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Subject: Soviets fighting Germany & Japan?!? rss

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Dale Donovan
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This one is for all you WWII-buffs out there: I caught the last few minutes of a documentary on cable last night about how Nazi Germany & Imperial Japan cooperated during the war. Toward the very end, it was mentioned that in the summer of 1941, Germany proposed to Japan that opening a 2nd front against the Soviet Union was a better idea than attacking America would be. One consequence of this plan would be that the Nazis need not declare war on the USA if Japan hadn’t attacked Pearl when it did.

Obviously, that idea was rejected, but it opens up a lot of fascinating possibilities. Who knows how history may have gone given these circumstances? Are there any books (or even better, games) that take such a course of events into account? I’d love to learn more about this, so any sources would be much appreciated. Thanks all!
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Adam Siler
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Without necessary supplies from the East Indies, how much help could they really bring?
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LgRangeContactPatrol wrote:
Without necessary supplies from the East Indies, how much help could they really bring?


Well, at least in the short term the Japanese could have tied up all those Siberian divisions that Stalin ordered to the defence of Moscow in 1941.

John Toland discusses Japanese strategic thinking in 1940-41 in some detail in The Rising Sun.
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Elijah Lau
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Agree with Adam.

And an attack on USSR begs the question of what is the strategic objective of such an attack. To capture the Soviet Far East? Japan already did not have enough troops and resources to conquer China!
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elijah234 wrote:
Agree with Adam.

And an attack on USSR begs the question of what is the strategic objective of such an attack. To capture the Soviet Far East? Japan already did not have enough troops and resources to conquer China!


Absolutely correct. And when faced with the fact that they were mired in an unwinnable war in China, Japan's solution was to start a war with the US and England - the world's greatest industrial power and the world's biggest empire, respectively. Go figure.

It could be argued that a German victory against the Soviets in 1941 (with the US still neutral) would have made Britain's continued resistance unlikely, and the Japanese could thus have obtained indirectly the resources they tried to seize by force.

All conjecture, of course, but that's why we play these games.


Edit: typos
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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The Japanese had not done well against the Red Army at Khalkhin Gol. So it was expected that it would be a pretty tough fight against the Soviets. And for what (from the Japanese perspective)? To draw off forces to the benefit of the Germans, and conquer 'Siberia'? Given what was expected to be a tough fight, for not much pay off, the Japanese opted instead for what they thought would be 'easy pickings', i.e. valuable European colonies such as the Dutch East Indies.

Of course the horrendous strategic error in that calculation was in underestimating the US. One has to appreciate that the US had allowed their armed forces to diminish to a very low level between the wars, and isolationism had hamstrung US foreign policy. The Japanese expected that the US would be unable to prevent Japanese conquest of the areas of interest (in which they were mostly correct) and then, after suffering losses against Japan's 'defensive perimeter', would be unwilling to continue the fight in order to re-establish European control of the areas 'liberated' by Japan (EPIC FAIL!).

The reality is that presenting that option can be a major inconvenience in for many 'high level' wargames. They often lack the logistical detail necessary. A so called second front against the Soviets opened up by an Japanese attack would in fact have been an isolated sideshow. If the Germans were struggling to get from Poland to Moscow, where does one suppose the Japanese could have 'gotten to' in Siberia? In reality, the Japanese would likely have grabbed some nearby targets (e.g. Vladivostok) and then 'sat'. There would not have been any 'drive to the Urals' from the east. Then, from a game perspective, there is the balance issue - if Japan is in against the Soviets, and the US is out, it is hard to see how one has anywhere near the same 'balance point' as with the historical course of events.
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We may further assume that American/Soviet Trade would ramp up - and then we get the risk to that shipping and the air traffic.

Not a small amount of shipping occurred in and over the North Pacific between the US and Russia - one wonders if then we force the issue and the war starts in the Bering Sea.

The War was going to come - I have no doubt that we would have then moved to fortify our holdings in the Pacific.

=====================

Japan was under the impression that she deserved to have equal standing with the other Great Powers, and to do that, you need resources, land and military power.

They reached a point where either the lopsided implementation of its Empire was going to crush itself (bankrupting Japan) or take advantage of the War and get the empire they "deserved".

As crazy as hindsight shows it to be, the timing of the War with the USA and the UK was the best they would ever have.

