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Timeline: Morgen die ganze Welt
Monday, July 27 1943
Sicily, South-West of Messina
501 Tiger battalion and 35th Panzer division attack in the early morning after a short artillery bombardment. Tigers are used to spear point the attack followed by masses of T-34 tanks. Forward observers of the 7th Army watch horrified as anti-tank rounds bounce off the Tigers. Dug-in Sherman tanks try to stop the advance but they are outclassed. Here Shermans earn their nickname of cigarette lighter as they almost invariably burst into flames when hit.
As the German attack rolls up the Allied front line the first US aircraft appear and strafe German tanks. The Luftwaffe also shows up in unexpected numbers and a new determination. Both sides tackle each other in vicious dogfights while bombers attack tanks. Ironically Reggia Aeronautica uses captured American A-20 Havocs in those attacks. Italian La-5 fighters prove tough opponents in low-level dogfights, fast and agile. For the first time the Italian Air Force has a fighter equal to Allied best. Allied pilots make contact with Sturmovik bombers for the first time. They are baffled by the toughness of the aircraft, armored like a flying tank. Although the Luftwaffe refuses to use the captured Sturmoviks, considering them inferior, Italian pilots have adopted them eagerly. Now they use the aircraft's 37 mm guns to shoot up Allied tanks with great success.
The Allied front crumbles quickly and surprisingly fast T-34 tanks pour through. Even worse for the Allies, the T-34s show unexpected ability to cross terrain thought unsuitable for tanks. 7th Army is routed, pulling back to the south. 45th Rifle division is pinned down and is surrounded. It is like the battle of Kasserine Pass all over again.
Tuesday, July 28 1943
General Patton counterattacks in co-ordination with British forces and a massive tank battle develops. Tiger tanks are still unreliable and most have broken down. Allied tanks are attacked by Stukas and Sturmoviks fresh from the Eastern front. Allies use Thunderbolt fighter-bombers against Axis armor. Fighters from both sides try to protect their tank destroyers. Dogfights start over the battlefield and they continue throughout the day with neither side gaining superiority. Allied fighter pilots are taken aback by the resurgence of the Luftwaffe.
The remnants of the surrounded 45th Rifle Division surrender and join thousands of other prisoners of war. They will be paraded through Rome to support Mussolini. By the end of the day tank losses are heavy on both sides and the battle lines stabilize. The Allied front line has been pushed back 50 km. German repair shops work day and night to get precious Tiger tanks running again. Damaged Allied tanks have been abandoned behind the front line. This is the advantage of the attacker.
Saturday, July 31 1943
Field marshal Paulus is brought before a military court in Berlin. He is accused of treason in that he co-operated with the enemy making propaganda broadcasts and he is accused of cowardice in the Stalingrad battle. The defense pleads insanity and mentions his record in battles before Stalingrad but to no avail. Paulus is condemned to death by firing squad. The prosecutor stamps his feet in righteous indignation and shouts that a traitor must be beheaded. He is placated with difficulty by the understanding judge who explains the difficult situation: There is no precedence for the execution of a German field marshal. Indeed a field marshal is theoretically immune from prosecution and demotion so the court-martial is technically illegal. However Hitler has decreed that an exception is warranted. Paulus averts the problem. He cracks mentally, stands up and delivers a tirade against "that Bohemian corporal", Adolf Hitler. He ends by shouting "I refuse to take a bullet for that madman!" then crumples to the floor. MPs rush forward but too late, Paulus is dead. He is blue in the face with small glass splinters on his lips: the remains of a cyanide capsule.
Paulus is buried in an unmarked grave and an SS regiment marches over the spot in a symbolic demonstration of contempt.
In Sicily the Allies have been pushed back steadily to the beaches where Allied cruisers bombard the enemy and temporarily stop the Axis advance. Palermo is retaken by the 35th panzer division, Patton having to withdraw precipitously. Italians are now completely confused, unable to determine which side is winning the war.
Sunday, August 1 1943 Heide
The OKH has decided to keep the Soviet Union off balance by starting a new offensive in the South. This will exploit the Axis capability of rapid concentration of forces.
Meanwhile the Gorki airfield is expanded. It will be used for a long-range bomber offensive against trans-Ural factories.
Axis forces under the command of general Von Kleist unleash operation Heide, an offensive aimed at capturing the oil-rich Caucasus - for the second time. After a furious artillery and air attack the reborn Axis 6th army breaks through the enemy lines. This army was wiped out in Stalingrad but is now stronger than before. It has received the new Panther tanks, the best armor in the world although suffering from teething problems.
Simultaneous but limited offensives at Voronezh, Gorki and the North Front are designed to prevent the Soviets reinforcing the Caucasus. The Soviet South Armies in the south have been weakened as many divisions have been transferred to the Gorki area. The fall of Moscow and Gorki has made Soviet communication with the south and north front slow and difficult.
Tuesday, August 3 1943
The Allies conclude operation Gomorrah, an eight day air offensive against Hamburg. The city is devastated and 50,000 civilians have died, most during night attacks. Albert Speer reports that if the Allies can knock out 10 more cities the same way the war is lost. The weather is getting too bad for bombing though so this is unlikely. In a stop gap measure 200 captured Soviet Pe-2 bombers are converted to night fighters. They are excellent for the job, almost as fast as the English Mosquito. The night fighter force will be improved and expanded but this will take time.
The air war in the east will be waged with mostly novice pilots and Axis allies, a practical training area really. Marshall Milch who is in control of aircraft manufacture implores Focke-Wulf factories to speed up the development of the Ta-154 night fighter which is his favorite aircraft. He is told prototypes have been built but they await the new 2000 hp Jumo 213 engine developed by Junkers. Milch promptly turns his attention to the Junkers factories, threatening to send factory managers to the front. This causes an anonymous director to state that Allied bomber raids are preferable to Milch's attacks. Nevertheless it must be noted that wherever Milch directs his attention things happen.
Wednesday, August 4 1943 Rostov The 6th army recaptures Rostov in an irresistible drive. At the same time and as planned Axis forces break out of the Novorossisk bridgehead aiming for the oil city of Maikop. Hitler's decision to hold Novorossisk at all costs is vindicated.
Sunday, August 8 1943 Heide Operation Heide progresses well. Maikop is easily recaptured by the Axis. Enemy supply dumps are captured, showing that the Soviets were preparing an offensive of their own. The capture of a supply dump is a significant event in an area where supply lines are more than 2000 km long.
Tuesday, August 10 1943 Heide Axis armored pincer movements close north of Maikop and a Soviet army is surrounded.
Thursday, August 12 1943
Famous Hollywood actor Clark Gable has taken one risk too many. He was observer in a B-17 of 92nd Bomber Group targeting Bochum in the Rurh. Fw-190s made several passes at the bomber setting the fuel tanks ablaze. Clark Gable bailed out with the rest of the crew. He was arrested by local farmers and became the target of a group of peasant women who posed with him for pictures and demanded his autograph.
Saturday, August 14 1943 Clark Gable Clark Gable is offered a commission in the Luftwaffe directly from Hitler, who is a great admirer of the actor. Gable flatly refuses and demands to be treated no differently from other prisoners. He is sent to the VIP prison of castle Colditz, however. Hitler remarks to his adjutant that he wishes that Axis allies would show the same moral fiber as Clark Gable.
Tuesday, August 17 1943 Schweinfurt The ball bearing factories of Schweinfurt are hit by a heavy US bombing raid. This is part of the Allied Pointblank directive to cripple German aircraft production. There is heavy damage to the factories but most of the machinery remains intact. The German reaction was vicious as Home Defense was reinforced with JG II fighters from the East Front. Of 376 B-17s taking part 80 are shot down and most are damaged. During the night the RAF executes an attack on the rocket research center of Peenemunde. The British know that the Germans are up to no good there. 40 Bombers are lost but damage is minimal. Nevertheless A-4 rocket assembly will be moved to an underground site in the Harz mountains. Hitler gives A-4 production the highest priority and sets a monthly production target of 4000 rockets.
Thursday, August 19 1943 Jeschonnek Hans Jeschonnek, Chief of of staff of the Luftwaffe shoots himself as he is being unfairly blamed for the failure of the Luftwaffe to stop Allied bombers.
Friday, August 20 1943 Heide Axis forces move through Elista on the way the the Caspian Sea in operation Heide. They have advanced 300 km in ten days. Soviet troops surrounded near Maikop are mopped up. They show remarkably little fighting spirit.
Monday, August 23 1943
Axis reinforcements including the redoubtable 10th panzer division arrive in Sicily. The soldier's morale is high after the good news from the East Front and the successes in Sicily. Crucially, heavy artillery arrives to pound the Allies on the beaches. There are no plans to use nerve gas in Sicily. Neither Rommel nor Kesselring even knows about the gas. Allies lack good airfields in Sicily and have to support the battle from Tunesia and Malta. Italian Sturmoviks continuously attack the bridgehead causing little damage but badly affecting Allies morale.
Patton advises to get out "while the going is good."
Sunday, August 29 1943 Edelweiss Grozny is captured by Axis forces. Anti-Soviet rebels join in the attack and help to capture oil refineries intact. Soldiers watch in amazement as the local population rounds up political commissars to lynch them. Hundreds of civilians volunteer for service with the Axis. Chechnyan rebels ask permission to form their own SS division. Stalin is not very popular here. Many locals have been transported to other areas of Russia as hostages and slave labor.
Friday, September 10 1943 Volga Soviets attack in the Gorki area using human wave tactics. They use poison gas for the first time but without success. Both sides have gas masks that protect against conventional war gas. The poison gas hinders the Soviet attackers more then the Axis defenders.
Thursday, September 16 1943 Volga The costly Soviet offensive at Gorki peters out without result. Although Soviets advanced 10 km in some areas counterattacks drove them back. The elite Brandenburg division was mentioned in dispatches. It slipped through Soviet lines and took position across the line of retreat of Soviet 334 division. The desperate Soviets tried to break through in waves but were mowed down with all available weapons. Panzerfausts were fired into the massed ranks to devastating effect. The Soviet division was annihilated in minutes.
Sunday, September 19 1943 Stalingrad Soviets start a major offensive from Stalingrad aiming south to hit the flank of the German Caucasus offensive. Somehow they seem to come up with a surprise every time the Axis generals think they are finished.
Wednesday, September 22 1943
German engineers are already at work in Maikop to restart the oil wells. Retreating Soviets have thoroughly destroyed the well heads. This project is given the highest priority as the OKH realizes that oil is the key to the future of the war. Already Axis mobility is hindered by oil shortages.
Under emergency war conditions such a project will take weeks where in peacetime it would take a year.
Friday, September 24 1943 Kotelnikov The strength of the Soviet Stalingrad offensive is a surprise to the Axis. Masses of Soviet armor race to Kotelnikov, threatening to disrupt the Axis Caucasus offensive. The Walloon Waffen-SS division commanded by Degrelle digs in and refuses to budge. Increasingly desperate Soviet attacks are beaten back in savage hand-to-hand fighting. The resolute defense gives the 6th army time to prepare a counterattack.
Friday, October 1 1943
The Soviet Stalingrad offensive finally crumples under a massive counterattack after a week long battle. The Soviet are short of resources: tanks, aircraft, supplies. They tried to compensate by sacrificing human lives but in vain. 28th SS division "Wallonien" composed of Walloons chases the Soviets back to Stalingrad.
General Von Kleist mentions the heroic efforts of several international waffen-SS divisions in a dispatch to the OKH. Hitler is delighted and sends congratulatory messages to the divisions involved.
Saturday, October 2 1943 Caspian Sea An Axis patrol reaches the Caspian Sea and radios the historic "Thalassa, thalassa" message. It is a repeat of a previous exploit in 1942. They set up a blocking position across the Baku-Astrakhan railway line and sever communication between Astrakhan and the Baku oil fields. The Caucasus is cut off from the rest of the Soviet Union except for the perilous Caspian Sea route.
