How different would WWII have turned out if Japan had attacked the USSR instead of th

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Unspeaked, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. Unspeaked macrumors 68020

    Unspeaked

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2003
    Location:
    West Coast
    #1
    I don't know how many WWII historians are floating around in the ranks of MacRumors members, but I thought the multi-national nature of the forum may lead to some interesting answers to to this question: how differently would World War II have gone if the Japanese had joined with the Germans and attacked the Soviet Union rather than shifting their focus to the US and Pearl Harbor?

    I've looked around online at some similar discussions and it seems to break down into either chest-beating Americans or Yank-hating Europeans explaining why the course of the war would have been radically altered or the US has been and always will be overrated in terms of its contribution to WWII respectively.

    A more open viewpoint would be welcome…
     
  2. quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2004
    #2
    The whole reason why Japan attacked the US was over oil. Our embargo on trade with Japan severely hindered their war machine by reducing their source of oil. Japan had no interest in completely defeating the US. Just beat them fast and hard to where the US couldn't rebuild in time to fight back and would open up trading with them again. Japan knew they couldn't defeat the US in a straight out war. That is why they planned Pearl Harbor. They had hoped they would knock out the Pacific Fleet in one punch so they could hope for a quick victory. But, the failure to sink our carriers and our industrial strength which enabled us to rebuild quickly is what cost Japan the war. Their inability to knock us out with one punch cost them the war.

    Now with the USSR, I do not believe a similar strategy could be employed. There was no effective way I believe that Japan would be able to knock the USSR out with one big punch as their military forces weren't gathered up in one convenient place like the US had. So if Japan went to war with the USSR, I would expect them to be beaten in short order especially since they would be on foreign soil and land locked. I wouldn't have expected much of a change in WWII in terms of Japan's defeat.

    Whether it would have aided Hitler by potentially not having to deal with the US, I don't know. It was ultimately the USSR that pushed the Germans back and took Berlin before the US and Britain. Would Hitler have eventually defeated Britain? I don't know. Hitler did change focus of bombing their military infrastructure to bombing London and cities enabling them to rebuild their military and were getting help still from the US. Would Hitler been able to defeat the USSR if he managed to take down Britain? I don't know.

    Overall, there are too many variables for me to put up a guess of how different WWII would have been if Japan went after the USSR instead of the US. Would the US found a way to still enter the war? Would Hitler have defeated Britain without the US entrance to the theater? How much resources would the USSR have to divert to fight Japan? Too much for my limited knowledge base to figure out. :)
     
  3. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #3
    Do people honestly believe that?

    I'm going to agree with Quagmire and say that the Japanese couldn't have attacked Russia in the same way they attacked the USA. What target would they have focused on hitting to bring Russia into war with Japan? As simplistic as it sounds, everything of Russias which would have had strategic value was in the west either fighting the Germans on the frontlines, or placed near the major population centers of Western Russia/Ukraine etc.

    But if anyone believes that the USA was overrated in terms of it's contribution to WWII, they'll believe just about anything I'd imagine. Americans may overblow a lot of it personally, but the history texts are very clear.
     
  4. Unspeaked thread starter macrumors 68020

    Unspeaked

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2003
    Location:
    West Coast
    #4
    Thanks - you bring p some really good points that I hadn't considered (or read about in other discussions I'd come across).

    The one I bolded was the main one on my mind. If the Soviets were forced to deal with Japan in addition to Germany, it may have gone a long way in keeping the Germans going. And from there, you begin a domino effect that you alluded to.

    The other big "What if?" is asking what would be different if Japan hadn't stopped with Pearl Harbor and instead advanced towards the West Coast. I agree with that you say earlier that they had no desire nor expectation of a full-scale battle with the US but they would have probably been able to do plenty of damage since in all likelihood the West Coast would have been taken completely by surprise and been entirely unprepared.


    Go to some UK message boards in particular and you'll find a great many posters claiming the US played little part in the outcome of the war and has written history books in their favor ever since. I actually already knew this was the feeling with a small number of people but had no idea how prevalent the thinking was until I started researching my original question online!
     
  5. Queso macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2006
    #5
    Interesting proposition. My guess is that due to the size, remoteness and undeveloped state of 1930s Siberia Stalin may even have sacrificed the Eastern USSR to the Japanese and carried on fighting Hitler. The UK was under no threat of invasion after the RAF held off the Luftwaffe in 1940, as the Royal Navy outgunned the German fleets in the seas around the UK and the bringing into service of the Spitfire gave the Brits a technological advantage with regards to air-to-air combat.

