Saturday, December 13, 2008

What Might Have Been - WWII

I enjoy reading history books and historic novels, especially those dealing with military history. I recently finished reading The Steel Wave, by Jeff Shaara. It's the second in a trilogy about the Second World War. I had read the first book, The Rising Tide, this past summer.

I realize that the books are novels; however, they are carefully researched and are based on actual people and events. The fictional parts are largely in the conversations and thoughts of characters like Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, and Erwin Rommel. It's an excellent series for anybody who enjoys reading about World War II.

The thought has occurred to me lately that the whole course of the war in Europe hinged on one man: Hitler. More to the point, it seems to me now that history could have been a whole lot worse if Hitler had been just a little less deranged. Without a doubt, Hitler's aggressiveness caused the war. But what if, while remaining as evil as he was, he was a little more patient, or willing to exercise a little more military discipline. What if he had allowed his generals to capture the British army at Dunkirk? What if he had waited just one year before turning his attention east to the Soviet Union, taking the time to deal with Churchill's England and consolidating his control of France? What if he had declined to declare war on the United States after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor?

The Allied forces defeated the German war machine, but could we have done it if Hitler hadn't been completely mad? It seems strange to say it, but we could be lucky that Hitler was as insanely evil as he was. Had he been less so, the Third Reich could have lasted longer and killed even more people than it did.

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Some of the examples you take argue chivalry rather than "complete madness".

NOT capturing a fleeing army at Dunkirk?

NOT abandoning an ally?

NOT focussing on defeating a Britain he admired rather than getting on to attack a Soviet Union he was at least posing as detesting?

In the latter case, Mussolini was perhaps more credible in the Matteotti case.

"I have been accused of having a Tcheka. We don't have a Tcheka. Russia has ..." + details about the predecessor of KGB.

THEN he got a secret police a few years later.

I presume Hitler already had Gestapo before getting on with Op Barbarossa?