90 Miles From Tyranny : 10 Little-Known Alternative Plans From World War II

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

10 Little-Known Alternative Plans From World War II

10 Little-Known Alternative Plans From World War II

Decades after World War II erupted, we are still examining how and why some events occurred. If the leaders had gone down a different road, what difference would it have made? In fact, many alternative plans were made by military commanders and political leaders. They’ve been largely lost to the mists of time but were given varying degrees of consideration during the tumult of war.

10The Mechelen Incident

German military planners were convinced that attacking France and Britain head-on was near suicidal. Franz Halder, the chief of staff of the Army High Command (OKH), concocted an unimaginative advance eerily similar to the Schlieffen Plan of 1914 which ground to a halt. Halder’s intention was to make Hitler see the futility and senselessness of such an attack, which would commit half a million German troops to attacking in January 1940, gaining a static frontline, and waiting two years until another offensive could take place.
General Erich von Manstein, however, had a different idea in mind. He wanted to use elite panzer units to strike from the south, breaking through the Sedan and cutting off the Allies in the north. Manstein drew up multiple variations of his plan, all of which were rejected. Rivals even gave him a hollow posting just so they could be rid of him.
On January 10, 1940, two German officers carrying copies of Halder’s plansgot lost while flying over Mechelen, Belgium. They were forced to land andunable to burn the documents before they were captured. Upon learning of the “Mechelen Incident,” Hitler was livid, though no immediate changes were made to the invasion plans. Fear and worry began to creep into the minds of Hitler and his generals, at which point the Fuhrer himself suggested an attack through the Sedan. When he learned that one of his generals had already made a detailed stratagem, he was ecstatic.
Recovering the abandoned German military plans doomed the Allies. They began massing even more troops on the Belgian frontier, oblivious to Germany’s intentions. The Fall Gelb (“Case Yellow”) which led to the Fall of France and The Low Countries owes its success to a crafty general and two Germans lost in Belgium.

The Franco-British Union

With French morale crumbling and Britain in danger of facing the German onslaught alone, politicians needed to come up with a plan to keep the alliance intact. Arthur Salter and Jean Monnet , members of the Anglo-French Coordination Committee, proposed the Franco-British Union. French citizens would be granted British citizenship and vice versa, and the parliaments of both nations would be united. Every man, machine, and resource in their domain would be used to pursue a single directive.
The plan was audacious, but General Charles de Gaulle loved it, while Winston Churchill considered it a necessary gamble. French Prime Minister Paul Reynaud became convinced after events took an unexpected turn, but several French politicians scoffed at the idea. Marshal Philippe Petain himself considered the union a “marriage to a corpse.”
The proposal was put to a vote and defeated 14 to 10. Churchill responded, “Rarely has so generous a proposal encountered so hostile a reception.” Indeed, the Franco-British Union enamored the populace so much thatstamps were designed in anticipation of such a momentous event.
Petain replaced Reynaud and immediately called for an armistice. Germany would occupy northern and western France, and Petain would head the administration from Vichy. De Gaulle would lead the men of Free France against brother and kin. Had Petain and the defeatists not stepped in, France might have continued the fight. It would have been a huge step toward today’s European Union, though it would also have untold consequences for the colonial empires of both nations. Perhaps the most immediate change in history was that France would have avoided being the butt of surrender jokes for decades to come.

8Battleground: Ireland

Photo credit: Bill Bei
Representatives of the British and Irish governments held a secret meetingto discuss potential cooperation against Germany on May 23, 1940. A month later, a British minister offered post-war unity in exchange for the use of Ireland’s military facilities and its active participation in the war. These were the beginning stages of “Plan W,” a series of proposed joint military operations between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland preferred a more brusque approach—a British invasion. Lord Craigavon requested that Churchill send Highland troops to overthrow the Irish government in Dublin, which would have given Britain the bases it needed. Even Field Marshal Montgomery was told to “prepare plans for the seizure of Cork and Queenstown.”
Trouble brewed on the horizon as well, as Nazi spies and their IRA contacts devised “Plan Kathleen.” It called for 50,000 German soldiers to invade Northern Ireland with the assistance of 5,000 members of the IRA and relied on sabotage, propaganda, and inciting rebellious and dissident elements. The plan never materialized, as German agents and their IRA contacts were soon captured. The Army High Command had a plan that relied less on covert actions—the outright takeover of Eire called “Operation Green”—but mounting losses in aerial battles rendered it unfeasible.
Nazi enthusiasm for such plans was revived once more in 1941 by General Kurt Student, an expert on commando and paratrooper tactics. Student proposed an airborne assault requiring over 30,000 troops that Hitler seriously considered before the idea was aborted.

7The US Invasion Of Brazil

After the stunning German victory over France, concern grew that Brazil might side with the Axis. Its leader, Getulio Vargas, had attained power through nefarious means. The region’s population was also fiercely nationalistic, and there were pro-Fascist elements in the military as well. Since Brazil’s northeastern “hump” was the shortest route to West Africa, military planners pointed out that Germany would be closer to the Americas than ever before. The Abwehr’s vast network of spies within the continent also became a problem. Fear in Washington intensified when Brazil initially refused access to its bases.
The operation, known as “Plan Rubber,” called for 64,000 US troops to invade Brazil, primarily targeting Natal, Recife, and Belem. It was believed so strongly that the invasion was inevitable that rigorous preparations were made, including naval and amphibious exercises, but ultimately, cooler heads prevailed. On January 29, 1942, during the Pan-American Conference held in Rio de Janeiro, virtually every country in the Americas severed ties with the Axis powers. In August, Germany retaliated. The U-507, a German submarine, sank five ships off the coast of Brazil, convincing the country to enter the conflict on the side of the Allies. One rash move like “Plan Rubber” could have jeopardized everything.

6Beating Germany To Ploesti’s Oil Fields

In 1940, Romanian lands were given to Hungary and Bulgaria. Similarly, the Soviets demanded Bessarabia and Bukovina, and the Romanians acceded. Red Army forces quickly fortified the new borders from June 28 to July 4, 1940. This move put the Red Army within 160 kilometers (100 mi) of Ploesti’soil fields.
With Germany distracted at the Western front, the Soviets seemed poised to launch a strike at any time before Romania formally joined the Axis in November. Some claim that even if Stalin had designs on Romania, he wasn’t ready to face Germany. British ambassadors urged Stalin to meet the German threat to no avail.
Had Stalin acted, it would have spelled the end for the Nazis. During Hitler’s meeting with Finland’s Marshal Mannerheim, he confided the truth to him about the Reich’s situation. He told Mannerheim that if the Soviets attacked the oil fields immediately, Germany would have been lost—60 Russian divisions would have been enough to do the job. By 1941, Germany would have been a mere sitting duck. While that would have meant no Barbarossa, some military historians claim it could have also meant a terrible Soviet onslaught directed toward the rest of Europe.

1 comment:

edutcher said...

Fun fact: The B-29 was originally developed to bomb Brazil.