On 1 May 1942, Japanese forces invaded Siberia from the east as Germany assaulted from the south. Hitler’s stated reasons for the invasion were Vlasov’s aid to partisans, Russia’s slowness to withdraw forces from several Central Asian nations, and its refusal to demobilize.
Vlasov’s forces stood little to no chance with the bulk of the former Red Army in German hands, the loss of most of Russia’s industrial base, and little to no heavy equipment. Despite this, Japan’s initial drive stalled due to the bulk of Vlasov’s armor and aircraft being deployed in the Far East. A bloody stalemate became the norm as both sides slugged it out.
The southern Siberian Front rapidly collapsed within the first week due to the fall of Novosibirsk and the capture of Vlasov by German forces driving out of Kazakhstan. Though this marked the end of organized resistance in Western Siberia, the campaign would continue until early September due to the need to secure outlying regions. With German forces pressing from the west, Russian forces in the Far East, forced to defend on two fronts, buckled and dissolved as Japanese forces broke through and drove to the Yenisei River where they met up with their German counterparts.
For well over a year, Nazi Germany cultivated a close interest in the affairs of India, the crown jewel of the British Empire. Hitler and the Japanese supported an indigenous militia led by Subhas Chandra Bose to keep the British pinned down. The Indische Legion, variously known as the Tiger Legion, the Free India Legion, or the Azad Hind Fauj was an Indian armed unit raised in 1941 attached to the German Army, nominally under the control of Subhash Chandra Bose. The initial recruits were Indian student volunteers resident in Germany at the time. Raised as an assault group that would perform as a pathfinder unit in the German/Indian invasion of the western frontiers of British India, the contingent first saw action when a hundred of the Legionnaires were parachuted into eastern Iran and infiltrated into India through Baluchistan to commence sabotage operations against the British in preparation for Operation Maximilian.
Citing that the instability within India was threatening the region, Germany invaded with three Army Groups to “restore order.” Army Group Middle East, under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, thrust from Iraq through Iran into India. The two northern Army Groups pressed south through Afghanistan, their advance slowed by two weeks as it consolidated its grip on the kingdom. The first group would follow a northern route hugging the Himalayas and reach its final destination in Calcutta; the second group would do a pincer movement into central India and return to Delhi; and Rommel would sweep down into the southern Indian heartland and capture the port city of Madras. The entire campaign took three months and was notable for the first deployment of the T-34. Discovered during the closing phase of Operation Barbarossa, the tank had drawn the interest of the German High Command with its innovative design. Interested in its combat effectiveness, the Wehrmacht sent several dozen into India and were impressed by its performance.
Southeast Asia saw conflict as well with the surprise capture of Singapore by Japanese soldiers and a combined force of Japanese and Thai soldiers invading Burma, though with minimal gains.
South Africa Joins the Axis
Just as Britain was struggling to push back German forces in India as well as to restore order, South Africa made the shocking announcement that they were declaring themselves a republic, withdrawing from the Commonwealth, interring all British soldiers within their borders, seizing all British property in the country, and then proceeded to invade Swaziland, Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Southern Rhodesia. With Portugal declaring its neutrality and South Africa controlling the southern coast, Britain was unable to supply or support their colonies against South African forces. Swaziland, Basutoland, and Bechuanaland quickly fell in the opening weeks of the invasion.
A notorious incident occurred in June 1942 when the Royal Navy decided to shell Cape Town. The deaths of civilians, particularly women and children, reignited deep seated anger within South Africa reaching back to the Boer War resurrecting memories of the atrocities committed against civilians by British forces. In retaliation, British soldiers were routinely tortured and/or murdered by South African forces upon capture.
Conclusion of Hostilities
Prime Minister Brown suffered a vote of “no confidence” after the series of debacles that saw the chaos of India, the conflict in Southeast Asia, and the loss of several African colonies. Clement Atlee would assume the position of Prime Minister with the immediate decision to sue for peace. Certain sources have stated that Atlee was more than willing to cede the problem of India to another power, regardless of its traditional importance to the UK. Thus, a peace treaty was rapidly drawn up between Germany and Great Britain granting the Reich a mandate over the former British Raj, though leaving Ceylon under British control.
The conflicts with Japan and South Africa, however, proved much more difficult. Tales of atrocities committed by both powers against British soldiers caused a great deal of outrage among the British population. As the Royal and Imperial Navy fought numerous battles in the Pacific, with the Royal Navy suffering increasing losses, and as the Japanese encouraged independence movements among the Burmese and Malaysians leading to increasing riots and uprisings throughout both colonies, Atlee finally agreed to cede Malaysia, Burma, and Singapore to Japan.
The war between South Africa and Britain would stretch into 1943 as neither side could come to an agreement in what became a quagmire. Germany would continue to covertly send aid to the Afrikaaners in arms and advisors. Angry at Atlee’s refusal to come to the bargaining table, South Africa invaded Northern Rhodesia. British forces made repeated attempts at landing troops in South Africa, successfully achieving footholds scattered across the coast. Despite initial success, none of these footholds ever expanded into a successful offensive. As the British economy faltered, and public opinion gradually turned against the war, Atlee finally agreed to speak with Malan culminating in a peace treaty surrendering all African possessions that were occupied by South African forces.
In order to preserve what possessions were still under British control, namely His Majesty’s African colonies, the government’s policies included a major military base to be built in Kenya, and the African colonies would come under an unprecedented degree of direct control from London, as development schemes were implemented with a view to helping solve Britain’s desperate post-war balance of payments crisis, and raising African living standards.
Subhas Chandra Bose would serve as a figurehead for the German puppet state of India. SS forces gradually entered the new Reich mandate to initiate their plans. Most of the Indo-Aryan race was considered to be contaminated by mixing with other lower races. Himmler had identified the purest of the Aryan castes in India to be Germanized; the rest would either be exterminated or subjugated to slave labor.
Those organizations which were viewed to be a threat to German authority, such as parts of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, were quickly rounded up and executed, Mahatma Gandhi among them. Any and all uprisings were brutally put down and the Hunger Strategy, which had been initiated in Russia now found its way to India. Using the promise of food, advancement, and rewards, the German occupation force was able to separate India into various factions that aided their future goals.
As for Central Asia, Hitler had the former Soviet republics fused into a single Reichskommissariat Turkestan. Afghanistan was transformed into a puppet state.
South Africa would immediately set about enforcing a new policy, Apartheid. Unlike Indians and Chinese individuals, who were allowed in the metropolitan areas, blacks were separated from the white population and forced onto tracts of land where they could be watched and exploited. Gradually they came to adopt the same genocidal policies of Germany to deal with this unwanted segment of the population.
Japan would craft a Russian puppet state, the Siberian Regional Government, from their Siberian holdings and increase their troop presence in Malaysia, Singapore, and Burma while preparing for an invasion of southern China in what they hoped would be the final campaign in the conquest of Chiang Kai-Shek‘s forces. With Russia defeated and China facing annihilation, Warlord Sheng Shicai switched allegiances and withdrew Xinjiang from Nationalist China, declaring it an independent republic requesting Japanese protection.