A Devastating Alternate Second World War

January 16, 2010

New policy on comments...

I've changed this blog to only allow comments from registered users, that is users with blogger/google/openID accounts.

This is to stop spambots but also to stop the baiting and flaming from anonymous users. If you don't want to create an account with blogger/google for some reason, you can of course still use the separate hosted discussion board

January 13, 2010

Operation "Orange Fire" : The Eastern Libya Campaign

Final Day : November 24th 1949

    The final day of the campaign opens with renewed dawn air raids on British supply infrastructure in a stretch west and east of Tobruk. Much to the relief of the British, the nerve gas used is sarin and not the more deadly VX used earlier in the campaign.[the priority on VX stocks having been shifted west to confront the Americans after Hitler changes his mind and relents to his general's wishes]   
    Still, an already severely wounded British logistical system is battered further in the intensive attacks. Also hit are more British radar sites, putting more holes in an already ragged network. Again fighters clash in the skies throughout the day as greater British numbers offset their higher rate of losses.  Missiles are also used in the morning hours, as they have been on most days of the operation, with a dozen ballistic missiles causing moderate and scattered damage at Tobruk.

    On the ground, the British 8th Armored division under Field Marshall Thomas Harding is forced to break off its counter-attack by mid afternoon, having been stopped 5 miles east of Al Bayda by German tank busting jet aircraft as well as armored and anti-tank forces. To the southwest the British 7th Armored division has surrendered several days after running out of fuel, and some 200,000 British and Imperial soldiers are now trapped in the gradually shrinking Benghazi pocket. Italian forces have remained unable to make much progress and have by now simply dug into a holding position while events unfold to their northeast. The British supply situation in the Benghazi pocket is grim, but not yet fatally grim. They have stocks sufficient to hold out for months, though the men will soon go hungry on strict rations. 

   British Field Marshal Thomas Harding stared at the charred remains of another 8th armored tank and saw only the ruins of his career and the coming loss of Libya. His counter-attack to re-take Al Bayda had failed under a storm of jet stuka cannon fire, anti-tank rockets from highly skilled German panzergrenadiers, and stubborn German armored defenders. This alone was bad enough, but the entire British 7th armored division had already been forced to surrender the day before for lack of fuel.  Benghazi would now remain isolated, and Harding would have no choice but to fall back upon Tobruk and await the transfer orders that would strip him of command. 
    How could he have been so utterly defeated, when every advantage had been his? Overhead, contrails marked the paths of bombers and the roar of jets was audible. Small arms fire and the heavier reports of cannon fire still cut the air as two of his battalions fought a rear-guard action so the rest of his division could withdraw to the east in good order. He had let down himself, his nation, and his King.  He would be a failed footnote of history; The week that America invaded Africa and Europe while the British 8th Armored Division under Field Marshall Thomas Harding lost Libya in the east. For a fleeting moment he glanced at his pistol and considered the peace of oblivion....
   Suddenly, a blinding white light forced Thomas to shield his eyes with an outstretched hand. The roaring blast and concussion came a moment later, and dust filled his lungs and put him into a coughing fit. Wiping dust from cracked lips, Thomas looked up to the west again and felt hope at the terrible visage he saw; A towering dark pillar, split across with angry orange streaks of flame, was soaring vertically up into the clear blue sky. 
   Even as he watched, the mushroom cloud gathered itself together as the awful, by now familiar, toadstool cap formed at the top of the roiling tower of dust and flame. And with that terrible hell of heat and carnage, fuel sufficient to supply an armored division for a month blazed brightly in untold fury, its untapped energy now rapidly spent. A grim smile split Thomas's dirt smeared face, and the orange fires of hell reflected in satisfied eyes. The boundless destruction of the split atom had just saved the British in North Africa, and pulled Field Marshall Thomas Harding's legacy from the ashes of eternal shame. 

Updated timeline...

I put Segments 55.5.1 and 55.5.2 up on the main 'Second World War' timeline

January 08, 2010

Shattered World - Micro Segment 55.5.2

Shattered World - Micro Segment 55.5.2
November 13th 1949 to November 17th 1949

"No No No No No!" Hitler shouted, spittle spraying out from the visibly enraged Fuhrer's lips as fists weakly pounded the conference table. The senior members of the general staff eyed each other in frustration, but none spoke. The leader of the Reich was visibly declining, his thoughts and orders becoming increasingly irrational in recent months, his skin increasingly pale, and his body noticeably whithered since the previous year. Rumors of ill health and drug use swirled around Berlin though nowhere where the Gestapo or SS might overhear. Yet, he remained the Fuhrer and the Germany Army prided itself for its stalwart loyalty. It was a matter of honor. Gathering himself, Hitler continued.