    I think it would have ended up with Britain and Germany bombing each other even more to smithereens than they actually did until the Soviet troops finally reached the ruins of Berlin and ended the war a year or so later than in reality. The isolationist USA would initially have had even more industrial dominance over the post-war world, until Stalin's invention of the Atom Bomb brought their confidence down to Earth with a bump. The Japanese Empire meanwhile would dominate the Pacific, having annexed much of China and eastern Siberia...at least until Russians turned their attention back eastwards...
     
  6. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Dornbirn (Austria)
    #6
    considering how close actual history was before turning out differently it sure is an interesting discussion if an early eastern UDSSR would have made a difference
    - germany in the west after occupation of france not focusing on operation seelöwe but isntead go on southern adventures in Jugoslavia, greece and north africa
    -on smaller scale: Hitlers infamous "hold" command for Guderian tanks at the battle of dunkerque on the 24-26. mai... with the tanks on the battlefield Operation Dynamo from british wouldn't have been possible and the whole expeditionary force + french might had have to surrender (more than 300k were rescued)
    - december 1941: battle for moscow: german forces come within 15km (less than 10 miles) of the russian kremlin, according to some sources the NKVD already had prepared patriotic pamphlets to continue after the "recent loss of moscow"

    if in an alternate history Japan had attacked russia in, let's say, september on the eastern front, the Soviet union would have needed to reallocate forces to the eastern front and those less 10-15% might have made a difference in 1941 and possible Leningrad and Moscow could have been lost..

    but on the other side for Japan it would have meant a huge gamble because the japanese army wasn't equipped to fight tanks battles in the open and if the germans in this scenario don't suceed they would have lost clearly against the red army
     
  7. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #7
    Its not in the open, theres 5000km of forest to get through between the East of Russia and European Russia, and the only route through is the Trans-Siberian railway so there's plenty of room for the Japanese to be sniped off.
     
  8. Macaddicttt macrumors 6502a

    Macaddicttt

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2004
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    #8
    At least among Americans, the US contribution to WWII definitely is overrated. In movies we're always portrayed as bringing down Nazi Germany, conveniently overlooking the fact that 80% of Nazi casualties were on the Eastern Front. Combine that with the fact that the new WWII memorial in DC has something about it being the war to "Restore freedom and end tyranny" when we were allied with the greatest totalitarian state in history, you really see how the American view of WWII is severely distorted. (I work with a guy who was a career Navy man, an officer, well-educated, and he thought that we were allied with Russia, not the U.S.S.R., and that the U.S.S.R. hadn't been formed yet in WWII.)

    The Americans certainly helped, but we certainly didn't have as big an impact and weren't as noble in our intentions as American textbooks and media make us out to be.

    (And if you think I'm just being anti-American, I think that just about every national myth relating to WWII overblows each nation's share in winning WWII. France overblows the Resistance, Italy overblows the extent to which Italians were against the war, Russia overblows the U.S.S.R.'s role, etc., etc. Read the book the Vichy Syndrome. It's a good examination of the creation of a national myth about WWII to unite the state after the war.)
     
  9. takao macrumors 68040

    takao

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Dornbirn (Austria)
    #9
    true but the point would have been to "occupy" soviet forces/divisions in eastern soviet union and possible cut off supply lines ... and in east sibira not everything is forest especially towards the former borders to the japanese occupation at the time
    also Soviet russia loosing it's port in Vladivostok and also surrounding production facilities and cities could have been quite important
    also having to organize 2 different fronts at the same time cis much more difficult

    let's not forget that in november/december 1941 the fresh, fully winter equipped, sibirian divisions were put into force on the eastern front which was one of the deciding factors in slowing the german advance

    in the end we have to be thankful for , as far as i remember, the 2nd or 3rd earliest start of winter in eastern europe of the whole 20th century and that the germans fiddled around in north africa and the balkan instead of launching their offensive against russian in april or may
     
  10. Don't panic macrumors 603

    Don't panic

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2004
    Location:
    having a drink at Milliways
    #10
    overrated compared to what? what is your 'baseline' regarding the US (and british) contribution to WWII?
    Macaddict post is very much on point. By and large, WWII was fought and won (or lost, depending on the perspective) on the eastern front. everything else was a relatively minor contribution in terms of resources applied and casualties.
    The western (and later the southern) front helped because it did force the germans do remove some resources from the russian front.

