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Part III-A:  History of the World, and of World War 2
(1937-1941): WW2: From the invasion of China to the invasion of Soviet Russia
by Carl R. Littmann; Part 3A, (8-1-2005) …continued from Part 2


I have provided a primitive, elementary WW2 Military Encyclopedia, to aid amateurs, including myself, and to help with any confusing terms.  Allow about a half-minute for its long ‘PDF’ format to ‘download’. Or use the Encyclopedia link found on my Homepage, under 'Other Websites to Visit'. 

Regrets, my Timeline is not ready yet, but when it is, one can go directly to my WW2 TIMELINE. and temporarily, skip my 8-page discussion below. Or use link,
Or use the especially well-written link by David Lippman:


First, I think no major nationality is so naturally gifted that it can’t ever engage in despicable behavior.  That should be kept in mind, even though my article focuses on WW2 and the fortunate Allied victory over Japan and Germany.

Optional; my further opinion on that: Even with our historic benefit of many anti-militaristic leaders, and in our present-day non-depression times, we sadly witnessed the ‘reelection’ of a U.S. president who invaded Iraq, and, at this writing, still occupies it and controls its oil and resources.  That President did that--based on his very false (panic-provoking) charges that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  To make his charges believed until he got his war going, or longer, that President coerced and rewarded the CIA and other big institutions into endorsing his false charges (or lies).  And he launched and orchestrated a punitive, intimidating, and perfidious campaign against intelligent Americans trying to give us the truth; and he continues that at this writing.  ((In effect, the CIA and many other large government institutions were dragged into (or intimidated into) supporting the President and in his re-election bid.  Great power, indeed!  And with the same party controlling all 2 or 3 branches of government.))

Yet, the U.S. voters (who ‘re-elected’ their president), unlike the Japanese prior to WW2, were rather free from being trained by the State to have mental obedience to an Emperor or to government authority.  Neither were those voters in dire economic straits or the like—as Germany’s population was—when they resorted to voting for Hitler, and thus giving him ‘a big foot in the door’.  So, my conclusion, relevant to this WW2 article, is that no major nationality is guaranteed to be perpetually immune from practicing a ‘tyranny of the majority’.  Nor from succumbing to propaganda generated by big government and by some huge commercial complexes benefiting from such government, and manipulated by it.  Nor from the various forms of bigotry, perfidy or stilted education that often accompanies that. 

SUMMARY:  How the Allies Won; and a Detailed WW2 Overview:

((Optional:  I am writing this WW2 history, because, if the Allies had not prevailed, I would not have enjoyed various freedoms.   And maybe not have survived at all. And worse still, many more deserving people than I would not have survived either.))

The overall strategy by which the U.S. ‘won’ WW2 sounds simple, in principle.  The U.S. had to harness its huge production potential and its citizens’ abilities; and use it, reasonably wisely, against its adversaries.  That also meant efficiently and effectively cooperating with our “Allies”, and maintaining good communication with them. We had to understand that our ‘ingenious’ adversaries also had their unique strengths; and in those areas they would remain superior for at least some time.  That meant not denying that reality to ourselves, nor over-reacting to it; but, instead, taking steps to minimize the harm resulting from the enemy’s advantages, while working to be more competitive.

However, the enemy would successfully deliver some blows against us; and that would be painful, bitter, and destructive; and would have to be absorbed.  And all the above would require some discipline, determination, and much focus, courage, patience, high morale and confidence, based upon the belief that one’s goals were right, proper, achievable, and necessary.  And that the future would likely be better, someday.

Some experts have said that most wars, including WW2, have consisted mainly of blunders; and whoever made the fewest blunders won.  We shall note many major blunders, as my timeline proceeds; and that many of them were caused by arrogant complacency, prejudiced-based political and social attitudes, and overly stubborn protection of one’s ego.  Thus, despite the many brilliant intelligence achievements, especially by the Allies; every nation also made numerous big blunders, and missed big opportunities, due to its stubborn refusal to accept simple facts, that appeared repeatedly, right before its very nose!  Or the error of simply not communicating one’s observations with one’s associates and Allies, or not even taking a minimal action, after important observations were communicated.

