At what point was Allied victory inevitable in World War Two?

I think that this is far to early. The bomb was a big complex project. They could have failed to solve one of many problems. Perhaps just not make progress quickly enough. Without progress people decide that we should put our limited resources to some other more promising end.

Kuibyshev (Samara, since 1991), just over 500 miles SE of Moscow, was the designated secondary capital. They built a bunker for Stalin there and evacuated most of the CPSU apparatchiks by train as the Nazis were pounding Moscow’s suburbs in mid-October, 1941. (Even Lenin’s body was moved to Kuibyshev when it looked like the capital might fall). Stalin himself remained behind in Moscow, for morale purposes and to maintain closer control over the defense of the city. The Wehrmacht never got anywhere near Kuibyshev, as I recall.

I would agree that the Sovuiets could definitely have lost.

Had the Germans…
(1) Not treated conquered peoples like trash (heck, if they’d largely ignored them!) they would have had partisan allies and not enemies and a vastly easier time supplying their forces.
(2) Not issued orders for no retreat. Stalingrad would never have happened had hitler not forced them to never retreat. Since the general’s biggest weapon up till that point was to let the Sovs attack, melt away, and then counter-attack when the Sovs ran out of steam and orders, not retreating was stupid. But Hilter ordered it and it was so on pain of death or some nonsense.
(3) Not gone after the Jews. Seriously, they tied up vast resources on that madman’s idiocy.
(4) Gotten a reputation for treating prisoners well. Heck, Russian farmboys would have been happy to surrender to the Germans if they thought they wioldn’t be tortured, starved, worked to death, etc. Granted, the Soviets could threaten, but Soviet threats would have been a lot less intimidating if the farmboys were going over the Germans by the thousands.
(5) Bomb british airbases, not London. Or not bomb at all.
(6) Not declared war on the U. S. of A.

But the problem is that all of these actions were essentially inevitable given the crazed Nazi ideology and especially Hitler’s personality. You can’t not have them without a completely different set of inputs.

If D-Day had been an disaster, I can imagine the Project getting even more funding, on the assumption that there was now no alternative. Besides, the physics of the A-bomb were just lying there to be discovered. They weren’t subject to the whims of battle.

The physics of the bomb is the easy part. It is the engineering of the bomb that is the hard part. There were lots of hard problems to solve. If things start to bog down on a few problems the could be a lot of people saying that we are pouring money down on a project that will never really work.

Yeah, but at that point you’ve speculated the idea beyond all solidity. If D-Day had failed and England fell and the Soviets collapsed… heck, why not throw in a giant meteor destroying New York or, more plausibly, a fire in the Capitol wiping out Congress?

Were there a lot of people on the decision making process? As large as the Manhattan project was, it would have been difficult to end, would it not?

Good point. Knowledge of the awesome scope and purpose of the Manhattan Project was kept to a very tiny group. Truman, while leading a Senate investigative committee into wartime fraud and waste, learned a bit about it but was warned off, and complied. He wasn’t fully briefed even as VP, and had to wait until he became POTUS himself after FDR’s death. FDR, SecWar Stimson, Gen. Marshall and Gen. Groves were pretty much the inner circle. I think under virtually any WW2 alternative-history hypothetical, the Manhattan Project would have continued full speed ahead from 1943 on, and would ultimately have given the U.S. the means to win the war, almost regardless of who was still standing on the other side.

OTOH, it’s that limited involvement within the halls of power, and the fact that, AIUI the entire support structure was being run through Leslie Groves’ office that lets me think had Groves gotten the order to shut it down, he would have been able to do it.

Mind you, the scientists involved had a good deal of influence they could have brought to bear, if there were some kind of shut down coming. But, given the central control of the support teams, I really do think that the number of people involved would have been irrelevant to keeping the project going had it ever lost the confidence of the decision makers.

I don’t think victory was inevitable in the Pacific, even with the atomic bomb. The allies were taking terrible casualties in their island-hopping campaign. The invasion of Japan would have been very ugly. There would have been a lot of pressure to use any means available to effectively exterminate the Japanese people, if it reduced allied casualties and brought an end to the war. If the Emperor hadn’t surrendered, many Japanese soldiers and civilians would have fought to the death. An atomic bomb is not a magic wand, it’s a weapon. Even if an atomic bomb was dropped on Japan every week, the war could have dragged on for a long time. While the Imperial Japanese Navy may have been effectively destroyed, the Imperial Japanese Army still had 5.5 million soldiers. They were not in the habit of surrendering, even when it was clear that they had no hope of winning.

While your mother may have been afraid of this outcome, I don’t think the rest of the country shared that view.

