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    fYEBqL3.jpg


    The Eagle, the Wolf and the Sun:
    The History of the Pact of Steel


    *****
    For the first time, a thorough research project with the support of the Großdeutsches Reich's Education and Historical Ministry, the Italian's Ministry of National Education and the National Archives of Germany, Italy and Japan have flung open their doors to the premier students of the world's most serious conflict and allowed them to assemble in a cognitive work that will surely rank amongst the greatest historical works of the most famous authors of all time--Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, Caesar, Mahan, Massie, and others.

    LAST UPDATED: 16 SEP 2021

    *****

    Table of Contents

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    PROLOGUE, 1919 - 1935
    A. The Immediate Post-War and Interbellum Period, 1919 - 1929
    B. Icarus and the Sun: The Crash, the Great Depression, and the End of Locarno, 1929 - 1935
    C. Forging the Spear: Interbellum Army Developments
    D. Anchors Aweigh: Interbellum Naval Developments
    E. Where Eagles Soar: Interbellum Air Force Developments



    I. THE CALM, 1936
    1. Of Doves and Hawks: Foreign and Domestic Politics
    2. Death in the Afternoon: The Spanish Civil War
    3. Ever Learning, Ever Improving: German Reich Research and Development
    4. Plows into Swords: Reich Military Expansion
    5. Arming the Legions: Italian Military Expansion, Research and Development
    6. Shield or Sword: Wehrmacht versus Abwehr



    II. THE SLOW FUSE, 1937
    1. Stocking the Powder Keg of Europe: Foreign and Domestic Politics
    2. For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Spanish Civil War
    3. Advances for the Reich: German Research and Development: the Heer
    4. Advances for the Reich: German R&D: the Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe and Industrial Improvements
    5. Hardening the Legions: Italian Research and Development
    6. Burying the Versailles Treaty: German and Italian Military Expansion



    III. VERKLEIDUNG (DISGUISE), 1938
    1. The Peace that Almost Was, Part I: Foreign and Domestic Politics, January - April
    2. The Peace that Almost Was, Part II: Foreign and Domestic Politics, May - December
    3. Left Out In The Rain: The Munich Treaty and the End of Czechoslovakia
    4. Tigers and Blüchers, Part I: German Heer Research and Development
    5. Tigers and Blüchers, Part II: Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe Research and Development
    6. Tigers and Blüchers, Part III: German Industrial Research and Development
    7. Paracadutisti and Factories: Italian Research and Development
    8. Powder for the Pan: Expansion of the Wehrmacht and Italian Military
    9. Bringing the Blüchers to Life: The Premier German Battlecruiser



    IV. WAR BY OTHER MEANS, 1939
    1. War By Other Means, Part I: Foreign and Domestic Politics, January - April
    2. War By Other Means, Part II: Foreign and Domestic Politics, May - August
    3. War By Other Means: Part III: Foreign and Domestic Politics, September - December
    4. "Now I Have the World in my Pocket": Germany, the Soviet Union and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
    5. Fallschirmjäger and Kreuzerkrieg, Part I: Heer Research and Development
    6. Fallschirmjäger and Kreuzerkrieg, Part II: Kriegsmarine Research and Development
    7. Fallschirmjäger and Kreuzerkrieg, Part III: Luftwaffe and Civil/Secret Research and Development
    8. Training as Bloodless Battles, Part I: Italian Army and Navy Research and Development
    9. Training as Bloodless Battles, Part II: Italian Air Force and Civil Research
    10. Something Wicked This Way Comes: Axis Military Expansion
    11. Right Hand Man: Rise of the Right in Europe and America



    V. TWILIGHT OF PEACE, 1940
    1. The Eerie Calm: Foreign and Domestic Politics
    2. Artillery, Panzers and the Type XXI: German Research and Development
    3. But What About the Regia Aeronautica?: Italian Research and Development
    4. The Dread Business: Axis Military Expansion



    VI. THE LIGHTS GO OUT, 1941
    1. Spinning Out Of Control: Foreign and Domestic Politics
    2. The Rockets' Red Glare: German Research and Development
    3. It Is Good Enough: Italian Research and Development
    4. Goering's Dream: Axis Military Expansion
    5. Caesar in Hellas: Operation Naxos



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    VII. THE BREAKING POINT, JAN - FEB 1942

    VIII: OPERATION WHITE EAGLE, POLAND, FEB 1942

    IX: SITZKRIEG OR 'PHONEY WAR', FEB - AUG 1942

    1. Foreign and Domestic Politics
    2. German Research and Development
    3. Italian Research and Development
    4. Axis Military Expansion

    X: ALLE MANN AUF GEFECHTSSTATION!
    The War at Sea, FEB - JUL 1942
    1. Opening Salvoes: Operation White Eagle and Operation Catherine, Feb 1942
    2. Operation Catherine Continues: Good Money Chasing Bad, Feb 1942

    3. Operation Catherine: The End of Bloody February, 22 February - March 1942
    4. Uboote Heraus! Unrestricted Submarine Warfare February - July 1942
    5. Jutland, Revisited: April - May 1942
    6. To Our Last Night Ashore: June - July 1942

    XI: THE SUN ALSO RISES: WAR IN THE PACIFIC, JUL 1942 - JAN 1943
    1. Operation Bauhinia: The Invasion of Hong Kong, 11 - 14 July 1942
    2. Operations Malay Tiger, RY: The Malaysian Peninsula, British Borneo, and the Ocean Islands, July - September 1942
    3. The Pacific Adventures of the Royal Navy
    4. Operations Straya Kiwi: The Elimination of the ANZAC

    XII: THE HEART OF DARKNESS: THE WAR IN AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST, AUG 1942 - JAN 1943

    XIII: ALBION DESECRATED: OPERATION ORKNEY BULLDOG, OCT 1942 - JAN 1943

    XIV: BEWARE THE COMMUNIST MENACE!
    Causes of the Soviet War Declaration

    XV: WAR IN THE EAST: PHASE 1: STRIKE THE BELL! JAN 1943

    XVI: WAR IN THE EAST: PHASE 1.5: OPERATION NORTHERN LIGHTS AND THE END OF THE SOVIET NAVY JAN - APR 1943

    XVII: OPERATION CHARAX: ITALY IN RUSSIA (NP)
    Crimea, Caucus and the Failure of the Italian Army

    XVIII: WAR IN THE EAST: PHASE 3: OPERATION NORTHERN LIGHTS (NP)
    Invasion of Murmansk and Archangelsk

    XIX: WAR IN THE EAST: PHASE 4: OPERATION MARSH MADNESS (NP)
    The Pripyet Marshes Offensive

    XX: WAR IN THE EAST: PHASE 5: STAND AND BE DESTROYED (NP)
    The Baltic Offensive


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    (NP)

    XXI: COLLAPSE OF THE ENTENTE ALLEMANDE (NP)

    XXII: OPERATION ARABIAN NIGHTS (NP)

    Italy in Arabia

    XXIII: ARISE, FAIR ALBION!
    Reemergence of the Allies (NP)




    *****
    Appendices

    A. The Links That Bind: German Command System and Order of Battle, 1936
    B. Mussolini's Legions: Italian Command System and Order of Battle, 1936
    C. Wehrmacht Strength Report and Division TO&E, 1937
    D. Italian Military Strength Report and Division TO&E, 1937
    E. Axis Governments and Laws, 1936 - 1950
    F. Wehrmacht Strength Report, Order of Battle, and Division TO&E, 1938
    G. Italian Military Strength Report, Order of Battle, and Division TO&E, 1938
    H. Axis Military Equipment, 1936 - 1950
    I. Major Nation Industrial Capacity and Manpower, 1936 - 1950
    J. Major Nation Army Strength Comparisons, 1936 - 1950
    K. Major Nation Naval Strength Comparisons, 1936 - 1950
    L. Major Nation Air Forces Strength Comparisons, 1936 - 1950
    M. Major Nation Technology Comparisons, 1936 - 1950
    N. Axis Armies Order of Battle and Division TO&E, FEB 1942
    O. Luftwaffe Combat-Coded Aircraft Strength, FEB 1942




    *****

    Author's Note:
    This is going to be a mixed "Gameplay/Roleplay" Historical AAR. I, as the player, will not be doing (much) gamey stuff; I find it rather repugnant to min/max divisions or anything like that, but I do recognize the limits of the game. Since this is my third attempt at a real AAR, do please go easy on me! I will be avoiding talking directly about what my actual in-game choices are as far as diplomacy, technology and intelligence are when I make them because technically these sorts of events would not actually cause an effect until later (for instance, when a technology pops, or influencing public opinion overseas). Hopefully, I can keep people entertained and intrigued!

    Basic Game Info: HoI3:TFH 4.02 Normal/Normal, playing as Germany, Italy and (though not until 1941) Japan.

    Mods: I am indebted to CaptRabius for his Historical Flags mod. I created for myself an APP-6a mod, to replace and clarify some of the original counters that were in the game. Finally, I have modified this game to reflect a sort of Butterfly effect start, but with no more changes than could be executed via a "light" CGM start for GER and ITA, and with no removal of any of the starting units (though a custom OOB and deployment has been arranged). Other slight efforts have been to reduce the cost (to all nations) for diplomacy and to move the garrison techs to the Infantry techs.

    Some of you may (if you were around seven years ago) have read some of my first attempts to do something similar: Das Morgengrauen or Der Aufstieg. They failed through my computer dying or my own mental health declining. I am pleased to say that this time I've already played through 1943, and have at least started writing through 1940. My update goal is at least once every two weeks, but at worst every three weeks--I'm in the middle of starting a new job and trying to get hired on permanently, and so that's cut quite deeply into playtime... don't worry, according to my status page, I have over 27000 words on 64 pages... and that's without pictures or any charts (of which I have two, so far).

    Finally, for a few of the guys that I left hanging, most especially @loki100, @KLorberau, @Axe99 and so many others: I have returned!

    A DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Furthermore, all images, charts, artwork or other digital media are employed under a Fair Use for comment and remain the property of their respective owners.
     
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    “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years.”
    - Marshal Ferdinand Foch


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    The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 has largely been seen by any responsible historian as the farmers of Western Europe and the United States sowing the seeds of a future war. Indeed, the sheer scale of the destruction of much of Belgium and Northern France combined with the loss of over 13 million casualties on the Western Front alone convinced the leadership of France that they should never face a resurgent Germany. The internecine bickering amongst the victorious powers, especially the United States, caused much of the desires of the French to pull Germany apart to fall short.


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    Front row, from left: Italian premier Vittorio Orlando, British PM David Lloyd George, French premier Georges Clemenceau and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson meet at Wilson's Paris home before the signing of the Versailles Treaty. Wilson’s calls for a more just peace would fall on deaf ears through much of the discussions.

    The reality is that the Treaty of Versailles was not the true defeat of the German people that it was made out to be. In strategic terms, the rejected attempt by Austria to attach itself to Germany in 1918 was a bit of a loss, but the creation of Poland left Germany with no border with the Soviet Union. Germany, having only been a unified nation since the victory of Prussia over France in 1871--a mere 47 years--was not broken up into the former principalities. While the Weimar republic was stripped of Elsass-Lothringen by France, Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark (through a fair plebiscite), Memel by the reemergence of Lithuania (with no plebiscite), Danzig to Poland (by the Versailles treaty) and some small territories annexed by Belgium; Germany was left a unified nation. Despite France occupying the Saar and Belgium the Ruhr for various lengths of time, the German nation was not under the bootheel of a foreign army. All foreign colonies were stripped from Germany’s empire; however, much of those were rather worthless territories (at the time) anyways. This did not keep those who sought power in the fledgeling democracy from blaming the treaty for any--indeed, all--of Germany’s ills.


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    A graphic describing how tiny the Germans were compared to other European powers. While certainly overstating some particulars, it was relatively accurate.
    Other key tenets of the Treaty of Versailles were supposed to strip Germany of a powerful military as well as the General Staff. Terms restricted Germany to a maximum army strength of 100,000 troops organized into seven infantry and three cavalry divisions; her navy was reduced to six pre-dreadnaught battleships, six light cruisers, twelve destroyers, twelve torpedo boats and a total available manpower of 15,000. No air forces, submarines, tanks, nor chemical weapons were permitted; indeed, when the Truppenamt was considering the means by which the Reich would rearm, German memories of their own gas being blown back upon their own troops made any imprecise weapons distasteful.


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    Political cartoons satirizing the apparent cost to Germany, and the feeling that there was no ability to get forward momentum to move past the war.

    The initial cost of reparations were such that much of Germany balked at the bills wrapped around their nation’s neck as those of a noose. Three levels of bonds were levied upon Germany: A, B and C. A and B bonds totalled nearly RM50 billion (US$12.2b) payable in gold, ore, ships, products or other durable goods and were required to be paid. C bonds covered the other RM80 billion and were supposed to simply placate the civilians in France and Great Britain who were demanding massive indemnities against Germany, not necessarily ones that were likely to be repaid. The reparations, combined with the Weimar attempting to abrogate by passivity the terms of the Treaty, led to rampant hyperinflation of the Reichsmark, leading to an exchange rate of US$1 to over RM4.3 trillions. Indeed, these figures caused so much disruption to the economy that the right-wing had little trouble presenting their case to the Volk. Even with the renegotiations of the Dawes and Young Plans, as well as the final dissolution of the 1932 Lausanne Conference, there remained embedded in the Volk’s collective consciousness that Germany was so thoroughly raped that they were very receptive to those who claimed to be able to rebuild the nation’s honor.


    N5pY4On.png

    Chart depicting the relative value of the Reichmark. The currency became so irrelevant that the people were using banknotes to wallpaper their homes or simply to burn for heat.

    The Treaty of Versailles was not the only interbellum agreement which lead to the consternation of those former Central Powers nations. The Treaty of St-Germain-en-Laye had codified the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and reversed Austria’s attempt in 1919 to unify with Germany. Indeed, a key article, Article 88, specifically prohibited Austria from intentionally compromising its independence. This particular treaty also created the successor states to the Empire’s former kingdoms: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, southern Poland, and Romania. Some territory was ceded to Italy, though it was not as much as they had desired and would pull at the Italian political consciousness for some time. This process was compared in principle to the task facing the powers at the end of the Napoleonic wars: should Europe attempt to “turn back the clock” and reinvent several former “kingdoms”? The answer, this time, was such that the nations were formed with no basis for historical cultural affinities which led to such problematic states as Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Indeed, it was this lack of insight which the Reich would seek to address in the future.


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    The territorial outcome of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Triannon. New nations were created overnight with no thought to the ethnic or cultural ties on the ground, giving the future generations more reasons for conflict rather than bringing peace to the Continent.

    Those other nations involved in the wars would all go on to receive their own variation of the Versailles treaty. Bulgaria would be humiliated by the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1919 and Hungary had her punishment codified in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon. Both treaties stripped lands and money from two relatively poor nations. Bulgaria lost her access to the Aegean which was awarded to Greece by the victorious powers. Both were under similar restrictions to the Germans with regards to the ban of artillery and aircraft as well as a limit on the number of men under arms. The correction of these would be a goal for the Reich: Bulgaria wanted German and Italian assistance to recover Dobruja and Thrace.


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    The Kapp Putsch resulted from the attempt to lower the influence of armed gangs in Weimar Germany. With the Reichswehr rejecting the orders of civilians appointed over them, a clear path to authoritarianism was laid.

    The political situation in Germany had degraded to a point at which in 1920, with tacit approval from high-ranking Reichswehr officers, an attempt at a putsch erupted in Berlin over an attempt to disband two Marinebrigade: Loewenfeld and Ehrhardt. A complete rejection of the civilian control of the military, coupled with the statement from General von Seeckt that “Reichswehr does not fire upon Reichswehr!” led to a situation in which the government was toppled from Berlin. The government, on the run, declared a general strike; in some cases, violently opposed by the Reichswehr. The success of the strike led to the downfall of the putsch, though many of the putsch’s organizers’ demands ended up being implemented regardless. With the Reichstag elections, the SPD and Democrats lost nearly half of their previous votes, leading directly to the rise of the DVP (which would later join with the NSDAP) and the left-wing USPD. This general strike led to yet another general strike and a communist uprising in the Ruhr; whereas the previous putsch had been dealt with gently, the Red Ruhr Army was brutally suppressed through extrajudicial executions and open combat by the Reichswehr. In the end, the Marinebrigaden would be disbanded, though many of their officers and soldiers would be accepted into the Reichswehr or into the Geheimdienst and Deutsche Frei Legion.


    DIySyDu.png

    The signing of the Treaty of Rapallo, 1922. This treaty was almost Bismarckian in the understanding that bringing the strength of the Russian bear (regardless of what it was presently called) to the side of Germany--or at least preventing them from joining the game--kept Germany more secure in the long term.

    The Treaty of Rapallo, signed in 1922, brought Germany and the Soviet Union back into normalized relations. As a successor to the failed Genoa conference--which failed when France demanded that the Bolsheviks assume the Tsarist debts--the Germans and Soviets agreed to renounce their combined financial and territorial demands against one another. This effort, backed enthusiastically by the head of the Truppenamt, General von Seeckt, would see Junkers, Krupp and other German companies begin to build factories producing aircraft and artillery in places such as Fili and Rostov-on-Don. It also led directly to the establishment of a Tank School in Kazan and an Aviation School in Lipetsk, as well as assistance in the formation of the Soviet General Staff. This modernization of the Soviet forces would assist in the Soviet Union’s desire to rearrange their western border with Poland after the failure of their war in 1921.


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    The March on Rome, 1922. Benito Mussolini at the head of his Squadristi, marching upon Rome with his Fascist party forced the weak King Vittorio Emmanuale III to recognize that their power was preferable to that of the Socialists and Communists who sought to depose him.

    That year also saw the rise of Benito Mussolini in Italy where he would eventually assume near-dictatorial control. The end of the Great War made Italy a member of the Allies in their victory, but by and large, the nation was a defeated power. Economically devastated by the war, her share of the reparations as well as unsatisfying allocations of territory had not solved any problems. A change in the American policies regarding immigration made the situation worse when Italy was unable to vent some of her excess population to the United States. In 1920, after a general strike which was broken only after the intervention of the Blackshirts (Squadristi) of the Fascist party in Italy, Benito Mussolini, with the encouragement of the United States’ Ambassador to Italy, Richard Washburn Child, began preparations for bringing his power to bear on the central government. With weak leadership in the frail body of King Victor Emmanuel III, who refused to order a military defense of Rome against the march, Mussolini marched at the head of nearly 30,000 Squadristi (though the number swelled as the march passed through towns or cities occupied by fascist sympathizers). Upon Mussolini’s arrival in Rome on 28 October 1922, the king bowed to the inevitable and named a new government headed by Mussolini.


    vXqs59S.png

    A group of Italian Communists. Though powerful (and numerous), they concentrated on direct action which diluted their efforts and turned at least some of the populace against their cause.

    This had not been a certain development: initially, socialists had the numbers and the power. The problem was that their rank-and-file was embroiled in their efforts at “direct action:” shutting down factories and forcing local government to close. Further, they lacked the brutality which marked the vicious fighting that was the hallmark of both the Communists and the Fascists. After the March on Rome, Mussolini usurped more and more authority and power until 1925 when he instituted his one-party dictatorship.


