Information

How Britain’s Air Policy in 1941 Gambled with the Country’s Future


Polish Spitfire VB from 303 (Polish) Squadron flown by S/Ldr Zumbach.

In 1940 the RAF’s gallant fighter pilots had hurled the Luftwaffe back and saved Britain from defeat. But could the country avoid defeat in 1941? And if it could, how was Britain going to win the war?

The plan

The plan was simple. Britain would never have an army big enough to take the offensive. Instead it was up to the RAF to go on to the offensive. The RAF would bomb Germany into defeat. There would no need for an army, no need to invade France.

This was what the Air Ministry had always wanted – the opportunity for the Air Force to win a war on its own.

It seemed a perfectly reasonable objective. The government’s experts were predicting Germany was already in crisis. By early 1941 Germany would be experiencing shortages of oil, and other vital natural resources. Factories would be idle.

By the middle of 1941 Germany would already be finding it difficult to replace military equipment. Germany as a military force would be in terminal decline; Germany and the occupied countries would be gripped by food shortages.

In the summer of 1940, Britain battled for survival against Hitler’s war machine; the result would define the course of the Second World War. It is known simply as The Battle of Britain.

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Bomb them into submission

Amidst this chaos, Bomber Command would deliver the coup de grace, by smashing factories and cities. Unrest and rebellion would follow. The subjugated nations of Europe would rise up and the Nazi empire would collapse.

It would require a huge bomber fleet; as many as 6,000 expensive long-range heavy bombers might be needed. Building them would be a momentous challenge. It would only be possible if the country committed all it could to the task.

A row of Halifax bombers under assembly at the Handley Page factory at Cricklewood, 1942.

It was a bold policy but it was also very risky.

It left Britain dangerously weak in key areas. If Germany had invaded Britain in the spring of 1941 the RAF would have been as ill-prepared to support the Army as it had been in the desperate days of the summer of 1940.

The Army pleaded with the Air Ministry to provide them with the sort of air force the German Army had supporting its operations. But the Air Ministry was adamant. Nothing must stand in the way of the bomber offensive.

Britain was lucky. The British Army in the UK did not have to take on the Wehrmacht. Germany invaded the Soviet Union instead.

Hoarding Spitfires

To build the bombers, fighter production had to be kept to a minimum. The precious Spitfires that were being built had to be kept in the United Kingdom. The RAF had already been forced to fight in Norway and France without Spitfires. Now it would have to fight in Greece and the Western Desert without Britain’s best fighter.

Even the Spitfire was struggling. A dangerous new version of Germany’s Messerschmitt had appeared – the Bf 109F, capable of 380 mph. Fortunately, Britain had the Spitfire III.

A Bf 109F-4 stationed near Reims, France. Credit: G.Garitan / Commons.

With the latest Merlin XX engine, this had flown in March 1940 and was capable of 400 mph. Unfortunately, the Merlin XX engines were needed for the bombers. The Spitfire III never went into production.

Commonwealth leaders were not happy with Britain’s air policy. Their troops were fighting in the Middle East and were suffering defeat after defeat at the hands of the Panzers and screaming Stukas.

Churchill was accused of hoarding aircraft in the UK and thereby denying their troops the air cover they needed. There was even talk of withdrawing their forces if they were not provided with better air support.

The Commonwealth leaders had good reason to complain. With no Spitfires in action supporting Allied ground forces, losses were low and reserves were more than healthy. Indeed RAF storage units in the UK were overflowing with Spitfires.

He is a German Luftwaffe ace with 81 confirmed victories on the Eastern front. Now a 95-year-old veteran, Hugo Broch will soar into the skies in a Spitfire.

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Food for thought

When Churchill decided to help the Soviets by sending them fighters, the Air Ministry had a problem. The Hurricanes being used overseas were suffering heavy losses and were in short supply.

Spitfires were not being used and there was no shortage of them. It seemed that the best way of meeting Churchill’s promise was to send the Soviets Spitfires.

There was of course a problem. RAF fighter pilots overseas would not be too happy when they discovered Soviet pilot were getting the Spitfires before them; they might start expecting Spitfires. The Spitfires stayed in Britain.

The Americans were not happy either. They were not in the war yet, but they were gifting Britain vast amounts of military aid, and their Navy was already fighting alongside the Royal Navy in the Atlantic.

They felt they deserved some say in Britain’s war strategy and they made it clear to Churchill they did not think the bomber could win the war on its own.

For Churchill it was food for thought.

Vickers Wellingtons of 9 Squadron, on a mission in WW2, flying in formation.

The results come in…

Then in August 1941 there was the first thorough investigation into how successful RAF bombing had been. The results stunned the Air Ministry.

The study revealed that far from pushing Germany to the brink of defeat, only a very small percentage of bombs were hitting their targets. “Hitting their target” was defined as getting a bomb within an 80 square mile area around the target.

Most of the bombs “hitting” the target were in fact missing by miles. For over a year Bomber Command had been pounding away at Germany and had achieved nothing.

So now what?

“Greg Baughen is author of a highly acclaimed, if controversial, series of books on the history of the British and French air forces. His latest book “RAF on the Offensive” (Pen & Sword, October 2018 ) is the fourth in a series on the development of British air power.”


Air Defence of Great Britain

The Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) was a RAF command comprising substantial army and RAF elements responsible for the air defence of the British Isles. It lasted from 1925, following recommendations that the RAF take control of homeland air defence, until 1936 when it became RAF Fighter Command.

