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Tags alternate history , nuclear weapons , World War II history

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Old 14th November 2011, 09:13 PM   #1
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What if someone else got nuclear weapons first?

Of course we know that the USA did get them first in some part because America was fortunate to be a refuge for many of the worlds greatest physicists during the terrible times of the second world war. And it's well known that Germany had a nuclear weapons program that floundered when a lot of their theoretical research went awry. Less well known is that Japan also had a nuclear weapons program that relied more on experimental research and may have been closer to an actual bomb than the Germans.

America has been vilified a lot over the years for getting the bomb first. Maybe some of that animus is justified. But what if someone else got it first?

What would the world look like if Imperial Japan had access to heavy water and uranium? What if Stalin had a program that gave him the bomb in 1942? Would London have been the first target of the Nazi bomb? And what if the Brits got it first at the height of the Blitz? Would anything of Berlin remain?

When they get the bomb is of course important. It's possible that Germany still loses the war if they get the bomb any time after mid 1944. The body count might have been higher but it seems like the ability to produce nukes in numbers great enough to thwart the double sided attack they were under is doubtful. Likewise Japan getting the bomb after its navy had been decimated might not have meant much either except to give them a new way to commit glorious suicide on battlefields when the Americans finally invaded the homeland.

And Italy........well with the incompetence of their top military ranks they might have accidentally used it on themselves no matter when they got it.

So, for everyone not named Italy, this question is pertinent to a hypothetical where they get the bomb at a time when it would have actually mattered. So what of it?

Does anyone think another nation would not have used it in much the same way the USA ultimately did? Would anyone have just settled for demonstration detonations? Or actually use them on a battlefield as part of a large conventional attack?
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Old 14th November 2011, 09:23 PM   #2
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Since Germany had little to no ability to hit America, any use of the bomb at any time in the war by the Nazis would have resulted in a full-scale, all-out invasion of Europe and destruction of every square inch of German ground. We may have even been willing to sue for peace in the Pacific to free up the troops.

The same is even more true of a Japanese use of the bomb. Our overall racism was so strong already, that we wouldn't have stopped at anything short of genocide against every Japanese person on the planet. And we may have offered Hitler continental Europe in order to get up the manpower to end Japan.

Now, if Russia got the bomb first, that would be another story. Nobody could have taken down Russia. That leaves them with the choice of killing Nazi's (and irradiating themselves in the process, or turning south and trying to take China and its warm-water coastline (even as they claimed to be "liberating" China from Japan).

Good times.
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Old 14th November 2011, 09:27 PM   #3
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Too broad a question to be answerable. When and how many being the big factors. You've also got the remember the shear volume of resources involved in developing the bomb. It wasn't just the physicists the US had. It was the unbombed infrastructure and the preparedness to devote resources in that direction.

The topic has been delt with in fiction from time to time:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Victoria%27s_Bomb
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Old 14th November 2011, 11:49 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Loss Leader View Post
Since Germany had little to no ability to hit America, any use of the bomb at any time in the war by the Nazis would have resulted in a full-scale, all-out invasion of Europe and destruction of every square inch of German ground.

As it was much of Germany was devastated due in large measure to the bombing offensive. How much more could the Allies have done?
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Old 15th November 2011, 12:43 AM   #5
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Unlike the Axis America also had access to more of the natural resources needed.

Anyways, I suppose the meat of this is whether what America did with the bomb was something unique. Whether other cultures might have done something completely different if they had it but no one else did.
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Old 15th November 2011, 04:01 AM   #6
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Germany had the atomic bomb first

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=167238
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Old 15th November 2011, 04:07 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
Unlike the Axis America also had access to more of the natural resources needed.

Anyways, I suppose the meat of this is whether what America did with the bomb was something unique. Whether other cultures might have done something completely different if they had it but no one else did.
Interesting thought exercise. Given how both Japan and Germany acted during the war I don't think that they would've hesitated to use it if they had it.

I also don't think that you are aware that Germany was working on building submersible barges designed to be towed behind submarines with the intent of launching V1/V2 rockets onto American soil. I think that they didn't get beyond the early testing phase before they dropped it due to the resources the program was using. So if they had developed a bomb early enough that was small enough to launch I think that they probably would've launched one at NYC or the equivalent.

As far as Japan goes they did have the history of Kamikazi attacks and they were capable of reaching our shores with their submarines so it's not outside of the realm of possibility that they might have slipped into San Francisco Bay (A major staging point and the location of several shipyards and bases) and detonated a bomb in the bay, sacrificing the boat and crew in the process (if they had the bomb that is).

