Did the US miss an opportunity in 1940?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by michaelmaltby, Jun 16, 2011.

  1. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #1 michaelmaltby, Jun 16, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2011
    When the United States entered the war in December, 1941, it began a 'learning process' that Britain, the Commonwealth, and Germany (and Axis allies) had already been working at since 1939 - and earlier.

    US neutrality was economicaly beneficial to the US but it was also politically expedient due to the large German-US population and a broad-based desire by Americans to stay out of Europe's wars. This of course changed the moment the first bomb fell on Pearl Harbour.

    But the events unfolding in Europe after Hitler's rise in 1933 were very clear to those who didn't turn their gaze away from reality. Men like Winston Churchill.

    Having been France's ally in 1917-18, the fall of France in 1940 would have been the opportune moment for the US to declare itself an ally of Britain and the Commonwealth. Had President FDR done so, the learning (and building) processes would have begun 18 months earlier than they ultimately did - giving the US an earlier start.

    This situation was compounded by Roosevelt's choice of ambassador to the Court of St. James (UK) [edit :)]. Joseph Kennedy. Kennedy pursued a private agenda - wanting to meet with Hitler, down-playing England's "fight" and saying: "Democracy is finished in England". During the BoB Kennedy moved to the countryside where he was safe. Not only was he a defeatist (from the British point-of-view) but his "intelligence" to Washington failed to convey essential truths. He was forced to resign in late 1940 and never regained influence with Washington.

    I suggest that if the US had been active (no later than) the fall of France, the US would have learned some valuable lessons that would have saved US lives and shortened the war in Europe:

    1. Fewer surprises such as the initial failure of daylight strategic bombing
    2. The nature of a "high altitude" air war where the bomber doesn't always "get through"
    3. Co-development/license-build of US-British aircraft types such as the Mosquito, Beaufighter and P-51 Mustang
    4. An earlier license-build of the RR Merlin engine with the possibility of greater production, earler, and the option of wider use.
    5. Earlier perfection of the Hispano-Suisa 20 mm canon and abandonment of the Oldsmobile 37mm.

    [I focus here on aircraft but the list can be extended to other branches of service]

    Declaring "for" Britain in 1940 would also have forced Japan's hand against America earlier (as Germany's Axis partner). Japan would have either had to advance plans to attack - which it couldn't - (having just faced a massive discreditation at Russian hands) - or face an already-at-war USA if and when Japan decided to attack.

    However, the US did not move to disturb the domestic political realities of its neutrality until forced by external events. When war did come, the US was mobilized and galvanized in an instant, and no one could ask for a stouter, more productive ally than the US. But those extra 18 months of US neutrality came at price - and that price was in American (and Allied) lives.

    MM
    Proud Canadian :)
     
  2. ctrian

    ctrian Banned

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    One year would make such a huge difference? I don't think so .I also don't see how points 1-5 add up considering the law of cause and effect.For example why build the P-51 if you don’t need a long range escort since you haven’t failed in daylight bombings.
     
  3. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... One year would make such a huge difference?"

    Yes it would. Consider the Battle of Midway - half-a-year after Pearl Harbor. Consider Stalingrad - 14 months after the invasion of Russia.


    "... why build the P-51 if you don’t need a long range escort since you haven’t failed in daylight bombings."

    Because Germany has occupied Europe and will still have to be defeated - including airpower. :)

    MM
     
  4. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    While its true to say that the USA were not involved in the conflict before Pearl Harbour they had full access to almost every aspect of the British Armed Forces land sea and air from Day 1. They had the opportunity to learn nearly all the lessons that you highlighted but sometimes made what now seems to us in 2011 the most illogical lessons. They did get a lot right, but almost as many wrong. If I can take the specific lessons that you mention

