Out of all the wars in history, WWII is the one war that gets discussed in a opinionated matter. Many of the so called “facts” stated are often times based on biases and on wishful thinking. Many WWII movies and video games are also based on exaggerations and myths. But perhaps the main things people like to discuss is who was better and who committed more war crimes. In this take, I’ll explain why the axis failed to win the war from an unbiased perspective, I’ll give WWII facts and hypothetical scenarios.
The tripartite pact: This is the formal contract that formed the three major axis powers(Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy). The pact was an agreement between the three powers that should one get attacked, the others will come to it’s aid. Bad idea. Had they thought it through, it would have never been signed. What if one of these powers decided to get all hot headed and decide to make enemies with multiple superpowers at once? Well, that’s exactly what happened when Japan invaded China and subsequently started to pick fights with the British, the Australians, the US and several countries. As per agreement, the Reich was left with no choice but to declare war on America, officially bringing America into the war.
Hitler starts a two front war: While the empire of Japan was already showing aggression as early as 1937 when they invaded China, the third Reich showed aggression in 1939 by invading Poland. Prompting both France and the UK to declare war on the third Reich officially putting the Reich on a two front war. The third Reich attempted to remedy this by occupying France and attempting to invade the UK(Operation Sea lion) which failed due to the UK being surrounded by sea and thus the third Reich being unable to land troops on British soil.
Axis powers weren’t truly united: One of the big reasons why the axis lost was because they weren’t truly United. For example, the Imperial Japanese and Germans were fighting on separate theaters and not providing any assistance to each other. Germany wanted Japan to attack the Soviet Union but that never happened. The only time the Japanese fought the Soviets was during the battle of Khalkhin Gol but there are many misconceptions regarding this battle which I’ll explain later on.
Italian weak link: Despite Italy being one of the three major Axis powers, it was the weakest of the three and even became a liability for the axis in the war. The Germans occasionally had to come to the aid of the Italians and even had to rescue the captive Mussolini after Italy surrendered and became an allied country in 1943. Italian combat performance was bad due to low morale and outdated weaponry.
Brutality: The fact, that the third Reich and the Imperial Japanese were committing atrocities didn’t help them gain friends. The imperial Japanese army ravaged the Chinese populace, while the Nazis were exterminating people they considered undesirable.
Nazis classifying the Slavs as subhumans: The Nazis had classified all Slavic people as üntermenschen(Subhuman) due to the idea they were mixed(half European, half Asian). Even though this has been disputed by many people who believe that the Nazis were strictly referring to the Communists as subhumans not the Slavs, it’s a fact that the third Reich did commit atrocities against the Slavs. Initially the Slavs actually greeted the Germans as liberators but that attitude changed after several German trips started to brutalize the locals. Had the third Reich treated the Slavs better, many Slavs would have most likely assisted the Germans in neutralizing the Soviet Union. After all, many Slavs did indeed initiatally collaborate with the Nazis because yes the Soviet Union was also a oppressive totalitarian regime.
Scrapped nuclear weapons program: The third Reich did have a nuclear weapon’s program in 1939 called the “Uranprojekt”. It only lasted a month because the invasion of Poland caused Germany to abandon it because many of the physicists were conscripted into the German army. There were plans to restart during the height of the war but they were hampered by the Norwegian resistance.
Failure to adapt: Both the imperial Japanese and the third Reich failed to adapt in regards to infantry weaponry. More so the Imperial Japanese. For example, the Germans failed to update from their bolt action Karbiner 98k rifles to semi auto rifles, while the red army had semi auto “SVT 40s” as early as 1940. The Germans didn’t deploy their own semi auto rifle called the “Gewehr 43” until 1943. The Germans did make a breakthrough with the world’s first assault rifle called the STG 44 but it came too late in the war to make a difference. Japanese infantry weapons were even worse, aside from constantly jamming, being underpowered and outdated, many of their cartridges would also misfire due to not being designed to be used in the damp environment of the Pacific jungles. Not to mention that the Japanese were using outdated military tactics such as the infamous Banzai Charge.
Outnumbered: The axis powers were greatly outnumbered in the war. As the war went on, the numbers of the axis powers continued to dwindle.
Underestimated the red army: Hitler underestimated the condition of the red army and thus expected to make short work of the Soviet Union. The reason being that during the Winter war, the Soviets failed to take over Finland which had a poorly equipped and poorly trained smaller army. Despite winning the war, the Soviets only managed to take 11% of Finland’s Territory which was later reclaimed by Finland.
