Decisions during wartime are monumental things, every move and countermove has the potential to change the course of history.
Here are twelve shocking ways the Second World War could have unfolded differently than it did.
12. The Allies Invade France in 1942
After Pearl Harbor was bombed the British and Americans met for the first time and plans were made on how to take on and ultimately defeat Nazi Germany.
The Americans favored a direct approach, cross the Channel in the fall of 1942 and take the shortest route to Berlin. They would land in Normandy at either the port of Cherbourg or Brest and establish a second front. Needless to say, the hard-pressed Soviets were in support of this plan as it would release them of some of the German pressure.
The British were to bear the brunt of this operation as the American forces were not yet in Britain in strength. They were appalled by this plan as they could only land 6 division in France, whereas the Germans had 15-20 division is France. Not to mention the fact that there was no air-superiority nor enough landing craft available to support this undertaking.
Had the Americans and Soviets had their way it is more than likely that the operation would have failed giving a massive blow to Allied morale. Stalin would probably have lost faith in the Anglo-American coalition and would have sued for a separate peace.
If a second attempt to land in Europe would take place after a debacle in 1942, it would certainly not be in 1944 thus prelonging the war.
11. 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.
10. Germany Invades Britain Instead of the Soviet Union
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 conceptualized 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.
9. The Germans Take Moscow in 1941
Had the Germans had successfully occupied Moscow and the Soviet Union, it would have taken out the military might of the Russians.
It would have 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.
8. No stopping the Soviet Union
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.
7. 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.
5. Hitler successfully assassinated
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.
4. An alliance between the Nazis and Spain
One look at the map of Europe will show the strategic importance of Spain. However, Spain was one of the few countries on the European mainland that remained neutral.
Everybody expected Spain would come in on the side of the Axis after all the help Hitler had given General Franco in the Spanish Civil War.
However, despite pleading and perhaps even begging, Franco remained adamant, he would not join the Axis and would not even allow the Germans to pass through his country.
Not being able to pass through Spain meant that Great Britain was secure in using its military base in Gibraltar.
Had the Germans been allowed to transfer troops through Spain, Gibraltar would have fallen and the Mediterranean sea would be sealed off.
This would have given the Nazi’s free reign in Northern Africa which could have led to the defeat of Egypt and a move into the middle east.
Potentially, the Nazi’s could then link up with Japan in a defeated India.
3. Nuclear warfare initiated by the Nazis
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.
2. 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 defenses 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.
1. World War III
Once the Nazis were defeated, there was the 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.