Lets Do Another "What If the USA Stayed Neutral in WW2"

Cause you all are smart and Im looking for a couple of answers that you don’t normally see in this scenario

The setup: For the US to stay neutral we need an altogether different mindset from the Govt. at that point in history.

  1. We need to remove the general Anglophile attitude. No trading. No lend-lease. No destroyers for bases. No soldiers volunteering.

  2. The USA doesn’t give a GGDF what Japan is doing. The USA have their own island bases and are just fine with that. Not our problem.

  3. For this scenario, the US stops trading with all combatants. The Commonwealth, the Soviets, The Germans, The Japanese.

The effect: (IMHO) Japan isn’t happy about losing its trading partner with the USA, so it declares war on The Commonwealth and seizes its resources in the South Pacific. Great Britain cannot fight Germany and its subs and the Japanese fleet running amuck in the south pacific and then the Indian Ocean. Japan basically seizes everything east of India that doesn’t fly a USA flag, and isn’t Australia and NZ…

The Commonwealth and the USSR by necessity become as close as possible. Japan and Germany do not have the resources to prevent (Though they can hinder) materials moving from Canada to the USSR. GB cannot open a second front, but it can mobilize an expeditionary force and move it to Russias front.

IMHO. despite all this AND Germany being more unfettered in the development of jets and missiles…Germany still, eventually, gets grounded to paste. Eventually, but the cost to the UK, Germany and USSR is insane. So my questions are:

  1. What is an unfettered Japanese Empire’s endgame?? In this scenario they don’t declare war on the USSR cause they have their hands filled running riot over Asia. What’s their endgame? Complete rule from Manchuria to the western tip of China to New Guinea?

  2. What happens to the nuclear weapon programs?? Germanys heavy water stuff was going to nowhere so thats a no go. The USA doesn’t sprint to the Manhattan Project. The USSR stole its research from the USA didn’t it? So do the Nazi scientists go to Britain instead and Britain develops nukes first?

Defeat as before, only much bloodier and at the hands of the USSR (with the Royal Navy lending its support) rather than the US. The USSR would, I think, have jumped at the opportunity to expand eastward and become hegemon in the Pacific with their army running roughshod over Japanese forces in China, in concert with Chinese (and especially communist) forces, just as soon as the threat from Germany could be disposed of.

I don’t know how things would have gone at sea—probably not quite as bad or as swiftly for the IJN absent a *US fleet—but I suspect the same strategically bankrupt thinking that led them to defeat in reality would have proved their doom in this alternate history as well. Perhaps in exchange for their Navy’s assistance, the USSR and UK would have reached some further accord in Europe (maybe in exchange for huge chunks of China and a Pacific empire, the USSR is willing to let everyone but Germany have a chance at self-determination?). Or failing that, they’d have each taken sizable helpings of the Pacific. I might then imagine a tri-polar world, with the US, UK, and USSR exerting equal influence and the British empire perhaps putting off its sunset a while longer on the backs of its oppressed colonies.

Bottom line, I don’t have much respect for Japan’s war-making capability, and I see the earlier conflicts with the USSR and Russia as a preview of coming attractions, with the peace treaty as a mere temporary convenience for the USSR that allowed it to focus on the greater threat arising from Germany.


I get that’s your scenario, but… I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that, even with a committed isolationist US, Japan still wouldn’t have chosen to invade US possessions in the western Pacific. Particularly the Philippines. And when you allow for that possibility, you essentially allow for yet another Pearl Harbor, and everything that came after that, only with the US now, per your scenario, focus exclusively on defeating Japan. And lest we forget, it was Germany that declared war on the US first, it the other way around…

Germany and Japan were both trying to swallow prey that was about an order of magnitude too large for them to actually digest. Germany would eventually be ground down by the Soviets, American aid or no; when this did finally happen, the counteroffensive would be just as devastating as it was in our timeline, only it wouldn’t stop halfway to Germany. We’d see Soviet puppets all the way to liberated France.

