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Thread: Siegerkranz - Germany's Place in the Sun

  1. #1061
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    Where's the Bismarck when one needs her?

    Worrying development.
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  2. #1062
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    This Volkmann should slow down..

  3. #1063
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt_Steiner View Post
    Where's the Bismarck when one needs her?

    Worrying development.
    Also the source of the only naval engagement of the Soviet war.

    Quote Originally Posted by Enewald View Post
    This Volkmann should slow down..
    Yeah, painted myself into a bit of a corner on that one.
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  4. #1064
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Bismarck is overrated. Use one of the Super-Heavies.
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  5. #1065
    Back from the dead FlyingDutchie's Avatar
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    The presence of the Marat is begging for Rudel to appear to save the day. Guess the Ostseeflotte will have some target practice soon.
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  6. #1066
    Am I that obvious?
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  7. #1067
    Pantomacatalasecesionanis ta

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    Quote Originally Posted by c0d5579 View Post
    Am I that obvious?
    Yes, Captain Obvious
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  8. #1068
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt_Steiner View Post
    Yes, Captain Obvious
    I suppose if he'd wanted to keep it a secret, he wouldn't have mentioned 'Hans Ulrich Rudel and a battleship' a few days ago.

  9. #1069
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  10. #1070
    Quote Originally Posted by dublish View Post
    I suppose if he'd wanted to keep it a secret, he wouldn't have mentioned 'Hans Ulrich Rudel and a battleship' a few days ago.
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  11. #1071
    99. Red Banner On The Waves

    SMS Hindenburg
    Off Rügen, German Empire
    23 May 1944


    Training commands, Peter Volkmann had decided, were essentially professional exiles. He was a well-decorated full captain, a "made" man, and here he had been assigned with the older carriers under the command of Generalmajor Osterkamp... who held a command that he himself had once held, the Rügen flight school. Osterkamp was the soul of courtesy about it, though he had privately told Peter that he had simply come too far, too fast, thanks to wartime conditions. He'd be a fine Korvettenkapitän, or even Fregattenkapitän, but as a full Kapitän zur See, he was too young, too un-seasoned, and too poor a sailor, even if Osterkamp himself was quite honest that he was no sailor either. "Why I spend so much time ashore, Volkmann," he had added with a self-deprecating grin at their introductory dinner.

    He was confirmed in this by two things, the aircraft which they had assigned to Hindenburg and Germania, and the men they had assigned. If Peter had been promoted too fast, too far, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was one of the most cordially detested men in the service. Peter himself viewed Rudel with amused tolerance, seeing his teetotalling and moralizing as irritating traits that if anything showed Rudel was human where his performance at the controls of a bomber were purely mechanical. Other officers viewed him as insufferable. He had gone from commander of the Graf Zeppelin's air wing to commander of Hindenburg's training air wing, which was comprised exclusively of now-outdated Ju 87T dive-bombers for advanced training, and biplanes that Peter had been agitating since Spain to have fully replaced for everything else. Fi 163 torpedo-bombers provided primary trainers, and Ar 51 fighters provided the rudiments of dogfight instruction. It was, in other words, exactly like 1936 all over again, with one important exception: he never got to do any flying. Even Rudel rarely got behind the stick.

    Rudel was also a singularly incompetent instructor. While he himself was a wonder to behold in the Stuka, he was simply incapable of passing on what amounted to a perfect fusion of man and machine. As a result, Peter despaired of the next generation of bomber pilots... who would later just be type-qualified in the Fw 190 and cross-trained as Jabo pilots anyway. The current training regime was farcical at best, and he knew it. The training command felt very much like a professional wilderness. The only good thing about it was that the helicopter command was under Osterkamp too, so he saw Hanna on a very regular basis - practically every time Hindenburg's deck was clear, in fact. She was coming in today, having left the children with that fellow von Braun at the rocket test site. Some secret THAT turned out to be, he thought with a snort. Like the fleet won't notice fireworks going off over our heads every week or two.

