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

Stalin himself said that Lend lease was necessary to win, and implied strongly that a second front was needed also.

“I want to tell you what, from the Russian point of view, the president and the United States have done for victory in this war,” Stalin said. “The most important things in this war are the machines… The United States is a country of machines. Without the machines we received through Lend-Lease, we would have lost the war.”

Nikita Khrushchev offered the same opinion

“If the United States had not helped us, we would not have won the war,” he wrote in his memoirs. "One-on-one against Hitler’s Germany, we would not have withstood its onslaught and would have lost the war.

Whatever armchair pundits here may think, no one knew better than Stalin himself. Since Stalin said “No Lend lease we lose” then that is what would have happened,

There is also the Psychological effect of not having any allies, altho perhaps GB would have still been in.

True, and Lord Halifax was almost PM, and strongly wanted a negotiated peace. This is also fact, and not opinion.

The ultimate alt-history fantasy is that Germany and Japan gain up on the USSR, knock it out, then continue to fight with Japan taking out India and Germany going through Middle East to meet up somewhere there. The problem is that board games never really account for logistics, and Japan just didn’t have the industrial capacity to manufacture enough ships and trucks to carry their armies and supplies that far. Germany also was extended beyond their limits.

The Japanese and Germans were never close allies in the same sense and the Allies were. Hitler’s sudden diplomatic shifts left the Japanese flabbergasted and distrustful of the Nazis.

I’ve thought about posting, but there are so many conditions and exceptions involved, hinging not only on what the US but also other nations would do, it’s hard to maintain a coherent post.

But here’s an broad brush attempt: let’s say Roosevelt doesn’t run for a third term in 1940. The new President is much more an isolationist, and declines to continue the Neutrality Patrol and there is no Lend Lease. The US would not embargo oil to Japan, either, and ignores Japanese expansion in SE Asia.

I don’t think the US would have fought for Dutch or French colonies (or even English) if the Japanese invaded, but would the Japanese avoid the Philippines? Would they even go south without the oil embargo? Would the lack of US support bankrupt England? Would that be enough to sue for peace? Or do we need Lord Halifax to become Prime Minister and sign a peace treaty after the Battle of France?

In this case, the US avoids war with Germany, Japan takes Dutch and French Colonies as they wish, and the Axis is free to gang up against the Soviet Union. I think the Soviet Union would collapse in this alternate reality.

So what does the world look like? An isolationist US, a dominant German Reich, a cowed Britain, a powerful Japan in the Pacific, a puppet state in Russia.

The Philippines are in the way. Japan had to take them if they wanted to be secure in their other conquests

It would be like if Japan owned Kentucky, and had an army there, and they promised not to attack the US. It wasnt feasible it’s right in the middle of their empire

Yeah, that’s why these exercises fall apart. Too many what ifs.
But let’s keep it up: Japan annexes French Indochina and the US does nothing, no oil embargo. Would Japan still need to invade Dutch colonies? Would they strike north against the USSR? Would they be emboldened to attack Dutch colonies, thinking the US would do nothing? I realize the Philippines are astride convoy routes, but the Japanese, left to their own devices, may have had an uneasy peace with the US and a weakened Great Britain, especially if they were at war with the USSR and China.

Ah well I don’t know. They did have a habit of biting off more than they could chew, so in a very unlikely scenario where they have no threat from the USA I could see an attack on the USSR, or India, or Australia. Really their entire war plan was “we are superior warriors and we will win” and that was supposed to make up for major economic weaknesses. I dont think Japan could have realistically pulled off any of these attacks; more knowledgeable people than me have shown how badly the deck was stacked against them in this thread. Maybe stick with subduing China, and enjoy a couple decades of guerilla warfare.

As I posted earlier, this is the Holy Grail of alt-hist fans: Damn realism, full speed ahead!

There seems to be this fantasy that the Axis was closer than they were and would have worked together. Which it wasn’t, but why ruin a good story?

This is the problem with alt-hist. They simply want the Axis to win and are willing to sacrifice fundamental principles of war to get there.

Let’s say this: Taiwan decides now that they want an empire, and is debating where to send their army and navy and what countries to conquer. Xi kicks the bucket and someone less fanatical comes to power.

Based on a vague sense that “things are different, aren’t they?” and “you know, China won’t attack us, would they?” would anyone recommend that Taiwan leave only a token force on the island and march into other countries? Especially ones which are vital to China’s economic interests? China doesn’t really have many allies, but say they did. Is that where you would recommend starting?

