WI: Germany didn't restart unrestricted submarine warfare? (alternatives to Kaiserreich)

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Goweegie2, May 10, 2019.

  1. Goweegie2 Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2016
    Location:
    Upper Michigan
    What would've really happened if Germany didn't reinstitute unrestricted submarine warfare? Yes, we all know the Kaiserreich version of events, but KR is slightly steered in favor of a Pax Germanica, so I'm wondering what would happen if that steering wasn't there
     
  2. KingOnTheEdge Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2019
    Peace Without Victory. The Entente was down a member and France was unlikely to make it much longer, so they and Britain likely would have called for peace within six months. Germany would hold power from the defeat of Russia, but it was dragged down by its allies and Britain and France would likely still dismantle Austria and the Ottomans as much as possible.
     
  3. cjc Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2016
    Well for one whith out American economic assistance it's very unlikely France would servive pass 1918 and Italy not long after, and unlike ither ww2 of the Napoleonic war brition will gave badly lost on the continent, so bad in fact I have a hard time seeing thim much interested in continuing the war at all cost.
     
  4. Germaniac Gazi Pasha

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2008
    Location:
    New Jersey
    It really depends on what financial institutions in the USA do. If they are still unwilling to back unsecured loans to Britain and France then its only a matter of months before both are unable to continue prosecuting the war. The Central Powers still face the same growing issue, the Balkans. The Macedonian front was not going to get any better unless significant resources were devoted there and if the Entente breaks through there Germany will still face the fears of an Austrian collapse.

    If they can forestall a collapse there I tend to feel Germany could have held on long enough to force the West to come to the table. I disagree however with the "Peace without victory" since any ending of the war following Russia's collapse will be a German Victory even if nothing changes in the west.
     
  5. matzeskatze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    I think before the Balkans become that, the question is how Russia acts in these new circumstances. Afaik they held on as long as OTL, because they hoped that they get a good deal with the entry of the USA. Here that will be much different. My prediction is that they seek peace faster and the CP are able to pull back earlier. Saving them all the OTL hassle from later on.

    Another point for the CP is that the USA is very unlikely to strangle them circumventing the Blockade by Neutrals. Maybe in this case, the Entente running out and Germany still sitting on colateral entices the USA to demand free trade with Neutrals... that is then transshiped to Germany.

    So we could find that the CP has some reserves to spare for the Balkan and also Italy. Could we see another domino falling with Italy as the Entente is strugeling to find new money and resources to sustain their economy and reshuffles their whole transportation arangement in the Atlantic as the USA drasticaly cut back.
     
  6. Germaniac Gazi Pasha

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2008
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Once Hindenburg and Ludendorf are in charge there wont be peace until Russia hands over Ober Ost. Russia is still going to be as reluctant as OTL, however the Communists may be willing to accept the original offer this time.
     
  7. matzeskatze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    Possible, but remember that the arrea was mostly in the Baltics and Poland. So Russia would loose nothing from its "core". Also important to remember, in the first round of talks in Brest-Litowsk, the Russians were treated as a fully empowered side. So they were able to talk and influence the proceedings. (Something the "look at Breast-Litowsk" faction seems to forget sometimes...)
    Another point is that the civil side still had massive influence at this point. So the whole military silent dictatorship is not yet in power.

    On the other hand, rather then OTLs holding on, I think we will see a Russia shaken by the Febuary Revolution trying to keep together and talk earlier. Because the very important carrot of money and help that the USA represented may not be there. So what is holding the Russians in for as long as OTL?

    OTL Russia was so reluctant for talks and in them, because first the USA entered and promised massive material and monetary gains. And second the Bolsheviks were a very driving force in how the first part of the talks was handled. So I think we have a good chance to see talks begin before the OTL date and be handled not withg the "World Reovlution" in mind.
     
  8. Michele Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    I agree with your assessment of the importance of loans from a neutral USA, but the real growing issue the Central Powers were facing was malnutrition.

    Nobody here has yet mentioned the uncomfortable detail that while the U-Boote were trying to blockade Britain and France, the Central Powers were blockaded in turn. As Beatty put it (or words to this effect): "The issue is whether the enemy will blockade us to our knees, or we do that first to them".

