that this question already has 20+ answers, it makes me appreciate history way more knowing that there were so many pivotal points during the war, and that any minor changes could have swung the victory in the opposite direction. I know with the benefit of hindsight it's easy to see what went right/wrong, and if things had happened differently at the time the other side would have reacted differently to counter it etc., but it's fascinating to think that the outcome of the conflict was balanced on a knife edge. +1 $\endgroup$ – Mike.C.Ford Dec 3 '15 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ Funny, we have a whole Stack Exchange spin-off for history, but this question would get crucified there. $\endgroup$ – user243 Dec 3 '15 at 20:47

39 Answers 39

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Idea

I agree with many other answerers that one major factor in the Reich losing the war was Hitler. So it's reasonable to affect a change that removes him from the picture. I like the proposal for him to have served in logistics with the consequence that he would have been a more competent war leader. However, his other issues are unlikely to change.

I want to work from the following idea: there was considerable unrest in Germany when Hitler assumed power. Economy was down and the terms of the Versailles treaty were generally considered unfair. Short of a diplomatic resolution of this tension (not really the spirit of the time), war was inevitable. Given the situation, any skilled demagogue could have come to power.

So we let Hitler do this: let him come to power, unite the people behind his figure and prepare Germany for war. Then, limit his power so far that he can not hinder the war effort, ruin most international relations, and make the Reich a bad guy. Do not remove him completely -- he is a rally point -- but limit his influence.

Proposal

Disclaimer: I am not a historian. Any serious attempt at producing a believable piece of alternate fiction based on small changes will have to be the result of extensive research.

Have the Blomberg–Fritsch Affair in 1938 turn out differently. It becomes known in the party that Hitler had the thing set up to get rid of rivals. As a consequence, power shifts within the leading elite. While Hitler remains chancellor/president for appearances sake, his role degrades to a representative figurehead -- the real decisions are made elsewhere.

Rationale on why this influences the war effort in ways positive for the Reich:

  • Most of the preparation (arguably only possible with the somewhat crazy dedication of Hitler's) has already been finished. The armed forces are well-trained, well-equipped and ready.
  • Military leadership remains effective and competent. Other answers discuss multiple ways in which that helps.
  • International relations will be handled in a more rational way. Appeasement does not break completely, and the Reich does not attack everybody at once.
  • The Holocaust (a pet project of Hitler's) does not happen. This saves resources and causes less internal and international dissent, in particular post-war.

Perspective

It seems likely that much of what constitutes the EU today, with the possible exclusion of Great Britain, would have fallen under the rule of the Reich (which it pretty much was in the real time line, at some point during the war).

Looking forward, a non-Hitler Reich may not have been as scary a prospect as as the Hitler Reich we've seen in our real history. It may have actually been stable after the war, at least for some years. The US may not have entered the European theater at all. The biggest conflict would probably have been between the Reich and Stalin's USSR in case it did not fall during the war. It is somewhat plausible that we'd have gotten a Cold War similar to what we actually got, but with different parties: the Reich, the USSR, and maybe the US.

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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking about accepting either the bomb or the assassination answers, then I saw this. I guess the low number of votes is only due to it arriving late, ending up on the second page, and not enough people noticing it. I'm accepting this answer now, but please comment whether it contains some major drawbacks and if so, I'll revise my decision. What I like in this answer the most is that it preserves the original participants the most. Hitler was a very strong rally point and inspiration for his followers, so keeping him active as a figurehead might be more effective than killing him. $\endgroup$ – vsz Dec 10 '15 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ Also, if he is not reduced to a figurehead but retains his power, but listens to his advisers and generals more than he did in real life, the scenarios in this answer also seem plausible. Good point about the Holocaust, but I think it still would have happened, but in a significantly milder form. There was already a huge mistrust against Jews, due to them perceived to have too much power and influence (very wealthy bankers, and their over-representation in important positions relative to their percentage of the population), but confiscating the fortunes of some of the wealthiest and and ... $\endgroup$ – vsz Dec 10 '15 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ ... and maybe exiling or resettling some of the more powerful Jews instead of creating the concentration camps might have satisfied the anti-semitic part of the population while not hindering the diplomacy options for Germany that much. This answer might also lead them discovering the bomb first, or among the first, but not required to use it recklessly. A decapitation strike against the Soviets, while not using it against the Western allies at all might have helped. (think about the proposals of some British at the end of the war IRL to re-arm Germany and march them against the Soviets) $\endgroup$ – vsz Dec 10 '15 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ @vsz I'm glad you like my answer! Regarding the Holocaust, that's an item requiring more research. My interpretation/feeling is that without the intense agitation by Hitler et al., the population would never have stood for the Holocaust. In fact, few even knew of it; it was mostly carried out in secret. The official story was one of resettling. Some looking-away happened, for sure, but no voting for it or anything, at least by the majority of the population. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Dec 11 '15 at 7:45
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    $\begingroup$ I like this, Hitler wasn't really dumb or even apart from few blind spots ignorant, the problem was that his mental state deteriorated to the point where it was unwise for people to disagree with him, which led to lots of very bad decisions. It is actually a common phenomenon not limited to Hitler, although his personality was probably a bad fit for absolute power. So I'd totally believe that having Hitler somehow "checked" behind the scenes so that he has to listen to advice or even delegate some decisions outright would greatly improve the chances of victory. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 13 '16 at 12:12
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Germany completes the Uranprojekt first

Germany, prior to the Nazi takeover, had the best physics research establishment in the world, bar none.

Imagine that the discoverers of fission, Hahn and Strassmann instead of ignoring Ida Noddak's suggestions for 4 years (as they do in our timeline), work with her and Lise Meitner to discover nuclear fission early in 1933 instead of 1938. The Heereswaffenamt, the Nazi equivalent of the American Skunk Works/DARPA , manages to catch the paper before it reaches publication stage, and Hitler immediately recognizes the potential of the weapon.

Uranprojekt is thus started under absolute secrecy 5 years early, and funded to a level equivalent to the Reichsautobahn (highway) project. Hundreds of German scientists disappear from public view and are tasked to work on the Uranprojekt full time. They focus on simpler gun-type designs, starting uranium enrichment as early as 1935, with hundreds of kilograms of enriched uranium generated before the war's start. Germany reaches deployable nuclear weapons in 1938.

Da bomb

A corresponding logical focus on developing heavy, long-range bombers enables them to deploy the bomb at considerable range, in the Schwerer Bomber Messerschmitt Me 264.

Messer Bomber

The Amerika-Bomber project was an initiative of the German Reichsluftfahrtministerium to obtain a long-range strategic bomber for the Luftwaffe that would be capable of striking the contiguous United States from Germany, a distance of about 5,800 km (3,600 mi).

The allies crumble in a matter of months under the German Bomb.

Statue of Liberty

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    $\begingroup$ I came here to post "the Nazi get da bomb first", but your essay is a piece of art. well done sir. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Dec 2 '15 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ In a delicious turn of history, it was Lisa Meitner's Jewish heritage, and the persecution that she endured at the hands of the Nazi government, that probably delayed the discovery of fission by years, and thus maybe prevented a successful German Atom Bomb project in our world. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Dec 2 '15 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ I have to voice my disagreement. Building nuclear bombs is a difficult business, it took all of America's industry and focus (along with Germany's exiled Jewish scientists) to make it a reality by 1945, and even then they only managed to build two bombs by the August of that year. If Japan had kept the fight up, America would have had no more bombs to drop, at least for a while. For Germany a bomb may have been a deterrent for America's involvement in the war in Europe, but that alone would be unlikely to affect the outcome of the war. Very easily the A-bomb could've proven to be a V-weapon $\endgroup$ – Stumbler Dec 5 '15 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Mints97: it could have allowed the Nazis to make some kind of nuclear bomb, but such bombs probably wouldn't have changed the war much. Slowing down neutrons is a good strategy when you're designing a reactor that can be huge and heavy and is supposed to work smoothly. But even with heavy water, this doesn't really allow an effective bomb design; at best the Nazis could have used the heavy water to breed more radioactive isotopes more quickly, and perhaps build some really nasty dirty bombs, and those are pretty good for terror but not very effective against industrial infrastructure. $\endgroup$ – leftaroundabout Dec 5 '15 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Stumbler, that's why I have them starting well before the war, and funding it to the level of the massive highway project. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Dec 7 '15 at 15:25
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Assassinate Hitler
In 1941, mid war, Hitler is assassinated with the hope that this would weaken the German top ranks, cause infighting, hurt morale, and bring a faster end to the war.

Instead Erich von Manstein is able to seize control quickly and stop the march against Russia. Using this as a way to open ceasefire talks, they are able to avoid having to fight on as many fronts, directing more forces against England and the allies.
The "martyrdom" of Hitler also doesn't hurt morale as hoped, but give the German soldiers something to rally behind.

