23 December 1941

23 December 1941

23 December 1941

December 1941

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War at Sea

German submarine U-79 lost off Sollu



HistoryLink.org

On December 23, 1941, the Port Townsend USO (United Service Organizations) clubhouse, located at 2009 Monroe Street, is dedicated. The clubhouse represents a continuing effort to serve sailors at the Point Hudson navy base and soldiers from Fort Worden during these World War II years. It is the first completed federal recreation building in the Pacific Northwest and one of the first in the nation.

Civilians and Soldiers During Wartime

The United Service Organizations (USO), a national organization, was incorporated on February 4, 1941. It was made up of six agencies: YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army, Jewish Welfare Bureau, National Catholic Community Services, and Travelers Aid. Early in the war, the agencies had joined together under the name, United Welfare Committee for Defense. The committee sent President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) a telegram requesting a meeting with government officials to present its views. In December the committee met with Paul V. McNutt (1891-1955), head of the Federal Security Agency, whose responsibilities included recreation. Roosevelt in turn directed the Federal Security Agency to work with the welfare committee to come up with an effective program.

President Roosevelt, recognizing the interest of citizen-soldiers in seeking civilian recreation, believed that community-based programs could best satisfy this reality. Additionally, providing community recreation centers would reduce the perceived threat of large number of military personnel hanging out with nothing to do. Another advantage would be to enlist local civilian populations, especially women, in the war effort, giving them meaningful functions. The USO was in the position to hire professional staff, and this gave it a tremendous advantage in providing an effective recreational and morale-building organization for service men and women far from home during wartime.

Building Morale

In the fall of 1940, the navy YMCA had opened a facility in the old Central High School to serve both sailors and soldiers. (Both the coast guard and navy had a facility at Point Hudson, a mine-sweeping-training school and patrol-boat-repair facility.)

The organization received USO funding in July 1941, which enabled it put on dances and other activities. The army and USO cooperated in getting hostesses to Fort Flagler dances buses took them from town to the Fort Worden dock where an army boat transported the women to Fort Flagler.

Quickly the high school facilities proved inadequate, so a $49,000 federal clubhouse was built. The Phil Anderson Contractors had it completed in mid-December. The Port Townsend USO remained open into April 1946 and along with Seattle, Tacoma, and Astoria, was one of the last active facilities.

It closed in May 1946 and was sold to the American Legion. Renovations in 2008 returned the building to its wartime appearance.

USO Clubhouse (1941), later American Legion Hall, 2009 Monroe Street, Port Townsend


HistoryLink.org

On December 23, 1941, the Port Townsend USO (United Service Organizations) clubhouse, located at 2009 Monroe Street, is dedicated. The clubhouse represents a continuing effort to serve sailors at the Point Hudson navy base and soldiers from Fort Worden during these World War II years. It is the first completed federal recreation building in the Pacific Northwest and one of the first in the nation.

Civilians and Soldiers During Wartime

The United Service Organizations (USO), a national organization, was incorporated on February 4, 1941. It was made up of six agencies: YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army, Jewish Welfare Bureau, National Catholic Community Services, and Travelers Aid. Early in the war, the agencies had joined together under the name, United Welfare Committee for Defense. The committee sent President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) a telegram requesting a meeting with government officials to present its views. In December the committee met with Paul V. McNutt (1891-1955), head of the Federal Security Agency, whose responsibilities included recreation. Roosevelt in turn directed the Federal Security Agency to work with the welfare committee to come up with an effective program.

President Roosevelt, recognizing the interest of citizen-soldiers in seeking civilian recreation, believed that community-based programs could best satisfy this reality. Additionally, providing community recreation centers would reduce the perceived threat of large number of military personnel hanging out with nothing to do. Another advantage would be to enlist local civilian populations, especially women, in the war effort, giving them meaningful functions. The USO was in the position to hire professional staff, and this gave it a tremendous advantage in providing an effective recreational and morale-building organization for service men and women far from home during wartime.

Building Morale

In the fall of 1940, the navy YMCA had opened a facility in the old Central High School to serve both sailors and soldiers. (Both the coast guard and navy had a facility at Point Hudson, a mine-sweeping-training school and patrol-boat-repair facility.)

The organization received USO funding in July 1941, which enabled it put on dances and other activities. The army and USO cooperated in getting hostesses to Fort Flagler dances buses took them from town to the Fort Worden dock where an army boat transported the women to Fort Flagler.

Quickly the high school facilities proved inadequate, so a $49,000 federal clubhouse was built. The Phil Anderson Contractors had it completed in mid-December. The Port Townsend USO remained open into April 1946 and along with Seattle, Tacoma, and Astoria, was one of the last active facilities.

It closed in May 1946 and was sold to the American Legion. Renovations in 2008 returned the building to its wartime appearance.

USO Clubhouse (1941), later American Legion Hall, 2009 Monroe Street, Port Townsend


Fort Devens Airport, MA – December 23, 1941

On December 23, 1941, 2nd Lt. Lorenz F. Kubach was attempting to take off from Fort Devens Airport for a training flight when the engine of his airplane suddenly quit after he’d left the runway and had reached an altitude of 100 feet. Knowing he didn’t have sufficient altitude to turn around, he attempted to get the plane back on the ground before reaching the end of the runway. Going beyond the runway was not an option due to the rough terrain and a cliff that lay ahead at the edge of the field. Therefore he dove the plane to the runway hoping to ground loop it, but his instead the plane bounced on one wheel and nosed over onto its back.

The aircraft was an L-3C, ser. No. 42-459.

Although the plane was badly damaged, Lt. Kubach, and his passenger, 1st Lt. Hartzel R. Birch, received only minor injuries.

The men were assigned to the 152nd Observation Squadron based at Fort Devens.


The Battle at Dawn: The first battle between the United States and Japan December 7-10, 1941

Edit: Alright, Shattered Sword says around 36 torps per carrier was a standard load, so call it about 216 for the entire force, now down to 176. It's always possible the IJN just stuffed more of the things aboard the hangar, given the importance of this op and their monofocus on the offense. I'm sure there's no possible way such a decision could possibly come back to haunt them. Furthermore, many of these torpedoes are now stuck aboard carriers who have little in the way of a useable torpedo bomber wing left.

As for the 16 inch shells. I got no idea.

Thank you very much for the information. I agree that having these extra torpedoes and possible 16in shells may come to bite the IJN carriers if they get hit.

Though this also allows the IJN Kates and Vals extra ammo if they are hunting the US carriers and ships.

Lots of knives in the air and we shall wait to see where they land.

LongtimelurkerinMD

On the Alaska's the question should be is why Calbear hates them so bad, which was an education for me on this board:
1. cost for result - better to build the last two Iowas - much more capable ships, for the same crew.
2. big one I was not aware of was Maneuverability - bad.

