Vox is a very useful website. I admire what they are trying to do. But sometimes they just completely screw things up. This time, they did so in their grandiosely-named “40 maps that explain World War II.”
The big problems start with Map 10: “The amphibious invasion of the United Kingdom that never happened.” All you need to know about the problem is in the last line of the caption: “As the British advantage in the air grew, Hitler was forced to shelve his invasion plans.”
Christ almighty, no. No. No no no. Nazi Germany had no way of successfully invading the British isles regardless of the outcome of the Battle of Britain. First, the Royal Navy was in the way, not just the Royal Air Force. Second, on four occasions the British military waved away the entire Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in order to game out an invasion ... and in all four exercises the invasion collapsed with days. Click the link for Alison Brooks’ classic essay.
After that, the other problems are minor. Map 13 is about Operation Barbarossa. It is true that the Germans failed to take Moscow before winter set in, which was a serious problem ... but the order of the sentences in the caption implies that the Germans failed to take Moscow because winter set in, which is not what happened:
The Nazis were able to drive hundreds of miles east and reach the outskirts of Moscow by October. But then Stalin was saved by the bitterly cold winter. The Soviets had more experience operating in cold weather and were better prepared than the Nazis. German equipment was not designed for below-zero temperatures, German soldiers were under-dressed, and they lacked essentials such as antifreeze. Germany never took Moscow.
And while Map 1 points out the Allied economic advantage (meaning really the U.S., U.K., and USSR) the point gets lost in all the later discussions. Here are two examples. First, Map 19 recounts Free French victories in Africa and provides a much-needed antidote to the image of French fecklessness. The problem is that the caption says that the victories “deprived Hitler of much-needed resources,” which is not true. The Axis did not draft African soldiers and the area did not provide any strategic raw materials. (Frex, Gabonese oil production did not start until 1956.)
Second, Map 28 describes the Battle of Midway as a turning point, which it was in the sense of beginning the U.S. offensive ... but was not in terms of being key to a U.S. victory. By the summer of 1943 the U.S. had a wave of new carriers. Japanese-occupied Midway would be right on the doorstep of the main U.S. naval base. It would be thousands of miles away from Japan’s. The U.S. would be able to bomb it at will (as we did Wake Island) and rather rapidly starve out the survivors. The Marianas campaign might be pushed back to 1945, but by then the U.S. would have overwhelming superiority. And then the atomic bombs are ready by August.
A later Marianas campaign might give the Soviets the time and inclination to occupy all of Korea instead of just the northern half ... which would make the Battle of Midway the turning point of a war that hadn’t even started. You could call the South Korea the big winner of that battle.
But honestly, the implication that Operation Sealion could have worked is the real error. Not to take anything away from the Battle of Britain, which accomplished much, but keeping the Nazis out of London was not one of them.