Same goes for Japan. With the war in Europe raging even harder, I don’t think any of the European powers could stop the Japanese from grabbing their island colonies. But Japan could never have held China permenantly, any more than Germany could have held Russia.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Japanese empire would fall, though. The Soviet Union probably wouldn’t turn East before the situation with Germany was fully settled; that would give Japan plenty of time to consolidate their gains in parts of China and the Pacific. The only question would be whether they settle for the strategically crucial parts they already have, or if they’re truly determined to achieve their Pan-Asian Imperial dreams.

Which is a key point. If Japan DID manage to consolidate its holdings in China and the Pacific, I doubt they’d stay content to let the Americans rule over the Philippines, etc; their driving ideology would seem to make that impossible. So conflict with the US would be inevitable, eventually.

Agreed. Japan’s goal in WW2 was the establishment of a union of Asian nations, free from the brtually oppressive rule of European imperialists. (Kindly ignore the oppressively brutal rule of Japanese imperialists, thank you). That ideology doesn’t lend itself well to peaceful coexistence with American colonies.

I wouldn’t expect Britain to survive in a meaningful way without US support. If not taken over by Germany then British scientists will be busy trying to invent some kind of food to eat instead of nuclear weapons. This will be a war between the USSR against the rest of Europe and Asia. Perhaps they can work with the British on that new food thing.

Even without US support, the Royal Navy was smashing the Germans in the Atlantic. You’d have even higher losses from subs, but the British had naval superiority and I don’t think Germany was actually capable of either starving them of imports from the colonies or invading the home islands.

This is the most implausible part of the scenario, in my opinion. I can’t see the notoriously business-centered US essentially cutting off all their international trade for the duration of the war. They were just barely getting out of the Great Depression as it was, and killing off such a big part of their economy would have destroyed whatever progress they’d made.

Trading with everyone on all sides of the conflict would have its own difficulties, but they’d have at least tried it. Transship through other neutral countries, perhaps?

Yeah, the war in Europe would consist of Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth keeping the UK alive, while giving as much support to the USSR as possible. Germany would eventually be worn down by the USSR on the continent, it would just take longer than it did.

I think Japan would fare much better. With the Europeans busy in Europe, Japan takes over almost everything it did in reality, excepting the US possessions, and then has a much easier time of it holding on to those gains. Without the US island-hopping plan, I doubt the Europeans could have re-taken any of the major losses while distracted at home. The USSR might not be happy with Japan being in China, but even in the real history, they didn’t put much into that front until after Europe was settled.

In this timeline, Japan has a lot more time to establish firm control over their new territories, and doesn’t lose most of their fleet to the US. Instead of being steadily worn down, they can build up. At some point, Europe figures, “Meh, it’s Asia’s problem” and accepts the Japanese Empire as the de facto ruler.

The big winner is the USSR though. They own Europe almost in its entirety, with just the UK and maybe Spain and Switzerland independent. But being such a huge presence, they will have huge influence over even those states in the post-war period.

The OP sounded like imports from America would not be available. If they can get food and other critical supplies that way they could survive. I don’t think their naval superiority would survive once fully isolated, the ships at sea won’t help as Germany harasses England with bombs and strategic landing attempts. Perhaps they can keep the seas open enough to receive needed goods from Canada.

A lot of people don’t realize how much Canada contributed to keeping the convoys alive. By the end of the war, we were the 3rd (maybe 4th, reports differ) largest navy in the war, after the US, UK, and maybe USSR. And it would appear that most of those ships were built in Canada. I’m sure we used supplies from the US when we could, but we could have probably supplied the shipyards ourselves if we’d had to, as we do have quite a lot of natural resources available.

Supplying the UK without the US’s help would have been harder and far more expensive, but not impossible. Even before the US really joined the war in late 1941, Germany was having problems stopping the convoys.


These parts of the scenario are the most wildly improbable ones.

A major reason Japan launched a war against the U.S. was that the U.S. did in fact clamp down on trade with Japan, i.e. oil and other strategic materials. Apart from that, the Japanese viewed Americans (like the British) as a democratically weakened, pleasure-loving people who wouldn’t be able to effectively resist Japan’s imperialist, excuse me, “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” ambitions.

The U.S. had zero chance of staying neutral in WWII.

I agree with you that there may not be enough of a difference between:

Our reality: The US, UK and Dutch conspire (and say as much) to stranglehold Japans empire-building aspirations. Note, Roosevelt also froze Japans assets while he wouldn’t in:

Alt reality: US just ‘won’t trade with any belligerents’. That includes China.

