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.



12 April 1945: President Franklin D. Roosevelt Dies

On April 12, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies at Warm Springs, Ga. The longest- serving president (March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945) is elected in 1932 and leads America during the trying times of the Great Depression and World War II. Prior to becoming president, Roosevelt serves as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson from 1913 to 1920 and as New York governor. President Roosevelt is buried at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library at Hyde Park, N.Y.


President Harry S. Truman (center) talking with Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (right center, in ball cap). On board USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42), 22 April 1946, during Eighth Fleet maneuvers off the U.S. east coast. Among the others present are Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy (behind Truman) and Mr. Steelman (at the extreme left). Behind them, painted on a hangar deck fire door, is a caricature of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a sailor in similar poses. National Archives photograph: 80-G-59661.


USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42). Underway in the Gulf of Tonkin, during her Vietnam War combat deployment, 19 October 1966. A UH-2 “Seasprite” helicopter is in flight at left. Photographed by PH1 Hendricks. National Archives photograph: USN 1120428.


USS Sable (IX-81). Memorial Services for President Franklin D. Roosevelt are held for the crew on the ship’s flight deck in April 1945. National Archives photograph, 80-G-354738.


U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A 1942 photograph taken at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Watching a march-by of troops are the President (front seat), and back seat left: Governor R.M. Jeffries of South Carolina, and Lieutenant General Ben Lear, USA, middle. The general, right, is Major General William H. Simpson. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 46494.


U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. A 1942 photograph taken at San Diego Naval Hospital. The Commander-in-Chief takes the hand of a sailor wounded in combat with the Japanese. The trip was part of a Presidential tour. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 46851.


U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt. A circa 1942 photograph taken at Great Lakes, Illinois. Lieutenant Commander Daniel W. Armstrong, USN, (Retired), is in the left background. The President is saluted by the Officer in Charge of the African-Americans Recruit Training during a Presidential tour. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 46873.


Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt at his Navy Department desk. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 19.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt view taken circa 1936. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 50041.


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Addressing the United States Congress, in a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives. This photograph, from U.S. Office of War Information files in the National Archives, has long been identified as the President delivering his war message on 8 December 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. However, a note with the original photograph states that the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library (Hyde Park, NY) has said that the view is not of that event. If that is the case, it may represent the 1941 or 1942 State of the Union Address, as the presiding officers (seated behind the President) are Vice President Henry A. Wallace and House Speaker Sam Rayburn. Photographed by Harris & Ewing, Washington, D.C. Photograph from the Office of War Information collection in the U.S. National Archives, 208-CN-3992.


Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt. A circa WWI photograph. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 46991.

On the Web: President Roosevelt