A Very Different Desert War
This alternate history explores
an alternative that was never, as far as I can tell, seriously explored by the
Nazi government. Italy never had
the strength to even begin implementing it.
I am presuming that Hitler had an attack of common sense – rare, but
they did happen – and decided that a) the British had to be forced out of
Africa/Middle East and b) Russia was too big a target at present.
We could have Hitler realise the potential of the atomic bomb in 1940 and
delay Barbarossa until the bomb was ready, or use some other gimmick.
Another possibility would be for someone to impress upon Hitler how easy
it would be to take most of Africa and the resources there.
Point is in mid-1940; Hitler decides to focus on Africa.
We’ll have the Germans
essentially run the Italian war from day one.
The Germans move as many Luffwaffe aircraft to Italy as logistics will
allow and use them to cover an invasion of Malta.
Without the build-up, it’s an occupation task instead.
Once Malta falls, the Germans can build up in Libya and defeat the
British. The Germans launch out for
the Suez and take most of Egypt. The
British retreat into the Sudan or into Palestine. The Germans launch a push across the Canal and force the
British further back. The Germans
also quietly offer to respect Iranian neutrality if the British do likewise, so
the British hole up in Iraq.
Major Change here.
Hitler effectively ignored the French Empire until 1943.
Here, the Germans move some divisions to the Libya/Algeria border.
Hitler demands that the French surrender the control of the colony to
Germany. Failure to do so will
result in German occupation and general nastiness.
I suspect that the Vichy government will give in under such pressure.
The French forces will either be disarmed or escape to British territory.
Second major change: The
Germans offer a chunk of the French empire to Franco in exchange for him joining
the war. Franco accepts and
Gibraltar is besieged.
Just how effective the Spanish
would be is questionable. The
Spanish had lots of tough, experienced troops left over from the civil war.
On the other hand, their economy was in shambles and their transportation
net a mess. Even so, the Germans
should have been able to move heavy guns to the rock and bombard it until the
British surrendered. Add in German air power and resupply becomes incredibly
The next step is a long campaign
against British territories in Africa. The
German/Italian forces reinvade Ethiopia and the Italian colonies that fell to
the British. This is done on
shoestring logistics, so where possible the Germans work though European
colonists who have been declared ‘German’ and the occasional native
collaborator. Many of the French
and Belgium colonists agree to work for Germany, while Hitler also promotes
settlement of Germans in Africa. German
medicine makes life much healthier, while the Germans are more than willing to
enslave the natives. What
resistance there is suffers from being sparse and uncoordinated.
The Germans have also been
building up in Egypt, crushing native revolts when the Egyptians figure out
Germany’s true intentions. They
head over the canal and push though Palestine, arming radical Arab factions and
turning them lose on the Jews. The
British evacuate Haifa and the remains of the Mediterranean fleet (assuming its
not been pulled out of the Med already) has to run the gantlet of the German air
force to escape via Gibraltar. As
the Germans head east, the British position crumbles and whatever remains of the
British desert army is evacuated from Iraq to India.
The Saudis are offered the choice to cooperate with the Germans or else
– not being supremely stupid at that point in time – they agree to support
Germany. Germany is now swimming in
oil as soon as pipelines can be laid, Britain, on the other hand, is staved of
oil, which pinches the British navy.
The bottom drops out of the
situation in late 1941. The Germans
have been building a series of rail lines and airbases across Africa.
After much effort and suffering – mainly on the part of the native
population – the Germans position a strong force in the Belgium Congo, which
threatens South Africa and Rhodesia.
My presumption here is that
Smuts breaks with the Empire and makes a separate peace.
South Africa had a large German-origin population and had only gone to
war reluctantly. With the prospect
of a German invasion and the massive fifth column, I suspect that Smuts would
have sold out for the best he could get. South
Africa ends up with all the territory below the Belgium Congo and breaks
completely with Britain.
At this point, peace becomes
imperative for the British. The
loss of both the cape and Suez cuts the British Empire in half.
Australia would demand their divisions back from wherever they went after
the fall of the Middle East. India
would be even less stable and American supplies might not be so forthcoming as
they were in OTL. For the price of
disowning the Free French, recognising the German conquests, conceding Iranian
neutrality and possibly surrendering the Dutch East Indies to Japan, Britain
With access to the treasure trove of African resources, Germany becomes a much more dangerous nation. Africa supplies uranium, food and other raw materials, while the Middle East provides oil. Germany can rebuild most of its armed forces. The downside is that the Germans and Italians need to keep strong forces in Africa to squash native and European revolts. The Germans recruit SS divisions from the occupied areas of Europe for this task.
There is a major fork in the
road here. Japan still has the
option of hitting America. If so,
what will Hitler do? If he honours
his obligations to declare war, Germany will fight the US without an eastern
front to distract them, with vastly more raw materials and a much larger
economy. If not, the US will
probably squash Japan earlier than OTL (after 1942, America would be far
stronger than Japan in the pacific anyway) and then settle into a three-way cold
Another possible option, and a
far more interesting one, is that Hitler now controls sources of resources Japan
needs. He might well agree to share
those resources with the Japanese in exchange for technical sharing (Japanese
naval designs + whatever work the Japanese have done on WMD) and the Japanese
assisting with a German attack on the USSR when Hitler is ready for that.
I suspect that Stalin and Hitler
would come to blows anyway. The
soviets would be stronger – unless Stalin decides to have another purge –
but the Germans would have more supplies, better weapons (more resources means
that the Germans can explore more angles at the same time) and generally better
tactical skill. By 1945, the
Germans would also have a fleet of long-range bombers (with the vastness of
Africa and the lack of bases, a bomber would be an obvious need), the ability to
launch an attack into the soviet oil fields and probably atomic weapons.
Unless the Manhattan project becomes downgraded, the US will also have a
bomb (perhaps shared with Britain) and the two powers will settle into a cold
war. It would be a very interesting
world, but I would not like to live there.
It would be in some ways far
more exciting than our timeline. Spain
and Turkey would be dependent on Germany. Italy
might be trying to assert their independence.
France would probably have a growing resistance movement.
The British would be trying to hold whatever they could of the empire
together. The Germans would have
developed Africa to first world standards at the cost of millions of African
lives. Judaism and Islam would be
threatened with complete extinction.