    The signal ensign handed him a slip at this very moment, confirming this thought: there was a Drache on approach to the ship, requesting landing clearance. He nodded at the silent, still ensign, who saluted and vanished. They were used to this by now: postwar Peter Volkmann could be a very moody captain, and a few of his officers had overheard arguments in his cabin where he had told Hanna that he was wasted in the peacetime fleet, and should go back to engineering; Hanna would hear nothing of it, insisting that only a life of service to the Reich was an honorable life. When Russia had declared war, he had momentarily hoped for a chance to sail off to something useful again, but the carriers had bypassed him with little more than a hail-and-farewell, leaving him shepherding half-trained boys once more.

    The Drache came in and flared at the last minute before settling on the pitching deck, a maneuver which Hanna Volkmann had mastered long ago on much smaller decks, and even before the rotors had finished spinning, deckmen were running out to tie it down. Hanna herself stuck her head out the window, spray catching her hair, and called out to Peter in futility, as the engines still washed away her words. Nevertheless, he smiled and waved back, starting across the deck from the low rise which functioned as the flush-decked Hindenburg's bridge-island. He stayed bent nearly double until the telltale whump of the rotors had subsided, and straightened just in time for his wife to embrace him in a surprisingly crushing hug. One thing never changed at least: Hanna, having attached herself, stayed attached despite every Service rule against displaying affection like this. The sailors around grinned and nudged each other, and she kissed him wetly - though how much of the wetness was spray and how much was just affection was difficult to say.

    "So guess how the boys are doing?" she asked brightly. He smiled wryly before replying; she thought these updates on the children made him feel more at home while at sea. The truth was that they just made him miss being at home. "How?"

    "Oh, quite well. Ernst pulled himself up, and Wilhelm stole poor Wernher's slide rule from his desk!" She laughed at the image, and even Peter was forced to chuckle at the thought of Wernher von Braun trying to rescue his precious slide rule from cherubic little Wilhelm Volkmann - named not after the Kaiser or his uncle, but after Peter Volkmann's own patron saint, who these days had tremendous sympathy, but little time, for Peter Volkmann. Nevertheless, Canaris got a picture of little Wilhelm every year on his birthday.

    They spoke about family matters for some length as they headed below, a steward already laying on coffee in his cabin, and the officers extending Frau Volkmann the same level of courtesy as her husband the captain when they passed. When they were finally alone, she turned suddenly kittenish, coyly stating, "Well, Peter dear, the latest shipment was in from Milan, I think you'll be quite pleased..."

    At that moment, a midshipman on his summer cruise knocked at the hatch, breathless. "Kapitänleutnant Eber's compliments, sir, and message traffic... clear first, coded second... then a personal from Admiral Canaris, sir, straight off the Enigma." The midshipman remembered to throw up his hand, and Peter was distracted as Hanna vanished into the head behind him silently.

    Quote Originally Posted by MV WILHELM GUSTLOFF
    SOS SOS SOS - AM UNDER DIRECT FIRE SOVIET WARSHIPS - COORDINATES FIVE NINE DEG FIVE FIVE MIN N TWO EIGHT DEG TWO ZERO MIN E COURSE WSW TWENTY KILOMETERS HOUR - SOVIET FORCE INCLUDES THREE MAJOR SURFACE COMBATANTS - SOS SOS SOS
    Quote Originally Posted by SEEKRIEGSLEITUNG
    ALL AVAILABLE VESSELS MOVE INTERCEPT SOVIET GROUP COORDINATES WILHELM GUSTLOFF ALL POSSIBLE SPEED - BELIEVE SURFACE GROUP MAIN FORCE RED BANNER NORTHERN FLEET
    Quote Originally Posted by GENERALADMIRAL WILHELM CANARIS, PERSONAL TO KAPITÄN ZUR SEE PETER VOLKMANN
    VOLKMANN - MAIN CARRIER FORCE OUT OF POSITION RECOVERY OPERATIONS KIEL - YOUR CHOICE CADETS OR BATTLESHIPS - RECOMMEND YOU TRY CADETS - MORE FUNDING US WITH CADETS
    Peter rushed from his cabin, Hanna forgotten, and returned to the bridge, snapping orders left and right. "Bring us to fifty degrees, put on all steam. Get all of the squadron commanders to ready as quickly as possible. Get that damn Drache stowed below immediately. Order lunch by sections, all hands to be at full readiness for action stations. Signal Wilhelmshaven in acknowledgement of their order, let them know we are on the chase."

