What If Hitler Never Declared War on the U.S. During World War II?

The U.S. Navy battleship USS Massachusetts seen from the after deck of USS Alabama, January 1943. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

Perhaps the biggest “what-if” of them all. 

U.S. participation in the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO), designed to destroy German industry and morale and drive the Third Reich from the war, might also have developed more slowly.  Given the limited impact and immense cost of the CBO in its early stages, however, it’s unclear how much of a net impact on the tides of war that this would have made.

A reduced U.S. combat commitment in the Atlantic could have led to a greater effort in the Pacific, although it’s difficult to see what impact that would have made in the first year of the war.  Over time, the U.S. built up an enormous advantage over the Japanese; this would have happened even more quickly with a smaller commitment to Europe. Still, the overwhelming superiority that the U.S. exhibited in 1944 depended on technology, training, and the availability of ships that remained on the slipways in 1942. Schemes to step up the fight in China or in Southeast Asia suffered from immeasurable logistical problems, which the U.S. could not solve until 1944 in any case.

The Final Salvo

Both Hitler and Roosevelt believed that war was inevitable, and they were both probably right.  Restraining the war machine in December of 1941 might have bought some additional time for Germany in the Med and (possibly) in the skies, but would have forced the Kriegsmarine to forego an offensive that it believed could win the war. And in the end, the Americans likely would have joined the conflict anyway, perhaps with less experience, but with greater overall preparation to make a decisive commitment.

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is author of The Battleship Book. He serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat.

Image: The U.S. Navy battleship USS Massachusetts seen from the after deck of USS Alabama, January 1943. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

Pages