On the ninth of May, Nazi Germany capitulated to the allies. Nazi Germany had fallen to the combined efforts of the Soviet Union, America, Great Britain and the Commonwealth. But Winston Churchill was not satisfied with the result. He expected that by the end of the war, the Soviet Union would be in tatters. But in fact, by the end of the war, the Soviets had claimed influence of Eastern Europe and the Balkans and installed communist governments in them. Churchill was not happy. So what did he do? He made a plan so ludicrous, so suicidal it was deemed ‘Operation Unthinkable’. But what if it had been used? Here’s one scenario.
Operation Unthinkable’s goal was to “to impose upon Russia the will of the United States and the British Empire. Even though ‘the will’ of these two countries may be defined as no more than a square deal for Poland, that does not necessarily limit the military commitment”. So this would be a full scale total Anglo-American war against the Soviets. Would it have been successful if carried out? Let’s look at the factors that would affect the outcome.
By the end of WW2, the Soviets had 6.5 million soldiers on the German front. In comparison, the Allies had approximately 2.5 million men, so they were outnumbered 3:1 and 2:1 in tanks. To bolster their odds, the Allies planned to rearm the 120,000 German prisoners they took and revitalise the German war machine as they had the most industrialised parts of Germany. Even so, they would be heavily outnumbered and after the savagery of the Eastern Front, it is unknown how many Germans would be willing to fight the Russians once again.
Operation Lusty and Air Superiority
Operation Lusty was the USAAF’s operation to capture and evaluate German aeronautical technology and scientific advances. Using captured German jets and blueprints, the Americans and British improved their own jet aircraft and made rockets. Had Unthinkable been launched, American and British jet fighters such as the American P-80 and the British Meteors along with German jet fighters coming out of the revitalised factories would easily win air superiority over Soviet air space, as even their most modern aircrafts, the Yak-3s and La-9s would be outclassed. With air superiority, American and British heavy bombers would be able to devastate supply lines and fighter-bombers would be able to strike Soviet positions at will. Without the British sale of the Rolls-Royce Nene jet engine to the Soviets, they would be hard pressed to make their own jet engine and would be unable to recover their airspace.
Ground Forces and Equipment
Now, maintaining air superiority is good and all, but it won’t matter if your line still gets smashed, so let’s compare the Soviet and Allied materiel they would’ve had.
In terms of small arms such as machine guns and rifles, the Allied and Soviet armies would be pretty evenly matched. But if the Allies fully revive German industry and adopt their designs, they would be able to use advanced German weapons such as the Sturmgewehr 44s, which would tip the odds in this category in favour of the Allies.
Tanks are harder to compare since they had different doctrines, but purely in terms of armament and armour, the Soviets would beat the Allies in this category, at least at first. IS-2s and IS-3s would outclass their lighter Allied designs, such as Shermans and Cromwells, but as the war drags on, they would be able to field counters such as Pershings, T-32s and Britain’s Challengers. In addition to American and British designs, with Germany’s revitalised industry, they can also use German late-war designs such as Tiger IIs and Panthers to fight the Russians. Though in the future, the Soviets would also be able to use better tanks like the T-54s and the IS-4s, so in the end, both sides’ tank forces would be equally matched.
While Soviet and Allied commanders are both good, the Soviets would probably have the upper hand due to their willingness to take large casualties to accomplish goals. The Allied command would probably be less willing. That said, the Allies have many great generals at their disposal, and with resurrected German formations, they can also gain the experience of German field marshals like Guderian and Manstein on optimal ways to fight the Russians.
The Soviets would also have a harder time supplying their troops, as their supply route goes from Russia to Poland to East Germany, while the British and American can supply their troops from Britain to France to West Germany, which in comparison, has better infrastructure. In addition, the Soviet supply line would also be bombed by Allied bombers, making it even harder for the troops.
Even so, in terms of equipment and forces, both sides are around equally matched. Still, someone has to make the equipment for the troops to fight with.
The Home Front
By the end of WW2, Great Britain was heavily exhausted and it would be hard to get the British to fight the Soviets. So Churchill would need to find a way to bolster the people’s resolve. But even so, the British by themselves wouldn’t be able to make enough equipment to fight and will have to rely on the American war machine. Americans, after knowing the horrors of the Red Army and what they did to civilian populations would be willing to support the industrial effort.
For the Russians, however, the production of goods will be a harder thing, as in the latter part of WW2, they were supplied by American Land-Lease goods. Now that they were at war, industrial goods to help manage factories, foodstuffs, trucks and other vehicles would be cut off, meaning that the Soviets would have to make all of those.
In addition, though the Russian industry was at that point past the Ural Mountains, heavy strategic bombers such as B-29s can fly from air bases in occupied Japan to to bomb them.
Though with enough sticks and propaganda, the Soviet war machine will still crank on, but the Americans would probably outproduce them. In addition, he American’s craftsmanship and quality would be better than the Soviets’.
Here’s the big one, the atomic bombs. By the start of Unthinkable, America could already make atomic bombs and the Soviets knew this after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they don’t have atomic weaponry yet, so they’ll be at a disadvantage. Remember, Allied airpower would be able to defeat the Red Airforce and so delivering the bombs wouldn’t be much of an issue, especially considering that B-29s perform well at high altitudes, so the Soviets would be hard pressed to catch them. Long range F-82s would be able to escort the bombers. Depending on how many atomic bombs America can make, they could completely destroy key Russian cities like Moscow and Kiev. If leaders like Stalin dead, the Soviets would need to find new leaders just as ruthless and just as efficient as Stalin was, or they will have to go to the bargaining table with the Allies.
So who would win and what would the result be? It would be a gruelling, uphill battle for the Allies, especially because they’d have to go into East Germany then Poland and then into Russia to make them surrender. The casualties on both sides would be heavy,but in my opinion, the Allies would probably win against Soviet Union, despite the numerical disadvantage. Even if they can’t force the Soviets to agree to every decision, they would be able to accomplish some of their war aims. Nevertheless, despite the victory, Europe would be in ruins and the United Kingdom on the verge of bankruptcy. America would, like in our timeline, help rebuild Europe and finance it.
There’s a reason this plan was called ‘Operation Unthinkable’, it wasn’t very good.