I agree they look pretty, and being from Alaska originally, would have been nice to see it docked in Juneau or Anchorage as a museum ship.

Mike Snyder

authors note: for those who don't know, Admiral Yarnell conducted Fleet Problem XIII, in 1932, which was an attack by the carriers Saratoga and Lexington (simulated of course) on battleship row at Pearl Harbor and was wildly successful (according to the umpires) and carefully noted by the Japanese and buried as deep as they could by the USN battleship admirals.

He commanded the Asiatic Fleet until 1939, and as he reached retirement age, went inactive until the war began. He spent the war in advisory position.s

I have always wondered what a US Carrier Fleet led by him would have been like.

Mike Snyder

Hammerbolt

On the Alaska's the question should be is why Calbear hates them so bad, which was an education for me on this board:
1. cost for result - better to build the last two Iowas - much more capable ships, for the same crew.
2. big one I was not aware of was Maneuverability - bad.

I agree they look pretty, and being from Alaska originally, would have been nice to see it docked in Juneau or Anchorage as a museum ship.

Mike Snyder

Mike Snyder

historical note:
From "Attack on Pearl Harbor: Strategy, Combat, Myths and Deceptions" Alan D. Zimm 2011

Regarding General Short
"Pearl Harbor was supposed to be a sanctuary, a place where the Pacific Fleet could rest, break down equipment for maintenance, and allow crews rest and liberty, all of which were needed considering the fleets Fleet's intense training schedule. General Short, the commander in charge of the air and ground defenses of the island, was tasked to provide that sanctuary." (Page 355)

"General Short had sufficient forces and equipment to do his job. If the AIC (Air Information Center, essentially the Air Defense Command HQ) had been active and his air defenses alert, the Army defenders would likely have given the Japanese a very bloody nose and the fleet would have been well defended." (page 356)

Regarding Admiral Kimmell
"As Prange noted,

He never looked over the Army's antiaircraft batteries, did not know that Short had three types of alert, and did not visit the Information Center to see for himself how the radar setup operated, although these were essential factors in the defense of his precious anchorage and the Fleet at its moorings." (Page 358)

to be blunt, I hold these two men directly responsible for the sins of omission and commission on the American side regarding Pearl Harbor. To a lesser extent I hold responsible the people who appointed these two men in command, in spite of their limited knowledge and even less understanding of aviation, of a post that was most likely to be attacked from the air if it were attacked in force.

On that note I will be watching "Tora, Tora, Tora" as I do my evenings writing

LongtimelurkerinMD

Mike Snyder

The Army is found wanting
On February 8, 1941, Lieutenant General Walter Short, an infantry commander with extensive experience and considered a 'comer' is sent to Hawaii to take command of Army forces there. Soon after his arrival, on February 17, Secretary Stimson sends a letter to General Short that the Secretary had received from Secretary Knox, warning as follows:

“"If war eventuates with Japan, it is believed easily possible that hostilities would be initiated by a surprise attack upon the fleet or the naval base at Pearl Harbor." The letter proceeded: "The dangers envisaged in their order of importance and probability are considered to be: (1) Air bombing attack (2) Air torpedo plane attack, (3) Sabotage, (4) Submarine attack, (5) Mining, (6) Bombardment by gunfire." (http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pha/roberts/roberts.html) (The official Congressional Report)

Admiral Richardson, who has already received this letter, begins pushing for the strongest possible measures be taken by the Army to prepare for the first two likelihoods, considering sabotage reasonably unlikely with at least basic security measures, the next two a Navy problem, and the final possibility highly unlikely but certainly what the coast defense guns are supposed to defend against. He pressures General Short and General Frederick Martin, commander of the Hawaiian Air Force, to allow the assignment of Marine Corps and Navy personnel to the Air Information Center. The Admiral is also dissatisfied with the degree of anti aircraft protection his three naval air stations (Ewa, Ford Island, and Kaneohe Bay) have and assigns the 2nd and 4th Marine Defense Battalions (less their batteries of 5 inch guns which will be assigned to the 1st Battalion slated for Wake Island, and the 3rd Battalion slated for Midway). This gives Ewa and Kaneohe Bay each 16 3 inch guns and 48 .50 caliber machine guns, plus 2 machine gun companies (48 .30 caliber machine guns) to provide security for the bases (and which can also be sent to Wake or Midway once facilities are available). Richardson requests an additional Marine Defense Battalion once its available for Ford Island. War would come before he got that wish fulfilled. By November 1941 both bases have their Marine defenses completed and ready for war.

However, Richardson finds that Short simply does not understand the air threat, and indeed seems unusually concerned about the sabotage threat of the very large Japanese population in Hawaii. The General is also focused more on his infantry and preparing for an amphibious assault which Richardson believes is unlikely in the extreme due to Japanese shipping constraints. Several meetings in March and April are unproductive and Richardson realizes that only Fleet Problem XXII is going to serve to make his point.


Fleet Problem XXII May 1941
In a complex plan developed by Richardson and Yarnell, the fleet is divided into two forces. The Red Force, which will be commanded by Halsey (commander Aircraft Battleforce) and given the Saratoga, Lexington, Enterprise, plus 6 heavy cruisers, 12 destroyers and all 3 available oilers, and told to recreate Fleet Problem XIII. CINCPAC (Commander Pacific Fleet) purposefully neglects to inform the Army, or indeed Admiral Bellinger (commander US Navy Aviation Hawaii) of the first part of the problem, which will be a simulated surprise attack aimed at Pearl Harbor. Admiral Pye, commander of the Battle Force is appointed senior referee, as are several senior Naval officers, while Admiral Anderson is given the Blue Force, which consists of the battleships and their escorts, and Admiral Brown is given the Yorktown, the remaining cruisers and some destroyers as the scout force for Anderson. Most of the submarines are given to Blue Force as well.

Deciding that as the Red Force is simulating the Japanese, and thus the most likely approach is from the southwest (in the direction of the Japanese held Marshal Islands), Anderson sends Brown in that direction, while keeping his slower battleships in the harbor as directed. Bellinger, with only 40 available PBY Catalina long range flying boats, cannot patrol everywhere, and is forced to make choices. He decides to primarily support Brown, leaving only a handful for the northern search.

Halsey, fully aware of the limitations of the PBY, manages to avoid contact with all but one, and the referee determines that the fighters of his task force would have shot it down before it got off a contact report. The submarines, which are deployed mainly to the west and south, also miss him, and thus Halsey comes to within 200 miles of the north coast of Oahu on June 19. He launches 90 SBD Dauntless dive bombers, 36 TBD Devastator torpedo bombers and 36 Wildcat fighters as a strike. The dive bombers are to eliminate the primary Army airfields of Wheeler and Hickam fields, as well as Ewa and the two Navy patrol plane bases, while the TBDs will act as glide bombers and attack the fleet machine shops, drydocks, and oil tank farms. The fighters will provide cover and conduct simulated strafing attacks on the airfields. Convinced that the shallow depth of Pearl Harbor precludes a torpedo attacks with aerial torpedoes, Halsey ignores that possibility as Yarnell and Richardson also believed this.

