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Foresight is not Hindsight


The military mind has been much-maligned, in particular the failure of various armies to adopt measures that – in hindsight – would have won the war earlier. As John Braue points out, the military knows that its current weapons can do…but new weapons are often untested and therefore suspect. The tanks that the UK had between the wars were flawed designs, for example, and there were other problems. However, there were two developments that could have been made during the run-up to World War Two that…surprise, surprise, were missed.

Antitank Weapons: During WW1, tanks became prominent, and any reasonable study of the possibilities would have suggested that they would continue to be more powerful. In fact, both Britain and France had people who argued precisely that (Fuller and Petain) who were marginalized by politics. What if…there was more attention paid to antitank weapons, perhaps a form of Ju-88 weapon?

Assuming no major changes, it would be well within the power of the Allies to equip their forces with such weapons in time for war. Suddenly, the Germans start to lose Panzers in large numbers. Without the Panzers, their forces simply don’t have that big an advantage over the two Allies. I leave it up to your imagination as to what happens next.

Aircraft Carriers: By 1935, the era of the battleship was on the way out. The UK made a choice to start building six heavy battleships (KGV class and Vanguard) as well as a number of aircraft carriers. What if…they’d put the resources into carriers instead? They would, I suspect, have gained eight extra carriers, all modern and capable, for the battleships…and Britain would have still had a large battleship edge over the Germans.

The changes in the Atlantic are minute. The u-boats may or may not be defeated earlier. Norway may change as the British will have more carriers around to hunt for the German ships. Larger carriers were less useful than escorts, although the British may build some more of those as well. Taranto may be worse for the Italians as the British will be able to throw more aircraft at them – they may even be able to cut the lifeline between Italy and Rommel.

For Japan, however…

It is unlikely that the British would be as un-aggressive as they were, post-Singapore. Four full fleet carriers could have beaten off the Japanese aircraft that killed Prince of Wales and Repulse – UK carriers had a higher survival rate than US carriers – and quite possibly have provided the support that Singapore needed to survive. The fortress may still fall, but it will do so in a blaze of glory, rather than an inglorious surrender.

Nine/ten Allies fleet carriers (US+UK) change the next few months remarkably. It is not impossible to suggest that the extra punch will slow the Japanese down from their conquests, perhaps in the Dutch East Indies or the Philippines. Sooner or later, there will be a bloody clash between the Allies and the Japanese…and who knows what way that will go?

In the long run, it doesn’t matter. Japan did as well as it did on a shoestring economy; it had only enough fuel for a few months. (Six is the number normally quoted.) Arguably, the Japanese will start to really feel the pinch, and Allied advantages (submarines etc) will really begin to hurt. At some point, Japan won’t be able to carry on the struggle anymore…and then the war will be over – bar the shouting.

Does anyone want either of these developed further? Let me know.



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