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Germany launched the first true Blitzkrieg on September 1st, 1939, when it invaded Poland. Britain and France, who had guaranteed Poland's frontiers, declared war on Germany after Hitler had refused the allied ultimatum. The campaign in Poland was over in three weeks resulting in the combined Russian-German conquest of this new country. The Allies did nothing to aid Poland and had adopted a strong defensive attitude toward war, resulting from the never-before-seen bloodshed of the last war with Germany, in 1914. This attitude ultimately resulted in the Germans taking Denmark and Norway. In May 1940, Hitler attacked Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. Everybody, even Hitler's General Staff had expected at best a long stalemate in Northern France, at worst a bloody war that would destroy Germany as a nation.
But this was not the case. The Allies had expected a German attack to come at France through Belgium, on the German right, and had put the bulk of their forces on the Franco-Belgium border to confront the Germans on Belgium if not German soil. Hitler went against all the rules when he allowed a few German Generals to take the main German forces not on the right, but in the center, through the Ardennes, a virtually undefended forest area in Luxembourg and Belgium. The German panzer divisions smashed through this area, and swung north to the English Channel. At the same time German forces took Holland in a week and were soon in Belgium. The British and French forces, some 400,000 men were soon trapped in the French city of Dunkirk.
Hitler was asked by Göring, the head of the Luftwaffe, to divert the land forces to an offensive in Southern France, and allow the German bombers to prevent an evacuation of the Allied army to Britain. Hitler (This is the point of divergence from the actual time line of World War II) on the advice of his Panzer commander Heinz Guederian, dismissed this suggestion and ordered his panzers to attack Dunkirk immediately, before an evacuation attempt could be made. As the German offensive against Dunkirk was being mounted, the British, seeing that they were about to lose their entire army, attempted to slow the German advance by calling in the full force of the Royal Air Force to attack the German ground forces. The Luftwaffe was in turn called in. Possessing almost three times the number of aircraft as the British, the Luftwaffe shot down British planes by the dozens until the Royal Air Force was well nigh eradicated. With no air cover, every one of the 400,000 allied soldiers was killed or captured. Hitter ordered church bells to be rung in Germany for three days to commemorate what he called,"The greatest German victory ever."
The next week, the Germans launched a new offensive that led them to capture all of Northern France. An armistice was signed on June 25th, 1940. The Germans occupied all of the French Atlantic Coast and all of the major industrial areas. A puppet state out of the French town of Vichy was established to manage Southern France and all of the French Colonial territory overseas.
Hitler now wanted to make peace with Britain. With their unprepared army now virtually non-existent, the British too, wanted peace. But they knew that a surrender, even if negotiated, would show the world that the British could be defeated, likely causing the loss of their empire. The British wanted a peace that imposed no great reparations on them and tried to make a white peace. Hitler however, wanted Gibraltar, and seeing he had all the cards, he demanded that the British surrender the strait and the British Middle East to the Germans, Malta and Egypt to the Italians, or be invaded. He also demanded that the British extradite all of the exiled governments of the German-occupied nations and hand over the treasuries of those countries (which had escaped to the British Isles in May 1940) as war reparations. All of the ships on the oceans couldn't prevent an invasion with the Germans controlling the skies over Britain, the continent and the Channel. The British gave in, and on the morning of July 31st, the Treaty of Caen was signed giving the Germans everything that they wanted, and forbidding the shipping of military contraband from any foreign port to Britain.
Without a drop of German blood spilled, Hitler had forced the hand of what had been the world's greatest political, economic and military power.
Now, Hitler's attention was turned East.
The Soviet Union had signed a non-aggression pact with the Germans in 1939, which allowed Germans to deal with France and Britain, and divided Poland between Stalin and Hitler. But Hitler hadn't been the only one who had taken advantage of the unexpected peace. Stalin had taken the opportunity to annex the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. He had also taken parts of Romania, which brought Soviet troops dangerously close the the only German oil supply on the continent. But when Britain had dropped out of the war, Hitler had gained control of the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, and now had control of more than half of the world's oil, supplying the German military indefinitely and putting Hitler in position to attack the Soviet Union from the west and south.