The result is a stunning embarrassment for the Army. The Army has not yet received the new SCR270 radar sets and indeed has allocated minimal staff or preparation for them. The Air Information Center is still minimally staffed, and indeed the Marine Corps Liaison, 2 clerks and a lowly Army fighter pilot are the only staff present when the first Dauntless begins its dive on Hickam Field. The Army Anti aircraft units are either parked in storage, or for those guns that are present, their crews are too far away to man them quickly and their ammunition supply is locked. Only a handful of fighters manage to get off the ground during the simulated attack and the referees rule that they are destroyed and their bases wrecked. Only at Ewa and Kaneohe do the defenders score successes, as the Marines are closer to a war footing, although the referees rule that as these units are still below strength and lacking equipment and thus the bases are considered damaged. The strike on the fleet facilities is unopposed as Short has not yet deployed batteries to defend the base, and the referees decide that it would be a total loss.

In short, the Red Force has eliminated the ability of the Army to defend the fleet, and for the Navy to support the fleet. A fully detailed report is soon on the way to Secretary Knox.

The next part of the problem is designed to see if the fleet can intercept the Red Force or prevent further attacks. The Blue Force fleet sorties (which takes several hours), while Admiral Brown and his scouting force hurries north to try and find the Red Force. However Halsey steams due north and then swings north and west to put himself within strike range of Midway, which the referees rule is destroyed (particularly as no aircraft have yet arrived for the airfield). A report of this is also sent to Knox, although Brown is commended for his aggression in attempting to find Halsey.

The remainder of May and into June is spent conducting operations in the Midway area to simulate an amphibious invasion as well as to allow the battleship divisions to practice gunnery and maneuver.

A new Army Commander
Knox is appalled when he reads how successful the humiliation has been of the Army and thus the likely elimination of the ability of the Pacific Fleet to operate out of Hawaii. He forwards the report to Secretary Stimson and asks to meet with the President. In a short meeting, General Marshall and Secretary of War find themselves highly embarrassed by the debacle suffered by the Army, and soon after that Marshall decides that an aviator is needed for senior command in Hawaii. General Hap Arnold, commander of the Army Air Corps, decides he has just the man.

Brigadier General Millard Harmon, recently returned from his duties as an observer in the British Isles and one of the most senior pilots in the entire Army Air Corps, seems like just the man. He has a good understanding of the uses of radar, has watched the RAF use it and he is promoted to Lieutenant General, skipping an entire rank, and sent to Hawaii on July 19, 1941. General Walter Short is sent back to the United States and given command of the 2nd Army in Tennessee, which at present is a training organization.


The Rattler (San Antonio, Tex.), Vol. 23, No. 6, Ed. 1 Friday, December 5, 1941

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December 28th, 1941: The Day of Infamy

Me? Use every opportunity for BB on BB action I can and make up more to boot? Never! No, never!

Of course after the war the Yamato fanboys will claim it wasn't a fair fight, and a Yamato could have beaten an Iowa if only.

MerryPrankster

Sir Chaos

Me? Use every opportunity for BB on BB action I can and make up more to boot? Never! No, never!

Of course after the war the Yamato fanboys will claim it wasn't a fair fight, and a Yamato could have beaten an Iowa if only.

Usertron2020

Lothaw

So. we're now just waiting for the Leyte Gulf equivilent. Except the Japanese don't even have a decoy carrier fleet this time.

Also, the dates weren't too clear, when exactly did the Marshall Island battle take place. Suddenly I'm looking ahead to how long it's going to take them to get to Japan as opposed to how long it'll take to get the atomic bomb ready.

Gridley

Gridley

Marcus_aurelius

Without getting too off-topic I would assume ETO developed the same way as OTL?

Usertron2020

Without getting too off-topic I would assume ETO developed the same way as OTL?

Lothaw

Well one would assume the European theater would be a bit different, just by all the shifting of the naval resources to the Pacific when things were looking bad for the US earlier.

Operation Torch may well have been delayed some, which would have interesting consequences.

Gridley

Without getting too off-topic I would assume ETO developed the same way as OTL?

Not exactly, but pretty close.

Well one would assume the European theater would be a bit different, just by all the shifting of the naval resources to the Pacific when things were looking bad for the US earlier.

Operation Torch may well have been delayed some, which would have interesting consequences.

Actually, a lot of Atlantic Fleet's major units were transferred to the PTO even IOTL.

As of May 1944 the W.Allies are preparing to invade France near Normandy, with a target date in early June. They've cleared North Africa of Axis forces, taken Sicily, and are fighting in Italy south of Rome. The Battle of the Atlantic is pretty much over (though a trickle of losses continue, the Allies are building ships much faster than the Axis can sink them and sinking U-Boats faster than the Germans can build them). The Allies are well into a strategic bombing offensive that has crippled the Luftwaffe. On the Eastern Front the Red Army is on the strategic offensive all along the front, and has just liberated Kiev.

Overall, the Allies aren't quite as far along, but they haven't suffered anywhere near as badly relative to OTL as in the Pacific.

Edit to add: index
Post #1: Prologue
Post #7: Pearl Harbor
Post #41: Wake
Post #86: The Philippines
Post #90: Malaya
Post #108: Dutch East Indies
Post #115: Doolittle
Post #125: Coral Sea, Part I
Post #134: Coral Sea, Part II
Post #140: Coral Sea, Part III
Post #148: Diversions and Raids
Post #154: Midway, Part I
Post #164: Midway, Part II
Post #165: Midway, Part III
Post #202: Midway, Part IV
Post #214: Midway, Part V
Post #253: Midway, Part VI
Post #256: Midway, Part VII
Post #285: Pacific: adj., peaceful, calm…
Post #292: The Gilberts Campaign, Part I
Post #299: The Gilberts Campaign, Part II
Post #308: The Solomons Campaign, Part I
Post #314: The Solomons Campaign, Part II
Post #323: The Solomons Campaign, Part III
Post #328: The Solomons Campaign, Part IV
Post #330: The Solomons Campaign, Part V
Post #333: The Solomons Campaign, Part VI
Post #334: The Solomons Campaign, Part VII
Post #341: The Solomons Campaign, Part VIII
Post #354: Bougainville
Post #376: The Silent Service
Post #379: The Marshals Campaign, Part I
Post #388: The Marshals Campaign, Part II
Post #418: The Marshals Campaign, Part III
Post #430: The Marshals Campaign, Part IV
Post #452: The Marshals Campaign, Part V

Gridley

The Marshals Campaign, Part V

Some 400 USN aircraft, a quarter of them damaged to some degree, now attempted to locate their fleet and land in the dark. Halsey had authorized all carriers to turn on their deck lights when the strike returned, but gave no explicit authorization of any other breaches of normal light discipline. Admiral Mitscher, commanding TG 51.3, ordered his carriers to turn on not only their deck lights and running lights but also searchlights to provide a visual beacon for the returning planes. This was so successful that many aircraft from TG 51.1 and TG 51.2 wound up landing on Mitscher’s carriers. Even so, a hundred and fifty American planes were lost at sea or crash-landed. Almost all of the pilots and crews were recovered over the next several days.

