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Italy leaves the Axis?

MAC161

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Just a random scenario I've been thinking over on and off, encouraged of late by Time Enough's most recent post here, a boredom-induced re-reading of this old timeline, and coming across this decent map of the scenario's outcome in PKD's work: What PODs would have to occur for Italy (with or without Mussolini) to abandon the Axis (either before WWII or during it) and join the Allies a la The Grasshopper Lies Heavy? I have my doubts this would happen with Il Duce still in charge, unless something(s) happened to seriously alienate him from Hitler; nor do the Western powers' diplomatic efforts to turn him into an ally of some kind in the early '30s seem likely to lead to it, absent major, improbable changes. Any thoughts on what the likeliest might be, how an Italy (Fascist or otherwise, prewar, early or mid-war) fighting on the Allied side might fare, and how the war in general might play out?
 

Death's Companion

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Strada front happens? Less noise over Abyssinia? Cold feet 1940?

The later the change the better things go for the Germans given Italy was far more useful as a source of imports and labor than its military contributions to the Axis Defeat.
 

SinghSong

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Strada front happens? Less noise over Abyssinia? Cold feet 1940?

The later the change the better things go for the Germans given Italy was far more useful as a source of imports and labor than its military contributions to the Axis Defeat.
You have to wonder what might happens without all those imports and that labor, though. And ponder, if Il Duce's Italy did decide to abandon the Axis, who else might Hitler's Germany make overtures to, and have greater success in inducing to join the Axis in their stead? Especially if Il Duce still pursues his ambitions of securing Italy's Spazio Vitale as a member of the Allies, and attempts to launch his own invasions as IOTL, and winds up driving the members of the Balkan Pact into the Axis camp. As for my suggestion for the likeliest POD to occur for Italy to abandon the fledgling 'Axis' between itself and Germany, prior to WW2- how about looking towards the Kingdom of Hungary? Hungary had signed a treaty of friendship with Italy on 5 April 1927, and IOTL, it was the Hungarian Prime Minister, Gyula Gömbös, who successfully forged a closer trilateral unity between Germany, Italy and Hungary by acting as an intermediary between Germany and Italy, whose two fascist regimes had nearly come to conflict in 1934 over the issue of Austrian independence, with Gömbös and his successors eventually persuading Mussolini to accept Hitler's annexation of Austria in the late 1930s. IOTL, it was PM Gömbös who purportedly coined the phrase "Axis", and applied it to his intention to create an alliance with Germany and Italy, with those two countries then subsequently used it to term their alliance as the "Rome–Berlin Axis".

However, the formation of this pact was only Gömbös' fall-back plan, with one of his major goals upon taking office in 1932 having been to align Hungary into an Axis with Italy and Austria instead. In 1933, Gömbös flew to Italy and visited Benito Mussolini, who conveyed to Gömbös his approval regarding the revision of the Treaty of Trianon, as well as promising Gömbös Italy’s aid if Hungary went to war with Yugoslavia and Romania in an attempt to regain Hungary’s former territory from those nations. And while Gömbös was the first foreign head of government to visit Hitler when he became Chancellor, and signed a major trade agreement with Germany shortly thereafter, in the hope of reducing Hungary's unemployment rate, his relationship with Hitler was far more tenuous and less amiable- Hitler considered Gömbös to be a tool of the Jews and Communists (Gömbös had publicly recanted his previous anti-Semitism upon taking office, and the country's Jewish political leadership under Bela Szanto had supported the appointment of Gömbös and his programs in exchange for Gömbös promising not to enact any racially motivated laws, and not to cause economic harm to the Jews through his general policies), and only expressed willingness to take Hungary's side in its territorial ambitions against Czechoslovakia, refusing to support Hungary against the territorial ambitions of either Romania or Yugoslavia.

Unlike Mussolini, who was wholly supportive of Gömbös’ plans to expand the size and power of the Hungarian military, Hitler also resented these plans. And it was only under Gömbös' successors, after his premature death of testicular cancer in Munich in Oct 1936, that Hungary's leadership began promoting and introducing its first Anti-Jewish laws, increasing its shift towards far right totalitarianism and Germanophilia. So then- what if Gömbös had simply elected to back Mussolini during and after the flashpoints of the February Uprising (or Februarkämpfe), and the Nazi-supported July Putsch of 1934, taking the Italians' side in the hope of opportunistically securing his ambition of establishing an Axis between Hungary, Italy and Austria, rather than acting as an intermediary and playing peacemaker between Il Duce and the Fuhrer? Without Gömbös relaying to Hitler how enraged Mussolini had been after the Nazi assassination of Engelbert Dollfuß, and how ready and willing he was to follow through with his threats to declare war against Germany if Hitler invaded Austria to support the Nazi Austrians' unificationist coup, how much more likely would it have been for Hitler to deploy the Austrian Legion, or to at the very least supply arms to, and declare support for, the Nazi coup in Austria in 1934? And if Hitler had done anything besides backing down and disavowing the Austrian Nazi coup at this juncture, as he (extremely reluctantly) was persuaded to do IOTL, is there any way that this wouldn't have resulted in the outbreak of war between Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy?
 