Stalin, seeing that he was in a precarious position, decided to step up war production in order to prepare for a possible German invasion. While he prepared his army, he aimed at appeasing Hitler until he felt he'd built up his forces to a point where he could launch a pre-emptive strike on the Germans. But he did not prepare frontier defenses along his borders for fear of offending Berlin.
While Stalin was brooding over the few options that he had, Hitler moved to take control of the Balkans. He encouraged Nazi sympathizers within the governments of Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece and Hungary to join the axis powers. Within Yugoslavia and Greece were strong resisters to the Germans, but with no support from Britain, they were forced to agree to the Germans' demands along with everyone else.
Now surrounded by German-controlled territory, Turkey was forced to join the axis, too.
The German Afrika Korps, a small force assembled to assist the Italians in case the British in Egypt refused to evacuate, soon moved to occupy Iran, putting them in a position to threaten both India and the Soviet Union.
In January, 1941, Hitler pressed the Spanish president Francisco Franco to join the axis. With the British out of the picture, the Spanish felt that they had little to lose and agreed, launching an invasion of Portugal the next month with German assistance. Lisbon was taken and a Portuguese surrender forced within a week.
Hitler's oldest ally Mussolini pledged Italy's support as well.
Hitler now had the military strength of all of these nations behind him, and decided to begin preparations for an attack on the Soviet Union.
While the Germans were preparing to launch the largest invasion in history, chaos reigned in Britain. The British people felt that even with the disaster at Dunkirk, the British Navy was by far superior to the Germans' and could have stopped any invasion force easily. Opposition against Churchill's "yellow" government and bitterness for the Treaty of Caen boiled over into a massive insurgency against "Winston the Wuss". The people of this insurgency were at first divided, but slowly began to merge into a large organisation known as the Children of Britain. Under the World War I veteran Edward Ashmore, it began to spread to what remained of the British Empire in South Africa and India. Its goal was simple: overthrow the entire government, give emergency powers to Ashmore, and continue the fight against Hitler wherever possible. By January, 1941, it had grown to a force of an astounding 10 million Britons.
In the midst of consolidating his forces, Hitler overlooked the little information that the German spies in Britain gave him about this potential enemy.
In February, 1941, Hitler believed he was ready and ordered his staff to begin preparations for an assault on the Soviet Union to be set for mid-Spring of that year. Their response was a detailed scheme that the Germans now called, "Operation Barbarossa".
By April, the armies of the axis were ready to attack. The Germans began negotiations with the Soviet Union for metals and synthetic fiber to cast off any suspicion on the part of the Russians. It worked, and Stalin relaxed his guard.
The invasion date for Babarossa was set for May 14th, 1941.
On the eve of the attack, Hitler and the staff had a private reception. At this "meeting", the Führer told his generals that he expected not more than 5,000 German casualties in the entire campaign, which he guessed to be about two months long. He and the staff drank a toast to "...victory in the East."
At 3:14 on May 14th, the Germans began their advance into Russia. From Iran, the Germans poured over and through the Caucasus Mountains into the heart of Russia's oil supply. In ten days, the Germans rolled into Rostov and two days later, Stalingrad. The German 6th Army was responsible for this victory, the same soldiers that had achieved the victory in France, and they now rested on the Don and Volga Rivers to regroup and prepare for their next offensive.
A month later, the German 8th Army in the southwest had reached Smolensk, where they surrounded more than 400,000 Russians and forced their surrender. From there it swung south to the Ukraine, capturing Kiev in early July and linking up with the 6th Army and the new 9th Army on the Don. A massive Russian Army had been moving south to outflank the Germans who had reached Kiev, some 750,000 men, who were now completely cut off and taken captive. This was the largest surrender in military history and a crushing German victory.
In the west, the Germans drove east over the Baltic States where they found large anti-communist groups willing to join the Germans. With these small states to use as bases, the German drove north, where the German 2nd Light Division and the 7th Panzer Division formed a pincer that trapped over one hundred thousand Russians in Leningrad. The Russians, because of exaggerated reports from the frightened locals thought that this German force of just twenty thousand men was one of over three hundred thousand, and they surrendered, allowing the Germans to take all of them prisoner, and capture the Russians' second city in one day. After seeing how the Germans had been so successful against the Russians, the Finns joined offered the Germans support in return for Russian territory in Karelia. The Germans agreed and with Finnish help, they cut off Karelia and the Kola Peninsula from the rest of the country, taking over a quarter of a million Russians, who had been preparing for guarding the Finnish border since the beginning of the war.
