The III Reich in World War III
A Doomsday Armageddon AAR
- PRELUDE & CHAPTER I - 1944-1945 - Final stages of World War II
- - Post-war Europe and The end of the Pacific War
- Interlude I - Washington DC, Friday, August 10th, 1945
- CHAPTER II - 1945-1946 - The Manchurian War, an overview
- - Germany during the Manchurian War
- - The Manchurian War
- - Final Stages of the Manchurian War
- Interlude II - Peking and Königsberg, Saturday, July 15th, 1946
- CHAPTER III - 1946-1947 - The Chinese Crisis of 1946
- - Political impact of the Sino-Soviet war
- - 1947: Decolonisation and deoccupation
- CHAPTER IV - 1948 - Germany, Europe and the World
- - 1948: The Arab-Israeli War, part 1
- - 1948: The Arab-Israeli War, part 2
- - 1948: The Lucy Crisis
- Interlude IV - Over the Alps, Swiss Confederation - Monday, June 28th, 1946
- - 1948: The Wehrmacht in 1948
Above occupied Poland
Saturday March 13th, 1943
Hitler´s personal Condor is prepped for its last flight. Smolensk, March 1943
Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Greater German Reich was deep in thought. The engines of his personal transport, a Focke Wulf-200 Condor hummed steadily as it plied the skies high over Poland, but they would not lull the dictator into sleep. He was returning to Berlin after an interview with the commander of Army Group Centre, General Hans von Klüge, and he had not been favourably impressed. Klüge, as all his higher commanders these days, had seemed defeatist. Even von Manstein, despite his recent brilliant successes against overwhelming Russian strength wanted to conduct a fighting retreat. Temporal, to be sure but nonetheless a retreat. Why couldn’t they see, as Hitler himself clearly saw, that the only answer to Stalin’s hordes was an unyielding, fanatical defence, such as he had so successfully ordered during that terrible first winter in Russia? The Russian offensives had been checked then, as they had been checked this winter. And come summer, with the new Panther tanks and the rebuilt Panzer Divisions Guderian had promised, Germany would wrest back the initiative with a renewed, overwhelmingly powerful offensive.
Further back in the plane, Lieutenant-Colonel Heinz Brandt, an officer of the OKH Staff of Operations, held in his lap a bag with two bottles of French Brandy which von Klüge’s chief of staff, Major-General von Tresckow had sent back with him as a gift to Major-General Stieff. Worried that the extreme cold in the cargo hold would ruin the precious liquid, Brandt had decided to bring the bottles with him into the heated passenger compartment. He could not know that this thoughtful diligence had already cost him his life – in the bottles was not brandy, but powerful explosives with British-built timed primers. In the cargo hold, the acid in the primers would have frozen, rendering them inoperable, but in the comfortable warmth of the pressurised cabin, the acid ate steadily away at taut metal wires, which when dissolved through would snap and set off the bombs.
Hitler looked out of his window, admiring the sun-drenched cloud landscape below. It looked a bit like the alps in winter. Such beauty, far above the dirty muddy greyness of late winter Europe… When the war was won, he’d take a long vacation with Eva at Berghof and paint again. Oh yes, the saviour of Germany and conqueror of Europe deserved a little peace too, didn’t he?
A sudden brilliant flash was all that the Führer had time to perceive before his personal Condor exploded spectacularly into millions of fragments. Despite the fact that hundreds of special SS retrieval crews would later pour through the Polish countryside, looking for any remains of their beloved leader, none was ever found.
Final stages of World War II
The new Führer
When the death of Hitler became known, the military conspirators led by Generaloberst Erwin von Witzleben launched their attempted overthrow of the Nazi regime. It was quickly and brutally crushed by the Waffen-SS and the Gestapo under orders of the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The designated successor to Hitler, Reichsmarshall Goering was easily sidestepped, because he had few ground combat troops to support him. He was arrested as a suspect co-conspirator (because of the assassination taking place on a Luftwaffe aircraft) and although he was later fully exonerated of all charges and reinstated as head of the Luftwaffe, by then Himmler held all the chords of power in his hands.
The new Führer had no illusions about his military genius, and although he retained the ultimate decision through his OKW staff, he was only too happy to follow the advice of prestigious field commanders such as Field Marshalls Rommel or von Manstein. As a result, the German conduct of the war changed markedly in character.
A new strategy for the Wehrmacht
The enclave in Tunis was successfully evacuated to Sicily during April by nightly air lifts and sea transports. Although much heavy material was lost, some 200 000 veteran German troops made it safely back to Europe. On the Eastern Front, on the advice of Field Marshall von Manstein and Generaloberst Guderian, the Germans stood on the defensive in the summer of 1943. The Soviet summer offensive against Army Group South led to a stinging defeat as the Russian spearheads were caught against the Sea of Azov by von Manstein’s “backhand blow” and destroyed. But the allied invasion of Sicily in July, and the German retreat to the Italian mainland meant that the success could not be followed up with any advances; instead, the Soviet attacks succeeded each other during the late summer and early autumn, von Manstein fighting a mobile battle across the steppes of the Ukraine east of the Dnepr. The Soviet superiority was now so great that holding all ground had become impossible, but the mobile defence tactics kept German losses to a minimum while maximising the Russian ones. By new years eve 1944, the Wehrmacht was firmly entrenched in extensive fortifications behind the Denpr and the many Soviet attempts to cross the great river were bloodily repulsed.