This gives them time to dig in, which brings the allies to the negotiation table to work out an end to the war.

Score: draw (but not a loss, satisfying bullet point 2).

Edit: After a bit more reading, it's possible, even likely, that Germany would still have attacked Russia if Hitler was killed in 1941, but some historians believe that it would have been successful (as it very nearly was) if Hitler had listened to his generals and focused Moscow first, instead of trying for the oil fields first.

Continued: (disclamer, I got a lot of what follows here if you want to skip to the source)
tl;dr: Why might they attack Russia? They needed oil. Their choices were to attack the British in Egypt on the way to the middle east, or attack Russia. Russia was the stronger of the two, and was massing troops along the border. The theory was that Russia could attack in the summer of 42, so they decided to attack first, before Russia was ready. And Russia was not ready at all. Despite Having a bigger army, they had poor leadership (Stalin killed a lot of the best officers), poor communication, and poor training.
Germany had victory after victory in Russia, capturing or killing millions of Russian soldiers. They got within 20 miles of Moscow before winter. They just couldn't push that last little bit.
The reason is that Hitler wanted to take the oil fields first, depriving the Russians of the resources, while the generals want to take Moscow first in order to remove the Russian leadership, and they could only put their main power behind one. Half way through Hitler decided the generals plan was better, but it was to late, and they didn't make it before winter. Russia was able to bring in more troops and push them back, hurting them badly.
Without Hitler the generals would have put the main push against Moscow and probably would have been able to take it by September.

Edit 2
Since comments were moved to chat, there have been some good comments about Germany attacking Russia that improve the answer

Mints97
just my couple of cents here: taking Moscow may not have necessarily meant taking Russia. Napoleon took Moscow, but he was as far from conquering Russia as he was when he started his invasion...

Agreed, and that's specifically why Hitler didn't want to focus on Moscow. He wanted to avoid the mistake that Napoleon made, and go after the resources first. For some reason his military leaders thought that Moscow was important, and managed to convince him to switch. Maybe it would have been better to stick to his original plan, or maybe they had information I don't know about.
I remember reading that the communist Russian army under Stalin was not very good at taking initiative, since he killed all the independent thinking ones that might try to take over. It wasn't the same Russia that Napoleon invaded.
It's possible that with the government gone that the army would have just folded up. Or maybe not. Another what-if.

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    $\begingroup$ Plus, the one of the Allies' greatest weapons against the German war machine was Hitler's incompetence as a military leader. His "strategies" got to the point where the British government actually stopped trying to assassinate him because they realized that he was winning the war for them. $\endgroup$ – Simpson17866 Dec 2 '15 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Simpson17866: Got any sources for that statement? $\endgroup$ – fgysin Dec 8 '15 at 10:09
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    $\begingroup$ Moscow was a better target, at least preliminary. There are huge rail hubs and communication hubs and other roads all leading to Moscow. In 1812, there were no railways... Taking and holding, or at least surrounding Moscow like they did Leningrad, would be a huge boost. But remember their factories were evacuated to the Urals and Stalin brought in many fresh troops from Siberia (which is one major reason why the USSR halted the approach to Moscow), so it's not over yet. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 7 '17 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ @DrZ214 More good info! Yeah, I wonder if they would have been able to take Moscow before winter if they had moved against it first, instead of taking the route that Hitler wanted... If they had gotten in before the new troops had arrived. They may have been able to hold it through the winter if they were inside and the Russian troops were out in the cold. Or maybe not. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Apr 7 '17 at 13:39
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Seeking a "minimal credible change", I would say that in May/June 1940 the Luftwaffe ignores the rest of the Battle of France and focuses in attacking the British troops evacuating Dunkirk.

Not only the BEF is captured whole, the RAF also suffers a crippling defeat (fighting over foreign terrain, with little fuel after crossing the channel and without the advantage of radar) and loses most of its planes and pilots, and the Navy also suffers some damage in desperate attempts to break the siege.

After France surrenders (a little later than in original history, due to the respite they got), the UK has no army and the Luftwaffe can guarantee the safety of an invasion fleet against the damaged UK Navy. Realizing that when (not if) German units land on British soil the UK will have almost nothing left to negotiate with, recently elected PM Winston Churchill makes an epic speech asking MP to preserve the greatness of the British Empire by signing a peace treaty that gives Germany free reign in Europe and North Africa.

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    $\begingroup$ That's a really good observation. If the Germans had not stood by and let the British escape, things easily could have been different. But I don't agree with your point about the RAF. At a minimum, the disadvantages you mention would apply equally to the Luftwaffe. But I also think the British would have been far more acquainted with northern France than the Germans would be. After all, they had just retreated through it. Plus, the channel is not so wide that it would have a dramatic effect on fuel. $\endgroup$ – Mohair Dec 2 '15 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Mohair both are reversals of the British advantages during the Battle of Britain. A German pilot parachuting on Dunkirk could fail into German or UK hands, but even if caught by the British he would have been freed when the pocket were captured. Similarly, a British pilot falling inside British lines would have ended as a POW in the end. And the Channel may not be wide, but a UK fighter plane (which had not much range to begin with would have had to cross it twice -and then go from and back the actual air base- severely limiting their fuel for actual combat $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Dec 2 '15 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Joshua the issue with that is that the ships would become sitting ducks for LW (who had way more than 60 airplanes) and U-boots. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Dec 2 '15 at 19:19
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    $\begingroup$ The Luftwaffe did savagely attack the British troops at Dunkirk. They simply did not have enough planes to do enough damage. It was the tank forces that did not swoop in on the evacuating forces. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Dec 2 '15 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ Almost 200,000 BEF troops were evacuated from Dunkirk to the UK mainland over sea routes of only 70 - 100km. Even with a sustained German land assault on the evacuation (there was already a significant air assault) I think it's likely a good proportion of those troops would still have made it back to the UK, so it's fairly unlikely the BEF would have been "captured whole". In the real timeline the BEF did lose virtually all vehicles, tanks and equipment in the evacuation but the British were still able to recover from this fairly quickly. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Griffiths Dec 3 '15 at 4:25
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The only thing that would have let the Axis win the war is if they somehow kept the USA out of it. In an alternate reality, this is possible. No super lasers or miracles required.

First, you need someone other than Roosevelt as President. The US Congress was all about neutrality at the time. Many were isolationist. Roosevelt was opposed to this, although he did play along to get his New Deal programs through. But Roosevelt actively supported the British before the USA entered the war.

Second, German U-Boats can't be attacking American shipping. This may not be an issue if the USA is truly neutral, and is staying out of the whole mess. It might be possible for the US to trade with both sides, although I can't see how the British Navy would allow any country to supply Germany. The British were dominant in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, so only blockade runners might make it through.

Third, Japan doesn't attack the US. With a more conservative, isolationist President in office, maybe Japan doesn't feel so threatened by the US, and therefore only makes non-threatening moves in Asia. If Japan only attacks the European colonies, then that's a European problem. The USA doesn't enter the war.

If the USA never enters the war, the British are defeated and the war ends. They gave it a really good fight, but Britain cannot do it alone. In the real time line, the USA helped keep Britain afloat before officially entering the war. In the alternate timeline, without that assistance, Britain is done by 1941. With all forces applied to the imminent defeat of Britain, Germany does not invade the Soviet Union in 1941.

After Britain leaves the war, the Germans turn on the Soviet Union, in much more favorable circumstances. By avoiding most of the Russian winter, the Soviets are easily rolled up and done by late 1942. Stalin is deposed. The war is over. Germany takes large chunks of territory and resources from the Soviets. The British, French, Dutch, etc., all have to pay reparations and lose parts of their Empire.

There is "peace" in Europe in 1943. In Asia, it's another story. Now that the allied forces have surrendered to Germany, Japan gets a free hand in Asia and the Pacific. Who is going to stop them? As long as they don't provoke the USA, Japan can do what it wants.

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    $\begingroup$ Entry of the US did not win the war, the US was not a superpower until after the war. There are a lot of Americans who are a little deluded about this, and as an American biased site, no doubt the truth will be shouted down but Hitler lost the war by attacking Russian during winter. $\endgroup$ – JamesRyan Dec 2 '15 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry no. With all German forces applied in Britain, USSR surely strikes first, and leaves no chance for Germany to survive. $\endgroup$ – user58697 Dec 2 '15 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Mohair I agree with JamesRyan. The US was not that powerful back then, they had limited standing army before the war, and their distance away from the war (other side of the world and all) made it harder to deploy troops and equipment. Our biggest advantage was that we hadn't been fighting yet, so we had more men and undamaged industry, both could have helped more if the war had gone on longer. However, the fact was the Axis was taking on too many enemies already and was not able to sustain it. We didn't get enough forces in time to be much difference compared to forces already fighting $\endgroup$ – dsollen Dec 2 '15 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesRyan, the US was an industrial superpower prior to the war. If you look at production figures for the time period 1939-1945, the United States was turning out as much war materiel as everyone else combined. Whoever gets that capability on their side pretty much can't lose a sustained war. $\endgroup$ – Mark Dec 2 '15 at 21:36
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesRyan We were not a military super power, but we had unrivaled production capacity, which is what really won the war. We had such a large population by then that it wasn't about how many men we could get to enlist, it was about how the hell are we going to supply them with "boots, beans, bullets, and bandages." $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Dec 3 '15 at 16:25
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Excluding Jews from the Holocaust.