Meanwhile, the Children of Britain had devised a plan for a massive coup called Iceni, set to take place on August 1st, 1941. If successful, the Royal Family, Churchill and his government and much of the General Staff would be ousted, and a new military government appointed with Ashmore at the head and a staff of his cronies, all to the end of fighting the Germans. As the 1st of August approached, much of the British military defected to the Children of Britain and fed crucial information to the insurgency. Iceni looked infallible.
In Russia, the 3rd Army drove east toward Moscow, having already destroyed ten entire Russian infantry divisions and cut several more to pieces, taking hundreds of thousands of prisoners. There was now little resistance left between the German forces in the west and the outskirts of Moscow.
It was now mid-July and the Germans had driven the Russians out of Belorussia, their industrial capital, Ukraine, the center for all their agriculture and the Caucasus, the source of three-fourths of all Russian oil. Hitler thought that Russian Army had been wiped out and that the Soviet Union had been destroyed. He ordered the German 3rd Army to take Moscow.
After first hearing of the sheer scale of the German invasion Stalin had abdicated all responsibility as head of state and fled Moscow. After getting word of the devastating Russian defeats, he shot himself, leaving no clear successor.
There was only one man who seemed capable to lead the Soviet People now, and that was General Georgi Zhukov. He had been managing the entire nation as his superior was in his nervous breakdown, and now officially took command of all Soviet Forces. For the defense of Moscow he recruited all Muscovian civilians not in war work to digging trenches and anti-tank ditches around the city.
The German 3rd Army began an attack on Moscow on the 21st of July and the Luftwaffe bombed the city almost constantly, but the Germans, even with the help of their allies, were now dangerously overextended. Still, they continued the advance on Moscow. Despite the German superiority in numbers and firepower, the Russians had been told by their new leader that they could not surrender or allow themselves to be killed until they themselves had killed one hundred Germans, and soon set to work to fill their quota. This was not completely achieved, but the Russians fought for every sq m of Moscow and inflicted on the Germans an average of 15,000 casualties a week, shocking and appalling the German General Staff.
Elsewhere in Russia, the German occupiers were being bloodied everywhere. Zhukov had given to the Russians in occupied Russia a similar message to the one he gave to the defenders of Moscow. German supply lines were soon being harassed everywhere. Worse was to come for the Germans.
Zhukov had about two million men under his command, for after the devastating surrenders and mass desertions, Zhukov's army was reduced to half it's size. But he had a daring plan: to strike the Germans with everything that he had, in the place where they were weakest, and that was the now ruined city of Moscow. He raised large militias behind enemy lines called "red wolves" who were subordinate to him and worked in coordination with the Red Army. He created massive recruitment drives that got him two more divisions in Europe. He diverted the 40 elite Siberian divisions in the east to fight in Europe. Without the Caucasus, the Soviets could maintain an offensive with mass armor for only a few days, so Zhukov aimed those few days at capturing German supply depots, and destroying as many German tanks as possible.
Hitler, determined to take Moscow, had stripped his flanks of German troops and ordered the 9th Army from the south to Moscow. this meant that there were now only Italian, Romanian, and Hungarian troops between the Oka River and Moscow, none of which possessed tanks or anti-tank weapons. North of Moscow there was only a single division of Finnish troops.
On August 1st, 1941, Zhukov was still in Moscow, preparing for the largest Soviet offensive of the war yet. Hitler was in Kiev, fuming over his losses, and Edward Ashmore was sitting in an armored car in London, directing large groups of British insurgents and listening to the sound of gunfire that had just broken out. Iceni had begun.