Air Defence of Great Britain
Active1925–1936
Country United Kingdom
Branch Royal Air Force
TypeCommand
RoleHomeland Air Defence
Garrison/HQAir Ministry, London (1925–1926)
Hillingdon House, Uxbridge (1926–1936)


Documents Related to FDR and Churchill

A close friendship and the excellent working relations that developed between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were crucial in the establishment of a unified effort to deal with the Axis powers. This working relationship was highlighted by many joint appearances and agreements that not only addressed the immediate needs of the Allies but also the planning for a successful peace following victory.

In late December 1941, shortly after entry of the United States into World War II, Churchill met in Washington, D.C., with Roosevelt in what became known as the First Washington Conference, code name "Arcadia." The conference placed first priority on the Atlantic theater and the defeat of Germany and Italy. On December 24, 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill delivered Christmas greetings to the nation and the world from the South Portico of the White House during the lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree. FDR closed his short message with the following passage, "And so I am asking my associate, [and] my old and good friend, to say a word to the people of America, old and young, tonight, -- Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain." These words clearly describe the relationship that these two leaders of the "Free World" had struck.

FDR had begun the long-term correspondence that developed into a close working friendship with Winston Churchill in early 1940 while Churchill was still first lord of the admiralty. The initial interaction was to encourage a neutral America to take a more active anti-Axis role.

In July 1940 newly appointed Prime Minister Churchill requested help from FDR, after Britain had sustained the loss of 11 destroyers to the German Navy over a 10-day period. Roosevelt responded by exchanging 50 destroyers for 99-year leases on British bases in the Caribbean and Newfoundland. A major foreign policy debate erupted over whether the United States should aid Great Britain or maintain strict neutrality.

In the 1940 presidental election campaign Roosevelt promised to keep America out of the war. He stated, "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." Nevertheless, FDR wanted to support Britain and believed the United States should serve as a "great arsenal of democracy." Churchill pleaded "Give us the tools and we'll finish the job." In January 1941, following up on his campaign pledge and the prime minister's appeal for arms, Roosevelt proposed to Congress a new military aid bill.

The plan was to "lend-lease or otherwise dispose of arms" and other supplies needed by any country whose security was vital to the defense of the United States. This Lend-Lease Act, proposed by FDR in January 1941 and passed by Congress in March, went a long way toward solving the concerns of both Great Britain's desperate need for supplies and America's desire to appear neutral. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the debate over lend-lease, "We are buying . . . not lending. We are buying our own security while we prepare. By our delay during the past six years, while Germany was preparing, we find ourselves unprepared and unarmed, facing a thoroughly prepared and armed potential enemy."

In August 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill met for the first of nine face-to-face conferences ( http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/ww2con95.html) during the war. The four-day meeting aboard a ship anchored off the coast of Newfoundland at Argentia Bay was devoted to an agreement on war aims and a vision for the future. The document created at this meeting was the The Atlantic Charter, an agreement on war aims between besieged Great Britain and the neutral United States. The charter set forth the concepts of self-determination, end to colonialism, freedom of the seas, and the improvement of living and working conditions for all people. Many of the ideas were similar to those proposed by Wilson's Fourteen Points, but not accepted by our allies at the Versailles Conference at the close of World War I.

From 1941 when they first met until FDR's death in 1945, Roosevelt and Churchill sustained a close personal and professional relationship. Playwright Robert Sherwood later wrote, "It would be an exaggeration to say that Roosevelt and Churchill became chums at this conference. . . . They established an easy intimacy, a joking informality and moratorium on pomposity and cant, -- and also a degree of frankness in intercourse which, if not quite complete, was remarkably close to it." Roosevelt cabled Churchill after the meeting, "It is fun to be in the same decade with you." Churchill later wrote, "I felt I was in contact with a very great man who was also a warm-hearted friend and the foremost champion of the high causes which we served."

Two of the documents featured in this lesson, the typewritten drafts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill's Christmas Eve greeting from the White House in Washington, D.C., on December 24, 1941, and the remarks of the president and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands are housed at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY.

Resources

Kimball, Warren. Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill and the Second World War. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1997.

The Documents

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill's Christmas Eve Greeting from the White House
December 24, 1941


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Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
First Carbon Files
1933 - 1945
National Archives Identifier: 197366

Remarks of President Roosevelt and
Her Majesty Wilhelmina, Queen of the
Netherlands on the Transfer of a Ship
Under the Lend-Lease Act
August 6, 1942

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Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
First Carbon Files
1933 - 1945
National Archives Identifier: 198012

The Atlantic Charter
August 14, 1941

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National Archives and Records Adminstration
Records of the Office of Government Reports
Record Group 44
National Archives Identifier: 513885

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at Shangri-la during the Third Washington Conference

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Franklin D. Roosevelt Library
Public Domain Photographs
1882-1962
National Archives Identifier: 196836

Table listing the Major
Conferences of World War II

Transcript of
President Woodrow Wilson's
"Fourteen Points" Speech


Operation Sealion

The political rather than the military nature of the invasion plan at this time is suggested by the extraordinary timing that Hitler imposed. Planning an invasion and assembling a fleet and appropriate forces in a month was clearly a practical impossibility but timing was an essential part of the game of bluff that Hitler was playing. When the British realised what was coming their way their will to resist would crumble.

From mid July the Luftwaffe stepped up the military pressure by attacking the channel ports and shipping to establish command of the Straits of Dover, while German heavy guns were installed around Calais to bombard the Dover area where the first shells started to fall during the second week of August.

By the end of July the Royal Navy had to pull all its larger warships out of the channel because of the threat from German aircraft. All seemed to be going to plan perhaps this mounting military pressure and the prospect of invasion would break British spirits and make Operation Sealion unnecessary?

. the Royal Navy had to pull all its larger warships out of the channel because of the threat from German aircraft.

