Where it Went Awry
Many of the fundamental occurences in our history have been little more than happenstance, luck or a culmination of smaller steps in a given direction. In this alternate history of planet Earth, we will take a look at the few changed outcomes that lead to a much different world for our heroes to inhabit.
PART I: THE GREAT DEPRESSION LINGERS
Following six years of unparalleled growth and prosperity, the United States found itself in very serious trouble following the Stock Market Crash in October of 1929. By early 1930, unemployment was skyrocketing and Hoover’s administration continued to downplay the deepening financial crisis with press releases and a “cold shoulder.” 1931 featured food riots in Minnesota, an unemployed factory worker riot at Ford’s River Rouge plant, and the largest bank in the country, Bank of the United States, collapsed in December taking hundreds of millions of dollars of deposits with it. In 1932, The Reconstruction Finance Coporation (RFC) is allowed to lend billions of dollars to banks, insurance companies, building and loan associations, agricultural credit organizations and railroads. In the summer of 1932, the RFC is allowed to lend states large sums of money for public works projects (sound…familiar to anyone?).
And then history began to diverge
Running against Hoover in the 1932 presidential election, was democrat Texan John Nance Garner (see “What About FDR?” below). An unimaginative yet even tempered man, Garner won the election by way of the very poor public opinion of Hoover’s administration. However, President Garner did very little to change America’s predicament and simply continued isolationist policies began under Hoover. His one “innovation” was that he eventually supported military deployment within US cities to curb unrest. His presidency is most known for the debacle commonly referred to as the Battle of Downing Street, where 23 civilian rioters and one soldier were killed following a two day standoff in New York City in 1935.
In 1936, republican John W. Bricker won the presidency easily after the proliferation of his comment during the radio cast presidential debate stating “a president who actively allows harm to come to his own people is unfit to hold the office.” As world relations began to sour with Germany following the 1936 Olympics, Bricker sought to distance the US even further from events accross the Atlantic, and the world at large. Thus, a failed effort to curb the economic quagmire of the Great Depression was attempted. Known as the America First Act (AFA), cripplingly high tariffs were put in place on any imported goods. In addition, immigration was curbed by putting a freeze on any new applications for citizenship, and thousands of immigrants were expelled from the country, regardless of their point of origin. Though not a part of the AFA, the same tide of isolationism sweeping the nation resulted in no aid being given to Britain in 1940 as Germany began its unchecked campaign of conquest and agression. Bricker won a second term in 1940, and the United States continued to deal with domestic unrest, high unemployment, a floundering economy. All amidst a backdrop of increasingly frigid relations with the outside world as Japan and Italy entered the fray in an alliance with Germany as the Axis Powers.
What About FDR?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt developed paralysis in 1921 due to a strange “polio-like illness.” There have been several “cover up” theories presented by historians and others for the “real” diagnosis, but nothing conclusive has ever come to light.
For the purposes of this campaign’s background, Roosevelt’s paralysis was due to Syphillis which he had contracted years earlier. That information was revealed prior to the 1931 primaries and thus destroyed Roosevelt’s chances for nomination. It was not entirely due to the unsavory nature of a sexually transmitted disease, and had more to do with the mental effects of advanced stage syphillis. So for the 1932 election year, the democratic party chose the clean-as-a-whistle John W. Bricker instead. Afterward, Roosevelt retreated from politics and his condition took its toll in 1939 where he died at his estate in New York.
Because he never had a chance to take office, there was no New Deal. No broad sweeping changes that boot-strapped the US out of the Depression, got us involved in aiding our allies in World War II, and saw him elected to four terms in office. Thus, in this version of history, the isolationist policies of the 1930s were never mothballed. They were merely tumbled about and tossed back and forth between presidents as the US sunk further into economic catastrophe. By the time war came to American soil, it was far too late for the US to react militarily, and its allies were either conquered, on the ropes, or siding with the Axis Powers against them.
PART II: NO MANHATTAN PROJECT
Leó Szilárd is credited with making one of the first major breakthroughs in the science of nuclear chain reactions in 1933. By 1938, excitement over the advancement of his concepts had lead the worldwide academic community toward promising results in laboratory testing.
In 1939, an unpublished and quite successful test by Szilárd resulted in his growing fear of Germany’s scientists developing nuclear chain reaction weaponry. With the increased aggression of Nazi Germany, it was clear that Hitler was after a super weapon. So Dr. Szilárd drafted a letter highlighting his concerns.
