In 1946, the summer after World War II ended, much of the world got hit with a fairly severe drought that hurt recovery from the war. The Soviet Union was among the hardest hit countries, but large parts of Asia and parts of Africa, and to some extent parts of Europe also got hit.
Weather variations from year-to-year are about as random as anything in our world. What would have happened if the drought had hit four years earlier, in 1942? Nothing good, I suspect. The impact would have started in late summer of 1942, with both the Germans and Soviets having more difficulty feeding front-line troops who got much of their food by requisitioning from local peasants in the absence of good logistics. I'm not sure which side that would hurt more in terms of military operations. Probably the Soviets because they were initially shorter on food.
By the summer of 1942, neither the Germans nor the Soviets were in good shape as far as food went. The Germans were in better shape because they were essentially exporting hunger to the conquered territories, but the Soviets were much more capable of dealing with famine, due to having gone through several famines as part of the forced switch to farm collectives. Almost any other population in the world would have had massive starvation at the levels of food the Soviets got in later 1941 through late 1943 historically, and quite a few Soviet civilians outside the war industry did die of starvation.
The poor harvest would cut into both German and Soviet war production to some extent, though the Soviets were closer to the edge already, so they would presumably have gotten hit harder. The worst impact for both sides would have come in the summer of 1943, before the 1943 harvests kicked in. US food production would have helped the Soviets to some extent, as it did historically, but any additional food aid would have had to have come at the expense of something else not being there, because Allied shipping was maxed out.
Allied shipping might also have suffered additional stresses if Britain needed additional food imports. India would undoubtedly have needed additional food shipments, though whether they would have gotten them or not is an open question. Historically, the British cut shipping to India, and didn't realize how severe the impact was until around two million Indians died of starvation in Bengal.
Nationalist China would undoubtedly have been hit hard by any crop losses, because the regime was already short of food and facing inflationary pressures on food prices.
So what would this all mean? The Soviets and Germans bogged down in a mutual slugfest in 1943 rather than the historic series of Soviet advances? Nationalist Chinese collapse in late 1943 or 1944? Or maybe pretty much the same pattern of the war, but more starved or malnourished civilians?
Dale Cozort's Blog
- Alternate History: Moving the 1946 Drought Around