But by the end of July neither the threat of imminent invasion nor offers by Germany of 'honourable' peace had done the trick. It appeared that Germany would actually have to execute one of the most difficult military operations imaginable: an invasion, launched across at least 20 miles of water, culminating in a landing on a fortified and desperately defended coast line.

It was immediately clear that this could not even be attempted until the Royal Navy - still one of the most formidable fighting forces in the world - had been either destroyed or diverted and after the Royal Air Force had been eliminated.

The first reaction of Hitler and the German high command, when it appeared that a real rather than a bluff invasion would have to be organised, was to change the schedule. On the last day of July Hitler held a meeting at the Berghof.

He was told of the difficulty in obtaining barges suitable to carry invasion troops and about the problems of massing troops and equipment while the German navy argued for the invasion front to be reduced from the proposed 200 miles (from Lyme Regis in the west to Ramsgate in the east) and for a postponement of the invasion until May 1941.

Hitler rejected these requests that, if granted, would have undermined the invasion as a political threat, but the start date was postponed to September the 16th. There is evidence that, during this meeting, Hitler decided that the invasion of England was effectively a bluff operation and that resources should be diverted to the east in preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

But, for the bluff to work, the build-up for invasion had to continue and Britain had to be kept under military pressure. So, after the 31 July meeting it was decided that the Luftwaffe should tighten the screw by attempting to clear the channel of British warships and the skies over southeast England of British aircraft.

Hermann Goering saw no problems. The attack was due to start immediately, but bad weather delayed the German air offensive against Britain until 12 August.


Battle of Britain

Overview The Battle of Britain was one of the major World War II battles. The battle was waged in the skies over the English Channel and England's eastern and southern coast in 1940 and 1941. World War II had broken out in Europe, and Adolf Hitler was determined to subjugate England. The main combatants were the United Kingdom and Germany. The German plan was to unfold in several phases, but all efforts toward that end ultimately failed. The reasons for the failure are just as interesting as the battle itself.

Hope for American Isolationism came to an end with the Battle of Britain. By the end of 1940, most Americans had come to realize that war was inevitable. By the beginning of July 1940, the British Royal Air Force (RAF), had built up its strength to 640 serviceable fighters, but the Luftwaffe (German air force) boasted 2,600 bombers and fighters.

Background In England, a Royal Warrant formed the Royal Flying Corps on May 13, 1912, superseding the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers. The Royal Naval Air Service was formed shortly after the outbreak of World War I. Both services saw heavy action during that conflict. The two services were amalgamated on April 1, 1918, to form the Royal Air Force (RAF). The RAF was under the supervision of the Air Ministry and was the world's second-largest independent air force, after the German Luftwaffe. On February 26, 1935, Hitler ordered World War I flying ace, Hermann Göring, to rebuild the German air force, the Luftwaffe (literally, air weapon, pronounced looft-vaaf-fa) in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles. In August 1941, U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill met aboard a cruiser anchored off Newfoundland to craft a proclamation that became known as The Atlantic Charter. In it, they vowed not to pursue gains, "territorial or otherwise" to honor the right of every country to determine its own form of government to ensure freedom of the seas and to carry on peaceful global trade. Following a Roosevelt speech on January 6, 1941, Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act, which allowed the American government to supply war matériel to any country at war with the Axis powers. Britain became the main recipient.

As the chief British defense strategist, Churchill refused to countenance an armistice with the Nazis. A master of rhetoric, the prime minister hardened British public opinion against a peaceful resolution with Germany, having foreseen Nazi aggression as imminent and unavoidable. German forces nearly cornered the bulk of the British army, which had retreated to Dunkirk in Northern France. Following the British army's great escape across the English Channel from Dunkirk, there was a lull that allowed the British to prepare for defense against the Germans. The British organized a well thought-out air defense system that included the newly developed Radar, (Radio Detection and Ranging). Observer Corps posts stood all over the country. Their job was to report air raids once they had crossed the coast and were behind the radar. Strategically positioned Barrage Balloon posts were notified of an impending attack. The balloons impeded the attacking aircraft by causing them to either veer from their course or increase elevation, which reduced their bombing accuracy.

England faced a wide arc of German air power. Luftflotte (Air Fleet) No. Five was based in Norway, headquartered at Stavanger Luftflotte Two was in Northern France, Belgium and Holland, headquartered at Brussels and Luftflotte Three occupied bases in the remainder of France with their headquarters in Paris. A German Luftflotte controlled both fighters and bombers in combined operations, but the RAF had separate commands for the two tasks. Above the three Luftflotte organizations, there were a number of units controlled directly by the office of Reichsmarschal Göring in Berlin. They were largely weather and reconnaissance units, and operational standards organizations. The two based in the Battle area were based at Brest and at Brussels.

Operation Sea Lion A month after the Fall of France in June 1940, when the Germans believed they had already won the war in the West, Hitler ordered preparation of a plan to invade Britain. Operation Sea Lion (Unternehmen Seelöwe) was the result. The Führer hoped to frighten Britain into peace before the invasion was launched, and he used the invasion preparations as a means to apply pressure. The plan was prepared by the OKW (Armed Forces High Command). The operation was scheduled for September 1940 and called for landings on Britain's south coast, backed by an airborne assault. All preparations were to be made by mid-August. The plan was never carried out. Operation Sea Lion was deeply flawed, suffering from a lack of resources — particularly sea transport — and disagreements between the German navy and army brass. In any event, Churchill refused to start peace talks, so more direct measures of reducing British resistance were conceived in an effort to finish the war in the West. The Battle and the Blitz The Battle of Britain, from the British perspective, raged from July 10 to October 31, 1940. German sources begin the battle from mid-August 1940 through May 1941, when Göring ordered withdrawal of the German strategic bomber aircraft used over England.