The Jews made up a significant proportion of the German workforce and elite prior to the rise of the Nazi Party. In Weimar Germany, a significant proportion of elite Germans were Jews, and many of them were important scientists. Many Jews fled Germany and settled in other countries, including Einstein, who was later instrumental in encouraging the Americans to develop the nuclear bomb in the Manhattan project.

In fact, had the Jews not been targeted for extermination, they could have played significant roles in the war, such as the German atomic bomb project, described in this answer.

While the exclusion of Jews would have halved the number of potential scapegoats for the war effort (6 out of 11 million civilians murdered by the Hitler regime were Jews), Hitler still had plenty of targets to choose from. Gypsies (Roma), Communists, Slavs, and other untermensch could be potentially targeted. The potential for singling out scapegoats for blame still remains in many parts of the population.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a pretty interesting take on things, actually. Considering how much strategic and technological utility the Allies wound up getting by absorbing the Jewish brain drain, the impact would not have been insignificant. (Why kill off your most highly educated technicians?) This would require a rather deep alteration in the German mindset of the day, though -- Hitler was a product of that environment. He didn't invent ani-Semitism, he merely leveraged and augmented it to propel his own rise (and he really seems to have believed in it himself, but politically that is beside the point). $\endgroup$ – zxq9 Dec 3 '15 at 0:56
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    $\begingroup$ Germans (both as a whole and individually) benefitted quite a lot from robbing Jews, also killing (or expelling) them made sure they wouldn’t have the chance to demand back what was theirs later on. Their role as slave workers could mostly be substituted by POWs and civil Slavs on an even larger scale than in OTL (still violating the Geneva Convention). Since some Jews who fought heroically in WW1 received special treatment in the beginning of the holocaust, I could imagine a paradigm shift that made Jews having to earn citizenship, e.g. through military service or scientific contribution. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Dec 3 '15 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ @EuanM As mentioned in the answer, other despised ethnic minorities that are less productive to the economy can be targeted. While Jews are the obvious choice in terms of historical oppression, targeting the other minorities would result in far less negative effects. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Dec 3 '15 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ e.g. it would have been hard for the Nazi's to make credible claims that Roma bankers were the cause of the people's poverty and the root cause of hyper-inflation. Where as "everyone knew" that the banks were controlled by Jews, so it was easy to have a claim that the Jewish bankers were causing hyper-inflation (and so unemployment) believed. $\endgroup$ – Euan M Dec 4 '15 at 0:33
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    $\begingroup$ @JonasWielicki It’s a common phenomenon that when people hold strong prejudices against a certain group and finally meet a member thereof who then does not keep up to the superstition, they will attribute this to the individual, therefore not needing to reevaluate the group: “All Jews are bad, but the single one I actually know is an exception!” Earned citizenship – with precedents in ancient Rome etc. – just formalizes this. You’re either born German or proof yourself worthy, might really have worked. Jews throughout history had faced and taken tougher chances for (near) equality or safety. $\endgroup$ – Crissov Dec 8 '15 at 0:08
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One of the turning points of WWII was the shift from strategic bombing of the RAF sector bases by the Luftwaffe to the bombing of cities, ordered by Hitler in reprisal for the bombing of German cities by the English.

Had Hitler been a little more rational, had he taken the high moral ground and declared "The Tommies may have bombed our cities, but we will not stoop to their murderous ways" (even though the Germans were secretly exterminating Jews, Gypsies and gays), and carried right on bombing the RAF bases, the RAF would have crumbled under the onslaught, giving the Luftwaffe free reign to go after secondary military targets such as the Royal Navy and army bases in preparation for Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of England.

With the Germans publicly refusing to stoop to the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in pointless bombing raids on cities, in contrast to the English' attacks on population centres, there would have been diplomatic counter-pressure on the other non-involved nations of the world with regard to becoming involved in this European affair, and if Operation Sea Lion succeeded in the face of a crippled RAF and RN, the US may well have stayed out of the European war entirely.

As a second example of Hitler's improved rationality, he would have held off on his negative propaganda regarding Communism and the invasion of the Soviet Union until after the defeat of Great Britain, and then choosing the appropriate time to strike to avoid the harsh Russian winters. With a greater number of experienced troops and battle-proven equipment against the Soviet Union's inexperienced troops and unproven equipment, the Germans would have been better placed to press their assault all the way to Moscow.

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    $\begingroup$ I have read that the RAF was days away from defeat because of the bombing of their bases, when a German bomber, lost in the sky over the South of England, jettisoned its bombload at random, but managed to hit the outskirts of London. This provided the justification for the 'retaliatory' bombing of German cities, which led Hitler to target English cities instead of the RAF bases, as above. $\endgroup$ – peterG Dec 4 '15 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ I'm with this answer. However, had the Germans defeated the RAF and then either defeated or hobbled the effectiveness of the RN, they would also have been in a position to negotiate and possibly end the war directly with a large part of Europe under his control (assuming an unlikely level of sanity). $\endgroup$ – Keith Dec 10 '15 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ Would have been difficult (but not impossible) for Hitler to have claimed the high ground. Although they did not initially bomb British cities, they bombed many eastern European cities prior to invasion en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerial_bombing_of_cities#European_theatre $\endgroup$ – ChrisFletcher Dec 10 '15 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ I think the "hidden" part of this answer is, don't write a book (Mein Kampf) in 1925 that tells everyone who you hate and what your overall plan is, before going to war in 1939. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 7 '17 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ The idea that the RAF was days away from defeat is nonsense. 11 Fighter Group was under pressure, but 10 and 12 Fighter Groups, further to the north, were essentially untouched, and pilots from 11 were rotated the other groups for rest during the Battle of Britain. Had the Germans gained air superiority over southeast England, 11 would have withdrawn for rest and replenishment, well out of German fighter range, and then moved back down. And there was no way for the Germans to defeat the Royal Navy. $\endgroup$ – Keith Morrison Oct 26 '17 at 5:30
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So many small things, mostly having to do with the Russian campaign. The simple fact is, if Germany had managed to conquer Russia in 1941, the war is over. Suddenly they have nearly unlimited oil, food and other natural resources and only one front to face. For all we like to talk about how the USA's resources would have won out, it was Russia who sucked the life out of the German Army, not the US.

Now certainly they would not have been able to resist without the supplies the US gave them. But the fact is, they were THERE. Without a coherent Russian Army to supply - and to be willing to take absolutely appalling casualties and continue - our resources would not have done us much good.

So what would have done it? Well skipping the Balkan diversion that put off the invasion by something like 6 weeks would have helped. Germany was in no danger of Yugoslavia invading them.

Or Hitler NOT ordering the Panzers south to trap all those Russians in the Ukraine pocket in late summer. Without that, they're in Moscow in weeks before the Russian have time to consolidate their defenses or Winter has a chance to set in.

People forget that back then, Moscow was the HUB. Russian communications were horrendous and they all went through Moscow. You take Moscow, cut the lines and Stalin is much harder pressed to command his army because he can't even communicate with most of it. Not to mention the morale blow that would have been. And Stalin was making a show of actually staying in Moscow. Odds are they might have capture him.

What Russia needed most of all was time. Time to get their recently moved factories running. Time to get the winter troops guarding the Japanese border to the West. Time to recover from the shock of the German attack. Time to stiffen the defenses of Moscow. Time for all the new commanders (who'd replaced the ones Stalin purged) to learn their jobs. The winter of 1941-1942 gave them that time.

Overall, having an actual military man in charge and not Hitler would have done the trick. It's often been said that Hitler was the best soldier the Allies had. So true. What is amazing is that even with the idiotic decisions the man made and even after years of being worn down, the Germans were able to last until 1945. Even as late as that year, anytime an allied army met a German army in anything resembling equal strength, the Germans would always do more damage than they took.