    The resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare was not made on a Kaiserlich whim. The proponent, von Holtzendorff, introduced his memo by stating that failing that, war would probably result in "mutual exhaustion" and therefore in a "disaster" - for Germany. The decision to resume unrestricted submarine warfare was taken in February 1917 - i.e., at the end of the "winter of the turnips". Enough said.

    So it is somewhat surprising that, considering what the admiral thought, nobody in this thread seems to have even vaguely considered that there might be some adverse effects for the Central Powers.
     
  9. matzeskatze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    Maybe you could point out some of these adverse effects for the CP? Because as I see it, without antagonising the USA they will be much less willing to strangle German trade through neutral countries and as such Germany overall should be able to better (at least against OTL) weather 1917 and comming.

    On the other hand, as opposit to the CP self reliance forced by the Blockade, the Entente was running out of colateral for loans and buying. So they also will face a worsening of their supply situation.

    And as such I think the Germans could have relatively the same impact with a "sharpend" U-Boot use that is not in the face of the neutrals. Because the British will have to prioritise what they do for a chance in this war. Alos add to that that the Russians are Imo more likely to tap out without the USA in, that would free up a large amount of manpower to feed into the various other needs of the CP.
     
  10. Alcsentre Calanice Our Equivalent of Click Bait

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2014
    Location:
    Mimigernaford, Transrhenian Republic
    I agree with you on the malnutrition point, but if it didn't bring Germany to its knees in OTL, it won't ITTL. The German civilian population will suffer, but German propaganda will direct their anger at Great Britain, and rationing will be organized better and better, soon to improve the overall situation. Furthermore, as long as the German troops are winning on the ground (holding in the west, advancing in the east), there's some hope the population can cling to even in the worst moments.

    Anyway, the situation is bound to improve in 1919 (if the Ukraine is occupied in 1917/18) by exploiting the eastern occupied territories and shipping their resources west.
     
  11. Michele Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    The British and the French can import food, ammunition, explosives unhindered, while the German and the Austro-Hungarian civilians keep eating turnips and wild fruits. I think I already mentioned this, and von Holtzendorff seems to have noticed it.

    Of course, as mentioned, that depends on the US continuing to provide iffy loans. That's not a given at all, but it's not to be ruled out either.
     
  12. Michele Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Save that in OTL it did. Well, not directly to its knees in the spring of 1917 (though certainly so by the fall of 1918), but it brought it to consider a desperate measure. Again, why do you think the Germans decided they had to resume with unrestricted submarine warfare? For a thread that hypothesizes "let's not do A", I find very little thought seems to be spent on "why did we decide to do A in the first place, again?"
     
    HelloThere, Goldkingy and Arcavius like this.
  13. matzeskatze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    The first point is right to a degree, as you yourself acknowlege. And I think the loans will dry up to a big degree as the Entente is unable to secure them. And as all other loans until now were secure, the "fear" of the Entente loosing is Imo often overblown. At least if the bankers valued the securities in a real way. Otherwise all is open, but would the USA at this time hurry to secure them?
    On the other hand, I think you paint the situation in the CPs a bit too black, yes the winter of 16/17 was very bad, but afaik it got better after that and in this TL, if the USA is not entering the situation should improve over the OTL one. Still bad, but not as bad as OTL or the winter.
    And lastly von Holtzendorff is a good example of what Germany knew or did not know. So it is Imo possible, that someone with its ear on the ground could point out that the USA are likely to enter and all that that would entail. Not only the military stuff but everything else, too.

    For me, there is a multitude of possible explanations as to why not to restart USW. Maybe Falkenhayn on his way out could still influence the Kaiser / Governement to not do it. Maybe a bureaucrate has compelling arguments because he tracked the volume of trade the Entenete did and calculated the monetary burden it would place on them. Could also happen in the USA directly by diplomatic staff. Or maybe Hindenburg and Ludendorff affront the Kaiser somehow and he sells them short on their ideas.
     
  14. Alcsentre Calanice Our Equivalent of Click Bait

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2014
    Location:
    Mimigernaford, Transrhenian Republic
    Where I don't follow you is in the necessary link you make between the blockade and the unrestricted submarine warfare.