The Battle of Britain was the longest and largest sustained bombing campaign yet attempted by any government. A total of 1,715 Hawker Hurricanes flew with the RAF Fighter Command during the battle, far in excess of all other British fighters combined. Having entered service a year before the Spitfire, the Hurricane was slightly older and was markedly inferior in terms of speed and climb. However, the Hurricane was a robust, maneuverable aircraft capable of sustaining fearsome combat damage before ending its useful life and unlike the Spitfire, it was a fully operational, go-anywhere do-anything fighter by July 1940. It is estimated that Hurricane pilots were credited with four-fifths of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the period of July through October 1940. In the autumn of 1940, Hitler, having grown impatient with the failure of the Luftwaffe to destroy the RAF, ordered a switch to bombing major British cities. Known by the British as The Blitz, the change of strategy was intended to demoralize the people and destroy industries. The Battle of Britain would continue until October 31, 1940, but after September 15th, most raids were conducted on a far smaller scale. The Blitz continued with constant night attacks for 57 consecutive days after September 7, but the bombing of British towns and industrial centers continued until 1944. Records report that 2,944 pilots took part in the historic battle, of whom 497 lost their lives. Those that have no known grave are remembered on the RAF Runnymede Memorial near Windsor. The Battle of Britain marked a turning point. Its outcome ensured the survival of an independent Britain and represented the first failure of the German war machine.


Winston Churchill’s Battle of Britain Speech

A selection of the best excerpts from the speech made by Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the height of the Battle of Britain on August 20, 1940:

“Rather more than a quarter of a year has passed since the new Government came into power in this country. What a cataract of disaster has poured out upon us since then!… Meanwhile, we have not only fortified our hearts but our Island. We have rearmed and rebuilt our armies in a degree which would have been deemed impossible a few months ago.… The whole Island bristles against invaders, from the sea or from the air. …the stronger our Army at home, the larger must the invading expedition be, and the larger the invading expedition, the less difficult will be the task of the Navy in detecting its assembly and in intercepting and destroying it in passage and the greater also would be the difficulty of feeding and supplying the invaders if ever they landed… Our Navy is far stronger than it was at the beginning of the war. The great flow of new construction set on foot at the outbreak is now beginning to come in.

Why do I say all this? Not, assuredly, to boast not, assuredly, to give the slightest countenance to complacency. The dangers we face are still enormous, but so are our advantages and resources. I recount them because the people have a right to know that there are solid grounds for the confidence which we feel, and that we have good reason to believe ourselves capable, as I said in a very dark hour two months ago, of continuing the war “if necessary alone, if necessary for years.”…

The great air battle which has been in progress over this Island for the last few weeks has recently attained a high intensity. It is too soon to attempt to assign limits either to its scale or to its duration. We must certainly expect that greater efforts will be made by the enemy than any he has so far put forth.… It is quite plain that Herr Hitler could not admit defeat in his air attack on Great Britain without sustaining most serious injury. If after all his boastings and bloodcurdling threats and lurid accounts trumpeted round the world of the damage he has inflicted, of the vast numbers of our Air Force he has shot down, so he says, with so little loss to himself …if after all this his whole air onslaught were forced after a while tamely to peter out, the Fuhrer’s reputation for veracity of statement might be seriously impugned. We may be sure, therefore, that he will continue as long as he has the strength to do so…

…It must also be remembered that all the enemy machines and pilots which are shot down over our Island, or over the seas which surround it, are either destroyed or captured whereas a considerable proportion of our machines, and also of our pilots, are saved, and soon again in many cases come into action.… We believe that we shall be able to continue the air struggle indefinitely and as long as the enemy pleases, and the longer it continues the more rapid will be our approach, first towards that parity, and then into that superiority, in the air upon which in a large measure the decision of the war depends.

The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All our hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day…

A good many people have written to me to ask me to make on this occasion a fuller statement of our war aims, and of the kind of peace we wish to make after the war, than is contained in the very considerable declaration which was made early in the autumn.… I do not think it would be wise at this moment, while the battle rages and the war is still perhaps only in its earlier stage, to embark upon elaborate speculations about the future shape which should be given to Europe… But before we can undertake the task of rebuilding we have not only to be convinced ourselves, but we have to convince all other countries that the Nazi tyranny is going to be finally broken. The right to guide the course of world history is the noblest prize of victory. We are still toiling up the hill we have not yet reached the crest-line of it we cannot survey the landscape or even imagine what its condition will be when that longed-for morning comes. The task which lies before us immediately is at once more practical, more simple and more stern.… For the rest, we have to gain the victory. That is our task.

…Some months ago we came to the conclusion that the interests of the United States and of the British Empire both required that the United States should have facilities for the naval and air defence of the Western Hemisphere against the attack of a Nazi power… We had therefore decided spontaneously, and without being asked or offered any inducement, to inform the Government of the United States that we would be glad to place such defence facilities at their disposal by leasing suitable sites in our Transatlantic possessions for their greater security against the unmeasured dangers of the future.… His Majesty’s Government are entirely willing to accord defence facilities to the United States on a 99 years’ leasehold basis… Undoubtedly this process means that these two great organisations of the English-speaking democracies, the British Empire and the United States, will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage. For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished no one can stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days.”


