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Old March 14th, 2012, 07:52 PM   #1

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What chance did the Axis powers have of winning WWII?


Looking at the American Civil War, the outcome seems to have been inevitable from the start. The North had a very clear advantage in terms of manpower and its economic strength.

Would it be fair to say one side or the other had a similar clear advantage in World War II? I've read, for instance, that Italy's military was comparatively outdated at the start of the War.

I beg pardon in advance if this is a stupid question, but I have never seriously studied WWII until recently.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 08:26 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Salah View Post
Looking at the American Civil War, the outcome seems to have been inevitable from the start. The North had a very clear advantage in terms of manpower and its economic strength.

Would it be fair to say one side or the other had a similar clear advantage in World War II? I've read, for instance, that Italy's military was comparatively outdated at the start of the War.

I beg pardon in advance if this is a stupid question, but I have never seriously studied WWII until recently.
To begin with, IMHO the tragedy of the War between the States was anything but "inevitable".

WW2 was fundamentally two overlapping different wars.

The Asian-Pacific one was begun by Japan to conquer China, something that surprisingly enough the former wasn't able to.
Fighting entirely alone, Japan may have had a chance on the long run (just maybe).
Once the Empire attacked the western allies and especially the US, their only chance was that such powers would have been too busy playing war at Europe without giving Asia too much attention.
Once that didn't happen, Japan was defeated from the very first bomb at Pearl Harbor.

The European-Atlantic theater itself was a three sided conflict; the Western Allies UK & France (with the informal but real US support) versus Germany and some minor players, plus the initially technically neutral Soviet Union.
In spite of the amazing German victory over France and some minor allies, the Axis ostensibly never stood any real chance of defeating the prowerful British Empire on its own terms.
Once Germany attacked the Soviet Union for some months they might have had some real chance of a potentially decisive military victory over the latter if the war on the Eastern Front wouldn't have been so extremely fanatical from both sides.
Once Barbarossa failed at the front of Moscow, and after the US were fully added to the equation, the eventual collapse of the III Reich was fundamentally just a matter of time.

In general terms, that has presumably been the common fate of the vast majority of wars all along History; economic power eventually translates into military power and the more powerful side wins; easy as that.
The often quoted exceptions which immediately come to mind have ostensibly been mostly some exaggerated chauvinistic propaganda from the winner side.
What makes the case of WW2 so exponentially more objective is simply the exceptional availability of some excellent numbers and hard evidence.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 09:00 PM   #3

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The Axis powers had no chance of victory.

Japan could never conquer China for one thing. Japan could never quell all 500 million Chinese people. Japan understood this. The Japanese government wanted to keep Manchuria and several coastal ports, and bloody the nose the of the Chinese people and force them to accept the new order in east Asia. Like I said, with 500 million Chinese people compared with 71 million in Japan, you just need 20% of the Chinese population focused on fighting the Japanese to keep Japan fighting an endless war.

This is just Japan fighting China. Add Britain, the Netherlands, the French, the Americans, and the Soviets to the mix. The Europeans were unable to properly fight Japan because they were busy fighting the Germans. Once the Germans were crushed, Japan would have suffered the same fate even if America and the SU stayed out of it: utter defeat.

In Europe the Axis couldn't have won either. Even before the Soviets and Americans joined the fight, the Germans were forced to deal with Great Britain and her many mainland forces. The Yugoslav Partisans, French Free forces, Polish home army, and numerous other guerrilla militias and paramilitary forces operating across the continent were giving the Germans trouble. Considering the British still had Canadian industry on the other side of the Atlantic, and the Americans were already securing all supply lines from America to Iceland, the lines that Britain had to defend alone were relatively short.

The French exile government could have also relocated to Algeria, already part of metropolitan France, and rallied a very sizable army from across the empire. The French could have operated bombing raids from Corsica, and eventually invaded either the south of European France, or Italy. The Allies still controlled the Mediterranean by having Gibraltar, Corsica, Malta, Crete, Cyprus, and Suez. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from British India could have come to the aid of the motherland with a promise of independence afterwards.

This is just the French and British I'm talking about, keeping the US and SU out of the European theater. Once just the Soviet Union joined the war, Germany was done for. When America joined the European war, the axis' fate was sped up.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 09:06 PM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by WeisSaul View Post
The Axis powers had no chance of victory.
...When America joined the European war, the axis' fate was sped up.
I agree. Once the US, with her industrial might joined the war, and add
her 16 million additional armed forces personnel, to the equation, it was
a bad future for the Axis.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 09:15 PM   #5

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It depends what you want to win.
If Germany had conquered France and then stopped. The bulk of Europe in it's possession. Could it have ended there? Become a Cold War, which slowly thaws into the new Status Quo?
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Old March 14th, 2012, 09:26 PM   #6
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The outcome of the American Civil War was not inevitable.

