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In the generalized waste and slaughter
that was a world war the Burma front 43-45 has to rank among the more
wasteful. Taking Burma made sense for Japan. It cut Chiangís supply line
through Rangoon [although this became redundant with the successes of the
initial Japanese naval-air attacks; there was simply no way even after
Midway the allies could have forced convoys through to Rangoon in the face
of Japanese surface and air attack].
However the multiyear British effort to retake Burma was a major push
to nowhere. The UK had promised its South Asian dependencies
independence after the war. So Churchillís wish to erase the
memories of Singapore aside, it was a push to nowhere for no special
reason beyond inertia and imperial pride. Let us presume that when
British 14th Army is formed its tasks are defending India and providing
cover for FDRís silly Ledo Road and China fixations [ending those requires
a FAR more elaborate ATL]. What changes?
For the crucial years 1943-44 you only free up two British infantry
divisions. The Indian and African divisions would have been needed
to defend India and the Indian-US-Chinese road construction group building
the silly road to Stillwellís Chinese-American forces in far north Burma.
Indeed in the very short run the two British divisions will probably have
to be replaced with 3-4 more African colonial divisions [the manpower for
these was available if anyone could have found a use for them and the Free
Polish Forces had enough surplus officers to stand them up]. However
in addition to the two divisions one frees up a corps worth of landing
craft tied up in the Arakan campaigns, enough transport aircraft to double
what was in the Med and enough shipping to support an additional army [a
defensive force covering the mountains of eastern Assam takes FAR less
shipping than supporting offensives over those mountains into Burma].
Again what changes?
First Churchillís Aegean Campaign in 1943 now has enough shipping and
amphibious lift to avoid the disasters of OTL. Instead the British
get a firm lodgment in the Aegean and take the Peloponnesus. Odds
say they donít make it past Corinth [a natural bottleneck] but between the
two they can besiege Crete. Probably the Germans will refuse to be
starved out but the use of Crete as an airbase ends. Germany will
pull out planes it cannot get fuel to. The gain on convoy air
attacks not made in turn pays for the campaign.
Second an extra corps worth of amphibious lift means Anzio goes in with
four divisions in the initial wave instead of two. The silly plan
still may not work but it now goes from absurd to a die roll. There
is now a 40-50% chance that the German line is unhinged and falls back
past Rome. IF that happens Italy drains off reserves from Ukraine
and France at a crucial time. Even if it doesnít you donít get the
hell that was Anzio before Diadem ended the problem the following spring.
Third [the big one]: the extra landing craft and shipping mean the
Provence landings can go in with Normandy instead of later. This is
worse for the forces landing in Provence who will have to contend with
three first rate German mech divisions instead of one as in OTL.
However it means Normandy will have to deal with two fewer which may just
get Monty to Caen before the lines harden. In OTL every mech
division in France except one was pulled to fight in Normandy and most
were thrown in against the Empire. Here Adolph the Idiot must split
forces. The man was never very good at setting priorities leaving a
possibility that refusing to retreat anywhere he loses everywhere.
Too many contingent factors to be sure but likelihood is a war shorter by
As for Churchillís prestige victory Ė in point of fact no one in the
East noticed that Burma had been retaken as the British gave it up within
the year. So there pretty much is no downside. The worst case
is the Japanese prove more skillful than OTL and knock the British out of
Assam. This is a net plus for the allies as it ends FDRís silly
China campaigns and frees US 14th Air Force for deployment elsewhere.