    The Hindenburg and the Germania behind swung to the northeast, picking up speed to the limit of their antediluvian turbines. Belowdecks, every one of the trained squadron commanders from Rudel on down was waiting on Peter's appearance and the explanation of the sudden beehive of activity. The squadron commanders' briefing room, unlike the squadrons' briefing rooms, was fairly sparsely decorated, mostly with charts of the Baltic and meteorology reports secured at all corners to corkboards. Rudel, as usual erect, upright, and unsmiling, occupied the seniormost place, with the fighter and torpedo commanders to his left and a clipboard on each one's right knee. Each was dressed in a Luftwaffe-issue leather jacket, a fashion that Rudel had started and Peter himself followed when he wanted to pretend to be a pilot still.

    Peter, as the ship's nominal senior aviator, began the briefing. "Gentlemen. The Reds have sortied their fleet, what there is of it. Apparently they have caught some shipping up north, though why the Wilhelm Gustloff is in the Gulf of Finland is currently unknown. Raeder has ordered the entire Baltic command to sortie to try to catch and sink them. We have an advantage in that we're already at sea." He took a deep breath. "To keep Britain and France happy, Wilhelmshaven is keeping the North Sea and High Seas fleets in port or on normal duties, no scrambling around. What we have to outrun are the two old men, Schleswig-Holstein and Schlesien. Frankly, gentlemen, if we cannot push this ship faster than those two, we should be put ashore." Rudel nodded gravely, Hesse and Wassermann, of the fighters and torpedo pilots respectively, chuckled. "Here is the situation. There's no Red fighter cover on those ships, so Hesse, your squadron is going to locate the Soviet fleet. Shouldn't be hard, since we'll also have position data from the Wilhelm Gustloff and whatever else is out there getting shot at. Our goal is a little old-fashioned. Burn, sink, destroy, leave none afloat, that whole routine." Once more, he gathered the pilots' eyes with his own, pausing to emphasize his next words. "Gentlemen, this is likely the only naval action of this war. If you wish to escape the training command... and I certainly do... then you will quickly see the import of this mission. I want flight schedules and loadouts to flight operations no later than watch change. Dismissed."

    He finally remembered first the pot of coffee, then Hanna, and grimaced, retreating to his cabin. There Hanna sat on the edge of his bunk, wearing one of his greatcoats, kicking her bare feet and scowling. "What could possibly be more important than me out there?" she demanded, then by the look on her face instantly regretted it. He ignored the tone and answered the question, sinking to the bunk beside her. "The Red fleet's sortied. Everybody else is out of position. Canaris thinks we have a chance at taking them if we move now." She nodded, subdued, then stood in one of those surprising rebounds he had seen so often, starting with their first meeting. "Well. Not like you're going to find them in five minutes. By way of an apology... how do you sailors say it... dog that hatch." She smiled, shrugging from the greatcoat to reveal the Milan shipment she had mentioned, what precious little of it there was, and for the second time in an hour Peter Volkmann forgot everything he had been doing.

    ---

    The two carriers were fast, an efficiency made of military men released from the boredom of peace, but no ship on Earth would have been fast enough to reach the embattled transports from the Kingisepp landing. The Wilhelm Gustloff was the last to go down, having fled halfway from the landing beach to the embarkation port of Riga before sinking off Ristna, on a windswept Estonian island. Her captain, Friedrich Petersen, did his utter best to bring the ship in close ashore before the Kirov's guns found her. It was not enough to save his ship, but it was enough to save the majority of his crew, with the result that postwar, the Gustloff became a prime wreck for divers given its shallow grave.



    At ten in the morning Berlin time, 24 May 1944, Hesse's biplanes, acting on information passed down from Galland's land-side fighter command, spotted the Soviet squadron, including its outlying submarine screen. The fighters were unarmed for this intercept, but reported it back, and the Fieseler torpedo biplanes cleared the flight deck at quarter past eleven. Fifteen minutes later the first of Rudel's Stukas were up, and a coordinated assault begun by two squadrons well-trained in the consequences of Scapa Flow and its associated engagements.