I do think that if WWII had kicked off five or more years later the world would be a very different place than what we have today.
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Old 15th November 2011, 04:25 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Loss Leader View Post
Since Germany had little to no ability to hit America, any use of the bomb at any time in the war by the Nazis would have resulted in a full-scale, all-out invasion of Europe and destruction of every square inch of German ground.
Setting out from where, exactly? If Germany had had the ability to hit Britain with atom bombs prior to summer 1944, staging an invasion could have been extremely difficult.

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Old 15th November 2011, 07:22 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by MaGZ View Post
Germany had the atomic bomb first

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=167238
Oh, that again.

And again, no they didn't.
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Old 15th November 2011, 08:12 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Too broad a question to be answerable. When and how many being the big factors. You've also got the remember the shear volume of resources involved in developing the bomb. It wasn't just the physicists the US had. It was the unbombed infrastructure and the preparedness to devote resources in that direction.

The topic has been delt with in fiction from time to time:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Victoria%27s_Bomb
Exactly. Germany and Japan (and the Soviet Union) had nuclear weapons programmes but the US/UK programme had a number of advantages:
  • talent; the physicists and the technicians
  • security; there was no need to build the Manhattan Project underground to protect from aerial attack
  • unity and leadership; an oft overlooked advantage was the excellent leadership, Groves and Oppenheimer, of the MP compared to the Axis programmes
  • resources; the MP pursued both lines of research (isotope separation and plutonium breeding) simultaneously; employed 130,000 people; consumed about one tenth of total US electricity production
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Old 15th November 2011, 08:13 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by MaGZ View Post
Germany had the atomic bomb first

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=167238
A long debunked lie.
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Old 15th November 2011, 08:17 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by MaGZ View Post
Germany had the atomic bomb first

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=167238
And was too nice and humane to use it.

Yeah, right.

Give it up already.
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Old 15th November 2011, 11:34 AM   #13
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I've seen people argue that because Nazi Germany abstained from chemical warfare, they probably wouldn't have used the bomb if they had it. But, I think this view is biased by our later classification of the weapons.

Moreover, I think most of the reason the Nazis didn't use chemical weapons was because of Hitler's own peculiar horror (peculiar because he didn't mind doing plenty of other horrors) as a result of his experiences in WW1.

But if you gave him a new weapon that people thought of as really just a gigantic bomb? Oh yeah, he'd have used it. In defiance of the coming end if not for meaningful military gain.

Probably against the Russians, given a choice, but since he wasn't exactly the most mentally stable guy, I don't think he'd have been too picky.
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Old 15th November 2011, 01:40 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Comrade Raptor View Post
Moreover, I think most of the reason the Nazis didn't use chemical weapons was because of Hitler's own peculiar horror (peculiar because he didn't mind doing plenty of other horrors) as a result of his experiences in WW1.

It was more pragmatic early version of MAD (mutually assured destruction). Germany recognized that Britain had stocks of chemical weapons too, and if Germany used them, Britain would almost certainly use them in retaliation. The bomber always gets through (though sometimes at great cost) and thus little could be done to protect the population from large scale chemical weapon attacks. Better to leave the weapons in storage. Which is what both sides did. (Not that conventional attacks were all that pleasant either.)
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Old 16th November 2011, 06:40 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Comrade Raptor View Post
I've seen people argue that because Nazi Germany abstained from chemical warfare, they probably wouldn't have used the bomb if they had it. But, I think this view is biased by our later classification of the weapons.

Moreover, I think most of the reason the Nazis didn't use chemical weapons was because of Hitler's own peculiar horror (peculiar because he didn't mind doing plenty of other horrors) as a result of his experiences in WW1.

But if you gave him a new weapon that people thought of as really just a gigantic bomb? Oh yeah, he'd have used it. In defiance of the coming end if not for meaningful military gain.
Agreed, I don't see any such reluctance about a superbomb. Hell, Oppenheimer didn't expect significant radiological issues with the atomic bombs.

Originally Posted by Comrade Raptor View Post
Probably against the Russians, given a choice, but since he wasn't exactly the most mentally stable guy, I don't think he'd have been too picky.
Which probably won't have achieved very much, unless the weapons were available very early in the war.
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Old 16th November 2011, 01:15 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Too broad a question to be answerable. When and how many being the big factors. You've also got the remember the shear volume of resources involved in developing the bomb. It wasn't just the physicists the US had. It was the unbombed infrastructure and the preparedness to devote resources in that direction.

