While the Allied forces during World War 2 eventually won the war, they made many considerable mistakes along the way. Rarely do we remember or care about the mistakes of the victors, but valuable lessons can be gleaned from them nevertheless. From the policy of appeasement to dropping the ball at Dunkirk to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Allies were clearly not perfect and made plenty of mistakes along the road to victory. So, what were they? Well, get ready to go back in time, here are 25 Mistakes The Allies Made In World War 2.
The Failure of Appeasement
In the pre-war period of World War 2, Britain and France took on a policy of appeasement to stave off war. Knowing the European democracies didn’t want war, Hitler pushed their limits to see how much he could get away with. This policy became notorious when English Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Hitler at Berchtesgaden and, without consulting the Czech government, essentially gave Hitler all of the Sudetenland. He came back to England declaring “Peace in our time,” but only made things worse. Hitler eventually dismembered all of Czechoslovakia.
Underestimating the Japanese
American racists’ beliefs about the Japanese were a big reason they weren’t ready for them before Pearl Harbor. American magazines and newspapers considered them inept, technologically backward, and “funny” people. They also thought they were physiologically incapable of being good aviators and that their inner ear was askew because their big sisters would bounce them around on their back.
Failure to Anticipate the German Blitz
Despite clear signs that Hitler was about to invade France through the Ardennes, France, and other Allied leaders totally ignored them, not believing Hitler would do it. Failure to anticipate Hitler’s actions led to one of the most devastating military defeats in the 20th century with Hitler unleashing a panzer offensive known as the blitzkrieg. Seven weeks later, Hitler toured Paris for the first time, taking a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower. To spite them, he forced France to surrender in the same carriage that Germany surrendered 22 years before.
The Failure to Attack Germany after They Invaded Poland
England and France assured Poland they would be protected if invaded, yet on September 1st, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and decimated their military with more than 2,000 tanks and 1,000 planes. Within 27 days, Warsaw surrendered. While England and France declared war on Germany in retaliation, they effectively did nothing afterward. The declaration was meaningless, and Poland ultimately remained occupied by Nazi forces until 1945.
Seizing the Initiative at Anzio
On January 22, 1944, British and American troops carried out an amphibious landing on the shores of Italy near Anzio and Nettuno. The German resistance was so light they were able to complete many of their objectives early, moving four miles inland that night. Clearly, the Germans were not ready for the invasion. However, rather than taking the initiative and moving further in toward Rome, the Allies waited and prepared. This proved costly and allowed the German commanders to prepare and lead a much more effective assault, resulting in four months of some of the bloodiest fighting in the war.
Churchill Sending Troops to Greece
In October 1940, Mussolini sent troops into Greece, triggering a wider-ranging conflict. While the Greeks pushed Mussolini back themselves, the Germans signaled invasion. Churchill, not wanting to lose Greek independence, offered assistance and sent Australian and New Zealander troops from Egypt. The German invasion totally overwhelmed Greek and British forces, and poor communication and bad infrastructure didn’t help. 50,000 British troops evacuated, leaving all their equipment behind, while 3,700 British and 15,000 Greek soldiers were killed. Churchill later admitted the decision was an error.Ike’s Early Errors.
Ike’s Early Errors
While General Eisenhower became one of the greatest leaders in World War 2, his early start in the war was met with many errors, including logistical messes, poor cooperation between English-American militaries, and failure to lead in combat operations. His British contemporary Field Marshal Alan Brooke was increasingly frustrated and critical of Eisenhower at this time, saying, “Nice chap, no general.”
Slow Development of Atomic Research
Albert Einstein wrote a letter to FDR in 1939, warning him about the dangers of uranium enrichment and how it could potentially be used as a bomb by the Germans. The Germans had discovered it and already had a head start. FDR responded cautiously, developing a committee to research the matter further, but the order to build an atomic bomb didn’t come until 1941. If the Germans hadn’t lost their physicists, many of them Jewish, and taken the gamble to develop the project further, it would have been too late, and they would have easily won World War 2.
No French Flanking During the German Blitzkrieg
Not only did the French fail to anticipate the German blitzkrieg strategy, their army was entirely disorganized and unprepared to counter it effectively. Blitzkrieg is severely vulnerable to counter-attacks and flanking. If the French had developed early flanking defenses like the Russians had, they wouldn’t have been conquered so easily.
Speaking of Omaha Beach, its invasion by Allied forces was not without serious problems. The Navy launched their landing crafts too far out at choppy sea, resulting in capsized vessels and extensive loss of men and equipment. In addition, the airborne fleet failed in its objective, leaving invading troops to be vulnerable, forcing them to hide behind the bodies of fallen comrades. Fortunately for the Allied forces, the Germans also made their fair share of mistakes.
While Dunkirk turned out to be a success story, rescuing hundreds of thousands of British soldiers from enemy territory, it was also a massive military disaster that almost left England defenseless and without an infantry. The 400,000 British troops stationed in Belgium were there to fight off the German invasion, but instead, they were left surrounded and practically powerless. Poor-planning, intelligence, and leadership put them in the awful Dunkirk situation. If Hitler had destroyed and captured the British men there, things may have turned out differently in the war.
Intelligence Failure of Pearl Harbor
Outside of racist assumptions about the people of Japan, the United States intelligence about the military capabilities of Japan was horribly out of date due to Japan’s intense secrecy and the US not having deep contacts on the ground. For instance, the US thought they lacked the fuel capacity to bring them in range of Pearl Harbor, that their torpedoes wouldn’t be ineffective in Pearl Harbor’s shallow waters, and that their airplanes were copies from other military forces.
Operation Market Garden
The brainchild of General Bernard Montgomery, Operation Market Garden was a massive operation that could have not only ended the war but drastically changed the European landscape, keeping the Soviets from taking over Berlin. The operation involved a narrow thrust into German lines rather than a wide offensive. For a time, it looked like the Allied forces victory was within grasp, but when they reached the route to Arnhem, everything fell apart, thousands were killed, and their troops were forced to retreat.
Not Fighting the Soviets
This one is definitely the most controversial. When Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allied forces, both General Patton and Winston Churchill already had their eyes set on the Soviet Union, fearing their growing dominance. Churchill had his war cabinet come up with intelligence and a plan to potentially strike against Soviet forces in Eastern Europe and drive them back. It was called Operation Unthinkable. The outlook, unfortunately, was not good. His cabinet told him the Soviets would likely bombard the UK with missiles and other advanced weaponry, so Churchill backed off and so did the Allies. The Iron Curtain fell quickly, allowing for a long, tense Cold War. Perhaps that was their greatest mistake?