+3 votes
in Miscellaneous ♑ by

COUNTERFACTUAL HISTORY I just learned the term today = where you ponder how history MIGHT have turned out, 'if only'...? 

So, my question is, how many times did just one or a few people BY THEMSELVES alter the course of WWII? In other words, did we come REALLY close to losing WWII, and more than once?

Since learning of Alan Turing, I seem to come upon such places...not in isolation, of course, Turing for example was part of a group who built upon the work of Polish cryptanalysis...along with dedicated women like Jean Valentine who daily operated the British bombes...

But consider also FDR; he had to decide whether a) to abandon Britain to Hitler; b) to give partial help to England, keeping back a little bit of protection for the USA; c) give all we had to England, leaving the USA exposed and vulnerable while we re-tooled factories for war production.

Well, FDR chose option c), and Britain stopped Nazism against all the odds. But even there, apparently FDR was not planning to help England until Churchill courageously ordered the British Navy to fire on a French battleship, ensuring the French ship could not fall into German hands...FDR then understood England would REALLY fight...

Also maybe the French Resistance, because apparently D-Day was not fully secured when Hitler sent a crack Panzer Division...but then 2 or 3 French blew up the tracks, delaying the Panzers.

* * *

Then, maybe even Hitler himself; apparently Germany had some "miraculous" victories early on...I have wondered if Hitler felt he was divinely ordained, and then made some really bad egotistical decisions?

3 Answers

+3 votes

Maybe it was Mussolini.

His botched invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece, requiring a bailout by German forces, delayed Operation Barbarossa for about a month. Had the Germans had that extra month, it's possible that the Soviet Union might have fallen to them in 1941.

As it was, when they narrowly failed in their objectives by December, 1941, the then-armaments minister, Todt, warned Hitler that the long-term prospects of a war of attrition were decidedly unfavorable for Germany.  Todt died shortly thereafter in a plane crash and was replaced by Speer.


Oh, Other Tink...THAT could be, I had not put all that together, Mussolini...but yes, it seems certain, delaying a month closer to the Russian winter...

btw...are you a student of WWII, like Rooster? Your knowledge seems so thorough, really amazing...I could not have even pulled out the name Speer without reviewing, much less that he replaced Todt as armaments minister...who in turn alerted Hitler to the prospects...


@ Virginia, well, I've read maybe half a dozen histories of Nazi Germany, most recently the ones by Evans, which I think are unsurpassed.


O'Tink, seems I do already have Evans on my list to-read...but then his name sounded familiar, Richard J? And sure enough, he was the expert witness in a 1996 libel suit for Holocaust denial...so I picked his name up either here, or perhaps A-mug...anyway, kicked the book up to putting a library hold, now...

Such books would be an exceptional way to develop understanding of the great existential confrontation of this era, perhaps of all human history...heretofore, my reading has largely consisted of a biography of Eva Braun, in itself VERY helpful however. Seems so inconsistent, but in addition to all else, theirs was apparently ALSO a great love story of our time; he tried to send her away as the options narrowed to suicide vs. capture by the Allies, but she somehow figured out his motives and turned back to be with him...absolutely amazing.


@ Virginia,

Yes, I mentioned Evans before.  I found the first two volumes the most interesting, about how the Nazis came to power and how they organized Germany in the years leading up to WW2.


I had a hunch it was from you that I learned of Evans, O'Tink...anyway, looking forward to this...

+1 vote

I can think of a few names of people that affected the outcome of WW2. The main facts have already been discussed but I'll try to add another take.

Mussolini : His failures in Africa,Albania and Greece siphoned off German troops and delayed the invasion of Russia. Although I feel even if the Germans took Moscow? Stalin would never have surrendered anyway.Another of Hitler's blunders by making Italy an ally.

Hitler: His drug use was slowly destroying whatever rationality he had left and made the two biggest blunders in history. Barbarossa and declaring war on the U.S.

Eisenhower: His decision to go ahead with D-Day sealed the Germans fate.

General Patton: His bold tactics and successes scared the Germans and they spied on him on a constant basis. Therefore making Hitler believe that Patton would attack at the Pas de Calais.

Josef Stalin: His ruthlessness and paranoia made him a very powerful adversary. He never would have surrendered and from things I've read? He was expecting Germany to invade in time anyway. Space for time was what he said as he sacrificed millions of Russian men and women to buy hm the time fight back.

The Code breakers: Because of them, the Allies were finally able to stop the U-Boat war and win the Battle of the Atlantic. Let alone pretty much let the Allies know what they were doing. Until Wacht am Rhein when the Germans completely caught the Allies by surprise. Again, Patton to the rescue to break the German encirclement of Bastogne.

I'm sorry but I could write about this for hours about key people and haven't even touched on the Pacific War. Many more known and not so known people who's bravery, cunning and great minds helped bring about the fall of the Reich.

But really? It was Hitler himself that was responsible for the millions of dead with "Uncle Joe" right behind him

Hitler and Stalin would have clashed in time anyway. They both knew it in the 30's.


Rooster, I realize your time is busy now...but I have been anticipating your response to this question...to me it is remarkable that you find all these places where only one or a few people made a crucial difference in the outcome of a world war...and so,

Have you considered collecting your knowledge and experience into book form? Not only do you have the direct combat experience, but you have also studied all the circumstances and the people. As I read non-fiction history trying to understand our human dynamic, I often think of you. I knew about Bletchley Park for example, but only just now I learned from you about the Polish cryptanalysts...

So, not only the experience and knowledge you have, but in addition you are clear-sighted and compassionate, to assemble it all together into something so valuable as we humankind struggle our way along...have you considered a book like that?


@ Virginia : You did say the key word. Time. I'm in the process of beta testing four games at this time and due to vacations, find myself alone often on the Tech support forums. I'm sure there are many book long and published about all of this. But I thank you for the thought!


Rooster, another topic...do you have any thoughts or experience on my other topic, the concern about corporate power controlling our lives? That situation was quite traumatic for me...trying to make sense of it all...

I do know you are quite private and may prefer not to comment on divisive topics, politics and such...but for example, after the old folks at the apartment tried to gather to discuss their situation, the company installed surveillance cameras! Those old residents felt very intimidated...truly un-American, I was amazed, never thought I would see this in the US...especially targeting the elderly...have you ever encountered this kind of thing? I do have some concern...are we heading for trouble?


+2 votes

I am myself trying to find more explanations to the many questions about the "whys" and "ifs" and how a few people could take much influence on certain events.

Virginia and T(h)ink, you are inspiring me to go again through all the formerly learnt subjects linked to WWII, as many additional untold, more or less inconceivable or little known elements and revelations are emerging since relatively recent times. So, right now, I can only add a little thought:

If putting together the big puzzle, there are, in the end, various events, elements and circumstances, and also people from various levels and nationalities, which or who favoured either the one or the other side in a long series of cruel incidents.

And the ennemies in power needed means and support - from their clan or family, their subordinates, colleagues, traders, army, police, supporters (including crime organisations), etc., and, of course, of their people, either totally fanatised or unable to resist - to commit their unthinkable crimes. Also the Allied Powers had to use less "admissible" means.

One of the main causes of WWII was WWI ...

On the other hand, a little sandcorn can stop the finest engines.


Marianne you have gone quite deeply into this topic...the individual supportiveness required from so many, the subtle dynamics involving so many of the 'common' people...as well as the massive disaster that was the Treaty of Versailles.

And I had to look up 'sandcorn,' I had not heard the expression as such, but seems it's just a grain of sand!  :D


Oops, a brain fart, and I did not check, I should have written "grain of sand", or, rather, referred to a "glitch".

Lol - thank you.