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What if the Germans completed naval Plan Z?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by Erich Raeder, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. Erich Raeder

    Erich Raeder Member

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    German Plan Z was order by Adolf Hitler in January 1939 and called for a massive naval expansion. The Plan was supposed to be completed some where between 1945 and 1948. The Plan called for the construction of 6-10 battleships, 5-8 heavy cruisers, 44 light cruisers, 15 Panzerschiffe, 68 destroyers, 4-5 aircraft carriers and 230-300 U-boats. If Germany had of held off going to war in 1939 and waited until they completed the plan what effect would it have had? I think the U-Boats would have been very helpful in the “Tonnage War”. The battleships and cruisers probably would have had some success as commerce raiders. Other than that I’m not sure. They probably still would not be strong enough to stand up to the British navy in a Jutland style battle.
     
  2. DangerousBob

    DangerousBob New Member

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    The issue with Germany wasn't so much lack of ships it was lack of fuel. For example the Italian Fleet pretty much stayed at port the whole war. But yes, it would have defiantly helped to have had some more ships, especially when they went into Norway. But would the LN just let him build Plan Z to its full? Its possible, but no way to know now.
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    This was already discussed but can't find the thread, one big issue with plan Z is it was "designed for ww1", . Even if built a battleship centric fleet would have been close to useless in 1942 or later just like the Japanese battleships played a secondary role.
    Plan Z would also go to the detriment of something else more useful to the war effort,.
    A much different plan for a sea denial force based on long range bombers armed with stand off weapons and U-Boats would be a much better option, but battleships in 1933 were a key element of prestige, Hitler had very little knowledge of naval affairs, Reader was a conservative and Goering was not likely to allow naval aviation to develop.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Take a look at what the US and Britain were going to be fielding in the same time period. Then there's the faultering German economy. If they devote the resources to the Z plan and hold off until after 45 to start the war the conquest of France becomes problematic. Indeed the conquest of Poland is also no longer guaranteed.
     
  5. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Too many members don't seem to understand the basic premise of WHAT IF. That the scenario might be implausible is completely irrelevant to a WHAT IF. It isn't our job defend history in a WHAT IF. The WHAT IF has changed history for the purpose of discussion, so making arguments as to why a WHAT IF couldn't happen misses the point completely. WHAT IF is a fantasy game to be played by the rules set by the OP.

    Back to the OP. Would the Japanese still have attacked the US? That's what kickstarted the building program which created the deadliest navy in WWII. If the US had it's 1945 fleet, and Japan no longer an issue, then Germany would have a huge, insurmountable problem.

    Also, would Germany figured out how to build an operable CV?

    The British likely would have been in a building race with the Germans, so some level of parity there.
     
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  6. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    What would the British be doing all this time?

    Let's start with their construction program as it existed historically. Had war not intervened, by 1944 they would have ten new battleships (five KGV, Vanguard, four Lion) and six new armored deck carriers plus Ark Royal. Many of the older and modernized ships would still be useful; Hood for example was due for a thorough reconstruction along the lines of Renown or Valiant and would be comparable to modern ships.

    They'd have the Z Plan fleet essentially matched before they made any special effort, but of course a massive increase in German construction would be met, just as it was in the naval race leading up to WWI. One of my pet ideas is a class of sisters to Vanguard, using modernized turrets from the R class battleships.

    Historically by 1939 the British were responding to the revival of the U-boats with new types of escort ships like the Hunt class destroyer and Flower class corvette. These programs accellerated during the war and could do so just as easily in peacetime if the threat warranted. Flowers and similar types could be built in commercial yards so as not to compete with naval construction like destroyers, and Britain had considerable reserves of seamen, fishermen, yachtsmen, etc. who could - and did - form crews for them. Submarines, by contrast, take longer to properly train crews than other warships. The popular hypothesis of 300 U-boats suddenly appearing in the Atlantic and wreaking havoc is unrealistic.

    Most aspects of German rearmament - army, panzers, air force, even a reasonably sized navy - were not targeted against any particular nation, but a massive naval buildup, especially of U-boats, could have only one purpose.
     
  7. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    I would strongly disagree with that statement. IMHO, a good solid "WHAT IF" has to have some basis in historical fact.

