What if America entered the war in early 1941?

America, as we know, needed a sharp kick – in the form of Pearl Harbour – to force its entry into World War Two, but that kick happened at a particularly bad time for the other allies.  However, it could have happened earlier, although without the Japanese. 

In early 1941, the German Battleship Bismarck was heading out to sweep the Atlantic and the British were mobilising to sink her.  In OTL, the Bismarck was sunk after an epic sea chase, in ATL; she does not head for Brest, but continues outwards into the Atlantic.  In both time lines, two US battleships, both older models, were on separate cruises, and at least at one point, the Bismarck was heading for one of the US ships.  Let’s assume that they meet in the Atlantic.  Given the strange pusedo-war that had been happening between German and American craft, and the German commanders public attitude towards America, it is not impossible to imagine the Bismarck opening fire.  The most likely result would be the sinking of the US ship.  This gives FDR the excuse required to bring America into the war after the ‘sneak’ German attack on an American ship. 

The Americans declare war on Germany – which Hitler reprocates – and move a number of ships from the pacific to the Atlantic, forming groups to attack German submarines.  Hitler orders the U-Boats to concentrate on American shipping, which scores great success until the US begins convoys following the British model.  The Americans send several of their current divisions to the Middle East, under British command, so they can gain experience.  This allows the British to start pushing Rommel back into Libya. 

The rapid speed of American build-up manages to intimidate the Japanese.  They concentrate on China for the moment, while preparing for war against the Soviets if Hitler attacks them.  However, Hitler is preparing to reinforce Rommel and has no time to engage in war with Stalin as well.  The Americans also hand out a number of pragmatic diplomatic guarantees.  They guarantee to free Poland, for example, while offering to guarantee Finnish 1940 borders if they remain neutral. 

David notes that the Japanese would have been tempted to jump on the US while they were busy with the Germans.  I don’t believe that, as the Japanese war plan boiled down to: 1) Damage or destroy most of America’s ready war machine, 2) take all the territory that they want/need in three months and 3) the US would surely sue for peace.  Obviously, there was something just a little wrong with #3.  In ATL, the American fleet is out of the Japanese reach, but can be switched back to the pacific if Japan declares war.  Japan would probably use the opportunity to increase the pressure in China and push Cheing back further. 

The extra American ships and planes mean that the u-boats are defeated by 1942.  The Americans can then start shipping new army and naval units to Europe, building up in Britain for an invasion of France, while joining with the British to force Rommel out of Africa.  This causes serious problems as Rommel retreats into Algeria, brushing aside the Vichy protests, and takes over the colony.  When the British/American troops demand that the French intern the Germans, the French are forced by Hitler to refuse. 

FDR revokes diplomatic recognition of Vichy and demands that they join the allies or lose their empire.  The British encourage him in this as it keeps him from worrying about the British Empire.  Even without the OTL Japanese onslaught, the British know that their empire is tottering and vulnerable.  The Americans and British push into Algeria, defeating Rommel and the French forces that have joined him or waged a separate war.  Algeria is ruled by a joint committee, but local dignities are invited to join.

Stalin is uncertain which way to turn.  The Germans have problems in the west, despite a recent massive build-up along the soviet border, which should mean that the USSR would be not attacked for at least a year.  This offers the possibility of attacking Japan in Manchuria, or the Balkans and Finland.  However, the US guarantee of Finland gives him pause, while he is reluctant to see an independent Poland.  He works to establish a communist polish government-in-exile and sets it up running the soviet section of Poland.  No one is fooled through. 

Hitler is also uncertain.  He knows that the western allies are preparing to invade France, which means that he must have sufficient forces on guard to destroy the invaders before they get a firm foothold, however, he is suspicious of Stalin’s intentions.  The soviets have improved their air defences and are chasing or shooting down German recon planes, while other intelligence informs Hitler that Stalin is moving considerable forces and supplies into the borderlands, clearly preparing an attack.  Hitler does not want to have to spend the next two years fighting the allies, only to have Stalin invade Poland and take most of the spoils.  He prepares plans for a pre-emptive strike on the Russian positions, intending to destroy the soviet forces before they can invade. 