Meanwhile in Italy, the Allies been halted at the Gustav line, south of Rome after a slow and costly advance due to the skilled delaying tactics of Field Marshall Kesselring. All attempts at breaching the Gustav line ended in bloody repulses, and after the abortive attempt at maritime invasion at Anzio, in which American General Lucas surrendered with 30.000 men, focus shifted entirely to the upcoming invasion across the channel, operation Overlord.
The most desperate hour of the Reich
The Russians, despite their crippling losses during 1943 continued to rain heavy hammer blows on the Reich; during the winter of 1944, through a series of hugely costly assaults, they managed to break the siege of Leningrad and push back the Germans further from Moscow. They also finally succeeded in breaking the Dnepr line and recapture Kiev, although again at an appalling cost in blood and materiel. In June of 1944, the fate of Germany hung in the balance as Overlord was launched simultaneously with a massive Soviet offensive against Army Group Centre. Given freedom to manoeuvre, the Germans were able to trade ground for time, finally managing to halt the Soviet advance on the old Polish border. Soviet losses in this operation were extreme, but the German were also very heavy. Overlord, on the other hand, ended in a bloody fiasco; while the beaches were taken, strong German armoured reinforcements soon arrived, driving the Allies back into the sea. Some 40.000 troops were killed or captured, although due to heavy naval gunfire, also at a great cost to the German defenders. A failure to secure complete air superiority was later quoted as the main reason for defeat.
The effect of the failed invasion on Stalin was dramatic; his long time conviction that the allies were conniving to let the Soviet Union exhaust the Germans while bleeding itself to death seemed to be confirmed by the “token” and “uncommitted” invasion attempt. Stalin already foresaw a situation in which a German collapse was followed by the quick occupation of most of Europe by the Allies largely unblooded forces, while the decimated and exhausted Red Army was unable to reap the great gains the Soviet dictator had been hoping for. Thus he finally decided to seek an armistice with the Reich, to which his personal loathing and distrust of Hitler had previously stood in the way.
Stalemate and Armistice
While peace talks were going on in Kiev, the Allies learnt of the threat of a separate Russo- German peace, and decided to prove their commitment to the Russians by launching a new great offensive in the one area where they were already facing the Wehrmacht, namely the Mediterranean. Another attempt was made to break through the Gustav line, this time with the truly massive forces previously earmarked for the follow up of Overlord. It would be complemented, on Churchill’s insistence, with a seaborne invasion of Greece. Although this invasion was successful, it proved to be a major mistake, as Stalin regarded it merely as an attempt to forestall a Russian occupation of the Balkans. As for the assault in Italy, it finally succeeded and Rome was taken in August of 1944, but Allied losses in the fighting were appalling. Kesselring was able to pull his troops back in good order to their next, equally impregnable line of defence, dubbed the Gothic Line.
The most immediate effects of this last allied offensive was thus not the intended one of shoring up Soviet commitment to the war; on the contrary, it finally convinced Stalin that the allies were either unable or unwilling to lend him any effective support, and that rather than defeating the Germans they were manoeuvring mainly to limit the scope of Soviet influence post war. Thus on August 13th, 1944 an armistice was signed between the Greater German Reich and the USSR in which Germany was allowed to keep most of 1939 Poland and the Baltic States, while Romania regained Bessarabia. A wide non-militarised belt between Russia and Germany was created by the means of Soviet forces halting at 200 km of the new border except where it already stood closer than that (which was only in front of Leningrad).
With the Wehrmacht otherwise unengaged and ready to repel all comers, the war in Europe winded down to a stalemate. US public opinion was already swinging away from the costly war with Germany, in favour of a more energetic pursuit of the war with Japan, but the staunchly anti-german Roosevelt refused. The bombing campaign against Germany continued, but advanced new German aircraft made it increasingly costly and less effective. In February of 1945, with US aerial losses soaring with the introduction en masse of the Me-162 interceptor, President Roosevelt finally sucumbed to his heart condition, agravated by stress and disapointment.
Roosevelt’s successor, Harry Truman reluctantly decided that America and Britain could not defeat Germany without the support of the USSR and, despite strenuous opposition from Churchill opted for an armistice too.
The peace of Rome
The peace of Rome in April of 1945 merely confirmed the situation on the ground; Germany retained control of France, the Low Countries, Denmark, Norway and Yugoslavia. It also held northern Italy (later incorporated as the Reich Protectorate of Lombardy) and a strip of northern Greece, which was turned over to Bulgaria. Allied-held Italy and Greece were set up as constitutional and democratic monarchies and later incorporated into NATO. The previous French and Italian areas of North Africa were held by the United States under mandate from the newly formed United Nations until Algeria, with it’s large French population became the territorial base of the Free French movement, and declared it’s independence as the French Republic of Algeria, also admitted into NATO.
Thus ended the second world war in Europe, and by the time the war with Japan had been won and the Manchurian war lost by the Allies in mid 1946, Germany too had developed atomic bombs, leading to the new British Labour Government absolutely refusing to resume hostilities, for fear of London being wiped out. An uneasy peace descended upon Europe. But too many things had been left unresolved; this armed, fearful peace was loved by no one and less than a decade later, the III Reich was plunged into the Third World War.