austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

We did it before

With the 60th anniversary of the return of Singapore from Japanese overlordship to British overlordship, there's naturally been a flurry of interesting little documentary bits appearing, about everything from 1945 in general to the saving of the Botanical Gardens.

Coincidentally -- which is the wrong word, since they're motivated by the same impulse, but were motivated independently -- the American Council for the Blind's Radio Treasure-Trove has been playing a recording of one NBC station's programming from the day after the Japanese offered surrender, but -- so far -- have not gotten to the American announcement that the offer was sincere and was being accepted. It's fascinating listening to people trying to guess whether the offer was legitimate (the Japanese radio transmission was cut off, several times, before being received in full, and the best notes came through roundabout diplomatic channels), what the Japanese reservation of not infringing on the sovereignty of the Emperor really meant, describing the outbursts of joy among Allied soldiers all across the Pacific ...

The best ``Past is another world'' moment, though, was a mention of what it did for the business community. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped at the rumor of peace by a whole -- you may want to brace yourself -- two points. And was holding both points. Yeah, I know, in those days the Dow Jones hovered around 15 and it didn't break 1929's record of 25 until the late Eisenhower administration, but still. The program's running at least Mondays at 4 am Eastern Time, and undoubtedly other times of day.

Meanwhile, since there's a faint interest in my ``Hearts of Iron'' game, let me give a partial history of the not-quite-completed alternate Second World War. The buildup to war went more or less as it did in the real world, although with the United States and Canadian populations much more ready to go to war than they were in real life. I (playing the United States) couldn't join the Allies -- the game models the isolationist streak quite strongly -- but I could get military access to Ireland and Brazil, allowing me to house troops there without (somehow) impairing their neutrality, and letting me put troops in place to watch what's going on (the game ordinarily doesn't let one see troop movements or action outside one's own, or one's allies', territories). Roosevelt was re-elected to an unprecedented third term (a choice the game gives to the player, as to who's to win, but looking at the game data Roosevelt just looked like a better choice for the quite likely war than Wendell Wilkie. There'll be another Presidential election in 1944, though Congressional elections aren't modeled. Other democratic nations have similar elections more or less on the real-world schedule).

Germany took out a string of demands of territory, leading ultimately to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the German invasion of Poland in late August 1939, and the United Kingdom, France, and a host of other nations joining the war. Germany's march into Poland took more than a month, distracted by French and British ships threatening landings at Danzig and East Prussia. Strikingly, the Soviet Union did not join the invasion of Poland, but the country was still annexed by mid-October.

By January 1940 Germany turned on the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The German army swept rather quickly through the Benelux nations, but more slowly through the north of France. They could not be stopped altogether, but Canada particularly shone here, by landing troops in Cherbourg and Calais, each time distracting the German Army and forcing them to halt their advance through France. And yet, every time the Allies were thrown off and the Panzers marched again, Canada landed some more troops. They kept getting pushed off, but Canada (and, once, South Africa) kept landing again.

Unfortunately this was still destroying the French Army, eventually triggering the ``Vichy France'' event. Most of ``Heart of Iron'' is based on general principles, but some events, like the formation of Vichy France, or the Lend-Lease Program, or the decision of whether to assassinate Yamamoto, are so extraordinary they need special handling. In this case the Vichy France event takes unoccupied France, French North Africa, and Madagascar and assigns it to the new nation of Vichy France; but as it happens, the Vichy province (land is organized by provinces, named based on a major city if one exists; Michigan, for example, is the provinces of Detroit and Marquette) was already occupied, so this Vichy France had its capital at Marseilles. Germany did not force Marseilles France to join the Axis, however, keeping the game from allowing the Allies to invade its territory. (Free France, composed of the French Empire's island territories, mostly, and Guyana, stayed in the war but at an understandably reduced level of activity.)

Germany turned to invade Norway, but well-placed British and particularly Canadian troops beat back the invasion. Stymied there, Hitler took the chance in Summer 1940 to invade the Soviet Union -- a Soviet Union, one will note, that hasn't had much time to move its industries east, nor had the war with Finland to begin the process of shaking deadwood out of the Army. Despite these advantages Germany proceeded only a few hundred miles into the Soviet territories before year's end.

Italy joined the war early enough to take Grenoble as a prize, but in trade Ethiopia and coastal Libya were taken over by the United Kingdom. And as Italy had in 1938-39 conquered Albania for some reason, the British naturally invaded that. We wouldn't love Winston Churchill so much if he could keep from invading the Balkans.

Meanwhile in the Pacific, with the fall of France, Japan demanded and received Indochina from Marseilles France. The British took the chance to invite Nationalist China into the war, and so come July 1940 Japan was at war with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. This I'm particularly fascinated by, since it does seem to preempt the Pearl Harbor Event, and -- since Japan won't be grabbing any vast swath of territory in a surprise attack -- suggests the country won't get many of the resources it most needs. This would seem to make the Pacific War rather easier except, of course, that the United States isn't in it and the United Kingdom is desperately overstretched.

The year ends with a wonderful whirlwind bout of diplomacy, when Yugoslavia joins the Axis on 15 December, and two days later quits and joins the Allies.

(Note: I've played the game from this point, so I know how some of these developments turn out. I'll give further updates later on, if there's still interest.)

Trivia: Delaware's population grew by 7,240 people during World War II. Source: Don't You Know There's A War On?, Richard Lingeman.

Currently Reading: A Logic Named Joe, Murray Leinster.

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