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‘What If’
‘The U.S. Had Sat Out WWII and Ended up Facing Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany in a Cold War?’
Gonzo, boy-genius, e-cynic Andrew “Webstar” Metzger recently asked me this question.
As a science-fiction writer I had two immediate responses:
“That three-player Cold War would be much more interesting than the actual one.”
“How could this have come to pass, in the simplest form, perhaps as a time-traveler killing a major figure?”
As a sci-fi writer I have a difficult time imagining an alternative timeline without being able to cite a reason for the divergence.
Do we whack Churchill, Hitler, Stalin or FDR? In other words, which one of the major players other than Japan would be the least like Japan, in terms of national leaders being on the same hegemonic page, and which leader/nation takes the most away from the table if removed?
My hunch is that removing FDR—perhaps permitting his wheelchair to carry him to the bottom of a health spa pool—would have the most impact.
Andrew was specifically wondering what it would take not to have Hitler pursue the ruinous war with the Soviet Union. So, is Nazi Germany better off with no U.S. backing of the Soviet Union, or with no Stalin to insure a Soviet versus Third Reich showdown?
Andrew’s basic idea, was if Germany contented itself with Fortress Europe, and did not head into Soviet Russia [and I think also, not going into Africa and losing 300,000 of the best Germans] and not go after Great Britain until after the U-Boat fleet was fully built, how would such a resulting Cold War between the U.S. and Britain on one side and the Third Reich and a Greater Japan with the Dutch East Indies, Korea and Manchuria—involved in a necessarily hot Chinese conflict—on the other side, evolve into a hot war of dissolve as the U.S. versus Soviet Cold war did?
Would nuclear exchange be more likely, and if so, in what decade: the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s?
I can’t resist using this idea for a fiction setting and was wondering if any of the history buffs that come to this site have any ideas as to the progress of such an alternative history and what single event would be most likely to facilitate it.
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Sam J.March 24, 2016 11:22 AM UTC

"...delaying Operation Barbarossa to June. Russia would probably have fallen if they had invaded in April, without having forces tied up in the Balkans and with more good weather, it would have been just enough to tip the scale, because it was lost by a hairs length..."

I had forgotten about that. Excellent point. I think it was very close for all the participants during the war back and forth.
Bernie HackettMarch 22, 2016 1:58 PM UTC

Hot damn!

You can have some fun with this one.

Most of the alternative scenerios I've seen, the bad ol' Germans invade and take not so Great Britian, after which they then go after Russia. Keep in mind that Hitler and Stalin had a nonaggression pact in place, right up until the shells started falling on the Soviet Union. Marriage of convenience. Must have confused a bunch of Commies when the shift to Hitler is our friend went into effect.

They put the abdicated Mr. Wallis Warfield Simpson on the throne, and most of the Brits collaborate, as in Europe, etc. (Deightons SS/GB, Sartans Sound of his Horns) Way I see it, the Russians prove an undefeatable enemy, in any case.

Us'ns end up being festung Amerika, or fighting the Japs to a draw in the Pacific. Their goal was to beat us up enough to leave them alone while they annexed the resources they needed in the Far East. The main focus of that was to be an enormous naval battle (think Midway) resulting in the destruction of the U S Fleet.

I also recall a variation where Hitler goes into a coma as a result of a plane crash, and Goering or one of the others takes over. Wild card, my opinion. With Europe in their power, no rush to go after Russia.

Harry Turtledove has an alternative series where the Nazis and the usual suspects go at it in the 30s at the time of the Czech crisis. Part of that is Churchill having a suspicious but timely auto accident, and Chamberlain takes over. He then allies with the Nazis. Didn't see that coming... (check out the "Clivedon Set" and Oswald Moseley, and the Mitfords)

Variations where the REGULAR German Army and the SS go at it. I suspect the Luftwaffe would aid the SS, or split.

Imagine the US with Wendell Wilkie as president, or Tom Dewey.

Fun for all ages!

Me, I'd kill Hitler on general principles. The old Texas comment "He needed killin'" applies. I see Churchill and Roosevelt (and his little dog Fala) as necessary, though flawed. Who else could carry off what they did?
guestMarch 22, 2016 3:42 AM UTC

And speaking of WW2, do you know about Alistair Urquhart?

He was taken prisoner when the Japanese invaded Singapore.

Here is a full 45 min documentary on him:

I really recommend his book:

The Forgotten Highlander

One horror quote from it:

"The sane murdered the insane and wondered when it would be their turn to go mad."

Jocko talked and read from it in his podcast:
Sam J.March 21, 2016 9:57 PM UTC

Can't remember if I posted the link so.

