Operation Tannenbaum: Hitler’s Invasion of Switzerland

The military picture on the Franco-Swiss border, June 26, 1940.

France was defeated. So too were Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, and Belgium. Austria and Czechoslovakia had been incorporated into the Greater German Reich. Great Britain stood alone in her ‘splendid isolation,’ and the fascist regime of Francisco Franco held sway over the Iberian Peninsula. In June of 1940, all that remained, surrounded by enemies, was the Swiss Confederation.

Hitler called it a “pimple on the face of Europe.”[1] In the heady days of victory for the Third Reich, a move against the alpine republic seemed a great possibility – almost inevitable, even. Even before the Fall of France was made official, plans were being drawn up for ‘Operation Tannenbaum,’ the German invasion of Switzerland. Yet Hitler’s attention was soon drawn towards Britain, and eventually the plan fell by the wayside as he began focusing attention on his Bolshevik neighbor to the East.

But…what if? What if Hitler had decided that the conquest of that mountainous pimple was indeed worth the effort and manpower? What if Tannenbaum had been more than just idle words and an OKW plan? If Hitler had embarked on the ultimate folly, the results would have been disastrous for the Swiss – and the Nazis.

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War in the Pacific

I, like just about everyone, am looking forward to HBO’s new miniseries The Pacific. I mean like, really, really psyched; it’s been much too long in the making. But I’m really liking the Hanks-Spielberg team as of late.

Semperpapa at David Bellavia has taken Hanks to town, though, for the latter’s comments on the ‘true’ meaning of war in the Pacific. I responded at the source, but I also think the arguments deserve a full presentation, so here are his, followed by mine:

I was somewhat disappointed by Tom Hank’s simplistic look at what WWII represented for our Nation, when, during an interview, he stated that the reason America wanted to kill the Japanese was because they were different. They looked different, they believed different.
[…]
I could even understand that Tom, as a good Liberal, would hold America responsible for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, because after all the American fleet was an “imperialistic” obstacle to the “legitimate” expansionist needs of Japan toward South Eat Asia.
[…]
In the interview, Hank points out his latest project wanted to honor the bravery of the American troops

“…but we also wanted to have people say, ‘we didn’t know our troops did that to Japanese people.’”…

I don’t know that Hanks’s opinions, overly simplistic as they are, can be blamed on his liberalism. There weren’t too many alternatives to what we did in either theater. Rather, his misinformation can be attributed to the general American ignorance about the Pacific theater.

Much of whatever vague impressions Americans get of the Pacific are from sources like Dr. Seuss’s wartime propaganda and the various posters attacking “yellow” “Japs.” Which if it’s all you’re getting, definitely paints a one-sided picture.

He’s also not entirely wrong. To a degree much more pronounced than in the ETO, the American war effort dehumanized the Japanese as both a race and a nationality. In Germany, we were fighting Hitler, but in the Pacific we were fighting the Japs. There was a distinct conflation of politics and racism there that was absent from Europe, or at least the western front in Europe. The Pacific shared a viciousness with that life-or-death struggle on the eastern front, where the choices were literally reduced to a binary: victory or death and enslavement.

But I don’t mean to condemn that brutality entirely. In most ways our response was a tit-for-tat regarding Japanese behavior. After enough incidents occurred when surrendering Japanese troops instead carried out the equivalent of a suicide bombing, we stopped taking prisoners. As a tactical solution it was entirely justified. We took no prisoners – but with good reason. See John Dower’s War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War for a fairly deep analysis of the course of the Pacific theater.

Basically, the dehumanization we carried out in the press and other media is being misattributed by Hanks to a cause of the war, rather than the fairly standard wartime practice and response to in-theater events that it was.

And of course, the Japanese behavior speaks for itself.

The Bombing of Auschwitz

A consolidated B-24 Liberator of the 15th A.F. releases its bombs on the railyards at Muhldorf, Germany on 19 March 1945.

Via Blog Them Out of the Stone Age:

What if the Allies had bombed Auschwitz? That’s the counterfactual Mark Grimsley poses in his brief, but intriguing piece for World War II magazine (article at BTOSA). As he admits, “most ‘what if’ scenarios begin with a plausible rewrite of a historical event. The bombing of Auschwitz does not have this characteristic.” A strike on the death camps was not seriously discussed at high levels, much less considered a viable option.

It was certainly possible to launch such an attack:

The Auschwitz complex was well within range of the U.S. Fifteenth Air Force, based at Foggia, Italy … By the summer of 1944, escapees from Birkenau had supplied the Allies with detailed, accurate information about the facility. The crematoria and gas chambers could be readily identified in aerial photographs.

Owing to political considerations and the diversion of “considerable air support” that targeting the camps would require, a raid was never launched. Debate has raged for thirty years whether or not it was a moral imperative to attack the camps, but simply put, it was absolutely within Allied strategic air capabilities.

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