What if humans can't fly? WWII without airplanes

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,841
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#2
Let's say humanity never discovered a way to fly? This thread is about WWII seeing the huge impact airplanes and their explosive cargo had on the conflict and not only it's outcome but the strategic manner in which it was fought.
Long range artillery changed already something ...

The advantage of planes is evident: with mundane and really childish calculations of ballistics you can know exactly where the enemy piece of artillery is [and a big cannon cannot move quickly to avoid a counterattack ] ... a plane moves ... and quickly ...

So, without planes we would have seen an evolution of XIX context: defenders using high places to put long range cannons to hit the incoming enemy cannons before they hit them ...

With something new: the development of more and more powerful and armored tanks to break through the enemy lines.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,291
Dispargum
#3
Without aircraft carriers, naval battles are fought by battleships. The Washington Naval Treaty divided the world's battleships into older, WW1 types, and newer battleships built 20 years later with much more advanced technology. So there might be more naval battles like Washington vs Kirishima or Bismarck vs Hood.

How does the Pacific War begin without Pearl Harbor? Prince of Wales and Repulse may have had a surface battle with Kongo and Harauna.

In Europe, air power aided the British and Americans more than it aided the Germans. Post D-Day, the German army would be more difficult to defeat without Allied close air support.

The Battle of the Atlantic would be more difficult for the Allies to win without aircraft.

The resouces wasted in the various strategic bombing campaigns would be used to greater effect somewhere else.

I doubt anyone would develop atomic weapons if there was no way to deliver them. More resources may have been invested earlier in the development of ballistic rockets and missiles.

Does the prohibition on flight include balloons and airships? I'm just imagining guys in rival balloons shooting at each other with rifles.

I don't see the war ending differently, but the Allied victory would be more difficult to achieve.
 
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stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,422
Las Vegas, NV USA
#4
There would be less civilian casualties and damage to cities. The US would have had to use battleships to shell Japan. Only a few cities would be worth dragging heavy artillery around.
 
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Jun 2017
2,909
Connecticut
#5
For me, I'm thinking it would make all the land campaigns more slow and difficult, still more mobile than WWI given the tank but the early Blitzkrieg campaigns could not have been as successful with just tanks, infantry and art.

1)As a naval history fan, what intrigues me most is how the most powerful Axis battleships would fare against the Allies. In WWI, battleships were really cookie cutter to an extent where there were classes that were more or less peers with the QE's/RS's and Bayern's being state of the art whereas in WWII their were some battleships that were considerably stronger than a lot of the others. Bismarck, Tirpitz and the Yamato class had their importance negated heavily by aircraft, I'm just curious what these ships could have done without the threat of air attack.

2)Would more people have died or less? I'm inclined to think more military casualties and less civillian casualties. There would still be a ton of civilian casualties due to the Holocaust and Hitler/Japanese atrocities but I'm talking about the victims of air raids.

3)How would Hitler have proceeded without the Battle of Britian being possible? Would he have just ignored the UK or would he have waited for the Bismarck and Tirpitz to come?

4)Do Germany and Japan survive the war without air power softening them up? How would the US proceed in the Pacific(and how would the war in the Pacific even start) without aircraft carriers?
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,291
Dispargum
#6
Bismarck and Tirpitz were intended to be used as commerce raiders, not to fight other battleships. By the summer of 1941 land-based reconnaissance planes made it impossible for commerce raiders to hide in most of the Atlantic. That's why the Germans never sent commerce raiders into the Atlantic after Bismarck was sunk. Only the seas off Norway were beyond the range of allied air bases. So without aircraft, it would have been possible for Germany to do more commerce raiding.

Most Pacific naval battles were fought to protect or sink amphibious forces. Without aircraft carriers the same kind of naval battles would still be fought, just with battleships. It would have even been possible for Japanese battleships to park just outside of Pearl Harbor and throw shells into battleship row. Spotting their fall of shot would have been tricky. Maybe they'd have to land commando forward observers to spot for them. If the US fleet had come out to fight, they'd sail into a capped T.



Here's another one: the first military application of radar was to track aircraft. Without aircraft they may not have developed naval surface search or gunnery radar either.
 
Jun 2017
2,909
Connecticut
#8
Then the Fire Bombings of Dresden and Tokyo wouldn't have happened and there would be no atomic bomb possibly.
Have you read Harry Turtledove's last book of Southern Victory where the South doesn't have bombers so sneaks the weapon instead? It seems plausible that without a means to drop a bomb from the air, that special ops team would try to sneak it into their target city. But yeah it would make nukes much more safe(assuming we never figured out missles as well).
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,291
Dispargum
#9
Have you read Harry Turtledove's last book of Southern Victory where the South doesn't have bombers so sneaks the weapon instead? It seems plausible that without a means to drop a bomb from the air, that special ops team would try to sneak it into their target city. But yeah it would make nukes much more safe(assuming we never figured out missles as well).

They would have to overcome a few problems with miniaturization, but they could shoot a nuke out of a battleship gun and get a range of twenty miles or more. By the 1960s they had shrunk a nuke down to the size of an eight inch artillery shell.