The Second World War in Europe 1939–1945 Part IV

The Second World War in Europe 1939–1945 Part IV

In the likewise intensified trade war (August 1940 to June 1941) 5.1 million GRT were sunk. However, the number of German submarines was too small to seriously endanger the access routes across the Atlantic from the newly won bases in western France. To strengthen the escort, Great Britain received 50 destroyers from the USA in September 1940 against the leasing of bases in Newfoundland, the Caribbean and the western Atlantic. The battleship “Bismarck”, which set out for the trade war in May 1941 with the heavy cruiser “Prinz Eugen”, was sunk by British destroyers in the Atlantic on May 27th after the British battlecruiser “Hood” was eliminated (May 24, 1941).

The consolidation of German rule on the continent and the continued expansion of the German fleet meant, in the medium term, a threat to the sea connections through the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea to the dominions and colonies, which are vital for supplying Great Britain, and which had to be fought off; they were also a global challenge to British power. However, as a result of its isolation as a belligerent power – after the defeat of France – Britain found itself condemned to the defensive in the summer of 1940.

Meanwhile, the USA, which had lifted the arms embargo with the cash-and-carry clause (November 4, 1939), gave Great Britain more and more sustainable support. After the defeat of France and the second re-election of F. D. Roosevelt as president (November 1940), the transition from “partisan neutrality” to “undeclared war” took place on the part of the USA, which saw itself as the “arsenal of democracies”. On March 11, 1941, the President was authorized by the Lend-Lease-System to support those states with war material and supplies that he considered vital for the defense of the USA. The bulk of this aid totaling around US $ 50 billion went to the UK.

According to, Hitler’s strategic plans: As it became increasingly clear that Roosevelt considered a confrontation with Germany and Japan to be inevitable because of the threat to the strategic, economic and ideal interests of the USA, the “America factor” became more and more important with regard to the realization of Hitler’s goals. In the autumn of 1940 the plan developed by Foreign Minister J. von Ribbentrop and only reluctantly accepted by Hitler came to the fore to build such a powerful position by forming a “continental bloc” from Spain to Japan (including the USSR) that Great Britain surrendered and the USA would withdraw politically to the American double continent.

However, the wide-ranging political combination was only partially successful. It is true that Germany concluded a three-power pact with Japan and Italy on September 27, 1940, which provided for the partners to enter the war if one of them were attacked by the USA; but at the instigation of Japan, the automatic alliance was lifted in a secret exchange of notes with Germany. Also, Spain and the Vichy regime in France could not be included in the alliance grouping. The USSR was quite ready to join a “four-power pact”; H. to a strategic partnership on an equal basis with further territorial concessions by Hitler, for whose concrete offers Stalin waited as in the previous year. The Soviet head of government Molotov presented during his visit to Berlin on 12./13. 11. 1940 far-reaching conditions (including inclusion of Bulgaria in the Soviet security zone, bases on the Turkish straits) and long-term goals (control of the Baltic Sea exits, inclusion of Yugoslavia, Greece and western Poland in the Soviet sphere of interest). Hitler was not ready for a serious dialogue and had already developed an improvised overall war plan for 1941 in the late autumn of 1940. This was based on the knowledge he had gained in the summer that time was working against him and that his goals could only be achieved if Great Britain and the USA were to lose their last “continental sword” by smashing the USSR. As early as July 1940, he had therefore decided to bring forward the attack on the Soviet Union as the centerpiece of his imperial world power plans. In addition to the associated broadening of its own strategic and economic base, Hitler saw in the simultaneous upgrading of Japan the possibility of deterring the USA from further engagement in the Atlantic because of a threatening two-ocean war. The overall war plan looked like a blitzkrieg against the USSR, combined with the realization of Hitler’s racial goals, a forceps operation before: across the Caucasus to Iran, from Bulgaria to Syria and Iraq and from Libya to Palestine; After the establishment of a German base in Afghanistan, an advance was to take place on British India, parallel to this an advance by Japan to the south, in order to threaten India from the east after the conquest of Singapore; after all, after the conquest of Gibraltar, a German bastion was to be built in northwest Africa for a possible conflict with the USA. Since Spain finally refused to participate in an attack on Gibraltar in December of the same year after a meeting between Hitler and F. Franco Bahamonde on October 23, 1940 in Hendaye, France, Hitler abandoned a corresponding plan.

The Second World War in Europe 4

Comments are closed.