Despite the 'spiritual' victory of the 1905 War, Japan essentially lost it - the Naval Losses were gigantic - the costs huge, and in the end, Japan found itself standing alone. The prestige of its great Tsushima and Port Arthur victories mattered little to the results of the treaty.

Right or wrong, the international drive for Empire had Japan in the crossfire' wanting to be a member of the Big Boy club and being crushed by the exclusive membership.

Japan could either go out with a whimper or with a big exit.

They chose big.

That is all they were ever after from the 1860s on - big Empire.
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Adam Siler
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What were Japan's choices and what perspective would they have had?
- Fighting a land war with a dictatorship that spanned a sixth of the earth AND had the political capital to kill 20 million of its own citizens while brazenly subverting every powerful country in the world. Not to mention, this country had already defeated the best Japan had to offer a couple of years before.

- Attacking a far flung and decaying empire's colony (Holland) to gain the potential to fight an unwarlike and decrepit nation that had already declared an economic war on Japan because of the propaganda of their enemy in a limited war.
Japan couldn't have anticipated the mindset of average Americans, who saw nothing about the China war except the fall of Nanking. The Japanese would have seen the war-crimes as completely usual in China, as its own warlords had done the same kinds of things on a bigger scale for decades. From their perspective, the Chinese killed prisoners and worse, which meant that it was only fair to 'take the gloves off.' Combine this with the fact that nothing matched the official truth of the "Co-prosperity sphere" better than the million volunteer forces in occupied China.


I don't see a great detriment to the war effort for the Soviets when fighting the Japanese either. Germany itself fought a much bigger allied force in occupied nations as its war with Russia was going on. The Soviet conquest of Manchuria didn't require them to ship their best equipment thousands of miles east anyway: The 1945 conquest of Manchuria was done with the same BT-7's and light tanks that they had lost so many of in Barbarossa. The difference was command. Why assume that they couldn't stop a mostly infantry force from invading their territory?
It didn't matter how good the individual soldier was: Japan could do nothing against the Soviets and really had little reason to.
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Michael Power
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So, what were the advantages for Japan to strike U.S. interest in the Philippines? Could they not restrict themselves to the possessions of Britain, France, and Holland and still gain the resources they need for their military machine and not involve themselves with the U.S.? It almost appears to me that the lashing out at America was some Bushido sense of honor.
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Adam Siler
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Michael Power wrote:
So, what were the advantages for Japan to strike U.S. interest in the Philippines? Could they not restrict themselves to the possessions of Britain, France, and Holland and still gain the resources they need for their military machine and not involve themselves with the U.S.? It almost appears to me that the lashing out at America was some Bushido sense of honor.


Well matters of honor and all being considered, it was still an aggressive act in any age to declare an embargo. High moral principles are easy to understand and make good official histories, but a lot of time it's not true at all.
John Toland's book, Infamy, was really the best source I came across when considering the cause of WW2 in the Pacific. I also consider Toland to be a fair historian.
 
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Michael Power wrote:
So, what were the advantages for Japan to strike U.S. interest in the Philippines? Could they not restrict themselves to the possessions of Britain, France, and Holland and still gain the resources they need for their military machine and not involve themselves with the U.S.? It almost appears to me that the lashing out at America was some Bushido sense of honor.


It is an interesting question - why not just strike the European possessions desired and try to avoid the US? BTW, France was Vichy at the time, and Japan had already insinuated themselves into French Indochina for example without openly fighting.

The problems were that first, the Philippines would be astride Japan's LoC with the Dutch East Indies etc. Secondly, the US was expected to enter the war against Japan. In spite of isolationism, the US had been increasingly making 'noises' about Japan's moves, ongoing occupation of / fighting in China, occupation of Indochina etc. Thirdly, the US was not seen at the time as the 'superpower' they would ultimately become.

So basically it comes down to Japan choosing between 'taking a chance' on the reaction of the US vs. landing a 'knock out' blow right from the start and eliminating the US as a factor, at least in the short term. The idea that the non-militaristic / isolationist US would build up an overwhelming military force and suffer whatever losses were necessary to completely crush Japan was simply inconceivable to almost all of the decision makers in Japan at the time. So as bizarre as it seems to us, especially with hindsight, leaving the US to become involved at a time and place of its choosing actually seemed the riskier course of action!
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Now it gets interesting - Japan attacks everyone but the United States.