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  • $\begingroup$ I assume you mean the Yugoslav diversion, The Czechs annexed it before Poland was invaded. However the spring 41 thaw was exceptionally muddy; while IIRC the Germans had planned on invading sooner the ground wasn't dry enough in much of the USSR to support their tanks until around the actual invasion date. $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Dec 3 '15 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ One major item you've overlooked is if the Germans hadn't started brutally mistreating civilians in occupied Russia immediately. Initially there was significant pro-german support (especially in the Baltics/Ukraine) because Stalin was seen as the greater evil; but German actions quickly eliminated any feelings of liberation and replaced them with partisan uprisings. $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Dec 3 '15 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ You are correct I meant Yugoslavia. I'm forgetting where the Balkans are. But Hitler didn't postpone Barbarossa because of wet ground. He postponed it because of the Balkans. While mistreatment of civilians certainly did not help the Germans, it also was not any sort of key to victory or loss; Partisan violence didn't come back to haunt them until it was already too late. You take Moscow in 1941 and the rest of Russia become a mop-up operation. They lacked the coordination, supplies and communication to use their numbers with any effectiveness at that point $\endgroup$ – J Dwortz Dec 3 '15 at 19:53
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    $\begingroup$ Germans were fresh in 1941. Their losses in Russia up until that winter were minimal. They were making lighting gains, surrounding hundreds of thousands of Russians at a time. Even with their delays, they were literally within sight of the Kremlin. The point I am making is that if you take Moscow that winter, then the huge losses they took from late 1942 - 1945 don't happen because that eastern war ends. Plenty of time to mop up resistance fighters once there is no Russian army to fight (or keeping you from your oil). And there was no second front (in the west) then. Not until 1943. $\endgroup$ – J Dwortz Dec 3 '15 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ Who's "us" and "our resources" in this answer? That's rather unclear. $\endgroup$ – Angew Dec 4 '15 at 13:05
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The Allies not having cracked the Axis communication codes. Updating or replacing the codes the Axis used more often. Like the Enigma machine and the Japanese naval codes. It seems the Allies had the upper hand after they cracked the codes.

Example: The Battle of Midway. Japan takes heavy losses. "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare." Due to the Allies having cracked the Japanese naval codes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Midway

Example: The success of Ultra. This has a long list of wins for the Allies. One is the Allies could avoid the u boats, avoiding heavy losses.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra

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    $\begingroup$ The communication codes were cracked several times. The Enigma code machines were acquired by the Allies several times. (See the movie "U-571" It's true that, as the movie says, the Americans acquired a U-boat's Enigma machine. But the Brits had had one for ages, and it was the Brit's one that was used for the code-breaking that Turing et al engaged in). $\endgroup$ – Euan M Dec 3 '15 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ Breaking codes gives you a big advantage, but you still have to go out and win the fight. And, you can't be too successful or the codes will change. It's a tricky thing to manage correctly. And the closer you get to Germany, the less code breaking plays a role, because they don't have to use radios anymore. $\endgroup$ – Mohair Dec 4 '15 at 17:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Mohair If the German naval Enigma was not cracked, U-Boats would have sunk enough British shipping to completely starve them. It is also entirely possible for the Germans to make the Enigma much much harder to crack, through both better stricter operating procedures and better hardware. $\endgroup$ – GiantCowFilms Dec 9 '15 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ The plausibility that the Brit's could have declined to work with Turing because of his homosexuality should be highlighted here. Then maybe they would have not broken the Enigma. The u-boat war of Germany would have been much much more successful. The stronger u-boat force could also have lead to the allies to not being able to land in the Normandy. $\endgroup$ – JaBe Apr 25 '16 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ And not much better hardware. Adding one more rotor to the working set, and adding a few more rotors to the stock set would have multiplied the time that the bombes took to unscramble the messages. One of the key factors was that each message started with 3 letters repeated. (e.g. jkmjkm) This gave two encodings of the same set of letters, with the rotor shifting one step between. This eliminated a bunch of starting settings for the bombes. The rotors where easy to make. Would have been quite practical to use 5 rotors at a time chosen from a set of 8. $\endgroup$ – Sherwood Botsford Jan 3 '18 at 3:57
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If Nazi Germany had simply declined to declare war on the US after the US declared war on Imperial Japan, the US would have been all-in on the Pacific Theater; the American industrial advantage provided less of a strategic advantage there than in Europe.

With a faster westward sweep across the Pacific, too little time would have elapsed by the time US forces reached the home islands of Japan for the Manhattan Project to have been successfully completed; Operation Downfall would have proceeded resulting in far greater American & Japanese casualties. The appetite of the US to turn its attention to Europe afterward would be questionable at best.

Without the Combined Bomber Offensive, the Nazis could have held up more effectively against the Soviets on the Eastern Front, possibly leading to a stalemate and a separate peace like that at the end of WWI. Fortress Europe could have been prepared more thoroughly in the west, and Operation Overlord, if it was attempted at all, would have been later and smaller with poor prospects.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice. Maybe you could add some demagogue using the "Ships for Bases" Treaty for impeaching Roosevelt "If we had had those ships the Japanese would not have surprised us! And now we have to fight a war without those, and defend pointless bases in the Caribean and North Atlantic!" $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Dec 2 '15 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ The US would still have continued supplying Britain under Lend-Lease. The legal details of war declarations are not that important if the actual assistance comes through. $\endgroup$ – Sander Heinsalu Dec 3 '15 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ But no USAAF B-17 crews with Norden bombsights crippling German industry; just RAF carpet bombing. Lend-Lease only supplied materiel, not the manpower to leverage it. $\endgroup$ – Ghillie Dhu Dec 3 '15 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ @EuanM Arguably, the attack on one is an attack on all did not apply to a response to an attack by Japan. In any case, Hitler was not noted for adhering to treaties he found inconvenient. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Dec 7 '15 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ Germany's sympathizers in the US would have argued for reserving all available materiel for the US war with Japan. Germany could have offered to stop attacking US shipping if the US agreed not to ship munitions to the UK and USSR. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Dec 7 '15 at 1:22
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Small change you need is Hitler in WWI serving in logistics, and realizing importance of logistics and supply for winning wars.

Then, not a single event, but more focus on logistics in each of decision points, more decisive follow-ups of existing events:

  1. Understanding the importance of Gibraltar and Malta for Britain's logistics, Hitler succeeds persuading Spain to take over Gibraltar and Italy over Malta, to weaken British supply lines in Mediterranean. Operation Felix and Siege of Malta.
  2. Following up more strongly during Battle of Britain to really won air supremacy (as @MontyWild correctly noted), realize the importance of radars and destroying them. Switching to bomb London instead of airfields gave RAF time to recover when it was almost broken.
  3. After taking over Greece in the spring of 1941, landing up in French part of Lebanon, following up to occupy British Palestine, Egypt and oil fields in Persian Gulf. Double whammy for British: losing oil weakens them, and outcome of Battle of El Alamein in 1942 would be different, and would avoid distraction of attacking Russia.
  4. In 1941 German paratroopers occupy Iceland, significantly improving effectiveness of their submarine warfare and complicating British supply lines from USA.
  5. While Goering continues pummeling Britain from air, Rommel wins Battle of Alamein, and attacks British positions in Iran, taking more oil. No more fuel shortages for German tanks, enough left over to supply Japan.
  6. Talking about logistics to Japan. During attack on Pearl Harbor, continue third (planned!) wave of attack of fuel reserves in Pearl Harbor, and on the way back occupies Midway, using it as unsinkable aircraft carrier. Basically winning Battle of Midway a year early. Japanese pilots and planes were superior at the beginning of Pacific war – just too many were lost during Battle of Midway.
  7. Japan, now understanding the importance of logistics, growing out of strategy of “single decisive battle of battleships” and focusing more on submarine warfare like Germans did, sinking merchant ships bringing fuel reserves and supplies to Pearl Harbor. Possibly even invading Oahu (which has 10% population of Japanese descent). Pacific war is about Hawaii for 2 years. There is no Doolittle raid. Japan will lose that battle, but by that time (1944) Soviet Russia falls to Hitler, and Japan occupied Australia and India.
  8. Hitler not declaring war on USA, which was completely irrational.

As a result, USA focuses on Pacific and Japan, and has harder time to get any traction. British fight valiantly but are starved to surrender in 1943. Japan has easier time to take over Southeast Asia and Australia.

Hitler’s attack on Russia is postponed until 1943, and is from both Poland and Iran, taking Baku's oil reserves quickly. With good enough spy network, Stalin in his paranoia executes even more of his military leaders, and when Germany with small help of Japan simultaneously attack in spring of 1943, use blitzkrieg tactic in fullest and avoid battles over cities like Stalingrad (surrounding and starving cities instead), Russia crumbles in less than 2 years.

World is divided between Germany, Japan, and USA, which stands alone.

