Anniversary Post: Siege of Leningrad

Siege of LeningradAccording to Wikipedia, on this day in 1942, the Soviet forces managed to open up a “much-needed railway link” during the Siege of Leningrad. That’s important stuff that not much attention is paid to by normal people: supply chains. To military people, well, it’s one of the biggest things they think about. And I have to admit to being in awe of the organizational capabilities of the US military. But then, I love systems; so it is a lot easier for me to get excited about how you manage to feed a couple hundred thousand troops than military tactics.

I was in a conversation with one of “my writers” who lives in Bosnia about World War II. He is really well informed about it. In fact, he pushed back a bit against the theory, Stalin, Not the Bomb, Defeated Japan. We were actually talking about Erwin Rommel and the plot to kill Hitler. He mentioned something that I had never thought about: that the war might have gone on longer if the military had been able to take control of Germany.

I had always assumed that if they had, the military government would have sued for peace. But it’s possible that the Allies would not have accepted anything but complete surrender, given that FDR had said just that. Rommel and company were proud men and probably wouldn’t have accepted that. I think it is more likely that FDR was just being rhetorical — at least as regards a non-Hitler Germany. But one can never say in alternative history, which is why it is so much fun.

But the reason that I’m bringing this all up is that I’ve always thought that if Hitler had not broken his pact with Stalin, World War II would have ended rather differently. Certainly I don’t know. I’m not that much up on this history (and it isn’t a period I’m that interested in, anyway). But if all those wasted resources on the eastern front had been put to the west, could the Nazis have been stopped? I wonder.

4 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Siege of Leningrad

  1. I think that if nothing ELSE changes that the Germans eventually lose. The US throws its weight behind the British and the economic mismatch eventually grinds Germany down (especially since I think that as Stalin sees the Western Allies gaining the upper hand HE decides to declare war to grab off western Poland and as much of eastern Germany as he can…)

    So the really critical decision that could change the eventual-German-defeat as an outcome becomes not so much the decision to turn East as the decision to declare war on the US. Hitler didn’t need to do that, and the counterfactual is whether or not FDR could convince Congress that Germany = Japan, and I’m not sure he can do that; there was a critical mass of Americans who sorta kinda liked the fascists more than they did the commies.

    That said…without the USSR it’s a horrible, long, costly war for the Allies and probably ends up with huge chunks of Berlin and/or Nuremburg (insert city name here) as radioactive slag in the autumn of 1945.

    But…the pull of Lebensraum in the east with the Atlantic coast shortstopping any chance at continuing the conquests further West makes the likelihood of the Ostwendung really, really difficult to avoid. Hitler was, by 1941, basically running a Ponzi scheme and had to keep his troops in the field. With nobody to fight (other than in the Western Desert and that was pretty much a sideshow that left a lot of landser kicking their jackboots) he needed an enemy most quick smart, and he hated the Reds almost as much as he hated the Jews.

    Hard to see how Barbarossa never happens…

    • It does seem that Hitler was determined to go after Russia; it was part of his “vision.” It just seems like such an obviously stupid thing to do. But then, “great” rulers do that kind of thing again and again throughout history. That’s an excellent analysis.

  2. There’s a line of thought that the invasion of Russia was mostly a grab for oil:

    Germany was making fuel from coal, but it wasn’t enough to keep territorial expansion going. Stalin was sending some, but he had to know Germany would eventually invade Russia (it was like a favorite pastime of European powers for centuries) and would never have given Germany enough oil to roll into Moscow.

    I agree with FD above. The US still would have forced Japan into war through embargoes, and once Japan declared war we would have declared it on Germany too, just like we did.

    The only different outcomes of the war for me are if the Germans got luckier and actually conquered some major oil fields, or (Stephen Fry speculated about this in a sci-fi book) if some other fascist had risen to power besides Hitler. One smart enough to use anti-Semitism as a rallying cry while offering security to Jewish scientists and their families.) If it’s not for the exodus of Jewish scientists, maybe Germany beats us to the bomb — or, in Fry’s book, both countries develop it more-or-less at the same time and the Cold War goes on between Germany and the US, instead of Russia.

    The Balkans saw a lot of wartime cruelty on all sides and everyone’s still pretty mad at each other about it, so I’ve no doubt your friend is much more aware of WWII history than most of us. What a fascinating concept about if the coup succeeded. I could see the generals wasting lives until they were assured they wouldn’t be prosecuted for war crimes.

    • I’m not sure the bomb was that big a deal or that it would have been had the war dragged on. I don’t know how quickly they could have built more. But it’s also the case that the German scientists working on the bomb were not passionate about it the way the American scientists were. So even in that scenario, I don’t see it helping that much

      The oil is an interesting idea. There were probably a lot of reasons. But it is true that great European dictators seemed always to want to conquer Russia. I’m not sure why that is.

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