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Sunday, 12 April 2009

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"if you are not interested in 'what if' questions then you are not interested in history!"

If you care to spend an hour or two in 'Alternative Universe'-land, as I have, being a recent convert to the Genre,you may well see the the result of one author's answer to his particular 'what if' query.

The author is one Stuart Slade, and his book 'The Big One' is his version of what would have happened if Britain became 'Neutral' early in the Second World War, Marshal Zhukov replaced Stalin with the consequent abolition of Communism, and the two Allies who fought against the Nazis were an America whose formidable Carrier Fleet attacked the European Continent from the West, and a Russia whose forces, bolstered by American aid, held stubbornly to a massive Front in the East.

The Big One is the story of American retaliation against Germany, and although there are loopholes in the plot, as well as the fact that the book is self-published, I would reccommend it to your readers for a comparatively inexpensive few hours of 'Whatiffery'

I think it was Sebastian Haffner who said that the difference between Bismarck and the Kaiser was that the first's objetive was to make Prussia as big as Germany could handle wereas the second's main was to make Germany as big as Europe would allow.
A very good book on the history of Prussia: Iron Kigdom, by Christopher Clark.

Ortega, you have the knack of touching my conscience. I have the book, and to be fair, I have dipped into it, but it remains on my 'waiting-to-be-read' pile! I enjoyed the aphorism; sums it up very neatly.

Mike, even I gulped at Slade's first premise, that Zhukov (or anyone) would have, or could have, replaced Stalin; he was, and remains, the World Champion Survivor! However, on the subject of 'what ifs', I suppose in his scenario, America would have used the bomb on the Japs and merely threatened its use on the Germans. My guess is that Hitler would have been overthrown instantly in such a case.

If Britain had become neutral early enough America probably would not have had the A-bomb - it started life as the British "Tube Alloys" project and the British had to nag the Americans into taking over the project once the British had pursued it to the point where it was clear that they could not be confident of finishing it on their own faster than the Germans could.

David,

No, Hitler fights on in a stalemate into 1947 on the Eastern Front, having dismissed the atom bomb as Heisenburg's delusions, and against the ever-increasingly ferocious Allied attacks from the Atlantic.

The Americans of course had Einstein. technology and eventually, the bomb.

I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but suffice to say there is a truly hilarious few paragraphs which take a sideways swipe at 'Peace Activists' such as we have to suffer today!

The atomic 'what if' is fascinating. I am not very knowedgeable on the subject but I think DM is right in saying that we had a head start, but on the other hand as Mike says, Einstein had written to FDR to tip him off to the prospect and there was certainly a plethora of physics talent in the States. Perhaps, if we had remained neutral we might have enjoyed a thrilling scenario in which the Americans spied on us - James Bond vs. Felix Leitner!

Also, Mike, I am not at all sure that America would have gone to war with Germany in the event of us remaining neutral. FDR would have had an even more difficult job persuading the Congress if the Germans had not demonstrated their aggressiveness in submarine warfare. After all, it was Hitler who declared war, following Pearl Harbour, not the other way around.

Einstein wrote to FDR as a British agent; that was part of the nagging to get the Yanks into action. Try Richard Rhodes "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" - one of the best WWII histories I've ever read.

Oh God, and if, 'DM', my pile of 'waiting-to-be-read' books topples over on me I shall sue from my hospital bed! But thanks for the tip.

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