    Does anyone want to discuss "What if Germany had produced 100 of the Bismarck class battleships?" or "What if Germany had 50,000 Tiger tanks."


    Actually, it was Germany's victory in France that began the US ship construction plan...Read up on the "Two-Ocean Navy Act" of July 19, 1940. It would not have been America's "1945 fleet", but some 18 aircraft carriers, 7 battleships, 6 battlecruisers(Alaska class-very large cruisers really), 27 cruisers, 115 destroyers, and 42 submarines should give pause to Germany about any false hopes placed in her navy.
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'm with Takao in regards to this. IMO a good what if has a very clear and reasonable point of departure (POD) from the historical time line. This not only keeps it reasonable it allows educated responses and avoids the one sided problem often encountered in what if's. IMO one of the real benefits from them is that one can research what happened historically to make a good case for what would follow. In this case we have no real setting certainly if Germany kept up with the Z plan the British would react to it and likely the Americans as well although the 1941 two ocean navy plan might be adequate. Likewise we have the problem that the German economy under the Nazis was essentially a giant Ponzy scheme that was about to unravel in the late 30's. The aquisition of the Austrian and Check gold reserves then the out break of the war delayed this but in this what if Germany would be facing severe economic and resource limitations. What would they give up to build the ships? Indeed what would they have to give up military wise just to prevent popular unrest? Without some back ground you might as well ask what would happen if the Nazi's aquired a Klingon battle cruiser.
     
  9. Gromit801

    Gromit801 Member

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    Klingon Battle Cruiser? 50,000 Tigers? Strawman arguments.

    Yes the USN had a building program going on, but it was the outbreak of war in the pacific, and the need to replace ship casualties that brought the fleet to the size and shape it was in by 1945.

    How would US isolationism be a consideration if Germany had stopped with Austria and Czechoslovakia? Without an attack by the Japanese, and possibly feeling that what happens in Europe stays in Europe, there might have been public pressure not to spend money on a fleet when the US still hadn't recovered from the Depression.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The ships that hit the water in 43, at least those of any size, were authorized pre war. Indeed some of the prewar ships were cancelled due to lessons learned and/or the fact that they wouldn't be available in time for the war. For instance the Two Ocean Navy Act was became law on 19 July 1940 and included


    US prewar plans included for instance building 5 Montana class battleships. this was in addition to 6 Iowas, 2 North Carolinas, and 4 SoDaks.

    A large part of the USN building program was in reaction to Japanese aggression and their withdrawing from the naval limitation treaties. The navy was seen by both isolationist and interventionist as a nessesity as it was considered a defensive force. Germany building a massive battle fleet would hardly have comforted either group.

    The point of course with the Klingon reference is that we simply have little or no way to make any sort of reasonable answer to the what if as stated. Now if the initial post had gone something like the follwoing we would be on much firmer ground:

    In August of 1939 Hitler realizes that France and Britain are serious with respect to their guarantees to Poland and that he has no way to force Britain to the negotiating table if it does come to war. Thus he decides to hold off on the attack on Poland and increase his fleet. At the same time armored vehicle production will be cut back to quantities sufficient for training and testing with the plan being to start production of a more polished design a year or two before the navy is ready the same would hold for aircraft. Assume that work doesn't stop on the Hindenburg and that the keels of the first H class vessels are laided in the historical time frame. Does Germany have the resources in particular the steel and slip space to complete the Z plan by 48 if not when or what additional resources are needed. When is it apparent that Germany is going to violate their naval arms limitation treaty with Britain?
     
  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Not sure there are hard and fast rules for speculation.... ;) If someone doesn't like a particular what-if, or what-ifs in general, they don't have to read them or respond.

