Posted July 04 2005 - 06:18 AM
| Oil was one of the main reasons Hitler invaded Russia - to gain access to Russia's vast oil reserves. Opening a war on two fronts in Europe has never worked (indeed, Hitler argued against it in Mein Kampf) but the Nazis were getting pretty desperate. They also had their eyes on the raw materials Russia could offer (coal, timber, iron ore, slave labour ...) |
You need to take another look at Mein Kampf
Invading and conquering Russia for resources of all kinds and lebesnraum
, "living space", was Hitler's primary
purpose in fighting the war he planned for the mid-to-late 1940s. He wasn't especially keen on fighting the West at all
, although he expected in the long run that Germany would have to. He certainly wanted to humiliate and punish France. But he didn't want to fight the British under any circumstances, and was hoping for an alliance.
Hitler never envisioned the fight as a two-front war. His original plan was to neutralize the west diplomatically (as he had at Munich) while he carried on his war in the East. He never expected Fance and England to honor their guarantee to Poland for the excellent reason that they were not in any military position to aid Poland (as they might have aided the Chezchs when they needed the help.) The only country in a position to offer direct military aid to Poland was the Soviet Union - a country the Poles didn't trust (for excellent reason as history showed) and with whom Hitler had in any case come to terms. He assumed that once Poland was his France and England would back down as they had so many times in the past. He was briefly panicked when the formal declarations of war were made, because he had virtually stripped Germany of troops in the west in order to make the most decisive thrust into Poland.
But Hitler quickly regained his nerves because he understood the French in a way he never quite understood the British or came close to understanding the Americans. Although the French could have driven straight to Berlin and overthrown the Nazi state with ease, Hitler knew that they would never leave their Maginot bunkers, and he was right. Thus after mopping up Poland he could regroup and then launch another one-front war for an even quicker knock-out blow against France.
Hitler was thus in possession through conquest or alliance of most of continental Europe in the months before the invasion of Russia. The United States was hostile, but still officially neutral, and as usual Hitler misunderstood American politics, Roosevelt and the American character. Britain was barely hanging on. Hitler still had the romantic idea that he could join the British fleet to the German Army and forge an unshakable Master Race coalition. (Let's remember that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes all came from "Nordic" and often "Germanic" lands, originally. Even the Norman conquerors who overthrew the Saxon monarchy were more Viking - "Norman" is a cognate of "Norseman" - than French in culture.) So Hitler (a) didn't want to crush England at the time and (b) didn't have the physical means and © didn't think it would be necessary in the long run.
In any case, despite pinpricks like commando raids at various places in Europe and some skirmishing in the African colonies, Hitler really wasn't fighting a war on any
fronts after the fall of France in the spring of 1940. As far as he was concerned he had dealt with an unexpected threat in the form of the 1939 declarations of war and secured his rear by defeating France and neutralizing England. Now he could continue with the great project to which the invasion of Poland had only been a prelude - the long-planned invasion of the Soviet Union. This was not an act of desperation and not a response to a sudden need for oil. (Hitler had had access to the Ploesti oil fields in Chezchoslovakia for years, and had every hope of taking those of the middle east once Britain was out of the war.)
Hitler had convinced himself that the only reason Britain was hanging on was the hope that Russia would enter the war on their side. Hitler was sure that he could topple the Soviet Union in a single lightning campaign. ("One only has to kick in the door and the whole rotten edifice will come crashing down.") Britain had always depended on land allies in Europe along with its sea supremacy to defeat its enemies in the past. He believed that once Russia was off the table, Britain would have no choice but to accept a negotiated peace. Again, he never anticipated a two-front war, much less dove into one out of desperation to secure oil.
Re: The Pearl Harbor "conspiracy" theorists:
Like most such "theorists" they sieze on a few isolated anomalies, mistakes in testimony or reporting and imperfections in official reports to assemble elaborate intellectual constructs - which seem
internally consistent, but which collapse either under the weight of their own contradictions or because they fail the comnmon sense test. They also make the mistake of anayzing the thoughts, motives and decisions of people involved in the light of events that would happen later, and of which the individuals had no knowledge at the time.
