U.S. participation in the Combined Bomber Offensive, designed to destroy German industry and morale and drive the Third Reich from the war, might also have developed more slowly. Given the limited impact and immense cost of the CBO in its early stages, however, it’s unclear how much of a net impact on the tides of war that this would have made.
A reduced U.S. combat commitment in the Atlantic could have led to a greater effort in the Pacific, although it’s difficult to see what impact that would have made in the first year of the war.
Over time, the United States built up an enormous advantage over the Japanese; this would have happened even more quickly with a smaller commitment to Europe. Still, the overwhelming superiority that Washington exhibited in 1944 depended on technology, training and the availability of ships that remained on the slipways in 1942.
Schemes to step up the fight in China or in Southeast Asia suffered from immeasurable logistical problems, which the U.S. could not solve until 1944 in any case.
Both Hitler and Roosevelt believed that war was inevitable, and they were both probably right.
Restraining the war machine in December of 1941 might have bought some additional time for Germany in the Med and (possibly) in the skies, but would have forced the Kriegsmarine to forego an offensive that it believed could win the war.
And in the end, the Americans likely would have joined the conflict anyway, perhaps with less experience, but with greater overall preparation to make a decisive commitment.
This article originally appeared at The National Interest.