Shattered World - Segment 52.2.1(Revised)
May 1st 1949
In the waters between Spain and the Canary Islands, operation Felix is launched by Germany and Italy. On the Canary Islands themselves, three submarine-delivered Italian commando teams come ashore in the black pre-dawn hours. These teams, veterans with experience in operations across the Mediterranean, are tasked with disabling the three main British radar stations keeping watch over the northern approaches to the islands. Two of the teams succeed in their mission but the third, spotted by a British patrol squad, is surrounded and wiped out. A similar operation on Madeira falters when the Italian commandoes experience equipment failures and are forced to call off their action.
Meanwhile - a large 225 plane German raiding force of Ju-588's, older Ural bombers, and Fw-360g escort fighters is spotted by Free French radar outposts. On the Canary Islands and Madeira British forces, already on alert because of the Italian commando raids and now informed of the incoming Axis bomber force by sources inside Free France, now leap into action. British jet fighters take to the skies from Madeira and the Canaries and, vectored by Madeira air control and the surviving radar station in the Canaries, tear into the Axis raiding force well out to sea.
The German fighter escorts battle valiantly and aggressively but the British jet fighters are faster, more maneuverable, and are more free to burn fuel. 5 British jet fighters are downed versus 28 of the German escort fighters - nearly half of the entire German fighter escort force is lost. But the heavy sacrifice of the escorts allows most of the German bombers to slip through and they hammer the primary British air fields and naval facilities on the Canary Islands and Madeira with a mix of conventional and nerve gas bombs. British losses on the ground to personnel, equipment, and buildings are heavy and their remaining functional radar stations on the Canaries and Madeira are destroyed or damaged. British fighters exact a large measure of revenge by downing nearly thirty German heavy bombers as they make their way north back towards Spain.
The Battle of the Canary Islands is underway.
May 2nd 1949
After a lull in Rommel's counter-thrust, both sides have slowed operations for several days as units and logistical lines realign themselves. Now, sensing weakness in the British, Rommel resumes his attack. Just as the Axis thrust is beginning to advance again the Royal Air Force uses its second atomic bomb. The 38 kiloton British device is detonated above what, by all appearances, is a German panzer division advancing across the desert. Confident that the atomic bomb has destroyed Rommel's main panzer column, and perhaps killed the Desert Viper himself, British armor plunges ahead in the shadow of the Mushroom cloud and meets very little resistance...until German panzers and mechanized forces plunge into their exposed flank.
In a disastrous failure of intelligence for the British, the atomic bomb was actually dropped on a supply column of Italian trucks and armored cars. Axis deception efforts, including heavy use of smoke and dust to obscure their true movements, have proven either successful or very lucky.The real German panzer division, six kilometers away from the atomic blast, is largely unaffected aside from the loss of some men to flash blinding. Rommel, getting reports of British armored forces pushing through ground zero, soon realizes the gift he has been handed and orders a sharp counter-attack.
May 3rd 1949
With British air operations on the Canary Islands and Madeira now curtailed by the damage to their air fields, a second German raid, this time conducted during the day, now pummels the islands. The British jet fighters again fight brilliantly, but there are less of them in the air this time and British radar coverage in the theatre has been significantly reduced. 6 of the British jets are downed for the loss of 13 German escort fighters and German heavy bombers pound British supply depots, air fields, barracks, and defensive positions around the islands.
In the waters north of the islands the two Italian naval forces have now combined into a single fleet. Late in the afternoon British torpedo and dive bombers, launched from two carriers nearly two hundred miles to the west, attack the Italian naval force approaching the Canaries. The older of the two Italian cruisers, two destroyers, and a supply vessel are sunk. Other ships, including one of the battlecruisers and the battleship, suffer varying degrees of damage.
While the British carrier aircraft are savaging the Italian naval force German maritime aircraft attack the two British carriers northwest of the Canaries. As long range German escorts clash with the British carrier fighters, 24 Sea Dragon maritime attack aircraft launch a total of 48 anti-shipping rockets. 12 of the complex weapons fail outright for one reason or another, tumbling harmlessly into the sea. Of the 36 remaining rockets, well over half simply miss their target due to technical problems or operator error. Three more are shot down by the hail of anti-aircraft fire that fills the air around the carriers like a fog of lead.
Four of the rockets strike the Aircraft Carrier Hermes and five rockets strike the carrier Bulwark. On the Hermes one of the rockets ignites fires and explosions which sink the carrier several hours later. The Bulwark is moderately damaged and is able to recover its aircraft, and some from the Hermes, while steaming west to safety. Most of the aircraft from the Hermes are forced to land on the damaged airfields of the Canaries and Madeira.