FDR and Churchill are more certain than the dictators, although they are doing much more of a balancing act.  The British are reluctant to fight the Germans on the continent again, knowing the serious risks involved, while Churchill knows that Stalin is waiting for an opportunity to invade and take most of the spoils.  A powerful communist presence in Europe, after the war, would completely destabilise the world.  FDR is more willing to come to grips with the Germans, but is also concerned about Stalin.  He remembers the Soviet invasion of Finland and distrusts Stalin. 

Stalin sends Molotov to make a deal with the allies.  When the allies invade France, he’ll send most of the Red Army into Poland, forcing Hitler to fight a two front war.  In exchange, he wants post-war spheres of influence in Eastern Europe, lend-lease at favourable rates and a free hand in Manchuria.  The allies, however, while tempted, demand that Stalin return the areas of Finland and Poland that he took and guarantee their freedom, as well as the Baltic States.  Molotov retaliates by hinting darkly at a German alliance, as well as claiming that the Finns are still in contact with Germany, and therefore Nazis themselves.  The allies reject those claims and the soviet demands, but offer counter deals, which keep the talks going.

Unfortunately for Stalin, the Germans have a spy in the Kremlin, and he catches wind of the talks.  Hitler’s paranoia is aroused and he orders the Germans to quickly put ‘Plan Tannenberg’ into operation in a week.  Basically, the Germans plan a smashing aerial and arteritary bombardment of the soviet positions, followed by encirclement and destruction of the soviet troops.  There is no plan for advancing further into the USSR.  The Germans quickly put those plans into position and they launch a pre-emptive strike on the USSR in April 1942. 

The Germans have stunning success at first.  The soviets are not expecting an attack and have not been training for it as hard as they should have.  German bombers cut supply lines and demoralise troops, while the Germans, acting with more speed and power, quickly destroy the soviet commanders while the confusion continues.  Swiftly, the soviet troops are smashed or forced back into disarray. 

Stalin demands a second front at once.  The allies were equally surprised by the German attack, but ramp up their plans for an invasion of Normandy and invade two weeks after the German attack.  The allies manage to get ashore without serious problems, but then the Germans switch back half the Luffwaffe and contest control of the skies over France.  The allies swiftly discover that they are practically trapped in a large pocket on the coast of France, although they soon manage to secure command of the skies again.

Despite the attempts of Montgomery, supreme allied commander, there is no allied blitzkrieg to Paris.  Instead, they need to slowly grind their way through tough German defences at high cost.  The allied air forces are used in a close support role, sometimes dumping huge amounts of HE onto a single German position.  The allies also launch invasions of southern France and bomb Italy. 

The Germans are faced with a dilemma.  They have severely weakened the Soviet Union, but they are faced with an expanding allied pocket in France, with revolts and raids all across France.  The allies’ air bombing campaign is starting to bite in France and the Germans are having trouble moving reinforcements around.  On the other hand, the allies do not always have complete dominance of the air - the Germans can often bomb allied troops as well. 

Hitler appoints Rommel as supreme commander of the western front.  Rommel recommends a withdrawal to the Rhineland, while bleeding the allies as much as possible.  An SS commander also suggests withdrawing from the ex-Vichy sections of France and leaving the Vichy France in charge.  After the loss of Algeria, the French are often sullen and uncooperative when Germans are not actually attacking them at the time, severely frustrating the allies. 

Meanwhile, Hitler orders offensives to be pushed into Byelorussia and the Ukraine, hoping to provoke a nationalist uprising in those lands.  That’s easier said than done, the Germans are running short of materials that they need and they’re having problems with supply lines in Russia.  After a few small pushes, they settle for supplying the nationalist with captured soviet weapons and troops that were captured in the first offensive that come from those regions.  The soviets begin to have serious partisan problems. 

