While western historians recognize the huge contribution of the Red Army on the Eastern Front, we found a tendency in Russia today to dispairage the contribution of the Western Allies. We do not see that tendency in the West, but it is pronounced in Russia. This began even during the War. Stalin at Tehran complained that the Western Allies were relying on the Red army to fight the Wehrmacht and not doing enough in the West. Churchill of course could have said that Stalin not only allowed Britain to fight alone, but all the time was supplying the Germans vast quantities of critical raw material to support the NAZI war economy. Often lost in this discussion is the totality of the Western contribution. And it is not just the Russians who do not understand. We find that the Western histotical treatment has been so even handed that even many in the West do not understand the considerable contribution of the Western Allies. So we think that it is important to detail what the Western Allies did to sefeat the NAZIs and to support the Soviet Union. It should be stressed that some of this did not directly result in German casualties, but did significantly reduce the ability of NAZI Germany to wage war and improve the ability of the Soviets to wage war. A good example would be American Lend Lease food shipments to the Soviet Union. This did not kill a single German, but significnly supported the fighting capability of the Red Army.
While western historians recognize the huge contribution of the Red Army on the Eastern Front, we found a tendency in Russia today to dispairage the contribution of the Western Allies. We do not see that tendency in the West, but it is pronounced in Russia. This began even during the War. Stalin at Tehran complained that the Western Allies were relying on the Red army to fight the Wehrmacht and not doing enough in the West. Churchill of course could have said that Stalin not only allowed Britain to fight alone, but all the time was supplying the Germans vast quantities of critical raw material to support the NAZI war economy. Often lost in this discussion is the totality of the Western contribution. And it is not jut th Russians who do not understand or for nationalistic reasons do not want to understand. Some of the best Western historians make the same mistakemespite the fact that it is a basic principole of warfare that manpower and cimnbat power are not identical. Even eminent make the same mistake. One of the historains we see as some of the best World War II histoians fall for the myth of Siviet primacy. A typical comment is, "As a result of the Cold War the Siviet war effirt was often not given full credit in the anto-Communist West fir its bear virtuoso destruction of the German army." [Hanson] Now we are not sure what ayrhors are referred to here, but we are not aware of a single important Western hisrorian that dies not recognize the vital role plaued by the Red Army in curring the heart out of the Wehrmacht. Whgat we find underappreciated is the role of the Western Allies.
We find that the Western histotical treatment has been so even handed that even many in the West do not understand the considerable contribution of the Western Allies. So we think that it is important to detail what the Western Allies did to fefeat the NAZIs and to defeat the Soviet Union. It should be stressed that some of this did not directly result in German casualties, but did significantly reduce the ability of NAZI Germany to wage war or improve the ability of the Soviets to wage war. A good example would be American Lend Lease food shipments to the Soviet Union. This did not kill a single German, but significnly supported the fighting capability of the Red Army and their ability to kill Germans. But id shpild be dressed tgat Lend Kease was only a small part of the assiatance provided the Soviet Union. The War in the West forced the Germans to dirct much if their war production to fidjing the Western Allis--espcially the Lufrwaffe and Kriegsmarine. Both of yhese servuces were defeated in the West and consumed ab enormous portion of German war production. Only about a third of the German war economy supported the Ostheer. This meant that it was not adequantely equipped abd supplied. This was true of voth the German unitsm but even more so the Geman Axis allies (Croatians, Hungarians, Italians, Romanians, Slovaks, and Spanish). If the Germans has been able to focus their war industry on supporting the Ost Heer, the War may have turned out very differenbtly.
The British Royal Air Force (RAF) severely damaged the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe suffered serious losses. As a result the Wehrmacht had much less air support than it had in the West. It destoyed the Red Air Force in first week of Barbarossa. But it did not have an adequate force tobfully exploit its command of the air. This is often ignored in Barbarossa assessments. The German Wehrmacht that invaded the Soviet Union was much stronger in every respect than the force that invaded France. The only exceotion was the Lugtwaffe. The Germans had managed to replace the losseses ober Britain, but not to expand the firce. Without the Battle of Britain, Hitler would have had an air force twice as large as he had in 1940. The result was that the Wehrmacht in the East id not have the same air support that it had has in the West.