Surely you don’t think that a gunboat up the Potomac would have scared FDR into submission? Think of what it would take for the USA to surrender – nothing less than a full-scale invasion, probably on both coasts at once. No other power had that kind of resources to send overseas and keep resupplied. Local resistance would have been, minuteman-style, impossible to overcome, as the US would have been defending on its own soil.

Think of how different D-Day would have been if the French, Belgiums, etc. had opposed it and willingly fought alongside the Germans.

The Axis powers never really had a chance. They were fighting three seperate wars: one against the conventional powers of the Anglo-American alliance, one against the conventional powers of the Soviet Union, and one for who would build atomic weapons first. And they lost all three by a large margin.

The United States had made plans before Pearl Harbor for how it would fight and win the war single-handedly, without atomic weapons and on the assumption of a British and Soviet surrender. They figured it would take ten years but their plans were based on a realistic assessment of their abilties. When Japan and Germany declared war on the United States, we had the advantage of having the British and Soviets as active allies and we were able to move ahead of the pre-war schedule and expected the war to be won in approximately six years. Then we developed the atomic bomb and jumped ahead of that schedule.

For additional perspective, the “index of war production” (a measure of output relevant to the war effort) for the war showed an American advantage over Japan of 100:1. That’s an overall measure (including fuel and natural resources, and including the impact on production of the devastation of Japanese cities, iirc) – it’s simply not true that we could have armed 100 times as many men as the Japanese, or built 400 carriers while they built 4. But in general, American output of war material was a hundred times that of Japan’s. Nukes aside, Japan wasn’t going to win.


I disagree with this, rather strongly.

By the time of the Tokyo firebombing raid the Japanese military’s ability to protect the home islands was effectively nil. Note, this is a different kettle of fish from saying that the ability to contest an actual invasion was not there. But bombing raids were happening pretty much unopposed, and the domestic transportation capability was gone, so that people in the islands were starving.

I have argued, before, on the Dope that there was really no need to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, to defeat Japan. Japan was already defeated. What was necessary was getting the Japanese to admit it, with a surrender. And, given that, I won’t condemn those involved with decision to use the Bomb - given some of the starvation figures I’ve seen, had the war continued another two months, the deaths from starvation would have exceeded even the most “generous” assumptions about deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A few more months with the constant conventional bombing going on, and the US sub fleet’s continued devastation of the scant surviving Japanese merchant fleet, would have starved the island into submission. Even with the Japanese mania for fighting to the death, the main sticking point in negotiations prior to August 6, 1945 was that the Japanese wanted some guarantee for the Emporer.

This isn’t to say that there weren’t those in the military who wanted to keep fighting to prevent a defeat, simply that the high command had accepted that it was all over but the shouting.

None of this is to deny the casualties that the Japanese were inflicting, but even talking about preventing a complete, and unconditional surrender of the Japanese is not the same thing as talking about a Japanese victory. For victory, the Japanese would have had to have a negotiated settlement with the US, at the very least, that allowed them defacto controll of Indonesia, and, I believe, the Phillipines. And I re-iterate, after the perception in the US was that Pearl Harbor was an attack in a time of peace, there was no way that the US was going to agree to that.

I’d still say that the moment the US entered the war is the answer - since the US would have (and in point of fact, did) tip the scales even without nukes.

This was the opinion of Churchill (as someone mentioned above he wrote in his memoirs “So we had won after all …”) and it was IMO correct. There were plenty of military disasters for the Allies after that, but no (reasonably) conceivable combination of Axis military victories could then have reasulted in an overall Axis victory.

After Germany declared war on America (I think it was Dec 11, not the 8th), the Axis could not have won the war barring a failure of will on the Allied part. In the Pacific the circumstances of Pearl Harbor guaranteed that the US was NOT going to lose its will to win vs. the Japanese Empire.

In Europe, I would argue that after Stalingrad, there was no way the USSR was going to lose its will to win. Hitler never would have agreed to a separate peace with Stalin, and the fear that the USSR and the US/CW had of the others reaching a separate peace with Germany served to keep the two working together. If something had happened (D-Day failure, for example), then Stalin would have rolled through Germany on his own. Remember that on 6/20/44, the Red Army launched Operation Bagration, which was the TRUE end of the German Army. D-Day just happened to occur two weeks prior, but it was the destruction of Army Group Centre that would spell utter defeat 11 months later.

Germany’s only hope was to separate the two Allied camps enough to get a separate peace, but Hitler was so evil, that he couldn’t pull that off.

Well put.


I’ve never heard of such specific and long-range plans by the U.S. And so I must, with all due respect, ask… cite?

Indeed it was the hope of the German military conspirators against Hitler that, if they offed Hitler, they could pull that off.

I remember reading, I think it was in Albert Speer’s memoir, that some in the German military were actually hoping Germany could surrender to the western allies and then have the western allied units reinforce them on the eastern front to help continue the fight against the Soviets.