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The Red

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What PODs would have to occur for Italy (with or without Mussolini) to abandon the Axis (either before WWII or during it) and join the Allies a la The Grasshopper Lies Heavy?
This did essentially happen IOTL albeit farcically, thanks to Badoglio's dithering the Germans were able to invade Italy effectively unopposed. However if his regime had been more astute it's doubtful as to whether Italy even had the strength left to resist the Germans long enough for the Allies to gain a proper foothold.

So then- what if Gömbös had simply elected to back Mussolini during and after the flashpoints of the February Uprising (or Februarkämpfe), and the Nazi-supported July Putsch of 1934, taking the Italians' side in the hope of opportunistically securing his ambition of establishing an Axis between Hungary, Italy and Austria, rather than acting as an intermediary and playing peacemaker between Il Duce and the Fuhrer? Without Gömbös relaying to Hitler how enraged Mussolini had been after the Nazi assassination of Engelbert Dollfuß, and how ready and willing he was to follow through with his threats to declare war against Germany if Hitler invaded Austria to support the Nazi Austrians' unificationist coup, how much more likely would it have been for Hitler to deploy the Austrian Legion, or to at the very least supply arms to, and declare support for, the Nazi coup in Austria in 1934? And if Hitler had done anything besides backing down and disavowing the Austrian Nazi coup at this juncture, as he (extremely reluctantly) was persuaded to do IOTL, is there any way that this wouldn't have resulted in the outbreak of war between Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy?
It's unlikely the Austrian Legion could have defeated the Bundesheer and Heimwehr, let alone the Italian divisions mobilised at the border ready to cross. As the July putsch essentially amounted to the Nazis assassinating Dollfuß and declaring themselves to be in charge it feels more likely the whole thing would have devolved into a Bay of Pigs-style embarrassment for Hitler. He could have doubled down and sent in the Reichswehr but they weren't prepared for a protracted conflict and Hitler knew it. More likely it ends with the Austrian Legion running home with their tails between their legs and some awkward explanations from Berlin.
 

SinghSong

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It's unlikely the Austrian Legion could have defeated the Bundesheer and Heimwehr, let alone the Italian divisions mobilised at the border ready to cross. As the July putsch essentially amounted to the Nazis assassinating Dollfuß and declaring themselves to be in charge it feels more likely the whole thing would have devolved into a Bay of Pigs-style embarrassment for Hitler. He could have doubled down and sent in the Reichswehr but they weren't prepared for a protracted conflict and Hitler knew it. More likely it ends with the Austrian Legion running home with their tails between their legs and some awkward explanations from Berlin.
If it had ended that way though, and been limited to a proxy civil war which quickly petered out rather than snowballing into WW1.2, would Il Duce and the Fuhrer have ever been able (or the slightest bit willing) to reconcile their enmity towards one another over the incident? Or would the two have effectively been each others' sworn arch-enemies from that point on- given that Hitler would've held Mussolini personally responsible for foiling his best chance to fulfil his foremost sworn lifelong ambition, as declared in Mein Kampf, to create a union between his birth country Austria and Germany by any means possible; and that Mussolini would've held Hitler personally responsible for orchestrating Dollfuß's assassination, at a time when Dollfuß's wife and children were personal guests at his own private residence, being entertained by his own wife Donna Rachele?

Doesn't get much more personal than that- and in an ATL where Hitler failed to sufficiently distance himself, and voiced his support for the Austrian Nazi coup, rather than disavowing them and any involvement with it as he did IOTL, you can easily imagine Mussolini's Fascist Italy taking up the lead role in opposing the expansion and further rearmament of Hitler's Nazi Germany from then on.
(EDIT: and yes, I know it doesn't technically count as 'Italy leaving the Axis', since there's next to no chance that OTL's Rome-Berlin Axis would ever be established in the first place ITTL. But still, it's the event which seriously alienated Mussolini from Hitler, and vice-versa, more than any other IOTL- and that was with potentially the most diplomatic and peaceful resolution to the crisis possible. It'd arguably take less effort, and have been markedly likelier than OTL's outcome, for the fallout between them to have been irreconcilable, and for the July Putsch to permanently set the two of them at odds with one another from that point forward.)
 
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The Red

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If it had ended that way though, and been limited to a proxy civil war which quickly petered out rather than snowballing into WW1.2, would Il Duce and the Fuhrer have ever been able (or the slightest bit willing) to reconcile their enmity towards one another over the incident?
I'd say it's probable, provided the Italian invasion of Abysinnia still creates the conditions for Italo-German rapproachement and the Spanish Civil War gives them a shared endeavour with which to build on that. Then again the butterflies from a Second Austrian Civil War could potentially make the Anglo-French more accomodating of Mussolini over Abysinnia in the name of ensuring the Stresa Front remains viable, which in turn could butterfly the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the Franco-Soviet Treaty, which in turn could butterfly the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. With such large butterflies flapping around the military coup in Spain could peter out quickly or just not happen altogether.

I don't think the personal relationship between Hitler and Mussolini would be as important than strategic concerns for both but it would certainly be a factor and shouldn't be dismissed. If Mussolini doubles down on his words about teutonic barbarism or Hitler decides that the Austrian situation has revealed his idol to be nothing more than a Judeo-Papal puppet then it could tip the balance of events but perhaps not to the extent it would become such an all-consuming obsession as to bring about a Cold War across the Central Alps regardless of broader European events.
 