    The Russians' anti-aircraft fire was drawn toward the torpedo squadron, low above the water, but their guns could only depress so far and the ships were forced into evasion when the Germans finally cast their munitions. The Russian ships' line was ruined by evasion, twisting and contorting to avoid the trails in the water. It was not completely effective, especially in the shallow coastal waters; two of the torpedoes pounded into the torpedo bulges of the Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya, opening its bilges to the sea and creating a slick of oil and refuse around the ship. It was still seaworthy, though listing slightly. According to the logs taken from the ship's crew the next day, the time was half past noon.

    The Soviet battleships, Hans-Ulrich Rudel decided, were profoundly ugly, even by naval standards. He had seen enough ships at this point to know what was ugly and what was not, and circling above the disarrayed Soviet line, the bomber pilot waited until they had re-organized somewhat and ceased dodging torpedos before waggling his wings. The squadron behind him knew what this meant and shifted into echelon-right, noses lifting almost in unison. "Ready, Krause?" he asked the tailgunner rhetorically. Krause grunted noncommittally; he was as laconic as Peter's old tailgunner Vogt. What had happened to Vogt anyway...? Rudel dismissed the thought as irrelevant. "Here it comes..." Rudel hit that magic point and kicked the Stuka over onto its left wing, then beyond, barrel-rolling and bringing the fighter topside-up again, depressed in a near-vertical dive, significantly steeper than the regulation sixty degrees. He felt the seat behind him pinning him in place, and heard the familiar gurgle of Krause being jerked back against his straps, intertwined with the shriek of the air sirens in the landing gear assembly.

    He had heard observers say the Stuka looked like a stooping hawk in these attacks, even heard fat Hermann compare it to a peregrine in one lecture to his pilots when he was still Luftwaffe. He always felt like it was dropping like a rock, or possibly a runaway train on a steep downhill grade. Certainly it always felt like it was about to kill him as well as his target. The lead Russian ship's funnels were clear, the wind blowing their emissions away from him, and he put the bombsight pip just forward of the midship turret at the base of the fore funnel, embedded in the superstructure. He was near recommended pull-out altitude now, but Rudel had not become the man he was by pulling out at such a moment. The Stuka roared lower, lower, lower... until he estimated that another second would put him in the sea.



    He jerked the release lever and the stick with one motion, yanking the Stuka level with the ship's masthead and giving the bomb such velocity that it punched cleanly through the ship's deck plating almost before the percussion cap in the nose had a chance to crush under the impact. The bomb exploded in the forward magazine, great gouts of flame bursting the deck plating and belt armor and tossing two of the barbettes as if they were children's toys. The detonation, in among the ship's munitions, was catastrophic, worse than the designers' most pessimistic predictions, and the whole midsection of the ship bulged out, hogged, and ruptured to the sea. Rudel gasped for breath against the G-forces as he pulled level, and fought the shockwave behind, and Krause, panting for breath against the abuse of his harness, flicked the radio to active.

    The Stuka climbed away from the startled fire of the other two ships, even the anti-aircraft gunners of the stricken Marat trying futilely to avenge their ship's sinking. Behind him, bomb after bomb splashed into or around the wrecked Soviet squadron. Thus ended the first pass of the trainee squadrons, without a single loss due to anti-aircraft fire and only two trainees' craft lost in recovery operations. The second wave, launched at 1500 Berlin, found the stricken ships almost exactly where they had left them. By twilight, in exchange for a half-dozen transport ships, the cream of the Red Banner Northern Fleet was beneath a burning oil slick, its men scrambling for boats and debris as S-Boot forces looked impassively on following the rescue of the freighters' crews.

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  12. #1072
    Pantomacatalasecesionanis ta

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    Dunno why, I imagined Rudel doing the same but in Battleship Row
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  13. #1073
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Only naval action requires much glory?

  14. #1074
    Nice victory! Hopefully the trainees will receive nice positions...what about Finland and other nations in Europe, are they drawn in the conflict with the Soviet Union as well?

  15. #1075
    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt_Steiner View Post
    Dunno why, I imagined Rudel doing the same but in Battleship Row
    He did, or at least as close as Europe offers to Battleship Row. Rudel sank the Hood at Scapa Flow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Enewald View Post
    Only naval action requires much glory?
    Oh, it's not that there isn't glory to be had on land, it's that the only naval engagement of this war to mention is going to be against this force, because it's what the Soviets have.

