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"Declaring War on America: Wrong!" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian11 Jun 2019 11:26 a.m. PST

You were asked – TMP link

Was Hitler wrong to declare war on the USA following Pearl Harbor? Or did his alliance with Japan leave him no choice? Would the Americans have intensified conflict in the Atlantic even without war being declared?

73% said "Hitler was wrong to declare war on America"
12% said "Hitler was right to declare war on America"

14th NJ Vol Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2019 12:17 p.m. PST

If he had 1/2 a brain he should have declared war on Japan. He would not have had to fight them, the isolationist in America wouldn't have let Roosevelt get into the European war, and he might have had a better chance of winning? Maybe?

Korvessa11 Jun 2019 1:05 p.m. PST

Now that is interesting.

Personal logo Grelber Supporting Member of TMP11 Jun 2019 2:49 p.m. PST

I worked with a German lady in Utah who refused to believe Hitler declared war on the US first: clearly he would only have declared war on us in response to our declaration of war on Germany.


Old Contemptible11 Jun 2019 11:50 p.m. PST

Since Japan did not go to war with the USSR, I don't see why Germany was obligated to go to war with the US.

Old Contemptible11 Jun 2019 11:53 p.m. PST

I don't like the use of the word "wrong" in the poll. It should be "mistake" instead. Hitler made a mistake by declaring war on the US. We can all agree it was wrong but was it a mistake on his part?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2019 2:01 a.m. PST

He had no treaty obligation to declare war, because Japan had not been attacked.

There is no reason to think the US would ever otherwise have found itself at war with Germany. The US would never have declared war because of, say, German aggression, because Germany had no means of carrying any aggression out.

The only way I can envisage the US declaring war on Germany is if Germany first defeated Russia and Britain. Defeating Russia would free up a lot of manpower; defeating Britain would potentially add the Royal Navy and French navy to its own and Italy's naval strength. Those four navies combined would then present a credible threat beyond what the USN could clearly contain, depending on its strength in a counterfactual. That, along with V2 development, might have been enough to prompt US rearmament and a declaration of war.

If you had anything similar to the B29, you could nuke New York with it from Iceland, for example.

More likely it would have triggered a cold war in which both sides tried to be the first to come up with a Bomb.

Tired Mammal12 Jun 2019 5:14 a.m. PST

US would have declared war on Germany once they started mobilising and Germany sank 1 merchant ship too many.

The Uboat campaign would have brought them in just as it did in 1917 (with a few telegrams).

All it would take would be some press attention and the public would demand it.
The fact that the Allies were also attacked by Japan would have made it very odd to keep peace with Germany.
What it might have done though is resulted in a delay on declaring on Germany and resulted in a Pacific first campaign which is an interesting thought.

Katzbalger12 Jun 2019 9:26 a.m. PST

I think US ships escorting convoys and US Lend Lease aid to the UK convinced him that he was already (essentially) at war with the US and this was a "cheap" way to get some good will out of the Japanese (hey, he might have thought he could convince them to nibble at the USSR again).

And yes, definitely a mistake.


Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2019 9:36 a.m. PST

AIUI he thought he was fighting the U boat campaign with one hand tied behind his back because he couldn't attack American convoy escorts nor hit convoys in US waters. the sinkings went up when this constraint was removed by the declaration of war, but not enough to make a difference.

bobspruster12 Jun 2019 4:08 p.m. PST

At that point Adolf had both London and Moscow under his thumb. The a-ho!e probably thought that by the time the U.S. was mobilized that both UK and USSR would be finished.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP01 Jul 2019 1:29 p.m. PST

The Western Atlantic was already "out of bounds" to Axis submarines by late 1941 with a shoot on sight policy from FDR. The naval war hard largely started anyway. Not to mention Lease Lend and the "Arsenal of Democracy"

He must have thought the US is coming in very soon whatever. My U Boat campaign, when their Navy is very much off balance right now, could just run riot along their coastline, if I move fast..and guess what?

What is so scary is that 3 days passed after Pearl Harbour with no sign of US entry against Germany/Italy etc. Thank God he did declare war, but I am not sure it was a mistake on his part.

What shows that the US recognised the real threat to national security, is that they committed such priority to victory in the West, despite the obvious emotion to hit back at Japan. You were not going to see SS marching down 5th Ave whatever, but the US could not thrive in an isolationist bastion, while the world succumbed to such dictatorships.

Bill N01 Jul 2019 2:29 p.m. PST

I can see reasons why Germany would declare war in 1941, even though on balance and without the benefit of hindsight I think it was a mistake. Why would Italy go to war with the U.S.? And why if you are Hitler would you want Italy to go to war with the U.S.?

Legion 401 Jul 2019 2:52 p.m. PST

Bottom line … the Axis lost … So yeah they all made mistakes trying to take on much of the rest of the world.

Mark 101 Jul 2019 3:11 p.m. PST

What shows that the US recognised the real threat to national security, is that they committed such priority to victory in the West, despite the obvious emotion to hit back at Japan.

FDR recognized that Germany was an existential threat to the US. He never saw this potential in Japan.

His policies and the records of his cabinet meetings show this. The formation of joint planning groups of the armed services (there was no Joint Chiefs of Staff at that time), and the planning requirements he laid out to them in 1940 and 1941, which drove America's armament-building and force expansion policies, were all driven by case scenarios of what it would mean to the US if the Germans beat the Soviets and/or the British.