Some books and articles assert that when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Japan’s war fate was sealed, (i.e., doomed by the USA’s great industrial power).  And similarly, when Germany also declared war on the U.S., after ‘Pearl Harbor’.  Or maybe even before that, when Germany decided that both Britain and Soviet Russia must be attacked, before defeating the first.  And after all, wasn’t the U.S. going to develop the atomic bomb first, before the Axis, anyway? 

Although I think the U.S. position made it likely that we could potentially develop the atomic bomb somewhat before the Axis; it is far from obvious that we would have ended up militarily positioned close enough to the Axis’ industrial cities, etc., to use it effectively.  Nor obvious that the U.S. could have manufactured enough atomic bombs before the Axis started building them.  For example; suppose Hitler would have given appropriate and early priority to German submarines, including the “snorkel” submarine?  Or given priority to the world’s first significant “Jet” plane, the Messerschmitt Me-262 fighter, which Germany also invented during WW2.  And used the Jet wisely?  Or had Germany been able to threaten to counter the horror of atomic bombs by efficiently re-introducing massive chemical warfare, etc.?

Suppose Germany had given undivided priority to conquering Britain; (like Germany had previously given undivided priority to conquering France, until France was defeated)?  Another words, had Germany avoided opening a second front against Soviet Russia, while Britain was still “alive and kicking”?   Suppose that Germany had treated the peoples in the regions of Soviet Russia, which Germany had occupied, with some small degree of respect--rather than as sub-human slaves and in the spirit of “German racial superiority”?  And suppose shortly thereafter, that Germany would have accepted an arrangement where many large Russian regions, like “the Ukraine”, would have remained semi-independent and detached from Soviet Russia.  So that Germany would have just enjoyed a more dominate influence there—in exchange for an armistice in the East?  I.e., In other words, not very different than the “break-up” of the historical “USSR” that we and they accept today.  Or had Hitler not gone quite as far as “Crystal Night” or the Holocaust, etc., and perhaps made use of certain scientists who, therefore, might not have fled to the West?

Suppose Japan would have first pursued a military expansion into the weak political semi-vacuum of Southeast Asia, instead of attacking the U.S. too early on!  Such initial attack, against possessions of Britain, France, and the Netherlands would have gained for Japan access to oil, rubber, and tin, i.e., resources not much available from China in those days.  Those Japanese actions would probably not have drawn the U.S. into war, immediately, despite FDR’s aggressive impatience and his denying U.S. raw materials to Japan.  Japan might have even partly withdrawn from China, welcomed German advisors back to China to help Chiang’s conservative ‘Nationalists’ subdue the ‘Chinese Communists’.  And then Japan could have devoted its more concentrated power to helping Germany defeat Britain, by helping to clear a front from North Africa, the Middle East, India, and all the way through S.E. Asia, to Japan.  Even if FDR had then gotten us into the war (thus before a ‘Pearl Harbor’), it would have likely been a half-hearted entry and slower build-up.  (It makes me ‘squeamish to even think or mention such evil things and evil consequences, but that is the analysis-task of amateur historians.)  Fortunately, most dictators and totalitarian leaders often bungle things, by their impatience, miscalculations, and their trying to hugely expand their empires too quickly. 

Suppose Japan and Germany had cooperated more with each other; or played more ‘footsy’, in a cunning manner, with U.S. ‘reactionary’ political elements?  (I.e., ‘reactionary’--being a relatively polite term for many prejudiced and gullible voters and other citizens in ‘those’ days).  And that Japan had understood American politics better; and not rallied and solidified us with a ‘Pearl Harbor’ type attack at our ‘backdoor’?  Or that Japan would have avoided making many stupid tactical mistakes; which Japanese militarists should have recognized as very dubious and overly risky even in those old days?   Or that the U.S. had not enjoyed even greater luck than expected in trying to take advantage of Japan’s errors?

One of the few policies of Hoover, which President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) very much continued, was the non-recognition of Japanese expansions into Chinese territory, such as expansion into Manchuria.  FDR even retained Hoover’s Secretary of State (Stimson) to highlight his opposition to Japanese expansionism.  In fact, like Lincoln; FDR constantly sought to unify and strengthen the U.S. for the likely coming war, by drawing into his administration many capable progressive leaders from the ‘other Party’ (i.e., ‘Republicans’ who also opposed Axis aggression).