    Quote Originally Posted by Timmie0307 View Post
    Nice victory! Hopefully the trainees will receive nice positions...what about Finland and other nations in Europe, are they drawn in the conflict with the Soviet Union as well?
    The United States declared war on the USSR about the same time that Stalin declared war on Poland, but since the American contribution to the war effort was almost as useless as the US contribution to the war against Japan - making Rangoon safe for democracy! - I didn't even bother mentioning it. The purpose of my occasional mentions of Goering's mission in the Scandinavian countries is to show them being kept in a state of more or less benevolent neutrality.
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  16. #1076
    British Unionist trekaddict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by c0d5579 View Post
    He did, or at least as close as Europe offers to Battleship Row. Rudel sank the Hood at Scapa Flow.
    For that he needs to die as horrible a death as possible.
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  17. #1077
    Magister Philosophiæ volksmarschall's Avatar
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    Appears to be a lot of naval operations going on.... i love naval updates, but it would also appear as if I have a lot of things to catch up on, but noting that it's this AAR, I think I will be able to manage!

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  18. #1078
    100. Victory On All Fronts

    Begleitsgruppe Rommel
    Northwest of Baku, Ottoman Empire
    25 May 1944


    The halftrack jolted on the bad Soviet road, and Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel sat bolt upright, half-expecting a Soviet ambush. They were theoretically behind friendly lines, but the lines were incredibly porous in the mountains. No, the halftrack kept going, no ambush, just an apologetic look from the driver and a badly paved road. It was unlikely to improve, he thought, once the Turks took this land. He grunted and heaved himself up to grab the rim of the troop compartment. "Where are we?" he yelled down at the driver, who turned back, yelling, "Ismaili? Somewhere 'round there, sir. All these Azeri names look the same time."



    They were here because of Rommel's personal interest in grabbing Tblisi and, more important, Guri. The problem was that the forces under his command were epically unsuited to this ground: the German-hosted armored forces had all received Panthers, but his troops and Guderian's were both fighting with Panzer IVs, and the Panzer IV was never meant to be a mountain weapon. Thank God for Busch's "Africans," without whom he would have had essentially no infantry, but Busch couldn't keep pace with the armor, and Busch was already concerned as they advanced on Mount Elbrus that the foot soldiers, in shorts and cotton tunics, were going to freeze. Personally Rommel thought that Busch was being premature, but he had a point - the "Africans" were dressed to garrison the Sinai, not fight their way over a mountain range. At the very least, the terrain here was going to be hell on their exposed legs.

    Ahead, he saw a K-wagen pulled off the track, and ducked into the halftrack to complete his public look, with peaked cap, goggles, scarf, and a long black motorcycle messenger's leather coat. It was beastly hot in this weather, but everyone expected it of him, and if there was one thing that soldiers responded to, he thought with a quirked mouth, it was symbols. The halftrack rumbled to a halt alongside the K-wagen, and he dismounted, waving aside the shorts-clad Hauptmann on the ground's salute with his baton. "Well now, lads, how're things up here?" he asked cheerfully.

    He heard muttering, saw a dark-jawed Feldwebel with his pith helmet on his knee. "Great, just what we need, more shoulderboards to get in the way." Rommel grinned as he saw the NCO's look of horror as he comprehended who the shoulderboards in question belonged to. "I agree completely, Feldwebel," he replied, squatting down beside the soldier. "This isn't my first war, and I wasn't always a general. So... Feldwebel... what's your name?"

    "Remark, sir." The man had stiffened into a surprising caricature of attention given that he was staying close to the ground. Rommel grunted in amusement. "Like the author?" Remark nodded, swallowing before replying, "Yes, sir. Some sort of cousin, sir."

    "Heh. Must make it hard to get ahead in this army. So what do you think of the Reds, Feldwebel Remark?" Remark swigged from his canteen, swishing and spitting to rinse the dust from his mouth before drinking properly. It allowed him to think about his answer, which pleased Rommel to some degree. Too many soldiers... himself included, if he was strictly honest... would have rushed into that answer.