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    The Washington Naval Conference, 1921-2. The conference would lead to three different agreements: the Four-Power Treaty between France, Great Britain, Japan and the United States regarding the respect towards in the Pacific and the dissolution of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902; the Nine-Power Treaty confirming the Open Door policy in China and the most important Five-Power Treaty which limited naval arms.

    Worldwide developments included the decisive Washington Naval Conference, which resulted in the treaty of the same name. Great Britain, recognizing their public would never again agree to such an expensive undertaking as the naval arms race that had preceded the Great War, was discussing amongst several nations their desire to host a naval arms limitation conference. The Americans in the Harding Administration decided to jump the British game and so the conference was held in Washington, encouraged by the Cipher Bureau, better known as the “Black Chamber.” This nascent intelligence service had completely broken the Japanese diplomatic codes and were relatively capable with the British and French codes, giving the Americans a decisive advantage when it came to the negotiations. This conference proposed a ten-year “holiday” on capital ship production other than aircraft carriers, a limit on per-unit cruiser tonnage to a maximum of 10,000 tonnes and armament (8” or 203mm), as well as an agreement amongst Britain, the United States and Japan to not fortify any Pacific islands. A limitation on the total tonnage of capital ships was set at 5:5:3:1.75:1.75 to the British, Americans, Japanese, French and Italians, respectively. Limits were placed on the size of aircraft carriers (though not on “light” carriers) and carriers in commission at the time were declared “experimental.” One final outcome was the abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, at the insistence of the United States and the agreement to not fortify the islands there.


    buqmNsM.png

    From left to right, Gustav Stresemann, Austen Chamberlain and Aristide Briand during the Locarno negotiations. The Treaty of Locarno in 1925 was seen by most Eastern European as a collective agreement which would guarantee the security of the Western powers and force Germany to look East for territorial gains at their expense.

    The failures of the Treaty of Versailles were becoming more readily apparent by 1925. In a series of seven agreements between the United Kingdom, France and Germany collectively called the Treaty of Locarno, Germany’s western borders were settled “in perpetuity.” The United Kingdom’s main desire was to see the two implacable enemies of France and Germany reach some common ground and hopefully improve their relations over time and prevent future wars in Western Europe. The Soviet Union and Poland both viewed this detente with suspicion or outright anger: Poland, under Piłsudski, viewed the whole event as a farce which guaranteed Germany’s western border and left them free to expand to the East. The Germans were also accepted into the League of Nations, largely seen as Germany being welcomed back into the community of nations as a functional member of the world.

    *****​
    Author's Note: You thought I was joking about the word counts?! HA! Also, those word counts don't currently include the captions I'm placing in there. There is another political/international news update, and one prologue update to give a bit of focus to the Army, Navy and Air Forces changes that I've made before I get into the actions of the game itself. Enjoy!
     
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    A view from a Berlin cafe, 1929. The Era of Good Feelings had brought a spirit that Humanity had
    turned the corner and was gaining traction towards a more harmonious sentiment.

    The years of 1928 and 1929 marked what some historians referred to as the “Era of Locarno.” World peace seemed well within grasp, the League of Nations was recognizing the height of its power and authority. The signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928--which outlawed war as a tool of national policy, and called for those nations who resorted to it to be met by the combined power of all other nations--meant the illusion was stronger than ever. Germany’s democratic government seemed to be coming to grips with their left and right wings, and return to a level of wealth not seen since before the Great War. Behind the illusion, however, traditional power politics were still in play. The French continued to maintain the largest army on the Continent and to build the Maginot Line. This illusion collapsed quite suddenly in late 1929.


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    The view of Wall Street, 29 October 1929. Over the course of four days, the market would lose
    over 40 percent of its value, roughly $30 billion, with $14 billion of those losses coming on 29
    October alone.

    The progress made in Europe shredded itself 29 October with the crash of the US Stock Market. The resulting losses to banks, who had funded a significant portion of the German reparations, demanded repayment and this collapsed the German economy, leading the world down the black hole of Global Depression. The loss of government revenue made the French occupation of the Rhineland untenable, and so the French withdrew their troops in 1930. With their economy failing, the people in the Weimar Republic became disillusioned with impotent leaders and began turning more and more to the far wings of the left or the right. Poll results for the DVP and later the NSDAP grew, and by 1932, Adolf Hitler was only defeated by Paul von Hindenburg in a run-off election for the Presidency. Two months later, Franz von Papen was nominated by von Hindenburg to form the government, but this was purely through the intervention of General Kurt von Schleicher. General von Schleicher was widely viewed to be von Papen’s puppet master. Indeed, he replaced von Papen as Chancellor within months in the tumultuous Reichstag.


    TvDfyhL.jpg

    Results from the German national elections of 1932. Only slight drops would occur in the last
    elections of November for the NSDAP.

    Governments in France and Great Britain deemed the cost of supporting large militaries uncontrollable without decisive intervention in 1932. Together, they proposed the World Disarmament Conference, hosted in Geneva starting in February; representatives from all the world’s major powers came. The entirety of the conference was dominated initially by the Germans. Their unwavering demands of the rest of the nations of Europe to either disarm to their levels or allow them to rearm were flat-out refused by France. Germany prepared to leave the conference, but an eleventh hour intervention by Great Britain on Germany’s behalf with France led them back to the negotiating table. France then refused to continue their discussions. Foreign Minister Louis Barthou later remarked in a note delivered to the conference after he had departed in disgust that France would look to her own security and abandoned the conference themselves.


    5XG70Nx.png

    A postcard from the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva.


    q7O3P2J.png

    A political cartoon reflecting the sentiment of the outcome
    of the World Disarmament Conference.

    On 30 January 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg, having yet another Chancellor recalled by the Reichstag, turned to his former rival for the Presidency, Adolf Hitler, to lead a new government. Hitler was only a month into his Chancellorship when a fire broke out in the Reichstag building; a young Danish Communist with undiagnosed mental handicaps and nearly blind, Marinus van der Lubbe, was arrested near the scene and claimed to have been the sole perpetrator. Four other prominent Communists were also arrested; among them, Georgi Dimitrov was the head of the Comintern “Special Activities” for Western Europe. Only van der Lubbe would be convicted and sentenced; the other conspirators were released. It would only become clear after the declassification of archives decades later that the other conspirators were released through the intervention of General von Seeckt at the behest of the Soviet Union. The response, however, was dramatic: President von Hindenburg was pressured into passing the Reichstag Fire Decree, granting emergency powers to Chancellor Hitler. By March 1933, the Enabling Act was passed into law by the Reichstag, granting Adolf Hitler the dictatorial powers he desired so intently.


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    The Reichstag burning, top. Two of the supposed conspirators, Lubbe (left) and Dimitrov (right).
    Had the information regarding Dimitrov’s status been known at the time, it likely would have fed far
    more serious concerns regarding the state of the Reich.

    With the various power apparati in his control, Hitler formed his power clique. Initially bound by the whims of the President von Hindenburg, Hitler was forced into accepting as Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen. For his foreign minister, Konstantin von Neurath joined the cabinet, and as his Minister of the Interior, Hitler managed to convince Papen and von Hindenburg to permit Wilhelm Frick to head the agency. As one of the few members of the NSDAP party, the fact of the matter was that the Interior ministry was not as important as it was in other European nations; Frick, on the other hand, decided that he rated a more important position. He had his sights set on the intelligence portfolio. The head of the Abwehr, Kaptain zur See Conrad Patzig, had already developed good working relationships with the Reichsmarine and Reichwehr officers appointed under him; he distrusted the NSDAP’s own SS and SA leaders. It was the conflict between Patzig and his Abwehr and the SS “intelligence” bureau (the Sicherheitsdienst or SD) and especially their chief, Reinhard Heydrich, that caused so many headaches in those first few months of 1933.


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    Kaptain zur See Conrad Patzig (left), showing his debonair style which would have compared him
    to Admiral Betty in the Royal Navy. His vehement disgust for Reinhard Heydrich (right) led to
    significant problems for the NSDAP in their first few months in office.


    Heydrich’s personal feelings towards the Abwehr were generalized towards blaming them for the defeat in the Great War; he also held the ambition to lead the SD as the prime intelligence organization in Germany. His hatred and ambition blinded him to the faults of his own organization, and this was ruthlessly exploited by Captain Patzig. Using a mole in the SD, he managed to produce enough “evidence” of a hidden agenda on the part of the senior SA and SS leadership against Hitler. Informing his successor, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, of the scheme and leveraging Canaris’ friendly rivalry with Heydrich, they brought their evidence before Hitler, which sent him into a rage. With threats all around him, Hitler directed the Abwehr to liquidate those apparent dangers. This would come to be called the Night of the Long Knives and witnessed the deaths of Rohm, Himmler and Heydrich. Hitler remained furious, but Canaris had long been a loyal devotee which soothed the Fuhrer's rage. The end result was that the Schutzstaffel and Sturmabteilung higher leadership was eliminated while the rank-and-file were planned to be absorbed into the Heer. The SD was absorbed into the Abwehr. As a reward, Captain Patzig was given command of the future Admiral Graf Spee and Canaris continued as head of the Abwehr through the end of the year when he would turn his office over to Frick and become the head of the special operations directorate, the Geheimdienst.


    Ottla1s.png

    Wilhelm Canaris, head of the newly formed Geheimdienst. This “operational” side of the Abwehr
    would lend itself to other nations’ intelligence bureau models the world over.

    In charge of the Truppenamt, a loyal party member, General Werner von Fritsch, was appointed. Recognizing that the Versailles Treaty was all but invalidated, he oversaw much of the development and production of the nascent Panzer arm. His tenure was short-lived, as disagreements between himself and Goering--insinuations regarding an undesirable relationship with a young man--resulted in his dismissal in late 1935. He would be replaced by General Werner von Blomberg, who had held the office of Minister of Defense. Though initially suspect through the political machinations of blackmail over his second wife, he had reached out to Patzig, who had managed to gain some sort of his own leverage and silence Goering--far easier since the liquidation of Himmler. He would hand-pick one of his own staff officers, Fritz Bayerlein, to be raised to the post of Minister of War, who oversaw the development of a logistic program to better supply the Heer.


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    Kriegsminister Fritz Bayerlein (left) and his now-subordinate, General (later Generalfeldmarschall)
    von Blomberg. The avoidance of a scandal over his young wife’s indiscretions kept him in office.

    The naval chief, Admiral Erich Raeder, had been in charge since 1928 and there was little pressure to remove him from his post. Raeder had been instrumental in the effort to develop the panzerschiff in a blatant attempt to encourage the British, who had no similar ships, to permit Germany to develop her own capital ships again. Indeed, it was Raeder’s suggestion to von Ribbentrop just before the meetings which would produce the Anglo-German Naval Agreement that he deliberately attempt to combine capital ship tonnage for his plans to restructure and rebuild the fleet. Hermann Goering had been named as the Minister of Aviation. His policies regarding aviation were such that building a large fleet of (relatively) flexible medium bombers would fill the void in the current Heer, which was left without heavy artillery. Goering also wanted the close air support championed by the Heer, which led to the development of dive bombers to deliver extremely accurate strikes which could allow the army to move past enemy strongholds without undue concerns for their supply lines.


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    Admiral Raeder (left) and Reichsluftminister Goering. With no support from his former allies
    amongst the SA or SS, Goering was cowed into submission on more than one occasion, much to
    the delight of the Fuhrer.

    With his newfound authority, Hitler immediately began ordering a massive public works on infrastructure. The Autobahn became the shining example of German engineering; by the end of 1935, all of Germany was connected with high-quality roads and rail systems. Airfields and the improvement of ports throughout the German Reich quickly followed.


    AzItVFD.png

    The Future Transportation of the Reich, LZ 129 Hindenburg floats serenely across the autobahn.
    Though the Zeppelins failed to pan out, the Autobahn did the exact opposite and succeeded
    beyond anyone’s expectations.

    Furthermore, in mid-October 1933, von Neurath, with the approval of Hitler, informed a meeting of the League of Nations that they would no longer be attending further meetings. The body was largely apathetic to the Germans departure; though Britain and France made a bit of noise about the abandonment of the international arena that Germany had only been admitted to in 1925. Most nations viewed the League as largely toothless anyways given how readily the Japanese had conducted their affairs in China only a year earlier.


    7pCsp7F.png

    The German delegation’s letter informing the Secretary General of their intent to leave the League
    of Nations. With the Japanese leaving a few years earlier, the Era of Locarno was rapidly giving
    way to feelings of dread and suspicion.

    The Germans did not stand idly by in the realm of international intrigue. The Geheimdienst, a secretive organization which was the “operational” arm of the Abwehr, set out to degrade Germany’s enemies through any means not related to statecraft. The assassination of Engelbert Dollfuss during the July Putsch in Austria by a few agents of the Geheimdienst almost brought Italy into war with Germany as the Italians were intent on enforcing the Treaty of Locarno; however, Austrian artillery engaged the building that the Putsch leaders were in and brought the whole adventure to a rapid conclusion, albeit bloody, conclusion.


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    Distribution of Arms during the July Putsch. It would take another two years before a political crisis
    in Austria would allow Germany to absorb the smaller nation.

    Though the previous effort in Austria had been an overall failure, the Geheimdienst did manage to provide financial and logistical support to a Croatian fascist group, the Ustaše, successfully infiltrate a Bulgarian into Marseille, where the King of Yugoslavia had just arrived to discuss the Cordon Sanitaire with its architect, Louis Barthou. The Cordon, a French attempt to encircle Germany with hostile nations that might stay Germany’s sword should war ever threaten the continent again, died with Barthou and the King of Yugoslavia at the hands of that young Bulgarian.


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    A series of photographs of the assassination of the King of Yugoslavia which also led to the death
    of Louis Barthou. With the grand architect of France’s
    Cordon Sanitaire dead, the pressure for
    France to support her allies abroad dwindled.

    The policy of rearmament, though initially begun in secret by the Weimar government through the direction of the Truppenamt and General von Seeckt, was publicly announced on 15 March 1935; the old names of Reichswehr and Reichsmarine were retired in favor of the Heer (Army) and the Kriegsmarine (Navy). The Luftwaffe (Air Force) also sprang into existence. A rapid expansion of the Heer with the absorption of the Sturmabteilung (SA) and the combined militarization of the Schutzstaffel into the various regimental organizations within the Wehrkreis system led to an army consisting of 36 infantry divisions of three brigades each, a mountain infantry division of two brigades, and three nascent Panzer divisions of two panzer brigades, a motorized infantry or SS infantry brigade, and an engineer brigade. Only two brigades of cavalry remained and were tapped for conversion into the core of another pair of panzer brigades. In the air, the so-called “national airline” of Deutsche Luft Hansa was nationalized with the conversion of their 800 Junkers Ju-52s “Tante Jus” into the bomber squadrons that they were supposed to be. The three hundred Heinkel He-51s formed the basic equipment of the fighter corps. The Reichsmarine at the time consisted of two old pre-dreadnaught battleships, the Schlesien and the Schleswig-Holstein, scheduled to be replaced but which would be retained for the near-term; the three heavy cruisers Deutschland, Admiral Scheer and the Admiral Graf Spee; the light cruisers Emden and the Karlsruhe-class cruisers Karlsruhe, Kiel, and Kolberg; 22 1934-class destroyers formed into three squadrons and 6 of the 1934/A-class destroyers formed into two additional squadrons.

    BKyIOjK.jpg

    Early pictures of the Heer, Kriegsmarine, Luftwaffe and Panzers. Though impressive, it hid
    significant institutional weaknesses, though none of the rest of the world recognized that at the
    time.

    The rearmament of the Kriegsmarine was important. Throughout the interbellum period, Germany had kept within the letter of the law, if not necessarily the spirit of it. While inspection teams from the Naval Inter-Allied Commission of Control or NIACC assumed that the limitations of the treaty would commit Germany to Scandinavian-style coastal monitors, the design team of the Deutschland-class heavy cruisers used ingenious methods of engineering and weight distribution to produce what would come to be known as “Pocket Battleships” in the British press. Initially, Germany had not proceeded much beyond the initial laying-down of the keels in 1928 and instead offered to become a signatory to the Washington Naval Arms Limitation Treaty on the condition that they be permitted 125,000 tons of naval capital ship construction--near parity with the French and the Italians. Despite support from the British and Americans for such a deal to abrogate the terms of Part V of the Versailles Treaty, the French adamantly refused and so construction on a trio of heavy cruisers with six 11”/28cm guns went ahead. Indeed, an outcome of the 1932 World Disarmament Conference was discussions between the British and the newest German government. Joachim von Ribbentrop was dispatched to London with a demand for a 35:100 ratio in tonnage--a demand that Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath believed that the British would never approve of.


    dyyqh5z.png

    Von Ribbentrop in London, just after signing the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. It was a massive
    international coup for the Germans; the British had figured that they would force Germany to build a
    balanced fleet, but the phrasing was such that they allowed for a much stronger surface fleet than
    the British had intended.

    Von Ribbentrop, upon his arrival, gave his demand and brusquely informed His Majesty’s government that they could either accept the ratio, or the Germans would leave after a lovely weekend holiday in London and Germany would build whatever navy she wished. The British, desiring a follow-on pact to outlaw strategic bombing, initially balked at the demand; after discussions, the cabinet reversed their decision with an eye to history and how quickly Germany could prove to become a serious naval power. Further side negotiations between members of both delegations clarified that the Germans sought a per category ratio. These two details convinced the British to agree to the offer and as such, the paperwork was rapidly drawn up. In their haste, however, the British failed to note that the Germans had grouped capital ships such as aircraft carriers, battleships and battlecruisers together rather than the expected breakdown by type. The Germans also managed a typo which permitted a 45:100 ratio for submarines. Thus, when the British expected the Germans to build a balanced battlefleet, Germany instead chose a surface fleet which would be eminently more efficient for convoy raiding. The French were incensed at the British for their allowance of such a thing, and given that the Germans were then building ships which were far superior to anything in the British or French fleets at the time. Further inflaming French opinion, the agreement was signed on 18 June 1935, the 120th anniversary of the French defeat at the Battle of Waterloo--a battle at which Prussian and British troops had together defeated Napoleon.

    cXIMHhS.png

    Italian Recruiting Poster. As desired, Mussolini's attempt to reclaim the glory of the Roman Empire
    was reflected throughout their recruitment drives and brought fear into areas formerly controlled by
    those nations.

    The end of 1935 saw the first glimpses of the specter of war to the Continent. Italy, long desirous of the re-emergence of the Roman empire, foremented a border skirmish in Italian Somaliland with the Abyssinians. The Italians demanded compensation, and while no offensive operations truly occurred until the new year when forces would be available in theater, the beat of the war drums increased their tempo.

    *****​

    Author's Note: I'm intending to at least finish the Prologue over the course of the next week, and then I'll be hopefully on a two-week update schedule.
     
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    TQ3B28h.png

    General Johannes Friedrich “Hans” von Seeckt (left) was chief of the Reichsheer from 1920 to 1926 before being
    forced to resign. He would go on to serve in the Reichstag from 1930 - 1932, and as a military advisor to
    Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek from 1932 - 1936.