Always have considered that would have worked much better.

1. Americans were not going to go to war to defend European Imperial holdings. We were actually against them having an Empire - after all, we had left one of them in our own war.

2. So, The Americans hold the Philippines. and the problem is a threat...but not one can act on...because of Adolf.

3. Adolf does not declare War on the United States in December 1941 because Japan has not.

And if the USA decides to attack Japan, then we have a two front war everyone knew would be coming but not fueled by indignation and vengeance (infamy).

Any action would have been limited.

Meanwhile, Barbarossa is still going on and Japan is not moving against the USA - certainly cutting down on the Soviets sending Siberians to face the Germans.

4. How long is the war going to last in Europe?

It would have been a very different war, and we might still see the Third Reich standing, a Japan still militarized.

The Manhattan Project - at what point would A Bombs enter the scene?

Dare we say it is more likely in the late 40s and early 50s, this being a battle between the Third Reich and the United States.

My, my, my - Japanese extreme militarism sure changed things.
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Another reason, Japan wanted to attack the Soviets in 1941 was that the Soviets had beaten Japan 1939 at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. That defeat reinforced the decision to attack the United States for all the other reasons previously given here. They thought the US was a pushover and they needed Southeast Asian resources.

One thing I've not ever really understood about the Japan-Germany alliance is just what it brought to each side. Being half a world away from each other made cooperation difficult. I saw the same program, I think, and they did mention that Japan and Germany had a long range plan to divide and conquer the world and that their forces would eventually join up in India. They couldn't share resources because there were no excess resources to share. About all they got out of what some limited intelligence. Certainly their alliance was nothing like the American-British-Soviet alliance.
 
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The Japanese player in the local WiF campaign already took this path. He attacked the Soviet Far East in 1939 and ripped off a big chunk of it, killing a large number of the best Soviet units in the process. He also finished off China. And now he is looking at how to get more without attacking the USA.

Of course, that probably says more about WiF than it says about history! shake
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Adam Siler
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Someday I want to play War in the Pacific (second edition). From what I've heard, it's the kind of game that is very difficult to win as the Japanese player. Apparently it's one of the games where the fun is in measuring your own strategies but also gaining a measure of victory rather than actually winning, much like Panzer Grenadier scenarios.

As for allies of Germany,
Italy was broke from the Spanish Civil War. Romania, Hungary, and other minor powers had outmoded armies. Japan was too far away.
What made sense to them was not how they could rely on each other for victory but rather what they could gain.

Japanese war planners knew that they needed the resources of the colonial powers to prosecute their war, but that the Philippines acted as a hand around their windpipe that could choke them off whenever it decided to. It made as much sense to attack there as anywhere else. Obviously they underestimated us, but that shouldn't be shocking with so many discussions as to how important American aid really was to the allied war effort in either World War. I see a double standard here.
 
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fambans wrote:
Another reason, Japan wanted to attack the Soviets in 1941 was that the Soviets had beaten Japan 1939 at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol.


That's actually one of the reasons Japan did NOT want to attack the Soviets in 1941...
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Wilhammer wrote:
Now it gets interesting - Japan attacks everyone but the United States.

Always have considered that would have worked much better.

1. Americans were not going to go to war to defend European Imperial holdings. We were actually against them having an Empire - after all, we had left one of them in our own war.

2. So, The Americans hold the Philippines. and the problem is a threat...but not one can act on...because of Adolf.

3. Adolf does not declare War on the United States in December 1941 because Japan has not.

And if the USA decides to attack Japan, then we have a two front war everyone knew would be coming but not fueled by indignation and vengeance (infamy).

Any action would have been limited.

Meanwhile, Barbarossa is still going on and Japan is not moving against the USA - certainly cutting down on the Soviets sending Siberians to face the Germans.

4. How long is the war going to last in Europe?

It would have been a very different war, and we might still see the Third Reich standing, a Japan still militarized.

The Manhattan Project - at what point would A Bombs enter the scene?

Dare we say it is more likely in the late 40s and early 50s, this being a battle between the Third Reich and the United States.

My, my, my - Japanese extreme militarism sure changed things.