Japanese policy, 1939–41

When war broke out in Europe in September 1939, the Japanese, despite a series of victorious battles, had still not brought their war in China to an end: on the one hand, the Japanese strategists had made no plans to cope with the guerrilla warfare pursued by the Chinese on the other, the Japanese commanders in the field often disregarded the orders of the supreme command at the Imperial headquarters and occupied more Chinese territory than they had been ordered to take. Half of the Japanese Army was thus still tied down in China when the commitment of Great Britain and France to war against Germany opened up the prospect of wider conquests for Japan in Southeast Asia and in the Pacific. Japan’s military ventures in China proper were consequently restricted rather more severely henceforth.

The German victories over the Netherlands and France in the summer of 1940 further encouraged the Japanese premier, Prince Konoe, to look southward at those defeated powers’ colonies and also, of course, at the British and U.S. positions in the Far East. The island archipelago of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) along with French Indochina and British-held Malaya contained raw materials (tin, rubber, petroleum) that were essential to Japan’s industrial economy, and if Japan could seize these regions and incorporate them into the empire, it could make itself virtually self-sufficient economically and thus become the dominant power in the Pacific Ocean. Since Great Britain, single-handedly, was confronting the might of the Axis in Europe, the Japanese strategists had to reckon, primarily, with the opposition of the United States to their plans for territorial aggrandizement. When Japanese troops entered northern Indochina in September 1940 (in pursuance of an agreement extorted in August from the Vichy government of France), the United States uttered a protest. Germany and Italy, by contrast, recognized Japan as the leading power in the Far East by concluding with it the Tripartite, or Axis, Pact of September 27, 1940: negotiated by Japanese foreign minister Matsuoka Yosuke, the pact pledged its signatories to come to one another’s help in the event of an attack “by a power not already engaged in war.” Japan also concluded a neutrality pact with the U.S.S.R. on April 13, 1941.

On July 2, 1941, the Imperial Conference decided to press the Japanese advance southward even at the risk of war with Great Britain and the United States and this policy was pursued even when Matsuoka was relieved of office a fortnight later. On July 26, in pursuance of a new agreement with Vichy France, Japanese forces began to occupy bases in southern Indochina.

This time the United States reacted vigorously, not only freezing Japanese assets under U.S. control but also imposing an embargo on supplies of oil to Japan. Dismay at the embargo drove the Japanese naval command, which had hitherto been more moderate than the army, into collusion with the army’s extremism. When negotiations with the Dutch of Indonesia for an alternative supply of oil produced no satisfaction, the Imperial Conference on September 6, at the high command’s insistence, decided that war must be undertaken against the United States and Great Britain unless an understanding with the United States could be reached in a few weeks’ time.

General Tōjō Hideki, who succeeded Konoe as premier in mid-October 1941, continued the already desperate talks. The United States, however, persisted in making demands that Japan could not concede: renunciation of the Tripartite Pact (which would have left Japan diplomatically isolated) the withdrawal of Japanese troops from China and from Southeast Asia (a humiliating retreat from an overt commitment of four years’ standing) and an open-door regime for trade in China. When Cordell Hull, the U.S. secretary of state, on November 26, 1941, sent an abrupt note to the Japanese bluntly requiring them to evacuate China and Indochina and to recognize no Chinese regime other than that of Chiang Kai-shek, the Japanese could see no point in continuing the talks. (See Sidebar: Pearl Harbor and the “Back Door to War” Theory.)

Since peace with the United States seemed impossible, Japan set in motion its plans for war, which would now necessarily be waged not only against the United States but also against Great Britain (the existing war effort of which depended on U.S. support and the Far Eastern colonies of which lay within the orbit of the projected Japanese expansion) and against the Dutch East Indies (the oil of which was essential to Japanese enterprises, even apart from geopolitical considerations).

The evolving Japanese military strategy was based on the peculiar geography of the Pacific Ocean and on the relative weakness and unpreparedness of the Allied military presence in that ocean. The western half of the Pacific is dotted with many islands, large and small, while the eastern half of the ocean is, with the exception of the Hawaiian Islands, almost devoid of landmasses (and hence of usable bases). The British, French, American, and Dutch military forces in the entire Pacific region west of Hawaii amounted to only about 350,000 troops, most of them lacking combat experience and being of disparate nationalities. Allied air power in the Pacific was weak and consisted mostly of obsolete planes. If the Japanese, with their large, well-equipped armies that had been battle-hardened in China, could quickly launch coordinated attacks from their existing bases on certain Japanese-mandated Pacific islands, on Formosa ( Taiwan), and from Japan itself, they could overwhelm the Allied forces, overrun the entire western Pacific Ocean as well as Southeast Asia, and then develop those areas’ resources to their own military-industrial advantage. If successful in their campaigns, the Japanese planned to establish a strongly fortified defensive perimeter extending from Burma in the west to the southern rim of the Dutch East Indies and northern New Guinea in the south and sweeping around to the Gilbert and Marshall islands in the southeast and east. The Japanese believed that any American and British counteroffensives against this perimeter could be repelled, after which those nations would eventually seek a negotiated peace that would allow Japan to keep her newly won empire.

Until the end of 1940 the Japanese strategists had assumed that any new war to be waged would be against a single enemy. When it became clear, in 1941, that the British and the Dutch as well as the Americans must be attacked, a new and daring war plan was successfully sponsored by the commander in chief of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku.


Britain declares war on the Ottoman Empire

Germany formed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire on 2 August 1914, but the Turks resisted German pressure to enter the war until the end of October when it shelled Russian ports on the Black Sea. Britain, France and Russia responded with declarations of war. The Ottoman Empire in turn declared a military 'jihad' in November. The implications for Britain, with a vulnerable empire stretching across the Middle East to India and including a large Muslim population, were considerable.


