War makes for Strange Bedfellows – A Second World War timeline

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War Makes for Strange Bedfellows – A Second World War timeline

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There is no doubt that the Second World War has defined both the last half of the twentieth century and the beginnings of twenty first. The war’s sheer brutality and scale left the world reeling in its wake, and with the advent of the atomic bomb a new fear descended across the world, that of Mutually Assured Destruction. In the aftermath of WWII, the world became divided into two ideologically-based camps who rarely see eye-to-eye except in the view that the other side was a plague upon the earth and following the other’s destruction, a heaven on earth would emerge under their leadership.

How this state of affairs came to be is still a topic of historical discussion, but it can be traced back to a few events in late 1939 that set the world on course for destruction as it had never seen before.
 
Chapter 1 - A Pact for a Pact
Chapter 1 - A Pact for a Pact
London
25 August, 1939

Our tale begins in August 1939, a few days following the signing of the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, otherwise known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The pact came as a shock to the world. Germany and the Soviet Union had spent the best part of a decade at each other's throats, especially Germany. Since the early 1920s, Adolf Hitler had vigorously called for not just the conquest of European Russia, but for its complete resettlement with Germans, a process which (in Hitler's mind) meant the complete extermination of its inhabitants. This hatred between the two states led to them supporting opposing sides during the Spanish Civil War and Soviet support for "Popular Front" governments in Western Europe from the mid-1930s onwards. And yet, here they were. These two, seemingly ideological opposed, totalitarian dictatorships coming together in agreement not to attack one another. The rest of the world was understandably shocked by this sudden and very public volte-face, perhaps none more so than the governments of the United Kingdom and France, they had been negotiating with Moscow for months before Stalin's sudden change of heart. What wasn't publicly announced though were the secret provisions which carved Eastern Europe up between the Germans and the Soviets, provisions which would become very important within the next few months.

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The signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in Moscow, 23 August 1939

In response to the pact, the British government reiterated their commitment to Poland by making their previous declaration of April 1939 official. So, two days after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed, a Polish delegation arrived in London to sign a military alliance with the British government. The signing of the pact took Germen leader Adolf Hitler by surprise, and as such he delayed his planned invasion of Poland from 26 August to 1 September [1].

Among the terms of the Anglo-Polish alliance were promises that both nations would assist one another if attacked by a "European power", although both parties had differing views on what that term meant. The British were keen to add a secret provision to the pact, according to which the phrase "European power" would mean Germany. The Polish were not happy with this and insisted against the secret clause, pointing to their already existing alliance with France which aimed against threats from Germany and the Soviet Union. Eventually the British government relented and the proposed clause was never added [2]. The final agreement was signed by British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax and Polish Ambassador to the United Kingdom Edward Raczyński. The dye was cast.

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Viscount Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

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Edward Raczyński, Polish Ambassador to the United Kingdom.


Footnotes

- [1] Hitler did this OTL as well.
- [2] The POD. In OTL the secret provision was added.

Comments?
 
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So Anglo-French (plus Poland till last) vs Germany and URSS...intersting, well Benny life now as become more complicated
 
WW2 turns really intresting. Not first TL with this unholy alliance but it is always intresting to watch.

So Anglo-French (plus Poland till last) vs Germany and URSS...intersting, well Benny life now as become more complicated

Italy probably not enter to Axis side ITTL since Mussolini can't stand operating with communists. And some pro-Anglo fascists like Balbo gets more influence. But Italy is still going to do somet ricks with Yugoslavia and possibility with Greece.
 
WW2 turns really intresting. Not first TL with this unholy alliance but it is always intresting to watch.



Italy probably not enter to Axis side ITTL since Mussolini can't stand operating with communists. And some pro-Anglo fascists like Balbo gets more influence. But Italy is still going to do somet ricks with Yugoslavia and possibility with Greece.
American diplomats in 1939-1940 devoted a lot of effort to try and get Italy onboard to help mediate a diplomatic end to the conflict. No one could have foreseen the fall of France. One of the main US concerns at that point was most of Europe being divided among Anglo-French and German led trade blocs closed off to US exports. The source for this is Stephen Wertheim's book Tomorrow the World: the Birth of US Global Supremacy. He makes a convincing argument that the Fall of France, not Pearl Harbor, was the big turning point in US grand strategy .
 
Chapter 2 - Shot by Both Sides
Chapter 2 - Shot by Both Sides
Poland

August - September 1939

Of course Germany couldn't just attack Poland out of the blue, that would look far too suspicious. The German leadership was aware of this and took steps to create a believable causes belli. This took place in the form of Operation Himmler, a series of false-flag attacks throughout 1939 in order to present a state of affairs in which Poland was aggressing Germany, rather than the other way round. This Operation culminated on 31 August 1939 in the Gleiwitz incident, a staged attack against the Gleiwitz radio tower led by SS-Sturmbannführer Alfred Naujocks, with the goal of seizing the tower and broadcasting an anti-German propaganda message. In order to make it more believable, 43-year-old Franciszek Honiok was murdered by the SS, dressed up in a Polish uniform and filled with bullet holes to keep up the appearance of Polish aggression.