Once the USSR and US were in the war, it was very difficult for the Axis. It was difficult for Japan to conquer China and difficult for Germany to defeat the British Empire and the remnants of French, Polish, and Yugoslav forces. However, it would be almost impossible for the Axis to lose the war.

Think Hitler and other German leaders developed an arrogant attitude after the quick fall of France. Think they underestimated Britain, and of course the USSR and US.

It isn't clear the Axis could have kept the US out of the war. Pearl Harbor, however made it easier for the US to enter the war and mobilize fully. With the US and not the USSR in the war, it might have been interesting.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 09:31 PM   #7

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Quote:
Would it be fair to say one side or the other had a similar clear advantage in World War II? I've read, for instance, that Italy's military was comparatively outdated at the start of the War.
Yes, it is fair to say that Hitler and Tojo were outgunned, but that is not to say they had no chance of winning the war. Had Hitler done not a few things differently and Tojo been more careful, they could have made things very tough for the allies. Both major Axis powers had the same ambitions, living space and resources, but by themselves lacked the manpower and productive capacity to defeat the Allies.

I'll go along with the notion that WW2 was pretty much two separate but overlapping wars. The Axis powers shared similar ideologies but actually effected each other negatively at times. There was a chance for them to win the war even though they were fighting against overwhelming odds, however each of the main Axis powers made fundamental errors of judgement due to fanatical ideologies and incompetence. Had the Nazis taken the Soviet Union and turned that manpower and industrial might against the Western allies there would have evened up somewhat and been a very close war indeed. Had the Japanese not moved out of China and been drawn into a war with the US it may have become far more developed and a far more successful foe.

Failures: Everything had to go right for Hitler to succeed against the Soviets who enjoyed at least a 1.5 to 1 advantage. Hitler could have toned down his ideology for the Ukrainians and they might have fought with his armies (at least a good many), however Hitler grouped them in the Russian/Asian Soviets and lost their support. His SS troops disgraceful behavior did not help matters in the Ukraine/Belorussia either.

Japan's war with the US also had grave effects on Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler's failure at Moscow had something to do with large numbers of Soviet Siberians relocated from their Nippon watch in the East. After Pearl Harbor Stalin knew that the Japanese would not attack both the Soviet Union and the US. Hitler still had a chance to take the Soviet Union but again failed, this time at Stalingrad where he lost an entire army. There he got locked into a monumental pissing competition with Stalin over his city, when instead he should have been concentrating on taking the huge reserves of Soviet oil further to the South on the Caspian Sea. As it was his troops managed neither...

The turning point for the Japanese came when the IJN (Navy) could not replace the experienced pilots lost in the South Pacific and could no longer cover their navy from the resulting US onslaught. Having lost the naval advantage, the IJA (Army) spread thin throughout the islands, then lost supply and were picked off at will. Japan could not supply or produce and should have been defeated much sooner but for a combination of fanatical will and a desire by the US to delay the end of the Pacific war until an appropriate time.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 09:35 PM   #8
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I agree with Gregorian. After France fell and if Hitler had decided that dominating Western Europe and most of Eastern Europe was enough. Then its hard to imagine a combination of Great Britain and the United States defeating Germany on the continent. You have to realize that Germany would suffer its most devastating loses in the Soviet Union. Hard to imagine the United States or Britain willing to suffer those level of loses.

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union it still might have been possible for the Germans to prevail. I would say that the defeat outside of Moscow doomed the Germans and essentially decided who would win the war. Though the German General staff did a study that suggested that after Moscow Germany should go on the defensive in the East and build up its resources in the West especially air to better handle the Americans. The study was rejected by Hitler who launched a summer offensive that year aimed at the Caucaus and the Volga. Which ended in Stalingrad from that point on though there could be no doubt of the wars outcome.
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Old March 14th, 2012, 10:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sylla1 View Post
To begin with, IMHO the tragedy of the War between the States was anything but "inevitable".
I misunderstood the original post of our Salah ; what I meant is that the Civil War itself was not inevitable; of course the Union victory was inevitable in the long run (essentilly for the same reasons the Axis powers were doomed at WW2) as long as no massive British help to the South would have ever happened (extremely unlikely at any moment).
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Old March 14th, 2012, 11:11 PM   #10

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The Axis had a chance of winning until they woke the juggernauts that were the US and the USSR. The sheer economic manpower of both these powers and the rich economy of the USA definitely signalled doom for the Axis.
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