    1. Fewer surprises such as the initial failure of daylight strategic bombing
    This was obvious from the start of the war both from the outside and from the access to the RAF that the USAAF had during the first 12 months of the war. Despite the clear lessons and that fact that the B17 was supposed to have been combat ready in the USAAF the first ones received by the RAF were hopeless. Guns wouldn't fire, bomb sights didn't work the list of problems was huge and a similar situation existed on the P39.
    2. The nature of a "high altitude" air war where the bomber doesn't always "get through"
    To be fair this had never been tried so it might in theory have worked, so I can forgive them this.
    3. Co-development/license-build of US-British aircraft types such as the Mosquito, Beaufighter and P-51 Mustang
    The USAAF had the P38 in an advanced stage of development so Mosquito and Beaufighter production wasn't really going to happen
    4. An earlier license-build of the RR Merlin engine with the possibility of greater production, earler, and the option of wider use.
    This would have been a huge benefit. The Allison was of similar size but was generally 12 months behind in development, cuttin the losses and going with the Merlin would have been an advantage.
    5. Earlier perfection of the Hispano-Suisa 20 mm canon and abandonment of the Oldsmobile 37mm.
    The US had many chances with this. UK and USA built 20mm guns were tested and the results clearly showed the UK weapons to be far more reliable but even after this test, the US refused to adopt the british changes resulting in many thousands of guns being supplied to the UK which were never installed in any RAF fighter. Also all the US produced ammunition was destroyed due to reliability problems, even on Malta which was desperately short of ammunition. If they didn't change the design after the war had started there was no chance of getting them to change the design before the war.

    As an example of the mistaken lessons that the US learnt probably the most unbelieveable was their assesment of the BOB. Two were produced, one soon after the battle and the other a couple of years later which was published. The first stated that the most successful aircraft of the BOB was the Me110. Not the Spitfire or the Me109, but the Me110, don't ask me how. This was described in the Book The Burning Blue which I used to own.

    The US Army probably did the best job recognising the importance of Armour and a DP weapon resulting in the Lee and Sherman tank, as well as the importance of an effective AT gun which is why they produced what was basically a copy of the 6pd.

    The USN were probably the worst learning nothing about the convoy system or the importance of escort vessels but recognised that their approach to naval aviation was second to none and stuck with it.
     
  5. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    The lesson about daylight bombing (with or without escort) became very obvious during the Battle of Britain at the cost of the German's effort. Why the Allies assumed it would be any different with larger bombers at higher altitudes escapes me, but they soon re-discovered what the German's learned...

    The early P-51 didn't have the extended range or altitude capabilities of the later versions and wasn't beyond prototype stage in 1940.

    I think the United States entering the war in 1940 would have changed quite a number of events, but the war still would have been a long drawn out slugfest and many of the lessons learned from 1941 onwards would have still had to have been learned, just sooner.
     
  6. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Don't you mean the Court of St.James?

    BN-the-Pedant!
     
  7. ctrian

    ctrian Banned

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    I don't get it ,how would Stalingrad and Midway happen one year in advance?
     
  8. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Actually, if the U.S. entered the war in 1940, midway most likely would not have happened (at least as we are familiar with) and food for thought here guys...Russia was still in a non-agression pact with Germany until 1941...

    We may not have had the Soviets as allies if the U.S. entered the war in 1940
     
  9. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "...the lessons learned from 1941 onwards would have still had to have been learned, just sooner."

    Essentially, my point. You can't avoid learning lessons but can learn them earlier - or not. :) Best early as possible in my book.

    @ Ctrian - I think we have a communications problem. You claim "a year does make much difference". I disagreed - and cited Midway and Stalingrad as examples of how tides of war can turn rather quickly - like inside 18 months. Examples only.

    Thanks for the fact check Buffnut :). Fixed.

    "... We may not have had the Soviets as allies if the U.S. entered the war in 1940".

    Great point GG :). But Stalin would NOT have come to Hitler's assistance had the US entered the war in 1940. But (if things were going well for the Allies) Stalin might have declared war on Germany in 1941 or 1942 (aka 'Ice Breaker' :)).

    And yes ".... Midway most likely would not have happened".

    Thanks. :)

    MM
     
  10. ctrian

    ctrian Banned

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    Stalingrad was an important battle but up to that point both sides had taken heavy casualties and were producing huge quantities of high quality armaments .Germany and the SU were building their armed forces during the 1930's.A country can’t just declare war and go to the offensive without men and machines.It would take a long time for the US to train men and build quality equipment since they were starting from scratch.This historically took a long time and in your scenario it would also hold back any US offensive action .
     
  11. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    I think you need to go back and read a few books as to what was really going on.

    Packard had signed on to build 9000 Merlins in Sept of 1940. These were Merlin XX engines.

    How much earlier do you want to go than that?

