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"What would Germany’s colonial empire look life if" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Nov 2022 7:59 p.m. PST

…it won WW1?

"Often I see maps depicting a large Mittleafrika colony. I can see France and Belgium ceding some if their colonies because they are occupied by Germany. But would Britain even return Germany's colonies at the peace treaty? Would Japan? Wouldn't Australia and South Africa be angered if they didn't get to keep Southwest Africa and Kaiser Wilhemsland. Would Britain be willing to return Germany's colonies if it meant Germany withdrew from Belgium?…"

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Nine pound round20 Nov 2022 5:47 a.m. PST

If Germany had won WWI, she would have done it in the first six weeks of the war. After that, the accumulation of opponents makes it hard for me to see her ekeing out anything other than a negotiated peace. At best, a negotiated peace might mean recouping some of her losses in Africa.

The question of what Germany hoped to gain out of the war is still an interesting one. German strategists were keenly aware of the nation's limited staying power, and that realization shaped all their planning. Without the work of Walther Rathenau and Fritz Haber, I suspect the blockade would have forced them to make peace before 1916. That bought them time, but even the best of their generals (I am not in a majority when I say this, but I give that palm to Falkenhayn) realized that absolute victory and dictated terms were never going to be possible. The tragic flaw in the Second Reich was the inability of the political system to resolve the gap between aims and means, and find a compromise peace that would end the war without a revolutionary-scale upheaval.

Blutarski20 Nov 2022 9:45 a.m. PST

I'd suggest that Germany arguably came quite close to winning the war. It succeeded in collapsing Russia and held a manpower advantage over on the Western Front in early 1918.

What saved the Entente was Woodrow Wilson and the United States. Disregarding AEF's 2.5 million US soldiers and the hugely costly but also hugely successful Meuse-Argonne Offensive that operationally split the German front, the prodigious amounts of war materiel supplied by US industry (especially explosives and artillery propellant) supplied in 1917/1918 were decisive in those last two years; it enabled Great Britain and France to expend artillery shells in place of the lives of an ever-shrinking pool of soldiers.

Strictly my opinion, of course.


Grattan54 Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2022 10:15 a.m. PST

Germany's unrestricted submarine campaign against Great Britain nearly knocked the UK out of the war. Then the US intervened and forced Germany to agree with the Sussex Pledge. I think if the US had remained truly neutral Germany had an excellent chance of winning the war.

Nine pound round20 Nov 2022 2:07 p.m. PST

Fair enough! One of the interesting and enduring problems unique to WWI historiography is, "why did the war end as it did?" Not hard to answer that problem for WWII, but I will confess to finding some of the decision making to be a little elusive, reliant as we are on memoir and other post hoc information sources.

As far as American participation goes, I think it was vital- but as a source of armaments and ammunition for the Allies, rather than direct military participation. The Allies enjoyed a preponderance of materials from 1915-1917 in large part because they enjoyed uninterrupted access to an American market that was prepared to supply them with everything they could pay for, and an American banking system that was eager to float them loans. The U.S Army's efforts were undoubtedly helpful in the last stages of the war, but the real business of breaking the 1918 offensives and rolling back the Germans was begun and sustained largely by France and Britain- and to the extent that the arms needed to mobilize the US came at the expense of the Allied effort, those arms were diverted during the early 1918 period, when some of the most intense fighting took place- but with little American participation.

The Allies' preponderance of strength also manifested itself in the ability to successfully "break open" the secondary theaters in 1918. Turkey, Bulgaria, and Austria were knocked out of the war in quick succession during the fall of 1918, the last agreeing to terms that would have allowed the Allies to use her territory and communications to attack Germany from the South. Insofar as this combined with the defeats in the West to convince the German leadership to seek peace, these victories are even more purely European than American affairs, undertaken as they were by France, Britain and Italy with little or no American participation.

It's probably the case that America was probably never "truly neutral," insofar as the British blockade provide the Allies with asymmetric access to American manufacturing, but this is a product of British naval preponderance. The U-Boat campaign was defeated with far greater ease in WWI than in WWII, simply by adopting convoying- and by the German reckoning, the plan to throttle Britain was defeated before the 1918 crisis in the West.

The defeat of Russia certainly freed up troops- but not enough. The Germans had to keep a substantial garrison in the East and Ukraine, and this offset the advantage they got from defeating the Russians. The real beneficiary of Russia's defeat was probably Austria, which would probably have been knocked out of the war in 1917, had the Russian revolutions not crippled the Russian Army. Victory in Russia bought the Central Powers another year: it wasn't enough to bring them victory in the first half of 1918.

I suspect the Central Powers were always far weaker than they have been made to seem, ex post facto.- Austria in particular. I have always been a little intrigued by (IIRC) Charteris' prediction in early 1918 that "if Germany attacks and fails, she will be ruined," which turned out to be essentially what happened. It's hard now to reconstruct that (and I know Charteris has a dubious reputation), but as I said, I think the Allies knew that the combination of latent strength differentials and the gradual erosion of support for the war within Germany were having their effect.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2022 2:59 p.m. PST



Personal logo Dal Gavan Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2022 2:33 a.m. PST

Nine Pound Round +1

The entry of the US meant that the war finished in 1918, saving tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, lives. But after the failure of the Kaiserschlacht (the Germans did not even take all their Day 1 objectives, despite the 5th Army collapse) and the later offensives, and the collapse of the Germans on 08 August 1918, the outcome was inevitable.

The collapse of Turkey and Austria-Hungary were independent of the US entry, and that would have added nearly a million- veteran- British, French, Italian and Greek troops on Germany's sparsely guarded south and south-east borders, as well as reinforcement of the forces on the western front. The US entry didn't win WWI, but more importantly it shortened it and saved a lot of lives.

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