Low resources: Aside from being outnumbered, the Axis also had insufficient resources, specifically oil. This is the reason why the Germans opened a Nort African campaign and why the Imperial Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor after the oil embargo.
1.) True size of the red army: People who assume that the Soviet Union could have won on it’s own usually assume that the red army was a gargantuan war machine that outnumbered the Germans 10 to 1. In reality, the Germans outnumbered the reds 2 to 1 early in the war. It wasn’t till late in the war when the reds started to outnumber the Germans at 2 to 1 and 4 to 1 ratios. The red army was numbering around 6 million in 1945, roughly around the same size as the US military.
2.) The lend lease: One of the reasons why the Red army was able to hold their own was because even before the US had gotten involved, the US was assisting them via lend lease which provided them with the materials to hold off the invasion. It wasn't purely because of the red army’s prowess.
3.) The Germans almost defeated the Soviet Union: Most people don’t realize just how close the Germans were to defeating the Soviet Union. Many of the other allied powers were even certain that the fall of the Soviet Union was imminent. Even Zhukov himself admitted that the Soviet Union came close to defeat . The Germans were literally at the gates of Moscow. The Germans never took the city because Hitler diverted his troops North and South to eliminate remaining soviet troops. By the time of the battle of Moscow(Operation Typhoon) the German army had suffered many losses and the Soviets bolstered their defenses in Moscow resulting in a victory for the Soviets.
4.) Imperial Japan had infighting: Prior to the invasion of China, there were two factions butting heads for influence in military operations. The Kodoha or imperial way faction and the Toseiha or control faction. The Kodoha faction wanted to invade the Soviet Union while the Toseiha wanted to invade China. The Kodoha were initially in the lead until their leader resigned due to poor health, the replacement was ironically sympathetic to the Toseiha. Long story short, several violent incidents occurred between both groups which culminated with the failed Coup d’ etat of 1936 which was launched by the Kodoha. The coup was put down and the Kodoha was abolished and the Toseiha got their wish of invading China the following year.
5.)German troops inflicted higher casualty rates upon Western allied troops than vice versa: As I said, this is take unbiased. Contrary to popular belief that the Western allies(Americans and British) soundly defeated the Germans. It was more of a hard earned victory than a easy one considering that the Germans inflicted higher casualties on the Western allies when compared to the casualties the Western allies inflicted on the Germans. Statistics even prove it, you can read about it here.
6.) Over 20,000 Japanese-Americans served in the US military during WWII: Some(442nd rct) fought in Europe and others served as interpreters in the Pacific and are credited with shortening the pacific war by 2 years by Charles A. Willoughby. The 442nd rct are often called “little iron men” due to their tenacity.
7.) What the red army lacked in overall military capabilities, they made up in individual physical prowess: Individually, red army soldiers weren’t known for their military prowess but they were by no means weaklings. In hand to hand combat, the Soviets were very dangerous. Despite Russians being physically smaller than the Germans on average, the Soviets compensated by becoming adept in a martial art known as “Sambo” which is designed to be used against skilled larger opponents. It’s a hybrid of various wrestling styles and Japanese martial arts. Most other armies lacked proper hand to hand combat training, the only other two that did incorporate proper hand to hand combat in their training were the imperial Japanese and the US army.
8.) The German army won several battles despite being outnumbered by the red army in said battles: There are numerous battles where despite being outnumbered by the red army, the Germans still managed to triumph. Examples: Battle of Brody, Dymyansk pocket, Operation Mars and battle of Tannenberg line.
9.) Imperial Japan was at war with multiple countries: Contrary to popular belief, Imperial Japan wasn’t only at war with the US. it was also at war with China, Australia, Canada, the UK, Philipines, New Zealand, Netherlands, Malaya, India and several others. This was a war Imperial Japan couldn’t win because it picked a fight with all of it’s neighbors plus the major powers.
10.)Weather: While people often attribute the Russian winter to the defeat of the Germans, the Winter was only a minor factor. Perhaps a bigger issue was the mud that caused German vehicles to bog down buying the Russians enough time to reorganize but even that was only one factor, not the only factor that attributed to the German defeat.
11.) Operation Unthinkable: Tensions were high in 1945 between the Western allies and the Soviets. Winston Churchill was even thinking about getting the West to attack the Soviet Union, it was called “Operation unthinkable”. The operation would have involved all major Western Powers uniting to go to war with the Soviet Union. The plan also involved reforming the Wehrmacht to help attack the USSR. Had this happened, chances are the Soviet Union would have been toppled.
