USA executes an Army (and Europe) First strategy

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

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 08 May 2020 22:01

Tom from Cornwall wrote:This is from Ross, ed. U.S. War Plans: 1938 - 1945, p.17.
Rainbow 5, para 12 - Ross, p.138.PNG
Rainbow 5, para 12 - Ross, p.138.PNG (118.46 KiB) Viewed 47 times
Can anyone, therefore, explain what led to the US change of heart in the spring of 1942 and Marshall's mission to the UK to try to persuade the British to take part in the sacrificial Sledgehammer plan?
Notice a conspicuous omission in this paragraph? I do: "Russia" or "Soviet Union."
It's covered by allies/associates of US/UK but we were more allies of the SU than the other way around.

The assumption of formal planning documents of this period was that the SU would be defeated by '42 or so (See Wedemayer's Victory Program of '41). In that environment, the strategy was for peripheral ops and strategic bombing prior to an "eventual" invasion of Germany. Estimates of the army required to defeat Germany after the fall of the SU varied from 350 to 700 divisions.

The change of heart owed to (1) Soviet resilience and, perhaps more importantly, (2) FDR's prescient deviation from professional military opinion in foreseeing a good chance for the SU to survive. Marshall et. al. gradually came around to FDR's view. By early '42, however, there was still extreme nervousness that the SU would collapse and FDR was emphasizing to everyone that keeping the SU in the war was paramount - he even convinced Douglas MacArthur to agree to this view.

Thus Sledgehammer: an emergency landing in France to ensure the paramount strategic goal of keeping the SU in the war, a goal not prioritized in Rainbow 5. Of course it turned out that the British viewed Sledgehammer as a pointless sacrifice of mostly British troops that wouldn't have helped the SU much anyway. Their reasoning was probably correct: if the SU was on the brink of defeat, Germany probably could have spared forces from the east to overwhelm the expedition and then finished the SU in '43. If the SU wasn't on the brink of defeat, the sacrifice wasn't worth it given Wallied strategic goals (to win the war cheapest as opposed to quickest).
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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

Post by Michael Kenny » 08 May 2020 22:31

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
08 May 2020 22:01
Estimates of the army required to defeat Germany after the fall of the SU varied from 350 to 700 divisions............

700?

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

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 08 May 2020 22:47

Michael Kenny wrote:
08 May 2020 22:31
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
08 May 2020 22:01
Estimates of the army required to defeat Germany after the fall of the SU varied from 350 to 700 divisions............

700?
From the Victory Plan of 1941, drafted by Wedemayer:
Latest information pertaining to the potential industrial
capacities and military strengths ofthe opposing Powers, (excluding
the U.S.) as of July I, 1943, indicates that the Axis Powers will have
about 400 divisions available in the European-Near East Theater
and the Allied Powers approximately 100 divisions. 10 accomplish
the numerical superiority, about 2 to I, usually considered necessary before undertaking offensive operations, the Allies would have
to raise about 700 divisions.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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

Post by Michael Kenny » 08 May 2020 22:50

to accomplish the numerical superiority, about 2 to I, usually considered necessary before undertaking offensive operations, the Allies would have
to raise about 700 divisions.


So its a guess rather than a plan? Not quite the same as was portrayed as in its first mention

Not the only thing they got wrong though, they thought Germany would not be defeated until June/July 1945.
Last edited by Michael Kenny on 08 May 2020 22:55, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 08 May 2020 22:55

Michael Kenny wrote:
08 May 2020 22:50
the Allies would have
to raise about 700 divisions.


Not the only thing they got wrong. They thought Germany would not be defeated until June/July 1945.
Learn to take an L gracefully
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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

Post by Michael Kenny » 08 May 2020 23:03

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
08 May 2020 22:47
indicates that the Axis Powers will have
about 400 divisions available in the European-Near East Theater
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
08 May 2020 22:01
Estimates of the army required to defeat Germany after the fall of the SU varied from 350 to 700 divisions.

How did you read the above to mean 'up to' 700 Divisions being required to defeat Germany?

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

Post by T. A. Gardner » 09 May 2020 03:08

Why would the Allies need "700" divisions to defeat a German army incapable of fielding more than about 50 first-class, competent divisions--at most? The bulk of German forces consisted of mediocre infantry divisions, third-rate nearly immobile divisions, and other assorted flotsam only useful for garrison and anti-partisan duty.

