Yamamoto famously advised against a war with the United States, because he could tell how powerful they would be once they got going. The Nazis, however, declared war on the United States of their own will, as I understand it, fulfilling their treaty obligations to Japan but without any immediate cause to fight the US themselves.

What was the plan, there? Hitler had already picked fights with several 800-pound gorillas in Europe, but at least all of them he could actually hit. He had taken Paris, he was bombing London, his tanks were already rolling across Soviet soil, etc. But even by the end of the war, the Nazis weren't able to make any substantive attacks against the United States itself. At the beginning, they must not have had any hope of even dropping a payload of bombs on New York, let alone destroying America's factories in Chicago or Colorado or Texas.

Was their plan literally just to declare war, and then hope the United States got bored or tired and threw in the towel? Even if everything else had gone right, if Hitler had invaded Britain and conquered the Soviet Union quickly, he still would be facing a huge enemy from half a world away that he could barely even hit, WHILE holding down all his conquered territories at the same time.

Did the Nazi war machine have a plan for such a scenario? Were there sketches or concepts of an invasion of the United States, maybe up through Mexico or down through Canada after Britain was subdued? Did they hope to make V2's that could cross the Atlantic, or build carriers that could threaten the Eastern Seaboard? Were there discussions of peace treaties once Britain fell, or once the Americans were kicked out of Africa?

Did Hitler have any plan at all for dealing with the United States beyond hoping the Americans got tired of fighting? And if not, why did even the ultra-impetuous Hitler consider it worthwhile to pick a fight with an enemy he couldn't even reach?

  • 2
    Just for the record: Hitler did choose to pick a fight with France or UK, it was the other way around. About your question: declaring war e.g. makes official that the US is not longer neutral. It makes a difference when you attack a convoy..
    – Greg
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 4:59
  • 4
    No too much later Vietnam managed to defeat the USA, despite being both technologically and militarily weaker than Nazi Germany (in comparison with the USA), and having even less possibilities to strike against American soil, just because the fight was getting too expensive for the Americans. So the strategy of holding out until the Americans "get tired and throw in the towel" did prove to be successful.
    – vsz
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 14:11
  • 4
    @vsz That strategy entails taking a LOT of hits, and Germany declared war on the US. It doesn't make much sense to declare war on someone, let them beat on you for a while until you draw enough blood that they feel like giving up, and then return to the same state of peace you had at the beginning. Being the one to declare war implies that you have confidence in your ability to win, not just to hang on and not lose.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 0:21
  • 6
    Assuming everything went to plan and Hitler took over Europe, the Soviet Union and the UK, he would indeed be facing a huge enemy from half a world away that he could barely even hit - but they couldn't really hit him, either.
    – Cooper
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 16:09
  • 1
    @vsz North Vietnam also had the support of the Soviet Union and China. The US would have fought very differently, including very likely a ground invasion of North Vietnam, if not for the fear of the Cold War turning hot. Commented Oct 25, 2020 at 19:02

9 Answers 9


No, Hitler had no plan for defeating the US outright.

However, the Germans had been fighting against the US for quite some time in the Battle of the Atlantic, since US escorts would take convoys partway across and defend them against U-Boats. So the US neutrality was very strained already.

And when the US entered the war, the Germans at once sent U-Boats into US and Caribbean waters where the ships were not convoyed or escorted and the shore lights not blacked out and had a field day sinking these ships for a considerable period. So there were some advantages to the Germans to the new situation.

  • 4
    So it was more about being able to take the gloves off in the present, than about any solid plans for the future?
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 22:09
  • 11
    Yes. And it isn't like Germany had any practical plans for defeating Great Britain, or Russia after 1941 either.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 22:16
  • 11
    +1 oldcat, just as Italy and Thailand also declared war on the United States without - erm, so far as I can tell - having concrete plans to bring the United States to her knees Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 22:37
  • 2
    On that note, hasn't North Korea declared war on the US once or twice recently? Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 16:28
  • 14
    @Shadur North Korea's made a few hostile remarks recently, yeah, but technically we've been "at war" with North Korea (in an undeclared sort of way) since the 50's. The Korean War technically never ended, there's just been a 60-year ceasefire.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 16:11

At the time Hitler declared war on the U.S. there was no existing plan for how to win it at all.

In fact, based on all the information I have studied, I have come to the opinion that the timing of the whole thing was more about the German military situation in Russia at that moment. I really don't think Hitler had any plans of a serious German war effort against the U.S. ever. Or at least not before England was dealt with. Something that was still a year or two away.

The following supports this opinion:

Short of saying it in a speech, Germany couldn't DO anything that would make a real war difference against America. Hitler did lift the ban he had on German U-boats attacking U.S. shipping but they were still looking more to enforce a naval blockade against England or sinking Russian shipments.

What is the point in giving America justification to join England in any overt actions against his Reich at that time? The answer is there is no point. Making dumb moves like that fits the Hitler of the comming desperation times but not of late 1941. The Hitler of 1941 still worked situations to his benefit in most cases.

It was during the very week of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, operation Barbarosa ground to a halt at the gates of Moscow. Right after the stall (December 5th and 6th, 1941), the Soviets attacked German forces around Moscow with forces that included 70 fresh divisions of well equipped, Siberian troops. Troops that the German High Command didn't think were available.


From the 5th on, the Soviets began a counter-offensive and were making small gains (a mile or less) in several areas. On the 6th, Soviet Thitieth Army broke into Third Panzer Group's left flank northeast of Klin to a distance of eight miles, almost creating a complete breakthrough.

German generals were reporting all along the line about the fresh, well trained and equipped Russian Siberian forces. For the next several days German forces were retreating west from Moscow.

Early on, it looked at times like the routs the German were accustomed to creating but they were the ones on the run. On the 10th of December, Guderian characterized his Second Panzer Army as a scattered assemblage of armed baggage trains slowly wending their way to the rear.

Hitler knew very well everything that was happening along the front. He was updated several times a day. He knew his armies were stalled and falling back. He also knew that unless something changed quickly, the Moscow objective could not be accomplished in 1941.

Though its certain he was shocked as this type situation had never occurred up until this time. Still, Hitler was not at a point where he was delusional and making up defensive formations yet. He knew Germany had a real issue here and likely thought he could work their way out of it.

In addition, Hitler was aware that his nation's strategic fuel reserves were low and some of the German armies in Russia were well short of normal strength. He had plans for how to get troop strengths back up but the oil situation alone threatened everything.

In order to turn the situation immediately, Hitler was looking for ways to change things on the Russian front. It is my opinion he hoped declaring war on the U.S. would induce Japan to reciprocate the gesture by declaring war on the Soviets. Or at the least, he hoped to persuade his ally to create concerns along the Russian border.

The Soviets and Japanese were not allys by any stretch. Rather, they were old enemies. In fact, Stalin had feared a Japanese attack on the Russian Eastern border since the war bagan. It was very reluctantly--and possibly out of desperation--that he had moved forces from there to the Moscow area. Even then it was only after Stalin's senior Japanese spy convinced him that Japan was looking East, not West.

If successful in influencing Stalin to pull some of these forces back, Hitler was still under the mistaken impression the Russians were completely out of reserves. He felt that victory was that close. If he could get the situation back to where it was just before the deep freeze began, they could resume the attack--and quickly win Moscow.

Other than his hopes for immediate help with the Soviet situation--which would have been admitted to NO ONE by the Nazi regime--it is unexplainable that Hitler would just up and declare war on America without substancial upside for his country at the time.

  • I don't think this narrative - that there were 70 divisions of "Siberian troops", that were moved from far East after Stalin was convinced that the Japan would not invade by a spy, and that he would send them back if Japan actually invaded - has any basis in fact. At least until I see sources. Ditto for Hitler's belief regarding Soviet reserves.
    – Kostya_I
    Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 8:50

Hitler's expectation, which was initially correct, was that the United States would not enter the war. In fact, he did not even think Britain would declare war on Germany. When Britain did, he reportedly was deeply shocked.

The main "plan", if you can call it that, was what was called "fortress Europe". The idea that once united, the nations of Europe would be too strong to be defeated and the United States would just give up attacking.

There was also the "super weapon" dream that technologies like rockets, jet engines and nuclear weapons would eventually turn the tide of battle. These were more like hopes than plans.

The key piece of the puzzle you are missing is that Hitler was bankrupt. People who are out of money do desperate things. They are like a junkie who does one robbery after another to solve his immediate problem, without regard to being on an unsustainable path.

  • 11
    "Hitler's expectation, which was initially correct, was that the United States would not enter the war" This is absurd. As the OP recalls, Hitler declared war against the US "of his own will" in December 1941. He ordered his U-boat to attack New York, which they did the next months. How could he possibly expect that the US "would not enter the war"? And what do you mean exactly when you say that Hitler was Bankrupt in 1941 ?
    – Joël
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 5:01
  • 4
    @Joel I think 'initially' is referring more to '39-'40 than December '41. WWII had already been going on for quite some time before the U.S. entered it (and, even then, it was only because Japan kind of forced the issue with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, invasion of the Philippines, etc.) Though, I think most viewed eventual U.S. entry into the war as rather inevitable by that point.
    – reirab
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 16:14

There were some plans like the Amerika Bomber (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerika_Bomber) that also could be used to deliver an atomic bomb. There was also plans to launch bombers from the Azores.

There were also plans for V2 rockets launched from U-boats.


As Oldcat said, no, Hitler had no plan for defeating the US outright. He didn't need to have one. It was enough that he believed that the Japan had one, and could carry it on up to victory.

Thus, his declaration of war against the US was a strategic move, very similar to the declaration of war by the UK to Japan at about the same time. Churchill explains well the reason of this move in his war memories. At first glance, it makes not much sense for the UK to declare war at Japan: the UK could not do much against Japan in the short term, being too far and too busy, and declaring war just gave Japan pretexts to attack UK's colonies in Asia like Singapore, Burma (which were indeed invaded by Japan), India (which was not) and allies (like Australia). However, Churchill's aim in declaring war to Japan, after Pearl Harbor, was simple: to secure a complete and definitive alliance with the US, until the end of the war, by being at war against the same country. While Churchill had no plan for the UK to defeat Japan, or even to help defeat it in a significant way, he believed in the power of the US and its ultimate victory against Japan.

Hitler's decision to declare war to the US is symmetrical: he just had the opposite view on the power and weakness of US and Japan than Churchill. Of course, he was delusional on this respect, and Churchill was right. But his delusion concerning the weakness of America was old and well-entranched, based on his contempt for democracy and his false vision of how Germany lost WWI (in his vision, the US played no role in it, it was the "stabbing in the back"). Concerning Japan, he was very admirative of their military power. A saying that was repeated around that time in the elite of the third Reich was that "Japan was invincible, having never lost a war in 2000 years". Understand: by declaring war to the US, Germany ties its destiny to Japan, and thus cannot lose the war. (Reference for this paragraph: "Hitler and America" by Klaus P. Fischer, university of Pennsylvania Press).

  • 6
    Churchill declared war on Japan because they attacked British dependencies in the region from the get-go...like Hong Kong on Dec 8. Soon thereafter Singapore, Malaysia and Burma were attacked.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 22:31

Hitler's best chance was to conquer the "rest of the world" outside of the Americas, which he and Japan had the power to do, absent vigorous American intervention. The plan would be to conquer what I call the Euro-As-Af land mass.

Put another way, Hitler had to deprive America of a "critical mass" of world power. In both my unpublished book, Axis Overstretch, and a Second World War "take-off" on Civilization II, I hypothesized that the Axis would win if they ever got 50 percent or more of the world's industrial capacity (at least before America got the atomic bomb).

In my computer game, there were three other "powers" besides America opposing the Axis: Britain (counting the Commonwealth), the Soviet Union, and China plus a bunch of neutral countries (Spain, Turkey, Iran, etc., and four countries in Latin America.) Basically the Axis win if they conquer three out of four; say the Soviet Union, plus China and all the neutrals.

North America plus South America had just under 45% of the world's industrial capacity in 1941, according the Paul Kennedy in "the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers." America needs to retain "neutral" Latin America plus one other power (Britain, the Soviet Union, a conquered Japan, or "Greater China" (all of China plus Southeast Asia) to survive.

To quote from "Axis Overstretch," "As powerful as was the United States of America, she could not survive alone in a world full of enemies. She would even have a very precarious existence if her only friends were in the Western Hemisphere." Hitler's way to win was to "lock out" America from the Eastern Hemisphere.

  • Tom Au, is this book out yet? Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 3:55
  • @axsvl77; Sadly, the publication has been derailed. It was "ready to go" in 2002, with this man en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Williamson_Murray (my favorite former professor) as a sponsor. Then the Iraq War broke out, and the U.S. defense department had greater need of his services than I did.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 9:13
  • Sorry to hear that! It still sounds worth reading. Hope that you get it pushed out at some point. Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 14:43
  • "Overstretch".....is this title a play on words joke? When you opined "that the Axis would win if they ever got 50 percent or more of the world's industrial capacity", did your analysis consider any perceived criticisms about the fact that German manufacturing and oil/fuel production were being bombed to oblivion, and resources being consumed in levels so staggering that the sustained military momentum necessary to acquire said 50% of worlds industrial capacity was simply impossible? This analysis is basically: Considering ultra-impossible-factor-as-a-given, the Axis would have won. Baloney.
    – elrobis
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 20:46
  • 1
    @elrobis: I wrote" absent American intervention." Of course American intervention wasn't absent. America had 40% of the world's industrial capacity, Canada and Latin America about 5%, Axis, almost 30% (more than double the 10%-12% they had in 1937). other Allies, about 25%. If America had sat out the war (as the isolationists wanted), the Axis would have conquered the eastern hemisphere and "doubled up" again. Then they could match American airpower. It's a "time value" argument.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 22:51

The simple answer is that Adolf Hitler (to put it colloquially) was insane. Almost certainly a narcissist with a messiah complex, but most definitely incompetent as a military tactician. An amphetamine fueled trainwreck who forcefully asserted his control over tactical decisions and had an absurdly pronounced taste for the grandiose rather than the simply effective.

The invasion of Russia alone is a grand demonstration of his lack of self-control and inability to rationally plan ahead. It is one of the most obvious blunders in modern military history.

So as to the question at hand, it appears that Hitler had no realistic or reasoned plan to defeat the United States. All evidence points to him not believing he would need one. Your attempt to evaluate his decision seems to be based in the assumption that he was a rational political actor, which he almost certainly was not.

The man didn't think he could lose. When the war turned against Germany and the facade of his delusional infallibility started to crumble, he increasingly fell into depression before eventually killing himself.

  • 1
    This answer would be improved if it cited all non-trivial assertions
    – MCW
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 14:45
  • A rational political actor running Germany could also come to the conclusion that declaring war on the United States was the correct thing to do. Germany doesn't need to defeat the United States, it just needs to prevent the United States from projecting force across the Atlantic.
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 0:53

Simple Answer: Adolf Hitler did not have a plan on invading the United States of America.

More Detailed Answer: Adolf Hitler first declared war on Poland, and then France and England. Using a technique called "blizkrieg," Poland, France, and the Low Countries quickly surrendered in the next three to four months. Then, Hitler attacked Norway, England, and some other countries North of the mainland of Europe. The only failure was England, which at first the name of the battle for the Germans was "Operation Sealion." Adolf Hitler abandoned his attack on England because RAF fighter pilots were taking a large toll on the Luftwaffe, the German air force.

Therefore, Hitler started an attack on Russia, then, the Soviet Union. Italy, Romania, Hungary, and a few other Axis countries cooperated in the attack. Eventually, this attack was reversed at the Battle for Stalingrad.

Basically, Adolf Hitler never publicly stated any plans of attacking the United States because he was so preoccupied in Europe. This next statement is opinionated: if Hitler did not even defeat the U.K., how in the world did he think that he'll beat the U.S.?

So, the United States never found any evidence of Nazi Germany wanting to invade the United States. I'm not entirely sure about England or the Soviet Union (or Russia).

Sidenote: Hitler had lots of amazing weapons on his side, such as the Tiger, the V1 and V2 rockets, etc. If he had more personal and material, he would have considered on invading the United States. But no, in conclusion, he never had the chance to plan out the invasion of the U.S..

  • 1
    This answer would be improved by citations.
    – MCW
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 8:29
  • There are more ways to defeat an enemy, beyond invasion. If Hitler didn't have a plan to invade, what DID he plan on doing?
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 13:21
  • 1
    @MarkC.Wallace This is common information any person with knowledge of WWII should have. In addition, this information can quickly be found on history websites such as history.com, etc.
    – 关一骏
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 21:50
  • Also, @Nerrolken, I don't really understand your question. In most peoples' views, Adolf Hitler was a fanatic. He dreamed on taking over the world due to the fact that he wanted revenge against the Allied countries for treating Germany "horribly" after WWI.
    – 关一骏
    Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 21:52
  • @C.Guan Sure he was a fanatic, but it would be a mistake to say he was simply crazy. He (and his staff) had plans, and they were usually very detailed and thorough. It's pretty clear that Germany couldn't have invaded and occupied the entirety of the United States, it's simply to large and far away. My question is, how DID he plan to beat them? Did he hope to demoralize and frustrate them into peace? Did he have plans for extensive long-range bombing? Were there economic projections that the US wouldn't be able to afford a long war? In Hitler's dream scenario, why did the US lose WWII?
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 13:25

In the period 1940-1941 the United States was technically neutral but was already involved in the war on England's side. The US Navy was escorting convoys, delivering Lend-Lease shipments of armaments and food to England and suffering losses in the North Atlantic. The destroyer Reuben James was sunk by torpedo in March 1941. Hitler recognized all this in his speech to the Reichstag on December 11 1941, explaining his reasons for a declaration of war on the US. A video of Hitler's speech and reasons for declaring war on the US can be seen on Youtube.

  • 3
    This does not answer the question how he planned to defeat the US.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 12:13
  • I'd think it could be added without much work, if the user cares to do so.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 10:48

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