    Much of the work done by the Reichswehr in the interbellum period was the direct brainchild of General von Seeckt. His understanding of the nature of the Versailles Treaty would require that great emphasis be placed on making the army ready to fight on unequal terms with any enemy and that the groundwork had to be laid from the outset to develop the leadership required for a drastic and sudden expansion of the Reichswehr.

    dv6vQEV.png

    General von Seeckt in front of some infantry during war games in Thuringia.
    His creation of operational doctrine meant that even with a subversive General Staff,
    the German Army remained one of the premier fighting forces on the Continent.

    Significant work was done to expand upon the doctrine demanded by combined arms and resisting the urge to directly confront hostile forces in preference for finding the weakest links or gaps in the enemy line and then exploiting that gap to strike at those locations which would provide the most rapid gain for the least amount of effort. This way, any future conflict might be rapidly brought to a violent close. Another effort was to invite the people in to observe their Reichswehr soldiers doing their duty; von Seeckt believed that a populace that was so involved would only help when the time came: either they would be better prepared to join the Heer or would be supportive if war came.

    eDNeSyk.png

    A German infantry squad, conducting training on their oddly-named “Squad Automatic Weapons.”
    It was enough to get the machine guns that the Heer needed past international inspectors.

    In this manner, the Truppenamt began to experiment with the organization of the smallest tactical units, then building upon them until they reflected the best balance of fire and maneuver. With help from the Swiss who kindly provided access to the latest MG15/17 machine guns (prohibited under the Versailles treaty), a team of four soldiers, equipped with one light machine gun and three rifles could conduct the majority of the operations demanded of them. Three of those teams, plus a sergeant and an extra machine gunner and assistant gunner formed the basic squad. This arrangement gave the basic German squad nearly the firepower of almost any other nation’s platoon; three of those squads plus a platoon commander, platoon sergeant and a pair of marksmen formed the platoon.

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    German mortarmen with one of the latest mortars in service.
    Five others would constitute the weapons platoon of a German infantry company.

    Three platoons augmented by six mortars (three weapons per section) in a weapons platoon formed the basic company; additional personnel included the company commander, assistant commander, and company first sergeant. Battalions were reduced to five companies and a headquarters of approximately 35 men which eliminated the machine gun platoons and companies many other nations relied upon in previous wars. The thinking was that those organizations were generally split up anyways and so would provide more integrated support. Three battalions and a headquarters company of approximately 70 men which included supply, signals, and other supporting elements formed the basic infantry regiment. This was the smallest formation capable of independent tactical operations. Three of those regiments combined to form the basic Infantry division. The cavalry division was almost exactly the same aside from being mounted. Until rearmament could be realized, all divisions maintained a reconnaissance regiment which was simply another cavalry regiment attached to each division.


    kheltyN.png

    An early Zucker rocket. Gerhard Zucker had begun experimenting with rocket-delivered mail in the
    United Kingdom, and upon his expulsion from the UK, was rapidly snapped up by the
    Heeresversuchsanstalt Peenemünde.​

    Because of the nature of the restrictions in the Versailles treaty, German military development focused intently on developing non-standard solutions for questions regarding supporting the infantry or as a replacement for an air force. The development of rocketry as a practical replacement for artillery was one option which Germany pursued. Further developments of rifle grenades and other high-explosives were also explored. While some effort was made to develop quality gas masks and other protective equipment, no effort was made for offensive chemical warfare, as imprecise weapons would be a waste of effort.

    fBEP8LF.png

    New infantry kit. German designers were nothing if not demanding for any improvements to what
    was given to those at the tip of the spear.

    By 1932, the state of the Reichswehr were such that the old mortars were replaced with newer mortars similar in design to the French light mortars. The development of the newer MG30 and MG34s had also begun to replace the old MG15/17 in the inventory. While developments in rocketry continued and experiments showed that they were nominally ideal, the reality was that they could not react as well as ‘tube’ artillery to calls for fire and were generally inaccurate. Some engineers believed that it was merely the restriction of the size of the projectile: a massive rocket, with a significant warhead, might be able to level a large building; a flurry of such missiles could level whole factories without needing expensive bomber aircraft and priceless crews. Some extra funding was invested, but no results were actually expected from the novel idea in the near term.


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    Pzkpfw. I, after conversion into a command post. These were rapidly discharged
    from service as unacceptable for anything beyond training.

    Tanks, on the other hand, were the order of the day and the Panzerkampfwagon I was developed to meet that need. The belief that the mechanization of the ground forces was the future of land warfare became almost a religion in the Truppenamt, under the prophet of Heinz Guderian. Orders were drawn up for the development of motorized forces, to be used in conjunction with the tanks. With so many mounted divisions provided for, a core of well-trained mobile-minded officers were ready to man a drastically expanded armored force with offensive movement being stressed.


    YmXQZ0S.png

    Italian CCNN brigades under review, 1934. The
    Squadristi were motivated but poorly disciplined. It
    would take significant effort from German advisors to whip the Italian Army into a shape that
    resembled a force that would be worth sending into battle.

    For Italy, much of the interwar period was that of stagnation. Their insistence upon a binary formation for their divisions had left them with too many divisions and not enough firepower. By 1930, the Italian Army was quietly taking copious notes from the German methodology of warfare. An intense restructuring of all forces followed. Extraneous headquarters were eliminated, and a far more lean structure emerged. Infantry divisions were realigned into largely square formations. This was most obvious in the Mountain divisions in which two of the elite Alpini brigades were combined with two CCNN brigades--the development of these forces into mountain infantry was planned but had to be put on hold initially. In Africa, lighter three brigade divisions for regular leg infantry divisions were deployed. A division of motorized troops had also been raised; combined with an armored car regiment, this formed the nucleus of the future mechanized forces.

    *****
     
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    5fScdTk.png

    Board of the NIACC in 1922. The men that made up the board would deal with Germans who,
    while treading carefully just at the lines, would never legally cross them, making their jobs almost
    impossible to enforce.

    The Naval Inter-Allied Commission of Control, or NIACC, initially restricted development of German naval forces in the interbellum period. The NIACC wanted any development of naval arms to be along the lines of the Scandinavian coastal monitors and not towards mighty vessels that might have been able to bring the Allies to their knees. Germany, caught in the hyperinflationary loop and economic problems, was not in any position to do anything about her surface fleet. By the late twenties, however, the situation was reversed and rearmament was more or less an open secret. The commissioning of the light cruiser Emden, Germany’s first post-war large naval construction was quickly followed by the commissioning of sixteen 1934/A-class destroyers to replace destroyers left over from the Great War. These vessels were largely unsuitable for fleet operations, even the new Emden was by-and-large a training ship. The Reichsmarine organized the destroyers into three destroyer squadrons, but a large policy argument broke out in the Reichsmarine.


    MBQjgRD.png

    Emden in China, 1931. Her design was nothing cutting edge, but she did serve as the first major
    construction project since the end of the Great War, and a testbed for welding in order to save
    weight.

    On one side, the traditionalists wanted to recapture some of the--largely manufactured--glory of the Kaiserliche Marine: the fleet that had fought the British to a draw at Jutland and Helgoland Bight. A newer and growing chorus, however, wanted to play to German strengths. They argued passionately for what had actually worked in the past: kreuzerkrieg, or cruiser warfare. With surface raiders designed to draw off some of the British Home Fleet and submarines conducting long-range unrestricted submarine warfare, those captains argued that they would be of more use to the Fatherland than battleships that served no purpose other than to sit at anchor in Wilhelmshaven.


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    Karlsruhe-class. While not ideal, these light cruisers did have long range and good performance.
    The lessons from these ships would go on to inform the evolved design of the
    Leipzigs.​

    This argument persuaded Admiral Raeder, chief of the Reichsmarine. Though he didn’t necessarily want to sacrifice his battleships, he did convince the Weimar to spring for three light cruisers of the Karlsruhe-class and later a pair of the evolved Leipzig-class together with six more of the 1934/A destroyers. The Karlsruhe-class were more heavily armed and armored than the Emden, these were the first modern surface combatants of the budding Reichsmarine. Together with the approval from the NIACC for their over-armed heavy cruisers of the Deutschland-class, these would form the nascent core of the long arm of the cruiser fleet. The three vessels--officially called panzerschiff by the Reichsmarine but labelled “pocket battleships” by the British press--had developed German experience in the construction of large surface combatants. These ships had been developed with a similar eye to British “light battlecruisers” from the Great War, better known in the British press as “Fisher’s Follies,” referring to the former First Sea Lord’s rather bizarre ships. The Courageous-class were very fast, with a shallow draught, and had mounted four 15”/381mm in two twin turrets as their main armament. Though the British versions had been intended to operate as scouts for the Grand Fleet, the Germans were more interested in the ability of long-duration, fast, heavily armed ships which could either out-shoot or out-run opponents as needed. To escort such ships--which would be operating far from home and thus need long legs themselves--the plan necessitated a turn away from destroyers in favor of longer-endurance light cruisers.


    obR79Kc.png

    Scharnhorst-class from the US Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Note that they list the ship as carrying nine 11” guns, when in fact the Kriegsmarine had consented to wait for her 15” rifles. This would prove a nasty surprise to British surface combatants once the war started.

    The experience with the Deutschlands led directly to the development of the bleeding-edge Scharnhorst-class battlecruisers. Armed with nine 15”/38cm SK C/34 main guns in triple turrets (two superfiring turrets forward, one aft of the superstructure) and six 5.9”/15cm SK C/28 in three twin mounts for the secondary battery (one on either side of the bridge and the third superfiring over the aft main gun turret), these vessels were designed to be able to kill almost anything they came across. For protection from aircraft, eight 4.1”/10.5cm L/65 SK C/33 heavy AA guns were positioned on the main deck in four double mounts; a further eight 37mm L/83 SK C/30 AA guns were emplaced higher on the superstructure. Twenty 20mm SK C/30 autocannon in single mountings were liberally scattered around the ship at the outset. With their bunkerage full, these ships could cover nearly 2300 nautical miles with an average speed of 23 knots.


    2So0nLa.png

    Leipzig-class detail from the ONI. A major change was the rearrangement of her rear guns and
    machinery, getting a better rear coverage.

    To provide scouting duties and to save the guns of the battlecruisers from undue wear and tear, the Kriegsmarine began design work on an evolved Karlsruhe-classes: the Leipzig-class light cruisers. The plan for these vessels was to mount the same nine 5.9”/15cm quick-firing L/55 guns in three triple turrets: one forward and a superfiring pair aft. Anti-aircraft protection was provided by a pair of 8.8cm L/76 in two turrets on either side of the superstructure and eight 37mm L/83 SK C/30 guns higher up on the superstructure. An additional four 20mm cannons were also supplied. These ships were also designed with two quadruple 53cm torpedo tube mounts as well as 120 mines. They were able to range out over 1900 nautical miles at 27 knots in support of their squadrons.


    tYc6BuA.png

    The first Type IA. Not designed to be ocean-going boats at all, these were strictly classed for
    training and tactical development. Of course, this did not stop them from being deployed at
    outbreak of the war, to predictable results.

    The surface fleet was only half of the focus for the Reichsmarine. Even though restricted from doing so, Germany had contracted with Finland to construct the Type IIA-class submarines. Only six would be produced, but these submarines were not meant for front line duties. The first, U-1, was commissioned eleven days after the signing of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, which lifted the sanctions for Germany to possess such craft. Type IIA were rapidly followed by nearly eighteen of the Type IIB. Lengthened with the addition of several additional hull sections and possessing additional fuel capacity, the range of the IIBs went from 1000 nautical miles at 8 knots on the surface to over 1800 nautical miles with a surface speed of 13 knots. By the end of 1935, nearly 12 of the boats were in commission, with six more building. The original designs for the Type VIIC had been made; however, Doenitz intervened and challenged the design crew to build the the Kriegsmarine a more powerful boat which could range far out over the Atlantic.


    sUGVC4m.png

    Admiral Domenico Cavagnari, Chief of the
    Regia Marina during the period 1933 - 1943 with Benito
    Mussolini. Largely a figurehead due to his insistence that Italian ships need not deploy with
    advanced all-weather rangefinding and detection equipment, a fact that rankled Mussolini who
    insisted on advances to beat the Royal Navy and the
    Marine Nationale.​

    In Italy, on the other hand, was focused on their likely enemy of France, with only an eye towards France’s ally, Britain. Possession of four battleships of late Great War types meant that Italy was already far behind the power curve and attempted through the development of a large heavy cruiser contingent to make up for that. One of the main concerns, however, was the insistence of the Navy Chief, Admiral Cavagnari, not to include any developmental technologies which might have increased the ability to fight at night or in bad weather. The anger towards Cavagnari led Mussolini to reassign more forward-thinking men under the crotchety old admiral and turn him into a figurehead.


    3cU0rdM.png

    Littorio-class battleships of the Regia Marina. These vessels were designed to be able to fight
    against whatever the opponents of Italy could cruise through the Mediterranean, but the Royal
    Navy’s focus on Germany meant they missed most of their chance at the pride of their opponent’s
    navies.

    With their dalliance with unimportant ships out of the way, the Italians sought to complete four new battleships and to replace their largely obsolete destroyer forces with ships that would compete with the Royal Navy and Marine Nationale. Despite being signatories to the Washington Naval Arms Treaty, these battlewagons were far outside of the treaty requirements at nearly 40,000 long tons displacement and armed with nine 15”/381mm L/50 Ansaldo 1934 guns as the main battery; by this time, however, the remaining Allied signatories had already invoked their ‘escalator’ clause and rendered the Washington and London treaties void.

    *****
    Author's Note: I altered the names of what would have been the Konigsberg-class to the Karlsruhe-class because when I was modifying the game it wouldn't recognize the umlau, and so I'd wind up with two of them, and it was just problematic. I decided to let the game handle this for me instead. Also, the ships statistics listed throughout this AAR will be modified versions of what we see in the game.

    @Axe99 , as I promised, here's the first of what should be many naval-focused posts for this AAR! Hope you enjoy!
     
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    PROLOGUE E: Where Eagles Soar: Interbellum Aviation Developments
  • Wraith11B

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    DNnyqg5.png

    Reichsminister Goering visits the Lipetsk airfields, 1934. Undergoing
    flight testing there were the latest Messerschmitt Bf109Bs, the dominant
    fighter-interceptor and fighter-bomber through the first years of the war.

    With Germany denied an air force after the conclusion of the Great War, much of the development on which the Luftwaffe would come to depend was theoretical, or carried out in great secrecy in the Soviet Union. By and large, the Germans laid out four principles which would guide the development of their aviation forces.

    1. Destroy enemy aviation through offensive suppression of enemy air defenses.
    2. Interdict the tactical and operational level movement of enemy ground forces.
    3. Interdict, degrade and destroy enemy naval units.
    4. Destroy the enemy’s capability to produce war materiel.

    These principles followed the dictum similar to that of the army: they would likely be fighting at a disadvantage in numbers. The recognition of the Weimar Reichswehr of such a problem was that they sought out new technologies with which to make up the deficiencies with as little cost in human lives and expensive machines as possible. That said, it wasn’t until the late twenties when the Weimar founded the Heereswaffenamt or Army Weapons Office. A subsidiary of the Truppenamt, General von Seeckt recruited the best and brightest he could with a leavening of age and experience to guide those developments. By 1935, through some severe wrangling and even some outright obfuscation, the Peenemünde Army Research Center (Heeresversuchsanstalt Peenemünde or HVP) was in operation.


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    YZhcpMS.png

    Junkers Ju52, “Tante Ju”, top. The Reichstag had generously subsidized Deutsche Luft Hansa to procure significant numbers of these aircraft. The Arado Ar64/5, below, was camouflaged as a “light mail plane” and armed with two machine guns, as though requiring protection from air pirates, perhaps?

    The nature of the Versailles meant that creative accounting and secretive methods were needed to keep the developmental program out of the eyesight of the rest of Europe. Much was made of speed and carrying capacity of the aircraft developed by the German national airline, Deutsches Luft Hansa. Junkers had developed the W 33, a long range, single engine aircraft which could carry almost 1270 kg (almost 2800 pounds) of disposable stores, supplies or soldiers. By 1930, Junkers had also developed the Ju 52 “Tante Ju” or “Aunt Anne,” one of the most successful aircraft designs to that point. “Tante Ju” could carry 1820 kilograms (4000 pounds) of freight or disposable stores. With a range of 1000 km, most of Continental Europe was within range to the 800 examples of which were organized into eight geschwaders. On the other side, Arado was developing the Ar64/65, called a “fast mail plane,” of which nearly 100 examples were procured. These single seat aircraft provided some air defense capability with excellent handling characteristics and significant ammunition storage of nearly 500 rounds per gun. Those two fighter designs were rapidly succeeded by the Heinkel He 51; three hundred of the examples were in service with three geschwaders by the beginning of 1936. More advanced designs were also in the pipeline.


    IY79Gmc.png

    sB5h2ZY.png

    CR.42 (top) and SM.75 (above). The CR.42 was the epitome of Italian post-Great War fighter biplanes, but they were rapidly becoming relics of the past. The Savoia-Marchetti SM.75 bore strong resemblance to the Junkers Ju 52, even following a similar developmental process from a nose-mounted single engine to three-engine aircraft.

    In Italy, CR.1 biplanes, little better than what had been deployed in the Great War, gave way to the CR.20, the CR.30 and finally the CR.42. Savoia-Marchetti had developed the SM.62 to patrol the Mediterranean before developing the SM.75 for the airlift command and the SM.79 to replace the SM.62. Caproni developed the Ca.111 as a light tactical attack aircraft, which also was replaced with the SM.79 by 1936.


    mz1z8Yh.png

    The SM.79 was a logical development from the SM.75. A more streamlined exterior meant better fuel efficiency and range, just what Italy wanted from a tactical and naval bomber.

    The main concerns about the Regia Aeronautica was the inability of the private sector companies developing the aircraft to develop advanced airframes. Though some were capable, the airframes were not setting many records (or indeed, keeping up with any), unlike the German, British or American aerospace industry. Indeed, despite Il Duce’s making the Regia Aeronautica a useful recruiting and propaganda tool, the force was ill-suited to modern aviation combat. It remained capable of operating against many of the air forces that it would likely be facing in the Mediterranean: long the dumping ground of old and obsolete aircraft of the other major powers.

    *****
    Author's Note: as I said, a short update just to get everyone up to speed with what the air forces have been doing. Here starts the (hopefully) two-week update cycle. I will of course be responding to you, my loyal readers. So let's get the actual game started, eh?
     
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    I: 1. Of Doves and Hawks: Foreign and Domestic Politics in Europe, 1936
  • Wraith11B

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    CbPGzM8.png



    vFy2NmU.png

    2. Infantrie-Division marches into the Rhineland, January 1936. A gamble, but given that the bulk of the Heer
    had been massed on or near the borders of France in the preceding year, the government in Paris was loathe to
    engage.

    The year began with quite a celebration. On New Year’s Day in Germany, the Heer--led by Adolf Hitler--had proceeded to reoccupy the Rhineland. The procession of the 2. Infantrie-Division was met with cheering crowds, with hearty renditions of the Horst-Wessel-Lied and the Deutschlandlied were sung and flowers were placed in the lapels of nearly all the German soldiers crossing the bridges. At a carefully staged speech later that day, the Fuhrer spoke about the need for Germany to rise again as the Phoenix from the ashes of the Versailles Treaty. Globally, the response to this overt act was such that even those nations took almost no note of the events in the Reich. France condemned the move in the League of Nations, using terminology such as “deplorable,” “militaristic,” and “a threat to peace.” Their great General Gamelin had told the French government that at a rate of nearly 30 million francs a day, mobilizing for war over the Rhineland was unrealistic. Great Britain, long of the opinion that the terms of the treaty had been far too harsh to begin with, did not release any negative statement. Indeed, Lord Lothian claimed “it was no different than the Germans walking into their own backyard.” An Irish author, George Bernard Shaw, opined that it was no different than if Britain occupied Portsmouth.


