X: Sitzkrieg or 'Phoney War', Feb - Aug 1942: Foreign and Domestic Politics
Call Kenny Loggins, you're in the DANGER ZONE...
- Dec 5, 2008
February - August 1942
When the German Heer stunned the world by the conquest of Poland in a mere nine days, there was a sobering pause. War had changed, and certainly if the eighth largest army in the world could be overcome so quickly, then how prepared were the rest of the Allies?
longer evident between the Germans and Russians by
One of the first reactions of this war was the full mobilization of the Soviet Union on 10 March, followed two days later by Finland’s mobilization. Tensions along this border could be adequately described as “tense” since the series of skirmishes back in 1939 which had sufficiently chastised the Soviet Union from widening the war. Finland had long sought to maintain their independence from Moscow, especially after the four-month-long civil war which had begun in May 1918 between communist “red” and conservative “white” forces. During the interbellum period, Finland had sought to develop strong ties with their Scandanavian neighbors, though as those nations turned more to fascism and away from liberal democracy, the Finns themselves turned more towards London than Oslo or Stockholm. Their development of strong relations would lead to Finland joining the Allies in 1943.
Finnish troops in the Mannerheim line in 1942.
Despite being a tiny and technologically backwards
force in the late 30s and early 40s, the Finns had
thrown back the Soviet invasion attempts and
guaranteed their own independence.
At a rare cabinet meeting on 13 March, Speer--sitting in for his figurehead Hjalmar Schacht--laid out the problem faced by the Reich. The Main Enemy, the Soviet Union, could call upon over 900 combat and combat support brigades, and was estimated to number over 1000 combat brigades within the next twelve months. In the meanwhile, the Heer would be faced with holding their western flank while a significant portion (roughly one third of all ground combat troops) of their own forces were little more than propaganda numbers. The Italians were in little better position, scattering their own forces around what amounted to at best a tertiary theater of East Africa or Greece. Hungary’s forces were largely best held as garrison troops as well. The problem, as Speer put it to the assembled crowd, was one of production. Speer argued strenuously for the arms industry to face the reality of the situation and permit women into the workforce, as well as require more shifts in those factories deemed most important. This was not merely some desire to actually push for the development of the Reich; it was a thinly-veiled grab at power. By the end of the day, Speer had secured the approval for Führerbefehle (Fuhrer Order) 4, Verfolgung des Krieges und des Dienstes des Volkes (Economic Prosecution of the War and Service of the People). Essentially, this order dictated two things: that all manpower would serve by requirement and a total economic mobilization with a focus on heavy industry was mandated to prosecute the war.
Speer (left) delivering some news to Goering, together with
Bruno Loerzer and Gunther Korten. Speer wanted control
over all German munitions and arms production, and the
power that would go with it. He backed Goering in the
internecine warfare that accompanied Hitler’s “cabinet.”
In England, a major worker strike sparked off by miners in Kent at the Betteshanger Colliery lasted nearly 19 days. The concerns focused on the danger of working certain seams of coal for the war effort, and the labor recruited to work those mines. The strike had follow-on effects, most especially with the strikes in Liverpool and Birkenhead by longshoremen, dockmen, drivers and conductors--nearly 12,000 workers in total. While the government under Bevin sought to promote conciliation rather than conflict and publicly deemed the strikes “hardly anything to worry about,” Order 1305 was exercised and three union officials were prosecuted and over a thousand miners fined. The sentences were by-and-large suspended and rapidly forgiven entirely, but strikes continued throughout the war.
Spanish foreign minister Ramón Serrano Suñer, left,
as the Caudillo Francisco Franco meets with Il Duce,
Benito Mussolini. The support for the Nationalists during
the Spanish Civil War would be paid back through the
military access to Spanish territory during the war.
As the latest European war (the third in five years) began, several of the otherwise non-aligned nations began to show their hands slightly. The first was the Spanish announcement that Italy would have transit rights through Spain’s territory.* While not going so far as to permit missions be launched from their territory, the possible use of Spanish bases by Italian forces caused grave pause to the Commonwealth arrayed against Germany. Italy had not yet joined the war, but Britain’s lifeline ran through the Suez, past Malta to Gibraltar and thence to the Isles. With the use of Spanish bases, the Regia Marina could range farther from home, despite the short legs of their fleet. Denmark followed suit in April giving transit rights** to Germany, whose efforts to influence through the Geheimdienst under Frick had paid off handsomely. By June, funding for operations organized by the Geheimdienst in the United States was called off as the support needed to be directed elsewhere for the war effort.