Once the strike was recovered, Halsey continued west. Members of his staff protested yet again, reminding him of the disastrous night action at Midway. Halsey set half his destroyers out as a long-range radar screen, but otherwise ignored these warnings. TF 55 followed slightly behind TF 51.

Yamamoto’s Battle Force, for its part, continued east towards the Americans. It is notable that this was due not to any order on Yamamoto’s part but simply a lack of orders to change course, even as the messages detailing the destruction of the Carrier Force came in. Yamamoto knew that only a miracle would bring him within gun range of the US fleet at dawn, and that no other outcome could bring any result except destruction for his force. Still, he also knew that with his fleet carriers and their irreplaceable trained cadres of pilots and crews gone no other fleet action could be expected to yield any better result.

Yamamoto very nearly got his miracle. Halsey’s aggressive course brought his picket destroyers within 100 miles of the IJN Battle Force at dawn. Both sides sighted each other almost immediately, and across three thousand square miles of ocean a hundred ships went to flank speed.

May 20th, 1944, would be the last large-scale naval action of the war.

The Japanese drew first blood as an F1M off CVS Nisshin shot down an OS2U from USS New Jersey in one of the few floatplane vs. floatplane duels of the war. It would not be the last oddity of the day’s action.

Halsey’s carriers raced east as they frantically spotted their strike aircraft, then turned west at 0900 and began to launch. Just spotting the strikes had been a challenge the disruptions of the night landing piled on top of the previous day’s fighting had left no carrier with all its remaining planes on board, and most had aircraft from multiple ships. The USS Ticonderoga CV16 had aircraft from eight different ships including the lost Yorktown and two CVLs on board, from all three task groups.

Fighters from the dawn CAP were already engaging the Japanese as the strikes launched, and each task group was directed to attack on its own. With so little time for briefing and planning, and so little cohesiveness in the strike groups, a virtue was made of necessity and most carrier’s groups were directed to attack at will a lamed Japanese ship at this point could easily be finished off later.

The result was a chaotic death dance played out around and above the Japanese Battle Force as it steered towards TF 51.


December 27, 1941 – Elsa Binder

Elsa Binder was near the end of her teen years when war disrupted her life. First, the military forces of the Soviet Union occupied her hometown of Stanisławów. Germany and the USSR had signed a nonaggression pact, and in a secret part of the treaty, they agreed to divide Poland between themselves. In September 1939, Germany invaded Western Poland and Soviet troops entered from the east. Twenty-two months later, Germany attacked its former Soviet ally and occupied the remainder of Poland.

Conditions were difficult for Elsa and her family during the Soviet occupation, but became even more devastating under the Nazis. The first act of the tragedy came on October 12, 1941, when the Germans massacred ten thousand Jews from the Stanisławów area. Two months later, the survivors were forced to move into a ghetto. This was when Elsa began keeping her diary.

DANGER in the ghetto

Danger was everywhere in the ghetto. People lived under the constant threat of poverty, violence, and death. The strain of the situation took its toll on family relationships. On December 27, Elsa wrote, “And mama? We’ve been fighting for a few days. About trivialities, as usual. Yet, no matter what moods we’re in, she’s the dearest person in the world for me…but when I see how she treats my sister, my blood boils and jealousy stifles my better impulses. I don’t think that she loves Dora more than she loves me, but the fact is that she demands more from me and is more indulgent toward my sister.”

Elsa was aware of how much the atmosphere of continual crisis was distorting her normal attitudes and emotions. She felt the need to discuss her feelings, but she could only confide safely in her diary. She concluded her thoughts on December 27, “I have to express myself more often and more sincerely. I am reading what I have just written and it seems to be very naïve and silly. But this is my way of thinking. I’m sorry that I have to put it on paper before I realize that it’s like this. Regardless of this discovery, I will keep writing down my thoughts, but I won’t read them right away.”

Sadly, Elsa didn’t have a chance to review her writing after the crisis of the Holocaust had passed. Throughout 1942 and early 1943, the Nazis’ gradually emptied the Stanisławów Ghetto in efforts to make the area judenrein (cleansed of Jews.) Most of the remaining inhabitants were sent to the Belzec death camp or shot locally. Elsa’s diary was later found in a ditch beside the road to the cemetery.

Read more entries from Elsa’s dairy in the book, Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder.

Listen to readings from the diary in the MTV documentary “I’m Still Here. ”


This day in history

Today is Monday, Dec. 23, the 357th day of 2019. There are eight days left in the year.

Birthdays: Actor Ronnie Schell is 88. Former emperor Akihito of Japan is 86. Football Hall of Famer Paul Hornung is 84. Actor Frederic Forrest is 83. Actor-comedian Harry Shearer is 76. US Army General Wesley K. Clark (retired) is 75. Actress Susan Lucci is 73. Singer-guitarist Adrian Belew is 70. Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) is 55. Jazz musician Irvin Mayfield is 42.

In 1783, George Washington resigned as commander in chief of the Continental Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Va.

In 1913, the Federal Reserve System was created as President Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act.

In 1941, during World War II, American forces on Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese.

In 1948, former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war leaders were executed in Tokyo.

In 1954, the first successful human kidney transplant took place at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston as a surgical team led by Joseph Murray removed a kidney from 23-year-old Ronald Herrick and implanted it in Herrick’s twin brother, Richard.

In 1968, 82 crew members of the US intelligence ship Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after they had been captured.

In 1972, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Nicaragua the disaster claimed some 5,000 lives.

In 1986, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first non-stop, non-refueled round-the-world flight as it returned safely to Edwards Air Force Base in California.

In 1995, a fire in Dabwali, India, killed 446 people, more than half of them children, during a year-end party near the children’s school.

In 1997, a federal jury in Denver convicted Terry Nichols of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing, declining to find him guilty of murder. (Nichols was sentenced to life in prison. )

In 2001, Time magazine named New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani its Person of the Year for his steadfast response to the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Last year, amid criticism and fallout from the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, President Trump pushed the Pentagon chief out the door two months earlier than planned in a series of tweets, Trump appeared to question why he had put Mattis in his Cabinet in the first place.


