US non-involvement in Europe or the Pacific should be a non-starter.
Extended Soviet-Nazi cooperation should be a non-starter.
It is that simple.
See below for the long answer.
There has been much more written on these topics (American isolationism and involvement in WW2) than is likely to be covered in this forum.
Suffice it to say that - before PH or the German DoW - the US was steadily moving towards war with the European Axis and with conflict with Japan(not necessarily war, but that was the choice of the Japanese military).
As to exactly how that motion would have continued had historical events been different, well ... opinions vary but there is more consensus that it would have continued at its current rate or continued at the ever accelerating rate which it had been since hostilities broke out in Europe than it would have slowed, stopped or reversed.
Here is a list of some of the actions taken by the US from when hostilities broke out in Europe in September 1939 until Germany declared war on the US in December 1941.
This list clearly shows the US was steadily moving at an ever accelerating pace towards war with the EuroAxis well before the German declaration of war.
As I said above, "exactly how that motion would have continued had historical events been different" is a matter of opinion.
But see the pattern clearly displayed below then extrapolate from it and one can only draw one conclusion - the path of the US to war would not have slowed down, let alone slowed down then stopped then reversed.
Particularly telling is the last entry on this list - in November 1941, the US amended its Neutrality Act to allow merchant ships to be armed and enter war zones
'Neutrality Patrol', September 1939 - the President of the United States orders the organization of a Neutrality Patrol to protect the neutrality of the Americas and report any movement of belligerent forces towards the coasts of the United States or the West Indies. The Neutrality Patrol covers the east coast from Canada down to the Caribbean
'Neutrality Zone', October 1939 - a Pan-American Conference of Foreign Ministers establishes a 300-mile wide neutrality zone off the coasts of the Americas (excluding Canada). This is policed at least as far south as Trinidad by the eight US Navy groups of the Neutrality Patrol. All hostile action or military operations by belligerent powers is prohibited in this area
'Cash and Carry', November 1939 - if you can come to the US and pay for it, we would sell it to you. This was a major change from the Neutrality Act of 1935 [American citizens prohibited from selling arms to belligerents in international war] or the Neutrality Acts of 1937 [American citizens prohibited from selling arms to belligerents in Civil Wars, including the government side; American citizens prohibited from traveling on ships of belligerents]. Obviously, none of the Axis powers were able to 'get' to the US and carry purchased goods away so, in practical terms, this meant aid for only the British and French
'Naval Expansion Act', two actually, June 1940 ('11%'), July 1940 ('Two Ocean Navy') - allowing for massive construction of warships, auxiliary shipping and aircraft. In part, a plan to double the size of the existing US Navy
'Destroyers-for-Bases', September 1940 - 50 old US destroyers are exchanged with Britain for bases in Newfoundland, Bermuda, the West Indies and British Guiana. Until the US enters the war, this will cause some confusion amongst German submarine commanders who have strict orders to not fire on US warships though they can fire on British ones - is that a US manned US destroyer, US destroyer or a British manned British destroyer? 'Selective Training and Service Act', September 1940 - the first peacetime compulsory military training in the US. In its first month, 16 million men are registered for the draft
'More Merchant Ships', January 1941 - the President of the United States asks Congress for funding for the construction of 200 merchant ships
'Secret Talks', January 1941 - in Washington D.C., American and British staff officers start secret discussions regarding strategy in the event the US enters the war
'Lend Lease', March 1941 - allows the President of the United States to "sell, transfer title to, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of, to any such government [whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States] any defense article". Basically, an extension of 'Cash and Carry' in which immediate payment is not necessary and the US can deliver goods 'lent' or 'leased'
'Convoy Escort', March 1941 - no longer just on 'Neutrality Patrol', the US Navy starts escorting trans-Atlantic convoys (ostensibly in conjunction with protecting materials the US is lend-leasing)
'Seized Merchantmen', March 1941 - though not at war with any of these nations, all German, Italian and Danish merchantmen in US ports are seized