The topic has been delt with in fiction from time to time:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Victoria%27s_Bomb
One of the things I found strained my credulity in the final book of Harry Turtledove's "Settling Accounts" series was that no less than four (Germany, Britain, USA, CSA) largely independent (technical data exhanges between Britain/CSA and Germany/USA apart) atomic bomb projects all produced workable devices in the course of the same year.
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Old 17th November 2011, 08:04 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Corsair 115 View Post
It was more pragmatic early version of MAD (mutually assured destruction). Germany recognized that Britain had stocks of chemical weapons too, and if Germany used them, Britain would almost certainly use them in retaliation. The bomber always gets through (though sometimes at great cost) and thus little could be done to protect the population from large scale chemical weapon attacks. Better to leave the weapons in storage. Which is what both sides did. (Not that conventional attacks were all that pleasant either.)
Why did Britain plan using anthrax cakes against Germany?
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Old 17th November 2011, 08:21 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by MaGZ View Post
Why did Britain plan using anthrax cakes against Germany?
Britian had plans for using mustard gas against germany. This is 1940s britian we are talking about. They had just aquired one of the largest empires in human history. They didn't do that by being anything other than stone cold psychopaths.
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Old 17th November 2011, 09:04 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Comrade Raptor View Post
I've seen people argue that because Nazi Germany abstained from chemical warfare...<snip>
Unless killing large groups of unarmed people by way of chemical gas can be classified as "chemical warfar"...?
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Old 17th November 2011, 09:33 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by TheAnachronism View Post
Unless killing large groups of unarmed people by way of chemical gas can be classified as "chemical warfar"...?
That isn't warfare. It's murder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MaGZ
Why did Britain plan using anthrax cakes against Germany?
"Planning" (and i use that word loosely here) and "doing" are two different things. The US probably "plans" for global thermonuclear war, but they haven't actually done it have they?
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Old 17th November 2011, 10:12 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by nvidiot View Post
"Planning" (and i use that word loosely here) and "doing" are two different things. The US probably "plans" for global thermonuclear war, but they haven't actually done it have they?
But according to CT's a plan = actually happened, just like a mistake = did it on purpose.
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Old 18th November 2011, 04:21 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by MaGZ View Post
Why did Britain plan using anthrax cakes against Germany?
Well Operation Vegetarian1 was designed in 1942 to seriously damage the German food supplies and thus disrupt military and war related activities and thus shorten the war. However it wasn't possible until late 1944 and wasn't then considered necessary or justifiable.
Churchill advocated using chemical weapons several times, most notably after the V-weapon attacks in 1944, but was persuaded against this option.

However if Sealion had gone ahead the German troop would have been drenched in mustard gas, a weapon that favours the defense; operational planning for this was complete by the beginning of July 1940 though British HS/HT stocks were low, something Churchill ordered remedied.


1 Someone had a sense of humour......
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Old 18th November 2011, 07:50 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Dave Rogers View Post
Setting out from where, exactly? If Germany had had the ability to hit Britain with atom bombs prior to summer 1944, staging an invasion could have been extremely difficult.

Dave

I imagine North Africa.
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Old 18th November 2011, 10:07 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by MaGZ View Post
Why did Britain plan using anthrax cakes against Germany?
Why did innocent little Germany research and produce the nerve agents Tabun and Sarin?
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Old 18th November 2011, 11:58 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Corsair 115 View Post
As it was much of Germany was devastated due in large measure to the bombing offensive. How much more could the Allies have done?
.
Way back then, it was suggested that the males be castrated, and the country turned into a goat pasture, if memory serves.
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Old 18th November 2011, 12:07 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by MaGZ View Post
Why did Britain plan using anthrax cakes against Germany?

Plans to do something and actually executing that plan are two different things. Also, anthrax would technically be a biological weapon, not a chemical weapon.
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Old 18th November 2011, 03:39 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by I Ratant View Post
.
Way back then, it was suggested that the males be castrated, and the country turned into a goat pasture, if memory serves.
Germany Must Perish! by Theodore Kaufman

http://en.metapedia.org/wiki/Germany_Must_Perish!
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Old 18th November 2011, 03:42 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by MaGZ View Post
Germany Must Perish! by Theodore Kaufman

http://en.metapedia.org/wiki/Germany_Must_Perish!
Wow, Metapedia, the wiki for loons, Holocaust deniers and Nazi believers.
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Old 18th November 2011, 04:07 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Travis View Post
Of course we know that the USA did get them first in some part because America was fortunate to be a refuge for many of the worlds greatest physicists during the terrible times of the second world war. And it's well known that Germany had a nuclear weapons program that floundered when a lot of their theoretical research went awry. Less well known is that Japan also had a nuclear weapons program that relied more on experimental research and may have been closer to an actual bomb than the Germans.