The Riksdag today. The work of the Swedish NSAP to
control the expansion of the left-wing parties and to support
Germany fell apart when the expansionist desires started to
hit too close to home.
Across the Öresund, Stockholm was paralyzed in mid-March by a Geheimdienst-orchestrated Support the War demonstration. With much of the population swept up in the popularity of the Nationalsocialistiska Arbetarpartiet (NSAP) and broadly supportive of Berlin’s calls for support. With the NSAP in control of the Riksdag, the body passed legislation that outlawed the Communist and Socialist parties in June. This support was short-lived, however, as the NSAP’s popularity waned with Germany’s expansionist tendencies.
Stalin (second left) and the son of the Shah, Crown Prince
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Vyacheslav Molotov during
a meeting in Tehran during early 1942. The efforts expended
in wooing Iran to the Soviet cause were largely wasted.
The Soviet Union conducted several of their own influence operations in Iran during the end of the first half of 1942. Securing possible transshipment routes for trade that would not be threatened by the noose that Moscow clearly saw descending upon its neck with their western flank bounded by Norway, Sweden and Denmark leaning towards Germany and Finland leaning towards the Allies and Japan and China on their eastern flank, the only route out was to the south through the Middle East. While the Pahlavi regime was coolly receptive to the overtures from Moscow, Tehran’s outlook was more supportive of the Germans and Italians, though not going so far as to outright proclaim for the Axis powers. Reza Shah recognized that any public support would doom his regime as the Soviet Union and Great Britain would never permit the threats to their respective empires that an openly Axis Iran would cause.
Imperial Japanese submarine I-8 arriving in Wilhelmshaven
for the transfer of experts to Germany. Their support informed
a significant portion of the plan for Orkney Bulldog. Below: the
Reich’s contribution: several examples of Panzers, including a
Japanese Colonel Ishide riding in the cupola of the Tiger.
The positive flow of the war in Germany’s favor in the first half of 1942 and the strategic question for Germany about striking at Great Britain led to Germany providing Japan nearly $8.6 million to train a division-sized Marine landing force. The Kriegsmarine had long held several small Marinestrosstruppkompanie (MSK) as the answer to the GD’s “wet” teams, and these special operations forces had performed admirably in Spain in the few uses of their particular talents (which included blowing up a Republican-controlled radio station on Ibizia) as well as during the opening operations against the Poles during Operation White Eagle around Danzig. These forces were nowhere near the size needed to conduct an amphibious assault into Great Britain, and so Raeder reformed the Seebataillon concept. This would be largely organized on the standard Heer infantry division’s lines, with three brigades each of three battalions, and would be supported by an artillery regiment and a regiment of combat engineers. While Japan was supplying the technical know-how of training, they did not supply weapons or equipment. The division itself would not be ready by the time that Operation Orkney Bulldog was launched, but the training of moving troops to shore and the planning for the landing objectives were informed by the Japanese advisors.
Goering in a briefing outdoors, 1942. The Inspector General
of the Air Force, Erhard Milch, is second from left. Obviously,
the other officer to Goering’s left did not view the Reichsminister’s
During a speech to the Luftwaffe, Reichsminister Goering proclaimed that the Reich now possessed an air force greater than that of the rest of the world combined. The introduction of the Marschflugkörper--a “cruise missile” in modern parlance--specifically the Fieseler Fi 103 “Maikäfer” had been produced in significant numbers, with nearly 1200 examples equipping the force. With their introduction, the lack of a dedicated strategic bomber was not as problematic as previously believed, but the usefulness of the Marschflugkörper was as yet unproven.
George Catroux was the French Governor General for
French Indochina during the first few years of the conflict.
His service continued until taking charge of the resistance
against the Japanese invasion in 1943.