Optional:  Somewhat similarly, Lincoln also had drawn ‘opposition’ politicians into his administration, including for high army positions.  Many Democrats, in those days, merely advocated strongly maintaining the Union and were not abolitionist—i.e., they were tolerant of slavery.  (That historical coalition and reality later irritated the WW2 nuclear physicist, Robert Oppenheimer; but by the time the atomic bomb was built, he had become convinced that Lincoln was wise to let Union opinion gradually mature, one step at a time.)  One major problem for Lincoln was that, although some of his politically-appointed generals made good politicians, they made poor generals; and that problem almost caused the Union to lose the Civil War.  I think FDR fared somewhat better there, but FDR also suffered somewhat from that ‘politico-military’ problem.  In fact, I find that the parallels are awesome--between “Lincoln & the Civil War” and “FDR & WW2”.

Somewhat like in WW1 times; as WW2 evolved, many leaders only slowly and reluctantly chose which ‘side’ they would align with.  Some ‘smart’ German military experts, who advised Chiang Kai-shek, would have preferred to continue helping ‘Nationalist’ China to resist Japan and to defeat the ‘Chinese Communists’.  They also likely feared that weak China might “go communist”.  Finland was not thrilled to ultimately discover that her resistance to Soviet Russia’s encroachment--was aligning Finland with Germany and against Britain, in its effect.  Mussolini and many other Italians disliked becoming secondary, inferior, puppets under Hitler and the Nazis; rather than being allowed to be independent co-expansionists.  But, especially after Hitler rescued Mussolini from a coup in 1943; Mussolini and his Northern Italy became 100% puppets of Hitler.

Hitler would have much preferred England to be a co-partner with him, allowing Germany to co-dominate the world.  Before Churchill continued to rebuff Hitler’s ceasefire offers; Hitler had apparently regarded the British as ‘high up on the evolutionary scales’ and rather compatible with his ‘advanced’ Germans.

Some countries, like Switzerland, would sway somewhat with the powerful winds, and thus avoid military engagement and possible occupation.  Somewhat surprisingly, Spain was largely successful at resisting Hitler’s intimidation; even though Hitler had historically helped Franco defeat his opposition during Spain’s Civil War, and even though Franco exercised an autocratic rule. 

As for America (a sleeping and brooding giant); that is a long and complex story.  But I think that FDR’s alleged comment, immediately after Pearl Harbor, summarized the evolving feelings: --something like….“Do you think, after this attack, that our people and Congress will finally, finally, get truly serious about resisting the expansionist aggressors?”

Optional:  In my opinion; truly good historians will understand how the tragic history leading to WW2—necessitated that FDR be somewhat relegated to riding on the events of history and with only limited power to direct what would result.  (Ref. my previous section, “Part 2—History”.)  And so FDR ended up needing lots of prolonged patience, despite the correctness of his many foresighted feelings, fears and plans.  Does that sound a bit like Lincoln’s history also?  Wars are seldom won in a day; nor fundamental misunderstandings and injustices corrected in a day, or even in a decade.

Description, Strengths and Weakness of WW2 Countries

Despite Japan’s seemingly successful military expansions deeper into China; Japan was a very sick country, internally.  And Japan’s further expansions (from Manchuria to even deeper into China), did not even solve Japan’s “need” for an independent source of oil and rubber!  Many of Japan’s talented leaders had been earlier assassinated by the military extremists.  The quality of Japan’s leadership, especially the military autocracy, had declined since the time of Togo and the Russo-Japanese war.  “Checks and balances” seemed to have failed in their system; and much needed corrections were not made!  (It seemed like one could only desperately hope that their incompetent leaders would just die-off in their battles to steal more, or by accident.  (I hope all that does not “ring too familiar”!!) 

However, much of Japans’ major military machinery was surprisingly superior to the U.S. counterparts for at least through 1942 or longer.  Some fine examples are their “Zero” airplane; their Naval torpedoes—especially their long-range, high-explosive “long Lance” torpedo; and their super long-range guns—the “18-inchers”, provided on a few super-sized Japanese battleships.  Japan’s advanced naval night-fighting theory and training further ‘levered’ those advantages.