Sunday, October 3 1943
A heavy artillery bombardment precedes an all-out attack by Axis 10th panzer division in Sicily. Tigers force their way through Allied lines and reach the shore, exchanging fire with Allied cruisers. Focke-Wulfs make attacks on Allied warships with guided He-293 bombs, causing some damage and a hasty withdrawal.
After recent reinforcements both sides are equal in numbers but Axis tanks are superior to Allied armor. One of the most successful German Tigers is commanded by Major Wittman. During the attack he brews up a Sherman tank, his 100th victim. The radio operator promptly jumps out in the heat of battle and paints a new circle on the still hot gun barrel to mark the kill.
Tuesday, October 5 1943 Sicily Allies have evacuated Sicily, losing all heavy equipment. The deciding factor was a guided bomb attack on warships, a new element in war that needs tactical rethinking. 50,000 Soldiers become prisoners of war. They will be paraded through Rome to support Mussolini. The dictator has been released from prison and his former prison guards are now in the cells. Badoglio is put under house arrest. Such are the fortunes of war.
Saturday, October 9 1943 Schweinfurt Schweinfurt is attacked for the second time with 291 B-17s which was all that could be scraped together. This time the losses are even worse: 95 bombers are shot down. Only 120 bombers complete their bombing run and most miss the target. Daytime bombing of Germany is stopped until long range escort fighters are available. Only the British are now able to carry the fight to the Germans with night raids. But here the Luftwaffe is also improving and bomber losses are mounting.
Wednesday, October 20 1943 Merseburg The Ju-390 6-engined bomber/transporter makes its first flight piloted by Hans-Werner Lerche. The aircraft is comparable with the Boeing B-29 in size. It can carry a similar bomb load, 10,000 kg and has almost double the range at 9700 km. Its maximum speed is about 50 kph slower than the B-29 at 505 km/h but its cruising speed slightly higher and the engines are more reliable. A first order is placed for 260 aircraft. There is a desperate shortage of cargo aircraft in the Luftwaffe.
Thursday, October 21 1943 Caucasus Axis forces reach Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga. The Caspian Sea supply line to the Caucasus is now completely cut off. The Soviet Union's oil supply is disrupted. Operations in the Caucasus mountains are slowed down by the approaching winter and the desperate defense of passes by Soviets. Armenian volunteers are dropped by parachute to disrupt Soviet reinforcement attempts.
Monday, October 25 1943 Germany In Germany the first He-219 squadron becomes operational. The He-219 is a fast night fighter equipped with radar and heavy cannon armament. During tests several Mosquitos have been shot down. Marshall Milch has to accept the introduction of the He-219 as long as it doesn't interfere with development of the Ta-154. Germans don't have short wave radar yet but the existing sets are adequate for intercepting bombers. A British Stirling with a H2S radar set has been shot down and Siemens engineers are examining the strange device. This is a major setback for the Allies. They had hoped to keep the vital radar technology secret. To their chagrin the German engineers discover that the radar set is based on abandoned German technology. They have to admit that English engineers have been very clever in getting the radar to work.
Sunday, October 31 1943 Stalingrad Axis 6th army reaches Stalingrad, much weaker defended than a year before. The Soviet armies have been mauled in the failed Stalingrad offensive. The Volga is reached north and south of Stalingrad and 88 mm guns shoot up barges that try to supply the defenders.
Thursday, November 11 1943 Caucasus Axis forces take Batum on the Black Sea, advancing along the coast and bypassing the Caucasus mountains. There is little resistance. Armenian volunteers have been very useful as they are familiar with the mountains.
Monday, November 15 1943
The pressure on Malta is mounting. The air offensive was restarted after the Allied retreat from Sicily.
