From: South Carolina, USA
October 17th, 1938
Baldwin Hanson, Military analyst, New York Tribune
We previously wrote of our theories on the Axis motivation to turn to arms. The rise of the large states, the USA and USSR, threatened Germans and Japanese with relegation to second class powers. Both felt the need to bulk up for a coming world of larger powers. German needed to take control of Europe, challenging the French and British and incorporating the smaller European nations. Japan needed to make real progress in China.
Let us examine what the Axis has achieved on meeting these goals. The capitulation of the Low Countries served both Germany and Japan, as Germany gave Japan control of the Dutch East Indies. This step allowed Japan to mechanize their Army and actively use the Navy. The Germans were immediately challenged by the Soviet Union which grabbed Poland. The threat this Soviet coup brought to eastern Germany caused a declaration of war on the Soviets. There was a brief peace, but the Soviets made an alliance with the Franco-British block. This meant a stop to German growth unless they were willing to fight all three powers in a two front war. This option was anathema but Germany felt it had no choice and now has a war against all three. All of western and northern France are controlled by the Germans. Paris has fallen. However France has not surrendered and her Army is entrenched in the South. The French Navy is active. Germany has a difficult task in reducing the position of France on the Continent. Britain is massed in Egypt to rob Italy of her possessions in Africa.
First let's look at Germany. Czechoslovakia, much of Poland, Holland, Belgium, Hungary, and Austria have all become the Greater Germany. Italy is a friendly ally, a non-belligerent with volunteers in combat, much as in the Spanish Civil War. Some blustering in Italy leads us to believe they might join active belligerency soon. This position is an improvement on the German State in 1937, but Germany is at war with mighty enemies. Great Britain is dominant at sea despite some pesky raiders in the South. Britain and the Commonwealth are surely supplying France through Marseilles. Germany cannot presently interdict this supply although Italy probably could. Far across the Atlantic another English speaking nation seems increasingly concerned with the war news. An entry of the USA in the lists would be a real blow to Germany. In the East the powerful troops of the Soviet Union are fighting daily in western Poland. Bringing the USSR to the peace table will be extremely difficult. Stalin has been assertive, even aggressive from the beginning and the nation is ramping up recruitment and production. As Napoleon found out this country is a horror to invade. Germany has limited resources and time is not on her side. Has the script for this war already been written as a German defeat?
What must Germany do to win, to survive this gamble? First she must practice tactical and operational excellence. She seems to be doing well on the task. Her troops seem to defeat larger enemy forces when confronted. This is necessary, but not sufficient. It is early in the war and as all troops become more experienced the German edge will become less. German equipment is good, but not great. The French B1-bis tank was a monster to fight against. The Soviet BT-7 series show promise. There are many fine weapon designers in the world, and enemy nations have massive production facilities coming on line. Germany cannot afford any weapon choice errors. She must make the best allocation of resources to air, armor, artillery, and naval needs. Missing from this list are the manpower intensive forces. Germany does not have the manpower of her larger enemies. Her men must have the best weapons with will probably mean mechanization and armoring, rather than leg infantry. Horses must be replaced with motor transport. This will expose another German shortage, that of POL. Capture of fuel resources will be necessary. Germany must start to take Soviet cities and resources. This will reduce the strength of the USSR and increase German potential. The German economy must be optimized for an economic war. They need panzers, and armor factories, both. The Soviets must be reduced in power. The East Front must be well in hand before America enters the war.
What must Japan do to win? Japan is at war with China. She must not engage any new enemies till they attack her. As Germany must reduce the USSR, so must Japan reduce China. Japan has not yet succeeded in reducing Chinese production. This must happen soon as China is stronger than she looks. The Japanese manpower issues have encouraged them to build high value / low manpower units. Currently this results in divisions of Chi-Ha tanks debarking from transport in China each month. The Chinese terrain is hardly "tank country" but the Chi-Ha seem durable. Rifle units are not. Japan's economy is growing very slowly. She needs the production for war fighting strength in China, but the IJN is desperate to research more potent aircraft. The carrier air strikes reveal a real weakness here. If Japan is ever in a contest with the American fleets she will need real investment in her navy, but just now the Army controls production.
The Axis is challenged now, but the future brings huge new challenges. A whole new world is heading into the fray. Two small nations will probably be faced in combat with three "super" powers.