    Almost every ship from light cruisers on up that served in the war had been started or authorized before we suffered any combat losses. As of Dec 7, 1941 we had authorized:

    15 battleships - 8 under construction
    11 Essex class carriers - 5/6 under construction. Two more were ordered shortly after Pearl Harbor, and no fewer than 19 (8 laer cancelled) in the massive construction program enacted in mid-1942, but only three of these saw combat, in the last few months of the war.
    8 Baltimore class heavy cruisers - 4 under construction. Onlly two of the second group of four saw combat. None of the ships ordered during the war saw combat, most were not commissioned before it was over.
    ~32 Cleveland class light cruisers, of which nine became CVLs. Ultimately there were 27 Cleveland CLs, not all of which saw combat. The two Fargos were also completed postwar.
    8 Atlanta class light cruisers - 7 under construction. These all saw combat; the three ships started during the war, the Juneau subclass, did not.
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Certainly there are no "hard and fast rules". However if one wants to have a productive conversation that stays fairly close to what could have happened and has people discussing the same thing then some "guide lines" help. For instance without a clear POD one person could assume that Hitler starts at least prepring for the Z plan in 1933 where another is discussing the POD being as I mentioned in August of 39 while others are somewhere inbetween. We be in a position where we might as well all be useing different mutually unitelligable languages. I seam to recall that when they set up this board the moderators took a similar positoin. It's articulated fairly well on the what if FAQ over on Axis history as well.

    Didn't the Z plan also change at least somewhat over time as well?
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Not in my opinion.

    For instance, if we are to remain in in the realm of "implausibility" and "fantasy", then my response might be...

    "Well, it is all for naught, because Queen Starsha from the planet Iscandar, has sent to the people of the United States the plans for the Wave Motion Engine and Wave Motion Gun. The United States modifies the USS Iowa, then under construction, to incorporate these new features. Equipped with these gifts from Queen Starsha, the USS Iowa can now immolate any fleet that Nazi Germany decides to field."

    "Implausibility" and "fantasy", both on the part of the OP and respondents require absolutely no critical thinking on anyone's part, and are useful only in that they help to pass the time, somewaht akin to watching grass grow, paint dry, or playing flash games that only require the user to click the mouse button repeatedly( like http://www.freeworldgroup.com/g/i/coffee-clicker.htm )



    Now, if we were to stay within the realm of "plausibility" and "reality", this would likely elicit a more constructive response. Such as,

    "Well, German industry does not operate in a vacuum, it is constrained by natural resources, finances, and availability of dockyard construction ways/slips, all of which are limited. Now, were Germany to embark on the momentous task of constructing a world class navy from the ground up would require a tremendous outlay of all of thee above. As such, the German Heer and Luftwaffe will likely face critical cuts in their expansion plans to facilitate the construction of the "new" German Kriegsmarine. Therefore, Germany will be far less capable of pursuing a ground war, or wars, against most of her intended opponents, ie. Poland, Russia, France.

    Further complicating matters is the fact that there has never been any mention of the construction of a logistical tail to support a greatly expanded Kriegsmarine. This matter is entirely "glossed over" - in that it is presumed that a vast armada of supply ships is automatically generated to support the Germany Navy, or else it is avoided entirely - as it would pose an insurmountable "limiting factor" on the effectiveness of the Kriegsmarine. Don't forget that German has no overseas bases that she can use to refuel and resupply her ships from, and this would greatly limit their operating areas. Even if deals were made with Spain and Italy for naval base use, the German battle fleet would still have to take a huge detour around the British Isles. Gromit801 has pointed to the powerful American fleet of 1945, but don't forget that there was an equally large, or larger, Merchant Marine that was keeping it refueled and resupplied."
     
  14. Thoddy

    Thoddy Member

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    Germany would be bancrupt before the fleet had been completed.
     
  15. SymphonicPoet

    SymphonicPoet Member

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    I read this thread a few days back and a few things have stuck with me: notably the question of whether or not it was even feasible for Germany to construct plan Z. Several people have posted alternate related counterfactuals, hypotheticals, and even [SIZE=13.8181819915771px]meta-replies. I apologize in advance for taking these out of context, but it is on these I wish to speculate first.[/SIZE]

    This seems obviously true, but it also seems possible to take a phased approach to the problem. I think LWD's earlier post addresses the problem nicely:

    With my very limited understanding of the subject this seems a relatively elegant solution. Takao is quite correct, the building cannot take place in a vacuum, but I don't believe that necessarily means that expansion of Heer, Luftwafe, and Marine are mutually exclusive. This is only true if one assumes that all three must be expanded simultaneously. Naval vessels are more "durable" in the longer term, which is to say they have a longer build time and they generally have a slower obsolesence cycle. This makes it at least feasible to achieve a reasonable expansion of all three branches. While her presumed enemies will indeed have time to react the degree to which they will expand their own militaries might not be so dramatic. Poland and Russia would be poorly served by building a navy, and Russia would likely remain a cooperating partner of Germany longer. I don't know that they would necessarily respond strongly to a purely naval buildup, and I find it singularly unlikely that Poland would launch a war against Germany or Russia against an ally through the territory of an enemy. Britain's reaction goes almost without saying. I suspect Carronade's speculation is about on the money:


    Of course one thing this doesn't address: where would the additional tonnage have come from? Historical RN construction from 1939-1945 amounted to about 13 carriers, 6 battleships, 26 cruisers, 103 destroyers, and a lengthy assortment escorts, submarines, and so forth. I don't really think peacetime RN construction would exceed wartime totals, so I believe we can take the historical as a maximum feasible response. Adding four lion class battleships necessitates subtracting something. You can't really build battleships and destroyers on the same slips, thus I'd guess you lose carriers and cruisers if you gain battleships. I'll just cut tonnage out of the historical cruiser/carrier builds on an even stephen basis, cutting some ten or so cruisers out of the mix and roughly the Colossus class. This leaves a 1945 RN strength of around 13 carriers, 25 battleships, 77 cruisers, about 300 destroyers, and more ASW escorts than I care to count. (When doing extremely rough fleet comparisons where one ignores age and quality, I throw all "battlecruisers" into the BB tank. In Hood's case I figure that's really where she belongs anyway. Rs and Kongos are more debatable, but everyone has some marginal cases, so for gross estimates I figure it works out.)

    The question of France requires a bit more speculation, but we can assume that they go forward with the Joffres, and possibly build several more wagons, but it's an open question just how France would respond beyond that.

    In the fifteen years preceding plan Z Germany built about 40% of the total hulls and perhaps 30% of the tonnage. I don't think it's unreasonable to speculate that a three to fivefold increase in military construction was possible, though it might have supplanted most or all civilian naval construction. But a Germany at war will already have far more civilian hulls than demand for same, so I don't see this as a problem. As to when it would be apparent that the plan would violate the treaty with Britain, I'm not sure plan Z did violate the treaty on anything but paper. I'm inclined to think the massive H plan ships that sometimes float around the net were nothing but dreams. If Germany had gone forward with the program, realistic plans would have been produced forthwith, and would no doubt have more closely resembled an improved Bismark than ersatz Hinden-zilla. They would probably have overstepped single unit tonnage limits, but perhaps not by more than Japanese, or even allied ships of the same period. (And the Lions are well beyond tonnage limits, as they are post treaty designs. If we are to posit that the treaty remains in force, perhaps we simply assume Germany builds improved, and lighter Bismarks, and the UK follow on KGVs, and the US further SoDaks. Of course Japan's unilateral withdrawal might still prompt renegotiation.)

    I don't think this is in itself an insurmountable factor. The German merchant marine totaled about 4.5 million GRT at start of war. That's only about twenty percent less than Japan (5.6 million, more or less). Given that Germany isn't dependent on shipborne commodities transport to keep her war machine going and she will be out of the overseas import/export business unless she can gain control of the Atlantic I think it's safe to assume that she can simply use her merchant marine for the purpose. The hypothetical navy is smaller than the actual Japanese navy, and the merchant shipping needs are a tiny fraction, yet Japan did roughly this and it (barely) worked until losses began to overwhelm the system.



    At estimation, I'd say it's possible for Germany to build and supply a modest but real fleet by 1945: say 8 BB, 4 CV, perhaps 30 assorted cruisers, and maybe 70 destroyers, plus some escorts and submarines. (Sources vary a little, and the program would have changed as time progressed, so I'm going with rounded figures and counting all CA/CL/PS as cruisers.) Japan's building program will be more robust without allied logistical interference, but without captured resources maybe it comes out a wash, so let's hit the easy button and assume they build about what they actually built. The US probably won't go into little carrier/escort/merchant overdrive without war, so maybe actual build -CVL, +authorized BB, +converted CL, -Kaiser coffins (how ironic that Kaiser is in the health care biz now) comes close.