    "Great soldiers. Shit officers. And their trenchcoats..." Remark shivered expressively. "Saw one of 'em set up a Maxim and gun down his own men when they couldn't take our position. Some of them... probably Russians... aren't shit in mountains, but the locals, when Comrade Stalin sees fit to give them rifles... sir, they're murder, especially at night. We lost a sentry couple nights ago, wasn't any cover within six hundred meters of our position. I swear they're part goat."

    Rommel grinned. "Part goat? Marshal Bock will be happy." The Marshal had not completely recovered from his upset over Student's nickname, and any pun possible on his name was a running joke in the Reichsheer. "Sir," the Feldwebel said, ignoring his own Hauptmann to speak directly to Rommel, "we need mountaineers out here. We can fight anyone anywhere, but we just don't have the equipment for going up a ridge, down a ridge, up a ridge, down a ridge. And we don't have enough marksmen, either. We're good out to, say, six hundred meters if we can just see them, but past that?" He shrugged expressively. "Tell the truth, sir, I miss the Mauser 98 sometimes."

    Rommel nodded, lost in thought. In the last war, soldiers had clamored for something more useful in the trenches and at close range, leading to the MP18 and its heirs, most recently the MKb 43. To hear someone asking for a return of a fifty-year-old bolt-action rifle seemed somewhat incongruous. "Mmm. 'The War of the Mountain Goats,'" he muttered to himself, shaking his head to clear it and looking back at Remark. "I understand your complaint, but to be honest, there's very little that can be done quickly to fix it. My advice is to scrounge off the enemy." Remark for the first time since noticing it was Rommel looked savagely bitter. "Of course, sir," he replied, biting off any further retort, though Rommel could practically read his mind: Thank you very much, sir, now quit wasting my time. It was a conversation that broke out every time Rommel and his nominal superior, Kluge, butted heads; the difference was that a Pour le Merite winner with a baton was near-invincible to career criticism, while a Feldwebel in a trench was not. It was a difference Rommel appreciated, and he chose to ignore the dark, mutinous look on Remark's face just as surely as he had ignored the fact that the man had last shaved some time in April by the looks of it.

    He stood, brushing dust from his coat and opening his mouth to speak. Before he could, there was a low ruffling noise, the only warning he was likely to have under the circumstances. Instincts not used in thirty years kicked in and he flung himself flat just before the explosion. Like Remark, he was twisting around, yelling "INCOMING!" for anyone who had both survived the mortar attack and not noticed it. The halftrack pinged and popped as fragments bounced off its sides, and seconds later another round, then a third, fell on their position. Remark raised his voice to be heard over the ringing in both their ears. "AND THAT'S ANOTHER THING, SIR. THE REDS APPARENTLY EAT ROCKS AND SHIT MORTARS." He gestured as he dusted himself off, voice slowly returning to normal. "It's always the same. Three rounds, then they move before we can even guess where they are." Rommel nodded, then an incongruous sound struck them both. The Hauptmann, still somewhat distressed at Rommel's unexpected visit to his company, was holding a red-leaking arm, and joined them to look behind a rock outcropping where an uncanny mewling was pouring out.

    In a hollow behind a rock, previously unnoticed by the German soldiers, was a bed of leaves and grass, hollowed out by a wolf bitch that had littered perhaps a week prior. Bad luck for her that pregnancy had caught her essentially on the front line, and worse luck still that a mortar fragment had done what no German soldier had yet, opening her side. She was dying, they saw, a loop of intestine lying over the pups under her, and the keening was her unwilling response. She raised her head feebly and bared her teeth, snarling at the three soldiers, before the effort cost her what little time she had left. Her head lay back and her eyes glazed, leaving them staring down at the five pups half-hidden by her body. They mewled helplessly, and unthinking, Rommel leaned forward and scooped one up by the scruff of its neck, tucking it in the front of his coat. The other two were subdued in reaction to a battlefield death outside of those they had seen so many of, and eventually Rommel cleared his throat. "Hauptmann Weiss, Feldwebel Remark... see that the poor little bastards are taken care of." He smiled bleakly. "We're not the only orphans out here."

