"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Midway or Stalingrad?

The Regular Son posed the following question, flowing from his American History class:

Midway or Stalingrad... biggest turning point in World War II?
Here are my quick thoughts:

Hard call.   The easy answer is to look at the number of men involved and casualties, and we generally (because we've had a left-wing academia?) have tended to have a knee-jerk response that the war was really won on the backs of Soviets, who suffered so many more casualties.   But consider:  so much of the Soviet military in terms of armaments were produced by American factories and shipped to the Soviet Union.   For instance, we supplied most of their planes via a TransCanada/transAlaska/transSiberia route.   What if we lose at Midway?   Now we are essentially driven from the Pacific… we likely then will lose Hawaii, and we will likely lose Alaska (remember that there were battles on Alaskan islands with the Japanese).   Could we supply the Soviets if we lose the Pacific Rim?   Probably not.   What happens to them then?  

Alternatively, if we lost at Midway, wouldn't our focus shift more sharply back to the Pacific, meaning that we wouldn't have had a "Europe first" strategy, might not have invaded Sicily in '43 and France in '44, and maybe divisions used to fight us in the West could have been used to forestall the Soviet triumph in the East.   If Hitler has one more year or two more years, does he get the A-bomb first?

Both were big.   Stalingrad was huge.   But so was Midway.  

UPDATE:  The Regular Son responds:

At the same time, the diversion of supplies--particularly of oil needed to fuel the planes of the Luftwaffe--after the battle of Stalingrad accelerated so dramatically away from the Western front that Stalingrad could be said to have been more impactful. The Reich was essentially in languor after 1943--for a prime example, see Hitler's vaunted Atlantic Wall. If the Soviets had not won at Stalingrad, we may not have made it ashore on D-Day. However, the Soviets repulsed Hitler at the gates of Moscow in 1941. It could be argued that the tide had already turned against the Nazis in the East. I don't think it likely that we would have lost the Pacific if we were defeated at Midway. The Japanese were dramatically overstretched and it was only a matter of time, as a nation of that size could not support such an outsized domain.

Tough call.

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