    3XiReX5.png

    Mussolini, Ciano and von Ribbentrop in a meeting, 1935.
    Despite being officially the ambassador to the Court of Saint James,
    von Ribbentrop was von Neurath’s “hatchet man” and was almost rarely in London.

    Italy had been largely quiet about the Rhineland affair publicly. Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath’s ambassador-at-large, had made significant effort to convince Mussolini’s government that Germany would provide covert support to the Italians in their continued fighting in Abyssinia in exchange for Mussolini’s about face on the Saint-Germain treaty. The war had dragged on despite the overwhelming efforts of the Italian army. German assistance had initially come in the form of high-level representatives from the Heer to help bring the Regio Esercito from a force largely composed of the militia Squadristi, or other unprofessional soldiers, into a fighting force that would be able to gain Mussolini the Empire he dreamed of.


    KzGXmjJ.png

    Seated, from left: Hermann Göring (Chief of the Air Staff), Hitler and Franz von Papen (Ambassador to Austria).
    Standing from left: Franz Seldte (Minister of Labor), Hans Lammers (Chief of the Reich Chancellery), Dr. Günther
    Gerecke, Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk (Minister of Finance), Wilhelm Frick (Minister of Interior), Werner von
    Blomberg (Minister of Defense) and Alfred Hugenberg (Minister of Economy).

    After the conclusion of the public face of the resurgent German machine, Hitler convened a cabinet meeting in which von Neurath encouraged the motion to begin working with the Norwegians, Danes, and the Americans around to the German way of thinking. Even if those nations did not join Germany outright, the hope was that Norway and Denmark would permit Germany to base ships or aircraft in their territory. Raeder had been striving to convince the Fuhrer that it was an ideal course of action to encircle Great Britain by providing bases from which both surface raiders and submarines could operate. Denmark would also be able to close off the Baltic from passage by any unfriendly vessels and by that method cause the Baltic to become a safe training ground for the Kriegsmarine. Indeed, even Sweden and Switzerland began to send out feelers to bring themselves closer to the German cause.


    usmra57.png

    Hitler and Hjalmar Schacht walk in front of workers in an Autobahn project, 1936. The process to fund the rapid expansions of the
    Wehrmacht and to improve the Reich required some creative economics, which Schacht was able to manufacture with his MEFO bills.

    To fuel German industry, trade deals were signed with Italy (to provide them much needed coal in exchange for various rare materials), the Soviet Union (for metals and other rare materials), and the United States (for steel). Germany found herself in the enviable position of supplying the coal needs for much of Europe. The list included Sweden, Portugal, Romania, Hungary, and Switzerland among others. Italy would find her production of military consumables in high demand; both the United States and the Soviet Union turned to Italy to stock their armies with ammunition and other supplies. This allowed Italy to purchase steel, oil and fuel from abroad in various quantities.


    APbkvyW.png

    A member of the Danish DNSAP walks in her uniform in the streets of Copenhagen.
    When a misguided assassination attempt caused disruption in the capital, sympathies for
    the party grew as the depression continued to affect the local economy.

    The German desire to bring Denmark into her sphere of influence led some in the country to speak out against such a union. Indeed, the rhetoric became so bellicose that on 15 January 1936 a leader in the Danish equivalent to the NSDAP was the target of an assassination attempt. In response, the government did what it could to calm the populace, though sympathetic ears were more receptive to the shouting from the far right in response. Indeed, a Copenhagen newspaper published accounts of how much foreign nations were sending money into the coffers of the political parties on the 19th of April. The data was not of much importance to anyone in a position of power and largely ignored.


    PfgeYCy.png

    The SFIO meeting hall. The alliance of the left-wing parties in France and their subsequent inability
    to deal with either the economy or the international developments would lead to a swing to
    the right in the populace of France.

    France experienced their own brush with civil unrest to the worst of 1934 on 22 January with an anarchist attempting to assassinate an SFIO leader. The party calmed the populace, but not before a rogue member of the PSF began to speak in the Chamber of Deputies calling for closer ties to Germany. The ruling party largely ignored the politician; the populace, however, did not. Combined with revelations--leaked from Geheimdienst operatives in France--on 18 May of that year led to the calling of new elections on 03 June, which brought the Popular Front to power.


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    King George V’s sons mount the guard, 1936. The ascension to the throne of King Edward VIII
    was welcomed in Germany’s Foreign Ministry, as his sympathies lay more with Germany than with France.


    OfuI9ve.png


    Wallis Simpson and Edward meet the Fuhrer, 1935. This friendly relationship was part of the concern in the
    British government, and thus they found any stick with which to bring down his reign.

    In the United Kingdom, the untimely passing of King George V on 5 June led his sons to mount the Guard in Westminster Abbey and, after the appropriate delay, to the Coronation of King Edward VIII. Edward was a great friend to Germany, and those in the Foreign Office of the Reich were hopeful that his influence would prove beneficial to the continuation of developing ties between Great Britain and Germany. Unbeknownst to the members of the German Embassy was the growing discomfort towards Edward’s relationship with Wallis Simpson, a divorcee with two living ex-husbands. This was disquieting to the political leadership of Parliament and the Church of England which operated under the edicts that members of their church were not to remarry divorced individuals if their former spouses were still living. The constitutional crisis led by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and leading members of the Parliament caused Edward to abdicate in favor of his younger brother, Albert, on 18 August 1936. Upon ascension to the throne, Albert became King George VI.


    LPhWjoY.png

    The Ethiopian Army was largely composed of gangs of men with rifles, with none of the training that any self-
    respecting European power might give their own troops (above). Thus, even an army such as Italy’s whose
    training had not far surpassed that of the Great War was an overmatch for their opponents (below).

    BJRRuDJ.png


    The Second Italo-Abyssinian War had begun in October 1935, almost a year after an Italian-precipitated engagement in December 1934. The “Wal-Wal Incident,” caused by Italian encroachment into Abyssinia, escalated until Mussolini ordered his generals to secure the glory for the future of the Italian Empire. The conduct of the war was so ineffectual as to make the effort laughable, and will not be covered in any detail in this volume. The war ended on 21 April 1936 when Italian troops entered Addis Ababa, and after much fanfare in Rome, Italy demobilized. The Italian experience was such that despite the victory, significant numbers of troops were killed in a war that largely should have been rapidly concluded. Initially, the Abyssinians were given some German support because of Italian opposition to Hitler’s insistence on the Anschluss with Austria, this was limited to 10,000 old Mauser rifles and 10 million rounds of ammunition. With French and British reticence to engage against Germany over Austria and the League of Nations voting for economic sanctions (however ineffective) led Mussolini to change his tune and seek out ever closer ties to the Reich and with an eye towards modernizing the Italian armed forces.


    YAwdmUS.png

    A picture of some students from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, purported to be of those responsible
    for the White Rose publications. Though the Interior Ministry under Goebbels never fully stamped out dissent,
    positive outcomes meant that few in the Reich took such things seriously.

    Domestically, the German government worked hard to ensure that their policies would encourage their populace to aspire for greatness. The propaganda press was as even-handed as it could be expected to be: they could chastise generally while not excoriating any individual member and trumpeted any German advance to the detriment of their neighbors. Many liberal-leaning groups saw this as a betrayal of the Volk. A student society called “the White Rose,” centered on the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, had begun distributing pamphlets around their campus and in the Hofbrauhaus on 05 June. These printings, while full of misleading information that had been suitably altered to encourage dissent in the people, were not taken seriously by the population at large. The Interior Ministry still increased their efforts to track down those responsible. This led to a temporary surge in government spending such that national monetary reserves were drawn down.

    These printings and the spending upon tracking the individuals responsible led directly to a parliamentary scandal which broke in the Berliner Tageblatt on 08 July. Pushed by several members of the SPD, the parliament challenged significant portions of the government expenditures for the Foreign, War and Intelligence ministries. The actions of this government spat caused the leaders in the Reichstag to prohibit the establishment of any new political parties and seriously curtailed the operations of others on 10 July. These actions, so calamitous to the population led to a government-sponsored general holiday for two days in order to calm the dissent.


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    Armed Groups pouring out into the streets of Madrid, 1936. Because of the
    inefficiencies of the military’s reaction across the country, they were unable to
    rapidly assume control of the nation and avoid a civil war.

    Tensions in the Iberian peninsula had been simmering for years between the urban, left-leaning Republicans and the largely falangist aristocratic Nationalists. On 24 May, the Republicans led a massive 10000-person peace demonstration in Madrid and several smaller marches throughout the rest of Spain to raise awareness of their plight. After the elections were held, however, moves by the government convinced the Nationalists that their nation was slipping away from them. By mid-July, tensions were so bad that territory was being claimed by the extremes on either side. On 20 July, a pronunciamiento of a group of senior generals under the leadership of General Jose Sanjurjo, was promulgated, and clashes started that day. Within a week, however, General Sanjurjo died when his plane was attacked by what little air forces remained to the Republicans while he was enroute back to Spain from Portugal. A few days later, General Francisco Franco assumed the leadership of the Nationalists.


    He02WHS.png

    General Sanjuro (right) with a Colonel Franco in 1921. The conflict between
    these two leaders probably resulted in the former’s death,
    though no accurate information remains.

    There is some debate in the historical record if the intelligence of Sanjurjo’s travel was through the involvement of the German Geheimdienst. Several members who were deployed in the Embassy at the time indicate that they felt Franco would be the easier of the two to come to some accommodation with in the future and would provide the Nationalists a useful martyr for their cause, though no official records remain of that period.

    With the outbreak of the civil war, several nations immediately declared support or opposition to the warring sides. The Soviet Union supported intervention on the side of the Republicans on the same day that the Italians declared in support of the Nationalists. In Germany, the Foreign Ministry was embroiled in a debate on intervention. Konstantin von Neurath believed, as did many of those in his Ministry, that any intervention abroad would bring undue attention back on Germany. They believed that there would be a reckoning, either economically or diplomatically during the period when the Reich was trying to find allies amongst the other nations of Europe or abroad. He also strenuously objected to minimization of effort when so many resources were being poured into Austria. On the other side were several generals of the Heer as well as the Abwehr saw the war as an excellent proving ground for their future military plans. In the end, those on the side of intervention won out, and Germany declared her intervention on 27 July.


    J2Fna1f.png

    Seyss-Inquart with Hitler, 1936. The rapid deterioration of the political situation in Austria caused Hitler to
    recognize that he had an opportunity to grab territory with little opposition; indeed, the situation had deteriorated
    so rapidly that Germany presented the world with a fait accompli which they were more than happy to
    accommodate to avoid war.

    The Foreign Minister’s concerns were short-lived, however. Throughout the first half of the 1930s, German NSDAP officials worked in close contact with those in their Austrian branch. After the July 1934 putsch, the Geheimdienst had operated with near-impunity in Austria, mostly due to public distrust in the Austro-fascist government of Kurt Schuschnigg, who had risen to the Chancellorship after the assassination of Dr. Dollfuss. His rule was so unpopular, however, that Hitler demanded that Schuschnigg resign in favor of Arthur Seyss-Inquart, that all imprisoned Austrian NSDAP party members be released from prison and that several prominent cabinet positions be given to NSDAP persons. When the demand was refused, popular discontent was such that in order to avoid civil war, Seyss-Inquart requested an Anschluss with Germany. Hitler, overjoyed, immediately accepted the offer and 31 July saw the union of Germany and Austria concluded.


    tI7MrQH.png

    Stanley Baldwin at No. 10 Downing. His speech before Parliament
    guided much of Europe’s response to the Austrian Crisis.

    International response was muted. In the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin said that nothing could have prevented the union between Germany and Austria because of the rapidity with which the entire sequence of events had occurred. He did go on to say that a defense review would be initiated, but failed to respond in any other manner. The United States’ State Department issued a statement to the effect of stating that they were glad that the unrest in Europe had been minimized, but expressed concern over the lack of self-determination from the change. Italy, once so supportive of the Locarno treaty, saw the western powers’ reaction and wondered openly about whom they might support in the dance of European politics.


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    Poster of the XI Olympiad. The recent Anschluss was rapidly forgotten when Jesse Owens embarrassed the
    German athletes in much of the track events. The announcements of the reintroduction of mandatory service in
    the Reich were quietly disposed of during this time.

    With the Anschluss successfully secured, Hitler directed that there be a war mobilization of the economy. On 04 August, the industrial magnates that were encouraging the government to spend more on the military promised to increase their output and employment--to fully mobilize the economy of the Reich. A few days later, the Reichstag increased the period required of military service from that of an all-volunteer army to a three-year draft. The same day, Italy also increased their draft period from two to three years. All of these announcements were overlooked, however, by the foreign press, consumed as it was by the games of the XI Olympiad and the constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom.

    The year ended on a positive note for Germany. With production up, Sweden approached the ambassador, Victor zu Wied, with a request to purchase military consumables from the Reich. This was approved in early September, and by the middle of the month, Sweden’s economy experienced a boost in its growth outlook for the year. For Denmark, however, a parliamentary scandal broken on 23 October caused a wave of indignation from the population with regards to the more centrist parties in the government.

    *****
    Author's Note: I apologize that this is a bit tardy, but teaching has joys that none can truly be ready for! I hope you enjoy this addition!
     
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    I: 2. Death in the Afternoon: The Spanish Civil War, 1936
  • Wraith11B

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    1dQfa6V.png

    The
    Cortes, or Spanish Parliament. This body had been only in existence as an actual governing body for a few years--far too few for the institutions necessary for the survival of a democratic state to put down roots.

    Spain had been a republic barely five years when war broke out in 1936. King Alfonso XIII abdicated after local elections made it clear that most of Spain was unsatisfied with his rule. Initially dominated by liberal and leftist parties, the parliament could not satisfy the Catholic hierarchy through their drives for such modern contrivances as civil marriage, divorce and the enfranchisement of women. The Army allied themselves to the Church, who had contributed to the end of the monarchy when the King had failed to maintain the army’s loyalty through declining prestige and influence, opposed the liberal democratic institutions. Further reductions to the authority of the army through the disbanding of the Supreme Military Council and to its strength with a reduction in commissions for officers led to the army finding an ally in the Church. Land reform schemes and agrarian strikes threatened the large landholders and in response those landholders made up another portion of the reactionary faction.


    y99r2Cb.png

    Socialist recruitment poster. Never a very unified front, their inability to work with one another meant that Republicans were unable to fully exploit their victories.

    The left wing in Spanish politics was not majority socialists and communists as it was in other European nations; it was made up largely of anarchists with little use for parliamentary government and who wanted to devolve authority away from the central government entirely. Anarchist activities also brought them the hatred of the upper and middle classes through strikes, direct action and church burnings. The future leader of Nationalist Spain, Francisco Franco Bahamonde had been dispatched with his colonial troops to quell an anarchist insurrection in Asturias in 1934 which led to an orgy of killing. Socialists, in an attempt to appeal to the anarchists, gave up their desire to reform a democratic government in favor of a leftist dictatorship. Communists had little patience with either of the other two left-wing groups and all three continually challenged the government’s ability to maintain order within its borders.


    0yzr0KE.png

    Nationalist propaganda. They exploited the fears of the aristocrats and religious citizens, reinforced by the actions of the anarchists on the left.

    With opposition from both flanks, the government of Spain sought to maintain order by giving into the Catalonian and Basque demands for some autonomy. These efforts were not enough for the separatists in both regions and angered the conservative Spaniards who desired the maintenance of a “Greater Spain”. After a scandal in February 1936, a “Popular Front” of communists, socialists and anarchists emerged with a narrow victory over the right. The Azaña government, to appeal to his radical leftist base, ordered the release of political prisoners from the Asturias insurrection and other strikes while reviving a land-reform program.


    i1Vg0m4.png

    Manuel Azaña, during his inauguration as President, 1936. His inability to placate those on the right while subduing those on the left led to the inevitable flashpoint.

    The anarchists took this as justification to resume their direct action against landowners and factories. In response, the right also resumed their own policy of attempting to kill anyone on the left. Indeed, the killing of two men--one each from the left and the right--led the military leadership to begin their rebellion; government inaction on the part of the Spanish Prime Minister at the time only assisted the junta’s takeover of about a third of the nation. Almost immediately, nations in Europe began issuing statements concerning the deplorable situation that emerged. Italy was one of the first pledges of support for the Nationalist forces; on the obverse, the Soviet Union declared for the Republicans.


    B7xpDLj.png

    General Francisco Franco. After the death of General Sanjuro, Franco grabbed for the reins of power, fully assuring the Italians and Germans that he would be “their man,” thus guaranteeing the flow of arms and additional manpower to overcome his adversaries.

    Because of the declared support from the Soviet Union, nations that would have otherwise openly supported the Republican forces were deterred from doing so. Especially in the United Kingdom and France, the populace might have condoned some form of support for the duly elected government; even the United States could have begrudgingly been encouraged to at least proceed with a “cash and carry” scheme that didn’t leave banks or manufacturing holding the bag if the war went south for the official government. With the Soviet Union’s intervention, anti-communist forces provided a vocal mouthpiece which tied the hands of those liberal governments.


    QDbqylx.png

    Hollywood, mobilized to support the Republicans. Given the fashion which attached itself to Communism and other left-leaning tendencies in the West, support was always unofficial as no nation could bear to hold hands with the actual Soviets in Spain.

    Germany threaded a careful line. On the one hand, Germany publicly pledged non-intervention, wishing to avoid some global outcry and to not give their neighbors and trading partners any sense of animosity. Indeed, the Kriegsmarine did contribute a small squadron to provide for the naval non-intervention patrols around the Iberian peninsula, even coming under fire from shore batteries and responding in kind. Privately, Frick directed Canaris to send several members of the GD into Spain by way of Portugal, and both the Heer and the Luftwaffe sent advisors to work with the Nationalist army and air forces.


    hbK3Rnf.png

    Italian aircraft sent in support of the Nationalists. Germany and Italy long saw the conflict as a way to dispose of old and outdated equipment as well as a live-fire proving ground for their newest designs. Indeed, after some engagements both sides would comb the battlefields in an unspoken “gentleman’s agreement” to see the results of their equipment.

    The initial dispositions of the Nationalists did not convey the strengths of their position. Much of Spain’s overseas territories went with the junta. Seville, Granada and Cadiz in the south had been rapidly taken over by the Nationalists, but they controlled little territory beyond the outskirts of the cities. Rapid deployment of their ground forces and the airlift of Franco’s forces from Morocco allowed the Nationalists to secure Bilbao and the important naval base at La Coruna. These areas were not entirely secure, however, as the Republicans held some territory on Portugal’s border and the key city of Salamanca.


    qs5BR85.jpg

    For the first several weeks, operations focused on either linking up with friendly forces or clearing the areas around those already held. Direct confrontations were few and far between as the troops of both sides formed up to fight the war. The majority of these engagements lent credence to a statement from one of the volunteers in the war: “Civil wars are rarely civil or wars.”