Rethinking history

The naval balance of power, let alone other forces, in December 1941 just wouldn't have allowed the same sides to form.

But that needs some explanation.

When I started to draft this article, I realised I needed to do some background, and it actually led to 5 'preview' articles that can be accessed in this blog.

2. Effective Re-Builds of WWI battleships.

3. If War had started December 1941, Part 1 - Battleships

4. If War had started December 1941, Part 2 - Aircraft Carriers

5. If War had started December 1941, Part 3 - Naval Balance of Power

You are welcome to read them all to follow the reasoning of this article. (And I would welcome comments and any extra information that people might have. the field is vast, and I keep finding minor corrections or additions to much of the available information.)

But the conclusion is simple.

If Britain, France, and Germany had not gone to war in 1939 (and Italy in 1940), and all had continued their building programs to December 1941, then a later start to WWII would simply not have seen Germany, Japan and Italy as allies.

First I will restate the summary of my last article on Naval Power Summary December 1941:

First, why might war not have started in September 1939?

Frankly, it is because Britain was having trouble getting France and the Dominions to agree to go to war. It is perhaps unfortunate that after years of trying to get everyone signed up, they finally got agreement to fight at a bad time, over a very poor case.

When Germany re-occupied the Rhineland in 1936, it was Britain that wasn't ready to support France in countermeasures.

But by the time of the Austrian Anschluss in March 1938, none of the 3 WW1 allies – Britain, France, or Italy, were willing to fight Germany over the issue. (One American journalist asked the previously belicose Mussolini why he had threatened war with Germany over just this sort of plan in 1934, but backed down in 1938. His answer was simple. "In 1934 I could have beaten Germany's army".)

Nonetheless the Anschluss made the major powers accelerate their re-armament programs. though note that Germany tripled it's gold reserves, and greatly increased its steel resources.

The occupation of the Sudetenland by Germany in September 1938 caused much more debate, but Chamberlain's notorious Munich Agreement was considered a reasonable result by many people, given that the Sudetenland was mainly occupied by German people's. But Hitler's promise that it was his last territorial demand was given a little bit too much weight. Churchill demurred.

We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat. you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude. we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road.

Unfortunately sacrificing the powerful Czech army and its impressive border defences to this agreement actually undermined the ability of Britain and France to bring Hitler to heel. In October 1938 the combined British, French and Czech forces could probably have beaten the still woefully unprepared German forces. (The strong Czech army, with superb border fortifications and 470 modern tanks – more than Germany had at the time – was very motivated to fight until sold out by the British and French. If anything it was actually capturing the Czech arsenal and munition factories that made it possible for Germany to win the battle with France 18 months later. That included 25% of all German military equipment, including 350 of the mechanically reliable Czech t35 and t38 tanks. Which were effectively the dominant medium tanks for the German attacks on Poland and France, being hugely superior to the large numbers of Panzer I and Panzer II that were the backbone of the German forces, and greatly outnumbering the Panzer III, and Panzer IV that were only just entering service.)

But when the British government discussed war in 1938, the simple fact was that none of the Dominions were willing to consider it yet, and it had been clear since the White Russian wars and the Turkish Crisis of the 1920's that the British would not go to war without at least the agreement of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and hopefully South Africa.

[Eire was pretty much a write off for the Allies in WWII, and not worth considering in the anti-Axis camp. The Irish government's supposed neutrality was actually fairly pro-Nazi – or at least anti-English – in its effects for much of the war: greatly hindering Allied efforts, and giving constant fears of Vichy style Nazi occupation that would have to be countered by British or American troops. (The Valera government was the only government in the world to issue official condolences to Germany on Hitler's death in 1945. A fitting comment on their parochial delusions about the world.)]

Frankly, in 1938 and early 1939, the Dominions weren't ready to fight for 'a small country, far away, that no one has heard of' over its right to control its German sub groups. So war at surprisingly good odds for the allies was not possible. New Zealand might have signed up, maybe, but possibly not even Australia, and almost certainly not Canada or South Africa.

This was particularly unfortunate, as the German High Command actually sent a private envoy to tell the Chamberlain government they would mount a coup if Hitler ordered an attack and started a war that Germany must surely lose. See the Wikipedia article on the Munich Agreement/Opinion:

On 4 August 1938, a secret Army meeting was held. Beck read his lengthy report to the assembled officers. They all agreed something had to be done to prevent certain disaster. Beck hoped they would all resign together but no one resigned except Beck. His replacement, General Franz Halder , sympathized with Beck and they both conspired with several top generals, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (Chief of German Intelligence), and Graf von Helldorf (Berlin's Police Chief) to arrest Hitler the moment he gave the invasion order. This plan would only work if Britain issued a strong warning and a letter to the effect that they would fight to preserve Czechoslovakia. This would help to convince the German people that certain defeat awaited Germany. Agents were therefore sent to England to tell Chamberlain that an attack on Czechoslovakia was planned, and of their intention to overthrow Hitler if this occurred. The proposal was rejected by the British Cabinet and no such letter was issued. Accordingly, the proposed removal of Hitler did not go ahead. [62] On this basis it has been argued that the Munich Agreement kept Hitler in power, although whether it would have been any more successful than the 1944 plot is doubtful.

The allies actions, or lack of them, not only bolstered Hitlers position, but undermined any opposition. Poland and Russia had been willing to untie with teh British and French against Germany over Czechoslovakia. Both were appalled that the French in particular abandoned their treaty obligations. Th Poles shrugged and joined in the scavenging, (though their are cases where Czech and Polish forces worked together to stop further German advances). But the Soviet Union started seeking a rapprochement with Hitler.

Unfortunately it was only Hitler's occupation of the 'rump' of Czechoslovakia a few months later that revealed the lie of 'no more territorial demands', and swung the Dominions around. People like Prime Minister Menzies in Australia start actually pushing for Britain to make a stand. But too late.

Germany gained 2,175 field guns and cannons, 469 tanks, 500 anti-aircraft artillery pieces, 43,000 machine guns, 1,090,000 military rifles, 114,000 pistols, about a billion rounds of small-arms ammunition, and 3 million rounds of anti-aircraft ammunition. That could then arm about half of the Wehrmacht. [99] Czechoslovak weapons later played a major role in the German conquest of Poland and France, the last of which country had urged Czechoslovakia into surrendering the Sudetenland in 1938.

Unfortunately the next opportunity for a stand was Poland.

The problem with Poland was that it was a bad country to make a stand for. Politically and militarily.