'Greenland', April 1941 - the US signs an agreement with Denmark for the defense of Greenland. US had already sent an expedition to Greenland to identify suitable military and naval bases
'First Act of War?', April 1941 - near Iceland, the U.S. Navy destroyer "Niblack" depth charges a German submarine in what is believed to be the first act of war between Germany and the U.S
'Shipping to the Middle East', April 1941 - the President of the United States declares the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden are no longer combat areas and thus open to U.S. shipping
'Neutrality Patrol extended', April 1941 - is extended eastward to 26°W and southward to 20°S. In addition, Admiral King orders that any Axis forces coming within 25 miles of the Western Hemisphere including Greenland, will be treated as hostile
'Foreign Merchant Ship Requisition', June 1941 - the U.S. authorizes the requisition of foreign merchant ships lying idle in U.S. ports. (Remember those German, Italian and Danish merchant ships seized in March? Now they can be used by the U.S.) 'Axis Assets Frozen', June 1941 - the United States freezes German and Italian assets (the US will freeze Japanese assets the following month)
'Consulates closed', June 1941 - the U.S. State Department requests all German and Italy consulates in U.S. territory be closed. Germany and Italy request closure of U.S. consulates
'Support for Russia', June 1941 - the President of the United States pledges all possible support to the Soviet Union in their fight against Germany
'Iceland', July 1941 - a still a neutral country, the United States sends forces to occupy Iceland in order to prevent a German occupation
'Atlantic Charter', August 1941 - Roosevelt and Churchill sign the Atlantic Charter
'Escorts to Iceland', September 1941 - even though the United States had not yet entered World War II, the US Navy begins escorting trans-Atlantic convoys from Argentina to meridian of Iceland (after which the British are to take over). The U.S. Navy is also ordered to attack any vessel threatening U.S. shipping or ships under U.S. escort. This combination will lead to the sinking of the U.S. Navy destroyer "Reuben James" (the first U.S. Naval vessel lost to enemy action in World War II) by a German submarine in October
'Supplies for Russia', October 1941 - the United States begins supplying the Soviet Union under the Lend-Lease act
'Armed Merchants', November 1941 - the Neutrality Act of 1939 is amended to allow merchant ships to be armed and enter war zones.
Like the list above, there is a similar list for the Pacific theater.
As is there one for the Soviets and the Nazis.
The Pacific one would equally clearly show the US on a path whose final destination is the end of Japanese aggression - either by Japan voluntarily ending it or the US forcefully ending it.
The Soviet-Nazi one shows the same.
Though, at the time, with only the beginning known and with no retrospection of the whole, some of your “US stays neutral” or “Japan finishes off China without interference from the West” or “Germany and Russia do not go to war but join forces” or the like alternative possibilities may have seemed likely - again, likely to those at the time - and likely did cause some concern for those present at those times, with the history of the full record known, none of these or similar possibilities were even vaguely likely.
Japanese withdrawal from China would have prevented the conflict between Japan and the West but the mindset of those in power in Japan which started the conflict in China essentially precluded Japanese withdrawal from China.
Japanese continued aggression against China - even at the ‘lower level’ of 1940 and 1941 (at least, lower compared to 1937 or 1938) - caused the West to freeze Japanese assets, which meant Japan’s ability to wage war would be greatly curtailed.
Stalin would have had to have been overthrown for the Soviet Union to not eventually go to war with Germany, or - once at war with Germany - to sue for peace but the pre-war purges which decapitated the Soviet army (and were a large factor in the initial German successes) made that a virtual impossibility.
"History is lived forward but it is written in retrospect. We know the end before we consider the beginning and we can never wholly recapture what it was like to know the beginning only."
We have large amounts of information regarding the war.
The opening of the Soviet archives (after the break up of the Soviet Union), gave us a lot more.
Now the war is over 50 years behind us, additonal declassification of the West's documents regarding the war gave us even more.
If one makes use of all that is available, the patterns are pretty clear and unequivocal.
In May 1941, FDR had a force of 25,000 ready to occupy the Azores in case Portugal was conquered by Germany.
