(This is more of a GQ, but I can’t see it turned into anything other than a debate.)
I’ve read a lot about WWII in my life, starting when I was a child. I’m currently reading the memoirs of Adolf Galland, who was a high-scoring ace (#4 in Germany, I think) and who reported to Göring and who met with Hitler on several occasions. (He’s the guy who during the Battle of Britain, when asked by Göring what he needed to win the battle, said ‘A squadron of Spitfires.’)
Every book I’ve read on the war, except for this one, was written by someone on the Allied side. Most have been about the aircraft. I did read Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, but it’s been many years. The subject of WWII is so great that there is much that I’ve forgotten. One thing that I remember from history classes, and which is stated in Galland’s book, is that Hitler did not want to go to war with England; that he’d hoped England would join with him to fight Bolshevism. So why the war in Western Europe?
In order to get to the Soviet Union, Hitler had to get through Poland. This led to a state of war between Germany and England. I understand Hitler’s annexation of Austria and the occupation of the Sudetenland. Lebensraum, uniting German-speaking people, and all that. (Not that I agree with it, of course; only that I understand it.)
But why invade France? France and England did declare war on Germany. To get to France, the German forces had to control The Netherlands and Belgium. By defeating England, Germany’s flank would have been protected so that Hitler could persue his campaign in the East (as outlined in Mein Kampf, which I haven’t read).
Galland wrote that Stalin was in fact maneuvering to solidify his position in Eastern Europe. If Hitler wanted the oil and other resources there (e.g., in Yugoslavia), then he had no choice but to begin the Eastern campaign. But there was still England on his flank. Germany could only attack about one-tenth of England (according to Galland), leaving the rest of the country to build up its war materiel. Yet it very nearly achieved air superiority. In books I’ve read about the Battle of Britain the Royal Air Force fighter cover was nearly defeated. Fortunately Hitler ordered terror bombing on London (apparently because an off-course Luftwaffe bomber bombed London, prompting the British to bomb Berlin), which gave the RAF ‘breathing space’ to recover its forces. Bombing London and other cities instead of airfields and aircraft plants allowed the RAF to turn back the aerial invasion and cause the sea invasion of Britain (Operation Sea Lion) to be cancelled. In the East, Germany came close to defeating the Russians in Moscow. But they were stopped by two famous Russian Generals: ‘General Winter’ and ‘General Mud’. (Winter came early that year.)
There were myriad reasons why Germany was defeated in the West: The shift from attacking the RAF to terror bombing, the British radar system, poor weather right at the wrong time (for Germany), the shifting of Luftwaffe units to the Eastern Front when they were needed in the West, the belief by Göring and Hitler that England could wait while they fought the Russians, the lack of long-range heavy bombers, the emphasis on offensive bombing over defensive fighters… And yet it could have worked if thing had gone to plan and Germany was just a little more lucky. The combination of bad leadership, poor timing, and bad weather almost makes it seem as if the gods were fighting on our side.
But what would have happened if Hitler had not invaded Western Europe? England and France were technically at war with Germany, but what would they have done if they were left alone? Would they have mounted a campaign against Germany? Or would they have bided their time while Hitler fought the Bolshevics? And aside from Hitler’s anti-Semitism, why persecute the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, et al? I can see no tactical or strategic advantage behind it.
As I said, this is pretty much a GQ. I’m just asking questions to expand (or correct) my understanding of the situation, and the possible outcomes if certain blunders had not been made.