Another reason that Barbarossa failed is that the Soviets were able to move sizable Siberian forces west to support Zukov's Winter Offensive before Moscow (December 1941). The reason he was able to do this is American diplomatic and economic pressure on Japan demanded that they end their war in China--Hull's Four Principles. The United States demanded that Japan end their aggressions in Asia and withdraw from China. And was backing it up with both substntial aid to China as well as military intention--the American Volunteer Group (AG--Flying Tigers). The Japanese chose war with America. American diplomacy so infuriated the Japanese and threatened their main interest (China) that they shifted their military plans from a Strike North to a Strike South strategy. Of course the battles with the Red Army (July 1939) were also a factor. As a result, Japan did not join in on Barbarossa.
British activity in the Mediterranean and Mussoli's stypidity resulted in Hitler's Balkan adventure, delaying Barbarossa. Before Mussolini invaded Greece (October 1940), the southern flank of Barbarossa was fairly secure. British successes in North Africa and support for Greece and Yugoslavia incouraged both countries to stand up to the Italians and Germans. This and Iralian failure in Greece, forced Hitler to intervene to protct his southern flank before he plunged into the Soviet Union. The delay made a huge difference. If the Wehrmacht had had only a few more weeks of good weather, they may well have succeeded in destroying the Red Army.
Lend Lease had an enormous impact on the Soviet war effort. Perhaps the most important was American trucks. Without the mobility provided by the trucks, the great Soviet victories of 1943-44 would not have been possible. This is not to say the siviets could not have achieved victories, but without the trucks and the mobility they provided, they would not have been as sweeping vuctories or could have the the Red army maintained the same time table. And the without Lend Lease food, many Soviets would have starved. And the Red army diet would hce had very blittle meat. SPM became ard in the Russian language. Trucks and food are only two the massive American contribution to the Soviet war effort.The Soviets may have prevailed without American help, but it would have taken them longer and it would have been at far greater cost.
It needs to be pointed out that it was the Soviets who considered the possibility of a separate peace with the NAZIs. While the Western Allies demanded unconditional surrender, Soviet and NAZI representatives met to discuss a separate peace. Historians debate how seriou Stalin was. But we know that talks did take place.
The Allied strategic bombing campaign had a massive impact on the German war economy and ultimately resulted in the distruction of the Luftwaffe. It is true that the Germans maintained war oroduction until late in the War (October-Nobember 1944). But what is often ignored is how the Germans could have increased production wiyhout the problms created by the strategic bombing campaign. Without the air campaign, the Red Army would have faced better equipped German and other Axis troops. In addition, the Luftwaffe had to be pulled back to protect German cities. And then in the skies over Germany, it was sestroyed by U.S. AircOrps P-51 vMustangs flying as escorts dep into the Reich. The Germand had to build massive FLAK batteries to defend their cities. This mean that huge numbers of artillery pieces had to be pointed up around German cities rather than deployed in the East aganst Soviet tanks. The quantity of ammunition the Germans had to provide their FLAK batteries was massive and limited deliverles to the East.