WW2: Alternate History Part 2 (1939-1941)

War Breaks Out in Europe:


On September 1st, Germany invades Poland under false pretext that the Pols attempted to carry out sabotage operation against German forces on the border. Two days later, on September the 3rd, Britain, France and Arendelle, followed by the dominions of the British Commonwealth, declared war on Germany, honoring their commitment to Polish independence. However, the alliance only offered a limited amount of direct military support to Poland. The polish weren't only outnumbered, but facing a new form of warfare for which they were ill prepared. Blitzkrieg. The western allies also began a naval blockade of Germany to weaken the economy and war effort, Germany responded with the U-boat warfare against allied merchant ships, which would later escalate to the battle of the Atlantic.

Then of September 17, 1939 the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east. The Polish army was later defeated when Warsaw surrendered to the Germans on 27th September, with the final pockets surrendering on October 6th. Poland was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union according to the Nazi Soviet Pact. The Soviet Union annexed half the country to the East, Germany took the rest. Both regimes started rounding up anyone who would be considered a threat to them in the future. After the defeat of the armed forces, the polish resistance established the Polish Underground State and a partisan home army. About 100,000 polish troops escaped to Romania and the Baltic countries, many would fight the Germans in other theaters of war.

On October the 6th, Hitler made a public peace overture to Britain, France and Arendelle, but said that the future of Poland would be determined between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. British prime minister Neville Chamberlin rejected this just six days later saying "Past experience has shown that no reliance can be placed upon the promises of the present German Government." As a result Hitler had ordered an immediate offensive against France, but bad weather meant that the offensive had to be postponed until spring 1940.

After signing the German-Soviet Frontier Treaty, the Soviet Union forced the Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to allow it to place them under mutual assistance. Finland rejected territorial demands prompting the Soviet Invasion in November of 1939 which escalated into the Winter War which ended with Finnish concessions. The European powers of Britain, France and Arendelle treated the soviet aggression as a tantamount to its entering the war on the side of the Germans, and responded to the invasion by supporting the USSR's expulsion from the League of Nations. Then in June of 1940, the Soviet Union forcibly annexed the Baltic States, and disputed Romanian regions. Meanwhile the Nazi-Soviet Pact had gradually stalled and both sides began preparations for war.

As stated before, Britain, France and Arendelle did little to help Poland. As Hitler had gambled, they have no idea what to do, once they had actually declared war. All three had began mobilization of their armies. In Britain, air raid precautions were speeded up, anti-aircraft guns were placed in major cities. Children were being evacuated, everyone had to carry gas mask, and a black out had been introduced. In Arendelle, they had mobilized their armies near preparing for a repeat of World War 1, digging in and waiting for the enemy to make a move. But the Arendelle military will be the first of the Major European powers to realize the full strength and power of the German Wehrmacht.

By February of 1940, Hitler had become interested in Arendelle. The Kingdom of Arendelle possessed plenty of iron ore, which the Nazi war machine needed. So he ordered plans to be prepared for the invasion of Arendelle. Denmark which was also in the way would also have to be seized. Then on April the 9th, Germany began their campaign to invade Denmark and Arendelle. Denmark capitulated after only a few hours despite allied support. Arendelle had resisted the Germans surprisingly well, but their air force was no match for the German Luftwaffe which dominated the Arendelle air crew. Once the Arendelle Air Force was decimated, the Germans had complete air superiority, which cultivated in the capitulation of Arendelle. Arendelle was conquered within two months, and its iron ore was seized. The Royal Family of Arendelle was evacuated to America, their trusted ally.

A landing force was dispatched to recapture Narvik, however six weeks later the Allies had abandoned Arendelle to its fate. Arendelle is the first of the major powers in Europe to surrender. British discontent over the campaign lead to the replacement of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin with Winston Churchill on May of 1940.

Germany launched an offensive against France, and the Neutral nations of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland on May10, 1940. That same day, British forces landed in the Arendelle territory of the Faroe islands to Preempt possible German invasions. Before its capitulation, Arendelle had reached an Agreement with America that it would protect Iceland should Arendelle be overwhelmed by the German forces. This also lead to the establishment of US bases in Iceland.

Battle of France:

The Netherlands and Belgium were overrun by the German Blitzkrieg in a few days and weeks. The French forted Maginot line was circumvented by the German flanking movement through the thickly forested Ardennes region, mistakenly perceived by the allied powers to be impenetrable against armored vehicles. As a result, the bulk of the allied armies found themselves surrounded and encircled by the German war machine and were beaten. However for all of its glory, the blitzkrieg did reveal a weakness. As the panzers raced westwards they created an ever longing corridor just a few miles while. The allies realized they can counter attack. The bulk of the German army still relied on horse power, or feet to maneuver, so the gap between the rampaging panzers and the rest of the army was quickly growing.

On may 17th, Colonel Charles De Gaulle, commander of one of the newly formed French armored divisions, made the first of two attempts to counter the German line. However the Germans had little difficulty in warding off both attacks. Inflicting heavy casualties. It seemed as though nothing can stop the German attacks. The German commander Heinz Guderian plunged further and further into France. The majority of the allied armed forces were taken prisoner, whilst over 300,000 mostly British and French military personal, were evacuated from Dunkirk in early June. During the evacuation, many British merchant ships moved across the English channel toward Dunkirk, but have only managed to save 8,000 of the 300,000 soldiers. Luftwaffe attacks had reduced the port to rubble. And the ships could not get in close enough to the beaches to evacuate the troops. So it was decided that shallow floating vessels about 30ft long needed to be used to head to the beaches and ferry the troops to the larger ships that were waiting to rescue them. But all the time the evacuation was under constant air attack. the British air force was put to the test to drive the German air force off. Even so 24 warships were sunk. A quarter of the 665 small boats never got home. But at the same time, over 300,000 men had been rescued. But they had left most of their equipment behind, the British army would never be fit to fight the Germans again for a long time.

