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Significance of the war in the East

LAURENCE REES: But if the war in the East had ended in 1942, once America was in the war, do you think D Day could have happened?

GEOFFREY WAWRO: Again it’s hard to know but the American declaration of war on Germany comes about because Hitler gratuitously declares war on the United States to bolster Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbour, so he forces our hand. Our focus was on Japan. And you can say that FDR had been looking for a way to get into the European war and to roll back the German tide; but had the Germans arranged a truce with the Soviets, I think it’s probable that the United States would have focused its energies fighting Japan and pushing the British to fight the Germans. But without the Soviet steamroller on the Eastern Front how would the British possibly have fought that war? How would the US have come and got involved without the Russians drawing off a large fraction of German strength? Remember for years Stalin was pressing the Anglo-Americans to contribute more, and all we were doing was strategic bombing and trying to figure out how we could actually get at the Germans, and that’s why we chose North Africa in the Fall of 1942 because we didn’t feel strong enough to land on the Continent. So I think you would have seen peripheral operations perhaps to try to limit German gains and try to keep them away from key resource areas, or a cross Channel invasion involving heavy casualties against a very well entrenched Germany that was able to bring all its resources to bear in defending the Atlantic coast. It’s hard to imagine.