It is absolutely true that the German Heer was broken in the East. Not destoyed, but broken. And here the West owes a great debt to the Soviet people. The Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine, however, were both broken in the West by Western forces. And both had a major impact on the Eastern Front. Breaking the Luftwaffe seriously impaired operations in the East. The Heer never got the air support it needed and received in its great victories in the West. Breaking the Kriegsmarine meant that the U-boats could not impede Lend Lease deliveries. The fact that Germany could not knick Britain oit of the War caused the Germans to significantly increase priorities to the Kriegsmarine, especially U-boats. The Germans built hundreds of U-boats. This diverted huge quantities of steel from tank and artillery production, armaments that could have been used on the Eastern Front. The massive Aamerican commitment of aircraft forced the Germas to build fihter aircraft rather than bombers and ground support aircraft that woukd have been more useful on the Eastern Front. Note that in terms of manpower, it was the Ost Heer where the Germnas made their largest commotment. But in terms of material support and ecomomic support, the bulk of German effort was in the West. The Ostheer was depedent on horsepdrawn carts wjich does not require much in industrial effort. Perhaps twp-thirds of German industrial effort webt to support not inkly Heer units, biy the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmnarin which were primarily commited in the Wesr. Even the artollery that the Ostheer so desperayely needed was primarily deployed in the West, ised to vonstruct basr batteries if ani-aorcraft guns arouns German cities.
We all know that the bulk of the Heer (German Army) was deployed in the East during World War II and it was here that the Soviet Red Army tore the heart out of the Heer. There is no question of that. From Operation Barbarossa (June 1941) was emloyed on the Eastern Front. There are no Western historians of any importance that do not agree on the massive contribution made by the Red Army. In contrast, I find many Russians today believe that the Soviet Union single handedly won World War II. We see many down playing the important role of the Western Allies. But what I would like to know more about, is what share of German industry, science, and technology was devoted to the two fronts? Russian contributors seem to just assume that industry simply was a reflection of the men deployed. This is simply not the case. Naval and Air warfare requiters a greater industrial component than land warfare. I began to think about this while reading the Weinberg book on the War. He states that more than half of German industry was devoted to the War in the West. [Weinberg] His book is well documented, but here he does not run the numbers or offer sources. Now I have not seen this topic discussed in other World War II histories. I would be very interested if any readers have seen assessments as to how much of the German war effort besides manpower, was devoted to the two theaters. We have seen no statistical assessment in the World War II books I have read as to how much of German war industry was devoted to the two fronts. I can offer some penitent indicators and would be interested in what other Quora readers have to say.
Germany both in World War I and World War II did not have the need natural resources to wage a world war. The only resource they had in abundance was coal. Most of the other resources they need such as oil and iron (steel) had to be imported. They also were not self sufficent in food which also had to be imported. This was amajor factor in the Allied defeat of Imperial Germany in World War I. The Allies attempted the same strategy in World War II. This did not, however, work in the first 2 years of World War II, primarily because of the NAZI-Soviet Pact (August 1939). Part of the cooperation effort between the two agressor counties involved Soviet deliversies of raw materials. The Soviet delivered vast quantuties of critical raw materials to the NAZIs. The British at first and then aided by Americans blockaded German/Axis ports. This meant that the Germans after invading the Soviet Union were unable to import needed raw materials except from Sweden (where they got iron ore) and a few other neutrals bordering on NAZI controlled territory. The most serious problem for the Germans was oil, but there were many other resources that caused problems for a lesser degree.
While Hitler was able to deploy most of his forces in the East. Of course it has to be pointed out that this was only possible because Stalin became a NAZI ally with the NAZI-Societ Pact and supplyed thevGermans with vast quantities of raw material and food needed by the NAZI war machine. That was a major factor in knocking France out of the War. The Dieppe Raid showed that the British did not have the ability to take on the German forces in France (August 1942). This began to change after Alamein and Torch (October-Novmber 1942). Hitler had limited the German commitment to North Africa, but upped the ante in Tunsia. As a result, some 0.3 million Axis soldiers were lost in Tunisia (May 1943). That was a bag of prioners on the scale of Eastern Front. Thus in 1943-45, Hitler was forced to deploy substantial forces in the West, relieving pressure on the Red Army. After Tunisia, Eisenhower negan to think about the Cross Channel Invasion, but over saw yje Sucilan and Italian invasiins. He began, however to hord the bulk of Allied forces for the Cross-Channel invasion and the campaign in northern Europe/
The Western Allies passed on insights gained through Ultra and Magic to the Soviets. This included an advanced warning of Barbarossa. But Stalin was so paranoid that he thought the Allies were trying to get him to attack the Germans. So he ignored the warnings. He even punished Soviet inteligence and military officers who attempted to warn him. Soviet officers were so terrified of Stalin that some were afraid to shoot back when the Germans attacked. Interestingly, the Soviets had penetrated British intelligence so he received Ultra warmings even if Churchill had not provided them. The British were dimissive of American intelligence, but it was British intelligence hat the Soviets penetrated.