    We'll ignore Italy and France for now. They probably come out about a wash anyway. This leaves total German/Japanese resources thus:

    024 CV (020 NK, 004 KM, not counting CVE)
    020 BB (012 NK, 008 KM)
    072 CC (042 NK, 030 KM, with CC being my own shorthand for "any old cruiser.")
    213 DD (143 NK, 070 KM)

    Arrayed against a combined US/UK force of . . .

    037 CV (024 US, 013 UK)
    057 BB (!) (032 US, 025 UK . . . essentially historical plus 4 Lions, 2 Iowas, and 5 Montanas.)
    167 CC (90 US, 77 UK)
    Umm . . . 963 DD o_O !!! (670 US, 293 UK)

    Yeah, just don't look at those numbers. They're a little brain breaking. And that's not even counting DDE sorts of ships. (No Weapon, Captain, Evarts, Edsall, John C Butler, Otori, Matsu, and so forth.)

    I think the rub of this is that without the USN the RN is in real trouble, but with the USN it makes no appreciable difference. It's a real contribution. Is it war winning? Probably not. (The RN was never going to challenge the IJN in the Pacific, nor the reverse in the Atlantic. Logistics just favor the home team too much. The US can play in both bathtubs about equally well [or poorly].) Even alone, the USN is taking the IJN down eventually, though not without great cost. It's a little more dicey whether the USN bests the RN in Britain's hemisphere. Wait, were we talking about realistic wars here? Sorry. Got carried away.

    The other question, of course, is what effect this has on land/air warfare. I figure it delays it, but are any of the allies really going to build a larger standing army during peacetime? Yeah, the US started a draft, but the US is too far away to make an immediate impact. Probably still not joining up quickly enough to prevent the fall of France. It does give France and Poland more time to study armor, but without the benefit of field experience or Russian tutelage I don't see a significant difference there. Poland is still small, and caught between gorillas. France is still likely overwhelmed by combined arms and unanticipated tactics. Russia is still friends until betrayed. The difference will be that the tanks and aircraft lost in the fall of France and Battle of Britain will be newer and sexier. Maybe Tigers, "Churchills" (or perhaps TOGs? Jingles?), and something interestingly French. Anyway, I'm inclined to think this is interesting speculation, but things don't really change much. Mostly the world just waits a few extra years for the inevitable, and it's appropriately bloodier when it occurs.

    Forgive if this is a little half baked.
     
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  16. USS Washington

    USS Washington Active Member

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    No need to apologize sir, that was a interesting and thought-provoking read. :)
     
  17. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    I agree with Strike Eagle. Interesting line of reasoning.
     
  18. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    I would say just the opposite; it was the exigencies of wartime that forced Britain to defer the Lions. Under peacetime conditions they would have been completed as scheduled, as would other ships started or programmed before the war - armored deck carriers, most of the cruisers, the annual flotillas of fleet destroyers, etc. The wartime surge comprised things like escorts, landing craft, merchant ships, and battle damage repairs and was precisely what curtailed prewar plans. And of course there was competition from the army and air force, particularly the massive expansion of the armoured forces and Bomber Command.

    I think your first question was the crucial one - would the Germans be able to complete the Z Plan? Even in peacetime, their first priorities were to build up their army, including the panzer force, and air force to a level comparable to their continental rivals. That was the existential need for Germany.

    Sea power was the existential need for Britain, with the RAF, especially air defence, a strong second. If Germany had been able to mount a credible naval threat, Britain would have made the effort to match it, just as she did in the pre-WWI dreadnought race.
     
  19. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Thanks.

    Without direct access to the USSR will they be able to exchange resources like they were historically between 1939 and 1941? Also consider Germany's oil situation. At this point the Romanians are still selling oil to the French and British who can afford to pay more for it than the Germans can. Historically by late spring of 41 Germany was behind on it's shipments of goods to pay the Soviets for their resources including oil. This looks to me like it creates a significant bind resource wise for the Germans in the 1940-1948 time frame.

    Well they might also scrap some of the older ships and replace them as well as build fewer but better escorts (even half a dozen escort carriers ready to deploy along the convoy routes when war comes could have considerable impact). But France is also building ships and her army. Given another 5-10 years it's likely that the French wouldn't be the pushover they were historically.