Where does that leave Taiwan? Their home island is now vulnerable. If the new Chinese president changes his mind, or he is replaced by a hardliner what can Taiwan do? If Taiwan has become a rogue nation, they can’t count on the US to come to their rescue.

You simply can’t ignore fundamental military principles. If there is a threat, you have to counter it.

Back to real history. In 1940, Japanese two greatest rivals, as they saw it, were the United States and the Soviet Union. Just like Putin sees NATO as existential threats to Russia, the Japanese believed that their enemies were surrounding them and actively trying to force them into a permanent weakened role in the world, forever attempting to thwart their ambitions of greatness and perhaps even threatening their existence.

The Two-Ocean Navy Act, (yes Discourse, I know @Dissonance already linked to it), passed in the summer of 1940 (prior to the fall elections, of course) was in the eyes of the Japanese a direct threat to their empire. For several decades, the Japanese had carefully calculated how to defeat the US. They designed their warships and developed their naval doctrine all around a Decisive Battle against US battleships in the Pacific. All of that was bye, bye, bye once the 257 new ships with a total of 1,325,000 tons, and including 18 carriers, were built.

Alt-hist fans love to point to the supposed strong neutrality feelings in the States, but they can’t explain why the House voted 316-0 for an act which Japan would take as starting the final countdown.

By fall of 1940, the US was actively fortifying its bases in the Pacific, and had reintroduced the draft. In 1937, the USAAF only graduated 184 fliers from the advanced pilot training. Following the fall of France, in 1940 they increased capacity to 7,000 pilots per year.

The fundament problem with alt-hist scenarios is that they argue history can be tweaked by some miniscule changes but have far-reaching consequences.

Japan saw all these events. They read the number of ships building built and did the math. They knew how many planes they had and how few new pilots they could produce. They knew the Philippines, Wake and Guam were lightly defended in 1941 but wouldn’t be for much longer. They saw the number of newer fighters the US was developing and was watching the progress

The IJN knew that time was running out, and in their own analysis, they only had until spring of 1942 to begin a war against the US or they could never win, oil or no oil.

Dissonance has already correctly pointed this out, but the only way to avoid a conflict with Japan is to go back in history far, far earlier than 1940. Maybe 1920 or perhaps the turn of the century.

Or give them space weapons.

Well, like I said, too many what-ifs. If you don’t think about the actual causes and events too hard, it can be interesting to imagine a world where the US had stayed neutral, much like Harlan Ellison did for Star Trek. Just don’t think about it too hard, because it collapses under reality. You are correct, the US was headed for a collision with Japan in the Pacific, sooner or later.

Wouldn’t have to be that close. Usually those ideas are based with England still in the war, and the Axis has to cooperate against both England and the USSR. I can see a scenario where England under Halifax negotiates a peace with Germany, leaving Germany free to strike the Soviets sooner, with more troops. I can see Japan taking advantage of a reeling USSR and striking for their own advantage.

Well, this is much harder to wave away. After the fall of France, there was virtual panic in the US, with the Two-Ocean Navy Act passing, a peacetime draft reinstated, and a tremendous increase in weapons production. (The fall of France, not Pearl Harbor, was the biggest surprise for the US in WWII.) Churchill chose to keep fighting, and CNO Harold Stark saw a need for more ships to fight in the Atlantic. Germany, not Japan, was seen as the main enemy. The Republican nominee in 1940, Wendell Wilkie, was also an interventionist.

We need a mechanism for Robert Taft, say, to become President, and slash military spending. Would England suing for peace settle the issue and cause the US to stay neutral? No idea.

I think an interesting (and more likely) debate is what would have happened if Germany and Italy did not declare war on the US in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. What would have happened in the European Theater? But that’s a highjack…

This is just “fighting the hypothetical” . The hypothetical is “What if the USA stayed Neutral…” not “Would the USA have stayed Neutral.” I appreciate your insight on the Imperial Japanese mindset, but that is not the hypothetical here. It appears you do not care for Alt-hist, but that is the whole point of this thread.

Note that in a book I am reading FDR is quoted ""FDR told a British Embassy that the United States ‘would declare war if Japan attacked American possessions (but) public opinion would be unlikely to approve of a declaration of war if the Japanese attack was directed only against British or Dutch Territories’".

Indeed, but it is an interesting “what-if”.