Whereas Czechoslovakia was a nice fairly innocuous country that could and would have put up a fight that Britain and France - possibly even Italy – could have effectively supported, Poland was not.

Poland was a fairly nasty aggressor between the wars, invading Russia in the 1920's, and gleefully grabbing part of Czechoslovakia, and indeed Hungary, when the Nazi's carved it up in 1938. Nor were they militarily capable of holding the Germans – armed with Czech tanks – off on open plains, the way Czech's might have held the considerably weaker German forces a year earlier in the fortified mountain passes. Nor could the allies find an effective way to support the Poles, particularly after the Russians also stabbed them in the back.

So the first point at which the British could go to war, was probably the point at which they shouldn't, and for a country they definitely shouldn't. (And which, notably, they couldn't save anyway, neither from the Germans, or from the Soviet's post war.)

Frankly the September 1939 start to the war was during a fairly temporary optimum window for the Germans.

The German economy was already in poor condition, and it was the looting of Austrian gold and Czech armaments that gave it a temporary boost in what was effectively still peacetime. (The later looting of the Polish and French economies never made up for the costs of a full world war being in progress.)

Demographically German military manpower was at a height in 1940/41 that gave it an advantage over the allies and potentially Russians, that would quickly evaporate within a few years. (Demographics was an important science between the wars, and many leaders – like Hitler and Stalin – make frequent references to it. The Russians in particular would start having more manpower available starting in 1942. perhaps not a coincidence that Germany invaded in 1941?)

The Nazi air forces had a temporary superiority over the Allies in 1939 that was already being rapidly undercut as both the British and the French finally started mass production of newer aircraft. (By mid 1940 British aircraft production had overtaken the Germans, even without the French. If the war had not started in 1939, by 1941 the Luftwaffe would have been numerically quite inferior to the combined British and French air forces, even without the surprisingly effective new fighters being bought on line by the Dutch and others.)

German ground forces, while not really ready for war in September 1939 (half of their divisions were still pretty much immobile, and they had only 120,000 vehicles all up compared to 300,000 for the French army alone), were nonetheless in a peak of efficiency considering the Czech's and Poles had been knocked out, and the British and French were struggling to get new equipment into service. The Soviet short term decision to ally with the Germans to carve up Eastern Europe (Stalin knew this was only a temporary delay to inevitable conflict), also allowed the Germans an easy victory and much greater freedom of action. Again, by 1941 British conscription and production, and French (and Belgian, and Dutch, etc. ) upgrades and increases in fortifications, would have come a lot closer to making the German task next to impossible. (Even then it was the collapse of French morale after the loss of Finland - leading to the collapse of the French government – and Norway, that really defeated France, not vastly inferior divisions or equipment.)

A byproduct of an Allied vamp up might also have seen Belgium rejoin the allied camp in 1941, or at least make significant planning preparations to properly add its 22 divisions and strong border fortifications to allied defences if Germany attacked. (Rather than the hopeless mess that happened in 1940 when the allies rushed to rescue the temporarily non-ally that had undermined the whole interwar defensive project . ) Again, the German's managed to find a sweet spot in 1939-40 that temporarily undermined long standing interwar co-operation, and one that was not likely to last very long.

Similarly a delay of war would have allowed allied negotiations with the Balkan states to advance. The same guarantee that was given to Poland had been given to Yugoslavia, Rumania and Greece. (It is usually forgotten that Greece – attacked by Italy – and Yugoslavia – voluntarily – joined the British side at the worst possible moment in 1941. (Only to be crushed by the Germans. but with the interesting by-product of effectively undermining Germany's chances of defeating the Soviets and occupying Moscow in the same year. )

The enigma that was Italy

More importantly Italy had wobbled backwards and forwards between supporting the allies in WWI, and threatening the Germans in the early 30's to threatening the allies in the mid 30's over territorial expansion in Africa to fighting on the anti-Communist side along with the Germans in Spain in the mid 30's to desperately trying to supply the Finns in their fight against the Soviets in 1940 despite the Germans trying to prevent them getting supplies through.

Probably the only consistent thing about Italy's stands in Mussolini's 20+ years in power was anti-communism. Which was why his relations with Hitler were so fraught when Hitler signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and why Mussolini's government did its best to ship military supplies to Finland, and entered perfectly genuine negotiations with the Allies to support operations against Russian aggression. in return for getting back all the shares in the Baku oilfields that the Communists had nationalised. (Shares that skyrocketed on the French Bourse during the Finnish crisis. )

Mussolini was an opportunist rather than a genuine foam flecked fascist like Hitler. But he was a very genuine anti-Communist. People remember that at one point he signed they Axis Treaty with Germany, but manage to forget all the other treaties he signed with France (such as the Locarno Treaties in the 20's, and the Mussolini-Laval Accords in the 30's). The times he seemed to swap sides usually had more to do with where Britain, France or Germany were on the anti-Communist perspective at that point, than with which side he finished up on. Though of course, he always wanted any glorious territorial success story for his people to gloat about. the what and where, and indeed value, of that territory was actually hardly even relevant. (Ethiopia for God's sake! Who would want to fight a major conflict to control Ethiopia. particularly when Britain can cut your communications to it any time it likes?)

Frankly, had the allies gone to war at the time of the Rhineland, or even of Anschluss or had they seemed like winning against the Molotov-Ribbentrop alliance: then Mussolini would probably just have joined the allied side. (For appropriate prestige and preferably territorial enrichment of course. Principals be damned.)

Mussolini made the fatal choice of joining Germany in 1940 –against the wishes of most of his population – simply because he saw a quick and easy win when France collapsed. He even let that greed overcome his disgust at the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

But there is no way he would have declared war on Britain and France unless France suddenly collapsed. as it did in Germany's 1940 sweet spot. If war had not started until December 1941, and Italy had been faced with the naval balance of power listed above, there is no way that Mussolini would declare war on the allies. In fact, even if a much stronger set of allies had still seen France still collapse in 1942, it is nonetheless hard to see Mussolini taking the 'opportunity' he saw in 1940, given the overwhelming RN superiority that would completely dominate the Mediterranean by 1942.

Mussolini thought he saw a 'sweet spot' in 1940, and was wrong. It is unlikely he would have imagined the same sweet spot in the 1942 conditions described above.

Frankly Italy abandoning its century long ally Britain and opportunistically joining the German side in 1940, was as bad a decision as Turkey doing the same thing in 1914. With equally bad results.

In the classic phrase of an Indiana Jones film, 'he chose poorly'.

Such incentives would have been extremely unlikely to happen in 1942. even if France did collapse then.

If war between Germany and the allies started in December 1941 it is hard not to see Mussolini joining the allied side. As long as he could get something out of it.

Particularly if it was a war of allies against a Molotov-Ribbentrop pact alliance.