    2HALeuC

    The first two weeks of fighting in Spain. As noted, much of the operations centered
    around centralizing forces rather than any grandiose plan to win the war.

    Forces throughout Spain on both sides--given their decentralized dispersion--conducted their operations in a manner which was, at best, disjointed. At worst, the lack of centralized planning and clear operational goals caused near-disasters for both sides. Nationalist forces exploded out of Seville, working desperately to secure the south of the country, while forces in the north concentrated on bringing the Basque regions to heel. The Nationalists also worked to cut off the important ports of Malaga and Almeria to prevent shipments of Soviet materiel from reaching the Republican forces.

    2HCJCRf

    Fighting in the August heat, 1936.

    2FjM8Lb

    Alterations to the overall situation, September 1936.

    September was a month described as dos pasos adelante, tres pasos atras, or “two steps forward, three steps back.” Gains made in one area caused other areas to be lost, especially those in the direction of the Catalan region, and a Republican counter-offensive in the south to cut off Cadiz and thus hopefully prevent significant support from reaching the Nationalists in the south. In the north, Madrid was largely free from any Nationalist threat by the end of September when the Republicans drove a large salient into Nationalist lines. Burgos--the city in which the Nationalist command authority resided--was prepared for their evacuation.

    2HFBzDc

    The situation through October, 1936.
    By October, however, Republican attentions swung south, as their supplies dwindled for the offensive. Malaga and Barcelona were significant ports, but infighting between factions meant that more ports were needed. The “Southern Snake,” which described the shape that Nationalist lines held, was chopped into several pieces to be reduced by the end of the month and the Republicans were knocking on the door to Seville.

    2GCXtFw

    The overall situation through November, 1936.
    As the Nationalist holdings in the south were reduced, the Nationalists in the north went on the offensive. Foregoing any idea of flank security or of listening to their German and Italian advisors, a hard drive on Madrid, long seen as the lynchpin for the conflict, once again brought the sounds of war to the city. By mid-November, the city was encircled, but the Nationalists had lost control of Seville in the south and much of their border with Portugal, through which significant supplies were flowing. Madrid proper would fall within the week, however.

    2EOkXeo

    The situation through the end of December, 1936. Despite losing control of
    Seville for a few weeks, the Nationalists were staging for a massive assault
    towards Madrid for the coming year.

    As the year came to a close, much of the territory which had been under the control of the Nationalists was lost; the diversion of troops to the south to shore up support around Seville and Cadiz had opened significant exploitable holes in the lines of the Nationalists in the north and once again found Burgos under threat. As a Christmas present to their side, the Republicans reclaimed the capital, which had largely been stripped of anything useful by the departing Nationalists. Not all was positive: the Nationalists had fairly exploded off of the southern coast and were striking into the center of the Peninsula.

    *****
    Author's Note: My gifs aren't working... Please Stand By... Fixed. Whew. That was an ordeal. I don't know why Imgur wasn't cooperating with me, but I've gone with Giphy for these. Lemme know if they start dying.
     
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    I: 3. Ever Learning, Ever Improving: German Reich Research and Development, 1936
  • Wraith11B

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    With the speed of rearmament, it might be useful to ascertain exactly what the Truppentamt had spent the majority of the interwar period developing. The restrictions of the Versailles treaty caused significant concerns regarding how best to equip, train and otherwise manage troops for the Reichswehr and were of utmost importance. There also continued largely theoretical discussions surrounding construction and employment of air forces (in less official capacities, generally speaking) and only slightly more practical discussions for the Reichsmarine.

    The Heer.

    The Reichswehr had been limited to the seven infantry and three cavalry divisions as mentioned previously, and an overall manpower of only one hundred thousand men. Barred from actual construction of tanks, heavy artillery, and even machine guns (leading to the creative designation of the MG15/17 as “squad automatic weapons”), the weapons office worked intensely to develop weapons which would be outside of the purview of the treaty restrictions and which would serve to give the army the weapons it would need to win despite being outmanned. These developments included grenade launchers, mortars, and other weapon systems. Germany had some of the most advanced army kit in the world by 1936, but it only started to percolate through the ranks.


    XCr2XLw.png

    German artillery, 1936. Efforts had been made to develop outstanding field pieces, but the sights to match had lagged behind.

    The failure of the disarmament conference in 1934 gave Germany’s weapons researchers nearly free reign to ignore the restrictions of Versailles. As money poured in, they had initially concentrated upon highly effective cannon barrels for artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns. Lessons learned in how to construct and employ the barrel from one application was applied to the others, but these developments had come before the applicable sights and mounts for them could be developed. Funding was supplied to rectify those errors at the start of 1936.


    e3lAARV.png

    The PzKpfw.IIL, the last model developed by the Heer, though never fully adopted. Other nations would show interest in the model for their own armored columns.

    Another area in which the Reich had attempted to leapfrog much of the rest of the world was in the area of armored vehicles. The Truppenamt had, under von Seeckt, been working feverishly through the armor school in Kazan to develop a light tank which could be rapidly built and that would form the basis of the Panzerwaffe. Two tanks had resulted, the Panzerkampfwagon I and the Panzerkampfwagon II. These were hardly as effective as the Heer desired, and were better suited for training. The Pzkpfw.II, was finally developed into the Pzkpfw.IIF model, boasting a 2cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and coaxial MG34. The design, not expected to live up to what the Armor Inspectorate Colonel Heinz Guderian wanted, showed promise in the armed reconnaissance and infantry suppression roles, and it was fast. Researchers had also sought to provide the tank with the 3.7cm KwK 36 L/45, though this model would not be procured by the Heer. Engineers had, by the end of 1935, developed the chassis for what would become the modern medium tank for German army, but the actual tank had yet to be developed.


    yBYGyYZ.png

    The Heer on maneuvers, 1936. Training was made as realistic as possible for the leaders to have as much stress as possible put upon them without breaking them, getting those leaders to improve as officers.

    Doctrinally speaking, the Heer wanted the lessons that they had learned in the bitter fighting on the Western front--paid for in the blood and sacrifice of so many--to be put to best use moving forward. General von Seeckt had prioritized the learning for his officers to cover infantry warfare (given that was the basis for a significant portion of the interbellum army), but also into the use of specialized formations to gain localized advantage. His creation of a level between the tactical and strategic, generally referred to as the Operational level, encouraged organization and structuring the command to employ those forces.


    6cm8EE8.png

    A sergeant reports to his divisional commander in the 1936 maneuvers. Pushing the commanders as far forward as practicable while retaining control gave those commanders a key grasp over what was actually occurring.

    His successors continued this trend, by bringing a new doctrinal employment of the tactical forces down to the lowest levels. In such a small army, even sergeants and corporals were expected to know how to lead not only their squads and teams, but also a platoon. Lieutenants were expected to handle full companies. By developing the ability to handle larger formations than their counterparts in other nations, the leadership of the Heer would be ready for the drastic expansion that was sure to come.


    x0D18HH.png

    Radio made it far easier to keep all levels of command abreast of the situation, keeping the picture inside of the commander’s head. With radios down to platoon level, the Heer was far ahead of their opponents at the time.

    A funding priority for Germany at the start of 1936 was to improve the equipment available for operations conducted in mountainous terrain and in extreme cold. Hitler had left no question as to the grand objective of his propaganda: bringing about the demise of the Soviet Union. With continued good relations in utilizing the tank and aviation schools in Kazan and Lipetsk, German intelligence officers conveyed to their handlers that the cold weather would be unavoidable in a place as large as Russia. The Heer was also wanting to expand their mountain-trained infantry; equipment to support those warfighters would give them an edge. Final approval for this equipment was issued at the beginning of September.


    Y8b83uI.png

    Gebirgsjager troops cross a mountain stream during their training, 1936. Their equipment for the mountain environment was given high priority to improve.

    One key conclusion that the Reichswehr’s Great War research team had reached pointed out a lack of planning for enemy responses to an attack or defense of several engagements. It chastised several commanders--though not by name--regarding errors of thinking what the Allied forces would do given German tactical operations. The team recommended that all commanders participate as the opposing force in high-level war games and thus learn how to “flip the map” to see how they would best defend from or attack into their positions. By putting themselves in the hostile forces’ shoes, it was expected that the commanders would be better prepared to counterattack when threatened with unexpected attacks or to make their defensive operations more effective to deal with any expected assaults. Doctrinally speaking, the Heer had always operated with a focus on auftragstaktik, or mission-based tactics: thus, the mission dictated the plan and not the other way around. Planning at the headquarters was focused towards generating a short yet clear commander’s intent towards what they wanted the end-state objective to look like, and thus give lower command echelons the freedom to employ their troops how they saw fit.


    HecIjaC.png

    A young Lieutenant Colonel Erwin Rommel leads his staff in map training, 1936. By challenging his subordinates to improve their standards, Rommel would wind up with one of the fastest Panzer divisions of the war.

    These developments, when applied to the late summer war games, exposed a need to develop a more cohesive defensive doctrine to respond to the Heer’s own development in offensive operations. The focus on delaying enemy forces long enough for other formations to join the battle was cited as one of the key improvements that the Heer could make, this necessitated increasing training for the various artillery departments, improving morale of the troops in those units.

    YYM0U9r.png

    General der Artillerie Karl Becker was in charge of the Heereswaffenamt’s Rocketry office, and he ruthlessly pushed his department to produce ever-improved models to benefit the Reich.

    One of the key force multipliers that the Heereswaffenamt had sought were developments in rocketry and related weapons programs. As head of the weapons testing office, General der Artillerie Karl Becker had developed the rockets as his contribution. While rocket weapons were far away from becoming a reality, the investment in the science behind them continued throughout the year, both through the Heer and Luftwaffe funding. Rocketry was not the only purely scientific endeavor funded by the Heereswaffenamt. Significant research had emerged regarding the viability of using radio waves in order to detect ships and aircraft; given the altitude advantage of aircraft, a future intent to miniaturize such devices so that they could be carried aloft was added to the request for proposals.


    yVi5Zss.png

    A test model of the PzKpfw.III. Despite original calls for two separate tanks to handle infantry and other tanks, the Krupp and Rheinmetall groups indicated it would be better to have one overall design.

    The Heer’s armor office, led by Colonel Guderian, published a request for proposals on 17 June for the next generation panzer. After the experience with the Panzer Is and IIs, the Panzerkampfwagon III would be a true tank. Allowing only a maximum weight of 25000 kilograms and requiring a maximum speed in excess of 30 kilometers per hour, the machine would also have to mount a gun sufficient to deal with tanks and light emplacements of infantry. A considered idea to have two separate vehicles--one to engage other tanks and one to deal with infantry--was rejected as unsuitable. The industrialists had told the ministry that it was more efficient for the factories to have one design of suitable capabilities than to have multiple designs which might not serve the tactical realities on the battlefield.

    The Kriegsmarine.

    The newly renamed Kriegsmarine had not been sitting on their hands, either. Desirous to avoid the slow plodding battleships of the Kaiserliche Marine, they had focused their attention upon initially developing the Deutschland-class heavy cruisers to replace the old pre-dreadnaught battleships that the Reichsmarine had been saddled with. Their development process, however, was cut short: a planned class of six was trimmed to three, and further heavy cruiser development was paralyzed when much of the design team was tragically killed in a plane crash while trying to land in fog in Wilhelmshaven; the majority of their design schematics burned with them, costing the Reich most knowledge that went into designing their heavy cruisers. Despite the setback for the heavy cruiser research, Admiral Raeder had his eyes set on far larger designs: the Scharnhorst-class super battlecruisers, much like HMS Hood, the largest vessel in the Royal Navy at the time.


    JDoEBQA.png

    Super battle cruiser,
    HMS Hood. She was the largest major surface combatant in the Royal Navy, ever, and one of the fastest. It was her design that informed German developers for their own battlecruisers, as they needed a vessel that could outrun this ship.

    The GD, under the guidance of Rear Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, had managed to procure significant amounts of British and American naval technology regarding aircraft carriers, their design and construction through agents which were part of the Duquesne spy ring in the United States and the O’Brien spy ring in the United Kingdom. This gave the Kriegsmarine the knowledge, though not necessarily the ability, to build a large competitive aircraft carrier, though these plans were not exercised immediately. The focus was on the surface and subsurface fleets, and naval airpower was as yet in its infancy.


    lvjDHtq.png

    Officer cadets of the Kriegsmarine
    .​

    With already advanced warships starting construction, the Kriegsmarine was focused primarily on developing doctrinal improvements to ensure their dominance of the oceans. The crews for their battlecruisers, heavy and light cruisers needed to be well-drilled in their tasks; their commanders needed to develop a decision making process that meshed with the orders that would be given from above. Dash and élan could only carry them so far.


    EevzyAl.png

    Kriegsmarine destroyer gunnery training. These vessels, despite being largely outdated and unlikely to be replaced in the near-term, would serve through much of the war.

    Midway through the year, however, some funding was also directed towards similar training for the destroyer crews and how to escort the large surface combatants. Recognizing that their own tactics of submarine warfare might be used against them by the large number of Soviet submarines in the Baltic, convoy escort doctrine was also encouraged. These discussions around convoy operations also covered how best to operate naval bases to transport supplies abroad.


    bIm1BiZ.png

    Type IIA, illustrative of its small size. Six of these vessels made up the Kommando u-Boot Ausbuildung, or KuBA, of u-boat training.

    On Friday, 24 April, Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine published a solicitation for designs for a new submarine. The previous classes, Types IIA, IIB, and VIIC, were all excellent for shallow operations or training, but they were developmentally limited to at best being boats to serve in the North Sea. Admiral Doenitz, chief of the U-boat arm, needed a boat that could arrive on station rapidly, maintain their patrol at sea longer, and carry sufficient firepower to not render the first two conditions moot for lack of offensive weapons. These requirements were so strenuous that proposals were not submitted before the end of the year.


    bRkNYR7.png

    One of the first designs of the Type IXD. Admiral Doenitz wanted the bulk of his forces to be made up of this type before war broke out.

    Over the objections of Goering, the Kriegsmarine worked together with several of the aircraft manufacturing firms to develop specialized variants of aircraft to employ as naval reconnaissance and bombers. Raeder’s opinion, influenced by Doenitz and his subordinates, was that air assets working in conjunction with the surface and subsurface fleets would provide better targeting data. The outcome would be fewer wasted days looking for targets and more time actually sinking them.

    The Luftwaffe.

    Only officially established on 26 February, 1935, the Luftwaffe had rapidly expanded their size and operational capabilities. With pilots receiving significant training time in the secret facilities in the Soviet Union around Lipetsk, the only stumbling block to a significant air force was the quality of their air frames and numbers. Through massive expenditures, they had managed to develop and deploy the first examples of the Messerschmitt Bf109D air superiority fighter, which was entering full-rate production on January 1936 to replace the Heinkel He51, and their tactical bomber, the Dornier Do17, to replace the Junkers Ju52.


    v2thqwl.png

    Dornier Do17s about to be handed over to the Luftwaffe. The type would also be considered for planned Marinefliegergeschwaders of the Kriegsmarine, much to Goering's chagrin.

    Having come off of a banner year of high funding to get cutting edge aircraft into service, there was little pressure to develop anything newer. With doctrinal satisfaction regarding the employment of the organized forces they had, the Luftwaffe decided to pursue a goal of strategic bomber aircraft. They issued the Bomber A specification: move 1000kg of disposable stores over 5000km at no less than 500kph at high altitude.


    iSEL9Rn.png

    The Heinkel 177, the answer to the Bomber A specifications. The development process was so convoluted with so much to overcome that it would be almost a decade before enough were built to perform anything beyond high-altitude reconnaissance.

    The main issue with these requirements was essentially an aircraft that could outrun any fighter--including their own escorts--and do it while being superior to anything then in service or likely to be encountered in other air forces for several years. Germany, through the Duquesne spy ring, had received a virtual copy of the Norden bomb sight which would soon be acquired by the US Army Air Force. Despite this capability, Goering initially demanded a capability for dive bombing after being handed some of the first plans. After that meeting, lead engineer Ernst Heinkel was reported to have fumed to his assistant, “The ass has spoken, and all it said was shit!”


    AFbXnxe.png

    A translated copy of a Luftwaffe specification for their integrated defense network.

    Aside from the Strategic Bomber requirement, much of the funding for research and development the first several years was focused on planning for the strategic defense of the Fatherland. With an eye towards the British publications of the time concerning strategic bombing as well as the American Billy Mitchell’s predictions and interbellum tests of aircraft against naval vessels, heavy anti-aircraft defenses were planned around all cities in the Reich which would be centers of production. The creation of the Vaterland Luftabwehr-Netzwerk would see Germany in possession of the most integrated air-defense system in the world.

    *****
     
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    I: 4. Plows into Swords: Reich Military Expansion, 1936
  • Wraith11B

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    The virtual explosion of the Wehrmacht’s size after the official repudiation of the Versailles treaty on 26 March 1935 had seen one of the most drastic peacetime expansions of any military force (barring mobilizations) in history. Feldmarschall von Blomberg had been directed to form 36 infantry divisions, three Panzer divisions, and a mountain division, organized into 12 army corps. This expansion had put a significant crimp in military expenditures for the time being, nor was the organization set in anything approaching stone (See Appendix A).


    BsTVtWk.png

    Heer recruits learning to throw hand grenades, 1936. The expansion of the Heer meant that thousands of previously discharged individuals came back into the ranks, and plenty of room for promotion.

    In the 1936 procurement requests of the Wehrmacht, the Heer’s initial focus was for the supporting arms and defensive formations. These requests totalled up to two mobile Air Defense Artillery (ADA(m)) brigades and ten standard ADA brigades. The Heer also submitted orders for 35 brigades of artillery, enough for each of the leg-infantry divisions to have an artillery brigade. The budget also perceived the need of reserve formations which could free up the regular infantry units from duty guarding the Western Wall of the Siegfreid Line, twenty divisions were estimated as being necessary, and six were stood up in 1936 through 1936.


    XrqfrCW.png

    Training on the 8.8cm Flak 36. The battalion-sized units were deployed at the corps-level, as it was deemed that the Headquarters would not necessarily be far enough forward to gain the benefit of interceptors.

    On the part of the Luftwaffe, the first orders for the new year was for over four hundred examples of the Messerschmitt Bf109D: three hundred to replace the outclassed Heinkel He51 biplanes then in service and another hundred to fill out the authorized strength of Fliegerkorps XXII. More replacements were being ordered as well, Dornier was contracted to replace the balance of the Kampfgeschwaders with their Do17s, over eight hundred of the type.


    mm87Rz4.png

    Messerschmitt Bf 109D on a training flight, 1936. Getting this type into service meant that Germany held one of the most advanced interceptor types in active service in Europe.

    For the Kriegsmarine, the previous year’s purchases of the last group of Type IIB submarines and the last three 1934/A-class destroyers were close to completion. Both groups would be placed in commission on 1 March. Zerstorergeschwader 5 would be assigned to Baltischeflotte, while U-Boot-Geschwader 3 was assigned to I. U-Boot Flottille.


    AqXyy7J.png

    Uboats of I./UbG 3 just after their commissioning. Production shifted over to the Type VIIC at that point.

    qldU2SK.png

    One of the purchased freighters for the Kriegsmarine. These ships would be worked hard during the conflict, transporting Heer formations throughout Europe.

