From a 1942 viewpoint, how long did the Allied population thing the war would last?

Hi we know know WW2 lasted until 1945 (although one can argue that a lot of smaller wars went on).

But now it is 1942 in our timeline with Tokyo, Rome and Berlin is a ginormous distance away. Are there any contemporary predictions how long the war was expected to last? Their experience was with the slow moving World War 1.

Best Regards and keep up the Stellar work!


At this time in 1942 the allieds were on the defensive everywhere. It was still a possibility that u-boats could seal of the Atlantic, and US had still lights in their cities turned on to light up the targets for Subs, and no convoy system in place along the east coast.

So I think that many must have thought that Germany could actually win the war. I guess the population would have some knowledge and hope in US entering the war, but it must have been obvious that a probable victory was at least 2-3+ years into the future.


Among people “in the know” (military/political), I think there were visions of defeating Germany in 1944 based on the goal of a 1943 cross-Channel invasion.

Japan was another matter entirely. Even in early 1945 there was an expectation that the war would last until at least 1947, and that’s assuming the occupation of Tokyo would actually bring about Japanese surrender. In 1942, even after Midway, even after landing on Guadalcanal, it was a long way to Tokyo. On the one hand, the severity of Japanese resistance was not really known yet, but neither was the practicality of island hopping. I think even in 1942, a 1947 end was probably the forecast.

The general population’s expectations are harder to imagine. If they used WW1 as a basis for their estimate, 1945 is probably a reasonable forecast. However, given the situation in Europe and the Pacific (and the fact that this time it was a two-front war for the USA and with France already knocked out) a longer war was probably the expectation.

I haven’t studied the subject in depth, but it my readings I haven’t come across any written predictions. I can imagine some reluctance to do so.

In 1942, the Germans were advancing in Russia (Stalingrad was only at the end of the year), they were outside Cairo (the second battle of El Alamein didn’t end until mid-November), but the war in the desert had to-ed and fro-ed for over a year. The Allies had landed in North Africa, but that fight was far from decided (Kasserine Pass was in February 1943.).

That the Russians might collapse entirely was at least a possibility. That the Brits might be run entirely out of Africa and India were too. The US was nowhere near ready to take the fight to the Japanese, much less the Germans.

U-boats were shredding Allied convoys. The Japanese were turned away from Midway, but the crippling effect on the IJN was not recognized. The Marines had landed in mid-1942 at Guadalcanal, but their fate was hanging by a thread. The Japanese were pushing the Chinese wherever they wanted.

It was not a good time for the Allies. That the war would turn toward at least stalemate in 1943 was entirely unknown. In Germany, the war was expected to end in Russia by the end of the year (so the destruction of 6th Army hit the home front really hard.).
The Germans thought they could win outright. The Russians were convinced they could hang on, but the great advances of particularly 1944 were a long way off.

So, I’d say Allied people thought the war would go on for years (there was talk in the US military of the war going on until at least 1947.). The collapse of the Germans in 1944 took everyone by surprise. The collapse of the Japanese in 1944 took everyone by surprise.

Even so, the US invasion of Honshu was not expected until 1946, and fighting in Japan might go on for years more. Much of the IJN and IJA clung to the belief that the war could go on for years more - in the vain hope the US would take so many casualties they would come hat in hand to give the Japanese whatever they wanted. (This belief extended past the atomic bombs.)

In retrospect, it all seems almost inevitable. At the time, people thought the war might just go on and on…