Only if the war that started in December 1941 was between Germany and the Soviets, but not against Britain and France, might he have been on the same side as in the Spanish Civil War. (With the slight qualification that the British and French navies had not been willing to prevent him interfering in Spain during their civil war, and he would need the same effective licence from those navies to even considering interfering in Russia if Germany attacked the Soviets.)

To emphasise the point. Mussolini was genuinely anti-Communist, but also genuinely opportunistic. He only moved when he thought he saw real advantage.

Moving against the allies in 1940 probably seemed like a good idea at the time. But that in no way implies that he would have declared war on Britain and France at any point that didn't seem so opportunistically advantageous.

Similarly, the December 1941 Japanese Navy preferred option to 'go south' against the French, American, British and Dutch colonial possessions (rather than keeping on with the Japanese Army's preferred 'going north' against the Chinese and Russians): was again, a decision to try and take advantage of a temporary 'sweet spot'.

Again, it may have looked clever to start with, but in reality, they also 'chose poorly'.

In reality France and the Netherlands had been suddenly knocked out of the war and occupied. (Making efforts to defend their Asian possessions almost impossible, and allowing the occupation of French Indo-China, which moved the Japanese air forces within easy reach of Malaysia, and also allowed her to demand 'basing rights' in Thailand).

And in reality Britain was suddenly saddled with a world-wide multi-front war where it was very difficult to move enough forces East to secure Malaya and Singapore in time. (Britain was fighting the Germans and Italians in Europe, Africa and the Middle East across the north and South Atlantics, and the Indian Ocean and also trying to fight enough supplies through to a recently invaded Russia to keep it in the war, which required the occupation of Syria, Iraq and Iran as well.)

Even though Britain theoretically had the military forces to secure Malaya if it had been possible to move them to the other side of the world in time, she could not get troops and planes from Europe to Asia while trying to keep all the other balls in the air. (The 3,000 fighters and several hundred tanks the British had shipped to Russia in 1941 may have been critical to save Moscow in December 1941, but a mere 10% of those planes and tanks would almost certainly have saved Malaya. IN fact 20% and the Japanese would not even have tried. Such are the consequences of difficult choices in wartime.)

Nonetheless, by March 1942 the intention was to have a fleet of 7 battleships and 2-3 aircraft carriers based in Ceylon, with enough extra planes and troops arriving in Malaya to finally make it secure enough to move an offensive fleet there. (And similarly the US was reinforcing its Pacific fleet and Philippines air forces as well, and discussions were finally moving towards combined operations, and units of the USN – a carrier, several cruisers and lots of destroyers and submarines were usually mentioned – rebasing to Singapore to support the RN.)

By April, or at latest by May 1942, the allies would have been strong enough to make a Japanese attack far more risky.

But in December 1941 the allied reinforcements were still dribbling in, and no proper plans for co-operation had been finalised: allowing the Japanese chose to take the chance. A temporary sweet spot.

Had war in Europe not broken out yet, it is hard to see Japan taking the chance.

Allied Naval Forces in the Far East in December 1941

Again, here are a couple of paragraphs from my post on Aircraft Carriers in December 1941 (read the full post for full deployments. )

The above does not include the dozens of extra cruisers, destroyers, submarines and escorts the allies would have been able to relocate to Asia in these circumstances. The Dutch alone had a number of new cruisers and submarines coming on line between 1939 and 1942 to reinforce the half dozen cruisers and 20 odd submarines already based there.

British, French and American air production was also skyrocketing from 1938 onwards (with a lot of the US increase being orders for the French and Dutch and even Chinese military), and without war start in September 1939, the allied air forces in Asia would have looked similarly enhanced by December 1941. Unless France and the Netherlands had already fallen to Germany: French Indo-China, Malaya, the Philippines, and the Dutch East Indies, would all have had a steady flow of new aircraft arriving. (And the main Japanese air forces would be starting from Taiwan – 3,100 kilometres away from Singapore – not from French Indo-China – about 1,100 kilometres – or indeed from Thailand - literally next door to Malaya.)

With conscription being re-introduced in March 1939 in Britain (pre-1939 war start. ) late 1939 in Australia (admittedly on war start, but probably would have come anyway considering how the Menzies government was going) and in 1940 in the US (again, well the US entering the war): it is also likely that Britain, India and Australia would have had a several more divisions to defend Malaya, let alone US reinforcements to the Philippines, French to Indo-China or Dutch to the East Indies.

Even should France and the Netherlands both suddenly collapse after a December 1941 start where Germany, Italy and Japan actually co-ordinated efforts (realistically never likely to happen), Japan could not have just started from positions in Indo-China and Thailand for it's Blitzkreig, and wouldn't have had the necessary sweet spot of temporary superiority to allow it to move it's forces quickly to defeat each allied position one at a time before they could be made more secure.

Repeating the Turkish Mistake

Frankly Japan was an unlikely opponent anyway. On the allied side in WWI, it was really only a combined effort by paranoid Americans and racist Australians that saw the Anglo-Japanese Naval Treaty – only just renewed post war – destroyed at the Washington naval conference. But for that incredibly stupid decision, the Japanese would have been as foolish to take on their British allies in WWII, as the Turks were to attack their long term ally and protector in WWI.

It may have seemed a good opportunity at the time, but see 'they chose poorly' above.

German/Japanese Co-operation

In the real war, the Axis version of co-operation was pathetic, with almost no attempt to co-ordinate action between the Germans and the Japanese.

Personally I think this is partly German racism, partly Japanese paranoia, and partly simply that the Japanese opportunism against the allies was almost as surprising to the Germans as German opportunism against the Russians a few months earlier had been to the Japanese.

But if we assume no start to war in 1939, and give the Germans and Japanese 2 extra years to communicate, (and particularly if we don't have the shocking Molotov-Ribbentrop pact to convince the Japanese not to trust the Germans): might they have actually come up with some sort of combined strategy?

I still think probably not, but if it had happened, it could have had only one target.

Again, people forget that when the allies intervened in the White Russian wars between the communists and the Tsarists in the post-WWI period, one of those allies had been Japan. Even when the British and French eventually withdrew their troops from Archangel, Finland, the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Siberia: the Japanese had continued to occupy significant parts of Siberia for several years.

And since engaging in the 'China adventure' in the 30's, Japan had fought several encounters with the Soviets. See Zhukov's brilliant victory against them in 1939 for instance. (And get a reinforced sense of why the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact really, really convinced the Japanese they couldn't trust the Nazi's.)

Yet if war had not happened in 1939. and particularly if the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact had not seen Japan 'stabbed in the back' by their Axis friend, then would a war start in December 1941 have seen the two co-operate to crush Russia? Certainly Japan's Foreign Minister Matsuoko had been as keen on the idea as the Imperial General Staff.