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SS-Sturmbannführer Alfred Naujocks, the instigator of the Gleiwitz incident

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Franciszek Honiok, the first fatality of the coming war


Needless to say, the rest of the world was not convinced by this Polish “attack”, not that they had much time to react anyway due to the next day’s more dramatic turn of events.

At 04:45 on 1 September 1939, German battleship Schleswig-Holstein fired on the Polish military transport depot at Westerplatte, although some German units had crossed the border even earlier. The first shots had been fired. The war had begun.

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SMS Schleswig-Holstein firing on Westerplatte, September 1939

The response from Britain and France was one of immediate condemnation, and both nations soon delivered ultimatums to Hitler demanding immediate withdrawal from Poland. But Hitler did not withdraw, and as such, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. They were joiuned by the British Dominions of South Africa on 6th and Canada on the 10th. With the exception of the pitiful Saar Offensive, which ended by 16 September, there was no direct aid given to Poland by the Anglo-French Allies. With the Western Allies and Germany now at war, Stalin prepared to fulfil his side of the deal. On 15 September, Molotov and Japanese Ambassador Shigenori Tōgō concluded a ceasefire agreement that ended the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. With any "second front" threat posed to the USSR by Japan now removed, Stalin ordered the Red Army to invade Poland on 17 September.

With the entry of over 800,000 Red Army troops into Poland, the Polish government finally decided that the war in Poland itself was lost. The 25-battalion Korpus Ochrony Pogranicza (Border Protection Corps) was ordered by Rydz-Śmigły to fall back and not engage the Soviets and the rest of the Polish army was evacuated into Romania where it would make its way into France. Meanwhile, in London and Paris, a political storm was taking shape.

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Edward Rydz-Śmigły, General Inspector of the Polish Armed Forces

When the Soviets crossed the border, they acted in violation of the Anglo-Polish and Franco-Polish military alliances, the former of which specifically called for mutual defence against attacks by a "European Power". What that term meant had been left deliberately ambiguous in order to prevent negotiations back in August from breaking down. Now, it had to be decided, was Britain now at Russia as well, or would they leave eastern Poland to Stalin's mercy? After Stalin's invasion began, Polish Ambassador Raczyński meant Foreign Secretary Halifax in order to discover the British government's reaction. In this matter he was told that it would be decided following a meeting of the war cabinet [1].

On the evening of the 17th, the war cabinet met in Downing Street to discuss Russia's intervention in Poland. At first, it seemed that only the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchll, and Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha, who believed that war with the Soviet Union was something to prepare for, with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain advocating restraint in trying to balance out cabinet opinion. Foreign Secretary Halifax brought up the issue of the British guarantee, and whether the term "European Power" included Russia or not. Initially, Chamberlain was sceptical of declaring war on Russia. He hoped that Stalin could eventually be drawn into an alliance with Britain against Hitler, but as the night wore on this view began to wane. Eventually, by 11:00 that night, a decision had been made. Britain would deliver an ultimatum to Stalin the next day just as they had done with Hitler on 2 September. The terms would be almost identical, calling for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Poland by 12:00 on 19 September. If these terms were not met or if no indication was given by the Soviet government that they would be undertaken, then Britain would declare war on the Soviet Union.

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Chamberlin's war cabinet, September 1939
Standing: Sir Kingsley Wood, Winston Churchill, Leslie Hore-Belisha, and Lord Hankey.

Sitting: Viscount Halifax, Sir John Simon, Neville Chamberlain, Sir Samuel Hoare, and Lord Chatfield

The next morning, Chamberlain contacted French Prime Minister Daladier to inform him of the British position. Daladier immediately approved and gave assurances that France would join him in the ultimatum. At 13:30 Moscow time, British Ambassador Sir William Seeds and his French equivalent Paul-Émile Naggiar received important telegrams from their governments containing the terms of the ultimatum and instructions to deliver them immediately. Later that afternoon, both men met with Molotov to deliver the terms. The meeting between the three men was brief but formal, and the ambassadors soon departed to pack their belongings and leave Moscow for their home countries.

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Sir William Seeds, British Ambassador to the Soviet Union

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Vyacheslav Molotov, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union

The ultimatum was delivered to promptly delivered to Stalin. Upon reading the terms, he was quite surprised by the actions of the British and French governments. He had no war plans specifically against them, and the Anglo-French Allies had no real means of fighting him either. He instructed Molotov to ignore the ultimatum. As the deadline rolled around, no announcement from Moscow was received. Chamberlain announced on the BBC on 19 September 1939 at 18:00 that the United Kingdom was now at war with the Soviet Union. The French government made similar announcements at the same time. Whilst the Allies had just enhanced their images as the protectors of freedom against totalitarianism, the war had just moved into a new phase. Soon, its true magnitude would show.

