I remember reading somewhere that the Allies (USA/UK) was not really keen on opening a second front to help the Soviet Union until the Soviets started to make progress in defeating Germany around 1942, 1943.

These wins generated fears in the Allies that the Soviets can actually defeat - or at least have a truce on good conditions with - Germany w/o their help and thereby gaining (more) influence over the liberated territories, thus these fears eventually lead to the accelerated creation of the western front (Normandy/Italy).

Is this theory true?

  • I guess at some stage this might have become a factor in Allied thinking - but not the sole or primary one. Mar 14 '14 at 6:27
  • I meant a rather late stage - @Olivier's answer is what I had in mind. Mar 14 '14 at 13:53
  • Alanbrooke lamented the lack of American strategic vision during the 1942-43 period, after the Soviets had gained the initiative in the east. He believed Bulgaria and Rumania (at least) could have been saved from Soviet domination in the post-war period if the US leadership had been more willing to support British initiatives in the Mediterranean during that time frame. Jun 7 '20 at 6:26


This is the official Soviet/Russian propaganda line, repeated over and over since 1945.

The Western Allies simply did not have the resources necessary to land in France until 1944 - given their other ongoing commitments all over the globe.


Before such a landing could be successful, the Allies had to achieve air and naval superiority, which takes much more time than achieving superiority in ground forces. E.g., it takes 2 years to train a good fighter pilot, and 3.5 years between laying the keel of a battleship and it commissioning.

Meanwhile, the Western Allies fought Japan on the Pacific and Germany and Italy in North Africa. They landed in Europe in 1943 and forced Italy to surrender. They fed and armed the USSR and fought the longest campaign of the war.

Underlying Currents

This attitude of SU/Russia betrays a fundamental difference in attitude towards their allies in particular and other countries in general.

The paranoid conviction that the other countries hate Russia is pervasive throughout the Russian history, and it was preserved intact during the Communist rule as the doctrine of "the hostile capitalist surroundings". While the Western Allies tried to build genuine friendship, the Russian representatives in Britain slept with revolvers under their pillows (as described by Churchill).

The western attitude started with a wild hope in June 1941, then plunged into a horror that the Red Army will collapse, then into a fear that Stalin will make a deal with Hitler (like the Molotov-Ribbentrop) - but it was always a hopeful friendship. This hope, indeed, started to wither when the West realized that Stalin had no intention to fulfill it commitments to democratic elections in the Eastern Europe, but that was a slow and reluctant change.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 14 '17 at 0:49

This interpretation of the history of WWII contradicts many well established facts. The most damaging one, in my opinion, is that Stalin actually pleaded for the opening of a significant European Western front in 1942/1943 in order to relieve the pressure on the Eastern front and was in fact disappointed in the Allies insistence that this could not happen before 1944. Also, I think the consensus view on diplomatic relations between the Allies is that Roosevelt was keen on building a strategic alliance with Stalin so that, far from trying to undercut him, he was rather favorably disposed towards an increase in the influence of the USSR (compared to the influence of the traditional European powers).

On the other hand, the rapid advance of Montgomery's 21st Army to Lübeck and Rostock in late April, 1945 can reasonably be described along the lines of the question: by that time (but not earlier), it was increasingly clear to Churchill in particular that Stalin's USSR would exert an unlimited influence on all territories behind the front line of the Red Army, so Montgomery's advance was made to preserve Denmark (and, presumably, Hamburg).

  • Alanbrook noted in his diary as early as 27th July 1944 that from that time onwards he felt they were fighting the Germans "in a different light", with the assumption that Germany would be needed as an ally against the Soviet Union in the post-war era. Jun 7 '20 at 6:09

Re your claim:

I remember reading somewhere that the Allies (USA/UK) was not really keen on opening a second front to help the Soviet Union until the Soviets started to make progress in defeating Germany around 1942, 1943

Just the opposite was in fact true; the Western Allies were deathly afraid in 1942 that the Soviet Union might collapse (a la 1917) prior to their being able to open up a Second Front. Later, in 1943 and 1944, they were afraid that the Soviets might stop at the pre-war (ie 1940-1) borders and declare a truce with the Germans.

Both of these factors would stimulate the Western Allies to find ways to bleed off German resources in tertiary theatres, as they successfully did in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy prior to the D-Day invasions of June 1944.

In The Last Lion - Defender of the Realm, Manchester and Reid note that at Casablanca Roosevelt said to Churchill that there would not be sufficient landing craft for a French invasion until Spring 1944. Admittedly this is partially a political decision, as once the Torch landings had been provisioned priority would shift to enabling offensive amphibious actions in the Pacific theatre for 12 months before shifting back to Europe. However even the immense economic engine of the U.S. had limitations, and took time to tool up and then produce the necessary machines of war.

However the additional time was probably required anyways. Early landings on the French North-West coast were problematic for the same reason that the Germans never seriously contemplated Sea Lion - amphibious landings in the face of determined opposition are difficult, and require extensive preparation. Without the Hobart Funnies that so eased landing on the British beaches Gold, Sword and Juno, and the Mulberry Harbours that enabled large-scale supply prior to capturing and clearing Cherbourg and Brest, the D-Day successes were far from guaranteed. All of these were developed in the 12 months leading up to June 1944.


The Americans were fighting a two-front naval war, trying to stop the Japanese advance in the Pacific (which they did not succeed in doing until the Battle of Midway, in 1942) and clear the Atlantic of German surface raiders and U-boats in order to permit safer and larger-scale shipping of men and equipment.

Churchill had been long been pressing the Americans to to open a second front in Italy which he called the "Soft underbelly of Europe". The Americans did not wish a distraction from their intent to go through France, but Churchill was insistent. First, the Germans in North Africa proved tougher than expected but had to be defeated in order to move through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, and then the Italians fought harder than Churchill expected. The "soft underbelly" proved to be not so soft after all, and the American buildup for an invasion through France indeed went more slowly than the Allies had wanted.


In 1942, the western Allies were not nearly as concerned about an eventual Soviet victory as they were about an imminent Soviet collapse that would have left North America, South America and the British Isles alone against the Axis. They were too weak help the Soviet Union directly with an attack in western Europe, but what they did do was helpful all the same.

North Africa: This secured the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal for the Allies. Coming just before the Soviet counterattack at Stalingrad, it was a major diversion. The Axis lost a quarter million (mostly Italian) men, plus some German armor and half their air transport fleet in North Africa. Had these forces been later sent to Stalingrad instead, the Sixth army might have been maintained and relieved. If the Germans had won at Stalingrad in 1942, Eisenhower's victorious forces might have been sent to Iran, the Caucasus and/or the Volga to help "roll back" the German forces.

Italy: The Germans had to send some twenty divisions from the Eastern front to Italy after the battle of Kursk. This happened after they lost the battle, but even if they had won, the diversion of these divisions would have prevented them from "exploiting" their success.

So the Anglo-American plans were based on what they could do, not what they feared.

  • Throw in the fact that America adopted a "Europe First" approach when entering the war to begin with. Our country had just been attacked by fighting Forces of Japan in December, 1941 and the U.S. still opted to assist Europe and Russia with the vast majority of resources the country could muster at the time. Though I don't have exact numbers, I've heard from 75% to 90% of all expendatures were to assist Europe and Russia rather than fighting the Japanese who had just killed 2,500 Americans. That says alot about where we thought the biggest need was. We were doing all we could do for Russia.
    – kevin king
    May 9 '15 at 1:27
  • Initially the Americans believed the Russians would quickly surrender, and planned accordingly to build a massive army to liberate Eurasia from the Germans. Once it became clear the Russians were fighting hard, the US quickly changed its attitude and by the time the 'Victory Plan' was issued in Feb 1942, keeping the Russians fighting became a top American strategic priority. Jun 7 '20 at 6:17

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