    For the 1936 budget estimates, the Reichstag authorized six Scharnhorst-class battlecruisers and six of the Leipzig-class light cruisers, ordered in two waves of three each. Admiral Raeder, after recognizing that there could me a need for military sealift capabilities, also asked the Reichstag for funding to purchase 24 freighters of an advanced design in late March. The final 12 freighters were procured by mid-October. The light cruisers Lubeck, Magdeburg and Stuttgart commissioned in early December.


    7UaUXlu.png

    The launching of the
    Scharnhorst, one of the first German battlecruisers. These ships would extract a terrible toll on the Royal Navy, justifying their gross expense.

    By the end of 1936, Germany’s Panzerwaffe could boast nearly six brigades equipped with the Panzerkampfwagon III, and two more cavalry brigades were close to being fully equipped with their panzers as well before being reflagged as panzer brigades. Fully 14 of the 35 artillery brigades had been assigned to their respective divisions, and the foundation for the reserve army had been laid with the activation of the 201. Infantrie-Division (Garrison) commissioned in Bonn on 12 October.

    *****
     
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    With the dawn of 1936, the Kingdom finalized its research and development budgets for the year. Italy initially invested heavily in Industrial research--as her economy remained backwards for a European power at the time--as well as for a new class of destroyers and weapons for the Infantry.


    YeFIibq.png


    Italian road construction in Eritrea. With the conclusion of the Second Italio-Abyssinian War,
    A massive infrastructure plan was launched to bring Libya and Eritrea to standards
    commensurate with bases needed for long-term plans.

    Italy’s development of small arms arose out of the problems observed with their infantry equipment in the Abyssinian conflict. The M1891, firing a 6.5mm bullet, was not performing to expectations anymore. Looking towards future conflicts, the Regio Esercito ordered a new caliber bullet and shortening the length of the rifle. This new rifle was first displayed on 19 May, called the M91/36. Combined with other developments in infantry support weapons, light artillery and some development of integrated anti-armor teams, the infantry of the Italian army was on its way to being far more ready to counter other nations.




    8o4THna.png

    An Italian mortar team trains in Libya, 1936. Though some improvements were copied
    from the Germans, the implementation was not always equal in practice.

    In the Regia Marina, a new destroyer design was unveiled on 26 May. The disappointment of the Navigatori-class with its poor sea-keeping and light armament meant that the Italians were rapidly interested in development of a destroyer which would serve better in the confined waters of the Mediterranean. These developments were poured into the Maestrale-class. A clean-sheet design, these included better main armaments, longer range and better protection. The improvements in the anti-aircraft armament were retrofitted into older vessels as needed.


    6UxgFvD.png

    Italian
    Navigatori-class destroyer RN Nicolo Zeno, though hideously out of date, continued
    in front-line service with the Regia Marina throughout the war. Two subsequent subclasses,
    the
    Freccia- and Folgore-class, of four and ten vessels, respectively, were broadly refined
    Navigatori.

    For Italy, her military planners were far and away more concerned with the Regia Marina. The first order was for the last six destroyers of the Folgore-class; while not ideal, common thinking was that it would be better to have the destroyers than risk the loss of knowledge regarding construction of small fleet units. The Chief of the Navy also requested the first two Littorio-class battleships. Given that Italy’s four battleships were of Great War dreadnaught design, modernizing the fleet was strategically important given her location in the Mediterranean. The Regia Esercito and Regia Aeronautica were ignored--other than mere modernization efforts outlined above--because of a call for a massive infrastructure projects in Eritrea, Rhodes and the Dodecanese. Expansions of the naval bases and infrastructure was top priority, as the Italians sought to improve the base of operations for future endeavors in the Levant and East Africa.


    *****
    Author's Note: Well, this is the penultimate portion of Chapter One! It's been exciting and I'll have the two appendices for the German and Italian OOBs soon... but first (in a few days), I'm going to have a post of frictions that exist between the two forces that basically carried out the Night of the Long Knives, the Army and the Abwehr!
     
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    Through much of the popular understanding of the period encompassing the 1930s and 40s, one would be forgiven for the assumption that there existed a collegial working relationship between the Wehrmacht and the Abwehr for the benefit of the Reich. In reality, the various intelligence and armed forces were in direct conflict with one another for the limited resources.


    186ld7P.png

    Newspaper clipping of the day after the Night of the Long Knives.
    A triumph of the Abwehr and the Wehrmacht over the rise of the NSDAP.

    As related previously, during the Night of the Long Knives, the Abwehr--under the direction of Kapitan zur See Conrad Patzig--played their relationship and that of Wilhelm Canaris towards Hitler to tune of eliminating the largest and most concerning fish in the NSDAP pond: Rohm, Himmer and Heydrich. The Heer had gone along with the Abwehr’s ploy, and both had gained; in the Heer’s case, they subsumed the SA and SS while the Abwehr and Geheimdienst absorbed the SD. For awhile, this contented both groups, as they took the required time to digest their acquisitions into strengths for them.


    W4DCSRo.png

    A dinner party just before Heydrich’s liquidation, 1934. Wilhelm Canaris is at his left.

    The release of Kapitan Patzig back to the Kriegsmarine to command the Graf Spee led to the appointment of Wilhelm Frick from his former position of Interior minister, now held by Joseph Goebbels. Frick upset the delicate power sharing balance that Patzig had constructed, seeking an all-pervasive portfolio. Here, Goering’s maintenance as head of the Gestapo irked Frick no end. The thought of going against someone as senior in the NSDAP as Goering, however, was tantamount to a suicide delivered by two bullets. In his new position, however, Frick had access to the tradecraft of the overseas espionage department and it’s “hands-on” Operations section. Luck would provide the rest of the leverage that Frick would require.

    gx9NJVR.png

    The cloak-and-dagger fights to come between Wilhelm Frick and Hermann Goering are not to be seen in this picture of them with the Fuhrer.

    What specifically that leverage was has been lost to history; some inferences could be made. As time close to Hitler wore on, Goering’s gluttonous and vain tendencies caused ever more disgust from the Fuhrer; these actions usually to the detriment of his position at the RLM. Frick must have leveraged at least some of it creatively to require the Fuhrer strip the Gestapo from Goering and give it to the Intelligence minister. Frick’s cold demeanor made him the logical choice, which combined into one agency both overseas and domestic espionage as well as counterintelligence and some law enforcement actions. The loss of Hitler’s support stung Goering, making him demand ever more from the Luftwaffe and the industry in order to regain that influence. On Hitler’s side, the thought of losing more from persons with whom he had acquired control of the nation likely led to the mental strain and paranoia for which he was famous.


    9IZtbk6.png

    Hitler, Josef Grohe and Frick discussing something, 1936.

    Frick continued his conflicts within the Wehrmacht itself. Intelligence gathering--long a requirement for those in the armed forces--was seen as a way to gain influence within those branches, and thus (likely) more influence overall. Frick actively chose to not actively pursue the Luftwaffe for those operations terribly much; though weakened in influence, Goering still could call on resources to shut down Frick. The influence games in the Heer was complicated due to the sheer size of the force, and it was not getting smaller. The Kriegsmarine was easier for two different reasons: Patzig and Canaris both had come from the Navy and thus a more collegial arrangement could be made. Fewer commands meant fewer officers involved, but it also meant that those officers were likely to be either out of touch with their superiors in Berlin or with their commands at sea.


    ZFG4VFN.png

    Hitler inspecting the Kriegsmarine sometime in 1936. Frick’s ability to recruit members of the Kriegsmarine to serve his designs was never stellar, as they would be out of contact for too long or not out with the commands.

    Aside from its size, the Heer was also complicated because of the more recent attempts of the SA and SS to subsume their independence to outside forces. While it didn’t quite rise to the level of Hitler’s paranoia, it was a deep-seated suspicion of any outsider. They wanted intelligence to develop plans, but they also sought desperately to control the access to those levers of power. The stage was set for the conflict to retain that access to the ultimate arbiter in the Reich at the time: Hitler.

    *****
    Author's Note: Whoa, two updates in a day! Slow down! Whew! I'll be spending much of the rest of my free time this week (that I'm not trying to get a permanent job or doing other stuff) inputing data from my most recent game session. Just an idea of what I'm going through: with three computers, I basically am just screen shot'ing everything, and then writing down what it means later. In five (ish?) hours of gameplay, I progressed about a week of time. I didn't even get to the end of May. Hopefully it continues to make sense!

    With this update, our time in 1936 comes to a close, aside from the Appendices. I'll update within the week for those, and feel free to discuss and debate what's going on behind the scenes! It might make me write more... Because as of right now, I have written a total of 83 pages, or 33578 words, only 44 of which have been posted! Years have been getting larger as I go through and reevaluate how I describe certain actions, so this is seriously going to be an intense AAR!
     
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    Appendix A: The Links that Bind: German Order of Battle, 1936
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    ugJmCOZ.png

    Appendix A:
    The Links that Bind:
    German Command System and Order of Battle



    ZMilWdx.jpg

    Overview of the Wehrmacht, January 1936

    The German Heer had obviously undergone a massive expansion through the first few years of rearmament. Originally built into 36 infantry divisions, 3 armored (or Panzer-) divisions, a cavalry division and heavy mountain brigade organized into twelve army corps, a late change in response to a junior officer’s suggestion regarding the forces organization swept away the old system. This Heer was that of a new forward-thinking one: an effort made to fight the next war, rather than the last. The Wehrkreis system, developed in order to relieve division commanders of as much administrative duties as possible, was modified for a new recruitment system. With the Heer moving to the “Ready Forward” system, the divisions would have new kazernes closer to the areas they were actually expected to operate within. At least for the immediate future, the infantry bulwarks of the Heer would be intimately familiar with the land in their area of responsibility. This had the follow-on effect that it swept away yet another remnant of the old German principalities--something that the NSDAP wanted to accomplish as much as possible.


    fFZv5Fv.jpg

    Location of the divisional Kazernes, contingent upon the old Wehrkreis system in late 1935. These locations shifted as the troops moved to their forward positions.


    yYV4hMK.jpg

    Actual locations of the Heer, January 1936.

    Under this new scheme was the reorganization of the Wehrmacht’s command and ministerial structure. The Wehrmacht held much of the old research and development, manpower, and planning offices as before, but had a new watchword: “unified.” All three branch departments were now subservient to the overall Defense minister, Fritz Bayerlein. The staff consisted of the three chiefs of the services: Oberkommando des Heeres, under Field Marshal von Blomberg; Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, under Admiral Erich Raeder; and Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, under command of Lieutenant General Walther Wever, until his death in mid-1936.


    iBNrQg8.jpg

    Oberkommando Wehrmacht’s chain over the subordinate branches. It was not always collegial, however, leading to problems.

    The OKH oversaw two unified combatant commands: Oberkommando West (OKW) and Oberkommando Ost (OKO). Field Marshal Fleck commanded OKW, and the command oversaw planning and operations for the following fronts: Denmark, the North Sea and attendant coastline, the Low Countries, France and Switzerland. France was of course the priority; though Germany held several border disagreements with her other neighbors, only France held the military attention of much of the forces of the Heer. A rather simple chain of command extended through Heeresgruppe B and 2. Armee, led by Field Marshal Wilhelm Ulex and General von Kaupitsch respectively. As a way of simplifying reports and immediate recognition of locations, divisions had been grouped numerically, such that II. Armeekorps held the 2., 12., 22., and 32. Infantrie-Divisions, while IV. Armeekorps held the 4., 14., 24., and 34. Infantrie-Divisions and so on.


    zKduIwo.png

    Broad view of the Heer’s order of battle.

    OKO’s commander was Field Marshal Bohm-Ermolli, and his area of responsibility included the fronts for Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria. While not sharing a direct land border with it, OKO’s primary concern was of course the Soviet Union. Much like that of OKW, OKO’s command passed through Heeresgruppe A, commanded by von Epp, down to 1. and 3. Armee, commanded by General Gerd von Rundstedt and General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, respectively. 1. Armee was based in East Prussia around Konigsberg, and oversaw I., III., and V. Armeekorps. 3. Armee was based in Silesia, and for the time being held VII. and IX. Armeekorps. Divisions were apportioned between the corps in a similar manner to that of 2. Armee. While all of the divisions under 2. Armee were holding positions along the border with France, the entirety of Heeresgruppe A was held away from the prying eyes of any border.

    Under OKH directly was an army group-level command: the old Truppenamt. Under the command of Field Marshal von Pogrell, this command held those forces not yet deployed in sufficient strength to justify attachment to the unified combatant commands, or those requiring centralized training. These forces were organized under 4. Armee, commanded by General von Fritsch, specifically the I. and II. Panzerkorps. Also in the command was the 1. Gebirgsjager-Division. I. Panzerkorps was led ably by Lieutenant General Paul Hausser--who had largely avoided the axe swung by the Night of the Long Knives by encouraging the adaptation of the “grunts” of the SS as elite motorized infantry formations, and his previous Heer service--and II. Panzerkorps’ commander was Lieutenant General Johannes Blaskowitz. Major General Ernst-August Kostring commanded the small Gebirgsjager-Division.


    fHiuqHR.png

    The Command organization of Oberkommando der Luftwaffe. This type organization was only administrative, and served strictly to ensure proper training, promotion and tactical development.

    The Unified Combatant Commands were designed to hold all command over all forces--from the army, navy or air force--assigned to their fronts, so as to better coordinate their operations. This is not to say that there was not conflicts and failures to be sure; but the effort was made to ensure that all operations were appropriately supported. Oberkommando Luftwaffe (OKLW) and Oberkommando Kriegsmarine were not combatant commands, but handled administrative and logistical arrangements for their forces. Under OKLW were the six Fliegerkorps, each of two geschwaders: four of tactical bombers and two for interceptors. With only three geschwaders of interceptors, it would take until about halfway through the year before the fourth geschwader would be activated to round out that particular fliegerkorps. The plan was that just before any particular war or operation, a command staff attachment to the Heeresgruppe in charge of the particular operation would form a Luftflotte to oversee all aviation support requests.


    jzRuNhU.png

    Organizational chart for Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine. Similarly to OKLW, there were administrative divisions over the surface and subsurface warfare branches.

    The Oberkommando Kriegsmarine (OKKM) devolved its authority into several squadrons. Two held the major surface combatants, while there was also two for u-boats. The premier squadron, pompously named Nordseeflotte and under the command of Vice Admiral Werner Tillessen, consisted of the three ships of the Deutschland-class heavy cruisers, the three K-class and two L-class light cruisers that had been completed to date. A secondary “training” squadron, named Baltischeflotte was centered on the two elderly Deutschland-class pre-dreadnought battleships, Schliesen and Schleswig-Holstein, and this group was commanded by Rear Admiral Hermann Boehm. These vessels were supported by the light cruiser Emden, and Zerstroergeschwaders 4 and 5. The other Zestroergeschwaders (1 through 3) were in reserve as convoy escorts. The six Type IIAs formed the Kommando u-Boot Ausbildung (KuBA), or U-boat Training Command, and the eighteen Type IIBs were assigned to I. U-boot Flotille, under Kommodore von Nordeck, in two (later three) geschwaders.

    *****

    Author's Note: I have anglicized (for my own sanity, and for game-relative levels) the ranks of the Wehrmacht, as well as altered some abbreviations and names for the various commands. I hope that it doesn't bother people too terribly much--I also found out that it is really hard to figure out which generals existed (or whether their names are spelled correctly) or if they had retired/died/never actually served in the OTL. So, there are likely going to be errors in who "should" have those commands, as well as whether they "should" have those ranks. I'm going to endeavor to prevent this from affecting my gameplay/story too much (as I basically set them and forget them), and so regardless of who the commander is, I might be way off. Also, translations might be... well... wonky.

    Addendum: I noticed that I hadn't shrunk the pictures enough, so I reedited them, though they don't seem to be exactly "right". Please Stand By... Okay, they should be a bit more reasonable! Enjoy!
     
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    ugJmCOZ.png

    Appendix B:
    Mussolini’s Legions:
    Italian Command System



    zVFcERx.jpg

    Overview of the Italian Military, 1936. One item of note is the "LAR" or Light Armored Reconnaissance
    vehicles, more commonly referred to as an "Armored Car" in the period.

    With the secretive high-level contacts between Italy and Germany, Italian dictator il Duce Benito Mussolini sought out their expertise to improve his forces. Mussolini’s objectives for Italy--to regain control over much of the former lands of the Roman Empire--meant his army was not advanced enough to take on other Continental powers. This irked him no end, and the duration of the war in Abyssinia was proof positive that something needed to be done. Mostly, the German influence was that of a realignment of the higher command echelons, and of division patterns.

    The principle difference between Italian and German high commands was the lack of the concept of a unified strategic command structure. Whereas it has been noted in the previous chapter that the Wehrmacht pursued unified combatant commands early and all forces worked together (more or less) to meet the demands of the Reich, it was almost the exact opposite in Italy. The Regio Esercito and the Regia Marina almost never met to discuss how best to work with one another regarding their operations, unless specifically required of the other. Joint operations were rare, and it showed. It took the Italians until their portion of the Russian adventure to certify such an idea and to implement it appropriately (and even then on occasion it failed spectacularly).


    1Xmh5Wr.png

    Regio Esercito, January 1936.

    The Regio Esercito was reorganized from an almost random collection of various regular infantry and CCNN divisions and “legions” into that of a more systematic (and decisively more German) arrangement. The most hardened and dedicated CCNN brigades were reorganized and sent to train with the Alpini brigades to form five Alpini divisions for the Mountain corps serving on the French border. Most of the other forces remaining in Italy would remain in their current barracks, unlike the Heer with it’s change to a forward-focused deployment.

    East Africa Command was the supreme headquarters for the Italians in the region. Focused on the prosecution of the war against Abyssinia, it was organized into Army Group-Abyssinia which oversaw Task Forces (modelled on a German idea of a kampfgruppe, but representing an Army command) Eritrea and Somalia. Under these headquarters were various corps level commands.


    9eovFHU.png

    Regia Marina, January 1936.

    The Regia Marina organized the fleet into several regional surface action groups, much like the Germans. SAG Mediterranean was built around the four elderly battleships of the Caio Dulio- and Conte di Cavour-classes and the elderly armored cruiser San Giorgio. Three ancient light cruisers, Libia, Taranto (ex-SMS Strassburg) and Bari (ex-SMS Pillau) were used as screens along with Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 18 and 19, each composes of a pair of Soldati-class destroyers. Despite this being the “heavy” surface action group until the commissioning of the Littorio-class battleships, the escorts and other vessels were so close to the end of their service lives that there was little effort to improve these ships.

    The two heavy cruisers of the Trento-class formed the core of SAG Adriatic. These vessels were the first such heavy cruisers laid down for the Regia Marina, and lessons learned in their construction would serve for the follow-on Zara-class. Escorting these vessels were the four ships of the Giussano-subclass of the Condottieri-class: Alberto da Giussano, Alberico da Barbiano, Bartolomeo Colleoni, and Giovanni delle Bande Nere. The four Zara-class and improved Trento-class heavy cruiser Bolzano made up what was considered the “premier” surface action group, SAG Libya. These were escorted by the four ships of the Montecuccoli- and Duca d’Aosta-subclass and DESRON 15. The two ships of the Cadorna-subclass each were the force flagships for dedicated anti-submarine squadrons in Regia Marina service. Luigi Cadorna and Armando Diaz led their respective task forces, as there was dread in the Italian navy regarding the sheer number of French and British submarines: intelligence placed some fourteen submarine squadrons in the Mediterranean.