The Children of Britain had seized Wellington Barracks, the War office, the Admiralty House, and the Royal arsenal in the first minutes of the coup, thanks to the inside information. By noon, the Big Ben had been taken and snipers placed behind the clock, as well as the Thames house and the MI6 Building, but the Palace of Westminster was still held by loyalists. At the first sounds of gunfire, chaos had broken out among London's population, but the various militias under Ashmore soon occupied the city and quelled the small fights between confused citizens. Churchill had been seen leading a group of loyalists toward Big Ben and had been shot in the arm by a sniper. He was moved back to the outskirts of London, where he was flown out to the Isle of Man. The Royal Family had been moved to the mouth of the Thames and boarded the HMS Royal Oak, visiting from Scapa Flow. When it was clear that they were a target of the insurgents, the Royal Oak, with half of its crew on shore leave, had set sail for Scotland. By four o'clock, Ashmore's troops stormed Westminster Palace and secured London. Ashmore was declared to be Chancellor of Britain and in a mock parliament meeting was voted emergency powers. His first orders were to declare the Royal Family exiles, to announce that the Treaty of Caen was null and void, and to order the arrest of Churchill.
That same day, Zhukov had declared to his staff that the Red Army was ready for it's new offensive and that this was to take place the very next day. This all-or-nothing offensive was to be called simply Red Dawn. His generals thought this rash and reckless, launching on dawn of the next day, but Zhukov had heard of the British coup and thought it might be successful. If it was, he planned to put as much pressure as possible on the overextended Germans. Zhukov broadcast to the Red Wolves and the partisans, that the large uprising that he had had them prepare for was at hand, and that at dawn the next day, "...the sun will rise with a red and bloodlusting glow. The people of Russia will be free and the hammer and sickle shall fly above the burning and torn Swastika was we race westward. To all who have not yet joined us: come and kill your Germans."
So on August 2nd, as Field Marshal Model of the German 9th Army led his troops to attack Moscow from the Southeast, Zhukov attacked the Italian, Hungarian and Romanian Forces in Model's rear with only four armoured divisions followed by twelve infantry divisions. It was all it took to smash the axis line and decimate the Italians, most of whom surrendered. The Italians had settled down in fortified camps, unable to support each other, so the Soviets could merely bypass them and wait for a surrender. The Red Army infantry widened the gaps made by the armor, and linked up with the partisan bands there. In the North, the Finns were overwhelmed by the eight tank brigades thrown at them,were surrounded and forced to surrender.
As far as 500 miles behind German lines, the partisans of the Soviet Union had launched massive attacks on German supply depots and fuel dumps, looting them and taking many Germans hostage. In some cities such as Kursk, Smolensk and Kiev, the very location of Hitler's headquarters, the partisans launched ambushes on German street patrols. They isolated German tanks and vehicles and set them afire with homemade grenades. They descended on collaborators and executed them on the spot. the Germans began to lose entire districts to the Partisans and call for re-inforcements. But these would come in to few numbers, for the Red Wolves had cut many lines of communications. After the initial success of the partisans and Red Wolves, many Soviets joined and picked up the weapons of their dead conquerors. Soon 40% of the Russian population and 53% of the Ukrainian population had become active members of the fight against Hitler. The occupiers of Russia, Ukraine and Belorussia were being driven from their conquests.
The next day, the two large Soviet Armies linked up on the western outskirts of Moscow. Two Russian armies had appeared east of Moscow, surrounding two entire German armies. Zhukov knew that without support from the other German soldiers in Russia, these two armies would be forced to surrender within a month. In the words of the Soviet foreign minister Molotov, "It was truly Red Dawn. For on Dawn that day, the ground must have surely been red with the blood of these Nazi invaders, and the sun must have shown red and bright on our comrades as they took the first steps on the road to Berlin."
Edward Ashmore, at first reluctant to adopt the Soviets as allies, became jubilant at the news of the massive uprisings and offensives in the Soviet Union. He declared war on all of the axis powers and vowed "... to free Europe from its oppressors." He planned for a massive British offensive to land troops in Kuwait and South Iraq that would strike north. British forces in India would use the manpower of this overcrowded nation to launch an offensive into Iran. The two forces would, after slicing through this sparsely garrisoned area of the Germans' control, link up on the Iran-Iraq border, then strike north to the Caucasus.
It was August 3rd, and Hitler had lost in two days what it had taken two months to get. He could look on the map of Europe and see that in the east he could no longer be said control it. His forces were becoming isolated everywhere as this massive force of the east that he has overlooked is devouring the 5.8 million men that he had sent in to invade. But he had a plan. He still had one trick up his sleeve. There were still far more Panzer divisions in the east than there were Russian tank divisions. He would go for an all-or nothing gamble of his own. It would result in the largest battle in history.