SinghSong

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I'd say it's probable, provided the Italian invasion of Abysinnia still creates the conditions for Italo-German rapproachement and the Spanish Civil War gives them a shared endeavour with which to build on that. Then again the butterflies from a Second Austrian Civil War could potentially make the Anglo-French more accomodating of Mussolini over Abysinnia in the name of ensuring the Stresa Front remains viable, which in turn could butterfly the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the Franco-Soviet Treaty, which in turn could butterfly the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. With such large butterflies flapping around the military coup in Spain could peter out quickly or just not happen altogether.

I don't think the personal relationship between Hitler and Mussolini would be as important than strategic concerns for both but it would certainly be a factor and shouldn't be dismissed. If Mussolini doubles down on his words about teutonic barbarism or Hitler decides that the Austrian situation has revealed his idol to be nothing more than a Judeo-Papal puppet then it could tip the balance of events but perhaps not to the extent it would become such an all-consuming obsession as to bring about a Cold War across the Central Alps regardless of broader European events.
Remember though, even IOTL, Nazi Germany sent arms and munitions to Ethiopia in the build-up to the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, because it was frustrated over Italian objections to its policy towards Austria, as well as by the Franco-Italian Agreement of Jan 1935 and the formation of the Stresa Front in April 1935, and then emboldened by the political rift that developed between the United Kingdom and France following the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of June 1935. The prospect that an Italian invasion of Ethiopia would cause a crisis in Anglo-Italian relations was seen as an opportunity in Berlin. From the German perspective, it was believed that having the Italians bogged down in Ethiopia in a lengthy war would probably lead to Britain pushing for the League of Nations to impose sanctions on Italy (which the French weren't expected to veto, out of fear of destroying relations with Britain, but which the Germans still earnestly hoped that they would), which would cause a crisis in Anglo-Italian relations, and allow the Reich to offer its services to Italy, thereby destroying the Stresa Front and gaining them as an ally.

ITTL, wouldn't the German response to the Italian invasion of Abysinnia likely be even more supportive of the Ethiopians against the Italians? And with strengthened relations between France and Italy lessening the divide between them (with the "Austrian Question" having led Mussolini to draw closer to France IOTL, since he needed their military support as a means to deter Hitler from annexing Austria while much of the Italian Army was being deployed to the Horn of Africa- this'd only be even more true ITTL, surely?) along with the massively increased enmity between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and the political rift between France and the UK most likely still happening as IOTL, you'd imagine that Hitler, ever the opportunist, would've most likely focused upon offering the Reich's services and support to the British, seeking to destroy the Stresa Front and gain them as an ally instead. What do you reckon?
 

Creekmench

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I'd say it's probable, provided the Italian invasion of Abysinnia still creates the conditions for Italo-German rapproachement and the Spanish Civil War gives them a shared endeavour with which to build on that. Then again the butterflies from a Second Austrian Civil War could potentially make the Anglo-French more accomodating of Mussolini over Abysinnia in the name of ensuring the Stresa Front remains viable, which in turn could butterfly the Anglo-German Naval Agreement and the Franco-Soviet Treaty, which in turn could butterfly the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. With such large butterflies flapping around the military coup in Spain could peter out quickly or just not happen altogether.

I don't think the personal relationship between Hitler and Mussolini would be as important than strategic concerns for both but it would certainly be a factor and shouldn't be dismissed. If Mussolini doubles down on his words about teutonic barbarism or Hitler decides that the Austrian situation has revealed his idol to be nothing more than a Judeo-Papal puppet then it could tip the balance of events but perhaps not to the extent it would become such an all-consuming obsession as to bring about a Cold War across the Central Alps regardless of broader European events.
Like if the Stresa Front holds, the Anglo-French screw over Ethiopia to Rome's benefit and the Spanish Civil War is preempted. Assuming this stops the remilitarization of the Rhineland. I can see Berlin using Moscow to build up its strength for pragmatic reasons, like the German-Polish non-aggresion Pact of 1934. I know Moscow was on the Popular Front train, and the Nazis were virulently against Judeo-Bolshevism, but if Berlin is boxed in, I can see them rediscovering the Weimar-era utility.
 

The Red

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ITTL, wouldn't the German response to the Italian invasion of Abysinnia likely be even more supportive of the Ethiopians against the Italians? And with strengthened relations between France and Italy lessening the divide between them (with the "Austrian Question" having led Mussolini to draw closer to France IOTL, since he needed their military support as a means to deter Hitler from annexing Austria while much of the Italian Army was being deployed to the Horn of Africa- this'd only be even more true ITTL, surely?) along with the massively increased enmity between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and the political rift between France and the UK most likely still happening as IOTL, you'd imagine that Hitler, ever the opportunist, would've most likely focused upon offering the Reich's services and support to the British, seeking to destroy the Stresa Front and gain them as an ally instead. What do you reckon?

Certainly and to gain the UK as an ally at the expense of Italy would be a deal Hitler would have taken in a heartbeat but was it really ever on the table? Hitler was an opportunist but he was a calculating one, events would see that clouded by desperation in time and perhaps rage towards the Italians would have the same effect earlier on but what would he have to offer the British that he couldn't IOTL and what would make the British accept ITTL. The British taking a hardline stance on Italy over Abysinnia was largely due to public sympathy for the Ethiopians in an election year with the govt trying to secretly arrange an out for the Italians. Hitler offered the British support on the implicit basis they'd back him over Austria likely won't sound very attractive. If they'd really wanted they to could have pressed for the League of Nations sanctions against Italy to include coal and oil and in so doing likely sink the Italian war effort without German help. Presuming the British still turn down his overtures on this basis would he really go all-in on backing the Ethiopians, when it's clear the British govt aren't that interested in their plight, purely to spite the Italians?