America has been vilified a lot over the years for getting the bomb first. Maybe some of that animus is justified. But what if someone else got it first?

What would the world look like if Imperial Japan had access to heavy water and uranium? What if Stalin had a program that gave him the bomb in 1942? Would London have been the first target of the Nazi bomb? And what if the Brits got it first at the height of the Blitz? Would anything of Berlin remain?

When they get the bomb is of course important. It's possible that Germany still loses the war if they get the bomb any time after mid 1944. The body count might have been higher but it seems like the ability to produce nukes in numbers great enough to thwart the double sided attack they were under is doubtful. Likewise Japan getting the bomb after its navy had been decimated might not have meant much either except to give them a new way to commit glorious suicide on battlefields when the Americans finally invaded the homeland.

And Italy........well with the incompetence of their top military ranks they might have accidentally used it on themselves no matter when they got it.

So, for everyone not named Italy, this question is pertinent to a hypothetical where they get the bomb at a time when it would have actually mattered. So what of it?

Does anyone think another nation would not have used it in much the same way the USA ultimately did? Would anyone have just settled for demonstration detonations? Or actually use them on a battlefield as part of a large conventional attack?
There seems to be some cartoonish views of other countries at play.

When America got the bomb they used it as a terror tactic "We will kill as many of your civilians as we can unless you do what we want." But then as what made sense in terms of the strategic situation that faced them. Maybe if they had the bomb a few months earlier they would have used it tactically perhaps on one of the islands they were taking.

In the same way Germany would have used nuclear weapons to achieve its war aims. Britain and its leadership could probably be influenced by a terrorist use of nuclear weapons, the USSR and its leadership less so. Germany bombed cities, but whether through lack of opportunity/capacity or ethics or strategy never attempted to level cities the way that Bomber Command did. So it is unlikely they would immediately leap to levelling London - as a first step.

Germany's war aims were a modus vivendi with Britain and pushing the Soviet leadership behind either the Volga or sometimes the Urals and creating a fortified frontier. The Germany leadership had no animus to Britain beyond the elite who were having their strings pulled behind the scenes - this would have influenced how they used such a weapon in the West. Most likely they would have used the weapon in the East and hoped the psychological impact enabled them to achieve the outcome they wanted in the West by negotiation.

How they would have used the weapon in the East would have depended on how it would have maximum impact, as the Soviet leadership had only limited interest in the fate of its captive nationalities. A tactical battlefield use might make the most sense in terms of achieving war aims, in a way in which it was not to America in August 1945.
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Old 18th November 2011, 11:14 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by little grey rabbit View Post
When America got the bomb they used it as a terror tactic "We will kill as many of your civilians as we can unless you do what we want."

Which conveniently ignores the connection between civilians and the military in an industrialized nation-stated involved in total war against another industrialized nation-state. Namely, this simple formula: no civilians, no economy; no economy, no military; no military, no war.

The tanks, planes, ships, guns, bullets, shells, radios, uniforms, and much more, are created by the civilian workforce. The raw resources needed for that military production is gathered by the civilian workforce. The soldiers, sailors, and airmen are drawn from the civilian workforce. The energy needed to power the factories as well as the machines of war is produced by the civilian workforce. And so on.

In Japan's case, due to its production often being dispersed, this meant have to raze much of a city in order to hit the military hardware and vital subcomponent production.


Originally Posted by little grey rabbit View Post
Germany bombed cities, but whether through lack of opportunity/capacity or ethics or strategy never attempted to level cities the way that Bomber Command did.

Yes, it did. The Blitz was precisely an attempt to level London. The problem for Germany was that it never developed an air force capable of doing the job—strategic bombing was a low priority. Germany's bombers were virtually all twin-engined types intended for the tactical role of supporting the army. And to conduct a strategic bombing campaign effectively you need a lot of four-engined heavy bombers—something which Germany never did.

As for "levelling cities the way Bomber Command did" this ignores the many real—if indirect—effects on the German war economy Bomber Command's effort had. Moreover, the Battle of the Ruhr (March to July, 1943), as Adam Tooze lays out convincingly in his book The Wages of Destruction using German records from the time, had a profound effect on German war production. The armaments "miracle" that Albert Speer had put together was stopped in its tracks. The RAF was within reach of achieving a significant victory—only it ceased the campaign against the Ruhr (for several reasons) and switched focus onto Berlin.
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