    Remark nodded, surprisingly tender as he knelt beside the pups, and Rommel retreated back to his halftrack, shaken at the experience. He remained like that, wolf pup half-poking from the neck of his coat, when he arrived back at Baku, and before he could do anything about it, the Signal photographer attached to his headquarters had already taken a picture, one more piece of the growing legend around him. Remark's statements proved eerily prophetic regarding the Caucasian mountaineers, with the Germans seesawing constantly against them, the Soviets unable to dislodge Rommel and Busch from Baku, but Rommel, Busch, and Kluge unable to pry the Reds from the approaches to Tblisi easily. It was a bloody, expensively stalemated front, with neither side able to move forward easily.

    ---

    Maybach-1
    Zossen, German Empire
    26 May 1944




    In Generalfeldmarschall von Bock's absence, most of the daily briefing tasks in Berlin were handled by General der Artillerie Wilhelm Keitel, one of a seemingly infinite number of interchangeable Berlin General Staffers. Keitel's last command held had been a battery of field guns in the Great War, and he had safely ensconced himself here in Berlin throughout both the Weimar period and the Restoration. Bock viewed him with something bordering on amused contempt, but saw his uses as a staff officer. Wilhelm generally deferred to him as a professional soldier. Today, Keitel had arranged a briefing in the Maybach-1 grand maproom, with markers positioned across a map of Europe and silent aides shuttling to and fro with dispatches to update every unit in the Reichsheer's status and rods to push them into position to reflect those updates.

    Wilhelm was in Foot Guards black, looking as haggard as might be expected of a man whose empire was at war with the world's largest country. His hair was immaculately combed, and his uniform perfect, but the dark rings under his eyes were a dead giveaway of the stress he felt in this new war. Keitel, in comparison, looked sleek, well-fed, and complacent. He nodded in thanks to another of the General Staffers - Jodl, Wilhelm's memory prodded - as he delivered another missive. Keitel's already satisfied expression did not materially changed, but took on an extra sheen, and he glanced over at the map officers as they updated the map.

    "Ah. All-Highest. Welcome to Maybach-1," he began as always, saluting and clicking his heels. Wilhelm raised a hand in silent acknowledgement, blinking twice, then Keitel continued. "I am General der Infanterie Wilhelm Keitel, and this briefing is classified Top Secret - All-Highest." Having completed the formalities, Keitel's momentary posture of military impersonality dropped and he returned to his apparent happiness. Wilhelm found it slightly tiresome, even for a man who always preferred smiling faces around him. "As you know, Majesty, General von Salmuth accepted the Bolsheviks' surrender at Minsk on the nineteenth. We are still attempting to get a proper prisoner count, but we currently have in our possession twenty-two divisional standards, or what passes for one in Stalin's army. We believe total prisoners taken to be somewhere in the neighborhood of..." Keitel glanced down at his briefing cards before replying, eyes widening involuntarily. "Two hundred and fifty thousand combatant prisoners."



    "Additionally, Generalfeldmarschall Hausser reports from Yamburg... Kingisepp on the map, Majesty... that the landing area there is fully secure and the Leningrad causeway open. The south shore of Lake Peipus is also fully in our hands, and he reports clearing operations along the east shore to be underway, with vanguard units in Porkhov, advancing on Novgorod. The goal, as you well know, is to cut the St. Petersburg-Moscow rail line, which will allow us to isolate St. Petersburg and reduce it. Generalfeldmarschall Student additionally requests," Keitel added offhand with a glance at his briefing cards, "that his airborne units be allowed to rest after two weeks of sustained Soviet attack. I have of course refused; there are no other troops in the line to replace them, and their experience will be useful in St. Petersburg." Wilhelm opened his mouth to protest, then closed it; Keitel was the professional here, after all.

    "To the south, under Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt's orders, Prince Oskar has begun the requisite operations to link the Garde-armee with Generalfeldmarschall von Bock, the Marshal advancing on the Kiev-Moscow axis, the Prince on the Minsk-Smolensk-Moscow route. We expect a fundamental link between the two to be established near Bryansk within the week, failing a massive increase in Bolshevik resistance before Moscow. Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt reports that his lead elements are approaching Vyazma in support of the planned Moscow offensive. Thus, the entire west bank of the Dnieper is in our hands. Additionally, Generalleutnant von Hindenburg wishes to report his particular success in the investiture and reduction of the Pripet Marsh." Keitel practically crowed this last; it was not like Wilhelm needed to hear Oskar von Hindenburg's praises sung, but he still smiled and nodded.



