USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

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TheMarcksPlan
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USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 05 Apr 2020 09:58

This thread is inspired by my recent reading of Philips Payson O'Brien's How the War was Won, which argues that the air and sea battle - predominantly between Axis and Wallies - dominated WW2. The book seeks to reverse the somewhat recent view that the Eastern Front was the protagonist of WW2 with everything else being supporting players (even if providing decisive support).

The book is analytically rigorous, well-researched, well-written, and wrong. O'Brien documents that the USA devoted ~80% of its production to the air/sea war and that it forced Germany to devote >50% of its production to that war as well. From these well-established facts, he concludes that the air/sea war predominated over the Eastern Front's land war.

There's a huge blind spot to this argument: industrial production isn't the same as national resources, let alone of national destiny. This should be obvious to any citizen of a post-industrial, service-based economy. In '43-'44, Germany had nearly as many men providing military services (~9.5mil) as it had working in all industry (~10-11mil). Apportioning accumulated dead/disabled/captured to military services would make the ledger roughly even by '43 at the latest.

Most military services went into land warfare. Germany subjectively valued these military services at a higher "price" (i.e. opportunity cost) than the "production cost" of removing these men from factories and putting them in the field. Military analysis can't avail itself of market price signals for decisive guidance but it's fair to say that Germany was better served having Army Group South in Ukraine than having another million industrial workers.

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O'Brien's book is a real pleasure and the extended preface is just acknowledgement that it motivated this "What If":

What if the U.S. had devoted, say, twice as many resources - 40% instead of 20% - to building up its army for large-scale invasion of Europe ASAP?

Before proceeding, I must acknowledge the tension between this What If and my last, which argued that the Wallies expected the SU to collapse, that they were unwilling in '41/'42 to plan to confront German land forces before destroying Germany's economy via bombing, and that such a bombing campaign would not have worked had the Germans prevailed on the Eastern Front during '42. viewtopic.php?f=11&t=247189

Caveat emptor - this thread sets aside U.S. appetite for land war and queries what should have been done to end the war most quickly, with the minimum of human suffering (even if American suffering/death might have increased).

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The ATL proposal/sketch:
  • From May-November 1940, when America accelerated preparation for a European war, American military planning was absolutely focused on invasion of Europe at the earliest possible date, with intent to engage and defeat the German army in Europe without assuming destruction of German economic potential as a precondition of such engagement.
  • Military spending and doctrine favors control of sea communications, securing air superiority, and cumulative army combat power over strategic bombing and peripheral operations.
  • As a result of these preparations, America - with scant and reluctant support from the British Empire - is able to land in France in May 1943 and to field 60 divisions on the continent by July '43.
  • Due to greater initial army power the Wallies land in the Pas de Calais and take useful ports during the Summer or early Fall of 1943.
  • Due to greater diversions by the Germans from the Ostheer to France, all the SU's 1943 offensives succeed, crushing Army Groups North, Center, and South and reaching Poland/Romania by Fall '43.
  • With far greater American truck production, logistics from the Channel are better and the Americans are able to cross the Rhine during winter '43, around the time the SU reaches the Oder.
  • Germany collapses by April '44 at the latest. The faster Red Army advance has saved hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews and untold thousands of other Jews and Europeans. Hundreds of thousands of Germans are captured by Wallied armies instead of killed as well.
----------------------------------------------

Unlike my other ATL's, I'll leave this one as more of a sketch and invitation to discussion than a strong and specific thesis. I'm not as well-read on the U.S. war economy as on the German and invite other thoughts.

At base, it seems to me that the American/British war effort was, from the start, never calculated to confront Germany on land unless and until its economy had been ruined. To that end, we see the Victory Program of 1941 mandating 2-1 numerical superiority for the attacker on land, but not applying such a disadvantage to an aerial attacker - at least AFAICS. In fact, a conventional WW2 bombing campaign needed far more than 2-1 material superiority to succeed while an attacker on land would have prevailed with less than 2-1 total superiority (as the attacker can marshal local/tactical superiority far in excess of his global superiority). This seems so clear to me, in fact, that I suspect the Victory Program of 1941 was written with an ear to the political constraint that a massive land war may not have been politically feasible. And I suspect that all subsequent interpretations/revisions of Wallied grand strategy were informed by similar background beliefs/fears.

For those reasons, it seems that a Wallied strategy to beat Germany ASAP should have focused on decisive land engagement.

