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Which nation contributed most to the defeat of Nazi Germany: Britain, USSR, or USA?

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Initial post: Nov 10, 2010 1:43:38 PM PST
A. Philbrick says:
This is a topic for a final research paper in my HIS355 class, and I was wondering if any if you WWII buffs could provide some insight.

I must pick one country and defend my answer in both military & economic terms.

I'm also looking for academic historical works to read and cite, so book suggestions are welcome.

Thanks, in advance!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:04:32 PM PST
One could say the USSR, but the US supplied them with TONS of food and gas. Without which they would have been snufed out. And if the US was not holding down the western side of the street, the Nazi's could have put all their fight into the eastern side.

But in reality, it was Hitler himself who lost the war by playing general.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:07:55 PM PST
This would be invaluable to your research if you have the time:

Why the Allies Won

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:10:21 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:12:41 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:27:26 PM PST
A. Philbrick says:
Thanks S.A.
I was leaning toward the USSR myself simply because the sheer amount of man- (and woman-) power the Soviets sunk into their efforts. In addition, the German advance seemed very unprepared for both Russian Winters and the T-34 tank, which easily held its own against Panzers. This, of course, would be more of a blunder on behalf of the Germans than a success by the Soviets, but Russian tanks were incredibly hardy machines.

There is also the contribution of the U.S. lend-lease, so one could argue that the Soviets could not have gone it alone, as you mentioned.

Also, I think it is important to consider that the U.S. had an extremely important contribution in the Pacific, thus taking the heat off the Soviet's back door from the Japanese. The ability of the U.S. to mobilize both a Pacific and European theater simultaneously was remarkable in its own right, and probably deserves some consideration.

This is a very difficult decision to make, but I have ruled out the British, not because their contribution was not important, but because their overall production/manufacturing/manpower capability was much less than that of either the U.S. or the USSR.

I agree that Hitler's own poor military decisions (splitting Army Group Center's Panzer division to the north and south was a costly mistake) "lost" the war. Had he let his generals run the show, we would be living in a very different world today.

Thanks again, and thanks for the book suggestion. I hope to secure a copy tomorrow at the University library.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:38:39 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2010 2:39:27 PM PST
A. Philbrick says:
Agreed Andrija,

The cost in lives to the Soviets certainly exceeded that of any other Allied nation, and probably nearly all Allied nations combined. Had Germany not initially opened a Western front, and placated France and Britain by claiming he was tackling communism, the war also may have ended much differently. I suspect that the Soviets would not have been able to sustain a prolonged war against the full power of the Wermacht, and it is very probable that Britain, France, and the U.S. would have turned a blind-eye to aggression against a communist state. Granted, fascism was no better, but fear of communism alone among the other Allies may have played well into Hitler's plan.

After capturing Russia, the Germans may have had a great deal of the force of Soviet production at their disposal, and the Eastern threat would have been neutralized early, giving the Germans the ability to then look West.
Thanks again!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:39:42 PM PST
I am hoping that is the right book, as mine from the 90's has a differnt cover. When I land I will see if it matches author and title of the one I have back at the base, unless of course I gave it away, which I might have.

It is a very interesting book. Things like the Germans having 5,000 ME 109's shot down a month, while still building 5,000 new ones a month. They just ran out of good pilots.

According to this book, without Spam, the Russians would have starved to death. This book, if accurate, has all the facts and figures to back it up. And it is still a fun read, because it is such a different outlook on the war.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:50:06 PM PST
IGS says:
Hands down USSR. The USA kept them up during the fight but the Red Army killed the Wehrmacht.

There was however, no aerial Shoah despite the BS some might spew. As for "victory", Andy, whatever are you blathering about? The victory was as total and complete as ever there was in all of recorded history. What else would you call it? Go hang with Joe Ching. Or better yet, crack a book.

To continue, after the invasion of Russia, 70+% of the German ground forces were occupied in Russia. It never decreased. The casualties, appalling, on both sides. The Russians were more able to replace the immense manpower losses than were the Germans. The casualties in the west were severe, but not on the level of what was happening in the east. In the west, the USAAF killed the Luftwaffe, but it was the USSR that did for the German land forces. Not that the USSR did it voluntarily, but they had no English Channel and Royal Navy to hide behind. Those two factors enabled the UK to "rope a dope" for a very long time. After the entry of the US, Great Britain provided a massive staging area for the 10 or so million US soldiers deployed to Western Europe.

I would point out however, that with or without the Soviet Union, the war ends in August 1945 one way or another. We could honestly argue that the Manhattan Project makes the Soviet contribution a moot point. Sad considering their contribution was over 20 million dead. Without the war Stalin probably would have only killed about 5 million of those. But, based on the facts on the ground, it is the USSR that is the engine of victory in Europe.

If we were to say what was the most important country of the entire war, then we are left with United States, but in Europe the Soviet contribution is unequalled.

As for the assertion that the Hitler wins in Europe absent the USSR, one is forced to ask ... how? They had their very best chance in June-July 1940 and failed to accomplish the mission. Another outside shot existed through the middle of '41 during the "Battle of the Atlantic". It was a steady erosion of German combat power from that point onward. In fact, the Axis had very little probability in winning at all. They were deficient in naval strength and hence deprived of crucial raw materials (oil, scarce metals, etc.), geographically they were pinned between two very powerful foes (read Clausewitz as to the dangers of this), vastly undermanned, and possessed of a wholly inadequate relative industrial base. There is no basis upon which you can justify your opinion. Oh, and as I said before, in the end, the war is over in August 1945. Moreover, against this back drop the US industrial backbone holds the Allies up for as long as it takes.