1. Had the U.S. been planning for war against Japan for years? It depends on what you mean by "planning"?
Military organizations develop contingency plans all the time precisely so they won't
be surprised by events and forced to improvise from scratch. In looking at the military horizon in the 1920s, a time when the U.S. had acquired additional Pacific possessions after WWI and continued to develop its missionary ties to China, the Navy correctly concluded that the most serious potential
threat to U.S., allied and neutral interests would be the superb Japanese Navy. Japan was becoming increasingly acquisitive and its conquest of Manchuria (and long undeclared border war with the Soviet Union) were making its aggressive military more influential. So the Navy and Marines fought a series of war games involving the hypothetical opponent "Orange" to develop strategy and tactics that could be used to push a conquering force back across the Pacific in the, oh, general direction of Japan.
Were these "plans to fight a war"? Not in intention. But they were certainly plans for "how to fight a war" if you happened to end up having to do so. The British and the Soviets did similar planning, and so - Heaven knows - did the Germans and Japanese. In September of 1939 the British and French went to war according to a well-established war plan that had been sitting in the files for years. If the Germans had acted as that plan expected, it probably would have worked. In early 1942 the U.S. was unable to fight the war it got according to its "Orange" plan, because Pearl Harbor had sunk the battelships the plan depended on. But after mid-1942, when the refloated and new battleships had been refloated, and when doctrine was rewritten around the aircraft carrier, the island hopping campaign that pushed the Japanese back across the Pacific largely conformed with the "Orange" plans developed a decade earlier.
2. What was FDR's position in late 1941?
He was concerned about both German and Japanese fascism and imperialism - but he considered Hitler by far the worst and most immediate threat. Although the U.S. remained officially neutral - because the American people were not ready to enter the war and it would have been political suicide for FDR to push them too far - it was already offering "all aid short of war" to the Allies and secretly doing much more.
Joint staff meetings with the British (supposed to be secret, but leaked to a Chicago newspaper) were already underway - and the policy was settled - "Germany first." FDR knew that we'd have to fight Japan eventually, but, again, he saw Germany as the primary threat. The Rainbow 5 plan that emerged from these talks (a play on the fact that it combined earlier color-coded contingency plans) called for a holding action in the Pacific against Japanese expansion, and an all-out effort to destroy the Nazis in Europe. Once Europe was eliminated, Japan could be dealth with. (Especially if the Soviet Union could be brought in against Japan to threaten Manchria, China and the home islands, while the U.S. and British fleet dealt with Japan's overseas possessions, crippled its tradde and finally drove on the home islands from the sea.)
With hindsight, we see "WWII" as the struggle against Japan and Germany (with Italy thrown in as a comic-opera bit player.) At the time
"WWII" was undersood as a resumption of WWI - where despite all the fighting elsewhere, the vital theater was always Europe, and the main players European. Even though Germany and Japan were theoretically allies, their alliance was purely defensive. Germany was committed to come to Japan's aid if it were attacked, but not if it did the attacking. (And vice versa. Japan used this escape clause to justify its refusal to open a second front against the Russians after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, and even after Pearl Harbor - which led to the odd circumstance of Japan and the Soviet Union being at peace with one another, despite being members of warring alliances, until after the fall of Germany.) Few people at the time would have seen our going to war with Japan as "getting us into WWII". Opinions differed then, just as people today argue about whether or not the war in Iraq is part of the larger War on Terror. (<---- This is an observation of historical fact, not an invitation to a discussion of the merits of the example, which would clearly violate forum rules.
) Roosevelt understood Germany and Japan to be two sides of the same coin, but not everyone else did.
So those who say that Roosevelt "wanted to get us into the War" should be obliged to say which
war they think he wanted to get us into.
In 1941 Roosevelt wanted to get us into the War against Germany. He wanted to do to Japan what Hitler had done to France and England, neutralize a potential foe through diplomatic means or at least use a combination of bluster (in the form of the embargos) and talk to prevent the outbreak of hositilities until the greater threat had been dealt with. The last
thing he wanted to do was provoke Japan into a war in the Pacific - which his Navy viewed as its balliwick - when he expected to need every ship plane and gun to keep England afloat long enough for Hitler to give us a pretext to declare war.
The Navy's "neutrality patrol" was a defensive convoy in all but name, and German and American ships were exchanging fire regularly in the North Atlantic. Some historians suspect that Roosevelt was using the neutrality patrol not only to help the thinly stretched Royal Navy keep Britain's lifeline open, and to protect American and neutal shipping, but as a trip-wire. They think he hoped for a big enough and public enough incident that was clearly the German's fault to serve as a casus belli
. But he never found one and instead took steps to conceal the facts surrounding the deaths of the Americans who died during this period.
