Crash Course: Little Known History – Operation Unthinkable

Winston Churchill. Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1945.

Winston Churchill. Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference in 1945.

The big secret behind World War II.

In the closing days of WWII, Winston Churchill came up with an ambitious plan for a joint French-British-American attack on the USSR. When he told the French, they reminded him about the fate of Napoleon’s Grande Armee and the Wehrmacht, the British PM quietly backed off.

March 1945 : When Winston Churchill learned in the spring of 1945 that the Americans were going to halt their advance on Berlin from the west and leave Hitler’s capital to the mercies of the Red Army of the Soviet Union, he was furious. Russian behavior was worsening by the day as Stalin’s all-conquering men rolled up the countries in the east and made them satellites of Moscow, in defiance of agreements made by the heads of state at the Yalta conference only weeks earlier. Many in the Allied ranks even knew that the D-Day was invasion to stop the Soviet influence in continental Europe rather than to defeat Nazi Germany who were at the point on the brink of defeat.

Churchill’s top secret plan to attack the Soviet Union was scheduled for 1 July 1945. British, US, French, Polish and German (Former Wehrmacht) forces were to attempt to liberate East Germany, East Prussia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. After liberating those forces the new allied forces would drive towards Moscow. The War Cabinet listed out the total allied strength in Europe on June 1st, 1945 : 64 American divisions, 35 British and Dominion divisions, 4 Polish divisions, and 10 German divisions.

The German divisions were purely imaginary because after the mauling they received, the surviving soldiers were in no hurry to fight. At most, the allies would have mustered 103 divisions, including 23 armored ones. Against this force were arrayed 264 Soviet divisions, including 36 armored. Moscow commanded 6.5 million troops – a 2:1 advantage – on the German border alone. Overall, it had 11 million men and women in uniform. Captured General Halder warned the Americans that war against Russia was certainly not a walk in the park just like he warned Hitler in 1941.

The Allied War Cabinet said it was beyond the capabilities of the 103 divisions of Allied troops in Europe to do what Napoleon and Hitler had failed to do. As Alan Brooke noted in his diary, “The idea is of course fantastic and the chances of success quite impossible. There is no doubt from now onwards Russia is all-powerful force in the world.”

The British generals were furious when a cable arrived from US President Harry Truman, saying there was no chance the Americans would offer help – let alone lead an attempt – to drive the Russians from Eastern Europe.

The Unthinkable file was closed.



2 thoughts on “Crash Course: Little Known History – Operation Unthinkable

  1. I cant believe I haven’t heard of Operation Unthinkable. Imagine an alternate history where this did happen. Would they have used the atomic bomb if things didn’t go to plan ? Im surprised this isn’t mention more in World War Two histories. I guess it can’t be all that important. But I will say Churchill got his ‘dig in’ at the Russians with his cold war speech. I guess in a way he got his war ?

    • You’re right and that’s why it’s “Little Known History”. The only way I came across it was notes in my Grandad’s diary and following up with a lot of old-timers who worked for Churchill. Who knows what the outcome would have been in an alternate timeline? While we really didn’t fully under the implications of using a nuke til later (having worked as a nuclear health phycisist, I can tell you we still don’t understand all of it) I don’t believe Churchill would have gone to such lengths as using that kind of weapon. However, keep in mind, as great as I think WC was, in some ways, he was a nut. Great Britain was his greatest love, but there were times he put himself and his legacy first ( after all he was a politician).

      Nonetheless, this is more about what the Western Allies were considering to do about Russia. It’s pretty extreme when you consider the Western Allies thought Russia to be so great of a threat that they. toyed with the idea of using Hitler’s vanquished army against them alongside US, British and other Western forces. Mind boggling!

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