France abandoning their entente with Great Britain earlier in 1942 had come as quite a shock to London. The Axis powers had seen an opening: France, riddled with internal domestic concerns and yet wanting to maintain their crumbling empire led to Japan initiating an influence campaign with Paris in June. Japan recognized that French Indochina was a route taken by American support of the Nationalist Chinese, and that the current French government were virulently anti-communist. The Japanese took this opportunity to paint the French colonial government’s opponents in Indochina--Vo Nyugen Giap and Ho Chi Minh--as much more communist than nationalist and stoked those fears progressively as the result of Soviet support especially in the Vietnam portion of the colony. The Nationalist Chinese, in response, attempted to reingratiate themselves with Germany, as a check on Japanese expansionist policy in Mainland China.
Above: Japanese troops cross into Hong Kong.
Below: the faces of the resistance that awaited the IJA.
Japan, for their part, expanded the war into the Pacific on 11 July 1942 with a declaration of war against the British. Specifically, the Japanese sought to strip Britain of her Asian holdings, especially those in Malaysia and Hong Kong; Japan also sought to conquer Australia and New Zealand. The Diet, directed by the Imperial General Staff, immediately demanded the mobilization of the economy and an extension of service lengths until the end of the conflict.
President Lindbergh speaking about the new
Unlimited National Emergency. His betrayal of
Isolationist Republicans led to their defections
when Congressional Democrats began their
On 17 August, an announcement was made that shocked the world. France, so long the recent historical enemy of Germany, signed onto the Anti-Comintern Pact. While not going so far as to join the war actively against their former ally, Great Britain, their tacit support and allowance of the use of air bases in Brittany and Cherbourg caused significant dismay in those parts of the world not yet affected by the war. Such was the response that even the United States, under the administration of President Charles Lindbergh, declared an Unlimited National Emergency. Given the America First wing of the Republican party was staunchly isolationist, this declaration was taken as a purely defensive arrangement, a nod that the Monroe Doctrine--and the Roosevelt Corollary to it--was back in effect.
Italian M13/40 tanks, produced alongside the licensed
PzKpfw.IIs, but in far fewer numbers, invade Egypt in
1942. Below: former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
speaking at UVA in 1942.
Italy took full advantage of the guarantee that their western flank was secured: Italy joined the war later in the day of 17 August, with Il Duce declaring in a speech to the Italian nation, “It’s our time!” Combat operations began at once: V Corps in Libya advanced to Alexandria, and the operation to secure Malta was begun. Reactions in the only two non-engaged global powers were uniformly negative: the Soviet Union saw the possibility of those who would help distract the Germans in their eventual war being overrun and initiated their own contingency planning for the future, while in the United States, former President Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech at the University of Virginia, citing the concerns of the American people facing questions about the position that the nation had in the world. President Roosevelt continued that,
“Some indeed still hold to the now somewhat obvious delusion that we of the United States can safely permit the United States to become a lone island, a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force.
Such an island may be the dream of those who still talk and vote as isolationists. Such an island represents to me and to the overwhelming majority of Americans today a helpless nightmare of a people without freedom—the nightmare of a people lodged in prison, handcuffed, hungry, and fed through the bars from day to day by the contemptuous, unpitying masters of other continents.”
The President continued,
“On this seventh day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-two, the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor.
“On this seventh day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-two, in this University founded by the first great American teacher of democracy, we send forth our prayers and our hopes to those beyond the seas who are maintaining with magnificent valor their battle for freedom.”
At the time, the speech was singular in that a former President would speak out in so public a place and to call out the sitting President for what appeared to most Americans to be a failure of diplomacy. The speech was a rallying cry for the Democrats in Congress, who began to push the issue of the administration’s failures. This also started a series of investigations which continued through into 1943.
Mussolini, however, did not care about the commentary by the former President. Mussolini called for the total mobilization of all aspects of the Italian economy, as well as expanding the draft and service requirements of the national forces in Italy. Late in the month, Bulgaria offered and Italy accepted transit rights through their territory. The war was very nearly global.
Mussolini speaking on the declaration of war against
the Allies, 1942.
Mussolini speaking on the declaration of war against
the Allies, 1942.
*: I don’t know how this wouldn’t have resulted in a DoW by Great Britain.
**: I especially don’t know how this wouldn’t have resulted in an immediate occupation of the Faroes, Iceland and Greenland by Great Britain… I’m going to edit it in properly to the current savegame.
EDIT: I've decided to add a "Map of the World" to some of the posts, especially if large changes have occurred to what's holding where.