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

Post by Aber » 09 May 2020 07:32

Richard Anderson wrote:
08 May 2020 19:31
And to you and yours on that side of the pond...except, haven't you every considered what might happen if on 7 May 1945, Heinz Guderian took charge of the Wehrmacht and Nazi state instead of that dilettante navy wimp, did a double-back-flip over the front to Rheims with Otto Skorzeny's super-sekret team of Brandenburg commando ninjas and took the ENTIRE ALLIED HIGH COMMAND IN EUROPE HOSTAGE? :lol:
Montgomery drives to Flensburg? :D

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

Post by Aber » 09 May 2020 07:37

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
08 May 2020 15:07
Can anyone, therefore, explain what led to the US change of heart in the spring of 1942 and Marshall's mission to the UK to try to persuade the British to take part in the sacrificial Sledgehammer plan?
OK, so why the flip from Europe First to Germany First?

A subtle change, perhaps better phrased as Why (and when) did the US become Mediterranean-phobic?

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

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 09 May 2020 09:06

Aber wrote:
09 May 2020 07:37
OK, so why the flip from Europe First to Germany First?

A subtle change, perhaps better phrased as Why (and when) did the US become Mediterranean-phobic?
That's exactly my point. Why flip to Germany first in the early spring of 1942, especially given the constant hammer blows the Anglo-Americans were suffering during this point. It almost seems that as the news got worst the urge to take the most appalling strategic risk became more attractive to those sitting behind their desks in the War Plans Division in Washington.
TheMarcksPlan wrote:
08 May 2020 22:01
given Wallied strategic goals (to win the war cheapest as opposed to quickest).
TMP, you've state this as gospel a multitude of times now, do you have a source for this or is it simply your opinion?

For a long time, Britain's strategic goal was simply to survive until something (Hitler's stupidity fortunately) came along.

Regards

Tom

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

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 09 May 2020 12:04

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
09 May 2020 09:06
Aber wrote:
09 May 2020 07:37
OK, so why the flip from Europe First to Germany First?

A subtle change, perhaps better phrased as Why (and when) did the US become Mediterranean-phobic?
That's exactly my point. Why flip to Germany first in the early spring of 1942, especially given the constant hammer blows the Anglo-Americans were suffering during this point. It almost seems that as the news got worst the urge to take the most appalling strategic risk became more attractive to those sitting behind their desks in the War Plans Division in Washington.
To keep the SU in the war. That was the entire rationale behind Sledgehammer. Here's Eisenhower in early '42:
On 19 February he listed priorities for use
of American shipping in the war effort.
The first priority was: "Maintenance of
existing garrisons. Defense aid to Russia.
Essential supplies to UK and critical items,
only, to China." Second priority was for
approved reinforcements to the Southwest
Pacific, this to include approved new garrisons not adjacent to the lines of communica- tion, and possible items of lend-lease for the
Netherlands Indies. Third, came approved
units and material reinforcements for
Hawaii; fourth, for Panama and Alaska
https://history.army.mil/html/books/001 ... ub_1-3.pdf

So already aid to Russia was placed on par with "essential supplies" to the UK and ahead of reinforcements to the Pacific in shipping resources.

Ike further stated:
We've got to go to Europe and fight—and
we've got to quit wasting resources all over
the world—and still worse—wasting time. If
we're to keep Russia in, save the Middle East,
India and Burma; we've got to begin slugging
with air at West Europe; to be followed by a
land attack as soon as possible
One can't emphasize enough how fundamental this strategic picture is from the one that informed plans during '41 when it looked like Russia would be defeated/impotent by the time the U.S. entered the war.

Ike and FDR also deserve praise for immediately recognizing this strategic opportunity and being prepared to do everything possible to exploit it.

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
08 May 2020 22:01
given Wallied strategic goals (to win the war cheapest as opposed to quickest).
TMP, you've state this as gospel a multitude of times now, do you have a source for this or is it simply your opinion?

For a long time, Britain's strategic goal was simply to survive until something (Hitler's stupidity fortunately) came along.

Regards

Tom
I don't know of any source that reaches my conclusion in quite the way I am phrasing it. So sure, you can call it my opinion.

It's based on my judgment about the American/British priorities in war investment and statements such as the one from Leahy (re "Big armies are a thing of the past") quoted upthread.