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    $\begingroup$ One question with that: bullet five. There's no significant supply line between Germany and Japan. There's either India or an ocean still under British rule in the way. $\endgroup$ – Ghanima Dec 3 '15 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ @Ghanima The Japanese were actively fighting the British in India. With the British surrendered, high on war exhaustion and low on national morale, it would be even less likely for them to send troops to aid its Indian colonies. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Dec 3 '15 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Ghanima The British were focussed on critical supply links across the Atlantic. British troops in the Far East were basically abandoned - they kept fighting, but they had very little support. The Indian Ocean wasn't anyone's concern. And if a tanker is carrying a month's supply of fuel, it doesn't really matter that it takes a couple of weeks to get there. $\endgroup$ – Graham Dec 3 '15 at 12:07
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    $\begingroup$ How would Germany persuaded Spain to join the war? $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Dec 3 '15 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ @sdrawkcabdear: Spain does not need to join the war at all. All Franco need to do is take over the Gibraltar, which is completely surrounded by Spanish territory. And do it as a "thank-you" for German help in winning the Spanish Civil war. They can do it anytime: Britain is weak, Germany is strong, but the earlier the better. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Dec 5 '15 at 0:21
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The Italians could have discovered oil in their Libyan colony before WWII. Those huge oil reserves weren't actually exploited until the 1950s, but if they were producing during WWII the axis would be relieved of some of their desperate need for oil.

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  • $\begingroup$ But then the British beat the Italians in Africa (like they did in real life) and Hitler extends his forces farther to protect them. This ends in Hitler still invading the USSR, Japan still hitting Pearl Harbor. Hitler now faces the two most capable nations on Earth capable of combatting him AT THE SAME TIME. Operation Torch squeezes the Axis from the West. British forces from Egypt supplemented by Indian conscripts push Germany from the East, taking the Libyan oil fields, Operation Overlord $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Dec 3 '15 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ takes France. Oil would only prolong the war, not turn it in favor of Germany. $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Dec 3 '15 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ @DJMethaneMan: Hitler neglected the African front historically, but if it was the fascists' oil source he probably would have invested more in that front, enough to defend it against the relatively small British army at least. $\endgroup$ – user243 Dec 3 '15 at 23:05
  • $\begingroup$ ...and Rommel would not have run low on fuel...also, Italy might have industrialized more, so would have been a more effective ally. $\endgroup$ – user11599 Dec 4 '15 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ The British navy could have easily blocked most of the fuel from getting across the Mediterranean Sea. Then Hitler would have to chose between trying to choke Britain and protect his Africa oil. Knowing him, he would order his limited navy to combat the British in both the Atlantic and Mediterranean resulting in disaster in both. $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Dec 4 '15 at 15:19
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The Weather.

This is all kind of 'supernatural' but in coincidence only:

Eastern Front: It's commonly understood that the cold, wet, harsh winter in Russia greatly hampered the German advance. Have an unusually warm winter in '41, '42, and '43, and it is possible if not probable that this would help to crush Russia's western troops. It was an absolute contributing factor to Germany's losses there.

German Bombings: Rain and snowstorms erupting during bombing raids prevents the allies for even being able to target industrial complexes. Rain distributes evenly to assist in putting out the fires that raged under allied bombing.

Atomic Bombs: The original target for both atomic bombs was meant to be over Kohura, but due to weather, they had to move first to Hiroshima, then to Nagasaki (twice lucky for Kohura). Imagine if weather thwarted all nearby Japanese targets, preventing the United States to use the bombs - US bombers had limited range over Japan's southern quarter, so bad weather over the general quarter would have delayed any bombing of this type for a long time.

Dust Bowl: More waves of drought from the dust bowl over the United States might have forced more civil works to be undertaken, as well as reluctance to support pre-war allied efforts (food), and entrance into the war.

Pearl Harbor: Weather patterns that prevent the Japanese carriers and bombers from approaching American territory might have kept the Japanese from "kicking the sleeping bear," long enough for the other factors to encourage Japan to refocus on East China and allow America to look inward.

Naval Warfare: Weather is always a factor on the outcome and procedure of naval warfare and amphibious invasion. A series of 'unfortunate' weather events could occur in favor of Axis victory.

All of these are very, very coincidental, but then was the succession of unusually cold and wet Russian winters a coincidence, or the fact that Kohura avoided the bomb twice by weather?

Also, can I be cheeky and say "Yellowstone Super-volcano Event"?

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    $\begingroup$ In fact the main issue in the Eastern Front was not winter, but autumn rains that converted everything in mud (rasputitsa) as there were very few roads (youtube.com/watch?v=rhstOECIm_0). Winter solidified the mud and allowed for new operations. A different issue was that the German were overconfident that war would be over before winter set so they did not supply adequate winter materiel to their troops. $\endgroup$ – SJuan76 Dec 2 '15 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 - but it was also unusually cold for three years in a row. If it had been sunny and (relatively) warm, the outcome most certainly would have been different. $\endgroup$ – Mikey Dec 2 '15 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ Can I ask what the -1 was for? I hope it wasn't the Yellowstone comment :) $\endgroup$ – Mikey Dec 2 '15 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ @JonofAllTrades - my "tightly interconnected events" are listed (bombings, military advances, food security in the US, etc.); as the OP said, "It doesn't have to guarantee an Axis victory, but it has to significantly increase its probability" $\endgroup$ – Mikey Dec 4 '15 at 2:02
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    $\begingroup$ @SJuan76 the intereptation that I read was not so much "expected the war to be over" but rather "having studied Napoleonic times, Hitler knew that fighting in Russia in the winter would be disastrous and so refused to jinx himself with a winter campaign and provide every motivation for the troops to want it to be done before winter by not providing supplies." - how accurate that is, I'm not certain though. Not so much overconfidence but rather "it must get done before winter." $\endgroup$ – user487 Dec 7 '15 at 17:22
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The Polish Cipher Bureau never cracks the German Enigma cipher code (or - the Polish fail to share the information on cracking the cypher with British and French intelligence before the outbreak of war and the information is lost with the fall of Poland).

The other powers such as the British and French had no success in cracking Enigma and without the intelligence provided by the British "Ultra" program (that continued the work of the Poles) at Bletchley Park the entire Allied war effort in Europe would have been seriously undermined. Eisenhower described the intelligence originating from Bletchley Park and the Enigma decryption as having been "of priceless value to me. It has simplified my task as a commander enormously" and as a "decisive contribution to the Allied war effort".

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    $\begingroup$ Eisenhower is very much secondary. Not to detract from the invasion of Europe, but the Allies didn't launch the invasion until they were certain the Germans couldn't stop them. Cracking Enigma was key to intercepting U-boats though, and without that they couldn't have resupplied Britain or got US and Canadian troops across the Atlantic. $\endgroup$ – Graham Dec 3 '15 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ Read up on Willi Korn and his invention of the "reflector" in the Enigma. It turned out to be the main cryptological weakness of the machine. Had Korn realized that, it would have been much harder to break it. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 9 '15 at 16:13
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One decimal point . The Nazi nuclear project is set back many years because 1 scientist put the decimal in the wrong place when measuring the neutron cross section of carbon. The axis try to use very rare heavy water for early experiments where the allies use cheap graphite, and send commando raids to destroy every heavy water plant in Europe.

With the speed up that this gives the axis nuclear program then could have a Nuclear warhead in time for Dday or perhaps Stalingrad.

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    $\begingroup$ That would have been way too late in the war to make a difference, though. It would have been obvious that the nuke shot was a one-off capability and that they didn't have any more left (if they used it at Stalingrad, why not on D-Day or vice-versa, why didn't they halt the Americans in North Africa with another one, etc.). This would have dramatically accelerated the Allies operational pace and radically altered their acceptable risk calculation (and remember, "acceptable risk" back then wasn't what it is today). The Bomb in 1935, though... $\endgroup$ – zxq9 Dec 3 '15 at 0:52
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    $\begingroup$ DDay and Stalingrad were a year and a half apart they could have had a nuke for each. Its true that the axis might still lose the war but breaking Stalingrad or Kursk in the axis favor would have extended the war by a year or two, or forced the soviets to and armistice at a key moment. 9/10 of the German army was deployed on the eastern front having them free to attack else where would have been a problem. $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Dec 3 '15 at 1:04
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is profoundly optimistic to assume that Germany, considering its logistical situation, could have produced a second bomb, guaranteed to work, with a reliable delivery system, within 18 months. Just being able to blow a test munition is a very different thing from being able to ruggedize one sufficiently for deployment. Of course we are worldbuilding here -- so I submit that this is a problem that has to be explained and managed by whatever the world alteration is in-universe (discovery of high-yield uranium deposits within Germany might help, for example). $\endgroup$ – zxq9 Dec 3 '15 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, didn't something like this actually happen? The German scientists didn't account for the boron content in the graphite and got different results using it as a moderator? There's a mention of it on this page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Pile-1 So, that could be a single small change (realizing the graphite was impure) with far-reaching consequences. $\endgroup$ – Turophile Dec 4 '15 at 5:17
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There are a number of good possibilities. Here's just one:

Hitler succeeds in convincing Japan to make the Soviet Union its primary focus. Especially if this happens early, ideally prior to and coordinated with operation barbarosa. If Japan focused on attacking the U.S.S.R. from the east while Germany attacked from the west, they could have squeezed the Soviets and defeated them. And another bonus would be Japan, by focusing on the U.S.S.R., would not have attacked the U.S.A., which was a fatal mistake no matter how you slice it. The U.S. would likely never get in the war, the U.S.S.R. would be eliminated, Britain would have stood alone and would have pretty much had to give up.