Don't get wrong, I'd read the hell out of a Stukas over the Sahara TL but I'm not really sure it would work.


Like if the Stresa Front holds, the Anglo-French screw over Ethiopia to Rome's benefit and the Spanish Civil War is preempted. Assuming this stops the remilitarization of the Rhineland. I can see Berlin using Moscow to build up its strength for pragmatic reasons, like the German-Polish non-aggresion Pact of 1934. I know Moscow was on the Popular Front train, and the Nazis were virulently against Judeo-Bolshevism, but if Berlin is boxed in, I can see them rediscovering the Weimar-era utility.
As you say the Soviets were increasingly focused on Popular Fronts against fascism and anti-German collective security by this point, would they really endanger that for their own short term benefit?
 

SinghSong

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Certainly and to gain the UK as an ally at the expense of Italy would be a deal Hitler would have taken in a heartbeat but was it really ever on the table? Hitler was an opportunist but he was a calculating one, events would see that clouded by desperation in time and perhaps rage towards the Italians would have the same effect earlier on but what would he have to offer the British that he couldn't IOTL and what would make the British accept ITTL. The British taking a hardline stance on Italy over Abysinnia was largely due to public sympathy for the Ethiopians in an election year with the govt trying to secretly arrange an out for the Italians. Hitler offered the British support on the implicit basis they'd back him over Austria likely won't sound very attractive. If they'd really wanted they to could have pressed for the League of Nations sanctions against Italy to include coal and oil and in so doing likely sink the Italian war effort without German help. Presuming the British still turn down his overtures on this basis would he really go all-in on backing the Ethiopians, when it's clear the British govt aren't that interested in their plight, purely to spite the Italians?

Don't get wrong, I'd read the hell out of a Stukas over the Sahara TL but I'm not really sure it would work.
Don't get me wrong either- it probably wouldn't have been on the table, and Hitler certainly wouldn't have gone all in unless the British accepted his overtures on the implicit basis that they'd back him over Austria (which they almost certainly wouldn't have done), but given how little the Ethiopians had to work with IOTL's 2nd Italo-Ethiopian War, and how much the Christmas Offensive managed to accomplish, any noticeable improvement over the armament which the Germans provided them with IOTL could well have had a massive impact on the progress and eventual outcome of the war. Even if he's forced to settle for the territorial gains which were offered IOTL as part of the Hoare-Laval Pact, after the better equipped Ethiopian counter-offensive poses more of a set back to the Italian invasion ITTL than it did IOTL, it'd still represent relative humiliation for Mussolini. And of course, that's all under the assumption that Mussolini even launches the invasion of Abyssinia on the same schedule that he did IOTL, without a declaration of war, or does so at all, when the far more pressing and closer-to-home "Austrian Question" is far more of an issue ITTL.

With not just a small part of the Italian military deployed along the Austrian border as IOTL, having proclaimed to the world that "The independence of Austria, for which he (Dollfuß) has fallen, is a principle that has been defended and will be defended by Italy even more strenuously", but with a considerably larger part of the Italian military deployed within Austria itself, having aided the Austrofascist government in putting down a violent, German-supported Nazi uprising. Given his and Italy's far greater commitments closer to home, in "upholding stability in Europe", wouldn't it be more likely that he'd be more hesitant to deploy all of those Italian soldiers to Eritrea and Italian Somaliland instead so soon, and that he'd delay the planned invasion of Abyssinia for a few more years, and/or launch it with a markedly smaller, less well equipped and more colonial-heavy invasion force? In which instance, the Italians are distinctly less likely to achieve total victory in the war, and a lot more likely to fail entirely.

And let's not forget that the last possible foreign ally of Ethiopia to fall away was the third core member of the Tripartite Pact IOTL, Imperial Japan- with a historical arrangement between the Ethiopian government and the Nagasaki Echiopia Keizai Chosa-kai Nikkei-Sha (Nagasaki Association for Economic Investigation of Ethiopia) having already been negotiated by its director Kitagawa Takashi in September 1933, which had granted the Japanese colonial company authorization to use 500,000 hectares of land in Ethiopia, along with a permit to grow cotton, tobacco, coffee, tea, green tea, rice, wheat, fruit trees, vegetables and ‘medicinal plants’ such as opium, a grant of fifteen hectares of land for each immigrant Japanese family, and 1,000 hectares of land next to Addis Ababa for a Japanese investigation mission to examine which plants could be grown in Ethiopia. And when Lij Araya Abeba, Haile Selassie’s nephew, who’d taken a trip to Japan (having accompanied the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Blattengetta Hiruy Wolde Selassie, on a trip to Japan in 1930 to sign a Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between the two countries), asserted that "It has been my long-cherished ambition to marry a Japanese lady. Of all first-class nations, Japan has the strongest appeal", Sumioka Tomoyoshi, a Tokyo lawyer, philo-Ethiopian nationalist, and Pan-Asian activist, agreed to arrange the marriage, and conducted the search for a suitable Japanese bride to marry into the Ethiopian royal family.

On January 18, 1934, Juo Hyoron [Free Critics] published an article tying the proposed marriage to the international discord. Entitled, "Warning to Ambitions in Ethiopia: 500,000 Yen Spent for the Engagement!", in part it read: “Although we do not have any ambitions in Ethiopia, the countries such as Italy, France, and England which possess close and unalienable interests in Ethiopia, will most certainly understand the royal engagement as a part of Japan's African ambitions, including colonization. Though England and France are unworthy of any trust in a crisis, Italy as well as Germany are still somewhat the allies of an isolated Japan. It would be capricious of Japan to undertake an adventure that could damage Italy's feelings. We should firmly eliminate any ambitions toward Ethiopia and warn against rumors for the sake of the integrity of the Japanese lady who is to be sacrificed for concessions worth only 500,000 yen…”

However, unlike elsewhere, where the Japanese emigrants faced racial prejudice and forced assimilation, Ethiopian progressive intellectuals called “Japanizers” had been arguing that Japan was a good model for modern development, and supported marriage between the upper classes of the two countries. And many Japanese nationalists were also supportive of intermarriage between the proposed Japanese emigrants and Ethiopians, with popular opinion in Japan favoring closer ties with Ethiopia, and many believing in "the necessity of uniting the colored races against the white"- a direct quote from the woman who Lij Araya selected as his first choice in the bridal contest in Jan 1934, from at least 20 candidates who'd made the shortlist, Kuroda Masako, the 23yo second-born daughter of Viscount Kuroda Hiroyuki, of the forestry bureau of the Imperial Household, descended from the former Lord of Kazusa, a feudal lord in Chiba.

However, it was then found that she'd presented her picture and other credentials for the marriage contest without her parents' knowledge, causing a fair bit of turmoil with her family when they found out. Despite initial objections, her father grumpily relented to at least give it a chance, but insisted upon travelling to visit Ethiopia with her before he'd give his consent- and it was this small matter which eventually led to the marriage falling through. The Kuroda family lived in a tiny suburban house, and she'd graduated from the Kanto Gakuin Higher Girl's School in Yodobashi-ku. She spoke English fluently, having been one of the first Japanese girls to take part in an English oratorical contest and to win a prize. She was also noted as being taller than average (for a Japanese woman- standing 5ft 3in tall). After her enrollment as a candidate for the "prince's bride," she studied the habits and customs of Ethiopia, through books and conversations with those familiar with conditions there.

In school, Kuroda Masako had been a keen athlete who enjoyed swimming, basketball, volleyball, and tennis. And in an interview in February 1934, she enthusiastically remarked "I understand that the people of Ethiopia are extremely interested in sports, and I believe that I shall be able to indulge my taste for athletics when I go there. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity of meeting Prince Abeba when he visited Japan a few years ago, but I have firmly decided to go to his country and I am willing to put up with whatever circumstances come along." She also expressed her desire to increase the ties of friendship uniting Japan and Ethiopia, and she saw herself as the first of many who would emigrate to Ethiopia. Unfortunately for her though, such radical statements sparked a great deal of alarmist sentiment among the colonial powers in Europe, especially Italy, and France to a lesser extent.

In 1934, two Japanese gunboats visited Djibouti, the primary maritime door to Ethiopia, and that same year the Japanese government sent Tsuchida Yutaka on an inspection tour of Ethiopia. Although eager to protect Ethiopia's independence from the predations of the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, and optimistic about commercial opportunities, Tsuchida felt that Japan, far from Ethiopia, could not have an effect on imperialist ambitions there, and risked antagonizing the Europeans. As such, both the proposed marriage and investment deal were blocked and forbidden by Japan's Gaimusho (foreign ministry). Difficulties rose to the point where Kuroda Masako, at the end of February 1934, defensively asserted that "I will go to Ethiopia even in the capacity of a private citizen, if the Imperial Household authorities should disapprove of my trip."

At that time, her mother acknowledged that the Imperial Household Department had not yet sanctioned her daughter's betrothal or proposed trip to Ethiopia- with Viscount Kuroda Hiroyuki's employment as a member of the Imperial Household, and his refusal to allow his daughter's marriage to go through unless he could travel Ethiopia to personally meet and approve of the groom first, allowing them to veto his trip, and thus the proposed marriage, indefinitely. She added that Araya "was scheduled to visit Japan in May of this year, but his trip has been indefinitely postponed. No direct word has been received from the Royal Family of Ethiopia, but Mr. Sumioka, a lawyer, is negotiating the matter." The American embassy in Tokyo agreed, reporting in February 1934 that the Japanese government had provided little information regarding the marriage and disparaged its political significance. The next month, the embassy reported that the marriage was about to fall through because of official Japanese opposition.

Haniyu Chotaro, a businessman from Kamakura, had spent five months in Ethiopia at the Gaimusho's request. Upon his return in April 1934, he publicly discussed the commercial opportunities available in that country. He then declared that "This matter is very delicate from a viewpoint of the international situation, and I do not like to make any comment on it until I have submitted a report to the Foreign Office. Prince Ababa [Araya] is called a Prince only in Japan. In Ethiopia, he is called Lij Ababa, and the word Lij means "lord" in English. There are only three Princes of the Blood in Ethiopia. The Japanese Foreign Office has nothing to do with this marriage. Some time ago, an Italian newspaper sarcastically remarked that Japan intends to invade Africa with "kisses between the dark and the black by having a daughter of a Japanese peer married to an Ethiopian." The Ethiopian press from the outset has been taciturn on the matter. If Miss Kuroda really wants to marry Ababa, she had better, I think, personally inspect the actual conditions of Ethiopia."

Demanding a meeting with the new Japanese ambassador to Italy, Sugimura Yotaro, on the 16th July 1934, Mussolini linked the marriage to a number of contentious issues, complaining that "Japan is actively supplying weapons and ammunition to Ethiopia, sending a princess, and a newspaper in Tokyo is vigorously maneuvering Japanese-Ethiopian friendship." Sugimura, who had represented his government at Geneva at the time of Japan's withdrawal from the League of Nations, soon thereafter spoke with La Tribuna of Rome; endeavoring to dispel suspicions of conflicting Italo-Japanese interests in Asia and Africa, he emphatically denied that the Japanese Army had sent instructors to Ethiopia as Mussolini had alleged. Regarding economic penetration of Ethiopia by Japan, Sugimura shifted the blame to “Jewish middlemen”, denied that there was any foundation for the rumor of a projected marriage between a Japanese princess and an Ethiopian prince, and offered to break ties with Ethiopia entirely, attempting to find common ground with Italy on business dealings in China; promising not to interfere with Italian interests in East Asia, encouraging importation of Italian wine and an exchange of students and teachers between them.

His comments stirred up a furore inside Japan, where there had been popular affinity for the African Empire. And despite popular opinion, when the Ethiopians approached Japan for help on 2 August they were refused, and even a modest request for the Japanese government to officially state its support for Ethiopia in the coming conflict was denied, on the grounds of attempting to facilitate improved relations and increased trade with Mussolini’s Italy. However, there proved to be little to no demand for Italian wine imports in Japan (in contrast with coffee imports, which were far more lucrative, and commanded a higher price in Japan than anywhere else in the world well into the 1960's), and the proposed Italo-Japanese student and teacher exchange never came to pass. Masako refused to give up, and kept trying to gather funds for her to travel there alone regardless; but on the night of July 24th 1935, she was allegedly mistaken for a communist, and taken to the Ueno police station in Tokyo.

The problem began when a policeman, Tajima Yukio, noted a suspicious-looking woman in black afternoon dress walking up and down the street near Ueno Park for two hours until about 8:00 p.m. The policeman disguised himself as a worker and arrested her. As it turned out, she had earlier reported to him that she had lost her purse containing about ¥5. She had borrowed 20 sen from him but had given a false name--therefore the trouble. Even after she had given her real name, and explained that she had been waiting for a friend, the policeman was still suspicious and took her in. She was, however, shortly released; and afterwards, Kuroda Masako, by then 25, finally caved in to her family's wishes, and gave up on her romantic dream of becoming an Ethiopian Princess IOTL.

So then, ITTL- where the Imperial Japanese would be cementing closer ties and currying greater favor with Hitler's Germany by following through with supporting the Ethiopians against Mussolini's Italy in the conflict, as well as looking out for their own colonial interests (effectively puppetizing Ethiopia to a similar extent as Siam in the process), and carrying out the will of the Japanese people into the bargain- wouldn't it be far more likely for the Japanese to either follow the lead of their foremost European ally, Nazi Germany, or to accept the responsibility (and acclaim among the anti-colonialist independence movements they supported elsewhere) for taking the lead themselves?

Having been emboldened by not only the British, but the Germans as well, adopting a hardline stance on Italy over Abyssinia, leaving only the French and Italians themselves for the Japanese to worry about "damaging the feelings of", mightn't it be far more viable and advantageous for the Japanese to intervene in the conflict, and support the Ethiopians against the Italian invasion? And there's no telling what the wider repercussions of that might've been. Heck, even if the Italian invasion never happened, or got set back a year or two by Mussolini's need to maintain a larger military presence either in Austria or along the Austrian border, to defend Austrian independence against the Nazis; that still would've given the Nagasaki Echiopia Keizai Chosa-kai Nikkei-Sha its window to commence its operations there, and facilitated the establishment of a sizable Japanese diaspora in Ethiopia, in a similar manner to how the Sociedad Colonizadora Japón-México did in Chiapas IOTL (having also been established for the purpose of creating coffee plantations for export to Japan).

And even in Mexico IOTL, a large number of Japanese immigrants were brought over as workers, contracted to companies doing business in the country which needed skilled labor- first in the mining and sugar cane industries, then later in construction and railroads. And the Japanese were relatively free from discrimination in Mexico, unlike in the United States, Brazil and other countries in the Americas, primarily due to the work that they did, which included the construction of factories, bridges and other infrastructure in Mexico. As such, the Japanese were viewed favorably, not considered to be foreign exploiters, but rather as partners in Mexico’s development, because of their technical skills in fields such as medicine and engineering. Surely this'd be even more true in Ethiopia ITTL, where the pre-established levels of infrastructure and education would be far lower, and the relative skill level of the Japanese diaspora would be far greater?
 