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by OpanaPointer » 05 Apr 2020 11:06

The "Germany First" policy was developed at the ABC-1 talks and confirmed at the Atlantic Conference.
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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Sheldrake » 05 Apr 2020 11:24

This is another fantastical argument to try to fit the facts to the fantasy of an early second front advanced by Marshall in 1942.

Even if the US doubled their investment in land forces they would just have a bigger army in the continental US. Winning the war in the air and war at sea were necessary preconditions for any land battle. The size of a land force that could be shipped to Europe depended on merchant shipping capacity. That meant winning the battle of the Atlantic. It took six months for the US Navy to instigate a coastal convoy system.

A doubled US Army would spread the talent even thinner than historical. A big inexperienced US Army would risk disaster, Kasserine pass on a vast scale. It took the US Army three years to build a competent Union army in the Civil War. It took a similar time to create a competent Red army. By what logic could the American Army build an experienced army in a matter of months?

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Kingfish » 05 Apr 2020 12:05

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Apr 2020 09:58
[*]As a result of these preparations, America - with scant and reluctant support from the British Empire - is able to land in France in May 1943 and to field 60 divisions on the continent by July '43.
60 divisions in 2 months? A division a day?
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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 05 Apr 2020 12:08

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Kingfish » 05 Apr 2020 13:30

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 05 Apr 2020 13:45

I'll pass on this bridge to far and whats under.

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 Apr 2020 00:29

Kingfish wrote:
05 Apr 2020 12:05
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
05 Apr 2020 09:58
[*]As a result of these preparations, America - with scant and reluctant support from the British Empire - is able to land in France in May 1943 and to field 60 divisions on the continent by July '43.
60 divisions in 2 months? A division a day?
OTL the Wallies landed a million men by July 4, 28 days after D-Day. http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USMA/WE ... pe1-3.html

As the in-theater divisional slice of the U.S. Army was ~34,000 that's a division a day.
Carl Schwamberger wrote:I'll pass on this bridge to far and whats under.
Tom from Cornwall wrote:Well, they could just use the same causeway that some loon said could be built across the Channel for Sea Lion!
Sheldrake wrote:This is another fantastical argument to try to fit the facts to the fantasy
With a minimum of research any of you could have found the fact that the proposed '43 invasion builds up forces at about the same rate as OTL Overlord.
With a minimum of analysis you would see that the additional landing craft for this invasion would be far cheaper than OTL expenditures on the CBO.
As too often in this forum, however, conventional wisdom supersedes even minimal research and analysis.

I can't see a credible argument that the Wallies couldn't have ended the war earlier by invading Europe with a strong land army in 1943, even if meant foregoing the American portion of the Combined Bomber Offensive. Still open to hearing one, but guessing it'll be mostly Wallyboo and anti-WhatIf sentiment defending the OTL Allied conduct of the war.

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by T. A. Gardner » 06 Apr 2020 00:47

Well, if the OTL is followed to late 1942, then the US and Britain could likely have invaded and gotten a beachhead in France by the end of 1942. Here's a previous discussion of this.

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=143090&p=1243379#p1243379

In late 1942, German forces in France were at a low. Most of the immediate coast defense divisions were second- and third-rate bodenstande ones. They lacked the sort of Atlantic Wall fortifications that would later be present. Once a fair sized lodgment is present in France, the W. Allies could have entrenched for attrition warfare and built up their forces for an eventual breakout and /or for a second invasion.
A bonus here is that such an invasion of Southern France would have eliminated a fair portion of the U-boat threat to the Atlantic.

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 06 Apr 2020 01:56

T. A. Gardner wrote:
06 Apr 2020 00:47
Well, if the OTL is followed to late 1942, then the US and Britain could likely have invaded and gotten a beachhead in France by the end of 1942. Here's a previous discussion of this.

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=143090&p=1243379#p1243379

In late 1942, German forces in France were at a low. Most of the immediate coast defense divisions were second- and third-rate bodenstande ones. They lacked the sort of Atlantic Wall fortifications that would later be present. Once a fair sized lodgment is present in France, the W. Allies could have entrenched for attrition warfare and built up their forces for an eventual breakout and /or for a second invasion.
A bonus here is that such an invasion of Southern France would have eliminated a fair portion of the U-boat threat to the Atlantic.
Good point. 1942 is especially feasible if, as specified in the OP, U.S. military strategy is reoriented towards the army from 1940.