Then on the 10th of June, Italy invaded France declaring war on both France and the United Kingdom. Paris fell on 14th of June to the Germans and the country was divided into occupation zones between Italy and Germany, with the latter taking up most of the country. Following the surrender of France, the territories in Africa and the Pacific were seized by Germany's allies, Spain and Japan, with Japan occupying French Indochina. France had a fleet which the British feared would be seized by the Germans, the British offered the French fleet an ultimatum to either join the Royal navy, scuttle the ships or be fired upon. When the fleet refused, the British fired upon the ships and disabled the fleet. This attack demonstrated to the world, and above all to America and Columbia that the British means to fight at all cost, without allies if necessary.

Battle of Britain:

On July the 19, Hitler returned in triumph to Berlin, and was greeted by more than a million people. That day the German parliament offered peace terms to Britain. The offer seemed generous, Britain could keep its empire, in return he wanted a free hand in Europe, his plan was to conquer the countries of the east, in order to make room to live for the German people. But Churchill would have none of it, the British would fight on, this would "be their finest hour."

Hitler was planning his invasion of Britain in code named Operation Sea Lion. However there was still trouble. Hitler may have dismissed the English channel as just another river to be crossed, but the British Royal Navy was still the largest navy in the world. It may have been stretched thin by its world wide commitments, but the home navy fleet of the royal navy far out-numbered the Germans. But the Germans did have one area of apparent massive superiority. The Luftwaffe far out-numbered Britain's royal air force. The battle of Britain began in early July with Luftwaffe attacks on shipping and harbors. In response the British had two of the most outstanding breed of monoplanes, the Super marine Spitfire, and the Hawker Hurricane. The Hurricane would prove a lethal bomber kill, and the spitfire was more than a match for the Bf-109. The British also had radar which let them knew of impending attacks from the Luftwaffe. It was the worlds first integrated defense system.

Germany's aim was to establish air superiority over the RAF, but 12 days later shifted to attacking RAF airfields and infrastructures. As the battle progressed, the Luftwaffe also targeted factories involved in World War II aircraft production and strategic infrastructure and, eventually, it employed terror bombing on areas of political significance and civilians. A group of He-111 bombers, attacked London. the Next night British bombers responded by raiding Berlin. Infuriated, Hitler demanded massive retaliation Goering began attacking the British capital of London. But in fact this was Goering's second crucial mistake, the RAF was in fact at the breaking point, but switching from attacking the RAF airfields to attacking London gave the RAF the respite it needed. Then on Sept 15 British radars picked up a massive assault on London. By Sept 17, after denying the Luftwaffe air supremacy, the British had forced Hitler to postpone and eventually cancel operation Sea Lion, instead the Luftwaffe shifted from daylight raid to night raids on London. London was attacked every night but one up to November 12. This was known as The Blitz which continued into 1941, with the last major raid on London on the night of May 10th. The victory at the battle of Britain was a huge Moral boosting moment, with pilot volunteers from across the British empire joining up. Even volunteers from conquered nations like Poland, Arendelle, France and Czechoslovakia. Even volunteers from the neutral nations of America and Columbia.

But for Hitler, it was another irritating setback. Britain he thought was never a real threat, instead he focused on conquering the east. Britain may have won the battle but it was still immensely vulnerable. Night after night, its cities were constantly hammered by the blitz, and its supply lifelines at sea were under constant assault by the German U-boat. Churchill needed more help, and there were only two countries in the world that could provide it, the United States, and the Columbian States. By 1940, America and Columbia had recovered from the Great Depression, and their economies were booming again. They had immense reserves of manpower, and extraordinary industrial strength rivaling only themselves. But the people of Columbia and America were opposed of becoming involved yet again, in Europe's wars. Undeterred Churchill lobbied American and Columbian Presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Christina J. Holloway. Both presidents had admired the British prime minister for his anti-Nazism views and all three were interested in naval affairs.

For all their promises against their nations entering the war, Roosevelt and Holloway had no illusions that axis aggression would one day force America and Columbia into the war, so both presidents needed to prepare their nation's public opinion. In November of 1939 both nations had allowed cash and carry purchases by the allies. And by the time the Germans captured France, the US Navy and the CS Navy had increased dramatically. Both nations build new class of aircraft carriers and super battleships that couldn't fit through the first panama canal, but Panama Canal 2 was wide enough to allow an unlimited amount of giant ships from the Pacific to Atlantic ocean. Both nations also increased their military strength, and the Roosevelt made a deal with Churchill that the US would supply Britain with 50 WW1 destroyers in exchange for the British territory of Newfoundland and Labrador island. Britain trying to negotiate a better deal, lost the argument and agreed to take the destroyers and let America take the rest of Newfoundland and Labrador island, essentially completing the mainland expansion of the country. America would pay Britain $200,000,000 after the war was over.

Roosevelt convincingly defeated Wendell Willkie at the November election with 27 million votes to 22. At a speech Roosevelt called for America and Columbia to become the "Arsenals for Democracy" in other words arm Britain. Though America and Columbia still opposed going to war well into 1941, the American and Columbian people began to admire the bravery of the British people during the Blitz. America and Columbia would supply Britain and China with arms. Roosevelt and Holloway also lobbied that unlike 1917, should America and Columbia enter the war, they would already have a substantial weapons industry. American Columbian preparations didn't stop there, both presidents ordered their war departments to discuss common strategy with the British should the sister nations enter the war. They decided on a number of offensive policies, including an air offensive, the early elimination of Italy, raids, support of resistance groups, and the capture of positions to launch an offensive against Germany.