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SinghSong

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Certainly and to gain the UK as an ally at the expense of Italy would be a deal Hitler would have taken in a heartbeat but was it really ever on the table? Hitler was an opportunist but he was a calculating one, events would see that clouded by desperation in time and perhaps rage towards the Italians would have the same effect earlier on but what would he have to offer the British that he couldn't IOTL and what would make the British accept ITTL.
Anyway, returning to this question (after having been side-tracked quite a bit by speculating on how differently the situation in Ethiopia might wind up panning out ITTL)- I don't think that it's likely that gaining the UK as an ally would've been on the table. But keeping Mussolini's Italy in the Stresa Front, and committed to defending the independence (and allegiance) of Austria, would greatly increase the chances of WW2 kicking off markedly earlier, over any efforts by Hitler to carry out the Anschluß of Austria ITTL. And with the international response to the Nazis' Anschluß having been most subdued, muted and accepting of Hitler's fait accompli in the UK (where The Times compared it to the Acts of Union between England and Scotland) and the USA, an alternate WW2 which kicked off over it could well see the British electing to maintain its neutrality, rather than getting embroiled in another costly conflict on the continent. So it wouldn't so much be Hitler gaining the UK as an ally at the expense of Italy's enmity, but Lebrun gaining Italy as an ally at the expense of the UK's relative indifference. Wouldn't that be just as good, from Hitler's perspective?
 

The Red

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And of course, that's all under the assumption that Mussolini even launches the invasion of Abyssinia on the same schedule that he did IOTL, without a declaration of war, or does so at all, when the far more pressing and closer-to-home "Austrian Question" is far more of an issue ITTL.
That's a good point. I was working on the assumption that Mussolini would be even more headstrong after forcing Hitler into an even more humiliating climbdown but if the Germans have sent Austrian Nazis over in force and look as if they might do so again then even he might realise it isn't the best idea to send the bulk of the Italian army to a different continent.


So then, ITTL- where the Imperial Japanese would be cementing closer ties and currying greater favor with Hitler's Germany by following through with supporting the Ethiopians against Mussolini's Italy in the conflict, as well as looking out for their own colonial interests (effectively puppetizing Ethiopia to a similar extent as Siam in the process), and carrying out the will of the Japanese people into the bargain- wouldn't it be far more likely for the Japanese to either follow the lead of their foremost European ally, Nazi Germany, or to accept the responsibility (and acclaim among the anti-colonialist independence movements they supported elsewhere) for taking the lead themselves? Having been emboldened by not only the British, but the Germans as well, adopting a hardline stance on Italy over Abyssinia, leaving only the French and Italians themselves for the Japanese to worry about "damaging the feelings of", mightn't it be far more viable and advantageous for the Japanese to intervene in the conflict, and support the Ethiopians against the Italian invasion? And there's no telling what the wider repercussions of that might've been...
That's very interesting about the marriage contest. I had been aware that the Japanese people had a fondess for Ethiopia but hadn't heard of that before, thanks for sharing. Similar to the British however I do think public opinion would have come a distant second to strategic interests, particularly as the Japanese imperialists didn't have to worry about elections to the same degree. Anti-colonial point scoring and new markets are tantalising after all but they would have to be weighed with the potential loss of Italian investment in Japanese-occupied China and Italo-Japanese trade overall. Plus if Hitler is taking his attention away from the Soviets towards Italy wouldn't the Japanese be more interested in shifting his focus back towards their common enemy?

But keeping Mussolini's Italy in the Stresa Front, and committed to defending the independence (and allegiance) of Austria, would greatly increase the chances of WW2 kicking off markedly earlier, over any efforts by Hitler to carry out the Anschluß of Austria ITTL. And with the international response to the Nazis' Anschluß having been most subdued, muted and accepting of Hitler's fait accompli in the UK (where The Times compared it to the Acts of Union between England and Scotland) and the USA, an alternate WW2 which kicked off over it could well see the British electing to maintain its neutrality, rather than getting embroiled in another costly conflict on the continent. So it wouldn't so much be Hitler gaining the UK as an ally at the expense of Italy's enmity, but Lebrun gaining Italy as an ally at the expense of the UK's relative indifference. Wouldn't that be just as good, from Hitler's perspective?

I'd wager the British reaction to the Anschluß was muted IOTL largely because it was a fait accompli due to Mussolini's blessing and Schuschnigg folding. To paraphrase The Sound of Music there was a general sense that there was nothing to be done about it and as such the British did nothing. If the Stresa Front is still strong and the Austrians and Italians have elected to make a stand then there will be a lot of pressure on the British to draw a line as well. If only because it would be seen as better to fight Germany with Italy than fight Germany alone later on, the French are likely to come to a similar conclusion.

Granted there will be a lot of handwringing about fighting to prevent people who want to become part of Germany from becoming part of Germany from the right and fighting fascism in defence of fascism from the left, alongside an overhanging unease about a lack of preparedness, which ultimately could lead to the British being unwilling to act and the French being unwilling to act without Britain. Mussolini might abandon Austria at that point as well though, he did tend to get a bit sheepish when it came to wars he didn't think he could win.
 