A big turning point in WWII was at Stalingrad. Hitler wanted to, like Trump, "Get the oil" in Romania but his Generals wanted to capture Stalingrad and Moscow. Goering, his evil Air power commander, lied to Hitler about his ability to supply the troops at Stalingrad. What if, the know corrupt, Goering had been fired earlier? Hitler would have had good info on the ability to supply the troops. Hitler was no fool. He would have fallen back to a defensible position. Maybe focused his forces on more oil and mineral resources and then come back. If you were to research WWII I would say David Irvings,"Hitler's War" (free)

and the a fore mentioned "Chief Culprit" or the free "Icebreaker" would be definite must haves.

Others have mentioned that if Hitler had went straight for the Arabian and Iraqi oil fields it would have made a huge difference. He could have possibly made the Mediterranean a German lake vastly complicating the whole situation for the Allies.

I don't think FDR's death wouldn't have made any difference at all. His VP was a straight up communist and his whole administration was packed to the top with Jewish communists. They would have proceeded exactly the same. But if Hoover would have been in charge? Hoover was no communist. He may have helped Stalin less.

What if Hitler would have smashed the British on the French beaches? He let them go on purpose.

Another twist is what if Japan had the bomb? I think they did. There's a book I read on this that never got much play. Called,"Japan's Secret War" by Robert K. Wilcox. He talked to several Japanese who actually worked on the project in what is now N. Korea. They said two weeks before Hiroshima they tested one off the coat of N.K. and it worked. They didn't have time to build more as the Russian's were attacking. A interesting fact. Where N. Korea is building their nukes now is the same place the Japanese were supposed to have built one.

Look at this search term in Google and see all the hits on this.

japan secret war pdf

There's some VERY good ancillary evidence that they had the bomb or were making one. Look at this secret Japanese submarine aircraft carrier.

It only carried three aircraft. They spent a fortune on these things. Massive money for...three aircraft? Do you think the Japanese are fools? I don't. These subs had NO military value at all for...conventional explosives but as nuke carriers. Priceless.

There's several books that said the Nazi's had nukes but of a different kind. They were I think from Thorium that was nuclearly neutron activated to plutonium???? Can't remember. There's also witnesses that there were blast in I think Poland that would fit the profile for testing.


I think if we had not had the bomb and not attacked as aggressively as we did so as to cut the development time for Japanese and German weapon advancement we would have lost the war. There would be no cold war they would have blasted us to cinders. There's a lot of twist to WWII. A lot of strange stuff happened that is still classified. Where did all Japans gold go? Lots and lots of questions.

Ever hear of "Operation Highjump"?
Sam J.March 21, 2016 9:09 PM UTC

You've really done it now. I know all kinds of stuff about this. Your first assumption is incorrect. Hitler had NO CHOICE in attacking Russia as they were going to attack him about 2 weeks after the time Hitler attacked them and Hitler knew it. This is contrary to the general knowledge but in "The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II" by Victor Suvorov I think he has definitively proved it. His research is terribly compelling.

Suvorov was a KGB officer that moved up very fast due to his intelligence and hard work. He eventually got into war planning. Specifically logistics. He looked at the Soviet Union old paper work and found that ALL Stalin's labors before the war with Germany were offensive. All the specific types tanks, the planes. The munition dumps were on the front. All of them were poised for an attack on Germany. All manufacturing was for offensive weapon systems. Stalin even said several times he would wait until the Capitalist exhausted themselves then attack. This is why so many things didn't make sense in WWII in the war between Germany and Russia. This is why Russia folded so fast. Central control plus the combination that they had NO plans to defend. So when they were attacked they completely folded. It didn't help that Stalin had a complete nervous breakdown and couldn't be reached.

Here's a C-Span interview with Suvorov.

I've read both "The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II" and "Icebreaker. WHO STARTED THE SECOND WORLD WAR?" which is similar but the Chief Culprit is more detailed. Here's a free copy of "Icebreaker".

guestMarch 21, 2016 3:18 PM UTC

This has been debated to death on every history forum.

I'd go with the "bet on it" or "the walking black" scenario instead, wink wink, nudge nudge... Zombie/shtf stories are currently en vogue, while WW2 is passe, as in what will drive web traffic, people just love their zombies, especially money spending hipsters!

And before you write anything nuclear, check this:

It will contradict a few atomic superstitions and explain why duck and cover makes sense after all! Who knew, what was propaganda, and still is, was mutual assured destruction.

What single event? One of my history teachers was convinced that Mussolini lost the war by attacking Greece behind Adolfs back, which forced Germany to invade Yugoslavia in April 1941, delaying Operation Barbarossa to June. Russia would probably have fallen if they had invaded in April, without having forces tied up in the Balkans and with more good weather, it would have been just enough to tip the scale, because it was lost by a hairs length.
JustsomeguyMarch 21, 2016 10:45 AM UTC

Harry Turtledove did something similar in a treatment of the War Between the States. His twist was as simple as a Confederate soldier picking up special order 191 instead of a Union soldier. Like most things in life, it was something small that sets the course.