10 Shocking Ways the Second World War Could Have Ended Differently

Decisions during wartime are monumental things. Each move and countermove has the potential to change the course of history. Here are ten shocking ways the Second World War could have unfolded differently than it did. 10 Shocking Ways the Second World War Could Have Ended Differently

1. Pearl Harbor remains intact

The US was brought into the war after the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii since the Japanese wanted to secure the fuel reserves located in Asia.

If the attack didn’t occur, the US would have eventually still joined the war effort, but it would have taken a lot longer and Britain and the Allies would have continued to only receive support in the form of supplies and materials. In this situation, it is unlikely that the Allied forces would have secured North Africa, nor would there have been a Western Front to fight back the Nazi occupations in Europe.

The Soviet Union would still probably have advanced and taken Germany. It would have taken longer, and Stalin would have taken hold of most of Europe.

2. Germany Invades Britain Instead of the Soviet Union

Sea Lion
Operation Sea Lion. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hitler’s vision was to invade the Soviet Union and take the East. Nevertheless, when France fell so quickly and easily, Hitler’s confidence was boosted and his military leaders conceptualised a plan to invade Britain. The operation was called ‘Sea Lion’.

The plan would have seen Hitler delay the invasion of Russia to focus on the British Isles, increasing the obstruction of naval ships into the area and launching a ground invasion. If this had occurred, the British leadership of government and royal family would have fled to Canada, continuing to lead the military strategy from there with its Allies. A potential counter-strategy would have been to attack the Nazi-occupied countries from North Africa working upwards towards Italy and the rest of Europe – not an easy task if it had to have been executed.

Operation Sea Lion did not go ahead, mainly because the Battle of Britain in 1940 had shown the Luftwaffe could not stand up to the Royal Air Force’s squadrons of spitfires and hurricanes. In addition, the British Navy was in control of the English Channel. Hitler turned his attentions back to the East, and thus invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

3. The Germans Take Moscow in 1941

It would not only be Paris but also Moscow….
It would not only be Paris but also Moscow….

If the Germans had successfully occupied Moscow and the Soviet Union, it would have taken out the military might of the Russians, as well as gained the Nazis massive oil reserves, potentially leading to the Third Reich becoming the world’s next empire and major power.

It is likely Germany would have defeated Britain and taken the Middle East, and the Cold War could have been between Germany and the United States.

This scenario could also have led to a humanitarian disaster, as the Nazi regime sought to cleanse its country and the countries it occupied of those who did not belong to their master Aryan race.

 4. No stopping the Soviet Union

Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop shaking hands, Moscow, Russia, 28 Sep 1939. Credit C. P. Chen.

The Soviet Red Army did, in fact, push Nazi troops further and further West out of its own country, on through Eastern and Central Europe and into Germany itself. According to historians, there is no doubt that Stalin did have greater ambitions to continue taking more of Europe.

When Berlin was taken, the Soviet Army consisted of around 12 million soldiers, compared with the Allies’ four million. The Americans were still working on their atomic bomb, which left time for the Russians to push on towards France. This didn’t occur mainly due to the fact that the Russians were getting most of their materials, vehicles, food and supplies from the United States.

5. Allied offensive from the South, Soviet offensive from the East


It is well documented that Churchill did not want a repeat of World War I’s Western Front. But with strong American influence once they joined the war, it was agreed that the D-Day offensive would take place and a Western Front would be established in France. This was also to the satisfaction of Stalin who did not want the Allies occupying any Eastern or Central European countries.

If the Allied offensive had been from the South, attacks would have begun in Italy and the Balkans. Of course, Norway was always a potential attack point, but the Germans had this well defended with nearly half a million troops stationed there. The South and East offensives would have surely still defeated Germany, however, what would have happened to France leaves a big question mark.

6. Permanent peace for the Soviet Union and Germany


Permanent peace for the Soviet Union and Germany could have been a reality if Hitler was not so intent on taking the East. If he had maintained peace with Stalin, it is more likely the Nazis could have occupied the UK.

However, the oil reserves of southern Russia and Ukraine were too much of a lure for the Nazi war effort. Furthermore, Stalin would have no doubt put up resistance to Germany continuing to take over the rest of Europe since it would increasingly have posed a threat to the Soviet Union.

7. Hitler successfully assassinated

The destroyed interior of the briefing room in Hitler’s Wolf Lair in East Prussia.

The infamous Operation Valkyrie was the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler. But if this or another attempt had been successful, it is unlikely the Nazi party would have collapsed. There was such a cult around Hitler as a personality that there would probably have been uproar from his supporters.

More than likely, party leaders Göring or Himmler would have taken Hitler’s role and continued the war effort, with the potential for an earlier surrender by the Nazis. Although with Hitler out of the picture, it is possible that internal anti-Nazis within Germany could have risen up.

8. Nuclear warfare initiated by the Nazis

The V2 Rocket, able to deliver a 1000 kg warhead over several hundred kilometers.
The V2 Rocket, able to deliver a 1000 kg warhead over several hundred kilometers.

There is much evidence that the Nazis were advancing and developing their own nuclear weapons. If they had an atomic bomb, it is likely they would have used it. The Nazis were also advancing in military weapons technology. For example, they developed a type of ballistic missile before the Allies and had developed a breed of mosquito for biological warfare.

In this situation, Germany would have won outright, annihilating the Allied countries.

9. Japan invaded, not bombed


The Americans had developed Operation Downfall to invade Japan by ground force as an alternative to the atomic bomb. It was a long term offensive starting in the south, followed by invasions in the north six months later.

The Japanese anticipated the attack and prepared their defences in the south, but President Truman’s advisers thought better of it. The invasion would have been long and bloody with estimates that millions of troops would have been lost. With this cost thought to be too high, Truman gave the go ahead for the atomic bomb to be dropped instead.

10. World War III


Once the Nazis were defeated, there was anticipation of aggression between the Allies and the Soviets. How would they work together to divide Europe between democracy and communism?

Churchill had considered how this might be managed militarily with the possibility of the next great conflict. The Soviets did not advance past Berlin, and US President Eisenhower never contemplated war against Stalin, even though it is said that his commander in chief, General Patton, did.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE