10 Places Germany Could Have Invaded, but Didn’t (WWII)

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A Brief History

On June 25, 1940, France surrendered to the military might of Germany after being crushed in the Blitzkrieg.  Almost immediately, Adolf Hitler and his gang of thugs began planning their next attack that respected no treaties, no borders, and no decency, the proposed invasion of neutral Switzerland.  The Germans never did invade Switzerland during World War II, as they did not invade several other notable places they certainly considered invading or would have greatly benefited from invading.  Here we list 10 of those places. 

Digging Deeper

1.  Switzerland.

A neutral country made up of German, French and Italian sections, Hitler planned to split the country with his evil cohort, Mussolini from Italy.  As the war progressed and Germany’s troubles grew, the invasion of Switzerland never came about.

2.  Great Britain.

The island of Great Britain was certainly on Hitler’s hit list, and his Operation Sea Lion was planned to invade the land of tea and crumpets.  But first, the Germans needed to defeat the Royal Air Force, because air superiority was an absolute essential element of a successful invasion of the island.  The Luftwaffe could not defeat the RAF, and the chance to invade and defeat the British went up in smoke as the fortunes of Germany disintegrated on the Eastern Front.

3.  Malta.

A relatively small island in the Mediterranean Sea (only 122 square miles, the size of a medium/large American city), Malta lies between Sicily and Tunisia, a wonderful blocking position from which to interdict supplies and troops being sent to North Africa from Italy or occupied France.  From 1940 to 1942 the Germans and Italians staged over 3000 bombing raids of the island and did their very best to prevent ships from reaching the beleaguered people there.  Despite these mighty efforts, the people of Malta and the Allied garrison managed to resist these attacks and maintain their air and sea facilities, never crumbling to the point where the Germans could successfully invade.

4.  Gibraltar.

The very name of this place is synonymous with a fortified stronghold (like Fort Knox), and its position guarding the entrance and exit to the Mediterranean Sea at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula makes it militarily vital.  Like Malta, Gibraltar survived many German and Italian attacks that could not defeat or neutralize the strategic position and its aircraft and naval artillery based there.  Hitler would have dearly loved Spain to allow him to invade from the Spanish mainland, but Dictator Francisco Franco desperately wanted to keep Spain out of World War II after suffering such carnage in the Spanish Civil War just a few years before.

5.  Spain/Portugal.

Although Spain owed a great debt to Hitler’s Germany for helping the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War, Franco declared his country neutral and neutral it stayed, although in spirit the Spanish were sympathetic to Germany.  If Hitler had been able to convince Spain to ally with Germany, or if Germany could have seized port facilities on either the Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts of Spain, Germany would have enjoyed much greater flexibility in basing and resupplying its U-boats and conducting aerial patrols of sea lanes.  Also, Hitler may have invaded the Ukraine instead of Spain, considering the Ukraine the more important target at the time, especially as an avenue to the oil fields of the Caucasus.

6.  Ireland.

The Irish were and still are not so particularly enamored of the English, and bitterly resented the occupation of Northern Ireland by the UK.  Despite sympathetic feelings toward Germany (following the axiom, the enemy of my enemy must be my friend), the Irish were unwilling to commit to total war against their long-term nemesis (England).  Hitler considered invading Ireland or Northern Ireland (with the help of the Irish Republican Army), but his plans never became viable because of his failure to defeat the RAF.  Oddly enough, the United Kingdom (Great Britain) also considered Operation Green, an invasion of Ireland!

7.  Sweden.

Germany invaded and conquered the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Denmark, so why not Sweden?  The could have, and would have if they needed to, but Sweden was ill prepared for war with Germany and instead acquiesced to all German demands, acting as a staunch trade partner and supplying tons of vital iron ore.  If the Russians had invaded Sweden, it is likely the Germans also would have invaded as a preemptive measure to avoid losing vital resources.

8.  Turkey.

Despite being allied with Germany during World War I, Turkey was intent on staying neutral during World War II.  Germany and the Allies both courted Turkey as a possible ally, and Germany came close to forcing Turkey to allow German troops to pass through Turkish territory on the way to Iraq.  A German-Turkish non-aggression pact was reached, but when the same sort of pact was violated by Germany with the attack on the Soviet Union, a foray into Iraq became a pipedream for Hitler.  If Germany had a harder time conquering the Balkans, Turkey would have either been invaded (at least the European part) or had its territory violated by passing German forces.

9.  Iceland.

Iceland is strategically positioned to intercept shipping from North America to Northern Europe, especially to Scandinavia and Russia.  Both the Allies and the Germans lusted after the potential to base airplanes and ships at this strategic island, but Iceland remained neutral in spite of strong lobbying efforts by both sides.  Britain had imposed trade restrictions on Iceland to prevent free trade with Germany, and on May 10, 1940, Operation Fork went into effect, the British invasion and occupation of Iceland, preempting the Germans from doing so first.  To illustrate how easy the conquest was, nobody was killed on either side, except for one British suicide enroute.  In response, the Germans drafted Operation Ikarus, their own plan for invading Iceland, but in 1941 the United States sent the Marines to Iceland to occupy the island and deny it to Germany.  The US later added Army and Army Air Forces to the occupation as well as naval facilities and garrison amounting to about 30,000 Americans at one time.

10.  United States.

Hitler had the long-term goal of someday isolating the United States as the sole industrialized democracy left after Germany, Italy and Japan had carved up the rest of the world.  Once the US was on its own, Germany would somehow find a way to invade and conquer the last bastion of freedom.  Meanwhile, Hitler planned to attack the US in other ways, with agents dropped off by submarine, by long range missiles possibly fired from ships, subs, or aircraft, and perhaps even by nuclear bombs, poison gas, or radiological “dirty” bombs.  Hitler dreamed of his Amerika bomber that could fly all the way to New York and Washington, DC to bomb our Eastern cities and return safe to Europe, but his engineers never achieved this goal.  (The US meanwhile worked on the B-36 bomber for the same role.)   Luckily, Adolf Hitler and his henchmen never came close to attacking the US mainland in any meaningful way other than sporadic submarine raids.

Question for students (and subscribers): What other places would you include on this list?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Kerrigan, Michael.  World War II Plans That Never Happened 1939-45.  Amber Books, 2011.

The featured image in this article, a photograph (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-126-0350-26A) by Heinz Fremke of German troops in Paris, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

You can also watch video versions of this list on YouTube.

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About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.