By September of 1940, the Berlin Pact, was an agreement that united Japan, Germany, Spain and Italy to formalize the Axis powers. The Pact stipulated that any country, with the exception of the Soviet Union, not in the war which attacked any Axis Power would be forced to go to war against all four. The Pact was later expanded when Hungary, Slovakia and Romania joined the pact. Romania, and Hungary would make major contributions in the Axis war against the USSR mostly to recapture territories ceded to the USSR and to pursue their desires to combat communism.

By April 1941, both presidents Roosevelt and Holloway felt confident enough to take another step to help Britain. It would Establish the Pan-America line for US and CS ships to protect Merchant ships to and from Britain. The US Navy increased its numbers at Iceland to deny Germany of its harbors. The both navies also provided limited convoy escorts for Merchant ships. Hitler now gave his U-boats strict instructions not to attack the US and CS boats, as he didn't want to provoke either country into the war.

Mediterranean:

Italy began operations in the Mediterranean, initiating a siege of Malta in June, conquering British Somaliland in August, and making an incursion into British-held Egypt in September 1940. The Italians started the Greco-Italian war because of Mussolini's jealousy of Hitler's success but his forces were soon pushed back to Kosovo, where a stalemate soon occurred. Greece requested the UK for support, and the British then sent troops to Crete, and provide air support. Hitler then decided that when the weather improved he would provide military assistance to the Italians in the invasion of Greece, and prevent the British from establishing a foothold in the Balkans. It was also to strike British naval dominance in the Mediterranean and secure Romanian oil reserves.

In December of 1940, British commonwealth forces began counter offensive against Italian forces in Egypt and Italian East Africa. The offensive in North Africa was highly successful and by early February 1941 Italy had lost control of eastern Libya and large numbers of Italian troops had been taken prisoner. The Italian Navy also suffered significant defeats, with the Royal Navy putting three Italian battleships out of commission by a carrier attack at Taranto, and neutralizing several more warships at the Battle of Cape Mattapan.

The Germans soon intervened to assist Italy by first sending them to Libya in February and by the end of March they had launched their offensive, which drove back the commonwealth forces which were weakened by their support in Greece. In under a month, the Commonwealth forces were driven back into Egypt.

By late March 1941, following Bulgaria's signing of the Tripartite Pact, the Germans were in position to intervene in Greece. Plans were changed, however, because of developments in neighboring Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav government had signed the Tripartite Pact on 25 March, only to be overthrown two days later by a British-encouraged coup. Hitler viewed the new regime as hostile and immediately decided to eliminate it. On 6 April Germany simultaneously invaded both Yugoslavia and Greece, making rapid progress and forcing both nations to surrender within the month. The British were driven from the Balkans after Germany conquered the Greek island of Crete by the end of May. Although the Axis victory was swift, bitter partisan warfare subsequently broke out against the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia, which will continue for the duration of the war.

The allies did have some success during the fight, in the middle east, the Rebellion forces in Iraq, which were supported by the Germans, was quashed by the allies, then, with the assistance of the Free French, invaded Syria and Lebanon to prevent further such occurrences.

For a year and a half, Britain had been alone in the struggle against the German Wehrmacht. Then on June of 1941, it will have gained a massive ally, but it wasn't America or Columbia both of which Churchill had been assiduously courting, it was the Soviet Union.

Again for those of you wondering why this is in a Disney group or some sort, the "Kingdom of Arendelle" from the movie "frozen" is in this timeline under the request of an anonymous person.


Eagle Squadrons

Under American law, it was illegal for United States citizens to join the armed forces of foreign nations. In doing so, they lost their citizenship, although Congress passed a blanket pardon in 1944. Even so, hundreds if not thousands of American citizens volunteered to fly with the Royal Air Force before America officially entered the war in December, 1941. Perhaps the most famous result of this were the Eagle Squadrons.

In 1939 American mercenary Colonel Charles Sweeney had begun raising an American squadron to fight in Europe, much as the Lafayette Escadrille had during the First World War. Initially he wanted them to fight in Finland against the Soviets, but his attention soon moved to France. Recruited and financed by Sweeney, over thirty Americans made their way to France before the Germans invaded in May, 1940. None got to fly in France, but several made their way to Britain.

In Britain Sweeney’s nephew, also called Charles, had already been busy. He had formed a Home Guard unit from Americans living in London, and was keen on the idea of American squadrons in the Royal Air Force. He took the idea to the Air Ministry, and in July, 1940, they agreed that the handful of Americans already serving in the RAF, plus any new recruits, would be formed into their own national units, to be known as Eagle Squadrons. The first, No.71 Squadron, was formed in September, followed by Nos.121 and 133 Squadrons over the next twelve months.

By this time the Sweeney’s had recruited around 50 pilots, and arranged and paid for them to be smuggled to Canada and then make their way to Britain. Now they handed responsibility over to the Clayton Knight Committee. This Committee, working like the Sweeney’s against American law, had been formed in September, 1939, to recruit Americans for the RAF. It had been founded by Air Vice-Marshall Billy Bishop VC, a Canadian First World War veteran, and was run by an American First World War veteran, Clayton Knight.

The Clayton Knight Committee, working largely in secret, recruited nearly 7,000 American citizens for the RAF or Royal Canadian Air Force, and then arranged for their transportation to Canada. Nearly 250 went on to serve with the Eagle Squadrons. In December, 1941, the United States of America entered the war, and the Clayton Knight Committee ceased its operations.


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