Shattered World - Segment 54.1
August 16th 1949 to September 30th 1949
The massive bunker complex in the mountains west of Kofu, Japan, was a marvel of human engineering. Built underneath a mountain and sitting on giant shock absorbers, the facility was designed to withstand a direct atomic strike. Impressive as it was, the grandiosity of the buried Japanese High Command Headquarters was a sign of desperation rather than one of strength. The Japanese Empire was on its last legs, no one in the ornate conference room at the facility's heart could deny that. The mood in the room was as sombre as it had been since the facility became operational two months before.
The leaders of the Japanese Military elite sat arrayed around a large map table in the middle of of the room, many glared at each other, blaming one another for the disastrous series of misfortunes that Japan even now continued to suffer. These men were fanatical, cut from stone. They had defied the God-Emperor himself out of a desperate need to preserve Japanese honor. The very future of the Japanese people was now at stake. The story displayed on the strategic maps before them was grim.
Okinawa split in two, the northern and southern halves being steadily devoured by the relentless American war machine as atom bombs rained from the sky. China lost, aside from a few key port cities and strategic islands off the coast. Singapore entirely isolated and out of communications aside from radio contact and the occasional lucky plane or submarine that slipped through the Allied gauntlet. Japanese-held islands in the central Pacific entirely cut off and withering on the vine. And worst of all, Japan herself ragged with more and more cities turned into rubble, burned out cinders of their former selves; Her defenses unable to stop the fall of atomic destruction whenever the Americans chose to bring it forth between massive conventional attacks that came night after night.
Yet, Japan fought on. She was battered, exhausted, and growing more hungry by the week, but she fought on. More and more underground factories were coming online, and from those spewed the manned anti-aircraft missiles and anti-shipping rockets, the anti-tank rockets for the infantry, the jet fighters, the nerve gas, and all the other necessary weapons and tools of war. Farmers worked the fields, growing the rice that fed the people. Fishermen plied their trade when and where they could, though the risk they took increased by the day and the amount of food gathered from the sea was beginning to dwindle.
And there was Korea, heavily fortified and churning out resources and some manufactured goods, still relatively safe thanks to the exhaustion of Soviet forces in the east. And one project there in particular continued to move ahead, if slowly and not without numerous setbacks. A project that drank in well over over half of the electricity on the Korean peninsula, and that remained for the moment shrouded in the utmost secrecy, a project that carried the hopes of the defiant men assembled beneath a mountain.
Japanese war aims, once with ambition to conquer all of eastern and southeastern Asia in addition to much of the Pacific, were now focused to a single point - national survival. Hope remained to the west, where the European Axis Powers might yet conquer Russia, smash the British, and convince the Americans to accept an armistice that included an independent Japan. This was an outcome that would preserve Japan's honor and allow some hope and aspirations for the future. It was that or national oblivion. These men saw nothing in between.
August 16th 1949
In North Africa, Egyptian nationalists and Islamists launch a general strike, threatening to cripple the transportation sector and economic activity there in general. The strike's leadership, dominated by the Nationalist Islamic Movement, threatens to continue the strike until Egypt declares neutrality and British forces agree to leave the country. British and Egyptian authorities respond quickly and without hesitation, issuing a 24-hour ultimatum for the strike to be called off.
To the west, the front in Libya remains bogged down as both sides strengthen defensive lines and bring in supplies and reinforcements. The British have a substantial advantage in overall manpower, by as much as 2 to 1. However, the two sides remain at relative parity in terms of armored strength and mobility. The British have not received substantial armored reinforcements in some time whereas the Germans have transferred several panzergrenadier divisions from France over the past few months and replaced some of the losses within existing armored units. The contest in the air remains fairly stalemated as well, with larger numbers of older British aircraft countering the smaller number of superior German planes. The favored tactic of both sides here is to slip in streams of medium jet bombers flying low and fast from out of the deep southern desert; however improving radar-guided AAA systems and increasingly experienced anti-aircraft crews are making this tactic more costly by the month.
August 18th 1949
British and Egyptian police and military forces break up the general strike in Egypt, arresting many nationalist and Islamist leaders and forcibly dispersing crowds of protesters. Riots break out in Cairo and other large cities but are quickly crushed with dozens killed and wounded. Some transportation hubs west of Alexandria remain hindered by strikers and protesters, interfering to a moderate degree with British logistics into Libya. Rommel, sensing an opportunity, begins drawing up plans for an attack to be launched as quickly as possible, taking advantage of the disruptions in Egypt before the British have that situation there fully in hand.
