King Albert I of Belgium survives

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HistoryGeek2019
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King Albert I of Belgium survives

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 05 Oct 2019 03:34

In 1934, King Albert I of Belgium died in a climbing accident at the age of 58. As king, Albert controlled Belgium's foreign policy and allied with France. Shortly after his death, Albert's soon Leopold III switched to a policy of neutrality, preventing military cooperation with the Allies until Germany invaded in May 1940.

What if King Albert I hadn't died in 1934? What if he lived into the 1950s (he would have been 75 in 1950)?

Does Hitler still try to occupy the Rhineland in 1936?

Does Hitler annex Austria in 1938?

Do the western Allies capitulate at the Munich Conference in 1938?

Does Hitler still invade Poland in 1939?

My answer to all of the above is Yes, simply because Hitler was a warmonger and would have done all of the above within a year or two of the OTL date regardless of who was allied against him.

But where it really gets interesting is what happens after Hitler invades Poland. The Western Allies still probably would not have invaded Germany. Rather, they would have sat back, dug in and laid siege to Germany through the British blockade, only this time with forward bases in Belgium.

Fall Gelb will now be impossible. There will be substantial British and French forces in Belgium within weeks of the outbreak of the war. The Manstein plan ("Sickle Cut") won't work if the Allies have months to settle their forces in Belgium. Allied forces will also be able to immediately enter the Netherlands, so trying to take Rotterdam is pointless.

The most Germany can do is try to brute force its way through Belgium or the Maginot Line. Even if Germany initially succeeds in these border battles as in WWI, eventually the German attack will stall, and Germany will be locked in a war of attrition it cannot win.

Germany eventually loses. There is never an Operation Barbarossa. Without the European war weakening Britain and France, Japan does not attempt to conquer territory outside of China. There is no Pearl Harbor. The United States never enters the war.

Hitler and the Nazis eventually are kicked from power. Konrad Adenauer or someone similar becomes Chancellor and joins the western block against the Soviet Union.

Britain and France and Belgium and the Netherlands are able to keep their colonies in Africa and Asia.

In short, all of 20th century history (post-Depression history anyway) hinges on the health of King Albert I.

maltesefalcon
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Re: King Albert I of Belgium survives

Post by maltesefalcon » 05 Oct 2019 16:09

I have always been of the opinion that the Allies diplomatic and military strategy re:Belgium led to their early defeat in 1940.

Belgium is a tiny nation which can be quickly overrun. Deciding to cede a sizeable percentage of the country by making the Dyle River the location to stop any German incursions, was a mistake. The southeastern portion of this defence line was in range of German artillery almost from the get go.

This was complicated by the vacillations of the Belgians, who refused to allow their potential Anglo/Franco defenders proper access, until the attack was imminent. (They refused to budge, even when captured plans of the original invasion, revealed that Germany had absolutely no intention of respecting Belgian neutrality.)

This meant that the some of the Allied troops had further to travel to get to the Dyle line than the Germans, thus dooming the strategy from the start.

Not only that, once Belgium was inevitably overrun, their forces surrendered, thus contributing a mere 18 days worth of operations for the preservation of Western democracy.

Anything Albert would have done would likely have been an improvement.

Futurist
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Re: King Albert I of Belgium survives

Post by Futurist » 16 Sep 2020 21:04

Just how much power did the Belgian King actually have in the 1930s?

James A Pratt III
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Re: King Albert I of Belgium survives

Post by James A Pratt III » 18 Sep 2020 01:32

King Albert I proved himself to be a resolute leader in WW I. He would have kept the alliance with England and France. So in September 1939 he most likely would have declared war on Germany let Allied troops into Belgium and they would have probably dug in along the Belgium-German border and waited for a German attack. I don't even he could have got the Allies to invade Germany.

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: King Albert I of Belgium survives

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 Sep 2020 03:20

James A Pratt III wrote:
18 Sep 2020 01:32
King Albert ... most likely would have declared war on Germany let Allied troops into Belgium and they would have probably dug in along the Belgium-German border and waited for a German attack. ...
Finally got around to gaming this one out. It does make it a lot harder for the attacker. Assaulting a solid defense vs a meeting engagement where one side is poorly coordinated. It does not waive away poor French leaders at the top. Thats something which is more difficult to model on the game map. It also changes much of the character of the battle. So theres questions of the combat power of the artillery, the endurance of the infantry, & other things that were not tested in depth in 1940. To reach any depth of analysis on this I'd want to try several game systems/designs and run several iterations of each.

The one iteration I did run also showed need for the attack to take a different approach in the initial days. the operational plan needed to be very different.

Futurist
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Re: King Albert I of Belgium survives

Post by Futurist » 18 Sep 2020 23:02

Does anyone here know just how much of a factor Belgium's change of King in 1934 was in its decision to once again become neutral in 1936?

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: King Albert I of Belgium survives

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 Sep 2020 21:32

He his name usually does not come up in the books. However, those are French centrict & look at the French defensive strategy of the 1930s as a important factor.

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Re: King Albert I of Belgium survives

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 Sep 2020 21:42

Deciding to cede a sizeable percentage of the country by making the Dyle River the location to stop any German incursions, was a mistake. The southeastern portion of this defence line was in range of German artillery almost from the get go.
The Belgians spent a lot of money on defensive works in the interwar. Modern fortresses around Liege, bunkers, obstacles, and caches of mines along the borders, modernizing the fortresses around Namur. One analyst described the defense system as incoherent and influenced more by politics than military strategy. Note how a third of the field army, and a portion of the defense works were distributed along the Dutch border in May 1940. A substantial force on paper, but I cant find any hint of a plan to intercede across the border to assist the Dutch or interfere with the Germans.

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