It's also based on my judgement about "things that it wouldn't do to say" but which everyone at a certain level of power knows. It wouldn't do to say, "we want to beat Hitler, but it's not worth millions of American dead," or "we want to beat Hitler but we'd prefer that the Russians do most of the bleeding." Yet those were almost certainly the operating preferences of American/British policy makers in the war.

It's obvious to me that the Wallies could have won the war earlier by invading Europe earlier. It can't have escaped the attention of contemporary leaders that this was true. If everything I've said is true, we would not expect to find it stated in a single primary source because it wouldn't do to say so, even if everyone thought so. We have to use judgment.

And that's not even a definite moral critique of the Wallies. I'm agnostic on the ultimate moral duty of Nation X to accept more deaths so that Nation Y (here occupied Europe) suffers less overall and has fewer deaths, even if total world deaths are increased by Nation X's refusal to accept more deaths.

The reason I'm adamant about it is that WW2 is still used in American discourse about the need to Fight Evil. While I'm all for Fighting Evil, the discourse of Fighting Evil is often used in America as cover to "Fight for Other People's Oil," "Fight Against a Noncompliant Government," or to "Fight for the President's Approval Rating." A more realistic view of the realpolitik that informed WW2 grand strategy might temper some American bellicosity.
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 09 May 2020 12:26

...to add a bit to what I said above.

I see the "700 divisions" estimate by Wedemayer in the Victory Plan of '41 in this vein.

Anybody who really thinks through the issue can see that 700 divisions were far in excess of what was needed to defeat the Axis. Wedemayer's document is generally a rigorous one, yet on this point he's hyperbolic.

Why?

IMO he knew that a plan for massive land invasion - say 350 American divisions and some British - completely lacked political support. When the Victory Plan leaked, even its smaller suggested army size caused controversy in the U.S. (Chicago Tribune, IIRC, leaked it).

So he worked towards what he knew his bosses wanted to hear, putting the medium-term prospect of European invasion so far out of reach as to remove it from consideration.

Do I have any direct evidence of that? No, of course not. It wouldn't do to speak or even discretely think it. But why else would an otherwise rigorous and professional document contain such hyperbole?
https://medium.com/counterfactualww2
"The whole question of whether we win or lose the war depends on the Russians." - FDR, June 1942

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

Post by Aber » 09 May 2020 14:10

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
09 May 2020 12:04
It's obvious to me that the Wallies could have won the war earlier
Which war? - Europe and Japan can be viewed as effectively separate wars.

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

Post by Aber » 09 May 2020 14:26

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
09 May 2020 09:06
Aber wrote:
09 May 2020 07:37
OK, so why the flip from Europe First to Germany First?

A subtle change, perhaps better phrased as Why (and when) did the US become Mediterranean-phobic?
That's exactly my point. Why flip to Germany first in the early spring of 1942, especially given the constant hammer blows the Anglo-Americans were suffering during this point. It almost seems that as the news got worst the urge to take the most appalling strategic risk became more attractive to those sitting behind their desks in the War Plans Division in Washington.
I'd need to go back and reread some detailed accounts with this in mind.

One initial thought is that Italy was a UK priority that the US was prepared to compromise on, as long as it was at the bottom of any list of priorities.

Another is a US view of strategy of concentrating on the principal enemy - in WW1 US declared war on Germany in April 1917; on Austria-Hungary in December 1917: and never declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

Remember it is not just a flip to Germany First, but "Sledgehammer or bust".

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

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 09 May 2020 23:54

T. A. Gardner wrote:
09 May 2020 03:08
Why would the Allies need "700" divisions to defeat a German army incapable of fielding more than about 50 first-class, competent divisions--at most? The bulk of German forces consisted of mediocre infantry divisions, third-rate nearly immobile divisions, and other assorted flotsam only useful for garrison and anti-partisan duty.
A hasty count of the campaign in the west, France, Netherlands, & Germany 1944-45 shows roughly 90 Allied ground combat divisions & 120+ German ground combat divisions committed from June through March. I'm not counting Volkssturm, those in Norway, or some artillery & FLAK 'divisions'. So the Allies defeated the German ground army with 75% as many 'divisions'. So if the Germans defend western Europe with 200 ground combat divisions the Allies need 150? If its 300 then its 225? 400 then 300?

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