We also run into a technological paradox. The US tried to keep up with the rest of the world to further its own empire-building and in anticipation of war. I can’t see it trying to keep up with jets, and rockets and certainly not a Manhattan Project without the incentive of war. Does it just turn into South America?

My best guess for a turning point is that Roosevelt dies and Edith Keeler not only leads a pacifist movement, she actually becomes President.

Ok, good info. I’ve been looking at the feasibility for Britain to survive the situation described in the OP. It’s clear their navy, including Canada, would need to maintain shipping in the north Atlantic. It’s difficult to imagine the US maintaining strong neutrality and not supplying Canada in some way, but with a strong enough navy deployed in the north Pacific supply line to the USSR could have been maintained also.

I think it’s touch and go for Britain at best. They’ll have political issues if you-know-who keeps offering peace treaties, maybe offering to leave them alone if they become neutral themselves. Despite naval shipping they will be desperate for food and industrial supplies, just look at their situation after winning the real life war with US support. Their survival would be based on Germany’s lack of effort to stop them from fighting back. That may have been inevitable anyway, but I’d assume things were going better for Germany with the US out of the picture.

And that might work. I suspect that at some point, England would have come to a point where sitting back and watching Germany and the USSR grind each other up would be a welcome respite. Gives them a few years to build up their own forces, neutral as they may be, so as to reduce the likelihood of being invaded once the Continental war is concluded, regardless of who wins. Probably still the USSR, but Germany with western Europe not being bombed constantly would fare better than they did in reality. Maybe not enough better, but who knows?

So McCoy saves her then…

I have to agree that these are the most wildly improbable propositions; it makes the scenario less of a “what if the US was neutral” and more of “what if the US blinked out of existence during WW2.” The idea that the US would cease all trade with all combatants rather than just not selling arms to combatants is a bit overly absurd. I don’t know offhand exactly how much of an effect such a world-wide trade embargo would have, but during the war the US was by far the largest oil producing country producing more 50% of the world’s total annual output. The USSR was in a distant 2nd place producing ~30 million metric tons annually in 1940 compared to the US’s ~182 million metric tons. I’d assume that the US refusing to sell any oil to anyone would cripple the US and the Western Allies economies.

The idea of an alt-history where Japan tries to seize the Dutch East Indies to solve their fuel problems without attacking the US as well with the US staying neutral has been floated around here a few times, but it runs into the problem that nobody in the Japanese high command or government ever even considered that this was either a plausible outcome or that it would be acceptable to Japan even if it were. Even if it were possible to seize the DEI without an immediate US entry into the war, as long as the US was in the Philippines it would be holding a dagger to Japan’s economic throat, able to sever Japan’s access to the resources of the DEI on its whim due to the location of the Philippines sitting astride the sea lines of communication to Japan.

If the hypothetical exists, almost anything is possible, like maybe Japan decides to ally itself with Britain instead of Germany. Without the US, Britain is desperate for allies and might acquiesce to allowing Japan to move into Dutch and French colonies (or even the Eastern USSR) to safeguard them from German occupation in exchange for the Japanese Navy safeguarding sea lanes for supplies and troops from Australia, New Zealand, India, and perhaps even Canada.

Maybe we can get the same effect then if the US trades with everyone rather then embargoing belligerants. But they gotta come get their own stuff rather then the US endangering its ships?

Edit: I guess Germany is gonna kind of have a problem getting the stuff it pays for.

(U-Boat shows up.) “Ve are here for the comics we bought. No Captain America plz.”

Those who could sail could come pick things up. The UK could also transship through Canada with little extra effort.

Those who don’t have the fleet capacity for that could rely on third parties transshipping via neutral countries. US and Spanish ships bringing US goods to Spain, with the expectation of those goods being sent along to Germany, would likely be largely exempt from attack. As much as the UK might like to cut off Germany, they probably wouldn’t attack neutral shipping out of fear that the neutrals then might declare for Germany in response.

Getting US goods to the USSR would probably be the hardest part. Not many year-round ports in the Western part, and the Eastern ports are really, really far east.

Are you sure that USSR got nuclear capabilities from us rather than the Germans they captured?