1936: Hitler is bent on finishing off Britain

This thread is meant to improve on what I think is a bad ‘what-if’ discussion in another active thread. So, no need to assume the Germans somehow land at least 16 divisions in England. Discuss precisely how it can be done. And you might as well tell us how you’re going to develop the kriegsmarine and luftwaffe to make the first scenario even remotely possible.

Or do you really have to invade the main island in order to finish Britain off?


erm… giving hitler enough time to brood, have his R&D go over technicals, and import enough raw material from (sucker) countries. Stuff like that. Thinking about it ca. June 1940 is a bit too late.

Are you asking if, with 4 years of preparation, could Hitler have taken out Britain if he made it his top priority and didn’t invade poland or engage in any other war fronts?

Plan Z was the plan to make the Kriegsmarine equal to the British Navy, but even if it started in 1936 it can’t match the Royal Navy by 1940.

For one thing, if Germany had a much larger U-boat fleet it could have neutralized the British navy, and pretty easily I think. Anti-sub technology was still lousy in 1940.

I think the problems would have been ship manufacturing capacity and location/number of ports from which to launch an invasion. Germany would have to take France first, which pretty much meant that the start of the war would have gone very close to what it did in reality.

To take out England, Germany should have not invaded Russia, and instead focused everything on building an invasion fleet and an air force with longer range planes. Perhaps they might have figured out drop tanks for their fighters earlier.

So Germany has a U-boat fleet maybe 3x bigger, a more capable Luftwaffe and no Eastern Front. Then the question becomes – if they threw everything against England, would the Soviets have stood by or would they have used it as an opportunity to launch their own attack against Germany?

Forgot to say, this whole concept involves a German invasion of England later, not sooner or at the same time.

An obvious problem with any German plan to invade England is that the UK was not being run by the blind, and their military preparations would have been substantially different had Germany been pumping huge amounts of money into the Kreigsmarine.

Economically speaking I honestly do not believe it would have been possible. As successful as the invasions of Poland and France were, they represented years of economic devotion to building up the army. If you divert that effort into naval power, maybe those things don’t go as well. Adding in the fact that increased emphasis on the Kreigsmarine simply means ever more Royal Navy spending, I don’t see a formula for victory.

Germany (in the scenario that matches actual events up until France’s surrender) couldn’t have afforded to strip its eastern flank completely–the Russian-occupied portion of Poland wasn’t all that far from Berlin. It would have taken at least a year to fatten up the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine to the point where they would have had a chance of supporting a cross-channel invasion. In the meantime, the US would have been fattening up England as well, not only militarily and logistically, but (equally important) financially. I can’t imagine a German invasion succeeding even then, though.

I have always suspected that the real reason Hitler didn’t launch Operation Sea Lion was that he was told, by his advisors or by quiet diplomatic backchannels, that if in any part successful, it would precipitate the US’s entry into the war. Really, all he had to do was neutralize England (which he had, in effect; they were no offensive threat at all), exploit his conquered territories, keep Stalin scared to death, and eventually obliterate Moscow, London, etc. with ICBMs. We should be glad he didn’t take that course.

The army was bruised from taking the rest of western Europe, but basically intact, and more than powerful enough to take England had they been able to get across the Channel safely.

And my idea was to essentially scrap the German surface navy, and focus on submarines. The Germans only had about 50 submarines at the start of the war – of they’d had 200 or 300 they might have starved England into accepting terms even without an invasion. And they could have kept the English navy bottled up in their ports – really, battleships are not well matched against submarines, and as I said, there was not any decent anti-sub technology or tactics at the time.

Submarines were also fairly useless at sinking navies. They could enjoy the occasional lucky success at sinking major combatants, but they were never going to neutralize a navy.