"I already made a critical exception in releasing the VX gas stocks for use in North Africa, I will not make another" Hitler said, his voice lower as he struggled to constrain himself before continung.

"We must continue to punish the British if their American masters continue to pummel us with these atomic attacks! And to do this we need that VX. No, you must make do with sarin. Move missiles into range for precise attacks, and then hammer the Americans!" Hitler said, his voice rising to a high pitched crescendo as he gestured violently towards the Canary island chain on the western edge of the detailed map.

"The Americans are soft, their soldiers mere mongrel peasants. We shall strike them in their island bases, and we shall smash them right back into the sea when they finally decide to risk direct confrontation with my Reich!" Hitler nearly shouted, his tone leaving no room for compromise on his decision. A moment of silence hung thick in the air as Hitler eyed his generals.

"Yes, my Fuhrer. Heil Hitler!" the assembled command staff said, snapping off sharp Hitler salutes before exiting the room. Privately, more than a few of them would grumble at the Fuhrer's stubbornness and grieve at the lost opportunity to hit the American assembly areas on the Canaries with VX.

"This is the BBC, world news report, broadcasting live from London on this the 13th of November, nineteen hundred and forty nine".

"Reports from across the northern hemisphere continue to point to a very brutal winter this year, perhaps the worst since accurate record keeping began in the nineteenth century. In Russia, where the temperatures have dipped to those usually not seen until mid-December, clear skies, solid frozen ground, and reports of German troop movements have raised fears of an Axis winter offensive despite the bitter cold. Worse, in a potentially disastrous bit of news for the allied cause, vital ports from northeastern Canada to northwestern Russia have been closed or severely hampered by heavy, and unusually early, ice flows. Even Murmansk, typically ice free year round, has experienced some ice difficulties in addition to the growing destruction from increasingly frequent German bombing raids on the vitally strategic port".

"In other news, the American naval offensive at Gibraltar continues to make steady progress despite losses described as 'heavy' by U.S. Atlantic Fleet personnel. In the words of U.S. Admiral Johnston, 'we continue to pound the enemy and expect to gain possession of the straights in a matter of days'".

"We take you now live to the U.S.S. Lincoln somewhere near the action at the straights".....

"Good afternoon, this is Walter Cronkite, reporting from the deck of the massive U.S. fleet carrier Abraham Lincoln. As you can no doubt hear over the sound of my voice, U.S. jet aircraft have been taking off and landing on the carrier deck continously for the past several days as intense combat operations continue in what the U.S. navy is calling 'Operation Avalanche'. Only several hours previous, I was witness to the heroic action of the proud crew of this mighty ship as radar-directed AAA filled the skies for more than twenty minutes and jets surged into the sky. Not long after, tragic reports of the loss of the U.S.S. Essex were confirmed. By all accounts several Nazi guided rockets struck the Lincoln's slightly smaller sister, igniting her magazine and sinking the ship rapidly with the loss of all hands, some 2,600 souls. Despite this grave loss, navy officials remain confident and report additional successes since the overwhelming victory at what the sailors are already calling 'The Battle of the Pillars'"....

"Thank you, Mr. Cronkite. Due to naval news restrictions, our brief live air time from the deck of the Lincoln has ended. We expect to receive more reports from Mr. Cronkite in the coming hours as events unfold. In other news...."

November 13th 1949

In the largest single concentrated naval air attack of the war in the Atlantic, nearly 100 German maritime strike aircraft approach through swarms of U.S. carrier jet fighters. Nearly a third of the strike aircraft, escorted only by long range prop fighters operating out of southern France, are downed before they can launch their rockets. The rest, some sixty in all, launch a salvo of some 240 second generation guided anti-ship rockets. The U.S.S Essex and several nearby escort destroyers and cruisers are sunk while another two carriers, a heavy cruiser, and nearly a dozen destroyers suffer moderate to heavy damage. The Axis pay a heavy cost for the devastating strike, losing another third of the maritime strike bombers and over fifty prop escorts to vengeful American fighters. The loss of nearly 2/3 of the attacking naval strike force is a stunning loss for the Axis, representing the loss of a significant percentage of their remaining maritime strike capability in the theatre.