    Eventually the US forces and thir dominance of the skies did the luftwaffe in, and precipitated the end, but if the red army hadn't held the germans until '44, buying enough time for uk to regroup and the US the build up, it would have been game over.
    And there is a credible school of thought holding that part of the rush for the D-Day in 44 was to get a foothold in mainland europe before it was too late, meaning before the soviet had run all the way to the atlantic, which they would have (they were already back in poland in january 44).

    IIRC, the soviets took >90% of the casualties of the allies in europe, and inflicted >90% of the military casualties to the german army. It also bears considering that all the elite divisions of the german army were on the eastern front.

    On the other hand, the US single-handedly defeated Japan.

    the what if's are always hard, but without Pearl Harbour the US would have had a hard case to convince the american people to get into the war, and so the likely outcomes would have been either a win by germany if the attack on the USSR by japan had tipped the scales on the eastern front, or a soviet-dominated europe if the US had delayed much it's direct entrance into the war and, especially, the industrial/military build up.
    Not to mention that either germany or the USSR would have gotten the atomic bomb first.
     
  11. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

    Joined:
    May 21, 2007
    #11
    As quagmire already mentioned, the only reason Japan attacked Pearl Harbor was to force Roosevelt to end the oil embargo. If, and that's a big IF, Japan had attacked Russia, it would have been a fairly short war on that front. The Japanese had already defeated the Russians once before WWI (Russo-Japanese War), and most of the territory in that war was already under Japanese control by 1941.

    I think the biggest difference (which no one has mentioned yet) would have been a prolonging of the Great Depression in the United States, which would have forestalled an economic recovery and left many important industries that developed from the war effort to go under developed (or even undeveloped).


    Well each nation played a key part in the war effort. If it hadn't been for Britain, there would have been no front and no ally left in Western Europe. Even if the US had eventually entered the war, it would have been alone and without a critical staging area. Without the Royal Navy, the US would have faced a disastrous shipping situation, with German subs likely being able to greatly reduce the effective flow of war supplies and troops.

    If it hadn't been for the Russians, there would likely have been an unparalleled expansion of German territory since a bulk of the German Army wouldn't have been tied up along that very large and very dangerous front.

    No one nation could have achieved victory on its own.

    I partially disagree. Even if the Russians had eventually lost, the sheer number of casualties inflicted on the Germans combined with increasing British control of the seas and air space over northern Europe would have probably led to a very long and drawn out conflict, but one which would have ended with an allied victory because as time went on, more and more American troops would have been able to come to the front.

    Much like Napoleon, I suspect that Germany was "doomed" the moment it made two critical decisions: to invade Russia, and to make an attempt for Britain. Opening a Russian front ended up producing a huge drain of manpower and a quagmire for both leaders, while attempting to take Britain ended with both leaders losing specialized military units (the Luftwaffe lost many pilots and aircraft, while Napoleon lost many of the French Navy's trained sailors-by the time of Trafalgar, the fleet was supplemented heavily by inexperienced crews).

    Let's also not forget that Britain still had a very large, and very heavily populated, empire to rely on. Increasing conscription from India by even 1% alone could have yielded hundreds of thousands of troops, and with control of the seas Britain could have sustained a land war against Germany for quite some time. Combined with an extensive network of naval and air bases around the mediterranean and Britain could have very easily engaged in a prolonged campaign that would have eventually outmatched the German ability to fight quick, large battles.

    The atomic bomb is sort of a wild card here, since either the Germans or Russians could have been first to develop it, but Hitler was notorious for canceling projects if he felt they weren't producing anything valuable, so who knows how history could have unfolded. It's entirely possible that American research would have continued and still produced the first usable warhead, though the motivation might have been lost without a declared war.
     
  12. H00513R macrumors 6502a

    H00513R

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Location:
    Indiana
    #12
    What an interesting question. No one can say for sure with any validity, but the observations that I have would be:

    Japan wanted to cut off the U.S. launching points in the Pacific. The Russians were concentrated on the western front fighting the Germans. The Japanese would have to travel a great distance through barren lands to even strike some viable targets. I don't think they would bother with the Russians in that respect.