August 19th 1949
U.S. carrier aircraft, in conjunction with heavy bombers out of the Azores and Britain, stage a massive raid on the western French port of Bordeaux. German submarine facilities, both the hardened docks themselves and surrounding infrastructure, suffer heavy damage as do French-Fascist Aquitaine military and political targets. Civilian loss of life is heavy, leading to official protests from Free France and growing anti-Anglo sentiment in the French fascist puppet states and occupied northern France.
On Okinawa, SBC bombers explode 40 kiloton atomic bombs over the city of Nama and a major nearby airfield. Japanese air power on Okinawa, what little remains of it, suffers a crippling blow. In the city of Nama, many of the hardened underground bunkers survive the atomic blast relatively unscathed although the city itself and less hardened facilities are destroyed. U.S. forces, having secured the center of the island, have been plodding south and north against fanatical Japanese resistance. In the south U.S. forces have surrounded Machinato and are approaching Shuri. In the north U.S. forces, aided several days before by a tactical atomic strike north of Kin, are driving hard towards Chuda. Casualties on both sides are horrendous and even Japanese civilians have been fighting to the death, up to and including women and children being used as 'human shields' by the Japanese defenders; forcing American soldiers to abandon all rules of engagement in favor of war to the knife.
August 20th 1949
German troops enter and capture Smolensk. Soviet forces, having only narrowly avoided being pocketed and having been forced to abandon much of their heavy equipment, continue to withdraw east with German mechanized forces harassing their rear flanks. To the west, Minsk remains a major annoyance for the Germans, but the 120,000 starving Red Army soldiers there are approaching the ends of human endurance. To the north - the front southwest of Leningrad remains stagnant with German troops now within 15 kilometers of the city proper yet still facing that city's well defended inner fortifications and still unable to make progress in enveloping the city.
August 26th 1949
After a week of hasty preparations, Army Group Africa strikes northeast from out of positions around Ajdabiya with a sharp armored thrust. Rommel intends to cut across the Cyrenaica, bypassing Benghazi altogether and forcing the British to fall back upon Tobruk while they get their lines of supply back into shape following the general strike and widespread civil violence in Egypt. In an effort to maintain secrecy, the attack is not preceded by a sustained artillery barrage or a surge of aircraft. British resistance at the point of attack is fierce, with well entrenched infantry equipped with anti-tank weaponry taking a heavy early toll on the advancing panzers. However, by the time dusk has fallen one column of panzers is streaming northeast with British forces desperately attempting to shift in order to block the thrust and threaten Rommel's flank.
August 27th 1949
The Japanese launch a major attack against the U.S. fleet off the coast of Okinawa. In the mid-morning hours, some 300 conventional Japanese aircraft from out of Kyushu conduct an attack in coordination with nearly 80 carefully hoarded kamikaze rocket bombs launched from caves and hidden bunkers around northern Okinawa. U.S. carrier aircraft savage the conventional Japanese attack, downing nearly 200 of the attackers in exchange for only 60 of their own downed. The few Japanese conventional aircraft that do manage to reach the fleet inflict only light losses, lightly damaging two carriers and crippling a destroyer and a cruiser. The massed kamikaze rocket attack is somewhat more successful, sinking three destroyers and a supply ship, crippling two destroyers, and moderately damaging half a dozen more vessels ranging from a carrier down to several cruisers and destroyers.
August 28th 1949
With Army Group Africa threatening to break out into the Cyrenaica, the British launch a massive air operation over the intense battlefield. Surging as many fighters as they can get into the air, the British launch a massive fighter sweep that over the course of the morning evolves into a dogfight of epic proportions, with hundreds of fighters from both sides locked in a struggle to the death. Just before noon the British surge bombers into the air as well, sending huge formations of heavy bombers towards the battlefield to carpet bomb while long streams of medium jet bombers penetrate behind Axis lines hammering supply depots, supply columns, and transportation hubs.
With German fighters and AAA defenses fiercely reacting to the massive British surge, one tiny formation of RAF B-31's flying particularly high is missed amongst all the chaos. It is one of these B-31's which drops a 30 kiloton atomic bomb on a particular portion of the main advancing German armored column. In an intelligence coup which will remain a closely guarded secret for decades to come, a British intelligence source has pin-pointed the precise location of Rommel's command car and relayed this information via radio to the British command. By a fortunate coincidence, the RAF had already been preparing to launch an atomic attack against the advancing German armored column and was intent on avoiding the sort of catastrophe that had happened the last time they tried to use an atomic bomb in a tactical role.
