Churchill's Plans For WWIII


Supplement II

Printed in the Executive Intelligence Review, October, 1998.


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The British press revealed in early October, the contours of a plan conceived by Winston Churchill, to launch an Anglo-American war against the Soviet Union, after the war in Europe had been effectively ended. Churchill's Chiefs of Staff committee turned down the plan, on military grounds. Excerpts of the plan were published by the Daily Telegraph on Oct. 1, 1998.

According to the Daily Telegraph report by Ben Fenton, Churchill feared that after V.E. Day on May 8, 1945, the Russians could move westwards and threaten Britain. Churchill's view was that an assault against the Soviet Union would be the only solution, and that it would have to be mounted before the Americans withdrew the best of their forces for combat in the Pacific. Churchill ordered his staff to ``think the unthinkable,'' and draft a plan. The report which resulted, named ``Operation Unthinkable,'' was delivered to Churchill on May 22, by his Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Sir Hastings Ismay. This was five days after German Admiral Doenitz had formally surrendered. The scenario for this ``Third World War,'' which was to have started on July 1, went as follows:


"Operation Unthinkable"

``The overall political or political object is to impose upon Russia the will of the United States and British Empire....

``Even though `the will' of these two countries may be defined as no more than a square deal for Poland, that does not necessarily limit the military commitment.

``A quick success might induce the Russians to submit to our will at least for the time being; but it might not.

``That is for the Russians to decide. If they want total war, they are in a position to have it....

``To achieve the decisive defeat of Russia in a total war would require, in particular, the mobilisation of manpower to counteract their present enormous manpower resources.

``This is a very long-term project and would involve: a) the deployment in Europe of a large proportion of the vast resources of the United States. b) the re-equipment and re-organisation of German manpower and of all the Western European Allies.''

Opting for a limited war, given that total war would be unwinnable, Churchill's team, according to Fenton's account, planned ``an attack by 47 British and American divisions, 14 of which would be armored, on a two-pronged offensive, one part along the Baltic coast of Germany towards Stettin [Szczecin], the second further south towards Poznan, both cities being well inside Poland.'' Ten Polish divisions were supposed to join in, as well as 10 German divisions, rearmed ``under a reformed German High Command.''

According to an appendix to the report, entitled ``German reactions to conflict between Western Allies and Russia,'' the team considered the possibility of having up to 100,000 Germans engaged:

``War-weariness will be the predominant feature of the attitude of the German civil population. However, ingrained fear of the Bolshevik menace and of reprisals by the Russians should make the German civil population prefer Anglo-American to Russian occupation and therefore incline it to side with the Western Allies.''

The plan which emerged, according to Fenton's summary, was that, ``as infantry attacked westwards, the Royal Navy would sail along the Baltic coast, supporting the attack's left flank and harrying the Russian right almost unopposed. The RAF and USF would operate from bases in Denmark and northern Germany, outnumbered by the Russians, but with superior machinery,'' Fenton wrote.

Operation Unthinkable assessed the situation as follows: ``Superior handling and air superiority might enable us to win the battle, but there is no inherent strength in our strategic position and we should, in fact, be staking everything upon the tactical outcome of one great engagement.'' Churchill's team considered that Russian retaliation could include attempts to take over Norway, Turkey, Greece, and the oil fields in Persia and Iraq. Thus, they argued: ``If we are to embark on war with Russia, we must be prepared to be committed to a total war, which would be both long and costly.'' They added: ``Our numerical inferiority on land renders it extremely doubtful whether we could achieve a limited and quick success, even if the political appreciation considered that this would suffice to gain our political object.''


"A Protracted War Against Heavy Odds"

The report on Operation Unthinkable, was then handed over to the Chiefs of Staff committee, which included Gen. Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Admiral of the Fleet Sir David Cunningham, the First Sea Lord, and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal. On June 8, the senior officers replied that, considering the numerical superiority of Russian divisions (264 to 103), a different approach should be taken.

``It is clear from the relative strength of the respective land forces that we are not in a position to take the offensive with a view to achieving a rapid success.

``Since, however, Russian and allied land forces are in contact from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, we are bound to become involved in land operations. In support of our land forces we should have technically superior, but numerically inferior, tactical air forces.

``As regards Strategic Air Forces, our superiority in numbers and technique would be to some extent discounted by the absence of strategical targets compared to those which existed in Germany, and the necessity for using these strategic air forces to supplement our tactical air forces in support of land operations.

``Our views, therefore, that once hostilities began, it would be beyond our power to win a quick but limited success and we should be committed to a protracted war against heavy odds.

``These odds, moreover, would become fanciful if the Americans grew weary and indifferent and began to be drawn away by the magnet of the Pacific War.''

Churchill, having received the response of his military officers, wrote to Ismay on June 8, saying, considering American redeployments and possible Russian advances westwards, ``Pray have a study made of how then we could defend our island, assuming France and the Low Countries were powerless to resist the Russian advance to the sea.'' Churchill ended his letter, ``By retaining the codeword `Unthinkable,' the Staffs will realise this remains a precautionary study of what, I hope, is still a purely hypothetical contingency.'' The study Churchill commissioned was presented on July 22.

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The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in The Executive Intelligence Review. It is made available here with the permission of The New Federalist Newspaper. Any use of, or quotations from, this article must attribute them to The New Federalist, and The Executive Intelligence Review


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