The Germans withdraw as planned, stripping occupied France of everything useful as they pass, destroying harbours, locks, canals, roads, factories, anything that might be useful.  They set up a tough defence line in the Rhineland and wait for the allies to attack.  However, the allies have problems with the French; Charles De Gaulle returned to France an embittered man, unable to accept the removal of French control over Algeria and the effective loss of Indochina to Japan.  He swiftly made connections with many ex-Vichy politicians and worked to build a ruling coalition. 

De Gaulle has several problems.  He needs to prevent France for becoming a battleground for the next few years.  He also needs to sort out war crimes and collaboration, as several mini-civil wars have broken out in parts of France over that issue.  In Paris, the communist party seized control and had to be removed by allied troops, who needed to transport location.  He starts by putting forward the case that a French general should lead the allied forces on French soil, while acting to assume control over French facilities in France. 

When the allies reject his demand, he orders several French support workers to strike for the honour of the nation.  This is only a partial success, as many of the Frenchmen working for the allies need them to feed their families and refuse to obey.  Others do strike and are mostly fired at once by the allies.  There are several incidents of Frenchmen and Americans firing at each other. 

The allies work to get round the problem of French non-cooperation.  They move northwards towards Belgium, both in an attempt to outflank the German defenders and to have a friendlier supply point.  Belgium is liberated at the end of 1942, with Holland soon after.  The Germans work hastily to build more defences, while the allies move their base of operations to the liberated lands.  They stop supporting any French activity that is not directed against the Germans, which causes France’s newly restored economy to collapse.  Civil war soon breaks out in France. 

The Germans are beginning to feel the bite.  The allies bombing attacks have been disrupting German operations across the continent, while German cities have come under intensive bombardment.  Allied troops invade through Belgium in early 1943, hitting as yet uncompleted defence lines before being halted at a line based on Kassel-Breman.  The Germans launch several counter attacks, but are unable to force the allies back out.  To add to the confusion, several French units attack the Germans, causing a panic, although no real damage. 

The allies offer to talk to Germany.  They’ll accept an intact Germany if Germany denazifies and frees Poland.  Hitler, who is slowly losing his mind, refuses.  The allies resume their attack in June, liberating Denmark and Norway, and advancing on Berlin.  Hitler and his cronies head eastwards, but an allied air raid hits their convoy and kills the German commanders.  Germany is largely leaderless as Berlin falls. 

Most German units still in combat against the western allies surrender once the allies guarantee their good treatment.  Italy, which also declared war on the US, surrenders and becomes more peaceful.  The other occupied nations, and the nations that were nearly German allies, quickly manage to take over the German forces in their nation and withdraw from the war.  In several cases, civil war breaks out, notably Greece and Romania. 

The one exception to the rule of German surrender are the German forces still fighting the soviets.  Their commander manages to hold them together and opens talks with the allies.  They finally agree to withdraw back to Germany and be demilitarised, but Stalin demands that they do not leave their weapons with the Poles or any anti-soviet force.  Aware of the problems facing a weakened Germany from the east, General Manstain defies that order and hands over most of his supplies – along with a few advisors – to the nations and partisans.  Poland gets several divisions of Panzer tanks and other German equipment.  They can make their 1939 borders stick, especially with the American guarantee, as can Finland. 

Japan swiftly finds out how powerful American production is.  Once the sea war ends, FDR moves most of the American fleet to the pacific, presenting the Japanese with a huge threat.  The Japanese are not stupid, however, and refuse to rise to the bait.  However, American supplies start heading towards the Chinese in large amounts, causing them to become more powerful.  The China war burns itself out in 1950, with the Chinese allowing the Japanese to keep Manchuria in exchange for an end to the war. 

Germany is occupied by US and British troops for ten years, during which they come to be more friendly towards Germans and keep their alliance going.  American money and trade gets into much of the British Empire and helps make it more productive, convincing Indian politicians to become a dominion instead of complete independence.  A political union is, perhaps, on the cards. 

In a very real sense, however, nether France, Russia or Italy recovered from the war.  France’s humiliation caused the country to be torn apart by witch hunts for traitors and collaborates of the Germans.  Stalin discovered how much the Germans had given to the Partisans in the western lands and the Russians had to fight a long campaign to wipe them out, which eventually led to the economic collapse of the USSR.