What if America Had Been Conquered in WWII?

Imagine a world in which America had been partitioned at the end of the Second World War, one sector west of the Rockies being governed by Japan with the much larger Eastern states region under German control and a neutral buffer zone (The Rocky Mountain states) between the two main regions. What would life have been like in the 1960s, twenty years later?

That is the premise explored in ‘The Man in the High Castle’ an interesting Amazon Studio TV series created by Frank Spotnitz and starring Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Joel de la Fuente, and Alexa Davalos.  Loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name, the story started in 1962.

Hitler is alive but is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. It’s getting worse, and Japanese leaders are concerned about what will happen when he dies. There are rumours that his successor will use nuclear weapons against Japan, and gain control over the Japanese-controlled sector of the US.

Alexa Davalos plays the part of Juliana Crane. Juliana’s half-sister Trudy has been killed by the Kempeitai, the Japanese equivalent of the Gestapo.  Before she died, Trudy gave Juliana a pseudo newsreel film showing what the world might have been like, had the Allies won World War II. The film is part of a series being collected by a shadowy figure known as ‘The Man in the High Castle’.

Juliana believes the newsreel shows life as it ought to be.  Her boyfriend, Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), doesn’t share her view – he thinks the film is pure fantasy. Frank has a Jewish ancestry, which he keeps to himself, fearing capture and death at the hands of the Nazis if he’s discovered.

Juliana discovers that her half-sister was planning to travel to the neutral zone with the film, and she decides to go there herself. Arriving in Canon City, Colorado she meets Joe Blake, a New Yorker, who offers to help her. What Juliana doesn’t know is that Joe is an undercover Nazi agent.

Awash with Nazi and Japanese 1940s references, the series is a thought-provoking look at the world as it might have been had things turned out differently in 1945, and although it gets off to a slow start, it picks up pace, as the complex individual plot lines unfold.

Production values are high, the story is full of unexpected twists, and the series has received very favourable reviews.


Ian Harvey

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