    In 1939-1940 US and British 100 octane fuel was NOT the same stuff. Because of different allowable components, like aeromatics, they behaved quite differently under rich mixture conditions. Early British 100 octane actually would act like 115-125 under rich conditions, it varied from batch of gas to batch because at that time there was no rich mixture standard. American 100 octane didn't improve much under rich mixture conditions and a few batches of gas actually had lower octane ratings under rich conditions.
    British fuel tended to dissolve American gaskets, early self sealing tank liners and other rubber products. It took a bit of time to get things standardized.
    American aircraft engine factories improved their output by a factor of about 3 from 1939 to 1940, by 3 again from 1940 to 41 and 3 again from 1941 to 1942. The Americans started massive "shadow" factory construction in 1940 for both aircraft and engines, The pay-off didn't show up for 1 1/2 to 2 years. The P&W main plant had quadrupled in size from 1938 to 1940 and Ford broke ground an a NEW factory the size of the expanded P&W main plant in Sept 1940 just for R-2800 production, Government gave them over 14 million to finance the plant construction. Battle of Britain isn't over yet.
    It just took time to build factories, hire and train workers, establish priorities for machine tool distribution and raw material allocations.

    Was the US a bit late, yes, but they sure didn't wait until Dec of 1941.
    Were mistakes made, yes, but some of them would be made in any case.

    As far as high altitude bombing goes, that that idea continued for years after the war is really baffling. For a number of years into the 1950s the Bomber Generals seemed to think that another 50mph and another 5,000ft of altitude would allow them to penetrate enemy airspace even in the face of missiles that had no pressurized crew compartment, no crew to withstand "G"s and were powered by rockets that didn't breath air. To men that thought like that a few extra machine guns to fight off a single engine prop plane probably seemed like a good solution :)
     
  12. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    You raise some good points, Shortround. Especially fuel and gaskets :) and I am aware that there was a build-up going on in America before Dec. 7-41 :) how could there NOT be, when the Canadian subs of American companies like Ford, Dodge, GM, Boeing .... to name a few - were already moving towards a war footing - war production - starting the winter of '39.

    Did any American Generals seek out and talk to Eagle Squadron pilots ...?

    MM
     
  13. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    #13 michaelmaltby, Jun 18, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2011
    @Ctian:

    "... A country can’t just declare war and go to the offensive without men and machines.It would take a long time for the US to train men and build quality equipment since they were starting from scratch.This historically took a long time and in your scenario it would also hold back any US offensive action ."

    Operation Torch launched against North Africa from America (and the UK) November 8, 1942. That's a mere 11 months after Pearl Harbor. Things moved faster than you claim, my friend. :)

    MM
     
  14. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    I don't know but several accounts of aircraft say that the Americans regarded planes with out armor, bullet resistant windscreens and self sealing tanks as little more than trainers by the fall of 1940 so they must have been talking to somebody.
    733 P-47s Bs and Cs are on order in Sept of 1940.
     
  15. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... 733 P-47s Bs and Cs are on order in Sept of 1940." That's interesting and telling :). The first P-47 flight wouldn't be until May, 1941 - so the USAAF was buying a pig in a poke (so to speak :)).

    Look - I know America was "winding up" - but the factory order books were full of production for France. Neutrality was profitable for America - just as it was for Sweden :).

    Given events in 1917-18 - it was inevitable that America was going to war. Roosevelt knew that. Churchill knew that. The political question was "how to sell involvement in a war against Nazis Germany". Japan solved that problem for Mr. Roosevelt - in spades. :)

    MM
     
  16. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    And to expand on that, the U.S. launched the first offensive action of the Pacific in August 1941: Guadalcanal (Midway Et Al were defensive actions) and that was not only 8 months after Pearl, but on a second front...
     
  17. ctrian

    ctrian Banned

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    Sept '39 - Nov '42 . Quite a lot of time passed before they could intervene...
     
  18. ctrian

    ctrian Banned

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    Why wouldn't they ? The US navy was one of the largest in the world before the war they didn't need to start from scratch.
     
  19. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    #19 GrauGeist, Jun 19, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2011
    The U.S. wasn't on a war-time footing until after the declaration of war with the Axis, 8 December 1941

    You might recall that the Pacific Fleet took a pretty hard hit on 7 December, 1941 and was pretty well matched by the IJN at the time of the assault on the Solomons...

    The U.S. Navy lost 4 Battleships, 3 Cruisers, 2 Destroyers at Pearl Harbor as well as losing a Carrier (Lexington) and Destroyer during the battle of the Coral Sea. Add to that the loss of the Yorktown (and yet another destroyer) during the battle of Midway and you can see that U.S. Naval assets weren't as great as some folks might assume by late summer of 1941.
     
  20. ctrian

    ctrian Banned

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    The US was already producing a lot of armaments by 1941 look up lend lease.Plus industrial investment was geared towards war production.It just took a long time to create a land army.
    Losses in Pearl Harbor didn't include carriers that's why they won in Midway.
     
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