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    $\begingroup$ The Japanese Army was crushed by the Soviets at Nomonhan in 1939. The lack of decent artillery and armor would make it impossible for the Japanese to "squeeze" anything. This distraction would only have a minor effect on the East Front versus Germany. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 2 '15 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ 18 divisions from the far east were a major part of the soviet counterstrike at Moscow in December '41. It's hard to tell if their absence (if needed against Japanese forces) would have tipped the tide but it's an option discussable in the frame of this question. $\endgroup$ – Ghanima Dec 3 '15 at 0:05
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    $\begingroup$ It isn't the timing. It was that the quality of military hardware the Japanese had was totally insufficient to deal with the Soviets - that same army that had trouble with the Finns that same winter. The Soviets could have just ignored them, as there's nothing worth taking in the Far East. And as soon as they had breathing room, the Japanese would be crushed in an open field campaign. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 3 '15 at 19:28
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    $\begingroup$ Those far East troops were put in after the offensive was stopped. So they weren't needed to keep Moscow from falling (and Moscow falling would not have ended the war regardless). So the best case for the Germans is a slightly less powerful counteroffensive in Winter 41. But the Soviets rebounded all along the line that winter, not just where those Far East troops were inserted. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 4 '15 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ interesting note - the site operationbarbarossa.net , these 14 divisions of Siberians were sent to the Leningrad front for the most part, not even to the Moscow area. operationbarbarossa.net/… $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Dec 4 '15 at 21:41
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The key to the Allied victory in WWII is logistics and production. The United States, for example, produced something like 8 X the annual steel production of Imperial Japan at the start of the war, so the Japanese simply had no chance of winning in the Pacific once the United States was engaged. The British Empire was similarly capable of lopsided production compared to the Axis powers, and Churchill implicitly acknowledged this in his "We will fight on the beaches" speech:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a 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, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

The British Empire, fighting alone, probably had enough manpower and industry to win WW II by 1948 (Consider that Canada, a tiny Dominion at the time, was capable of putting a million men under arms, and fielded the world's third largest navy by 1945, and Canada was only one part of the Empire).

So the only way for the Axis powers to win is not to provoke war with all the Great Powers, but rather nibble around the edges and then take them one at a time.

Defeating the Soviet Union is probably the first step. The USSR was an odious nation and outside of the normal international system (both by choice and the design of the Liberal and Imperial powers of the age), and by careful use of diplomacy to make the Russians even more isolated (the 1939 "Winter War" with Finland might have been played that way), along with encouraging the Japanese to try to pin the Russian forces in Siberia could have crippled Russia and knocked it out of the war. Germany and Japan dismember the USSR and feed on the resources, while carefully keeping clear of the British Empire and American interests.

After a pause of perhaps 5-10 years, it could become time to use aggressive diplomacy to sow dissent among the various member states of the British Empire. Imperial Forces become overstretched trying to police the various rebellions across the globe, and Churchill is long retired, leaving the British with something of a leadership vacuum. Germany and Japan support "revolutionary forces" and welcome defecting members of the Empire into the New Order and the Co Prosperity Sphere, gradually dismembering British power. Ironically, the Americans would probably be very happy to see this process, and if not encouraging it directly, they would make no diplomatic steps to stop it either.

America itself would be the hardest nut to crack, being a continental and oceanic power in its own right. Even with the resources of Asia and the British Empire now under Axis control, America has far more potential power because it's free market economy allows it to use resources most efficiently and develop new products and industry at unexpected times, complicating axis power. If you have any doubts, research the true story of the Axis economy during WW II. Most German aircraft were still using engines designed in 1933 at the end of the war, and obstruction by petty bureaucrats in the ship building industry long delayed the introduction of modular production of the Type XXI U Boats, to name a few. Tank production always lagged far behind the allies, and although Panther and Tiger tanks may have been far better than the opposition, they were essentially hand crafted, while Shermans and T-34's were churned out on assembly lines.

The best way to win against America again is through the indirect approach, gradually subverting South America into getting Fascist regimes (not to difficult, if you look at OTL) and gradually choking off overseas trade. America is never conquered directly, but simply declines into irrelevancy and accepts the domination of the New Order and Imperial Japan in their own spheres.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with much of this but have to disagree about Britain. There is no way they could have come close to winning the war fighting alone. Even with all of the support of the United States plus the Russians (27 million dead, remember) Britain was a spent force by 1945. Their numbers began to decrease in 1944 actually. You take away all of the American arms/supplies shipments, air support, troops from Normandy onwards (and in Africa, Italy) plus the simple fact that the vast majority of Germans dying were doing so in the east... Britain would not have lasted past 1943 all by themselves. $\endgroup$ – J Dwortz Dec 3 '15 at 21:47
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    $\begingroup$ The Axis had no reasonable means of preventing the Dominions or colonies from producing men and equipment for the war, and while England was a spent force by the end, Canada, Australia, South Africa and India certainly were not. This is where I believe the British Empire could have won on its own, much more slowly and at a greater cost, to be sure. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Dec 3 '15 at 22:10
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    $\begingroup$ Canada and Australia were not colonies. They were sovereign countries. $\endgroup$ – J Dwortz Dec 4 '15 at 15:40
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    $\begingroup$ A Dominion is a semi-independent country within the Empire; until the late 1930's, Canada's laws still needed to go through the British House of Lords for final ratification, and the Canadian Constitution wasn't "repatriated" until 1982. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Dec 5 '15 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ The Soviets had lost a lot of their international pariah status starting in the mid-'20s, after they backed off of the idea of an international communist revolution and developed the idea of "Socialism in One Country". Perhaps if Trotsky had won out over Stalin, the USSR would have stuck with the idea of permanent revolution and would have stayed a pariah for longer. $\endgroup$ – Michael Seifert Dec 7 '15 at 16:12
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Churchill refuses to become Prime Minister in the meeting on 10 May 1940; instead Halifax succeeds Neville Chamberlain. Britain soon makes peace with Germany (no "We shall never surrender").

This is the Point of divergence in the book Dominion by C. J. Sansom.

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    $\begingroup$ I can't imagine Churchill refusing. That goes completely against his nature. Perhaps a more realistic scenario is that he is killed in a car/plane/ship accident. Or by an assassin. Either way, that is an interesting suggestion. $\endgroup$ – Mohair Dec 2 '15 at 20:53
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    $\begingroup$ There is no way that Churchill refuses. He'd been manoeuvering for it for decades, and got much more active about it once the war began. Churchill dying prior to the time the offer is made is possible, though. $\endgroup$ – Euan M Dec 3 '15 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ Churchill was knocked down and nearly killed by a motorcar in New York City in 1931. This may be too long before the war to qualify for our discussion, but removing Churchill from this timeline surely has a significant effect on the Battle of Britain. BTW Hitler was also nearly in a fatal auto accident in that same year, as baron John Scott-Ellis barely avoided mowing him down in Munich with his brand new little red Fiat. $\endgroup$ – A. I. Breveleri Dec 6 '15 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ Does this really change the outcome? The UK out of the war leads to a more concentrated force by the Axis in the east (not divided in protecting the French coast or invading Egypt), but doesn't really affect Axis productivity (the Germans could have had vastly greater productivity than they did before Barbarossa, but were not really motivated to do so until they started losing). Nah, no Churchill means no US in Europe. Would the Axis have won against the USSR? Possibly... but... if not, it means an entirely Red post-war Europe. $\endgroup$ – Stumbler Dec 7 '15 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ @A. I. Breveleri I read the same thing about Churchill's near-miss (in a book of counter-factuals by historians), except that it was a taxi. $\endgroup$ – user24353 Dec 25 '15 at 1:04
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In late autumn 1941, German troops were at the gates of Moscow. And this is where they suffered their first serious defeat: the failure of the Moscow offensive was both a psychological blow and an end to any hopes of a successful blitzkrieg in the East.

