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What if Bolivia decided to fully commit to a Pro Axis alliance after the 1943 coup?

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Brian Ghilliotti, Jun 15, 2017.

  1. Brian Ghilliotti

    Brian Ghilliotti New Member

    Apr 16, 2017
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    Middletown, Connecticut
    This article is based on the on-line historical news clip shown in the link below:

    COUP IN BOLIVIA PRESIDENT HELD BY PRO-NAZIS - Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 - 1954) - 22 Dec 1943

    From research I come up with the following facts:

    -Bolivia was in important source of tin and other resources needed for the allied war effort

    -There were quite a few pro-Nazi leaders involved in the coup, who pressured the coup leader, Gualberto Villarroel López, to fully commit to an alliance with the Nazis

    -Gualberto Villarroel López caved into to US pressure and dismissed his pro-Nazi ministers

    See: History of Bolivia (1920–64) - Wikipedia

    See: Gualberto Villarroel - Wikipedia

    So what if Gualberto Villarroel decided to resist US pressure, and go along with his pro-Nazi ministers, committing to an alliance with the Axis powers?

    At the very least, there would have been some disruption to Allied tin supplies. However, even if the Nazi's wanted take advantage of Bolivia's tin and other natural resources, Bolivia's land locked position would have made it very difficult for either party to take advantage of the opportunities this coup. To be able to exploit Bolivia's tin resources, the Nazis would have had to encourage other pro-Axis coups in other nations to permit pro-Nazi Bolivia access to the sea. Chile would be a logical choice, if the Germans were willing to take the risks of accessing remote ports on Pacific coast of South America. Perhaps it would have been worth it if a Nazi sympathetic Chile offered war resources to the Axis powers, both Germany and Japan, as well as Bolivia.

    A more likely reaction of the Axis would be providing refuge to pro-Nazi elements of Argentine military and help them plot the overthrow of the strict neutralist regime that was ruling the country. This coup plot might have been possible with the large German immigrant population in the country. This would have given the Germans access to southern Atlantic ports, with long transport routes for the Bolivian tin to be shipped. Again, it would have been worth it if it gave the Axis access the Argentina's natural resources as well. An interesting side question is if the Germans would have helped the Argentine military take over the Falklands. Doing so may have given the Germans a naval base to protect southern Atlantic and Pacific Coast shipping rotes.

    Please see: Argentina during World War II - Wikipedia

    From there, it might have been possible to engineer a pro-Nazi coup inside Uruguay. This would give Axis interests more Atlantic coastal port access and shorter land transportation routes through the corridor separating Bolivia and Brazil.

    From my research Uruguay there were rumors of a primarily German immigrant based pro-Nazi coup plot.

    The Complete Idiot's Guide to Spies and Espionage

    External engineering of a pro-Nazi coup in Uruguay would have been difficult, as it probably would have met fierce resistance. If these developments materialized to this point, the Axis powers would have probably tried to carry on with it anyway, even if it did result in outside intervention from the US and other local south American nations. If they won, it would have been worth it strategically. The level of German Army commitment would have been minimal, and it would have to rely on local sources of logistical support.

    The nature of an anti-Nazi campaign in South America would largely depend if Chile was under a pro-Axis regime or not and if the Germans helped the Argentines occupy the Falklands. It would definitely have involve stepped naval warfare in the South Atlantic. I doubt the German command would think it could win this war if the historical variables did not change for Europe. However, they would see a 'South American Front' as a good way of draining Allied war resources and slowing down their progress in Western Europe. Perhaps they could have used it as a political bargaining chip, involving a ceasefire on the Western Front in exchange for withdrawal of all German military assets in South America, coupled with assistance in fighting the Soviets ('common enemies').

    A more likely outcome, however, is that there would be immediate plans to remove the pro-Nazi regime in Bolivia as soon as it was caught supporting pro-Nazi coup efforts in other countries. This would have to be a predominately US led effort, because the United States would not want to see an anti-Nazi campaign against Bolivia turn into a historical grievance based land grab over Bolivia's territory, which could generate more wars. I would guess that the United States would try to carry out an invasion plan involving an attack against Bolivia from all sides, but this might be limited by terrain and temperature variables. The United States would likely have to keep occupying Bolivia in order to prevent the temptation of surrounding countries from 'punishing' Bolivia by claiming key pieces of border lands.

    Whatever Nazi diplomatic elements in South America that remained after this hypothetical event (just a Bolivian anti-Nazi invasion only) could have continued to tie down US forces in Bolivia by covertly funding any anti-American partisan forces that emerged and organized into guerrilla bands later on before the Nazi collapse in Europe.

    Brian Ghilliotti
    GRW likes this.
  2. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
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    Stirling, Scotland
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Jul 24, 2007
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    A fair number of Latin American countries had already declared war on the Axis powers at that point (including Brazil). The US at one point had plans to invade Brazil if it went pro Axis (which was a possibility in 41). The US at that point was more constrained by shipping than by most other factors so I would expect a fairly quick campaign by US and/or other Latin American countries aimed at removing the Axis government there. Not much the Axis could do about it either. The US would also likely increase the inducements for other Latin American countries to join the United Nations (as they were called at the time) in declaring war vs the Axis powers.
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Apr 27, 2010
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    Reading, PA
    The problem with this is that the Bolivian "Nazis" were not pro-German, just as they were not pro-American...They were pro-Bolivian. The idea of exchanging the shackles of one regime(America) for the shackles of another regime(Germany) was abhorrent to the majority them. The connection to Nazi German was a tenuous one at best, and almost nonexistent at worst.

    Further, no nation is going to commit to a German alliance in December, 1943, when it is clear that Germany is inevitably losing the war. Especially, after the most visible German Ally, Italy, was knocked out of the war a few months earlier.

    US pressure had nothing to do with Villarroel abandoning any pro-Nazi leaders. You see, Villarroel had freely offered up any influential German & Japanese national, pledged the Junta's full support to the UN & their war effort against the Axis, Bolivia's supply of quinine bark, and to nationalize all German & Japanese businesses...Not things you would expect from a pro-Nazi government...All in a bid for quick US recognition of the new Bolivian government. The one item that did stick in the US craw, was that the new government wanted to raise the price of tin, to something more equitable than they were getting then. This is where things started to unravel, and the "pro-Nazi" claim, as well as, US pressure, entered the picture.

    "Nazis and Good Neighbors: The United States Campaign against the Germans of Latin America in World War II" by Max Paul Friedman, provides a detailed look at this episode.

    Makes for an interesting What-If, but too far removed from reality to be plausible.
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