Looking back at WWII there have been four decisions made that, in the end, did not work out to the Axis advantage. Of course, you can argue that starting the war in the first place was the biggest mistake made. But, for the sake of the argument, let us look at four mistakes that were made after the war was started.
Nazi Alliance with Fascist Italy
Having allied themselves with Italy, although ideologically similar, was something that the Nazis should not have done. Time and again the Nazis were forced to come to the aid of Italy after the fascists launched an ill-conceived invasion or bit off more than they could chew.
Getting the German forces involved in North Africa, a costly commitment, was bad enough, but the forced German invasion of Greece could not have come at a worse time.
In March of 1941 Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy, was still angry with Hitler after he failed to inform the Italians beforehand of his plans to invade France and the Low countries. This made Mussolini decide he was going to surprise Hitler and invade Greece without telling him. The Italian advance quickly bogged down and after a few weeks, the Greeks had fought them back to their starting point. The British came to the aid of the Greeks and landed forces in what Churchill called the soft underbelly of Europe.
This loss of face for the Axis powers could not be accepted by Hitler, who ordered his generals to come up with a plan to secure his, now vulnerable, southern flank. This meant that the Invasion of the Soviet Union, which was supposed to start in early spring, had to be postponed to June 22nd. As it turned out, this delay proved fatal.
Nazi invasion of Russia
Even though it was inconceivable that Nazis would not invade the Soviet Union, so was the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which they signed on August 13th, 1939. This non-aggression pact allowed Nazi Germany to invade Poland without having to worry about a possible war with the USSR.
It even went so far that Poland was divided between the two and the part that the Soviets took in September 1939 has never been returned to Poland. It also gave the Soviets free reign in expanding their influence in the Eastern European countries and they lost no time in subjecting them to their rule.
The fact that the two sworn ideological enemies were willing to sign a non-aggression pact shook the world and allowed Nazi Germany the time to focus its attention on the western Europe without having to fear a war on two fronts. Germany made the most of this freedom and, in quick succession, defeated Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
Only their planned invasion of the United Kingdom was thwarted by the Few of the Royal Air Force, the first setback for the Nazis. Deteriorating weather caused the invasion of Britain to be postponed indefinitely, and Hitler once more turned to the East where, according to his book Mein Kampf, he believed the “Lebensraum” (living space) was which the Germans needed above all other things. However, this living space was occupied by the Russians. Russia had now moved its western borders hundreds of kilometers closer to Nazi Germany as a result of the pact.
Unable to knock Britain out of the war first and thus faced with a war on two fronts, which he had vowed to avoid at all costs, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Hitler was confident the Soviet Union would be defeated in mere weeks, and he is quoted as having said: “We have only to kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.”
However, most of the first month, if not six weeks, was spent fighting a way through countries now occupied by the Soviet Union. These countries might otherwise have been ensnared into the Axis camp, had it not been for the pact.
The extra territory gave the Soviets the ability to trade space for time and, with the extra delay caused by the invasion of Greece, meant that Nazi Germany could not complete its conquest during the remaining period of good weather. The autumn rains rolled in and turned most of Russia in a quagmire of mud which made all movement virtually impossible. Then Winter arrived early, with extreme cold for which the Germans were not equipped.