With the loss of one vital carrier and the other damaged, the Royal Navy's nearest combat capable aircraft carrier is now a week away from the Canary Islands. The Axis have succeeded in gaining a valuable, if short, window of time in which they control the waters between Spain and the Canary Islands.
May 4th 1949
After several hours of naval bombardment, Italian and German marines come ashore near the primary towns of the Canary Islands, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and LasPalmasde Gran Canaria. British forces, well entrenched on both of the primary islands of the chain and determined to hold the Canaries after the humiliating losses of Malta and Gibraltar, launch fierce counter attacks into the Axis beachheads which succeed in splitting Axis forces near Santa Cruz de Tenerife and nearly repelling the Axis beachhead near Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Late in the afternoon a British submarine torpedoes and sinks two Italian destroyers, then succeeds in slipping away unharmed. Nearly half of the Italian naval force in the Atlantic has now been sunk.
Meanwhile, in North Africa the British are in shock after the sharp German counter-attack following the botched tactical atomic bombing. British forces on the Libyan front are now reeling in full retreat. Rommel's thrust has succeeded in seriously threatening the British southern flank on a strategic scale, forcing the shell shocked British command to order a general withdrawal. However, a frustrated Rommel knows he lacks the depth of forces and logistics to encircle and destroy the British. In addition, the 35,000 British and Imperial POW's being transported west are helping to clog Axis supply lines. Instead of racing east the Axis forces march methodically back into Surt and maintain a steady advance, fighting through numerous British delaying actions.
May 5th 1949
Desperate to secure the Canary Islands before the Royal Navy can return in force to the theatre, Axis forces press their invasion vigorously. In the morning close-in bombardments by Italy's remaining naval force and carpet bombing by close to one hundred German heavy bombers allows Axis marines to join hands and form a single unified beachhead near Santa Cruz de Tenerife once again. However, British defenses remain in tact and the other Axis beachhead near LasPalmas de Gran Canaria is in danger of being pushed right into the ocean.
May 6th 1949
With British air power on the Canaries and Madeira now largely suppressed - Axis forces launch the second phase of operation Felix as some 4,000 German and Italian paratroopers land right on top of the airfield on Madeira following an intense conventional bombing of nearby British barracks and the town of Funchal. Despite heavy losses to anti-aircraft fire the Axis paratroopers quickly seize the airbase intact and establish a strong perimeter extending some distance around the airfield. By late in the afternoon on May 7th German transport planes are landing on the degraded but hastily repaired runway - crammed full of additional paratroopers, supplies, equipment, light vehicles, and artillery. Multiple desperate but poorly coordinated British assaults on the airfield have been repelled by the Axis paratroopers.
On the other side of the world Japan continues its great suffering. U.S. B-34 bombers drop 40 kiloton atomic bombs on Kobe and Kure. Hundreds of thousands more Japanese civilians are dead or soon will be, two more great cities are roiling storms of flame. At Kure the second largest Japanese naval base is wiped out by a third atomic bomb along with several warships and numerous merchant ships docked there. In a fit of rage the Japanese military regime broadcasts threats to "exterminate" the western populations of Singapore and Hong Kong if atomic attacks on its cities continue. Other than retaliating against westerners under its control, there is little the Japanese can do to stop the B-34's. Several desperate Japanese projects to create weapons capable of intercepting a B-34 have yet to reach even the prototype stage.
May 8th 1949
Axis marines, supported by the heavy guns of the Italian fleet, have succeeded in carving out a larger beachhead near Santa Cruz de Tenerife at a high cost in blood. However, on Gran Canaria the Axis have been forced to evacuate in the face of aggressive British counter-attacks. Axis casualties have been extremely heavy on both islands.
May 9th 1949
Axis paratroopers on Madeira, now numbering close to 7000, are driving out of their pocket at the airfield while Axis engineers continue to hastily repair the facilities there. British forces bend in the face of the paratrooper assault but do not, quite, break. "Hold on until the squids arrive!" has become the rallying cry of British forces on Madeira. A race is now on as two Royal Navy carriers steam south towards Madeira from the British Isles while more Axis reinforcements arrive via air transport into the captured air field.
May 12th 1949
North of the Canary Islands German and Italian fighters operating out of the captured airbase on Madeira clash with British carrier jet fighters in a desperate struggle for control of the skies over that island. The Royal Navy has returned to the theatre and is determined to hold the Axis out of the South Atlantic. Unlike the first air battles over the Canaries, the Germans now have some of their own jet fighters - evening the odds greatly. The day's clashes end in a tactical draw with both sides losing a dozen or so fighters. The British carrier raiding force does not succeed in sinking any Italian ships, instead moderately damaging a destroyer and a troop transport.