    I'm not sure if it is or isn't. There were a limited number of slips capable of building battleships in Germany and the construction time is pretty long. More slips can be built of course but that takes both time and resources and as I pointed out above Germany was in a bit of a bind resource wise starting in 39 and might even be in a worse bind than it was historically in 39-41. Not sure about after that.

    Germany's and for that matter Japan's (they withdrew from the naval treaty in Dec of 34 and went to war with China in July of 37)actions have already triggered some significant upticks in defence spending. Indeed British spending historically jumped in 36 with continued increases through 39. See:
    http://www.ww2f.com/topic/43284-british-military-spending-in-the-thirties/
    If Germany is percieved to be breaking the naval treaty then that makes it look like it's aimed at her and is going to accentuate this. The US Navy has already seen two expansions in 36 and 38 Given that Japan will still be a threat and Nazi Germany also seems to be an expanding naval threat I'd be surprised if 1940 didn't see at least a similar rise compared to the historical case.

    Build possibly, supply I doubt it. Historically the Germans had a hard time supplying fuel to what they had. In this case the situation looks even worse to me. Likewise Japan is going to see "logisitical interference" perhaps not as strong as historical at least as early but it's coming and they will likely be force to either fold or go to war in 42 or 43 well before the Germans are ready.

    I think you are correct in that the US doesn't produce huge numbers of Liberty ships or DE's. Not sure about the CVE's likely there's a few as they are just handy ships to have but perhaps CVLs instead. Italy and France are not a wash. They may produce roughly equivalant naval forces but if it comes to war the Italians are going to be trying to get their fuel from the same sources as the Germans unless of course they sit it out or come in on the allied side. I'm also not sure the Hindenburg or the second German carrier would count as a CV either. By 45 I'm also not sure just how practiced they will be in carrier ops.

    I suspect the armies would increase some but likely not by a huge amount reserves might though and better equipment will likely be spread around. How to use armor well was also something that the Germans won't necessarily hold a monopoly on for that long. Army officers in most nations were starting to figure out how to use them Germany just got a jump on things. Look at the Lousiana maneuvers for example. I'm also not sure just how friendly the Soviets and the Nazis will be in the 40's.

    IMO it's the way to approach a what if. There's enough details that we can actuall compare things to the historical case and make reasoned and at least somewhat suppported posts on it.
     
  20. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    SP, you've touched on a lot of good points, including the critical one of logistics, especially fuel. Would Germany have sufficient oil, and would they be able to allocate adequate supplies to the navy alongside the needs of the army, air force, and economy? If their navy is going to try to operate in the Atlantic, geography also plays a role, since Britain sits adjacent to their supply lines. Historically they were able to slip relatively small numbers of raiders, supply ships, blockade runners, etc. through - still losing a proportion of them - but the more ships or task forces they try to operate, the more are going to be spotted or engaged by the British or Allies. The return of damaged ships would be a particular problem, and even undamaged ships need to revisit home ports periodically. This would be an opportunity for older, slower, but still potent British ships like the Nelsons and Queen Elizabeths to interdict their faster opponents.

    The United States was in a similar position to Britain in considering the navy its primary means of defense. In peacetime we would continue building a conventional balanced fleet; I agree we wouldn't see things like CVEs (though Orange war mobilization plans called for auxiliary carriers among many ships that would be taken up from merchant service at that point). Exactly how much we would build would depend on the international situation, but we had substantial programs underway even before the outbreak of war or the Two-Ocean Navy Act.

    Japan is another intriguing question. Logically their prospects in 1941 depended on so much of the world being tied up with the war in Europe, but they weren'tnecessarily thinking logically. Their policy was largely driven by junior army officers determined to continue the war in China which they had started in 1937. Their actions would be no less offensive, especially to us Americans, if Hitler and Germany were behaving themselves, and nations like Britain and the Netherlands would be better able to stand up to them. If the imposition of sanctions went ahead as it did in 1940-41, it seems unlikely that Japan would back down, so we might well see a Far Eastern war while our Z Plan scenario was playing out in Europe.
     

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