The answer is it wasn’t going to happen. Three or four years is nowhere near enough time to build up a navy, much less one able to stand a chance against the Royal Navy in a decisive engagement. Plan Z wasn’t even that ambitious, it was to create a fleet inferior to but capable of threatening the RN by 1946. It was also entirely unrealistic, German industry could not have met the timetable that was laid out. Trying to meet it would have meant diverting massive resources from the expansion of the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, so the easy successes against Poland and France would not have been as likely. A major German naval build up was also going to draw a reaction from the British akin to the naval arms race prior to WW1; Germany was starting from essentially nothing and the British would match their construction ship for ship as they tried to catch up.

A look at what actually happened with Plan Z is instructive. It was formally ordered on January 27, 1939. Very little actual work had been done on it by the time the war started in September and the little that had been done was immediately cancelled.

The only Naval Construction that would have helped would be having actual Landing Craft.

Otherwise, they would really be better off diverting a fuckton more resources into their airforce to achieve air superiority and threaten the British Navy. Perhaps starting with some different designs, like Torpedo Bombers and even Heavy Bombers.

Submarines are very good at sinking ships. They sank thousands, and plenty of warships as well. I agree that they wouldn’t have been nearly as effective against ships sailing around at high speed on the open sea, but those ships have to return to port for resupply sooner or later. Had the Germans been able to mount a significant blockade of British ports with U-boats, the British navy would have been largely neutralized.

Churchill himself said that he feared U-boats more than anything else the Germans had.

Raeder’s Plan Z was feasible if Germany had the resources to wage an offensive war up to 1948, not 1942. And someone said the submarine was a strategic weapon, meant to choke the enemy’s supplies. It’s not something to pit against the Royal Navy.

How about this: a brown water navy. Shallow-water surface vessels. Cost to develop would be half that of plan Z and probably even less than Doenitz’ u-fleet. It’s mission: to dominate the littoral area Europe from Sweden and Denmark to Bay of Biscay aided by ground-based planes and long-range coastal artillery.

Submarines don’t work well against airplanes, though. There is a reason that German U-boats spent so much time in the areas Allied aircraft couldn’t reach.

An invasion of Britain requires not just naval supremacy but air supremacy, which cannot be achieved by U-boats.

This is a pretty serious misrepresentation of what Churchill feared, which was the effect U-boats had on merchant shipping, not other navies.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, there is a reason that no country ended up using submarines as their primary fleet arm for combat against surface ships; it would not have worked. Attempting to blockade warships in port isn’t that easy when the other side has destroyers and you can’t remain submerged.

Thought I’d throw in some numbers here:

In WWI, 5 of the eleven British battleships sunk by enemy action were sunk by subs, 3 others by torpedoes from ship or shore, and 3 from mines. None were sunk by gunfire. In WWII, the Brits only lost 6 battleships in combat; 2 to submarine, 2 to air attack, one by surface gunfire, 1 to explosives placed by frogmen.

British cruisers and battle cruisers – In WWI, one might say the results were skewed somewhat by the battle of Jutland, but here goes: 15 losses in combat, 6 by submarine, 6 by gunfire at Jutland, 2 by surface gunfire in another action, one by mine. WWII saw 23 cruisers sunk by enemy action; 9 sunk by submarine, 10 sunk by aircraft, 1 sunk by surface gunfire, 1 sunk by mine, 2 sunk by torpedo boats.

So submarines did a very good job of sinking naval warships even though that was not their strategic goal.

Rickjay, destroyers would fare no better than any other surface ships if bottled up in ports. As far as aircraft, you are correct, but note that airborne radar that could detect surfaced submarines didn’t exist at the beginning of the war. So it’s something of a crapshoot to guess when it might have been developed under different conditions. In historical terms, U-boats were not seriously menaced by either surface forces or aircraft until early 1943.

And as to the OP, would Hitler have insisted on an invasion if Germany had sufficient U-boats to successfully blockade merchant shipping heading for England? Would Churchill or the British have offered terms had the blockade been successful? Another unanswerable.

I forgot to address this point, and I agree with it. I think the Germans had a sufficient air force to do the job, had they developed drop tanks for their fighters. And of course, had the Lufwaffe not been pissed away by Hitler and Goering giving up on attacking air fields and radar installations and instead hitting London and other cities.

