A Devastating Alternate Second World War

May 13, 2007

Shattered World - Segment 52.3.1(Revised)

May 19th 1949

The United States and Brazil formally enter the Alliance for Democracy. The new seat of the Alliance will be based in San Francisco, where an elaborate headquarters facility is to be built. The Alliance for Democracy is the largest Alliance of any kind in the history of the world.

Meanwhile, in East Prussia the German High Command is meeting to discuss the summer offensive campaign. Hitler is adamant that the Soviets be "smashed before the American mongrels stab us from the west". German forces have been massing eastward for months, and the Reich's army in the east has swollen to over two million men in all, stretched along a front from the Baltic sea to the southern Ukraine. One great concentration of men and material masses in the stark terrain of the western Ukraine, where repaired rail lines and roads flow with constant streams of food and supplies necessary to feed and arm close to a million men. Romanians, Italians, Bulgarians, Serbians, western European and Swedish volunteers, and others bolster Axis forces there.

The bustle is unmistakable, and it has not gone unnoticed. From Kiev and south down the line of the river Dnieper dense belts of defensive lines run along the river and east all the way back to the border of mother Russia. A large fraction of the Soviet Union's remaining resources have gone into the defenses in the Eastern Ukraine, and the 800,000 troops there represent a significant portion of the Red Army's remaining strength. It is here, Beria has decreed, that the Soviet Union and International communism shall make its stand. The strategic thinking is clear - for east of the Ukraine lies the wide open plains of Southern Russia and the key transportation hub of Beriagrad, including access to Rostov and the Caucasus region where the Red Army still hopes to blast its way to the oil fields of Baku.

Yet, north of the Pripet swamps lies another expanse of open plains - Belorussia, the key city of Minsk, and the Soviet occupied Baltic states. It is here, where the front has been stable for months, that the German High Command senses an opportunity. The Soviets have nearly a million men in this theatre, and lots of armor strength, but nothing like the fortifications in the Ukraine. The battle here can be on German terms, wide open battles of maneuver. A successful thrust in the north would threaten Moscow and render all the Soviet defenses in the Ukraine worthless. And so, with no way to fully disguise their intent, the Germans have simply planned and prepared for two simultaneous massive summer offensives. One in the south, and one in the north. Only Hitler, a few of his top aids, and the very upper echelon of the High Command know that the southern offensive is in fact a grand farce. East Prussia and Poland are a frenzy of activity, the signs of a great army preparing for a great offensive are unmistakable. A million men, almost all of them German, and thousands of panzers are massing here. 80% of the panzer strength of the German army is concentrated in this theatre. To the south, whole 'divisions' of German armor massing in the western Ukraine are in fact equipped mostly with obsolete models, broken down machines, wooden decoys, old men, and boys - mere shells of armored divisions.

May 21st 1949

British carrier aircraft break through Axis land-based air cover to stage a devastating attack on a major Italian supply convoy making the run from Southern Spain to the Canaries theatre of operations. No less than 7 Italian transports are sunk and the rest forced to scatter in all directions. In addition, two Italian destroyers are sunk and another severely damaged. Within days scavenging British and American submarines sink 4 more of the transports. In all, nearly 75% of the tonnage in the convoy is put to the bottom of the ocean.

May 23rd 1949

With British carrier air power and British/American submarines now cutting deeply into their tenuous supply lines, and sensing the size of the oncoming U.S. naval force, Axis forces in the Canaries and on Madeira have no choice but to switch to a defensive standing. A large German fighter and naval maritime presence is now in place on the islands and 25,000 Axis troops are digging into the same defensive positions used by the British a couple weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, to the west many of the German submarines not involved in the blockade of the Canaries and Madeira are heading for the waters off the coasts of the United States and Brazil in search of the rich merchant pickings there.

May 26th 1949

For several days now intense air clashes and sea engagements have raged in the skies and waters around the Canary islands. In the skies the clashes are a relative stalemate, with both sides losing many fighters and slipping through bombers to hammer opposing air fields and other installations. On the seas amongst the Canary islands British and Italian destroyers and other light vessels clash in several sharp engagements - ending decidedly in the favor of the Royal Navy. Superior British training and radar gunnery prove quite decisive in these close-in day and night time engagements.

