Paul Kennedy Series: 1943: The Year that Decided the Outcome of WW2
Speaker: Paul Kennedy
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Welcome to What Happens Next. My name is Larry Bernstein. What Happens Next is a podcast which covers economics, finance, history, politics and current events.
Today’s session is the third part of our ongoing history of World War 2.
Our speaker is Paul Kennedy is the J Richardson Dilworth Professor of History at Yale. He has a new book out entitled Victory at Sea: Naval Power and the Transformation of the Global Order in WW2.
This episode Part 3 will focus on the fateful year 1943 when the war was won. Paul will tell us why the US decided to invade North Africa instead of Europe, as a trial balloon. Why North Africa was followed up with an invasion of Italy that subsequently knocked Mussolini of the war. We will learn about the internal strife within the allied alliance, the disputes between the armed services, and why the allies won.
Topic: Part 3 of the History of WW2 - 1943: The Year that Decides the Outcome of the War
Bio: J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History at Yale
Reading: Victory at Sea is here
In the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, after Churchill had come to the White House, the Grand Alliance was facing three enemies: Nazi Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Japan.
You couldn’t take all three of them on at once, certainly not in 1941 to 1942. So, what is the batting order? You have to understand where the two great combatants on the Western Ally side are sitting. For the United States, a terrible attack on Pearl Harbor, and there was pressure from Congressmen, from the public, from the US Navy to make the Pacific campaign by far number one.
For the British, they had just escaped invasion the year before. They were in the fight against Nazi Germany and its buddy Italy, and they wanted a European-centric war and the Pacific coming next. Thank heavens by 1943, US productivity is such it can have both. But it couldn't then.
Now let's get to the three-armed services of the United States,
The US Navy, it not only wants to be in the Pacific first, because it feels so badly hurt by Pearl Harbor, but because in the Pacific, it's likely that Pacific commanders, like Admiral Nimitz, would have the main role. For the two other US armed services, the Europe first strategy was attractive. For the US Army it was attractive because these dinky little islands in the Pacific offered no chance of putting a million strong American soldiers in.
The European campaign, the US Army would be the lead service. For the US Air Force under Hap Arnold is certainly intent upon building these enormous, long range, four engine, strategic bombers to blast the enemy's economy, railway systems, productivity, and get victory in the war that way. And it was hard to imagine anywhere in the Pacific where you could have air bases to put 2,000 B-17 and B-24s, whereas if the Air Force went to join the Royal Air Force Bomber Command, it could start the systematic attacks upon German industry.
When you looked at the techno-industrial capacities of the three Axis powers, Germany was the country which was most likely, Larry, to deal you a really severe blow if it developed some of its super weapons.
Remember by 1941, '42, there was even a great apprehension fueled by Einstein's urgent messages to Roosevelt that Germany might acquire the atomic bomb. So, there were a lot of reasons why it was Germany first.