I don't think there was ever a planning scenario for Japan conquering China or Australia. Incursions by the Japanese against US interests, sure, but no scenarios in which Japan actually became an existential threat.

The US would never have declared war because of, say, German aggression, because Germany had no means of carrying any aggression out.

Germany, in control of all of Europe, North Africa, and much of the Soviet Union, and perhaps the Middle East and India, would have been a threat to the continued existence (at least in it's historical form) of the USA. Roosevelt saw this as early as the mid- to late-1930s. By the time France fell he was no longer focused on arming allies to keep the US out of the war, but was actively trying to get the country ready for going to war -- he believed US involvement was coming and that he could not prevent it. But the political system of the US required the country to be behind him, and it was not, so he was limited in what he could do.

But he was looking, seeking, in full understanding that if he didn't figure out how to defeat Hitler, he might face a Hitler that he could not defeat.

Let us not forget that the atomic weapons project (later the Manhattan Project), the B-29 and B-32 were all initiated with the intention for use against Germany, and the B-36 project was initiated for use against Germany in the event of the loss of Great Britain to the Germans. All of this BEFORE Hitler declared war. These are clear evidence of just how clearly FDR perceived the threat.

So was Hitler wrong? Yes, in my book almost everything Hitler did was wrong. But that's a different question.

Was he mistaken in declaring war against the US? I think this is a very interesting what-if.

I think Hitler greatly underestimated the scope of American industrial might and the impact it could have on his war. He perceived that he was already fighting an "undeclared" naval war, at least. In this he was about 10% right, and about 90% wrong. Right in the technicalities of what constitutes acts of war, wrong in the scope as the KM was to learn.

50 old destroyers crossing the lines of neutrality vs. 500 new destroyers (and 1,000 smaller escorts and 50 escort carriers) actively at war made a BIG difference to the U-Boats.

Food, medicine, even guns and ammunition to the British crossed the lines of neutrality. A million-man army where even the infantry divisions that were more mechanized than German Panzer Divisions, on the European Continent, made a BIG difference to the Landsers.

I think Hitler greatly overestimated the impact of a U-Boat surge catching the US under-prepared along the Atlantic coast. It was effective. It was shockingly successful. It achieved far more than the KM had any right to expect. But again it was 10% vs. 90% … it was shockingly successful in how much tonnage of shipping was sent to the bottom for minimal losses in U-Boats. But it was completely irrelevant vs. the magnitude of the US military expansion (armaments and manpower, naval and army). He achieved all that he could have hoped for, and achieved nothing by it.

And I think Hitler greatly underestimated the limitations that the US Political system put on FDR. If he had not declared war on the US when he did, it would have been VERY difficult for FDR to declare war on German and Italy, and more importantly to establish a "Germany first" policy for pursuing the war. The American public was enraged against the Japanese, and would not have been nearly so accepting of defeats in the Pacific while forces when towards Europe if there was no war against Germany (yet).

I expect that one way or another FDR would eventually have gotten his war against Germany. But in the meantime momentum would already be established for the war against Japan. So I see Japan defeated sooner (perhaps by mid- to late-1944) before the US turns to Europe. Hitler is still in for a whooping, but what could he have done in the meantime?

I expect he would not have defeated the British. That was no longer in the cards by the end of 1941. Even in North Africa, Monty showed he could manage well enough if he got American supplies, and there's no reason to believe he wouldn't just because US fighting men were in the Pacific.

So also the Soviets showed they could fight the Germans to a stand-still with LL help (but no American feet on the ground in Europe).

So if the US doesn't finally get focused on building up forces in Europe until perhaps mid-1944, that means invading the continent in mid-1945. The Soviets probably don't get as far as fast as they did historically -- there's lots of good evidence that even by mid-1943 the Germans were pulling important units from the Eastern Front to face the Western Allies, and if no Americans in North Africa, then no massive German/Italian defeat in Tunisia, no Anglo/American invasion of Sicily, maybe no Italian withdrawal from the war in 1943.

But now the US forces land in 1945, about the same time the A-bombs start to become available. I don't see much happiness in that scenario for any side. For whatever we think of the body count of WW2, I think it goes up by a LARGE number in this scenario.

Hard to say much more -- too many variables. But I don't see anything looking better, only worse. So was it a mistake? Depends -- it probably hastened Hitler's demise, so we could say that was a mistake on his part. But I expect he would go down anyway, and not much more than half a year to a year later. Big diff? IDK. But he gets to take another several million innocents with him. Maybe that makes it a better choice for him, I can't say.

(aka: Mk 1)

Skarper01 Jul 2019 10:37 p.m. PST

I don't think it made much difference in the end.

If Hitler had not declared war [despite promising the Japanese he would do so] the US would have sooner or later.

With US ships getting sunk making the leap into declaring war on another country when the US was already at war with Japan is easier.

FDR is also well into his 3rd term of office by Pearl Harbour.

From Hitler's point of view, image was far more important than substance so the declaration of war must be seen as a show of strength not backed by any ability to follow thru. Besides sinking US ships, which they were already doing, what could the Germans do to the US in 1941-42? Not a lot.

Trajanus02 Jul 2019 10:37 a.m. PST

73% said "Hitler was wrong to declare war on America"
12% said "Hitler was right to declare war on America"
15% said "It seemed like a good idea at the time"

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