Someone mentioned that the Germans didn’t have the right aircraft for the job, and could have used heavy and torpedo bombers. I disagree that they needed heavy bombers against England, though it cost them dearly against the Russians. As to torpedo bombers, the Germans had several planes that could be fitted out, and indeed were used successfully as torpedo bombers. These included the Heinkel He 111, the He 115, the Junkers Ju 88. None were particularly effective in the face of decent air defenses, but that was pretty much a universal truth about torpedo bombers in general.

Four engine bombers. The Nazis didn’t build them in massive numbers, preferring two engine bombers.

They would have needed to achieve air supremacy, which was impossible when they started bombing cities and ignoring the fighters trying to stop them from bombing cities. Militarily they should have destroyed all the airfields, aircraft factories and aircraft before turning to any other target. The RAF having survived, the invasion was impossible.

The seas surrounding the UK were also an insurmountable obstacle. Unless air supremacy had been achieved, in which case perhaps paratroopers could have secured two ports. And it would take massive numbers of paratroopers to accomplish this. But with air supremacy and a port or three, it might have been possible, but even then when night fell, the Royal Navy could destroy the useful facilities at the ports.

I doubt it could have been accomplished.

I think Plan Z was a bad idea. Basically the money they spent on building capital ships was a dead end: Germany wasn’t going to be able to build a surface navy that could compete with Britain (or the United States) and if your navy isn’t going to be in first place, you might as well not compete at all. The Germans made this same mistake before WWI.

Germany should have instead spent those resources building submarines. This was an area where significant results were within reach. Yes, a submarine fleet couldn’t have defeated a surface navy directly. But a submarine fleet could have cut off the minimum necessary flow of supplies to the United Kingdom and that would have defeated the UK. And the defeat of the UK would have also obviously been the defeat of the Royal Navy. So submarines could have beaten the Royal Navy by this indirect path.

I also agree that Germany should have built four-engine strategic bombers. Again, this is something that was doable. A real bomber force in 1940 would have enabled Germany to bring the war to Britain. (I don’t think strategic bombing in WWII was capable of winning the war single handed but it was capable of advancing the war effort.) Combined with a submarine blockade, strategic bombing could have driven the UK to surrender even without an invasion.

The key, IMO, would be to focus on the empire, not the British Isles.

Germany and Italy attack Great Britain’s African and Middle Eastern holdings.

Japan attacks her SE Asia colonies, including Australia and NZ.

And (surprise!) the USSR attacks India.

After dismembering the British Empire and starving the British Isles, maybe you’d see surrender or opportunities for successful invasion.

It would never have worked, of course. Stalin may have been willing to ally with the Axis, but he’d probably more likely played a Franco type game of vacillation. The Red Army already had a badly bloodied nose from the Winter War, for one thing. And the whole idea is against Hitler’s favorite pet policy goal, a German-British anti-Soviet alliance.

Germany’s actual allies were something of a liability. Italy had performance problems and Japan’s strategy options placed it on a road to war with the US.

And the Nazis were oddly half-assed in a lot of ways. Never going to full mobilization, ideology-based policies, armament in breadth over armament in depth, and murdering their own citizens for no reason at all are not winning ideas.

Um. You are aware that Germany and Japan weren’t true allies in the sense of join planning or even joint objectives?

Japan had absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose by attacking primarily British holdings and ignoring the US.

What is he, Batman? :wink:

Regarding the idea of nibbling away at the fringes of the Empire, historian John Keegan has written that the biggest mistake of the airdrop on Crete was not dropping the parachutists directly onto troop positions, although they took staggering casualties in so doing, but in choosing to attack Crete at all, instead of Malta. Crete never figured in the strategic picture, but taking Malta would have been worth almost any conceivable casualties. Malta was the barrier inhibiting the effort to resupply Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

The Germans and Italians made extreme efforts to bomb Malta and to isolate it from resupply, and also lost a lot of ships and planes trying to run their own convoys past it. Dropping Student’s parachutists on Malta instead of Crete would probably have been cheaper in the long run.