Posted on Nov 10, 2010 2:51:23 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:53:25 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:53:46 PM PST
A. Philbrick says:
Nice! I just reserved a copy at ASU's Tempe campus library. They only had one left on the shelf. Thanks for your timely response.

I was able to browse the preface and chapter one from Amazon, too, and the book has footnotes/endnotes which is exactly what I need to find more sources.

Great referral, S.A.! You've given me an excellent start to a difficult task.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 2:58:37 PM PST
M. Gaudet says:
USSR. Unfortunately when you take down an evil empire, such as Nazi-ism another usually rises in its place, like Communism.

Posted on Nov 10, 2010 3:00:56 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 3:03:41 PM PST
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Posted on Nov 10, 2010 3:07:25 PM PST
Todd says:
The USA inflates their importance in the east. Lend Lease sped up Russian victory, saved lives, but ultimately Russia could have done it themselves, and would have conquered all of Europe. Experts agree lend lease sped up Russia's victory by a year or more.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 3:09:49 PM PST
IGS says:

I liked the book as well but I definitely do not agree with all of its conclusions and think it lacks substantial support for many of them. But, yes the US fed Russia (and the UK as well), provided virtually all of the locomotives and rolling stock used by the USSR during the war, virtually all of the trucks used by the Russians were built in the US. The list is quite a long one and was instrumental in giving teeth to the Red Army. But, that being said, they did the work. And hard ugly work it was.

The fact of the Luftwaffe losses alone highlights one very important aspect often overlooked. War is about logistics. It is the single most important factor. The USA did and does logistics better than anyone. The instant the USA entered the war, it was over. It was only a matter of time.

The one single fact that makes me smile when I hear people state that the Axis were going to "win" without the USSR. The Axis produced 1 aircraft carrier during the war. One. The US produced 15 Essex class carriers, alone. When stacked next to the other carriers built during the war it is a staggering measure of what the Axis was up against. All have seen the Grand Canyon. All it took was time and pressure. That was the inevitable and inescapable result of any war involving the US.

Posted on Nov 10, 2010 3:12:02 PM PST
Todd says:
Oh and yes the winters were harsh but they were not showstoppers. The germans would have blown through Stalingrad and beyond the Volga if not for the stiff military defense of the city. Ultimately credit goes to the iron will and fighting skill of the Russians - they were rocked by the invasion at first but got better and better with countering and fighting back.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 3:13:03 PM PST
IGS says:

The war in Russia was likely over well before Stalingrad. It is worth pointing out that the Winter was a great impediment to both sides and was not the decisive factor. It was to be endured by both. Absent the Winter, the Germans made some bad strategic and logistic choices which were well exploited by the Red Army come winter or no. The Spring thaws were far more of an impediment to combat operations than the winter. Sorry.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 3:14:07 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2010 3:49:29 PM PST
A. Philbrick says:
Thanks I.G.S.,

Your response just reminds me how complicated a question this is to answer. If one assumes that military mobilization and capability is almost entirely dependent upon a nation's economic and industrial output, both actual and potential, then WWII was a war of economics, not tactics.

The authors of my "textbooks" in this class frequently allude to the German superiority of both arms and ability, but ultimately they were overpowered by simple numbers, bolstered by total wat economies. In such a situtaion, it would appear that the U.S. outperformed the USSR, as the U.S. was able to not only wage war in the Pacific & Europe, but also contribute to Soviet supply and finance.

Of course, as you mention, the A-bomb was an ultimate game-changer, thus throwing another huge wrench in the analysis of which country contributed most to the defeat of the Nazis. With that in mind, it becomes much easier to lean toward the U.S. as the most important factor. Even if Germany had somehow defeated the USSR earlier in the war (unlikely, but possible given certain circumstances), a strategically-placed nuke or two would certainly have brought Hitler to the negotiating table.

With the economic aspect of the war in mind, few other countries could have devoted the time, money, and effort into the Manhattan Project as the U.S. did, as most others were already in tenuous positions of manpower/research capability. The Germans may have been a technological exception, as their V-rockets were ahead of the curve, but nuclear capability among the Nazis was probably far off in 1945.

Thanks again. Good points!

Posted on Nov 10, 2010 3:16:47 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 3:25:53 PM PST
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Posted on Nov 10, 2010 3:30:59 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2010 3:36:25 PM PST
The UK has stated that if the Germans had not started boming cities, the RAF would have been dead in a matter of weeks.

Add to that, the tanks not stopping outside of Dunkirk.
Things would have been much different.
A much more probable invasion of England.

If the tanks had not of stopped outside of Moscow, Russia's probably a done deal.

All these scenarios... but

If the US had stayed out of the war in every single facit, no aid to ANYONE, it is my opinion that the USSR would have been hiding in Siberian caves and there would have been no Stalingrad.

And no declaration of war from Germany against the US.

No dropping of the A bomb.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 3:38:07 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 10, 2010 3:41:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2010 3:41:50 PM PST
R. Anderson says:
It's been a long time, but I remember reading a book by a Albert Seaton (called the 'Russo-German War'; considered by some to be the definite study of the war on the Eastern front (despite its biases against the Russians)). And he concluded that Russia would have fallen without the allies pressure on other fronts and their material aid (which he considered critical in the early going).
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Initial post:  Nov 10, 2010
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