The biggest single issue facing both the US and British forces in both wars was that the pre-war military was a very small organisation, and when it expanded they did not have the experienced staff needed. That would require time and combat. An army raised by the US in 1942 or 43 was going to lose badly if it faced German forces with a couple of campaigns behind them, so throwing a large number of troops across the Channel is a suicide mission even if the supply issues can be improvised enough to get them onto a beach. Testing the generals, staff officers, and even the troops somewhere less critical makes a lot of sense.TheMarcksPlan wrote: ↑05 Apr 2020 09:58This 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.
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).
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.
The Allied strategy did focus on a decisive land engagement, but did so with the caveat that one should only be sought when winning was almost the only possible outcome. You should only seek a decisive battle when you have maximised your chances of winning. If that means destroying the enemy infrastructure and population as part of gaining that advantage, so be it, not doing so means you are throwing away your mens lives pointlessly. Asking your troops to die in a 50/50 gamble is bad for morale, and after a few such operations they tend to resent the idea and think about surrendering or even mutiny.