Meanwhile, back in Poland, the military situation continued to deteriorate. Despite order's not to engage, the Poles and Soviets fought each other on many occasions, such as the Battle of Grodno and the Soviets executed numerous Polish officers and POWs. By 28 September, the Soviets were encountering German units advancing from the west. Poland was now completely defeated. The last defenders on the Hel Peninsula held out until surrendering on 2 October whilst the last major Polish units to surrender were General Kleeberg's forces following the Battle of Kock on 6 October. The Polish campaign was now over. The world was dividing into two camps with the British and French in one camp, and what appeared to be a quickly-emerging German-Soviet alliance in the other.

Footnotes
- [1] In OTL, Raczyński was rebuffed and told that any decision to go to war with Russia would be Britain's alone.

Announcement
I have been uploading quite eagerly over the last couple of days. The writing of this timeline won't continue at this same speed however. I do need to concentrate on my studies as my primary focus, so I will be slowing the pace down to one new update per week as my goal from here on in.

Comments?
 
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Thanks for the appreciation guys, it really helps. I will try to update this timeline weekly, but when studying for exams anything could happen.
 
So I take it that Italy dissolves the Pact of Steel with Germany, and the Rome-Berlin Axis is no more.

So what is everyone calling the Nazi-Soviet Bloc?
 
So I take it that Italy dissolves the Pact of Steel with Germany, and the Rome-Berlin Axis is no more.

So what is everyone calling the Nazi-Soviet Bloc?

I think too that Berlin-Rome Axis is dead at this point and probably Mussolini gives statement over the pact soon.

Probably there is not official name for German-Soviet alliance snce them have not official military alliance. Perhaps they are just called as Axis.

Things on Pacific will be intresting depending if France falls or not. And just wondering how this changes Japanese policy. Would it still be in alliance with Germany? And how this will affect to USA? It might enter to WW2 but not sure if there is still Pearl Harbor so there should be different Casu Belli. Perhaps Germans sink some American lend-lease ships to Britain.
 
Then you also have the status of the Anti-Comintern Pact, with members of Italy, Hungary, Spain and Japan(along with their puppet, Manchukuo)
 
Italy probably not enter to Axis side ITTL since Mussolini can't stand operating with communists.
Mussolini didn't actually believe the USSR was a Communist society - in his view the Russian Revolution was a failure and thus no threat to capitalism, and advised Hitler not to invade Russia on that basis in their correspondence. The anti-Communism of Italian Fascism was mainly directed inwards, towards the Italian leftist enemy within, rather than outward towards the Soviet Union itself - which is why Mussolini gave diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union shortly after coming to power. Soviet-Italian relations were generally cordial until the invasion of Ethiopia, when the Soviets joined other League of Nations powers in applying sanctions.

Italy has no territorial quarrels with Russia, and would never have come to blows with them without their alliance with Nazi Germany - nearly all of Italy's territorial ambitions lie in the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East - and joining a Soviet-German pact is the surest way to get at them, barring a highly unlikely amount of territorial bribery from the UK and France.
 
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Interesting premise. The introduction seems to imply that the German-Soviet Alliance won and there are about to kill each other. Watched.
 
Mussolini didn't actually believe the USSR was a Communist society - in his view the Russian Revolution was a failure and thus no threat to capitalism, and advised Hitler not to invade Russia on that basis in their correspondence. The anti-Communism of Italian Fascism was mainly directed inwards, towards the Italian leftist enemy within, rather than outward towards the Soviet Union itself - which is why Mussolini gave diplomatic recognition to the Soviet Union shortly after coming to power. Soviet-Italian relations were generally cordial until the invasion of Ethiopia, when the Soviets joined other League of Nations powers in applying sanctions.

Italy has no territorial quarrels with Russia, and would never have come to blows with them without their alliance with Nazi Germany - nearly all of Italy's territorial ambitions lie in the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East - and joining a Soviet-German pact is the surest way to get at them, barring a highly unlikely amount of territorial bribery from the UK and France.
Having decent diplomatic relations and trading with the URSS (especially when you need money) is way different than being ok to ally with her in the military sense in a war and both the King and the conservative that support him plus the army and a lot of the fascist will have a stroke or will make sure that Benny had a stroke in case of a military alliance with Stalin. Yes OTL there were talk of the URSS joining the Axis but in that moment Italy was already in the war and it was not the splendind little adventure that Benny believed so...well beggar can't chose.
Not only that, but both Stalin and Mussolini eyes the same zone of influence in the balkans (and there is already th competition of Berlin in that) and the ME and Balbo will have plenty to ammunition in pointing that with the URSS in the alliance Italy will soon reduced to the importance level of a second spare tire... so no, fascist Italy will be very eager to join the Commu-nazi
 
For Germany would be better when Italy become neutral. So no war with jugoslawia and complete concentration of all armies against France.

But is more important what this mean for the German population and the occupied polish peoples and the jews.

The nazis say the Germans for 7 years and more than Stalin is the devil and and now he is a allied or a good friend?
No one believe this.
 
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