This first Soviet victory was possible in large part due to troops (experienced, winter-equipped troops) moved to Moscow's defense from the Far East, to the astonishment of many German commanders who believed that the enemy is on the verge of collapse with no reserves left. And this was made possible in large part by the efforts of Richard Sorge, the famous Soviet spy in Tokyo who informed Moscow that the Japanese have no plans to attack the Soviet Union anytime soon, being preoccupied with plans in the Pacific instead. And this time, Stalin chose to believe Sorge (reportedly, he ridiculed Sorge earlier the same year, when Sorge provided intelligence about the imminent German attack, i.e., Barbarossa).

This leads me to believe that if either Germany managed to persuade Japan not to pursue any plans in the Pacific until the Soviet Union is defeated, or better yet, if they simply caught Sorge (or if Sorge was simply killed in an accident) before he had a chance to transmit this critical intelligence to Moscow, the Germans might have been able to capture the Soviet capital. And that may very well have led to the collapse of Stalin's regime and a completely different (likely, far more tragic) outcome for Europe and the world.

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    $\begingroup$ Japan had already been waging war against China for years, and desperately needed the resources the US / UK / NL embargo suddenly denied them. Japan only had the choice of effectively cancelling their expansion in SE Asia, retreating to their island and mope, or antagonizing the US -- which they did by preemptive strike a.k.a. Pearl Harbor. I don't see how capturing Sorge could have changed that. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 8 '15 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Capturing Sorge could have prevented Stalin from knowing about Japan's plans in advance. $\endgroup$ – Viktor Toth Dec 8 '15 at 13:32
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Answers that suggest that Nazi Germany not attack the USSR are technically correct, insofar that Germany would not be beaten by the rump of the Allies after the Fall of France, but this ignores the fact that conquest of the USSR had always been a primary motive of Hitler - much moreso than any concerns in the West. While there were certain failings in the invasion of the USSR; such as the lack of preparation for winter, the division of resources in multiple theatres (such as Africa), Hitler's refusal to allow retreat at a couple of important junctures, etc., the single greatest failing of the Axis was not to exploit the great antipathy among subjugated nations of the USSR towards the Kremlin.

By instigating the Hunger Plan the Axis made an enemy of nations such as the Ukraine and Baltic states. The little that they gained in raw resources was vastly outweighed by the logistical cost wrought by partisan groups in a country with notoriously poor infrastructure: never mind the vast resource of people that could have been leveraged in a war against the USSR. In a theatre where swift victory was a requirement, the implementation of the Hunger Plan was probably the single greatest strategic blunder by the Axis in the war.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget it takes time and resources to train the Ukrainains, Belorussians, etc, or they won't be much good in battle at all. There are also language barriers to overcome and I'm not sure if Germany had enough translators to train/employ them all in reasonable time. Another idea is to use them for simpler labor like trainyards and maybe factories. (German factory foremen were always complaining that the Wermacht drafted too many good men from them.) But your main point still applies. Hitler thought Russia would fall very soon, so to hell with the Untermenschen. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 7 '17 at 9:24
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Not yet mentioned: If Edward VIII had taken Wallis Simpson as his mistress and not his wife, he would not have abdicated. As he was a supporter of Germany's policy, the British Government would not have been able to go to war and instead would have sought diplomatic solutions with the third reich.

Also IMHO if Hitler had been assassinated (e.g. Valkyrie) fresh leaders might have pushed into stabilizing the reich to pre war borders (as per the Munich agreements) which might have been acceptable to the Allies.

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    $\begingroup$ The Royal Prerogative lies with the Prime Minister. It is not the Monarch who decides about declarations of war. The Monarch has served at the pleasure of the citizenry since the Restoration. $\endgroup$ – Euan M Dec 3 '15 at 23:07
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Allies were receptive to the idea of peace

There is a fair bit of evidence that Hitler was open to peaceful resolutions, but the allies were either not interested or did not trust Hitler's promises. A story where the alies "lose" could certainly go in two different directions:

  • Conflict with the allies ends sooner, allowing Germany to focus on Russia sooner (possibly even with the assistance of the Allies)
  • Hitler goes back on his promises and does even more dastardly deeds in the name of world domination when everyone's guard is down

British government considers negotating peace in 1940

The argument revolves around the confusing and inconclusive records of deliberations in Churchill's cabinet in May and June 1940 over whether Britain should discuss peace terms with Germany, records over which historians have argued for the 30 years that they have been available.

There is no disagreement that the cabinet debated whether Britain should sound out Hitler on what kind of peace terms he might offer. Nor is there any doubt that Churchill made comments that do not entirely support his image as the stalwart hero, pursuing the goal of ''victory at all costs'' and refusing even to contemplate negotiations with Berlin. He is recorded as declaring, for example, that ''if we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and Gibraltar and some African colonies,'' he would ''jump at it,'' although he didn't see any such prospect. He also declared that he was prepared to accept ''peace on terms of the restoration of German colonies and the overlordship of Central Europe,'' which presumably included continued occupation of Czechoslovakia and western Poland, although, again, he said that such an offer was ''most unlikely.''

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/25/arts/rethinking-negotiation-with-hitler.html?pagewanted=all

Rudolf Hess offers peace deal with Britain in 1941

The Nazis attempted to broker a peace offering with Britain - if they were allowed a free path to attack the USSR, a new book has revealed.

Rudolf Hess's flight to Britain during World War Two to sign a peace deal ordered by Adolf Hitler has long been recorded as a bizarre one man mission to try and reconcile warring West Europe and the Nazis.

But the high-ranking Nazi was actually carrying out orders from the Fuhrer when he flew to Messerschmitt to Scotland in May 1941.

But despite the offer, Churchill's morals were not swayed by the offer.

He refused to allow the Third Reich a clear path to attack the Eastern Front - because he did not trust Hitler's promises and it would have jeopardised his efforts to involve the U.S in the raging war, Mr Padfield says.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2433733/How-Nazis-offered-peace-treaty-World-War-II-meant-selling-Russians.html#ixzz3tMBkzFMI

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We don't know. And a war hinges on many factors, not just one. But there are definitely three that are on my mind; perhaps a single one would suffice, but since only one of them is a "large scale" change, the other two could very easily have happened as well. So, from biggest to smallest (in "difficulty to attain"):


Military: Greece.

Italy's blunder in Greece (or basically, wherever they set foot in WWII, but let's focus on Greece...) meant that Germany had to divert forces, mostly from Africa, where the campaign (which originated in another, earlier blunder by Italy) was at a crucial stage, with the Commonwealth forces on the brink of defeat.

Of course we don't know what would have happened if Italy had stayed out of Greece, or managed a decisive victory (possibly with planned German help), but I (and Ian Kershaw in "Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions That Changed the World, 1940–1941") consider it possible that the Africa Corps could have taken Egypt from the Commonwealth.

What would that have meant?

  • The Suez channel. Taking that away would have been a huge strategic blow for Britain, basically demolishing their presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Any shipping from Britain to the asian theater and back -- military as well as commercial -- would have had to go the long way around.

  • Yugoslavia. Without Greece humiliating Italian forces right next door, Yugoslavia might well have joined the Axis for good.

  • Crete. The whole point of this operation was to better support the Africa campaign. With Egypt and the Suez taken, Germany could have taken, besieged, or even ignored Crete without taking those losses that blunted both the German paratrooper force and air transport capabilities for the rest of the war.

  • Italian Navy. With the command of the (eastern, at least) Mediterranean, I doubt the Battle of Taranto would have taken place quite that way, leaving the Italian Navy intact as a strategic force.

  • Italy remains in the Axis.

  • Theater Denial. No bombing of the Ploiești oil fields, for one. And but with Egypt and the Suez channel lost, it is even conceivable that pressure could have been applied to Gibraltar, completely securing the Mediterranean for the Axis and denying the Allies access to the southern coasts of Europe (no invasion of Sicily 1943).

  • No delay to Operation Barbarossa.

Which brings us to the next point:


Nature: Weather.

The spring muds of 1941 were quite late. Let's have weather be a bit more favourable, and with the distraction of Greece and Yugoslavia not happening, or being resolved much earlier, the Axis forces might have had those few more weeks in their favour so the attack would not freeze solid at the gates of Moscow later that year. With Moscow taken away, the railroad backbone of Russia being broken, and mostly open fields all the way to the Volga river...

Now let's look at the last, easiest to attain, but probably the most important of them all:


Intelligence: Not having your ciphers broken.

Willi Korn not "inventing" the reflector would very likely have been sufficient to protect the Enigma. There are some other issues, but the reflector alone would probably have been enough.

Not being all German precision on the contents of messages would also have helped, as it would have avoided known-plaintext attacks.

And whoever the man was who repeated a 4000-character Lorenz cipher transmission without changing the key settings in August 1941, that the German war effort could have done without as well.