SinghSong

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That's very interesting about the marriage contest. I had been aware that the Japanese people had a fondness for Ethiopia but hadn't heard of that before, thanks for sharing. Similar to the British however I do think public opinion would have come a distant second to strategic interests, particularly as the Japanese imperialists didn't have to worry about elections to the same degree. Anti-colonial point scoring and new markets are tantalising after all but they would have to be weighed with the potential loss of Italian investment in Japanese-occupied China and Italo-Japanese trade overall. Plus if Hitler is taking his attention away from the Soviets towards Italy wouldn't the Japanese be more interested in shifting his focus back towards their common enemy?
Thing is though, the level of Italian investment in Japanese-occupied China, and Italo-Japanese trade overall, both prior to and after the 2nd Italo-Ethiopian War (and throughout the build-up to and duration of WW2, for that matter), was nigh-on non-existent, and wholly insignificant. There was next to nothing to lose, and any increased trade which the Japanese might have hoped to receive from the Italians, in exchange for their non-interference and the withdrawal of their colonial companies from Ethiopia, wound up never materializing. If the Italian build up for the invasion were delayed by even a year, a significant civilian Japanese colonial presence would've already been established there, in accordance with the NEKCN's original schedule; and with its coffee, cotton and tobacco plantations already up and running in Ethiopia, exporting all of these commodities and more back to Japan, Japan would have had a far greater strategic interest in Ethiopia than it did IOTL, even if it was a privately-owned Japanese company.

Enough to deploy its troops and naval forces there, and fight the Italians solo, in order to defend Ethiopia's sovereignty? Unlikely (unless their Ethiopian plantations, and the Japanese migrant settlers in Ethiopia, start getting massacred and/or gassed to death along with the locals by the Italians ITTL). Enough to loudly speak out against Italy's colonial imperialistic aggression, join Nazi Germany in providing arms and material support to the Ethiopians, demand recompense for the loss of Japanese investment and permissions in Ethiopia (the early hand-over of Tientsin, perhaps?) and offer refuge to Haile Selassie when (/if) he's forced to go into exile? Almost certainly, IMHO. As for shifting Hitler's focus back towards their common Soviet enemy, and away from Italy- that may be true of the Japanese Army, but would it be true of the Japanese Navy? Who would they have deemed to be the greater threat to Imperial Japan's interests and to Hakkō ichiu, the divine right of the Empire of Japan to "unify the eight corners of the world"- the Soviets, or the Western Imperial Powers?
 
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MAC161

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Cold feet 1940?

The later the change the better things go for the Germans given Italy was far more useful as a source of imports and labor than its military contributions to the Axis Defeat.
Presuming Italy doesn't declare war on Britain and France in June 1940, the most immediate probable changes would be:

* No Italian invasion of southern France, and no North African campaign sucking in and ruining Italian armies and resources.

* Probably no invasion of Greece, either, unless the Battle of Britain goes differently after the fall of France (thereby removing the RAF's involvement in the Greco-Italian conflict, and Germany's through the subsequent Operation Marita) and/or Mussolini gets the same imperialist urges in this time as in OTL. If Britain is more focused on fighting for its life than in OTL, though (and if it still wants Italy to stay out of the war, as it did in 1939), the Greeks might be encouraged to remain in a tense state of neutrality, or maybe even make some kind of rapprochement with Mussolini (likely to be temporary, given his own visions of "living space" for Italy, but something to consider).

Not sure if Italian participation in invading Yugoslavia is off the table, should the above changes happen, but Hitler might still want a more tightly-controlled Balkans ahead of any alternate Operation Barbarossa, and some variant of the March 1941 coup might still happen, thereby giving him the excuse for Operation 25, and Mussolini the opportunity to prove himself Hitler's equal/rival in the Mediterranean and southern Europe. This might establish a de facto separate Fascist power bloc in this region, setting up the potential for a falling-out/confrontation that destroys the Axis alliance and opens a second front (if the USA joins the Allies, and they're in any state to exploit such a front, that is).

(Tangential thought: How would Francoist Spain figure into such a scenario? I have this vague, probably unworkable idea of both Hitler and Mussolini courting Franco as their own relations sour, and his perhaps joining Italy--de facto if not de jure--and providing an additional, grudging springboard or at least supply base for the Allies in the Mediterranean once they link with Mussolini.)
 
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ChrisNuttall

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Maybe France has a a stronger position in North Africa and the Free French grab it quickly in 1940 (This may be more of a 'France fights on TL.' Italy takes a look at the balance of power in the Med and thinks 'hell, no'; Italy doesn't join the war and stays as neutral as possible (something akin to Spain). There's no north African front, so Hitler may go east earlier ...

I'll think about this a little.

Chris
 

Geordie

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Having recently re-read @pdf27's A Blunted Sickle in the Old Country, the TL and associated discussion show just how big a deal the Fall of France and Italy joining the war were. Without Benny getting involved, how long does the hexagon remain am active theatre in the war? Is there a Vichy? Without Italian entry, Churchill is very unlikely to order a Mers-el-Kebir destitution of the MN. What happens in North Africa?

If North Africa is not hostile to the UK, and Italy at peace, then the Med is open. This saves countless numbers of shipping miles, and frees up yard space in the UK. Continuing to import iron ore from French North Africa means no importing pig iron from the US, further saving both shipping and dollars. The RN is far less stretched, and could be tempted to try exacting Judgement on the KM, instead of Taranto, which would tip the balance even further. Although that might make Hitler try to take the French Fleet.

The army has no North African or East African theatres. No Greek debacle. In fact, there's not a lot for the army to do. There might be a continuing Norway campaign, but even if there is, that's not going to be very manpower intensive. Nor very fluid. At which point it's difficult to see what the army is up to. This might mean Bomber Command on steroids, or Churchill looking even harder for a soft underbelly. Whatever the case, the non-entry of Italy sends some rather large ripples towards East Asia.
 
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