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If you thought the Cold War between East and West reached its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, then think again. 1945 was the year when Europe was the crucible for a Third World War.
So concerned was Prime Minister Winston Churchill, that in the spring of that year, he ordered his Chiefs of Staff to prepare a plan, ‘Operation Unthinkable’ to attack the Soviet Empire. The top-secret plan was so sensitive that only Churchill’s immediate circle of military advisors were privy to the blueprint.
The detailed proposal, which may seem fanciful today, sought to claw back East Germany and Poland, which had fallen under Soviet domination. Churchill felt particularly guilty over the fate of the Poles, who had fought valiantly for the Allies during the war but whose future was now dictated by Stalin.
If Churchill wanted to act, he knew that time was running out. The United States were about to move vast numbers of its troops and ordnance out to the Far East for the assault on mainland Japan, leaving Western Europe at the mercy of Stalin. Furthermore, demobilization would start after VE Day and would rapidly reduce the size of the British Army and their capacity for offensive action.
The plan called for a massive Allied assault on 1 July 1945 by British, American, Polish and German – yes German – forces against the Red Army. They aimed to push them back out of Soviet-occupied East Germany and Poland, give Stalin and bloody nose, and force him to reconsider his domination of East Europe. But the plan was fraught with danger and the Allied force risked being dragged deeper into Soviet territory to face the nightmare of fighting in a Russian winter. The ghosts of Hitler and Napoleon were never far away.
Eventually, in June 1945 Churchill’s military advisors cautioned him against implementing the plan, but it still remained a blueprint for a Third World War. There were numerous flashpoints around Europe, where Allied troops were face-to-face with the Red Army and any of these confrontations could have sparked another world conflict. The Americans had just successfully tested an atomic bomb, and there was now the final temptation of obliterating Soviet centres of population.
But Churchill’s political days were numbered. In July 1945 a General Election removed him from office and the plan for ‘Operation Unthinkable’ was put away in the bottom drawer. Churchill, alone among Western leaders, appreciated the Soviet threat, and it was only a matter of months before the Americans themselves woke up to the threat from Stalin and consulted the British military about a new war plan. The Cold War was now a reality. By Jonathan Walker. Discover real news differently. Please share this story on social media:
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MIKE WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of LIFE IN THE REICH, MY LAST TESTAMENT – LET GOD JUDGE ME, HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH, and other book titles. These best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.
MY LAST TESTAMENT—LET GOD JUDGE ME
HEROES HANG WHEN TRAITORS TRIUMPH: MARTYRS OF WORLD WAR II
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