The atomic bomb detonates several hundred feet in the air, and close enough to Rommel's command car to smash it like a tin can while pulping the bodies of those inside to mush. Erwin Rommel, the Desert Viper, is dead and a good portion of his main armored thrust now lies smashed or burning, strewn across the blasted and desolate landscape.
August 29th 1949
What had been a promising Axis advance into the Cyrenaica has turned into a disastrous route. British armored forces, already shifting into position to launch a counter-attack before the atomic attack, are able to cut off and surround surviving forward elements of the German thrust with Axis forces in chaos and confusion. Axis units west of the atomic attack are in headlong retreat, returning to defensive lines along the starting point of the attack.
In Berlin, the mood is grim despite recent success at Smolensk. What had looked like the beginning of an offensive that might turn the tide in Libya has turned into an outright disaster for the Axis position in North Africa. With Germany's best armored division in North Africa now destroyed or pocketed, with the Desert Viper killed, and with the U.S. continuing to mass on the Canary Islands and Madeiras, the Axis outlook in North Africa seems bleak. After many hours of debate the search for a replacement for Rommel settles on Heinz Gustov, a young Panzer General who had made quite a name for himself over the past year. Field Marshall Gustov would have the unenviable task of commanding a battered and beleaguered Army Group Africa.
August 30th 1949
Civilian Climatologists and Meteorologists from across the Alliance have issued a special report detailing an alarming rise in the amount of dust in the upper atmosphere, the phenomena believed responsible for the spectacular sunsets and sunrises being viewed world wide over the past months. The report speculates that smoke and dust thrown up by the growing number of atomic bombings and widespread burning of cities may be responsible and that the dust may obscure some sunlight and lead to an unusually cold and prolonged winter. The report is largely dismissed by the Alliance governments but the International Red Cross does take notice, and begins making preparations for what may be a harsh winter.
In Minsk, two of the three remaining Soviet pockets of resistance have collapsed with some 80,000 soldiers captured by the Germans. One last pocket, with some 35,000 men, fights on from the dense rubble in the city's center and a network sewer tunnels and bunkers.
August 31st 1949
With yet another atomic blast on Muslim lands, and the Egyptian strike and protests brutally crushed by British and Egyptian authorities - the mood across Egypt and the rest of the middle east is tense. Now driven largely underground, groups like the Nationalist Islamic Movement and The Army of Islam secretly plot a campaign to throw out the British and topple the Egyptian government. Across the wider region, from Casablanca to Baghdad, anti-British sentiment has never been higher. There are whispers across the Arab world, whispers of revolution and blood.
Meanwhile, in the Cyrenaica, the German armored forces cut off after the atomic attack are isolated, caught out in the open, out of fuel, and coming under withering air and artillery bombardment. Just before dusk, what remains of Rommel's best panzer division, some 80 panzers and thousands of supporting infantry, surrender to British forces. To the west, German and Italian anti-tank infantry repel several half-hearted British attempts to probe the Axis defensive lines south of Benghazi. The British have smashed the Axis attack but they still lack the strength to break the Axis defensive lines.
September 1st 1949
On the Eastern front, logistical concerns have forced the Germans to stop pursuing Soviet forces east of Smolensk and instead consolidate their hard-won gains there. The Soviets, with a bit of breathing space to work with now, are already settling into their next line of defense; the recently strengthened Mozhaysk Line stretching from Kalinin towards Volokolamsk and Kaluga. At Leningrad, the Germans have been forced to halt offensive operations, out of exhaustion and lack of supplies, with their leading elements within just 14 kilometers of the city. Far to the south, Soviet intelligence has noted with concern a significant and increasing buildup of Axis forces in the Caucasus. Turkish, Chechnyan, German, and Italian forces have grown in number and increased the tempo of raids and bombardment along the static front there in recent weeks.
Meanwhile; The Kreigsmarine has been forced to concentrate its submarine activity in the northern Atlantic and the far northern sea lanes as aggressive, and increasingly effective, Alliance anti-submarine warfare efforts take a heavy toll. With Germany now concentrating its efforts on the blockade of Britain and the northern Soviet ports, and with the Italian navy having pulled its submarines back into the Mediterranean, the Alliance buildup on the Canary Islands and Madeiras is now proceeding largely unmolested. To the east, Axis naval and air assets are massing across the western Mediterranean in anticipation of a coming U.S. effort to breach the straights of Gibraltar.
TO BE CONTINUED in Segment 54.2...