Nevertheless, I would rate the operational capability of Japan’s "Generals and Admirals” as slightly below average, because of Tojo’s and Japan’s corrupt system.  That often kept their best military leaders out of the most important military assignments and out of positions of great influence.  And it prevented or interfered with the appropriate coordination between the different military branches, and prevented appropriate shifting of forces from one major military ‘theater of operation’ to another.  Also, Japan’s intelligence gathering and Japan’s analysis of that intelligence --was extremely poor.  Similarly, with Japan’s poor strategic planning.  Despite Japanese partial industrialization, Japan had not yet developed the very high volume production capability of the U.S., Germany, or Britain, with regard to some war machines.  And in a sense Japan still had a somewhat “feudal” society and system.  Some of Japan’s “feudal” practices interfered with directing its military forces as wisely as otherwise.

Germany had a few of the same problems as Japan.  Hitler’s strategic planning stunk, and his stilted doctrine of inferior and evil races greatly interfered with many of his biggest military operations, opportunities, and his atomic weapons development.  But technically, unfortunately for the Allies, most of Hitler’s generals ranged from superb down to very good.  German troops, submariners, and fighter pilots were excellently trained, technically speaking; and very effectively ‘brainwashed’.  And they fought determinedly and skillfully.  Germany’s regular fighter plane, the Messerschmitt 109, was superior to anything the U.S. had for many years, although the British soon built the “Spitfire” which could match it.  (Even more technically superior was Germany’s FW190.)

The British later helped us design and improve our “Mustang” fighter so that it was finally very competitive.  ((In my opinion, it ultimately worked out very well for the West—that we did not greatly challenge Hitler’s military operations against Western Europe or Poland, early on!  Had we started rushing U.S. troops to France just before France was attacked, I think that we would have lost ~20% or more of our troops to Germany’s early successful submarines and air power, even before our troops arrived.  And lost much of our inferior equipment, too.  And with our inexperienced troops and some incompetent generals, against enemy troops led by generals as smart as ‘dessert foxes’, we might have initially been driven into something worse than the British “Dunkirk”.  (I realize that my opinions differ from the mainstream, as they often do.)

The British Armed Forces were generally satisfactorily led, trained, and reliably and intelligently equipped.  And they fought with determination and skill.  That is, as long as Churchill did not let his imperial ambitions get in the way of rational tactical and strategic planning.  But, in fact, Churchill did louse up much early on--until the U.S. began to strongly supply Britain.  Then Churchill was finally able to “get his head on straight”; and begin to make more relaxed, circumspect, and intelligent decisions—and even more so after the U.S. entered the war!  (Incidentally, the British invented “Radar”, clever mine-destroying techniques, and helped develop other technologies, including the world’s first electronic computer for their already great Intelligence Operations.)

The U.S. generally had slightly below average Generals.  And I think some U.S. troops in Europe and North Africa sometimes lagged slightly in morale and in cooperative communications and spirit, as a result.  And thus our troops’ military effectiveness sometimes suffered, somewhat.  But the U.S. Navy (for reasons that I do not completely understand) had generally good Admirals, very good intelligence experts, and good sailors, as usual.  (That was a plus, although our naval combat forces were greatly impeded by 1-1/2 years of defective torpedoes designed by the U.S. Navy Bureau of Ordinance.  And a few other disgraces.)  But I still think that the U.S. Navy, the Marines, and our very great nuclear program and some other things--raised our overall military performance to over-average.  (And synergistically super—with the continued technical help of the British.)

FDR and his top military and civilian leaders, by working together, were generally good strategic planners, in both military and civilian affairs.  But they did not always have the discipline to follow their own plans consistently. So their very good results were still not quite as good as they could have been, and sometimes too risky.  But often turned out lucky, fortunately.  (General Grant and a few others once described fairly well--how wars are won; and much of it is boring and unexciting, but requires focus, discipline, and yet flexibility.  And I think Grant was especially right about the underlined.)

The U.S. started the war with below average military machines, especially fighter airplanes, and without significant anti-submarine equipment and training. And worse, with tragically defective torpedoes; and still worse--a defective mindset, so that some of the defective equipment would not have been intelligently used even if it had been more reliable. (It fact, when the war began, many machines were not even used to their very limited capability -- even in cases where they did have some potential usefulness.)

In the beginning, much of our military machines lacked appropriate quality and potential usefulness!   So it is my unusual opinion--that the main problem was not so much a lack of quantity, nor how much money was being spent for military needs; but in the equipment’s design, and in the “mind-set” of the directors and users.  ((The lesson for aggressors might be to just let the sleeping giant (America) lie and “rot out at the core”.  Don’t disturb her, lest an intelligent, caring leadership accidentally arise and improve.))

