Georgi Zhukov, Konstantin Rokossovsky, and some other Soviet officers greeting Bernard Montgomery and other British officers at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany. July 12, 1945.

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It’s not quite as straightforward as that. The Soviet Union had 6.4 million men and the Allies had 4 million– about 3 million Americans and 1 million British Imperials– in the ETO. The Allies had better logistics and better planes. The Soviets did build great tanks and planes, but they built the planes in limited quantities and they were heavily reliant on the Allies for raw materials. It’s often forgotten how much “stuff” the Soviets got from the West. That stuff includes things like food, telephone wire, railroad rails, etc. In peacetime that stuff could be manufactured or replaced by a large civilian workforce. In this case there would be no replacing those things when they broke. The raw materials weren’t even available: steel, aluminum, nickel, and zinc were not being produced in any significant quantities due to the devastation and depopulation caused by the War.

I’ll grant that they have something of a qualitative advantage in tanks, but not in every other kind of vehicle. Combined, the Western Allies have over four times as many planes (fighters and bombers). Their artillery may be equally good, but I would give the advantage to the Americans– artillery is something the US was really really good at in WW2. The British Army is in decline, but it’s a veteran force. The American Army is waxing in strength, but there’s a big disparity in unit quality. The Soviet units on the knife’s edge are *very* good, but the rest of the army is poor to middling. Don’t forget that by this time the Soviet Army is also in decline. Since 1944 the Soviets have been drafting men from their liberated areas straight into the army, usually with no training whatsoever. The discipline issues and the total lack of tactical finesse was extraordinarily apparent in units composed of those soldiers.

So, with that in mind, let’s wargame this for a second. I’m going to ignore that, by December 1945, the US was producing a nuke a month, because we really don’t know how we would have used the Bomb against the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Armies attack. They need to project their armies into a western Germany that had been devastated by aerial attack in ways that the eastern half of Germany never had to face. Their depots are further back than the Allies’ depots. Initially they’ll have the allied-supplied trucks to do the job, but those will begin to break down or get destroyed. Allied airpower will make itself felt fairly rapidly and kick the logistic props out from under the Soviet Army. The actual combat experience will vary according to what unit is facing what, but in general the Allies will be pushed back. In some places they may even collapse, but the Soviet Army won’t be able to exploit the advantage. Allies bombers really can’t reach the untouched Soviet industrial areas, so they’ll focus on interdiction. Eventually the Soviet advance would peter out. An Allied counteroffensive would probably follow. Given the Allies’ military record it would likely be an unimaginative attack focused on the West’s superiority of material. It would be bloody and it would be ugly, but the Soviets would ultimately begin to give way.

Would the Soviet Army collapse? Maybe. Would the Western Allies have been able to invade the Soviet Union? Probably not. Would the Allies have been able to free Poland? It’s entirely possible. One thing is certain: it would have been bloody as hell. The biggest loser would have been millions more dead in central and eastern Europe.

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