On the eve of America’s entry into World War II, George Fielding Eliot reported for Life magazine that the country essentially had three ways to defend itself against an Axis invasion.
He rejected the first option, a purely defensive strategy, out of hand. Protecting just the United States, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and Samoa, but not Canada, Greenland, Newfoundland and South America, would allow Germany and Japan to gain footholds in the Americas.
The whole of military history rises up to warn us that this is the inevitable prelude to defeat.
The choice, he argued, was between hemisphere defense and sea command.
Continue reading “Hemisphere Defense or Sea Command: America’s Choice in 1940”
It is debatable when the history of the Japanese Empire began. One can go back to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, but wasn’t the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War, fought over influence in Korea, really the starting point of Japanese imperialism?
Or the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War? Fought for influence in Korea as well as Manchuria.
Or 1910, when Japan annexed Korea?
A watershed moment came in 1931, when Japan occupied Manchuria. There was no doubt at that point the island nation had become a colonial and an expansionist power.
Continue reading “The Rise and Fall of Japan’s Empire in Maps”
Elevated railways, sky bridges, rooftop airports and a plan to drain the East River. New York City would have looked very different if these architects and engineers had had their way.
Continue reading “Unbuilt New York”
The way Germany was divided into Western- and Soviet-aligned republics after the Second World War was hardly a straightforward process. The Allies started thinking about whether and how to dismember Germany in the middle of the war and considered several options.
Some, like the Dutch request for territorial compensation, were ignored. Others, like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s suggestion of a north-south split, would morph into the east-west divide of the Cold War. Continue reading “How Germany Was Divided: A History of Partition Plans”
Many a what-if has been written about a German victory in World War II. Alternate histories of a German victory in World War I are less popular, but they exist. Indeed, people started thinking about the consequences of a German victory during the war itself and feared it might give way to a German empire spanning nearly the whole of Europe.
Here is a look at some of the maps that were produced to show a German victory in what was at the time called simply “the Great War”. Continue reading “What If Germany Had Won the First World War?”
450 years ago this year, the Dutch Revolt against the Catholic king of Spain started. For eighty years, the largely Protestant provinces of the Netherlands fought for their independence. They got it in 1648, when the Peace of Münster (part of the Peace of Westphalia) recognized the Northern Netherlands as an independent republic.
But the largely Catholic South remained Spanish until 1714, when it became Austrian. It was briefly joined with the Netherlands after the defeat of Napoleon, but by then the two had grown apart culturally, economically and linguistically. Belgium seceded from the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1830.
This separation was not preordained. In 1581, Brabant (which is now split between Belgium and the Netherlands), Flanders as well as Mechelen had joined the Northern provinces in their declaration of independence, the Act of Abjuration. But they were quickly reconquered by Spanish forces. Antwerp and Brussels had been the centers of economic and political life in the Low Countries. They too fell under Spanish rule. The North continued as a republic, centered on Amsterdam.
What if the rebels had succeeded in holding the South? What could a United Netherlands have looked like?
Continue reading “What If Belgium and the Netherlands Had Remained One Country?”
Before the rise of Adolf Hitler in Europe, American military strategists seriously considered the possibility they might do war with Britain in the Pacific.
During the 1920s and early 30s, a Joint Planning Committee (the precursor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff) developed a series of color-coded war plans. “Plan Red” prepared for a conflict with the British Empire, then the world’s declining but still premier military and political power. Continue reading “The Anglo-American Pacific War That Wasn’t”
The 1942 World’s Fair in Rome was an opportunity for Benito Mussolini to celebrate twenty years of Fascism and show to the world what progress Italy had made.
The fair never happened. World War II did. But Mussolini still built a complex for the Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR). Continue reading “Mussolini’s New Rome”
Los Angeles is a dieselpunk’s delight with its collection of Art Deco architecture, ranging from its famous City Hall to the Art Nouveau-ish Bullocks Wilshire to the iconic Eastern Columbia Building to the heavyset headquarters of the Los Angeles Times.
If it had been up to the following architects, though, the city would have been turned into a theme park of postwar, Atomic Age architecture as well. Continue reading “Unbuilt Los Angeles”
At a glance, this doesn’t look too different from your average Cold War map. Take a closer look, though, and you will notice some oddities. Half of Austria seems to be missing. East Germany is much bigger than it should be. Greece isn’t in NATO, but Sweden is.
What happened here? Continue reading “How Finland’s Defeat in 1940 Could Have Changed the Cold War”