These are two things that really need to be nailed home. Japan and Germany were fighting powers that had enormously more industrial capability than they did, and they both faced insurmountable logistical problems in what they tried to do historically, much less trying to pull off an alt-history where they are somehow able to accomplish more than they actually did. Prior to Barbarossa, in order to attempt to come up with enough truck to support what was going to be needed they requisitioned a fleet of 500,000 trucks by confiscating them from all over occupied Europe. This wasn’t enough, and they weren’t hearty enough vehicles to be up to the task, 2/3s were out of operation by November. From Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East:

The chiefs of staff, for their part, reminded Halder of some things he
already knew very well. German casualties stood, as of 1 November, at
686,000 men-20 percent of the 3.4 million, including replacements, committed since June, the equivalent of one regiment in every division. Of haIf a-million motor vehicles on the Eastern
Front, a third were worn out or damaged beyond repair; only a third were fully serviceable. Panzer divisions were down to 35 percent of their original tank strengths. The OKH itself
rated the 136 divisions on the Eastern Front as equivalent to no more than
83 full-strength divisions. All of these conditions could only get worse if operations continued-and one other, namely, that of logistics, would get much worse. Every mile the armies
moved eastward put an added strain on the railroads. Winter clothing for the
troops was already having to be left in storage because it could not be brought
forward without cutting off other supplies. German equipment could not
run on the Soviet railroads until the tracks were relaid to the standard
gauge; and in the entire territory occupied thus far only 500 Soviet locomotives and 21,000 cars had been captured, barely a tenth of what was needed.

There was virtually no cooperation at all between Japan and Germany; the European and Pacific were really two different wars that happened to be fought at the same time and in which Germany and Japan had some shared enemies. Germany was supporting, training, and arming China in its confrontation with Japan until 1937 when it shifted to working on closer ties to Japan and broke ties with China. Germany got Japan into the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936, then blindsided Japan with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939. After being thoroughly trounced by the USSR in the Border Conflict, Japan signed the non-aggression treaty with the USSR. Far from hoping for or even wanting Japanese support against the USSR, Germany didn’t even inform Japan that it was going to invade the USSR in June 1941. Similarly, Japan didn’t inform Germany that it was going to attack the US, UK and the Dutch in December of 1941.

The extent of German-Japanese cooperation during WW2 amounted to what limited transfer of technology and strategic materials as could be accomplished by long range submarine blockade running with a very small number of submarines involved, and the basing of a small number of U-boats at Penang to operate in the Indian Ocean.

Did Great Britain and Russia (without Lend-lease) have enormously more industrial capacity than the German empire plus Japan? With the USA, certainly. But the USA is Neutral.

In 1940, GB and the USSR produced 8B of munitions. The Axis 7B. The Allies have a little more, sure, but hardly enormously more. Per wiki.

As far as raw materials- Iron- Axis 291 millions of tonnea, GB and USSR= 191. wiki. Without the USA, the Allies no longer have any enormous advantage. The USA makes all the difference. So, if the hypothetical is what if the USA stayed neutral in WW2, then comparing the enormous industrial capability of the Allies WITH the USA is pointless.

Spoiler Alert- IRL the USA did join the Allies and the Allies won. We know that. There is no way the Axis wins once the USA joins, this is a pretty solid opinion, backed by lots of facts. But that ain’t the question here.

It’s almost as if someone has been predicting this question for quite some time:

The answer to your question is that yes, the UK and the Soviet Union had enormously more industrial capacity than Germany and Japan. Earnestly asking said question is what happens when one relies on ‘many years’ of playing a Hasbro boardgame with a recommended age of 12 and up using plastic army men to form a basis of what was and wasn’t possible in the Second World War and forming a winning strategy for the Axis on that basis. Its probably even worse than it sounds, I’ve never played the game myself, but being a Hasbro family boardgame, I’m presuming that it is balanced to be winnable by either side. It wouldn’t be much fun for the average board gamer if the game were balanced such that one side was going to lose almost all the time. Reality doesn’t have such balancing. More serious wargames typically have victory conditions balanced around how well one does compared to the historical outcome since the reality that it is trying to simulate wasn’t balanced.

Japan’s war making potential in particular was quite small, as shown in the link @TokyoBayer provided earlier to combinedfleet.com. Then there’s the issues that Japan’s army was rather busy being bogged down in a war with China that had been going on since 1937, the fact that it had no combined arms doctrine at all, the fact that it was primarily a light infantry force, the fact that it was on a timer for its economy to collapse once the oil embargo was put in place, the fact that it was going to have to go to war with the US to be able to take control of a source of oil regardless of how much you insist that the US was going to be magically neutral just because the hypothetical says so, the fact that the Japanese merchant fleet was barely adequate to sustain the imports needed by its economy and the military moves it made historically without trying to throw addition tasks on it, etc, etc.