    Italian submarines were organized into six total squadrons (SUBRONs), each of two groups, by class. Because of funding priorities, no further provision was made for replacement vessels: the service wanted hulls that the enemy could see and fear, not hulls that were hidden. Italy’s transports were similarly organized into three squadrons of two groups each.


    SVEAhJq.png

    Regia Aeronautica, January 1936.

    The Regia Aeronautica was reorganized similarly to the Luftwaffe: two similar-type groups formed into a wing. These commands generally resided in Italy, but one wing had been deployed to support the invasion of Abyssinia. This may have reduced the availability and flexibility of the aircraft, given how much smaller the Regia Aeronautica was in comparison to the Luftwaffe. The size of Italian efforts was expected to be against those small colonial garrisons or Mediterranean powers, rather than other Great Powers.

    *****
    Author's note: And with this update, dear friends, it is now time to move on... to 1937! I appreciate all of you continuing to support this endeavor and hope that I can continue to keep it interesting!
     
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    II: 1. Stocking the Powder Keg of Europe: Foreign and Domestic Politics
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    PD105Oi.png

    Soviet show trials, 1936. Stalin, in a bid to solidify his control over the State,
    purged several hundreds of individuals largely on trumped-up charges.
    This eviscerated the military and political offices upon which control of the nation was assured.


    F0ZYcyP.png

    British political cartoon about how the conduct of the trials was perceived abroad,
    especially for a nation with an independent judiciary and impartial trials.

    On 1 January, 1937, the official radio news agency of the Soviet Union, TASS, led with a significant story: senior members of the Communist party, as well as of the Red Army, were implicated in a massive conspiracy of counter-revolution. Significant numbers of the senior generals, to include some of the old guard of the Bolshevik revolution. Between show trials based largely on fabricated evidence and the result of heavy interrogation, Stalin made significant effort to secure his power base. Some information was obtained from the Abwehr, courteously provided by Wilhelm Frick. While some celebration of the communist threat eating its’ own children could be heard in Berlin, one observer cautioned that “flowers, in a bed that is weeded, often grow stronger.”


    Ys7pldf.png

    Aviation assets sent to Spain by the Italian government. Italy’s support for the war was
    matched--and in some ways, exceeded--by German support.

    Italy experienced a national scandal when communist propaganda railing against Italian intervention in the Spanish Civil War began to be noticed on a wider scale. By 17 March, Mussolini demanded that the state clamp down on it and increased spending in order to track down those responsible. No final determination of efficacy had been made, but several unregulated printing presses were found and destroyed.


    uudZw3g.png

    A march in support of Jack Curtin during the 1937 by-elections.
    Implications of vote rigging was not widespread, but percolated
    into the consciousness of Britons, leading to calls for securing their ballot boxes.

    In the United Kingdom, parliamentary by-elections held on 21 March were hotly contested in several constituencies. Seen largely as a referendum on the Liberal handling of the situations on the Continent and internal political situations, inconsistencies were observed on the voter rolls. While no official rigging was ever found to be substantiated, of course, the Liberal party was implicated in adjusting some of the voter rolls. Norway’s parliamentary by-elections also resulted in a scandal with regards to the polls which came to light on 29 April. The source of these concerns, however, were the result of Geheimdienst agents planting several fake articles in various newspapers in Oslo with the goal of bringing a Berlin-friendly government to power there.




    Universal Newsreel footage of the Hindenburg disaster.
    The disaster spelled the end of the Zeppelin program.

    National tragedy struck Germany on 6 May when the airship Hindenburg burst into flame over the US Naval Air Station Lakehurst in the state of New Jersey. Fingers were pointed back and forth over the cause, but certainly the use of flammable hydrogen was the reason that it could have happened at all. Germany laid some blame on the United States for prohibiting the sale of helium abroad; for domestic consumption, fingers were pointed at possible French involvement though care was taken to not inflame the public’s opinion too much.




    Pathe footage of Amelia Earhart and her disappearance in the Pacific.
    Conspiracy theories abounded, implicating the Japanese, Roosevelt,
    and a litany of others, but no evidence has ever emerged of them.

    The United States of America suffered their own national tragedy when the arguably most famous aviatrix, Amelia Earhart disappeared together with her navigator, Fred Noonan while flying their Lockheed Model 10-E Electra near Howland Island. Earhart had been the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, for which she received the Distinguished Flying Cross (and becoming the first woman to receive the award) from the Vice President, Charles Curtis. During her circumnavigation attempt, Earhart was en route from Lae, radio communication was lost and never regained beyond unintelligible or confirmed sources. Earhart would be declared deceased in absentia a few days later.


    sSjAOrM.png

    Japanese ambassador making a speech to the assembly of the Anti-COMINTERN Pact. The reaction to their
    announcement that they would not join the Pact was clear on Hitler and Mussolini's faces. Unfortunately for
    Germany and Italy, Japan demurred from signing for another four years.

    Throughout late 1936 and early 1937, high-level contacts and negotiations between Italy and Germany began to bear fruit. Joachim von Ribbentrop, negotiating on behalf of Konstantin von Neurath, and Galeazzo Ciano had combined to form an Anti-COMINTERN Pact. Japan was included in the negotiations, but the euro-centric focus led the Japanese negotiator to encourage the Empire of Japan to decline joining the pact. The Pact of Steel was signed 4 June, with immediate effect. The agreement shocked the world: France suffered from a major workers strike little more than a week later when the population was revolted that their government could not maintain the diplomatic isolation of Germany. The government’s reaction was muted, equally surprised at the diplomatic failure to prevent the revanchist Germany from becoming a continental power once more.


    VfWkvI4.png

    J. H. Thomas, Labour MP. His leak to the press was immediately punished and started the path to
    the demise of Stanley Baldwin begun after the Constitutional Crisis the previous year.

    Political unrest because of the signing of the Pact of Steel exacerbated Great Britain’s significant internal issues. A leak of the tax alterations to the budget by James Henry Thomas, a Labour MP who was wooed by speculators from the London Stock Exchange led to his immediate dismissal on 25 July; the unrest continued until the resignation of Stanley Baldwin for supposed “health reasons” on 27 September. Later investigation found that the root cause originated with Conservative distrust in his leadership in favor of Neville Chamberlain.


    eeyuIYB.png

    Protest in favor of peace, Copenhagen, 1937. Denmark’s populace sought to encourage their leaders to come to
    some mutual understanding with their neighbor to the south over Schleswig-Holstein, but the price was rapidly
    increasing influence of the DNSAP in politics.



    jxI483u.png

    Less peaceful were the demonstrations in Czechoslovakia in the same month. Berlin would point
    to this conflict for their rationale for bringing the Sudetenland into the Reich.

    September was not only politically disruptive in the United Kingdom. On 11 September, Copenhagen saw the most intense peace demonstration in years. The source of this discontent was the success of the Geheimdienst in shaping public opinion to align with that of Germany. Germany’s intent--to bring Denmark into the German sphere, at the expense of the return of Schleswig-Holstein--focused the efforts expended upon the nation. The peace demonstration contrasted with the violent demonstrations in Czechoslovakia on 25 September. Angry with German influence in the Sudetenland, the Czechoslovaks demanded that their government do something about the Germans in their territory who were calling for the absorption of their territory by Germany.


    JKbQajh.png

    Camice Nere troops greet Mussolini with their bayonets held high. The wholesale enrollment of the CCNN into
    the Regio Esercito contrasted with how the Heer looked to involve the remnants of the SA and SS.

    A side effect of the declaration of the signing of the Pact of Steel was open and closer cooperation between the Italian military and the Wehrmacht. Mussolini announced on 4 October a massive modernization effort of the Italian Regio Esercito’s Camicie Nere (CCNN) units much like the efforts of the Heer to absorb and professionalize the Sturmabteilung and the Schutzstaffel into the ranks. The CCNN, much like the SA and SS, were initially the paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party, so called because of their uniforms modeled on those of the Arditi, elite Italian troops of the Great War.


    q4YyQai.jpg

    Newspaper clipping announcing the commissioning of the Scharnhorst, the first
    three of which were commissioned in 1937.

    Mid-December gave the British their first looks at the three Scharnhorst-class battlecruisers: Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Von Der Tann. These vessels, acquired under the auspices of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, troubled the Admiralty, but at this point their hands were tied. Having agreed to a 35:100 tonnage ratio, the text of the AGNA mentioned only “capital ships” but calculated a total of 660,000 tons: the combined weight of all aircraft carriers, battleships and battlecruisers alloted to the Royal Navy by the Washington Naval Conference. This would provide Germany some 231,000 tons; enough for nearly 7 vessels of roughly 35,000 tons displacement. Germany of course fudged their reported numbers, building the Scharnhorst-class to a 32,000-ton standard load, but which at full-load was over 38,000 tons.


    C4YR48j.png

    Chamberlain (left) and Daladier, 1937. The continued perceived support for the Germans at expense
    of the Versailles treaty soured relations between the two members of the Entente.

    The realization in France that the British had been hoodwinked into accepting a German navy that exceeded German neighbors France and Italy--and nearly as much as that of the Japanese--infuriated the public. The impression that France had been betrayed by the nation with whom so much blood had been spilt in her defense continued, especially as Britain continued to side with Germany’s desire to return to Great Power status. This sentiment was fanned by the right-wing Action Francaise, which every day coalesced into a realistic option for France--helped along by the Geheimdienst.


    qJWoXeB.png

    An early prototype of the Pzkpfw II.L-IT, in 1937. The model would eventually be up-gunned
    with a 37mm cannon. Another version, the PzKpfw.II.L-ITH, would be
    armed with a 5 cm KwK 38.

    Furthering their desire to gain force multipliers, the Regio Esercito purchased the license for German Panzerkampfwagon II.L-ITs (II Luchs-Italienisch) plus support vehicles to equip four German-pattern light armored brigades. The Regio Esercito had decided on the light armor for North African service as it was unlikely to meet significant enemy armor in the theater and would be easier to support logistically than medium or heavy armor. Lancing out from bases in Libya, Italian forces could conduct a rapid approach march to the significantly important Alexandria (with its’ major port) and the Suez Canal, through which a significant portion of British trade and convoys flowed between the Home Islands and India.


    6SqgiYw.png

    Hitler and Mussolini during one of their many meetings in 1937. Their respective military staffs
    worked extensively on developing a plan to benefit both nations, despite the distrust between them.

    The capture of the Suez Canal would serve two goals: first, it would force Great Britain and France to reroute their convoys around the Cape of Good Hope, significantly increasing the length of time required to move resources from the Far East to Europe and vice versa. Secondly, it would provide Italy a short naval route to East Africa, which would be on it’s own at the outbreak of hostilities. Italian and German war planners preferred this approach instead of attempting to capture Gibraltar because of the proximity to Italian bases in the Levant and because the plan did not depend on the acceptance of Spain into the Pact, by no means guaranteed.

    *****
     
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    II: 2. For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Spanish Civil War, 1937
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    For Whom the Bell Tolls:
    The Spanish Civil War


    RURum5C.png

    Troops in the attack near Madrid, 1937.

    The previous year had ended with the Nationalists pursuing a “Southern” strategy after being pushed off and away from the Portuguese frontier. By the middle of January, the Nationalists had established a near ring around Madrid, but from the north. The Republican forces had exhausted their troops in the northern offensive, and roughly half of the territory liberated had been reclaimed by the Nationalists over the course of the next few weeks; indeed, the withdrawal of troops to ease the pressure exerted upon Madrid ensured that the forces remaining behind were rapidly overwhelmed.


    giphy.gif

    January and February, 1937.

    Those gains, however, came at a cost. With the maneuver of forces, organization of those forces decreased, easing the job of the Nationalists who had rested their forces and employed them in a more militarily sound fashion. Seeing that the Republican forces had placed a premium on maintaining their grasp of Madrid, the German commanders on the scene recommended that they avoid Madrid altogether, and instead push to secure their lines of communication between northern and southern regions. While senior Italian officers in country supported the Spanish for their push, their influence had dropped precipitously after a failed assault cost significant amounts of men and materiel. At the same time, with freshly raised troops, units were raised to push through to remove one of the other major supporting regions of the Republicans: Barcelona.

    giphy.gif

    March, 1937.

    These offensives followed the pattern of the previous year: dos pasos adelante, tres pasos atras. A weakening of the areas around Cadiz and Seville was exploited by a local Republican commander, began a drive against Cadiz. Supported by Soviet tanks, which might have been more appreciated in the north, they almost reached the coast, at the cost of having Barcelona cut off from the rest of Spain.


    giphy.gif

    April, 1937.

    giphy.gif

    May, 1937.
    For much of the summer months, the fighting swirled ever closer around Madrid. The city itself would change hands three more times before being secured for the last time by the Nationalists in August. The summer also witnessed the final collapse of the Catalan enclave, and German officers, having encouraged the summer offensive, managed to encircle several units of the Republicans to the west of Madrid. A maritime push to bring more materiel was subverted by the Republican heavy cruiser Baleares when she fell in amongst several transport groups and sank them.


    giphy.gif

    June, 1937.

    giphy.gif

    July, 1937.

    giphy.gif

    August, 1937.

    With the Nationalists maintaining a strong front line--more or less--their attentions focused on clearing their rear areas and giving their exhausted troops a break. With a unified front, the front line need for troops was reduced, permitting such operations to be successful without the loss of combat power and the attendant losses in territory. Indeed, the battlefield success of the Nationalists initiated significant infighting amongst the various factions which composed the Republican forces, exacerbated by the continued lack of support from other Western democracies. This infighting reduced morale to a dangerous point.


    giphy.gif

    September and October, 1937.

    By the beginning of October, the reverses for the Republicans led directly to several instances of their troops defecting to the Nationalists. So much of the fighting had resulted in horrendous casualties that the soldiers decided to leave a side which seemed to not care about their lives. Those soldiers in the international brigades left Spain, disillusioned with the political infighting and the trend of the Republican government towards its own form of authoritarianism and retribution against purported allies. Despite scoring a naval victory with the sinking of the Libertad (flying Nationalist colors) by her classmate Almirante Cervera (in Republican garb), the trend was too much to overcome.


    dnpPiZO.png

    A German-crewed 2cm cannon setting up for one of the final
    assaults on Republican forces near Valencia.

    With the war starting to go for the Nationalists, more and more the rest of the world resigned themselves to the outcome. As more begrudging tolerance emerged for the Franco regime, trade increased, especially from Germany and Italy. By 25 November, the economy of Nationalist Spain was in the throes of a bull market, looking forward to the day when they would be able to rebuild the nation.


    giphy.gif

    November and December, 1937.

    The finalization of the Spanish Civil war would be announced by Generalissimo Franco himself over Spanish airwaves on 10 December. The victorious Nationalists held a massive victory day parade a week later in Madrid, as well as smaller ones in other major cities and towns throughout the country. The Archbishop of Madrid, Leopoldo Eijo y Garay, called for a day of thanksgiving and a day of mourning: one for the providential victory of the Church and the other for the sacrifice of their Army. With the war won, victorious German Legion Condor and the Italian Corpo Truppe Volontarie were feted with their own parades and triumphs in Berlin and Rome when they returned.

    KlvGSjw.png

    Berlin upon the return of the Condor Legion, late December 1937.
    Miraculously, the weather was decidedly pleasant for the victory parade.


    *****
    Author's Note: Thus concludes the Spanish Civil War! A reminder, the Q1 ACA's are open for voting here. Vote for your favorite AARs, and meet other AARland readAARs and writAARs! See about other AARs that you might otherwise be missing out on!

    I might add that I am two updates away from equaling my first effort in AARland, and haven't even gotten through 1937 yet... but my other one had gone up to 1940 by this time! Whew!
     
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    II: 3. Advances for the Reich: German R&D: The Heer
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    PrPTTPA.jpg

    Messerschmitt Bf109E during a test flight in 1937. This model
    would go onto be the premier air superiority fighter for the Reich.

    Significant funding resources were devoted to Germany’s technical and theoretical knowledge bases to improve the capabilities of the Reich for the future.

    The Heer.

    6baAXjS.png

    Bayonet training for the Heer, 1937. Training would continue
    at a rapid pace throughout the late 1930s to be ready for the
    future war.

    In early January, Oberkommando des Heeres published their latest doctrinal field manual covering how commanders should phrase their own intent towards their mission from higher headquarters, now called the commander’s intent. This was a statement of how the particular headquarters envisioned their fight, which would in turn guide how those subordinate commands approached their own portion of the mission. The annual spring and summer war games would provide further refinement of this doctrine as it was applied throughout the Heer and was updated through the end of the year. Further tactical command doctrine would be refined and issued by July.


    TxuL9Dy.png

    Hitler participating in a command post exercise, 1937. The Heer
    would learn that his involvement would prove counterproductive at times.
    Indeed, his aversion to casualties would cause some, “creative,” reporting.

    The year of doctrinal improvements did not focus solely on orders issued by commanders. The employment of artillery, to include anti-tank and anti-aircraft varieties, in the defense needed to be refined as heavier artillery joined the ranks of the Heer. It was a truism to say that combat was a series of cycles, with forces going from offensive to defensive operations and back again; a unit attacking into some area would be expected to be prepared to defend it during a reorganization or consolidation phase. The training of calling for fires (from infantry and armor units) and responding to those calls for fires (for the artillery) absorbed a portion of the expenditures for training and research throughout 1937. Towards the end of the year, this progressed into defensive planning as it had been demonstrably shown during the previous war (and during the on-going conflict in Spain) that defending as stoutly as possible caused significant casualties as warfare became ever-more mobile. Flexibility in combat was the key, and fighting withdrawals to exhaust the enemy was seen as more beneficial to preserve combat power.


    AQ3b6kb.png

    Panzers on exercise, 1937. The Panzerkorps would continue
    to use the PzKpfw.Is and IIs for exercises to keep their front line units
    fresh for any outbreaks of fighting.

    The final focus area for doctrinal work focused on developing some sort of guidance for the employment of mechanized forces. As the Heer’s Panzerkorps grew, applying them--both generally and at the decisive point of action--was problematic at best. The early organization of two full brigades of panzers and only one brigade of motorized infantry combined with a brigade of pioneers seemed like a good idea at the time. Lessons learned in the war games, however, time and again showed that having so many tanks with so little integrated infantry support was unwise. In late 1935 to early 1936, this had resulted in the reorganization of the Panzer-divisions to one brigade each of tanks, motorized infantry and pioneers, with a future expansion of self-propelled artillery when they became available. Despite the apparent dissolution of combat power, the ability of the Command, Control and Communications (C3) elements to exert their power at the decisive point was far better than before, which actually increased their efficiency. The doctrinal improvements would not be codified in the Field Manuals until after the end of the year.


    QHUYIfw.png

    The
    Leichter Panzerspahwagen was a four wheeled light armored
    vehicle especially designed for the fast reconnaissance role. The
    Schwerer
    Panzerspahwagen was an 8-wheeled version, and could be variously equipped
    with autocannons, howitzers and machine guns.