Either one would have been dead easy, and would have taken away the biggest advantage the Allies ever had in the war: They could read Germany's cipher, basically at will.

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  • $\begingroup$ Pouring through the other answers, allow me to hijack a link posted by @AndyD273. Note how my "quick victory in Greece" variant basically combines both options presented in that paper: Strengthening the position in the Mediterranean and attacking Russia earlier and with more force. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 8 '15 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ My answer was going to be "Have Mussolini bring a translator", which basically becomes your answer by the end. $\endgroup$ – vulpineblazeyt Dec 9 '15 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @vulpineblazeyt: That's actually interesting. Are you referring to a specific event, or just generally to the Duce and the Führer not really being on the same page? $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 9 '15 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ In general; although iirc from history class, there was a specific in-person meeting about the campaign against Greece that, if Mussolini had full understanding of, would not have ordered his troops to attack when he did. In general, Italy worked against the Axis, rather than for it, in the military sense. $\endgroup$ – vulpineblazeyt Dec 9 '15 at 21:30
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Similar to @MartinSchröder's answer.

What if Churchill was not British Prime Minister?

He was struck by a car in 1931 by Edward F. Cantasano.

If it had been a fatal accident, a very different Britain would have faced Germany.

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The Germans never attack the Russians and are allied with them throughout the war. (Yeah I know this answer apparently isn't allowed, but why not?). Hitler's biggest mistake was opening up the second front. In a more peaceful alternative, Eastern Europe is divided between Germany and Russia. Russia expands through Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland towards the US & Canada. Germany progresses through the UK towards the US. Japan only enters the war after the fall of the UK, pressuring the US on two fronts after Europe is secured.

Also, Mexico decides to join the Axis and invades the Southern states ;).

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    $\begingroup$ Germany never had enough air and sea power to successfully invade England Russia doesn't have much to add why would they suddenly be able to take Germany $\endgroup$ – sdrawkcabdear Dec 3 '15 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ Why is a Russian-German alliance not allowed? Or even just neutrality? The lack of that front against Germany, combined with Russian resources now being available to Germany, would completely change the European situation. $\endgroup$ – Michael Richardson Dec 4 '15 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ But the whole point was to clear the east to make Lebensraum. Without invading Russia the whole war makes no sense (well, to those who started it). $\endgroup$ – RedSonja Dec 7 '15 at 7:29
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Death of Alan Turing

The Allies' ability to decrypt Axis communications played a major part in the ultimate Axis defeat.

Defeat at Dunkirk

The evacuation of Dunkirk allowed the British army to retreat and regroup. If the fleet of small ships had been destroyed by Axis gunships, England would have been a sitting duck.

Pearl Harbour never happened

The Americans joined the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Without the huge industrial might of America, the Allies would likely not have won the war.

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    $\begingroup$ Read up on Willi Korn and his invention of the "reflector" in the Enigma. It turned out to be the main cryptological weakness of the machine. Had Korn realized that, it would have been much harder to break it. $\endgroup$ – DevSolar Dec 9 '15 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ This is very interesting indeed. $\endgroup$ – superluminary Dec 11 '15 at 16:34
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Speed wins battles, but sieges win wars.

Blitzkrieg as a war manoeuvre was never going to create an empire. If the Nazis had realised this they would have followed their lightning conquests with extended occupation and stabilisation of the invaded territories. The stretching of the Eastern front to the USSR was ill-advised too. Hitler should have first consolidated his rule of Eastern Europe for maybe five years before advancing to Moscow.

The one pivotal decision that sealed Germany's fate though was bombing England. This leads to the replacement of Chamberlain with Churchill, whose intention from the start was to defeat the Nazis and bait the USA into joining the war.

So if Hitler had only expanded to Eastern Europe and ignored Russia maybe Deutsch would be Europe's first language.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! I found some info that suggests that attacking Russia may not have been a bad idea, just badly executed. In case you are interested: militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/articles/invadingrussia.aspx $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Dec 3 '15 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyD273 interesting reading. Hadn't examined the Russian invasion from that angle before $\endgroup$ – starred Dec 5 '15 at 7:28
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German Communists rather than the Nazis win power in Weimar Germany in 1920, and join the Soviet Union as equal partners, eventually coming to dominate the Communist Union. The combined Ruso-German behemoth spends the next 2 decades industrializing Russia and developing superb weapons and infrastructure. The western powers, demoralized after the extraordinarily steep recession, can only put up a token resistance in Europe, where strong Rsso-German intervention in Italy, Spain and France leads to communist regimes in those countries as well. In the late '30s, the Communist Behemoth sends millions of men and materiel into China, turning it Red.

In 1941, the Communist Block launches a massive aerial and amphibious invasion of Britain, coinciding with a major strike across the army and transportation industry that paralyzes the country. London is taken in the first day. The country collapses in weeks.

Only America remains, separated by an ocean and its massive industrial infrastructure...

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    $\begingroup$ I (don't) like that variant. +1. $\endgroup$ – phresnel Dec 10 '15 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ Your timing is a bit off; there where no Nazis (as such) till 1923. Do you instead propose that Socialists won the revolution of 1918/19? $\endgroup$ – Martin Schröder Mar 2 '16 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ Wow this never occurred to me. Just think with all those Jewish scientists still in Germany, what kind of tech they could have by 1945. It will be very interesting to explore how internal power struggles of Lenin, Stalin, and German leaders play out. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 9 '17 at 7:03
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The Japanese deliver their declaration of war to the USA prior to Pearl Harbor.

In our timeline, administrative errors meant that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor prior to declaring war.

Had Japan declared war, and then immediately destroyed Pearl Harbor, there would have been a devastating effect on the morale of the American citizenry and their politicians.

As it was, the negative impact on morale from the destruction at Pearl harbor was more than offset by the anger felt at the attack.

A demoralised USA may have continued to avoid being involved in WW2 in Europe.

This would be especially true if Germany had not declared war on the USA.

Note that the USA in our timeline does not join the war - it has war declared upon it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Had war been declared in advance, the surprise attack would likely have been significantly less effective. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Dec 4 '15 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ The plan was to deliver the declaration moments before the attack began, to prevent there being sufficient time for the American forces to prepare. Which is one reason that the administrative errors caused it to move from "timely declaration" to a "late declaraion". $\endgroup$ – Euan M Dec 5 '15 at 16:33
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if I can endorse this idea. More negative morale would hurt for a time, but America had time to get over that before going on the true offensive around 1942 summer. Besides, the Doolittle raid would give a big boost in morale. I suggest putting the 3 carriers around Pearl Harbor in Pearl Harbor so that they are destroyed. That would at least drastically change the Pacific Theater for a few years. Could also let the 2 carriers of the risky Doolittle Raid get caught and sunk. That's 5. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 9 '17 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ The beginning of the war with Japan was mere formality - war was coming and everyone knew it. American efforts to actively hinder Japan made it a inevitable. Nothing would have turned Pearl Harbor from a rallying-cry into a cause to mope and withdraw, not even an Alamo level total defeat. $\endgroup$ – pluckedkiwi Jan 3 '18 at 17:41
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A lot of interesting answers here but many of them require two or more major changes, not just one. For example, a Nazi atomic weapon would have also required a delivery system, an "Amerika bomber", so that's two major changes. Also, developing an A-bomb would have required keeping the best scientific minds resident in Europe, an impossibility once Hitler started his anti-Semitic campaign.

A single change that was very doable using existing technology would have been to starve Great Britain out of the war by concentrating all available resources (u boats, aircraft, and ships) on the Battle of the Atlantic. Eliminating Great Britain would have made it impossible for the Allies to carry out the strategic bombing campaign or stage the invasion. No need to invade or occupy England, simply starve them to the point where they withdraw from the conflict. Donitz possibly had just enough resources to accomplish this but Hitler kept sending U-boats to the Med on other missions instead of concentrating his forces on blockading GB.

On the flip side, the war might have been shortened considerably if the Allies had concentrated all their bombing efforts on petroleum resources instead of frittering away many aircraft and crews on ball bearing factory raids and other distractions. German armament production remained steady (and even rose) during the entire war no matter how much they were bombed but once they ran out of oil the war was over.

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  • $\begingroup$ Decent theory, but it too requires more than 1 change. After WW1, Germany was a ruined & poor country. By 1939, Germany only had about 50 U-Boats. This still did damage to Britain in the "first happy time" but they were adapting with better anti-sub warfare, and America was coming with liberty ships. BTW, in the original plan, Hitler never planned to invade Britain. He was shocked when Britain declared war. So the 1st chang: give Hitler this foresight and plan well ahead of time to siege Britain. But even if Germany amassed 100+ subs by 1939, they could not have done it secretly. $\endgroup$ – DrZ214 Apr 9 '17 at 6:52

protected by Vincent Dec 5 '15 at 16:10

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