Total monthly Luftwaffe losses have been reduced by 50% after the Kursk offensive. The Luftwaffe is now making a determined effort in the west and against Malta. Medium bombers raid at night and captured Sturmoviks escorted by FW-190s and La-5s are sent in by daylight. Sturmoviks are a source of amazement to the British. Their armor makes them almost invulnerable to anti-aircraft fire and fighters.
Sunday, November 21 1943
Tblisi, the gate to the oil center of Baku, falls to the Axis. Pockets of resistance are left in the Caucasus mountains, to be mopped up later.
6th Army is closing in on Stalingrad. The Soviets try to block the enemy at Mamayev Kurgan hill, the scene of many months of fierce fighting one year before. The hill is a serious obstacle, the Soviets soldiers are dug in and well protected against artillery fire.
It is amazing how much difference one year makes in war. WASPs of 411 battalion are called in. The soldiers arrive in their Mercedes trucks and they are a strange lot indeed. They act with the air of chemists preparing an experiment, observing fortifications, making notes and calculations, waving their slipsticks around - the engineer's main weapon. They don't respond to questions. Eventually they set up their 80 mm mortars and prime nerve gas shells, red for Sarin and yellow for Tabun. The mortars cough and cause innocent puffs of dust and smoke on Soviet positions. It seems like a leisurely affair. The soldiers wait patiently like dentists waiting for narcosis to set in, then they send reconnaissance units in chemical suits over. They report total success: no enemy is left alive. Decontamination teams are sent in to neutralize the nerve gas with sodium hydroxide spray.
Monday, November 29 1943 Prague Recent conquests in the Caucasus make more bauxite available increasing aluminium production. Captured factories in the Moscow area are already contributing aero engines and tanks to the war effort in a project energetically driven by Marshall Milch, who is perhaps the greatest organizer in the Reich. As a result the Ju-390 goes into full-scale production and an order is placed for 40 Me-264 "America bombers" as a reward to Professor Messerschmitt. Are the Yankees going to get a surprise!
At the same time an unprecedented order for 2000 Ju-252 cargo aircraft is placed with the Junkers-controlled Amiot company in France. The Ju-252 is five tons lighter than the Allied DC-4 but it has similar speed and payload and is cheap to manufacture. It has the major novelty of a hydraulic ventral loading ramp which is destined to become standard for cargo planes.
Tuesday, November 30 1943 Stalingrad Axis 6th army has captured the ruins of Stalingrad almost casually. The previous defeat has been turned around causing immense satisfaction in Germany, just as intended. Hitler in a radio speech proclaims that he always delivers on his promises. He hints that the warmongers in London and Washington are trembling in their hideouts. He is not far wrong as Roosevelt has been secretly muttering to his staff "We were wrong to get involved in this war by Mr. Churchill."
Sunday, December 18 1943 Caucasus German armor finally enters Baku. The miserable remnants of the Soviet Forces, about 500,000 out of ammunition and short of food, become prisoners of war. Some Soviet forces retreat to British-occupied Persia and join up with British 9th army. The balance of forces in the Middle East has changed. The Axis has significant forces in the area that can be used to attack Persia. Turkey may now join the Axis. Italy, Romania and Bulgaria are encouraged and send more troops to the East now that is relatively safe to do so. As a bonus the dispirited Soviets have not completely demolished the oil refineries of Baku.
Tuesday, December 20 1943 Russian front Activity on the Russian front dies down. The Soviets build up new armies to replace the heavy losses and the Germans prepare for a spring offensive. The OKH estimates that three million Soviets have been killed or captured in five months, almost half of their army. Mountains of equipment and supplies have been captured. 12,000 Soviet tanks have been destroyed or captured and 6000 aircraft. Surely Soviet manpower must be exhausted?
Saturday, January 1 1944 London The year does not begin on a good note for the Allied combined Chiefs of Staff. The Africa campaign was a success but the Sicily invasion was a fiasco. The Soviet Union is in danger of collapse releasing 200 Axis division to the West. Germany seems to have developed a new type of poison gas. New German tanks have been encountered that are superior to the best Allied tanks. Fortunately the war in the Pacific is going well.