    BE2xwIS.png


    The old Panzer IIs which had once formed the backbone of the Panzerwaffe were sufficient for training the crews that would go on to the Panzer divisions, but insufficient for actual combat duty in a role envisioned by Guderian. What Guderian sought with the development proposal was an armored fighting vehicle that could perform a scouting or reconnaissance mission with enough force to deal with small pockets of resistance and fast enough to escape combat if needed. A request for proposals was issued on 12 January and sought designs of either wheeled or tracked vehicles similar to the Leichter Panzerspahwagen or the Panzerkampfwagen II. The design was also to be equipped with a 20mm autocannon and an Mg151 machine gun. Cross-country mobility was highlighted, necessary for the primary mission of reconnaissance or screening. This RFP for the latest Light Tank returned several designs, and the Heereswaffenamt selected the offering from Büssing in October of the same year. The vehicle was assigned the designator Schwerer Panzerspahwagen, and was an 8-wheeled vehicle family with both the weapon stations but also built as a mobile command post version.


    0DUSYNw.png

    The Sd.Kfz. 124 Wespe carried the 10.5 cm leFH 18 was
    the first self-propelled howitzer of the Heer.

    The alterations in the Heer’s employment of the infantry with regards to combined arms led to the development of a new suite of arms destined for the Queen of Battle. At an unveiling ceremony held in honor of the end of the Battle of Verdun, the latest developments of infantryman kit, support weapons, anti-tank and light artillery were shown to the Fuhrer, as well as the demonstration of a new weapon for the growing panzerwaffe: self-propelled artillery, which was just beginning development.

    *****
     
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    The Kriegsmarine.

    In mid-February, the Kriegsmarine unveiled the latest unterseeboote: the Type IX. A clean-sheet design (and not simply a larger version of the Type VIIC as some have said), the Type IX carried completely new torpedoes, a more efficient engine and a more durable double hull. The Kriegsmarine also funded theoretical research in nautical and submarine engineering, hoping to enjoy better returns on investment for future naval design projects.


    f3vvLuR.png

    A comparison between the Type VIIC and the Type IXD (Disregard
    the erroneous labels), showing the size and hull differences between the
    two classes.

    The funding provided for training the Kriegsmarines’ heavy surface combatants resulted in modifications to their tactical employment and resulted in well-drilled and motivated crews. This training had extended to the light surface combatants, the light cruisers and destroyers, as well. Raeder had rationalized that it made little sense to only train and work with the heavy units when the destroyers would be filling important roles in commerce protection and sanitation of the Baltic against enemy (Soviet) submarines. This training was combined with getting crews to improve their use of detection equipment, either their own ‘Mark 1 eyeballs’ or the spotting scopes and experimental radar sets. While the crews improved their employment of their heavy units, commanders attended higher level training at Marineoperationsschule Bremerhaven to work on their decision making processes.


    DKSpiy4.png

    Kriegsmarine destroyers practicing torpedo attacks against enemy forces, 1937. A
    Sinking Exercise (SINKEX) scheduled for that year exposed some shortcomings
    from the operational torpedoes, and funding was directed to overcome them.

    Final submissions for Oberkommado der Kriegsmarine’s naval bomber competition were submitted in late April, and in November, the Kriegsmarine selected a modified Dornier Do17. This synthesized the development costs (given that the Luftwaffe was also deploying the aircraft as their tactical bomber) but restricted the availability of the airframes as they were competing with the Luftwaffe for copies.


    YZKpMSV.png

    The Dornier Do17 was ideal for employment as a naval strike
    aircraft but funding priorities and the Luftwaffe’s construction
    prohibited the Kriegsmarine from acquiring any in 1937.

    With the development of the airframes completed, figuring out how best to employ them could commence. Top priority was given to training both the aircraft crews in their flight profiles as well as the ground crews in getting the airframes prepped, repaired and loaded for operations. Important to their deployment was recognizing, identifying and targeting the appropriate warships during combat. This training would continue into 1938.

    The Luftwaffe.

    The Luftwaffe had also funded significant theoretical research. Given how rapid the development of the air forces had been in the recent decade, ensuring that keeping engineers pursuing ever better designs was the only way they could perceive that the Luftwaffe could assist in winning any future wars. Cooperation between the Soviets and the Germans had taken the Germans across much of Russia; given that each officer sent had been a trained intelligence officer, they all saw the same thing: if Russia was to be invaded, long range and aircraft capable of multi-role missions would be required if only to make the job of the logistical tail easier.


    hio7WC4.png

    A Heinkel He177 ‘Greif’ during a ground engine test in 1937. Note the
    non-standard camouflage for the time, indicating a test vehicle.

    The final design for the Luftwaffe’s Bomber A initiative was unveiled on 1 April. The Heinkel He 177 ‘Greif’ would have a crew of 6, was 22 meters long with a wingspan of over 31 meters. It could carry nearly 6000 kilograms of disposable stores, but concerns regarding the aircraft’s power plant plagued the project for years, preventing any official adoption of the aircraft beyond prototypes or developmental airframes.


    KJ2ldIp.png

    Frick, left, with Goering (right) and Hitler. The competition for the
    attentions of the Fuhrer between two competing intelligence organizations,
    was something Hitler savored, though it drove his subordinates to
    distraction.

    When Goering began to complain about the lack of aircraft manufacturing and how Schacht was not allowing the ‘appropriate’ expansion of the Luftwaffe, Frick and the Army stepped in quietly, encouraging Goering to recognize his predicament. They could not eliminate Goering entirely--he was too important to Hitler for them to remove him suddenly--but if he continued to complain, then Frick and Canaris could make his life increasingly difficult. Goering, for his part, was mollified with the arrival of submissions for the Luftwaffe’s new multi-role fighter designs: with the Messerschmitt Bf109G model chosen on 28 October.

    Industrial and Engineering Research.

    The Heereswaffenamt together with the Forschungsamt approved funding in February for a new machine which could improve the ability of their signals intelligence sections to decypher enemy communications. The device they sought would be able to deploy out to the various Army command headquarters, a key requirement that would prove the most difficult to meet, but overcome when it was delivered in December.


    Zkx67p9.png

    German signal troops conduct field training with a portable encryption/decryption
    machine, 1937. Bringing these units as far down as the Army headquarters made
    disseminating actionable intelligence far easier.

    By April 1937, German agriculture and industry began making strides in improving yields and efficiency. The minister in charge of industry, Hjalmar Schacht, encouraged these developments because--despite opposition to the violations of the Versailles Treaty--he wished to see Germany regain her place amongst the Great Powers. It also maintained the benefit that more manpower would be released from agricultural needs for service in the military. Other solicitations encouraged industry to develop better oil refining techniques and production of all classes of military supply. The improvements into the supply situation carried over into research regarding logistical distribution and accountability, though it would not be finished in 1937.


    tqcpgCH.png

    One of the first Funkmessgerat emplacements for testing from the GEMA
    at the Heinrich-Hertz Institute for Oscillatory Research in Berlin. While Hitler
    thought of Radar as a defensive weapon, those in charge of the project convinced
    the Luftwaffe that it might be used to guide offensive weapons or aircraft, and thus
    saved their funding.

    One of the most important research initiatives of the Reich was that of continued development of RADAR. A US Navy acronym of RAdio Detection And Ranging, German scientists from the firm GEMA in Germany led by Rudolf Kühnhold demonstrated a workable prototype, and with encouragement from the Rocketry and Luftwaffe research directorates, the Army Weapons Office granted full funding on 4 December. This was an outgrowth of theoretical research into the system, which had wrapped up in early April.

    *****
     
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    Italian forces--due to their nation’s smaller revenue and budgetary problems--were inevitably behind their German counterparts in developing stronger weapons and doctrines to overcome their operational and strategic realities. Without German assistance and cooperation, it would be unlikely that they would be able to independently overcome these issues, but the financial situation meant that research and development funds were doled out in dribs and drabs. This didn’t prevent the Italians from making some headway towards modernizing their forces.

    The Regio Esercito.

    In February, the Regio Esercito issued their latest refinement of their doctrinal interpretation of guidance provided by the German liaisons. This interpretation related how best to organize for and fight operational-level commands such as divisions and corps (rather than the tactical level up to brigades). One concept copied wholesale from the German system was that of the Commander’s Intent of centralized planning. Despite not having a history of mission-based tactics as in the Heer, the Regio Esercito sought to inculcate at least some tactical independence and initiative for their leaders. This would continue to be improved throughout the year.


    fUx997F.png

    Italian officers discuss plans during an engagement in the Spanish
    Civil War, 1937. Lessons from this conflict would be key to winning on
    the battlefields of Europe, or could spell disaster.

    A rethink of the organization of the infantry and their training was also finalized: Italy developed their own version of the German squad, platoon, company and battalion organization. Their limitations in available weapons and the quality of those weapons meant that a team was composed of five men: a team leader and four riflemen, while a squad contained only two teams plus a squad leader. The light machine gun which had been part of the infantry squad, the Breda 30, was so problematic with its operation that they were withdrawn from service until a replacement could be designed.


    NeOdiBB.png

    The Breda 30 was so pitifully bad in Italian service that it was withdrawn,
    the surviving examples generally being sent to equip the Spanish.

    Four squads made up the standard Italian platoon, along with a platoon leader and two senior sergeants. In the company, the new table of organization and equipment had three platoons, plus a machine gun platoon. Here, the Breda M37 heavy machine gun was far more capable than the related Breda 30, and so the heavy weapons platoon was assigned enough weapons to make one machine gun team of three soldiers per squad in the company. Battalions were formed out of three companies plus a mortar company (devolved out of former mortar battalions), which held fifteen total weapons. The infantry battalion also held a reconnaissance platoon of Bersaglieri. Three battalions made up a regiment, which also held the medical, signal and logistical attachments.


    VZRgOXp.png

    A Bersaglieri trooper alongside other infantrymen and some
    Germans during the late summer war games. Their performance
    left much to be desired.

    As this organization was improved, training the leaders in the employment of their forces began in October as the Esercito sent a division to participate in the fall German war games. This proved to be something of an embarrassment for the Italians, who were constantly slaughtered generally through issues at the tactical level. A portion of the blame was laid on the fact that it was not the higher quality Alpini mountain divisions nor the elite motorized infantry divisions, but the shock was felt regardless. One of the reasons that a motorized infantry division had not been sent was that they were in the process of being reorganized themselves, and the majority of their higher ranking officers were in Germany training with the Panzer-divisions of the Heer to develop an Italian mobile doctrine.


    2plsU7W.png

    Artwork depicting the Alpini troopers in contact. These forces would
    spend much of the first portion of the war guarding against French
    invasion, despite more gainful employment available in Greece.

    A special drive on developing better equipment for the Esercito’s mountain divisions finished in May. Memories of the losses suffered in the Great War on the northern border convinced the high command that there shouldn’t be such a waste of the lavishly trained troops; they needed to be lavishly equipped as well. At the end of the year, funding was also approved for better equipment for fighting in the Desert, given that much of the Italian Empire included the deserts of North and East Africa.

    The Regia Marina.

    Through the year, the Regia Marina worked to expand their technical and tactical prowess as new vessels joined the fleet and required different methods of employment. As the middle of the year drew to a close, training destroyer skippers in the best manner of escorting both the large surface combatants of the heavy cruisers and battleships on one hand and the mercantile fleet on the other. With an eye towards control of the Mediterranean, the trade that would come with it needed to be protected. The main problem for Italy was a lack of experience in offensive trade warfare as had been practiced by Germany against the United Kingdom, and in the defensive side of the equation. The Regia Marina did not benefit from any advisors from Germany the way that the Army or Air Force did, and thus was on their own in developing their tactics, techniques and procedures.


    uG9DTVg.png

    The Giulio Cesare passing the Ponte Girevole in Taranto, 1937. Having
    just emerged from a years-long overhaul, the two ships in the class were
    still a force to be reckoned with, but the funding could have been better
    used for other, newer, vessels.

    With a new class of battleship soon to be commissioned, training the crew on the systems that would be included in them was initiated. Expenditures into developing an ashore version of systems, most especially spotting and gun-laying and to a lesser extent damage control (through a “sinkable” series of compartments) were expanded. While their crews were practicing, commanders worked to develop their own system for choosing targets; one detail that the Italians gleaned from after-action reports about British engagements during the Great War was ships not appropriately targeting enemy vessels.

    All of the foregoing improvements would be for naught, however, if the Regia Marina did not properly organize and run their naval bases. Improvement in this area meant more efficient use of harbors and better transfer of supplies ashore, about which the Army was lax.

    The Regia Aeronautica.

    Despite not spending sufficient amounts on development of their fighter forces, Italy’s Regia Aeronautica did continue to try and stay up to date on their employment of the aviation assets. Funding was supplied in February to train interceptor and fighter squadrons on their primary missions: shooting down enemy bombers. Given that most of the airframes of the Regia Aeronautica were less-capable than their foreign counterparts, tactical employment of those airframes needed to be better.


    CHhuCW6.png

    Macchi C.200 ‘Saetta’ (or Thunderbolt) in the field, 1937. These fighters
    would remain front line fighters for far longer than the Regia Aeronautica
    had wanted, but construction of aircraft on the order of the Luftwaffe was
    out of the question.

    Funding to train to that higher standard was supplied through March for the interceptor squadrons. The funding shifted to training the bomber command, which ran through December. During this training, doctrinal refinements to ground attack and interdiction missions were identified and the tactics used during those missions had resulted in more funding supplied to rectify those issues.

    Industrial Research.

    1937 was a year in which Italy sought to overcome its outdated systems in more theoretical research and development. Rome funded Olivetti, SpA, to have them develop a mechanical computing machine. The common understanding was that as computational time decreased, projects requiring such services would become faster and more precise and thus positively impact the capability of those services requiring such technology.


    UKU8sV2.png

    La Spezia University Library, 1937. Seeking more talent to develop
    advanced weapons and systems for the military, Mussolini’s government
    Invested heavily in the educational system.

    In the spirit of improving the brain power of the Kingdom of Italy, the government encouraged more enrollment at institutes of higher learning. With some of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe, encouraging more of their people to attend those institutions and get better jobs--and hopefully improve the capabilities of the military or the nation itself--became a key selling point for the program. It coincided with a push to develop a better agricultural system to feed the nation and free up manpower should it become necessary.

    The Italians also funded several industrial concerns in developing better productivity standards. When combined with gained efficiencies, the days of backwards Italian production processes would be over and could step up to support the growing empire. Late in the year, the army and navy, together with the freight services (both on land and at sea), detailed a request for proposals for improvement in the transportation of supplies and other logistical concerns.

    *****
    Author's Note: Don't forget that the 2018Q1 ACAs are open for voting! Vote early! Vote often! Vote for me! You know, if you enjoy it. Wouldn't want to leave you all hanging...
     
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    As 1937 continued, much of the expansion of the Heer was based around attachments or modernization efforts which had been ordered the year before. Early in the year, six brigade sets of field artillery were activated into their respective divisions. This followed the initial Truppenamt system of divisions receiving the numbered brigade attachment that corresponded to their division number. Thus, when the 11th through the 16th Field Artillery brigades were activated, it was into the 11. through 16. Infantrie-Divisions, respectively. Throughout the course of the year, twenty-three field artillery brigades were activated. Similarly, four air defense artillery--or Flugabwehrartillerie--brigades were activated, these formations were all held at the Armee and Armeekorps level.


    BdE83nQ.png

    A Pz.Kpfw.IIIA during testing and acceptance trials, 1937. This tank would
    form the backbone of the Panzerwaffe until the acceptance of the Pz.Kpfw.IIIB

    In early April, the 4., 5., and 6. Panzer-Divisions received their pioneer brigades. These brigades, designed to prepare the way for the armor as well as attack hardened fortifications and provide defensive works, had already been assigned to the 1., 2. and 3. Panzer-Divisions. In exercises, this vastly improved the mobility of the panzers and permitted them to appear where the enemy was not expecting them, past formerly limiting terrain. Guderian activated Panzerbrigade 10 in a ceremony on 5 July. Speaking to the assembled crowd in front of a rank of brand new Panzer IIIs, Guderian spoke of how proud he was of the panzerwaffe and how effective they would be at keeping the Reich safe. By early August, with the activation of Pioneerbrigade 8 and 10, the Heer boasted a full ten of the new pattern Panzer-Divisions; the final two cavalry brigades having been issued their sets of Panzer IIIs and reflagged as Panzerbrigade 7 and 8.


    DVkOBFi.png

    The Duke of Windsor reviewing former SA troops assigned to the West Wall.
    His continued support of Germany proved to be a diplomatic embarrassment to
    Whitehall.

    The process of subsuming the SA into the Heer which had begun in 1935 continued as the line members were formed into divisions in the reserve army. Over the course of the year, eleven such divisions--each of which consisted of two infantry brigades, a field artillery and air defense artillery brigade--were brought into service, and those formations manned the Westwall to relieve the regular army units which had held those positions originally. In late April the first special tasked infantry brigades to Corps headquarters was formalized and activated. The Corps headquarters units were--with an eye towards the experiences gained from the annual exercises--seen as too exposed and in need of a corps reserve to fill any gaps in the line or defend territory under their control. A full regular infantry division, 37. Infantrie-Division, was activated as well.


    olmCj30.png

    Goering at the commissioning ceremony for LTG 3. His depression
    over political problems disappeared when he got to see the Luftwaffe
    he was building for Germany.

    Over the course of the first three months of 1937, the Luftwaffe reintegrated another batch of Ju-52s which had been fitted as bombers into a airlift capable asset organized as Luftrasportergeschwader 2, assigned to I. Fliegerkorps as Detachment 2. As participation in the Spanish Civil War had shown, being able to deposit troops into the fight from an unexpected direction--from the sky, in this case--was a capability that the Wehrmacht needed. A further 100 Bf109Ds were supplied to Jagdgeschwader 6 to round out XXIII. Fliegerkorps. Five days later, on 10 July, Goering attended a commissioning event for refurbished Ju-52s delivered to Luftransportergeschwader 3 and the first delivery of the Ju-87 Stuka dive-bombers to Sturzkampfgeschwader (SKG) 1. By the end of the month, the foundation of another interceptor Fliegerkorps had been formed.


    A3WLkuK.png

    The light cruiser
    Albatross passing through the Kiel canal, 1937. A member
    of the
    Leipzig-class light cruisers, she would be lost in 1942 at the hands of
    HMS
    Suffolk.

    The Kriegsmarine commissioned three of their light cruisers on 6 August. The Albatross, Konigsberg and Mainz were all of the latest Leipzig-class and their commissioning was led by Raeder. These were the last of the six light cruisers ordered in 1936 to escort the battlecruisers Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Von Der Tann on their commerce raiding missions, which were commissioned 13 December. As Hitler said in a speech, the Versailles treaty was well and truly dead and buried.


    8gkfDOl.png

    The last group of the Navigatori-class destroyers after being
    Placed in commission in 1937.

    Italy’s spending was mostly restricted to continuing the infrastructure projects initiated the year prior. With so little money left over, the Regio Esercito claimed much of it for their modernization plan. What little money remained from that went to the Regia Marina in the form of twelve destroyers being placed in commission in 1937.

    *****
    Author's Note: I just want to be done with the year 1937! Whew! Regardless, I need to go back over what appendices I need to throw together to be fully complete.
     
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