Japan was unable to threaten the Soviets from the east even after failing to aid Barbarossa. After Midway, they were so heavily engaged by America that they no longer had the strength to attack the Soviet Union. The Jpanese even allowed Lend Lease supplies from America to enter pass through Japanese dominated waters of the North Pacific.
The American Arsenal of Democracy overpowered the Axis. America had the largest economy in the world and after Pearl Harbor it was mobilized for war. And the Axis economies could simply not keep match it. President Roosevelt first used the term "Arsenal of Denocracy" on December 29, 1940 in one of his Fireside Chats, radio boradcasts, to the American people. He expalined the importance of supplying the people of Europe, at the time primarily Britain with the "implements of war". He said that the United States "must be the great arsenal of democracy". The very day he spoke, a Luftwaffe raid on London severly damaged famous buildings and churches in the city center and engulfed St. Paul's Cathedral in flames. [Gilbert, p. 356.] Hitler feared America more than any other country, but was convinced that Britain could be defeated before America could be mobilized or American industry could be effevtiverly harnassed for the war effort. Neither the NAZIs or the Japanese had any idea just how effectibely American production could be converted to war production. Air Marshall Goering sneared. "The Americans only know how to make razor blades." Four years later with the Luftwaffe in tatters, Goering said he knew that the War was lost when American P-51 Mustangs appeared over Berlin escoring waves of bombers. The record of American war production is staggering and in large measure determined the outcome of the War.
Financing war is an often overlooked topic, in part because it does not interest military historians. And here again America led the way. No country in history had ever spent so much money on a war. And no country had ever ended a war with such a massive debt. The American economy began to surge in 1940, in part responding to war orders from Europe as well as domestic rearmamnt. The underutilization of America's economic capacity because of the Depression allowed the United States to maintain civilian consumption at a relatively high level while trememndouly increasing production to persue the War. The Government used a variety of measure to finance the war. This included deficit spending, increased taxes, and awar bond campaign. The Government's financial policy also included measures to control inflation because the increased employment increased incomes at a time when the supply of consumer goods was limited. The United States Government, even before America entered the War, initiated an ambitious advertising campaign to sell bonds. Before America actually entered the war they were called Savings Bonds. The War Advertising Council and the War Finance Committee sought to promote bond sales to finance the War and build civilian morale. The work of these World War II organizations produced "the greatest volume of advertising and publicity ever given to any product or agency" in American history. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau sold the first Series E U.S. Savings Bond to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on May 1, 1941. The War Finance Committees sold over $185 billion of securities. By the end of World War II, over 85 million Americans had invested in War Bonds, a number unmatched by any other country. Even American children participated in the effort. Children bought Liberty stamps every week in their schools.
Gilbert, Martin. A History of the United States Vol. II.
Hanson, Victor Davis. The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won (2017). This is a brilliant book with many insights missed by purely military historians.
Navigate the CIH Wold War II Section:
[Return to Main Great Patriotic War: Political and historical controversies page]
[Return to Main Great Patriotic War page]
[Return to Main World War II country page]
[Biographies] [Campaigns] [Children] [Countries] [Deciding factors] [Diplomacy] [Geo-political crisis] [Economics] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[POWs] [Resistance] [Race] [Refugees] [Technology]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War II page]
[Return to Main war essay page]