During the course of WW2, the U.S. eventually improvised and improved many military gadgets and machines.  And even pioneered the Atomic Bomb with very remarkable speed.  Eventually the quantity of manufactured quality goods increased by staggering proportions; including enough to help our allies substantially by “Lend-lease”.  Some experts say, that during the last year of WW2, that the U.S. had ‘almost gotten warmed up’, i.e., had almost gotten into ‘high gear’.  Eventually the total amount of fine military equipment and the number of skilled, talented operators who could use it—was utterly awesome, especially compared to the enemy’s; and we even exceeded what we thought we were capable of.

The “U.S. & Britain”, and “FDR & Churchill” (despite differing political ideology), were willing to work very well together and did!  (Generally, that worked out ‘synergistically’, meaning that the combined result is greater than the sum of the individual parts.)  Germany, Japan, and Italy lacked such close cooperation for various reasons, and that will unfold in my Timeline.  In my opinion; great historically friction, clashes, and suspicion -- prevented quite as much cooperation between the West and Soviet Russia as there might have been; but fortunately, the cooperation was still great. 

Germany pioneered many awesome weapons, as previously mentioned.  Some examples are the medium range, high-explosive, supersonic V-2 rocket; the “snorkel” submarine (which could recharge its batteries without surfacing); and the world’s first practical and great jet fighter plane, (the Messerschmitt Me-262).  Fortunately for the Allies, Hitler interfered greatly with the efficient use and proper prioritizing of all that, especially the jet plane!  ((In my opinion, Hitler’s mind was poisoned by a stilted view of history, including the notion that the early 20th Century militaristic government of Germany wasn’t as bad as (in fact) it was. And similarly with Germany’s late 19th Century militarism, also.))

But I think many “militarists” are right about one thing—that ‘treaties’ and “other scraps of paper” rarely prevent wars, especially when they contradict a militarist’s desire (or a would-be oil King, or even an arrogant majority’s quest for theft).  That is probably why Lao Tzu hesitated to write or speak a lot; believing that that which is most intangible and spiritual determines so much of human behavior, anyway.

France and Italy actually had soldiers willing to fight with determination; but they were generally poorly led, especially at the top.  France’s and her Allies’ planning was initially poor and defective—i.e., at the beginning of the war.  And France’s and Italy’s military equipment was generally inferior.

Soviet Russia’s military suffered from many of the same problems that France and the U.S. did, early on.  But Russia’s geography and large population gave Russia more space and time to correct things.  However, Stalin was, perhaps, the worst strategic planner, especially regarding his contingency plans, in the event that Hitler launched a surprise attack against Soviet Russia.  And Stalin’s initial choice of generals for his Western front was generally terrible.  One of Soviet Russia’s strengths was her already well-developed plans to manufacture the fine T-34 tank!  And eventually during the war; the Russians designed and built some fine, highly maneuverable, light, well-armed fighter planes, also.  But initially, the German offensive found Russia in a vulnerable time interval; for example, with too many obsolete (formerly satisfactory) airplanes, and with no good airplanes ready to replace them.  Stalin disbelieved good Soviet and British intelligence that Germany would attack Russia in June 1941.  And Soviet Russia had angered many of her own neighbors, such as Finland.

The Chinese military generally had below average Generals and troops, uncompetitively equipped, and a government that generally grew more corrupt and incapable as the war progressed.  Some historians believe that “Generalissimo” Chiang Kai-shek meant well and was personally honest, but was just incompetent and reactionary.  Occasionally China won a local or regional victory, but usually the more capable generals were shuffled to less important posts.  The ‘Chinese Nationalist’ troops that faced the ‘Chinese Communist’ troops--had somewhat more capability and better equipment than Chiang’s average; and occasionally clashed with the Communists.  But a simmering civil war did not help the Chinese resistance against Japan.

Very important and often forgotten too--is that the British and other Europeans still practiced a significant imperialism in China and Asia, which impeded China’s industrial development.  And unfortunately, that contributed to China’s remaining very dependent upon ‘the West’ for essential military supplies.  That became a very vulnerable negative when the Japanese captured the main supply roads!  Also, the history of  Western imperialism resulted in China’s hesitancy to fully cooperate with some of her Western WW2  “Allies”.                                                                                        

Regrets, my WW2 TIMELINE NOT ready yet)

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Carl R. Littmann

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