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Italy 1936 - An alternate Italian history of 

World War II

 

Part 4

 

By

 

Vincent Longobardi

June 10th 1941

5:00 PM Local Time

For the second time in two months Italy launches a massive offensive into the heart of the Slavic lands. Four spearheads stream westward towards Bulgaria as the Bulgarian defenses collapse into retreat. The 2 armies and 2 corps make massive progress in the first hours of the assault.

In Pristina fierce street to street fighting takes place between paratroopers and the limited Bulgarian defenders. Though small in number the Bulgarians put up a tough fight attempting not to take back the city (which they know they canít,) but to rescue their captured commanders and officials. However by midnight they are completely overmatched and forced to withdraw from the city with whatever equipment they can carry.

 

*Note: Despite the propaganda windfall of the success of the operation it is largely an illusion. The Italian offensives were narrow and encountered nearly no enemy troops. The Bulgarians have 170 thousand men spread out through all of their territories serving in occupation duty and border patrol meaning that the spearheads of thousands encountered only a few hundred resisters.*

June 11th 1941

The lead elements of 1st Corps arrive in Pristina to be welcomed by the paratroopers who captured the city the night before. In tow behind the paratroopers come a string of captured Bulgarian army officers, political functionaries and Turkish diplomats. The Bulgarians would be placed under arrest and the Turks would be held until the Turkish response to the war becomes known.

The Bulgarian army is in the process of a full scale withdraw back to their pre existing defenses along the Nis river. Except for a few chaotic battles and a series of air attacks the men are relatively unharmed in their operation.

June 12th 1941

King Peter II of Yugoslavia and his government are extradited to Italy. Upon their arrival they are forced to sign a set of surrender documents which cedes Yugoslavia as a whole to Italy and also makes Peter abdicate his throne. In exchange for their signatures they will not be put on trial for war crimes and will be allowed to live their lives in exile on the isle of Capri in conditions appropriate to their former station.

Turkey begins sending 50 thousand troops into Bulgaria to prepare for operations in Macedonia. The local Bulgarians are not too comfortable with the arrangement with some of the oldest having experienced Turkish occupation.

June 13th 1941

The Italian offensives start to lose steam as the forces are forced to spread out and secure unoccupied portions of Yugoslavia before resistance movements are able to form and solidify their positions.

Bulgaria has begun a massive conscription program in an attempt to match the numbers of the Italians. 100 thousand men are being called up initially but it is apparent that more will be needed. To supplement this force the Bulgarians are attempting to raise a force of captured Yugoslavian soldiers (and civilians still in Bulgarian occupied territory.) They promise them independence of their nation and cash reparations. Though animosity against the Bulgarians run high they rather fight for them and gain their freedom than be slaves of Italians. "While Rome is free, the world is afraid," becomes the rallying cry of the Free Yugoslav forces and eventually all anti Italian forces.

June 15th 1941

Count Ciano meets with German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop to discuss the future of Italo-German relations. Ribbentrop confesses to Ciano that the Fuhrer was furious over the Italian and Bulgarian invasions of Yugoslavia but has since calmed down with the success gained in Russia. However to restore normalcy to relations concessions must be made. An agreement is made that Germany is entitled to 50% of all oil production of the two new plants under construction. Ciano manages to convince Ribbentrop that for such a large grant Germany must also provide an additional payment of plans for a weapons system. Mussolini originally wanted designs for one of the German U-boats but practicality concerning the current situation has won the day and a request was made for the designs to the Stuka Dive Bomber.

June 16th 1941

All of Kosovo and Macedonia are under Italian control. In Macedonia the Italian offensive stops at the Bulgarian border with 2nd Corps not having the numbers to cross across the mountains and attack Bulgaria itself.

June 20th 1941

Everything west of the Nis is now firmly in Italian hands with occupation troops spread throughout the area assuring law and order. The majority of what was 2nd and 3rd army have been placed along the Nis as a counter to the Bulgarian force and in preparation for an assault. Mussolini wants the attack to come immediately but the Comando Supremo convince him otherwise. Italy does not have enough heavy equipment or supplies to launch another offensive.

Forward air bases along the front are ordered under construction, if Italian soldiers can not march into Bulgaria then Italian airmen will bomb it.

 

June 25th 1941

50 thousand Turkish and 20 thousand Bulgarian soldiers mobilize along the Southern Macedonian border for a planned offensive to push the Fascists out of Macedonia. 200 planes from the Turkish Air Force are readied to lend their support.