Meanwhile, in Libya intense fighting continues as operation 'Orange Fire' continues to unfold. While the air battle, bombing, and ballistic missile attacks continue; Italian forces remain bogged down along the coast south of Benghazi while to the east Field Marshall Gustov's complex plan has led to confused and chaotic fighting. Gustov's main armored thrust has entered into a third day of intense armored clashes with a larger British armored division. However, Gustov's helicopter mobile infantry force(landed behind the British armored division the day before) has thrown the British into confusion and interupted their lines of communication while a German mechanized calvalry force races east and north around the British flank. In northern Libya, German paratroopers continue to hold out against desperate British attempts to re-open east-west lines of communication along the coastal plain.

Of particular note - the desert fighting in the Cyrenaica has seen the first widespread use of effective infra-red night vision equipment by German armored forces - something that is a key component of Gustov's plan. Poorly equipped for night fighting, and kept off balance and on their heels by the tenacious German operational tempo, the British command has been frustatingly unable to bring their superior numbers and firepower to bear on the smaller, but more mobile, German force.

November 14th 1949

In what will later be regarded by military historians as one of the greatest armored combat movements of all time, Field Marshall Gustov executes the final piece of his plan. In the early pre-dawn hours, German armored and mechanized forces in the Cyrenaica change their axis of attack simultaneously; now attacking directly north. In the confusion of night fighting, the gambit succeeds. The main armored strength of Army Group Africa smashes into and through what had been the relatively quiet right flank of the British 8th armored division. With their right flank utterly shattered, and German mechanized calvary now racing north around their left flank, the British have no choice but to begin moving northeast to break contact with German forces and re-establish lines of communication back to Tobruk. Unfortunately for the British, this movement leaves the heart of northeastern Libya wide open to Gustov's rapidly moving panzers. And move fast they must; Gustov's armored columns are low on fuel and will be sitting idle in days if they can't link up with the paratroopers at Al Bayda and the massive captured supplies of fuel bunkered there.

November 16th 1949

U.S. light cruisers, escorted by numerous destroyers, finally succeed in fully breaking out into the Sea of Alboran under the cover of carrier aircraft(less aircraft than the U.S. admirals would have preferred, given the loss of Essex and the crippling of another carrier) and numerous prowling allied submarines. The movement is not without cost, as German and Italian submarines strike out from carefully prepared positions to put numerous torpedoe salvos into the U.S. naval taskforce while Italian torpedo boats and destroyers dart in amongst the U.S. taskforce. Several U.S. cruisers and destroyers are sunk or damaged in the heated close-quarters engagements before U.S. ASW destroyers and helicopters force the Axis submarines to scatter to the east while the Italian torpedo boats and destroyers die under intense, accurate, fire from multiple USN guns or flee to the east.
Late that evening, a second larger U.S. naval taskforce emerges into the more open waters of the Sea of Alboran. After some 9 days of combat, the loss of 2 carriers sunk or crippled and another moderately damaged, the sinking or crippling of nearly a dozen cruisers, the loss of dozens of destroyers and well over a hundred carrier fighters, thousands of sailors and hundreds of pilots killed - The U.S. now holds the straights of Gibraltar and the western Mediterranean is in play.

November 17th 1949

In Libya, Gustov's panzers reach the coast just north of Al Bayda, linking up with besieged German paratroopers and driving off Australian and Canadian infantry that had been attempting to re-capture the supply depots there. British forces to the west and south, including the British 7th armored division and some 200,000 British and Imperial infantry in and south of Benghazi, are now cut off from British lines of supply leading back to Tobruk.

In Iberia, rail cars using some of the minority of open rail lines(open through sheer luck or the hasty brute labor of forced labor battalions) begin arriving in central and southern Spain. Concealed under canvas and tarps are ballistic missiles and their mobile launch vehicles.

Off the Canary Islands, the first wave of transports, escorted by an armada of battleships and cruisers and an unheard of flotilla of destroyers, begin steaming northeast under a massive umbrella of land-based fighters. D-day 1 and D-day 2 are set for November 19th, and two whole amphibious corps are afloat and on the move.

Far to the East and North, in the unseasonably bitter cold, German forces massing southwest of Leningrad and in southern Russia prepare to launch dual winter offensives. The overall plan, bluntly named "Red Downfall", is aimed at capturing Leningrad in the north and Beriagrad in the south. Symbolicly and strategically, taking either one of them or both would be another great blow to the already wavering Soviet Union.

TO BE CONTINUED in Segment 56.1....