In 1941 it seems far more likely that the Japanese would 'do a Poland' and co-operate with Germany to go after Russia than that they would co-operate with Germany to attack a combination of Britain, France, the Netherlands and the US.

Any chance of Italy joining the Axis?

Not in an attack on Britain and France (and incidentally on the US), no.

Particularly if Italy was now feeling a bit pro-allied in that regard. or should we say a bit more intimidated by rising allied naval superiority.

In fact the ONLY way Italy might finish up on the Axis side in December 1941, would appear to be if Germany and Japan convinced Mussolini that Russia was the only target. and that the British and French might not go to war to save her.

(This is not to say that Mussolini might not have tried to knock off Greece or Yugoslavia in passing. He was still a dangerously stupid opportunist. But if he did finish in a war against Britain and France, it would almost certainly be by accidental hubris, not by cunning plan. )

So is there any chance of a World War starting in December 1941 instead.

No, not in the form we know it.

But yes, definitely in the form of a German and Japanese alliance against Russia.

After all, that would be both more possible, and more attractive, given the changing balance of naval power.

There is even the possibility that Italy might have joined them in an 'anti-Communist crusade', but only if they thought it would NOT involve fighting Britain and France in the process.

So you are left with Germany and Japan, and perhaps Italy, against Russia and. China?

But does that become a world war? Could such a simple war start have led to 'complications'.

Would Britain or France have gone to war to save Stalin's appalling Communist dictatorship in such circumstances? It seems unlikely. (Nor would the Dominions have been keen to go to war for Stalin.)

Would Germany or Japan have felt it to be clever to attack Britain and France in such circumstances? It seems unlikely. If they were getting their territorial aggrandisement unopposed, why would you?

More interestingly, would the US have eventually decided to try and intervene on China's behalf anyway? Unlikely given US isolationism, and the reality that the US showed no interest in joining in either world war until forced into it, (and even then in 1941 it only actually declared war on Japan after having their teeth kicked in. Hitler still had to be the one to declare war on the US to get them properly involved). But I suppose it is still possible to conceive of the US going to war with Japan over China. After all, it was ever increasing US pressure and sanctions over China that effectively convinced Japan it had to take on the US in 1941.

This then provides the amusing picture of the US deciding to fight Japan over China while Britain and France are still neutral. (It may be hard to imagine the US actually taking the lead in anything given their domestic politics, but it parallels what they actually did in 1941.)

In which case, perhaps it would even having the same disastrous results that the US managed to achieve in reality? Without any British, Indian, Australian, New Zealand or Dutch allies distract the Japanese military into Malaya, the East Indies, Burma, New Guinea, and the Indian Ocean: there would be no need to divert most of the best Japanese units in other directions. Leaving only the barest screen against the British and French navies, the Japanese could have concentrated their battle hardened forces on the inexperienced and inadequately prepared Americans instead.

[Actually that looks like being a fun article in itself. perhaps my next post. ]

Actually it even offers the amusing thought of a US-Russian-Chinese alliance against a German-Japanese-Italian alliance. without Britain or France becoming involved. Sweet!

More realistically though, a German attack on Russia in the 1940 or 1941 campaigning seasons would almost certainly have succeeded, for the following reasons:
1) The entire German military could have concentrated on Russia. Instead of the reality where 90% of the Kreigsmarine (or what was left of it after 2 years of war with Britain), 50% of the Luftwaffe, and 35% of the Wehrmacht, were occupying - Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Crete and fighting in/over/under – Britain, North Africa, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean.
2) The Russians would not get immediate support from people already fighting the Germans. Certainly not thousands of vital fighters and tanks pre Christmas.
3) The best German forces for the invasion would not have done a little detour for a couple of thousand miles through the Balkans down to Greece and Crete, and back to the Polish border, before kicking off. And not suffered the casualties, attrition, and wastage of irreplaceable supplies that they actually suffered just prior to invasion in 1941. (It was actually Von Kluge's 10th Army – the one that fought all the way down to Greece and back before starting Operation Barbarossa – that finally ran out of steam in the suburbs of Moscow in December 1941. )
4) The crack German paratroop arm, which was supposed to be a key to breakthroughs in Russia – as it had been in Belgium and France – would not have been wiped out as an effective force in Crete.
5) The Russian military would not have had the time to get into the rebuild that its disastrous failures in the Finnish campaign actually led to. (Which were only starting to see vital new equipment like T34's arrive in late 1941.)
6) In fact Russia would probably not have had the disastrous Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact defeats in Finland to force it into changing its military structures, rebuilding its officer class, and hastening new equipment like the T34. Frankly it might have been in an even more parlous military state, and collapsed completely.

Frankly the 'miracle' of Russian survival in 1941 was only possible with all those things in their favour. Without any distractions to the Germans, or any rebuilds after a Finnish disaster, or indeed any equipment support from allies like Britain, the Soviets were unlikely to hold out.

Had the Japanese followed up with a serious invasion at the same time (meaning that Zhukov and his 30 crack Siberian divisions could NOT have been rebased to the defence of Moscow in December), then the Soviet collapse would have been practically guaranteed.

So the question becomes, does a Germany that has achieved its territorial ambitions in Europe and conquored Russia (and is extremely occupied digesting its new territories), then feel the need to attack Britain and France? Unlikely, at least in the short term.

Germany would simply have no capacity to attack Britain effectively. (And in Mein Kampf Hitler makes it clear that he valued the British Empire's role in the world, and saw them as natural allies who would only become enemies if they interfered in his 'rightful territorial ambitions'.) And if Britain was willing to stick to the guarantee to France, then even attacking France would be an unnecessary risk. (Remembering Hitler only felt the need to take the risky step to attack France in 1940, because they had gone to war with him over Poland. )

Or, given that they would both be much stronger by then, do Britain and France feel the need to attack Germany pre-emptively, just in case they might be next? Unlikely, as domestic politics would probably be as against it as US isolationism, and again, the Dominions might be hard to convince.

Frankly, no matter how we might fantasise that the British and French might go to war for to save the horrible Soviets, or the US go to war for the Chinese: it is far more likely Britain and France and the US would have stayed quietly behind their much improved defences, and just negotiated for the Germans and Japanese be satisfied with their new colonial empires in Russia and China.

If war had been delayed from the 'sweet spots' that Germany managed in 1939/40, and Italy and Japan consequently THOUGHT they saw in 1940/41, then it would simply not have happened in the same way.

Given naval build up alone, neither Italy or Japan would have even considered going to war with Britain and France in December 1941. No sweet spot = no fatal attraction.

Now whether a late 1940's war between a new German/Japanese alliance that had successfully integrated Russia and most of China, and THOUGHT they saw a sweet spot of allied disunity later. whether that might have happened.