A few years ago I decided to tackle the research that became the new book, Never Wars. I had read articles about the United State’s colored War Plans over the years and they intrigued me. These were the plans that the US drew up between 1904 and 1942 which planned for waging war around the globe against various governments. Having written about the unpublished plans for invading Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis (The Fires of October, Fonthill Media), I was excited about exploring battle plans for going to war with a range of other countries. This was one of those areas of military history that only rarely is explored. I also knew that this book was going to be a great cross-over book – between military history and alternate history. It would have something for both groups of readers.
I frankly thought it was going be easy. Go to National Archives (Archives II in College Park MD) pull the plans, put them in a relatively consistent format. It should have been easy. Silly me.
Like most projects, things rarely go as planned. First off, there was on one record group where the plans were stored. They were in four different groups. Often times the plans were mislabeled, misfiled, and those I did find were often incomplete. I found orders in 1942 to destroy entire sets of the War Plans. I presume because we had plans on file which called for wars with countries that were suddenly our allies – thus dodging potential embarrassment. The plans were filed sometimes under the Army, sometimes under the Navy, sometimes neither or both. No problem, that just meant more digging, more research, more detective work.
Other complications came up. There was no single “War Plan.” Different years brought about different versions of the plans. There was no standard plan format for the War Plans, which led to some interesting formatting and writing challenges. In some cases, that meant deciding which year to go with for the book. Some of the plans were in fragments, each stored in different files. A few of the plans – like the poorly named War Plan Yellow (against China) I found around 65% of the plan. Others, like War Plan Red (war against Britain) I found two full sets of the plans, both for different years.
War Plan Red was a problem because I found some copies online – but I distrust the Internet so I was determined to find the originals. It took a while – but I ended up with them (whew!).
So What is In The Book?
- Information on US Military Planning. How did the plans come into being?
- The 1905 Plan for War with Britain and Canada: War Plan Red/Crimson
- The 1928/1929 Plans For War with Mexico: War Plan Green Variants #1, #2, and #3
- The 1932 Plan for Intervention in Cuba: War Plan Tan
- The 1940–1943 Plan for the Invasion of the Azores: War Plan Gray
- The 1929 Plan For the American Incursion/Invasion of China: War Plan Yellow Variations A and B
- The 1914 Plan For War With Germany: War Plan Black
- An Alternate WWII—The 1935 Plan For the American War with The United Kingdom War Plan Red
What Was the Coolest Stuff I Discovered?
I’ll be honest – the plans were pretty awesome. It is fascinating with War Plan Green how the issues we face today with Mexico are the same as they dealt with in the 20’s.
The War Plan Gray – the US planned invasion of the Azores at the start of WWII, was neat. Stumbling across President Roosevelt’s signature on the plans was very cool. Basically this plan called for the US to seize the Azores if Gibraltar fell to the Nazi’s. These plans were on the table before the attack on Pearl Harbor. It makes you wonder how the Battle of the Atlantic would have gone.
War Plan Red – the 1935 plan to go to war with Britain was creepy. First, it showed how off-base we were in 1935 that we were planning for a future war with Britain at a time when Hitler was emerging as a threat. The most disturbing thing I found in War Plan Red was that we were going to use chemical weapons against Canada at the onset of the war, in violation of treaty. It is hard to imagine the US planning on using such weapons against our neighbor that way in the opening shots of a war.
My absolute favorite was War Plan Black 1914. The Navy and Army simulated/postulated a full war with a victorious Germany in late 1914 – early 1915. I write a lot of Great War books but this was as treat. The US simply assumed that Germany would be triumphant in Europe. When they came to seize the French colonies – it would be interpreted as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine and would trigger a war with the US. In this war the Germans would crush our Navy in the Atlantic and would seize Guantanamo Bay, then move against the East Coast. It was eerie to read our planners estimates of US target cities. Even stranger was finding the planned trench lines around the US Capital for the siege of Washington DC; which was the anticipated result of the German invasion. The thought of Germany seizing parts of the US East Coast was entrancing and makes you wonder, “What if?”
Was There Anything You Didn’t Include?
I did discover a stash of plans regarding Ireland in WWII. While out of bounds for this book, they were neat. The plans were the British plans for invading Ireland if she declared support for Germany in WWII or was invaded by the Germans. US intelligence got their hands on the plans and they were fascinating to read. It makes you wonder what it would have been like, a skewed perspective on Operation Sea Lion. I intend to go back and copy these materials someday for a magazine article.
I briefly covered the Rainbow War Plans and mentioned War Plan Orange (Japan). The Rainbow plans were the final evolution of planning for war with Germany. I was tempted to dive into these in greater detail but realized they could be a book all on their own. War Plan Orange has already been covered by a great book – so I stayed away from that. I couldn’t do it justice as a chapter in a book, given the extensive research that author Edward Miller already did on the subject.
I hope readers enjoy reading the book as much as I did researching it. If you want a glimpse into military planning and political thinking from the early 20th century, this book offers you both. I think we are all thankful that we didn’t have to use any of these plans. #NeverWars