12.) Soviet atrocities: As I mentioned several paragraphs above, the Soviets were no saints. And to assume the Soviets did no wrong is disrespectful to those who suffered under the Soviet Union. The Soviets had been commiting numerous atrocities even before WWII but most of the atrocities that are talked about are those committed during WWII as the Soviet Union pushed West late in the war.
13.) The myth of Soviet wave attacks: Unlike the movie “enemy at the gates”, the red army didn’t normally attack in waves. As I mentioned earlier, the red army was not the juggernaut that the media portrays them as. Wave attacks would have been impractical and would have most certainly cost them the war.
14.) Hand to hand combat rarely involved empty hand combat: While the name implies empty hand combat nowadays, back in WWII it simply meant fighting up close or close quarter combat. This type of fighting involved fighting with bayonets, shovels, trowels or any other sort of close range weapon, it rarely involved literal empty hand combat.
15.) Multicultural German military: Contrary to popular belief, the German military wasn’t strictly composed of pure ethnic Germans. In later stages of the war, foreign volunteers were accepted into the German army which included other Europeans(Finnish, French, Dutch, Norwegians, Italians, Spaniards, Russians etc) and non Europeans(Koreans, Mongolians, Indians, Japanese, Chinese, central Asians, middle Easterners and Blacks) There were several Jews in the Germany military, among them were Werner Goldberg. But most surprising is that one of the cofounders of the SS was also a Jewish man named Emil Maurice.
16.)The Lehi: A militant Jewish organization that tried to form an alliance with the Germans due to having a common enemy(The British). They originally wanted to establish a fascist Israeli state similar to fascist Italy. Once the third Reich’s defeat was imminent, the Lehi became more sympathetic towards the Soviets. It was disbanded in 1948 and most of it’s members became part of the Israel Defense force.
how things could have gone differently
Hypothetical Scenario 1, Axis show no brutality, persecution, aggression and the tripartite pact is not signed: The best way the axis powers could have made friends was by not committing atrocities(Holocaust, Nanjing Massacre, harming civilians etc). By the time the Western allies found out about this, all bets were off.
Had the nazis done no harm, by the time the Soviets invaded Poland, the allies would have viewed the Soviet Union as the sole agressor, not Germany. Chances are the Soviets would have also tried to invade Germany shortly afterwards but considering the bad shape of the red army during between 1939-1941, the Germans would have been able to repel it. And considering how powers like France and the UK have more in common with Germany, they may have come to Germaby’s aid. Besides, it’s not like the Western allies in real life actually trusted the Soviets. With their new found allies, the Germans would have been able to push the Red army all the way back to the Kremlin especially since much of the Eastern European populace would have sided with the liberators(Germany and it’s Western allies)
Hypothetical Scenario 2, Japan invades the Soviet Union from the East instead of invading China: Had the Kodoha gotten their way, the Japanese would have invaded the Soviet Union from the East and invested a large portion of their resources and manpower in such a military operation. In real life Khalkhin Gol was a disaster for the Japanese because the Japanese were caught off guard and because the Japanese were more focused on China. Had Imperial Japan coordinated it’s attack on the Soviet Union at the same time as Nazi Germany, the Soviets would have had to divide their troops thus fighting a two front war which they would have most likely lost. The Swastika and hinomaru would have been raised over the Red square, the Soviet’s oil deposits would have been acquired by the axis and Pearl Harbor would not have happened. While Chiang Kai Shek would have defeated the Chinese communists and turned China into a nationalist China rather than a communist China.
Hypothetical scenario 3, Soviet Union joins axis powers: A scenario that seems out of the question but almost happened in reality. During November 1940, there were talks between the Germans and the Russians, which involved the possibility of welcoming the Soviet Union as a 4th axis member and discussed spheres of influence. The talks went no where in reality. But had the Soviets joined the axis, it would have made the axis, the largest and most powerful land force in history, most likely granting the axis an almost certain victory should there had been a Second World War.
Hypothetical Scenario 4, America Joins the axis: The only way this could have happened was if either Fritz Kühn or William Dudley Pelley has taken control of the US. Both of these two individuals had sympathy towards the axis powers. Fritz founded the German-American Bund a group that was pro Nazi Germany. While Pelley founded the “Silver legion” an American fascist movement. Had either of them taken control of America, they would have supported the axis powers ultimately leading to an axis victory.
As I’ve mentioned in the intro, I tried to make this as unbiased as possible. When people usually discuss WWII, they usually discuss it from biased perspectives and even try to make it political. This is not meant to be a political statement, it’s simply meant to inform people on humanity’s biggest blunder.