    "Now." Keitel's face darkened; Manstein had made many enemies, and those he had surpassed were prime among them. "To the south, General von Manstein reports the success of his 'sickle cut;' Kherson is in our hands and the Bessarabian pocket fundamentally closed. We are again assessing prisoner count still, but it appears that, in addition to the capture of the Dnieper bend, the total number of prisoners captured in the pocket is... approximately fifteen hundred tanks, including two hundred of the new T-34 model... two thousand mobile artillery pieces and additional fixed... some thirty -" and Keitel paled at the figures - "Thirty divisional standards. Some seven hundred thousand prisoners. Additionally, General von Manstein -"

    "Generalfeldmarschall von Manstein," the Kaiser interrupted quietly. A victory such as the Dnieper Bend was beyond imagining; in comparison, he thought, there had been a mere hundred thousand Frenchmen captured at Sedan! If this was how Manstein wished to show his worth, then at least let him be rewarded. "Generalfeldmarschall von Manstein, Pour le Merite," he said, gaining confidence. "As you were saying, General Keitel?"

    "Ah. Yes. General... er. Generalfeldmarschall von Manstein," the name and rank having roughly the same effect on Keitel's face as an unexpected lemon in his mouth, "requests permission, Majesty, to extend his offensive. He wishes to drive on Rostov and extend the offensive to the Don Basin. His staff has submitted a full operational plan, which I have delayed acting upon pending consultation with the Marshal." Keitel looked as if he were going to continue, to outline the flaws in Manstein's plan, but Wilhelm shook his head. "Manstein is apparently addicted to victory, who am I to deny him?" he asked, gaining a dutiful chuckle from the staffer. "General von Manstein also wishes to detach General Höpner's army to wheel south and close out Sevastopol, then march to support the Caucasus operations. Given the rumored state of the Sevastopol defenses, it should be no more than a week's work.

    "Finally, Majesty. The Turkish fronts." Again Keitel looked pained. "Generalfeldmarschall von Kluge reports that the Turks themselves are unable to advance in any strength on Batum, and therefore he has been forced to use the advisory troops under his command. He anticipates being in the city within the next few days, and reports that Red forces to his front have broken. Generalfeldmarschall Busch's lead elements have captured Elisabethpol - Kirovabad on the map, All-Highest - and are in continuous contact with Generalfeldmarschall Rommel along the Caspian coast. It seems that the two of them are working their way northward to envelop Tblisi from the east." Keitel looked surprisingly dour at this bit of news; it seemed that Manstein was not the only black sheep in the Reichsheer.

    "The other Turkish front -" and Keitel maintained his look of censure and disapproval - "is Generalfeldmarschall Guderian's. He reports that he has entered Samarkand, and that Soviet resistance to his front is so sparse that he could advance to Vladivostok if we can just keep him in fuel. I have my doubts, All-Highest. For one thing," he said, gesturing to the map, "the Reds could be hiding Hannibal's own army of elephants in that desert and we would never know. Guderian has raced ahead of all support, and is likely to find himself Stalin's permanent guest somewhere in Siberia if he doesn't learn to watch his own tail. The papers, of course, love him. They call him the 'Steppe Fox' and 'Guderian Khan.' Madness, All-Highest, madness, I tell you."

    Wilhelm blinked. "Excuse me, General," he said politely, "but what if Guderian is correct? What if the Soviets are so confused in the West they just can't respond to him?" To his surprise, Keitel had no answer at all. The General Staff's predictions for the Russian war had already been wildly outrun; no one expected to be fighting on the Don and possibly beyond, just a month into the campaign, and certainly no one seriously believed that an advance on Moscow itself was in the offing prior to the war. It was as if the generals had found themselves so successful that they were forced to look about and go "Well, what now?"

    Wilhelm himself had no idea; the Crown Prince, of all people, did.
    Last edited by c0d5579; 03-04-2011 at 15:04.
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  19. #1079
    Pantomacatalasecesionanis ta

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    If the Red army has been crushed at the borders, you have a long time of boring advance and nothing else in front of you...
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  20. #1080
    Human Enewald's Avatar
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    Rommel on Aral, or Caspian?
    Poor Keitel, sitting in Berlin and getting no rewards.

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