Starting a war with the Japanese was not a way to get us into the war with Germany, that much should have been clear to everyone. But let's say that FDR was dumb enough to think otherwise. Does what he was alleged to have done at Pearl Harbor - sit on certain and detailed knowledge about a planned attack - make any sense? Frankly, no.
Consider this: What happened the one time when we know
Naval intelligence had some advanced knowledge of a major Japanese Naval operation? It happened just six months after Pearl Harbor, at Midway. With much less
detailed information than Roosevelt is supposed to have had the Navy essentially ignored a Japanese attack on the Aleutian islands, correctly identifying it as a diversion, and instead set a trap at Midway that cost the Japanese four carriers and the cream of their naval aviators, while turning back the Midway invasion force. If Roosevelt knew the day and hour of the Pearl Harbor attack he could easily have made sure the battleships were at sea, just as the carriers happened to be. (And Japanese intelligence had no idea the carriers had left - their carrier pilots were confused by their absence.) Roosevelt could have arranged for a "routine" air patrol to "discover" the Japanese fleet right after it had launched its fighters with the clear intention of attacking the United States. Then our carrier and ground based aircraft could have engaged the Japanese aviators over water, far from civilian targets, and devastated the Japanese fleet.
FDR still would have had his proof of Japanese treachery and his clear justification for securing a declartation of war - but the war would have started with a huge American victory instead of a stunning and humiliating defeat. Roosevelt might even have been able to stop a Pacific war in its tracks, since the whole plan of Japanese conquest rested on destroying or otherwise neutralizing the American Pacific fleet long enough to carry out its plan of conquest. With the American fleet intact, its plans exposed and its officers being interrogated at Pearl, the Japanese military government might have fallen in disgrace.
If FDR had the information he is alleged to have had, the scenario above was clearly one of his options. WHY
would he instead choose to risk having thousands of American service personnel killed, millions of dollars in shipping wiped out, and hundreds or thousands of civilians killed or wounded - not to mention leaving both Hawaii and the American west coast essentially undefended against further Japanese aggression? All to get into the one war he didn't
want to fight?
When FDR addressed Congress on December 8th 1941 the word "Germany" never crossed his lips. He asked for, and got, a declaration of war only against Japan. Rainbow 5 and his promise to the British lay in ruins much as the U.S. Pacific fleet did. The American people wanted vengence on Japan. The Navy wanted priority on all war materials and appropriations - and Congress was going to give it to them. Germany was about the last thing anybody cared about - except FDR himself and a handful of others. And none of them had any idea how they were going to persuad an aroused American public that they should fight a holding action in the Pacific while taking on Germany first.
FDR's dillemma was solved by Hitler. The German dictator inexplicably, and quite unnecessarily, issued a unilateral declaration of war against the United States in support of his ally, Japan. Roosevelt immediately secured an answering declaration from Congress and quickly swung things back to Germany first with a huge sigh of relief. But there was no way anyone could have predicted Hitler's response, which was not required by the Axis Pact and not at all in his own interest, and FDR certainly could not have counted on such a thing in "allowing" the Japanese to devastate Pearl Harbor on December 7th. So unless you think Roosevelt, contrary to all historical evidence, was a complete moron
you can't seriously contend that he let the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor to bring the United States "into the war" The fragmentary "evidence" of when a message was decrypted or reports (which first surface 50 years after the event) that some coastwatcher interecepted an ambiguous transmission simply don't trump reality
and logic. It is especially unhelpful when people miss the fact that in December 1941 we had largely cracked the Japanese diplomatic code
, which was used by the embassy and which did not
carry military traffic, but had not cracked the current Japanese naval code
- which we wouldn't start being able to read (in bits and pieces, imperfectly) until shortly before Midway. Given the secrecy surrounding the enitre operation is is inconceivable that the Washington embassy would have been given detailed or even general information about the pending attacks (and, indeed, that has never been alleged by any professional
historian, even among the conspiracy theorists.) All they were told was to break off talks and (working from memory here) at a given time
(which, unknown to the diplomats, would have been just after
the attacks started) to deliver a declaration of war.