However, this was prepration only and did not happen.
Starting in October 1943, after much negotiation, UK forces were allowed to use the Azores but US forces were not.
The Allies circumvented this restriction by disguising US planes as British planes (but this did not happen until 1944).
Use of the Azores as an airforce base was another step in closing the air gap over the Atlantic.
So I agree that the willingness to 'protect' the Azores 'if the need arose' is another indication of the 'road to war' the US was on and should be added to the list.
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In Japans case, staying out of worthless indochina and out of any european colony in asia would have bought Japan time to finish off China. That war started in 1931, and US policy completely ignored nearly 10 years of struggle. Only the move into Indo- china brought true Japanese intentions into our political radar. The Nanking incident didnt help either, or sinking of our patrol ship on the Yangzee. It was just the brutality of how they were conquered that startled the world. If Japan just kept what they had in Manchukuo, China, and Korea they would have been in far better shape if a program of consolidation was undertaken.
Stalin on the other hand, was as posted in my other thread, preparing for some coming conflict, but no way was it going to come in 41, 42, or even 43.
Again Hitler should have consolidated his position and built up the nation to full mobilzation. The complacency of 1940 had tragic consequences for the rest of the war. By then Hitler would have Jets, better tanks, a larger fleet, and some surprises in store for the allies.
You know your history, but none of it vitiates the argument for making it a game of cut-throat, in which the relations between the four big power blocs are indeterminate, with the sole exception of the Anglo-American special relationship: Anglos never attack one another and always liberate each other's territory.
I believe it was John Lukacs who wrote that during the winter of 1939-40, Britain's policy was to "declare" war on Germany without making war, and to make war on USSR without declaring it. There were even British plans to bomb Soviet Baku from Iraq. There were also plans to invade Norway and overawe the Swedes, to relieve the Finns in their war with USSR. British -- Soviet relations were just a flash away from open warfare. Only the fall of France took the hostile puff out of British policy toward the Soviets.
The strategic reasoning behind British hostility toward USSR before fall of France is obvious. It seemed that slowly but surely, Germany would be reduced to a military and economic vassal of the Soviets, who were smuggly enjoying and profiting from the prospect of a long inter-Western war. The war potential of the USSR was vastly greater than that of Germany, making USSR a much greater long term threat. The USSR's political line was openly hostile to the peace and well being of the British Empire, even more than Germany's political line. The sooner Hitler's war against the West failed, the sooner he might be overthrown. But Soviets trade and assistance hugely strengthened Germany, and made a long war likely.
It looks like a cut-throat situation to me.
Hitler's decision to attack USSR was his alone. No one was clamoring or pushing for it in Germany. There was nothng inevitable about it. Players should be allowed to make up their own minds.
I agree with you that America was moving slowly toward war with Germany, but only after June 1940. Before the fall of France, Americans were solidly pro-neutrality; even after the fall of France, many remained passionatley pro-neutrality.
In game terms, this could be simulated by an American belligerancy die roll at the end of each game turn, the game beginning sometime July-October of 1940: d1 after Turn 1, d2 after Turn 2, d3 after Turn 3, etc. How complicated is that? Until belligerance, America produces half its normal IPC and stays on its side of the Atlantic and Pacific.
The only thing that would have prevented American entry would have been a generous peace offer from Hitler. This never happened. That it did not was Hitler's choice, not inevitable. He could have offered to pull out of France, Scandinavia and the Low Countries immediately, in return for a lifting of the blockade and a free hand in central Europe. The British and Americans would have accepted such an offer. It would have done no more than restore the status-quo ante AD 1914, which was tolerable, if nto optimal. Anytime before FDR's Casablanca Declaration, Hitler could still have offered to pull out of Western Europe as the starting point for negotiations toward peace.
In game terms, this would amount to Germany accepting a huge loss of victory territories, and a tactical defeat, in exchange for peace with the West and avoidance of total defeat. Player should be free to explore such strategic possibilities, not be straightjacketed into following history.
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