Even if you want to take the US completely out of the equation, just have a look at the production figures of the UK, USSR, Germany and Japan during WW2. Let’s take a look at tank and AFV production: the British Empire produced 47,862, the USSR 119,769, Germany 67,429 - and then there’s Japan with a whopping 4,524. At least they beat out Italy’s 3,368, but then again Italy capitulated in 1943. It gets even worse with artillery: the British empire produced 226,113 pieces, the USSR 516,648, Germany 73,484 and Japan 13,350 - 6% of the British figure, 2.6% of the Soviet figure. Combined the UK and USSR produced 742,741 artillery pieces, over 8.5 times as many as the 86,834 produced by Germany and Japan combined.

Sort of (for a given value of ‘winnable’) but still attached to reality. If Germany and Japan don’t essentially win in the first 1-2 moves (which still requires a bit of luck with the dice rolls), it goes downhill pretty fast for them.

Germany needs to get lucky and knock out Russia early and get access to more resources. Russia has a defensive advantage. It’s hard for Russia to go on an offensive early in the game but they build up an advantage over time as long as they don’t fall early.

In the game, Japan also needs the USA to focus most of its efforts to Europe rather than Asia and still needs to have some luck in mainland Asia.

Basically the Axis is resource constrained and their hope is for an early knockout punch (achieved as much with lucky dice rolls as strategy) against one Ally (usually Russia) and hope the USA and UK get really unlucky with rolls and squander their industrial advantage.

Nobody’s mistaking it for reality but it’s closer to reality than a hypothetical in which the USA stays neutral for the entirety of the war.

Focusing on Japan for a moment, how much warmaking potential did they really have at this time? It seems to me that they’d taken a big bite out of China and spent the rest of the war choking on it.

Let’s give Japan a completely fantastical “best case scenario” where they are able to seize colonial holdings in the Pacific because Europe is too busy to care and America goes full isolationist - even with all those extra resources, does Japan have the manpower or industrial capacity to pacify China, EVER?

You seem to want to fight the hypothetical.

In no way shape or from have I ever given the idea that Japan and Germany 'gang up". Axis and Allies has to be balanced, so that the Allied player doesn’t simply win every game.


Those production figures given are including USA aid- the USA sent factories, rolling stock and raw material. So, you can’t use them. I have used pre-USA numbers from Wiki. Those figures do not include the USA being Neutral. Not to mention the USA sent a whole bunch of stuff like food, trucks, etc that allowed the others to concentrate on other production.

If Halifax has gotten peace with Germany- as both he and Hitler wanted (as I suggested long ago), it looks really bad for the USSR.

UK and USSR alone vs the Axis- you have a very long and drawn out war, with the Brits never able to invade France, and Japan pretty much able to continue Naval Superiority . Would the smaller Allies still win? It seems likely, but the outcome is in doubt.

Don’t fight the hypothetical.

Probably not. As @TokyoBayer noted above, the Japanese army only had 41 divisions in 1940, and only increased that number to 51 when they attacked the West at the end of 1941. They were only able to achieve so much with so little in December 1941 and early 1942 due to the weakness and unreadiness of their opponents, something that was going to become less of a factor the longer they waited before going to war as the position of the Western powers improved, the US fortified its bases, aircraft were delivered to the DEI, etc.

Even given a fantastical best case where Japan is able to take the DEI and Commonwealth possessions and the US sits back twiddling its thumbs, the Japanese navy was a non-factor in the war in China, and at best it releases 10 of those 51 divisions to add to the 27 that were in China in 1940. Even that isn’t realistically going to happen, because as long as the Commonwealth wants to keep fighting, there’s nothing Japan can do to knock them out of the war. Which brings up this:

You’re right, attacking the USSR, India or Australia wasn’t going to get them anywhere, or at least anywhere good, and even in the parts of China they occupied, communist guerillas remained a serious problem, even with their war criminal three-alls policy of kill all, burn all, loot all. The folly of trying an attack on the USSR has already been discussed. A look at what historically happened with Australia and India gives an idea of how hopeless trying to take either of them would be for Japan. When the IJA and IJN were debating the idea of invading Australia, the IJN’s plan was to use three divisions to seize some coastal areas in the northeast and northwest. The IJA responded by saying they would need to use 10 divisions and 1.5 to 2 million tons of shipping, which was the polite way of telling the IJN to go fuck itself, since neither the divisions nor the shipping to support them existed. Japan began the war with a bit over 6 million tons of shipping, which as I noted earlier was barely sufficient to keep the economy going and support their historical moves.

