Operation Unthinkable

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Invicta, Dec 9, 2008.

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  1. I was watching the latest episode of the excellent BBC2 series regarding the behind the scenes political scheming that went on between the Allies and Stalin; and Op Unthinkable was mentioned.

    It turns out that Churchill, alarmed by the way Stalin was acting in the areas 'liberated' by the Red Army (Poland in particular), asked the Chiefs of Staff to draw up initial plans for an allied attack into eastern europe.

    The CoS came back with a draft plan and a recommendation that it not be put into effect, unless the Soviet Army showed signs of heading west again. I should imagine Field Marshal Alan Brooke having visions of another conversation that began "it's NOT a good idea PM..."

    Anyway, for those interested heres a link to a website with scanned copies of hte original typed document dated June 1945.

  2. Not arf, I've heard some duff ideas in my time but that one is plain bonkers, too much brandy at breakfast PM! Mind you once we had nukes & before the reds did would have been a different tale...
  3. A good chose of codename! A guess that one was quite selected at random!?

    What's the title of this BBC documentary series? Sounds like one I should hunt down on DVD when available. This is the sort stuff they should put on BBC America rather than endless repeats of Ramsey and Dragons' Den.
  4. I think it'd be wrong to criticise Churchill - he was politically almost completely alone in his suspicions of the Soviets, and yet - once again - he turned out to be completely right. Look how far off the mark the Americans were. With "Op Unthinkable" I think Churchill was simply trying to frame a contingency in the event that the Soviets failed to stop at the Elbe - a very real possibility given the openly hostile stance they were taking and Stalin's strategic intent to occupy as much of Europe as he could get away with. Revisionists already criticise Churchill/Britain for acquiescing to the fate of Poland/ the Cossacks & white Russians/ the Baltic states/ etc, etc - but the only alternative in each case would have been war with Russia.
  5. BuggerAll

    BuggerAll LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    I did not read through all of the pages of UNTHINKABLE but the pages I read did not mention the possibility of Atomic weapons. I wonder if that is because the planners where unaware of them or because they did not believe that they would be effective.

    I don't know whether its just as well - in that if they had had nukes they might have been inclined to use them, or would it ahve been a good thing if they had used them?
  6. Its interesting to speculate how things would have turned out if the Allies had had to go straight into war against the Russians, somewhere between the Rhine and the Elbe. Although it was quite a real possibility at the time, I'm not aware that anyone has tried to write a "what if" alternate history.

    Whilst the Russians had overwhelming numerical superiority in men, armour & artillery, contemporary accounts indicate that they were fairly worn out by VE day. Evenso, I could see the Allies being initially driven back into France. I would guess that the Allies would be able to win the air war by virtue of superior fighter aircraft and C2, and that this would then allow the tactical use of the vast bomber fleets available - including B29s released after VJ day.

    Use of Allied nukes against Soviet armoured formations would have been inevitable, given the fact that nukes were just viewed as a very big conventional bomb at that time. Unfortunately, with Stalin's spies already having passed over all of the nuclear technology, it would have been quite a short period of time before the Soviets were able to reply in kind. The Allies would probably have had no option but to try and nuke the Soviet regime out of existence by targeting Moscow and the other political centres.
  7. Who knows... But the planners for the invasion of the Japanese Home Islands we kept unaware of the existence of atomic weapons due to secrecy.
  8. At the very end German weapons were kept close to the prisoners in case they had to be rearmed if Ivan kept heading west, so it was uppermost in people's minds as a possibility.
    Churchill was very aware that the UK was at the end of it's tether in terms of manpower, as units were being broken up to provide reinforcements for other units. So I doubt that this was more than a contingency plan, in which case he was foresighted. Amongst the Spams only Patton stood out as being anti-Sov, and was quite vocal about it, claiming that we ought to take them on now rather than later.
    Ivan was pretty much exhausted too but they would have had enough for one big push left, though their supply chain depended to a large extent on US Lend-Lease transport and the 6x6 truck, so they would have been deficient there.
    Did we have any more Atomic weapons after using the first two? I think they were few and far between and so any Allied victory would have depended on conventional airpower.
  9. The interweb has all the info on avaliability of atomic weapons but they were, or there was a plan that they would be, manufactured as enough fissionable material became avaliable. Had the second one (implosion type) not brought about the downfall of Japan then there were two schools of thought. Drop them as they became avaliable or wait until there were number of them and welly the place. Luckily the second one did the job.