    What I see if them continuing on with their rampage through southeast Asia. They were making great strides there. I also could see them continuing what they did with Darwin in Australia and invading there.
     
  13. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    #13
    However in 1938-39 the Japanese and Russians had fought an undeclared border war which the Russians won quite decisively.

    Since this thread is a fantasy topic, I'll put up the suggestion that the Japanese would have lost the war sooner if they had gone after Russia again in 1941. They were already having substantial problems supporting their military invasion in China and mounting any sort of significant attack on Russia would have only made things much more difficult for the Japanese. Plus, as Eraserhead suggested, it's a long long long way across Siberia.....especially in the winter! Japan simply wasn't in any position to provide any real help for Germany by attacking Russia.

    The USA, with its Pacific fleet intact, would have ultimately been drawn into the war anyway and so it's likely that Japan, bogged down in Siberia, would have been out of the war sooner rather than later without having had any real impact on the war in europe.
     
  14. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Location:
    Always a day away
    #14
    Here's an interesting spin on the original question: suppose Japan had invaded Russia. Suppose this led to Russia's defeat at the hands of both Hitler and Hirohito. Would both leaders have wanted to "share" their newly-won territory?

    I don't know the answer to that; I'm just throwing it out there for discussion.
     
  15. Zaid macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2003
    Location:
    London
    #15
    Reminds of something I read once which put this very succintly.

    Britain provided the time, America provided the arms, and Russia provided the blood.
     
  16. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #16
    The real question is if we either lost the battle of midway or the japenese knocked out our carriers during their sneak attack on pearl harbor. They knew they couldn't defeat us, they hoped they could make so we wouldn't want a protracted fight. If we lost our carriers in either battle, that would have dramatically altered the events.
     
  17. Shivetya macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    #17
    Considering the far western areas of Russia Japan could get to easily I would say that Russia would give up the coastal areas but Japan would not dare press inward. The logistics (think of how they would have to go) to really harm Russia's industrial base was probably beyond Japan at the time.

    Back in the 40s distance was still a defense. Russia has a great range of land and the parts nearer Japan were not its heart, not by far.

    As for contribution to the war effort. You cannot overestimate the US's role. Claiming it was over hyped is bizarre. Yes all countries contributed but wars require resources and we poured our men as well as our materials into it.
     
  18. Unspeaked thread starter macrumors 68020

    Unspeaked

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2003
    Location:
    West Coast
    #18
    Looking at these responses together brings me back to the second "What If?" I mentioned further up-thread about what would have happened if Japan didn't stop with Pearl Harbor and made a sneak attack on the West Coast.

    I still think a concentrated effort on industrial centers along the West Coast directly following Pearl Harbor would have been catastrophic for the US specifically and Allies in general. It would have certainly had an even greater negative impact than if Japan had struck the USSR as it would have set back the US war effort immeasurably.
     
  19. Synchromesh macrumors 6502a

    Synchromesh

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2009
    Location:
    SF
    #19
    Yes you can overestimate US' contribution. For some bizarre reason vast majority of Americans believe that it was US with some help from Britain that won WWII which is pure bs. Don't get me wrong, I do realize that the US provided a lot of materials for the Allies and did help with some fighting in Europe (closer to the end of war itself) but say that they actually won the war and not the Russians is just plain silly. Russians fought the Germans harder in much more massive scale than US could ever dream of and it was Russians who were responsible for wearing the Germans down for the most part. So in reality it was Russia that won the war with help of US and Britain (and a few others in smaller roles).
     
  20. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #20
    It still is, there's 5000km of land for a land force to be sniped off in.
     
  21. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Location:
    Always a day away
    #21
    I didn't realize it, but it turns out to find the answers to our questions one need look no farther than Facebook.
     

    Attached Files:

    • 1.jpeg
      1.jpeg
      File size:
      997.2 KB
      Views:
      205
  22. Dany M macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2007
    Location:
    Earth
    #22
    Ha, that is pretty great!
     
  23. H00513R macrumors 6502a

    H00513R

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Location:
    Indiana
    #23
    LOLOL! I forgot about this.
     
  24. Counterfit macrumors G3

    Counterfit

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2003
    Location:
    sitting on your shoulder
    #24
    I love Facebook history. :D

    You should see how WWII is taught in Japan... :eek:
     
  25. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Location:
    Always a day away
    #25
    Do tell - I'm curious!
     

Share This Page