Certainly with hindsight one might say that the 'avoid the US' strategy could hardly have been worse for Japan, and might have been better. From a practical standpoint though, even a delayed US entry might have its drawbacks. For instance, the US starts massively reinforcing its bases in the Philippines, which Japan cannot do anything about if it is 'avoiding' the US. Once Japan grabs the European colonies it desires, what is the next step? Does Japan concentrate on China? Attack the Soviets? Pursue a campaign into India? Or simply adopt a defensive stance? The latter might be the best course, however, it is difficult to support that sans hindsight.

One might make a similar argument for Germany, even in the context of Japan's historical attacks on the US. Germany could have simply repudiated Japan's actions and declined to declare war. Since Japan wasn't going to reciprocate with a DoW against the Soviets regardless, there would not have been much Japan could have done about it at that point.

Regarding the Soviets, and a 'second front' against Japan - certainly having to supply forces actively fight there would have been a drain. However, it was not as if the Soviets denuded their eastern defenses historically. Somewhat reduced them, and shift some better units against the Germans while replacing them with second rate forces is closer to the truth. Also, recall that Japan was pretty much using 'WWI style' forces themselves, so there would not have been a Japanese 'Blitzkrieg' against the Soviets regardless.
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fambans wrote:
...One thing I've not ever really understood about the Japan-Germany alliance is just what it brought to each side. Being half a world away from each other made cooperation difficult. I saw the same program, I think, and they did mention that Japan and Germany had a long range plan to divide and conquer the world and that their forces would eventually join up in India. They couldn't share resources because there were no excess resources to share. About all they got out of what some limited intelligence. Certainly their alliance was nothing like the American-British-Soviet alliance.


I do not believe there was ever a serious 'conquer and divide the world' approach agreed to. Initially their alliance was more of an anti-Soviet agreement, which makes sense. The German pact with the Soviets thus came as quite a shock to Japan, and caused changes in the Japanese government and policies which the Germans never really clued into. The Germans expected the US would eventually enter the war against them, so they looked to Japan to act as something of a counterweight to that. Japan wanted Germany to declare war on the US, so that the efforts of the US would not be solely directed towards them. So each sort of got what they wanted, although Japan probably got the better of the 'deal' overall.
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
The Japanese player in the local WiF campaign already took this path. He attacked the Soviet Far East in 1939 and ripped off a big chunk of it, killing a large number of the best Soviet units in the process. He also finished off China. And now he is looking at how to get more without attacking the USA.

Of course, that probably says more about WiF than it says about history! shake


Yes, it is one of the reasons that WIFFE fans really like the game, you can try these strategies! However, for this kind of success, I'm assuming Japan played its O-chit - remember, that costs 15 bps, about the cost of 5 infantry corps. China should be a tough nut to crack early and if the Soviets play well, they are also tough. The Soviets should set-up carefully to avoid an easy attack by Japan unless they set-up with a lot of units.

Alternatively, the Allied players perhaps made a few errors. Of course, if the Allies set-up poorly, Japan should do its best to take advantage. For instance, if the Soviets set-up in Vladivostok, where Japan can use its navy for shore bombardment, the Soviets deserve to lose their units!

Japan can try for land success in Asia, against the USSR, China, and threaten India. You shouldn't expect too much success in 39, but with a build up, you can make a lot of success before the US is in the war. However, if Japan makes too much of a land commitment, the US can be landing in Japan by early 1944. It is one of those dangerous but potentially lucrative strategies.

Japan players should remember they are a rather weak power essentially against even weaker opponents (China, the Soviet presence in the far east); be careful about over-committing here from the land taken, when the US enters things will change!

When I do a heavy land strategy with Japan, it is usually in conjunction with:

A German anti-CW strategy. Then, you can concentrate on China and India - and the US will likely be distracted in Europe; or

A German total anti-USSR strategy. Then Japan should take as much of Siberia as they can (the USSR will surrender there) and take-out China.

Basically, the moral of the story is (in my opinion) that Japan can use unconventional strategies if they are supporting their German ally, who is of course the key player for the Axis. Otherwise, be very wary of neglecting the forces you need to fight the US. It seems pretty realistic to me!



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The links between Japan, Germany and Italy were for a large part ideological. They were all authoritarian, militaristic states with frustrated geopolitical aspirations (just to avoid a drawn out debate on the precise meaning of fascism, I'm not sure Japan could be classified as such). Not surprisingly they all left the League of Nations at some point in the 1930s. This gave them a strong communal interest.
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