    So more atomic weapons would have been avaliable had they been needed

    edit for speeling & grammar
  10. Oak Ridge home of the worlds first bomb assembly line.
    Once the both bombs were successfully detonated in anger, the green light was given to build enough bombs to ensure that no country could defeat the USA. Remember despite traitors, giving Uncle Joe enough information to duplicate their research. The Soviets still took four years to produce JOE 1.

    Beria set numerous teams on the same goal without sharing the Western information. But back to the Operation, As good as the Red army was, the combined efforts of the Allied armies would have delayed/blunted or sickened the Red Army into stalemate. Given enough time the Tactical Air Force would have been able to drop enough bombs to cause the Soviets to consider a ceasefire.
  11. With or without Atomic weapons, as has been mentioned, the Commonwealth and Britain in particular would never have been able to find the manpower required.

    The Commonwealth had parity with the US in terms of men in the field at the time of D-Day. This didn't last long. A constant factor in nearly all commentaries is that as we ran out of men, the US increased their strength.

    I think that factor combined with the disillusionment at home and in the fighting forces caused by a continuation of war, plus arming our former enemies (especially as the truth about their regime was now fairly widely known), would have caused a near mutiny on all fronts.

    Britain was virtually bankrupt too. The war ending when it did permitted a chance of economic recovery. That would have been lost.

    All in all, the military ability (or not) to continue against a new enemy was rightly side-lined for mainly political reasons.

    What might have been better in retrospect, would have been to treat with German dissidents when the Allies reached the Rhine, struck an agreement to stand there providing the Germans concentrated on the Soviets in the East. Possibly even to supply them instead of the Soviets.

    Trouble is, that fantasy scenario only really has retrospective justification because we know now what the alternative was.
  12. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    Wasn't one of the reasons given for the Dresdon raid was that it was a show of force for the Russians?
    I'm certain the russians could see the glow of the firestorm and it was intended to act as a warning
    Given we went to war over Poland I can see why Churchill was concerned about the way the Russians were acting
  13. A recent issue of National Geographic had a short article on the history of the Purple Heart. The supply of the medals ordered for the invasion of the Japan lasted through Korea until after Vietnam.
  14. Apologies for not mentioning on the original post. It's called World War II: behind closed doors.
  15. This is an exellent series and the programme makers assure us that the reconstructions are verbatim , according to recently released transcripts (mainly Soviet)

    In which case I think Rosevelt's take on events is particularly revealing. He held a meeting with Stalin in 1943 and deliberately left Churchill out. He knew Britain would be bankrupt, both finacially and in man power by the end of the war. I think he had already decided that there would be two super powers at the end and wanted to keep Stalin sweet. He also was trying to get Stalin to open a new front in the East against the Japanese.

    Churchill's hands were tied over Poland as he had to appease Stalin until Germany was defeated.

    As for a continued war agains the Soviets in 1945. I don't think the British or the American public would have allowed it to happen. Plus the war against Japan was far from over in May 1945.

    In the end it seems that Stalin was calling the shots to some extent over post war Germany. I remember reading somewhere that Stalin was desperate to get to Berlin first because amongst other reasons he believed that German scientists had the secrets to nuclear bombs and rockets in the Humbolt university. Through his network of spies in the west he knew that the Americans were close to building a bomb and he wanted to join the nuclear gang.
    As it was he stripped Berlin bare (what was left of it)before the Allies entered the city.