In his memoir, Albert C. Wedemeyer wonders “how and why the United States became involved in a war which was to result in the extension of totalitarian tyranny over vaster regions of the world than Hitler ever dreamed of conquering.”
Our friend Foseti considers this a good question, too:
Wedemeyer views the European war as analogous to the Peloponnesian War. In both wars, a sea power (Athens/Britain) fought a land power (Sparta/Germany) with the ultimate result being the victory of an outsider (Macedon/Russia). The outsider ended up as “the sole beneficiary of the suicidal internecine quarrel of the West.” This, of course, doesn’t explain why the US jumped into the war that only Russia won.
Joseph McCarthy concluded that America’s leaders were influenced by Communist agents. Wedemeyer concluded that “we were just that naive.”
At any rate, the American strategy in Europe was exactly wrong:
In Europe, Wedemeyer’s preferred approach was a all out assault on Northern France as soon as possible. He believed this would strike a decisive blow against the Germans and allow the Allies to gain as much territory as possible in Europe (even in ’41 his plans involved minimizing Russian gains in Europe). This plan was premised on the (widely held) belief in 1942 that Russia would not be able to hold out against the Germans much long. According to Wedemeyer, it was also Marshall’s plan.
Wedemeyer was very frustrated by Churchill’s desire to attack the Germans around the periphery. Ultimately he viewed the invasion of North Africa, Sicily and Italy as unnecessary. It was not (logistically) possible to invade Germany from those point. The effect of the Churchill strategy was to delay victory for several years.
Wedemeyer blames the British for some American strategy screw-ups. On this point, I think Wedemeyer is wrong. He devotes many words to condemning Churchill’s strategy in Germany — specifically he thought Churchill should have let the German’s and the Russian’s fight each other until they were exhausted. At that point, the British should have intervened to essentially restore the pre-war status quo.
Unless I’m missing something, Churchill’s plan to attack Germany on the periphery would have the result Wedemeyer outlined. He seems to simultaneously want to condemn the Allied strategy for being overly aggressive and not aggressive enough.
Churchill’s plan was not too tentative — as Wedemeyer says, a tentative plan would have been fine (let the Germans and the Russians fight until one is about to collapse). The strategic error was seeking a middle ground between the Wedemeyer/Marshall-invade-France-now plan the the Churchill plan. The worse error would come later though.
Nevertheless — from a overall strategic standpoint — I have lots of sympathy for Wedemeyer’s position. Oddly, and perhaps coincidentally, no one seems to have planned what to do after North Africa, Sicily and Italy were taken. The result was that the Allies pursued the worst possible strategy. These Mediterranean invasions delayed decisive action in France and they didn’t lead to any decisive actions themselves. In the meantime, the Russians did not fold under German advances.
Wedemeyer wanted to see a balance of power in Europe, with a still-standing Germany able to hold off the Russians:
Nevertheless, the US and the British chose to demand unconditional surrender. Wedemeyer hints, a couple times, that such demands may be the consequences of democracies going to war (he avoids saying so explicitly, so I’m left wondering his thoughts might have been on this subject).
Toward the end of the war in both theaters, Allied officials knew that both countries were willing to give up long before the fighting actually ended, as long as the Allies didn’t demand unconditional surrender.
The Allies would stop at nothing other than unconditional surrender, even though doing so got more troops killed, made the enemies fight harder (“instead of encouraging the anti-Hitler Germans, we forced all Germans to fight to the last under a regime most of them hated”) and only could benefit the Russians.
The Soviet empire was largely the result of our own creation, Wedemeyer concluded.