May 14th 1949
The Battle of the Canary Islands rages on. Operating with a cover of carrier fighters overhead some 5,000 Royal Marines come ashore on Madeira to reinforce the faltering defenses there. The day is marked by more fierce clashes in the air with the losses being relatively even once again.
In Libya, after a week of retreat, the British have decided to dig into lines of defense south and southeast of Benghazi - the same defensive lines used by the Axis not so long ago. Axis forces, now operating on an ever extending supply line and lacking sufficient mobile forces to overwhelm the still numerically superior British, are forced to stop and dig in themselves. In Libya, the lines once again settle into a stalemated front. Britain's North African army, still larger than the Axis army in total numbers of men, has taken severe losses to its mobile strength. The three British armored divisions that started off so confidently in the British offensive on Surt have been reduced to shadows of their peak strength and the British command is already in the process of consolidating the surviving armor into two reduced divisions.
May 15th 1949
German submarines ambush a British supply convoy that had been attempting to infiltrate supplies to the island of Madeira. Four transports and a British destroyer are sunk, along with many tons of valuable supplies. The Kriegsmarine has now surged nearly half its entire Atlantic submarine force into the waters around the Canary Islands and Madeira in an effort to completely blockade them.
On the eastern side of the Caspian Sea German heavy bombers heavily damage the major Soviet oil refinery at Krasnovodsk despite fierce resistance by Red Airforce interceptors and anti-aircraft defenses. The attack is only the latest of a recent series of relatively successful raids on Soviet oil infrastructure in the region. The Luftwaffe intends to aid the coming summer campaign by reducing Soviet oil supplies and thus limiting the Red Army's mobility.
May 15th 1949
After more heavy conventional and nerve gas bombardment by the Luftwaffe, as well as heavy off shore bombardment - Axis marines manage to drive most remaining British forces on Santa Cruz de Tenerife into a narrow pocket on the coast. With the Axis now holding a commanding advantage the British position on the island of Santa Cruz de Tenerife seems untenable.
May 16th 1949
In a brilliantly executed Royal Navy operation the 6,000 remaining British marines on Santa Cruz de Tenerife are evacuated by sea to the island of Gran Canaria under cover of carrier aircraft. However, the island of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and several of the lesser islands of the chain are now in Axis hands. The balance of air power over the islands is now in favor of the Axis as 'Sea Dragons' and all kinds of Axis fighters and bombers can now operate from the captured islands in addition to the airfield on Madeira.
The Royal Navy, however, is not ready to give up. A third carrier has now joined the growing task force which is operating out of the Cape Verde islands and Britain's west African territories. In addition Gran Canaria and a few of the lesser islands remain in the hands of some 15,000 British Marines and Madeira remains hotly contested.
On top of all that - British Engineers, under cover of Royal Navy air power, are now rapidly repairing the air facilities on Gran Canaria.
With the British back on the defense in Libya, Italy controlling the western and central Mediterranean, and the Axis now firmly established in the Canary Islands - the United States and Brazil jointly declare war on the Axis Powers. Dewey, in a dramatic speech before a joint session of Congress, blasts the Axis Powers, saying "...this fascist grab for a foothold in the South Atlantic represents a threat to the western hemisphere that the American people can no longer ignore. This dire situation, in combination with the intensification of the outrageous and illegal assaults upon our civilian shipping in the North and South Atlantic, have given me no choice but to ask Congress to confirm that a state of war now exists between the United States of America and the Axis nations of Germany and Italy, and I have been assured that our Brazilian friend and ally shall do the same...."
Germany and Italy, well aware that this was coming, declare war in turn - seeing it as inevitable. Hitler and Mussolini never believed that the U.S. would allow the British to be defeated without joining the war on their side. Hitler, surrounded by aides and top figures within the German high command, privately celebrates the American declaration of war, claiming it "shows the British are now desperate".
May 18th 1949
Off the east coast of the United States a massive armada is steaming due southeast. The force, composed of some 6 fleet aircraft carriers and an immensely powerful surface element, had been assembling in anticipation of the declaration of war. U.S. and British naval planners have been putting together an operational plan for the past two weeks. If they pull it off, it will be the largest coordinated naval operation yet seen.
Meanwhile, at a U.S. airfield on Puerto Rico, a dozen massive bombers and numerous heavy transports have arrived over the past few days. Signs bearing the letters "SBC" have suddenly appeared all over the bustling air field, as have grim looking MP's with hard faces and sub-machine guns.
To be Continued in Segment 52.3