Southern France is more problematic, IMO, as it's hard to establish the required air dominance over the beachhead and you might lose a lot of assault and general shipping as a result.

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Kingfish » 06 Apr 2020 02:29

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Apr 2020 00:29
OTL the Wallies landed a million men by July 4, 28 days after D-Day. http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USMA/WE ... pe1-3.html

As the in-theater divisional slice of the U.S. Army was ~34,000 that's a division a day.
I count 20 American and 15 Commonwealth by end of July

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_A ... y_campaign

A few more arrive in August but you also lose both American airborne as well as the British 59th infantry from the OOB.
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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Richard Anderson » 06 Apr 2020 04:21

Kingfish wrote:
06 Apr 2020 02:29
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Apr 2020 00:29
OTL the Wallies landed a million men by July 4, 28 days after D-Day. http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USMA/WE ... pe1-3.html

As the in-theater divisional slice of the U.S. Army was ~34,000 that's a division a day.
I count 20 American and 15 Commonwealth by end of July
On 4 July 1944, the First U.S. Army reported 213,305 combat and combat support troops effective in its thirteen divisions. By 31 July, there were 18 divisions on the Continent (the 82d and 101st were back in England), with field forces comprising 563,638 troops, 181,548 in ADSEC COM-Z, 88,251 Army Air Forces, and 27,012 non-operating (mostly in hospital). What does that make the "divisional slice"? 43.357? Or 57,322? Or do you included AAF and casuals as well? FUSA on 31 July reported 287,007 combat and combat support troops effective in its 17 divisions (the 18th division was unassigned as 1th Army Group and Third U.S. Army was about to activate).

The British had 12 divisions ashore on 4 July, so a total of 25 divisions, about 0.89 per day. By 31 July, there were 15 British divisions ashore, so a total of 33 divisions, about 0.59 per day...guess they decided to slow down.
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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 06 Apr 2020 08:23

Richard Anderson wrote:
06 Apr 2020 04:21
... What does that make the "divisional slice"? 43.357? Or 57,322? Or do you included AAF and casuals as well? ...
Appros to nothing in particular; the logistics planning for OVERLORD included the AAF ashore in France and everything else in a Army uniform. As I recall the port operations units, or the USN portion thereof & other USN were not included. I recall in Ruppenthals 'Logistics in Overlord' 44,000 was the nominal number of men used for computing a division slice. Your numbers suggest was actually larger. Do you think thats accurate?

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Sheldrake » 06 Apr 2020 09:07

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
06 Apr 2020 00:29
Sheldrake wrote:
This is another fantastical argument to try to fit the facts to the fantasy
I can't see a credible argument that the Wallies couldn't have ended the war earlier by invading Europe with a strong land army in 1943, even if meant foregoing the American portion of the Combined Bomber Offensive. Still open to hearing one, but guessing it'll be mostly Wallyboo and anti-WhatIf sentiment defending the OTL Allied conduct of the war.
You have quoted me but failed to respond to the questions I raised
#1 How the US would gain operational experience with a vastly expanded army in order to avoid a Kasserine Pass on a grand scale?
#2 How to win the naval battle of the Atlantic with less investment in the Navy?
#3 How to win the air war over Europe with less investment in the Army Air Corps?
#4 Where to find the merchant shipping to support an Overlord scale operation in 1943?
#5 Persuading the British to risk their last army on what they historically considered a highly risky venture?

oh and did I mention S-H -I -P-P-I- N-G.

How about carrying out some research and thought before posting?

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Re: USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

Post by Andy H » 06 Apr 2020 11:17

Hi

Can I please remind all to argue (for/against) the proposition and not the person, no matter what you feel the justification to be.
If it gets to the point where reasonable Q's have been left unanswered or unreasonable Q's posed, then the thread, any thread for that matter, becomes untenable and will be duly dealt with.

WI can be a frustrating medium but already its thrown up some interesting facts and information to refute the OP POV.
Though some or most of this will be self-evident to many, we must remember that there are new and maybe younger MH students around, for who this could be new information. Equally at some stage we've all had some fantastical or illogical WI take seed when we first started out and thus threads like this come around. That's not a green light for ASB or shadow ASB's but for a modicum of restraint when replying. A forceful fact laden post, will help the wider membership see whose POV has value and gravitas versus a 'I wish it so member'

Regards to all

Andy H

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