And then history began to diverge
The letter was sent to the governments of Britain and the United States. However, Szilárd’s renown outside academic circles was far from worldwide (See “Where was Einstein?” below). Both nations recieved the warning rather quietly. Various academics in the United States attempted to drum up political and governmental support for advancing nuclear research. But the sapped economic conditions and general disdain for “foreign influences” resulted in little more than a canned “taken under advisment” response. British operatives attempted to infiltrate Hitler’s research collectives to no avail.
Due to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, German scientists had been working in secret with the Russians in Kiev. As such, Nazi nuclear research facilities weren’t in Germany to be observed or infiltrated. Lucky for Russia, Stalin was exceedingly paranoid. Prior to Hitler’s breaking of the anti agression pact in 1941, Russia would hold the Kiev scientists as a bargaining chip to maintain Russia’s freedom from Nazi rule. It would also guarantee her entrance into the cadre of nuclear powers after the war’s end in 1947.
In 1941, Hitler turned on Russia and Japanese scientists began working alongside their German allies to get the nuclear weapons program back on schedule. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor had stirred the US to action, and the Axis Powers knew they needed a nuclear solution to counteract the US military forces’ late involvement in the war. It was due to the amazing efforts of Japanese scientist Koichi Yamamoto that sustained nuclear fission was brought into the world as a reality. Considering that Yamamoto first learned the concepts of nuclear fission in 1940, and began his work on the nazi research team in 1942 it is nothing short of miraculous that a mere 2 years later both Germany and Japan would have atom bomb technology.
By 1944 Japan and Germany had constructed and tested nuclear warheads in secret. These weapons of untold destruction would bring the war to a halt by the end of the following year.
Where was Einstein?
Albert Einstein was widely recognized as the leading scientist of the dawn of the 20th century. After winning the nobel prize in 1921, Einstein traveled the globe. He was a frequent guest lecturer in many universities, including several in the United States.
With the onset of the US’s great depression in 1929 and its distinct shift away from investment in academic and progressive solutions, Einstein spent less and less time in the US. With the rise of the Nazi party in Germany in 1933, Einstein began to look for another country to call home. He had made inroads with the burgeoning Japanese intellectual community, the young scientist Koichi Yamamoto in particular.
In 1938, prior to his emmigration from Europe to Japan, Einstein was detained by Hitler’s secret police. Despite the global outrage at this act, Hitler persisted that Einstein was a German citizen and was being subject to German law.
Einstein was never seen again. His actual fate is unknown. But, the lack of his influence on the scientific and international communities during World War II made it easier for the Axis powers to obtain atomic weaponry first. Even though his wish would have been a world free of such terrors entirely.
PART III: LATE AND WEARY ALLIES
In December of 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and utterly annihilated the Pacific Fleet of the US Navy. The naval admiralty had recently decided to withdraw the Asiatic Fleet back to Hawaii, and ordered the transfer of naval resources from San Diego to Hawaii. This was a move designed to allow the United States to respond quickly and efficiently to the Japanese in the increasingly likely event of military conflict. Unbeknownst to the US, the Imperial Japanese Navy had recently abandoned objectives in Southeast Asia, to lend full support to Admiral Yamamoto (father of celebrated genius laureate Koichi Yamamoto) and his belief that a blitz-like offensive was the only way to take the US out of the fight before it could begin. Seeing it as proof of the correctness of his strategy, the IJN pounced on the tactical blunder the US made by anchoring its entire Pacific Fleet in one port. Thus Pearl Harbor would become one of the most decisive victories achieved by the Axis Powers in the entirety of the war.
No longer able to rely on politics of isolation, the United States began to prepare for war. The west coast was fortified against naval attack by the Japanese. Meanwhile, troops and ships were mustered in the Atlantic to enter the European conflict. US troops were largely conscripted, as the military’s recent actions against civilian populations caused enlistment numbers to drop drastically. When General MacArthur set sail for England in the Spring of 1942 the total number of US and Canadian troops numbered at just over 3 million
After the arrival of US support in Britain, a desperate strike was planned across the straights of Dover. Favoring expedience over planning, the combined forces of US, Canada and Britain set out to overwhelm Hitler’s defenses in Northern France. It was a move anticipated and efficiently planned for on the part of the German Reich. A feint attack was planned on the beaches at Normandy as a distraction, but Hitler’s forces never took the bait.
InFollowing the rout of the Allied Forces, General MacArthur’s command vessel and a scant dozen other ships returned directly to the United States following the defeat. (See “Where were Patton and Eisenhower?” below).