The Army’s and the Navy’s calculations of the number of troops needed to invade Australia differed greatly and formed a central area of discussion. In December 1941 the Navy calculated that a force of three divisions (between 45,000 and 60,000 men) would be sufficient to secure Australia’s north-eastern and north-western coastal areas. In contrast, the Army calculated that a force of at least ten divisions (between 150,000 and 250,000 men) would be needed. The Army’s planners estimated that transporting this force to Australia would require 1.5 to 2 million tons of shipping, which would have required delaying the return of requisitioned merchant shipping.[11] This invasion force would have been larger than the entire force used to conquer South-East Asia.[12] The Army also rejected the Navy’s proposal of limiting an invasion of Australia to securing enclaves in the north of the country as being unrealistic given the likely Allied counter-offensives against these positions. Due to its experience in China the Army believed that any invasion of Australia would have to involve an attempt to conquer the entire Australian continent, something which was beyond Japan’s abilities.[13]

India wasn’t going to be any better, there was a reason the Japanese stopped after taking Burma in 1942 and didn’t try to invade India. The Burmese-India border was hilly, dense jungle crisscrossed with rivers and without any roads worthy of the name, and then there’s the monsoon season to contend with. When Japan finally did try to pull off an invasion of India in 1944, even with the added logistical support provided by the infamous Death Railway through Siam to Burma constructed at the cost of over 100,000 lives, they failed at the battles of Imphal and Kohima, in no small part due to the nightmarish logistical conditions they found themselves in. Conditions so bad that deaths from starvation, disease, and exhaustion exceeded combat deaths:

The Japanese defeat at Kohima and Imphal was the largest up until that time.[32] They had suffered 54,879 casualties, including 13,376 dead (plus 920 casualties in the preliminary battles in Assam).[3] Most of these losses were the result of starvation, disease and exhaustion.

The Japanese had also lost almost every one of the 12,000 pack horses and mules in their transport units and the 30,000 cattle used either as beasts of burden or as rations,[12] and many trucks and other vehicles. The loss of pack animals was to cripple several of their divisions during the following year. Mutaguchi had sacked all of his divisions’ commanders during the battle. Both he and Kawabe were themselves subsequently relieved of command.

Attempting some sort of amphibious invasion of India runs into the same problems that the proposed invasion of Australia faced, Japan lacked both the troops and the spare merchant shipping to attempt such an operation.

Which is exactly the OPs hypothetical. Not to mention that quote from FDR I gave earlier. (Okay, FDR simply said the USA would not declare war, but certainly steps would be taken short of war- but not in this hypothetical.)

True, the Imperial Japanese were trapped in a morass in China. But they made lots of bad decisions.

No one here is claiming the Imperial Japanese could invade India and win. But they would have total air and naval superiority. How long would the colony hold out?

Yes, the two of you have conclusively proved what really happened- that with the USA in the war, the Axis is royally screwed. Every WW2 history book says the same- The Allies really did win WW2. I totally concede that point- the Allies really did win WW2.

That’s the problem with counterfactuals. They often boil down to “what if somebody did something out of character and possibly illogical and never went back to character”.

That part is silly. There’s too much that needs to be different for the US to permanently and strictly remain neutral through the war. It requires people across the world to behave in a way totally different from reality and keep acting that for years on end yet for the world to resemble something like what we remembered.

Garbage in, garbage out. Might as well ask “well, what if I didn’t take my hand off the stove well after the point I smelled my own meat cooking?” It’s the sort of fantasy that doesn’t lead anywhere interesting and does not produce any insights because it’s too far removed from reality. A more interesting question is “what if I wanted to see if I could suppress my instinctive self-preservation reflex?” Still probably doesn’t happen but it starts to resemble something that might actually could happen maybe in some conceivable reality. My hand comes off the stove but maybe takes a little longer than otherwise but not to the point it becomes a useless lump.

Likewise, the US was going to get involved eventually, at a minimum to do something like lend/lease or trade with combatants. To my mind, a somewhat more interesting/less irrational counterfactual is “what is the US maintained its partial neutrality, i.e. it continues trading with combatants but does not declare for any side, for another year and Japan had somehow refrained from attacking US interests for that period?” Still unrealistic but much less so and may produce useful insights/analysis.

While that is true, it is also considered a bit rude here in GD to “Fight the Hypothetical” . If you don’t like the hypothetical, and can’t contribute other than to mock it, then why not just not post?

So I opened a new Alt-hist thread here in GD with a hypothetical that does not require any nation to act much out of character. That can be argued.