    If I understand you correctly you claim that the situation in Germany caused by the blockade was so dire that the Germans so no other remedy than to resume the unrestricted submarine warfare. However, this move was negative in essence - it would hurt Britain, but it wouldn't alleviate Germany's suffering. Basically there was hope that Britain would fold within six month, but there was no hope to break the blockade using u-boats.

    So ITTL the Germans narrowly avoid resuming the unrestricted submarine warfare and, of course, don't send the Zimmermann Telegram. The US don't enter the war. The nutrition situation in Germany is bad, but it's not worse than in OTL. Britain has more resources to carry on the fight, but the Allies as a whole lack the American resources. Germany will not give up, even though the consequences for the German population will be terrible (and worse for the inhabitants of the occupied regions). Still, I predict a certain redressement after Germany starts to exploit the resources of former Russian possessions (at the expense of local populations), which might begin in 1919.

    After a period of defense and consolidation I could see German offensives in the West and South resume in 1920, quickly followed by an Allied demand for a negotiated peace.
     
  15. Susie McCallister Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2018
    In many of the other threads on similar subjects, I've often seen it said that without the threat of massive American reinforcements, Germany would be able to better plan and execute the Spring Offensive.
     
  16. The Undead Martyr GOP Delenda Est

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2013
    Location:
    south of the (Canadian) border
    The problem is more that USW happened as a consequence of the starvation. Something needs to change in the context of the war and/or the broad er context of the German political scene for USW not to be resumed (something else that needs to be noted- Hermwny had done USW once before, it was not done a second time on a whim, the turnip winter already being mentioned).

    Realistically this probably means changing the broader context of the war such that 1916 is wholly different- say Italian neutrality or the British blockade being weaker somehow due to naval differences.
     
  17. Mikestone8 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2010
    Location:
    Peterborough, UK.
    Because there's no particular mystery about it.

    In Dec 1916 both the Russian Revolution and the French army mutinies were still in the future. There was no immediate sign of the Entente weakening. Add to this that next year the British Army will be more seasoned and battle-hardened, while the Russian one is getting better armed and equipped, and 1917 promised to be a rerun of 1916 - only worse - and Germany had made heavy weather even of getting through 1916.

    In short, as far as anyone in Berlin could see, Germany looked to be heading for military defeat sometime in the new year - unless something turned up. And at this point the Navy came along and offered a something in the shape of USW. In these circs, even top Germans who had doubts about it were desperate enough to try anything. There is no indication that they worried particularly about starvation. They expected the war to end - one way or the other - in 1917, before that could become a serious threat, if indeed it ever did.


    Simplest way might be if President Wilson (or a President Marshall or President-elect Hughes) makes a speech declaring that he killing by U-boats of Americans travelling on unarmed ships will lead to war - a broad hint that armed ships are fair game. Germany could then have declared USW against armed ships only. Since by this date most British merchantmen were either armed or in process of being, this would in practice differ little from full-blown USW as far as they were concerned - and the US would have swallowed it. Indeed, President Wilson had tacitly already done so, taking no action over the sinking of the armed merchantmen Marina and Arabia. But he never made the change explicit as it represented a backtracking from his earlier notes.
     
  18. Ian_W Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2015
    The problem with this is it forces a submarine to get close enough to tell if a ship is unarmed - which will cause losses from British Q-ships.
     
  19. Mikestone8 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2010
    Location:
    Peterborough, UK.
    Not much of a problem when virtually all British vessels are armed anyway.
     
  20. matzeskatze Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2013
    Can be sure. But I think there was enough discussion in OTL about the resumption of USW that it could have happend either way with little groundwork. As said, maybe keep Falkenhayn in a little longer while also getting some economic prognosis in from what the Entente is doing. I do not think that that would break the course of OTL until then and is also a little nudge as to way USW is not done. Another point, I do not think that the economic data has to be accurate either, simply show a trend and approximation cost, colateral and usage that points to somewhere in 1917 reaching the bottom.

    I don't think Wilson would go for that, the others maybe. On the other hand, what will happen when the Germans "wise up" and show pictures of British vessels flying the Stars and Stripes? Because if the British are caught red handed, Germany could realisticaly try to shift some blame to them. Would Imo also further the rising USA annoyance with the blockade of neutrals that was going on.