Axis control of the waters around the Canary islands has been effectively broken. The main bulk of the Italian fleet in the Canaries now sits mostly immobile under cover of heavy anti-aircraft defenses and land based air cover. Axis supplies on the islands are running dangerously low as fewer and fewer re-supply ships and air transports arrive. The British supply situation, meanwhile, has been nearly as poor but is now improving steadily thanks to effective anti-submarine sweeps that have already sunk a dozen German and Italian submarines. The weight of the Royal Navy is proving too much for the Axis forces to handle, especially with the Royal Air Force now operating in strength from the islands the British still hold.

To commanders and knowing observers on both sides the tide in the Battle of the Canaries has clearly turned in favor of the British. And the U.S.'s huge Atlantic Fleet is less than a week away.

May 28th 1949

Visibly pale, quaking, gaunt, and notably distracted by preparations for the summer offensive in the east - Hitler angrily refuses a request by the Axis naval command to begin withdrawing from the Canary Islands and Madeira, instead ordering that the occupied islands there be held at all costs as a "forward shield against the Americans". Mussolini, faced with pleading requests from his own naval commanders to evacuate the Italian fleet back into the Mediterranean while they still can, is similarly rebuffed when he approaches Hitler about the matter in a private call that evening.

June 2nd 1949

Twelve SBC B-34 bombers, operating out of the new SBC base in Puerto Rico, approach the Canary Islands as the sun rises - escorted by a swarm of 200 American carrier jets and electronic warfare aircraft. Roughly 100 German and Italian fighters of all types rise to meet this force, vectored onto the incoming American strike by the functional but degraded Axis radar net - and several dozen of the German planes are jets themselves. The fighter clash is epic, and both sides fight well. German experience and superior land-based jet aircraft gives the Axis an overall favorable 2 to 1 kill ratio. But the U.S. has carrier fighters to spare and they can easily afford the steep price of 52 carrier jet fighters that are downed. The Axis cannot afford the 28 fighters that they lose.

Worst of all for the Axis - the massive B-34 bombers, flying above the pesky fighter duels below them and surviving attempted interceptions by several Axis fighters, make their way over the Canary Islands and Madeira largely unmolested. Three of the bombers are carrying 40 kiloton atomic bombs and all three detonate several hundred feet over their intended targets. The main Axis air field on Santa Cruz de Tenerife is entirely wiped out and an Italian battlecruiser and two destroyers are sunk by the second atomic strike which all but wipes out the port town on the same island. Future historians will debate the morality of the strike on the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and its resulting heavy civilian toll(some 55,000 dead and wounded) - but that is for future historians. The third atomic bomb, meanwhile, wipes out the Axis-controlled airbase on Madeira along with a good portion of the Axis command staff and supplies on that island. Half of the Axis bombers and maritime aircraft on the islands, desperately scrambling for the skies, are destroyed outright on the ground in the atomic blasts or knocked out of the skies by the shock waves in the air. The other half are set upon by American fighters and suffer heavy losses. In a single hour the Axis position in the Canary Islands and Madeira has been dealt a crippling blow.

Later, as the B-34's lumber back towards the Caribbean and U.S. carrier jets are returning to the flat decks of six aircraft carriers - Axis aircraft of all types are forced to land on open fields, narrow roads, runways slagged into glass and still radioactive, and any spot of flat land or beach they can find. Nearly a quarter of these aircraft are damaged beyond repair in these hasty emergency landings, and the rest no longer have functioning air fields to operate out of. Over the coming days barely 20 Axis fighters, a dozen bombers, and several maritime aircraft will manage to fly through Alliance air patrols to reach air bases in Spain.

Later in the day, adding insult to injury, nearly two hundred British carrier aircraft range over the Axis held islands at will, bombing and strafing everything that moves as well as sinking Italy's remaining troop transports and severely damaging the only Italian battleship in the theatre. "The Big Day", as the Americans will come to call it, has been the single greatest military disaster in German and Italian history.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe the front lines in the main front of the Second World War have been ominously quiet for several days. Both great armies are tense, coiled to spring at a moment's notice. The outcome of the war may soon be at hand.

TO BE CONTINUED in Segment 52.4...