With any luck they will be able to take not only Macedonia but also Albania and convince Mussolini that the war is not worth fighting and that a peace should be agreed upon.

July 1st 1941

Along the southernmost border of Macedonia the attack is launched. A joint force of 70 thousand Bulgarians and Turks. The 10 thousand Italians are hit off guard and can not mobilize a defense. Turkish fighters rule overhead with most of the Italian air force being concentrated further north.

Mussolini and his staff at first have conflicting opinions. Mussolini believes it is a diversion to lure his troops further north away from their defenses. His Generals believe (rightfully so,) that this attack was a serious commitment of Balkan forces and a grave threat to the southern front. Mussolini refuses to budge on redeployment of northern troops but allows garrison troops from Albania and Kosovo to reinforce Southern Macedonia. 4 fighter squadrons in Southern Italy are ordered to rebase in Albania and Macedonia.

July 3rd 1941

On the ground the Italian troops participate in a fighting withdraw across Southeastern Macedonia. The first trains of relief arrive in Titov Velas, Kavadarchi and Stip. In the air the Turks battle it out with the Italian fighters. The numbers are about even as well as the fighters. Most of the more modern Italian aircraft are further north with these forces being reserves. But the days of Turkish air superiority are over.

July 4th 1941

Great Britain commences Operation Leaf in Norway. The Brits using nearly their entire Home Fleet commence a multi hour bombardment of Norway by Narvik. This is followed by a landing of 20 thousand men who quickly capture initial objectives and the city itself. Narvik will serve as a drop off point for the rest of the divisions in Operation Leaf.

Support for Churchill which has been faltering now spikes to unseen levels.

Hitler is shocked by this attack and does not know how to respond. Most of the day is spent in a daze wondering how the British could attack while he is scoring victories on every front. By late afternoon with constant urging from his Generals for a plan of action the daze is finally broken and Hitler agrees to hear plans for a defensive. It is decided that an army needs to be deployed to Norway immediately to halt the British before they make any permanent gains. Field Marshall Von List is tasked with commanding this Army.

*Note: Narvik might seem like a strange location for a landing and it is but with good cause. While an attack further south might seem more viable in cutting Norway off from Germany it is much riskier. The landings would of been subject to attack from the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe attack. By landing in Narvik Norway is cut in half and the Fleet and troops are relatively safe in their position.*

July 8th 1941

The Bulgarian and Turkish offensive hit a wall at the Vardar River. Reinforcements of the defenders have prevented the Eastern Alliance (what the Bulgarians and Turks have become known as in the news,) to advance any further. Relations and joint cooperation between the two allies begin to break down. Though the correlation of air power remains equal the losses endured by Turkey begin to mount and the air force becomes reluctant to risk their pilots in support of Bulgarian offensives.

The Bulgarian Ambassador presents Mussolini with a proposed peace that is very similar to the second agreement but contains a clause that Italy can not take any aggressive actions in the Balkans without Bulgarian or Turkish approval. The ambassador is presented with the unconditional surrender documents signed at Pristina and informed that those are the only terms to be accepted.

July 10th 1941

The first air raid against Sofia is conducted by 40 medium bombers (and their fighter escort.) The damage is light but the attack makes a much more profound statement about the currents of war. Italy can attack its enemy homeland with near impunity while she remains untouchable.

In Italy construction begins on the first prototypes for the Italian versions of the Stuka and IK-3.

July 12th 1941

After committing extra troops to the Macedonian front including 20 thousand men of the Free Yugoslavia Army a second offensive is launched along the Vardar River. They are put through a meat grinder. In the bloodiest day of the war so far thousands are dead within hours and more wounded. A quarter of the Yugoslavian force is lost while trying to cross the Vardar when they came under attack by fighters and bombers. The Turkish commander refused to lend support and let the doomed forced be strafed and bombed into oblivion.

July 13th 1941

A halt to offensives have been ordered by Bulgaria as the losses just became too much to bear.

July 14th 1941

British advances in Norway have reached Trondheim in the South and have captured nearly all of Norway above Narvik. They now have 10 divisions(100 thousand men) on the ground. The first divisions of the Germany army have arrived in Norway and will soon be launching an offensive against the invaders.

July 20th 1941

The start of a massive bombing campaign against Bulgaria. From now on everyday will have at least one bombing raid conducted against Bulgaria. Most of the raids will be directed against Sofia, but no city or industrial site in the western half of the country is safe.

August 1941

In Norway the front seesaws back and forth as Germany and Britain try to exploit their advantages in the region.

Bulgaria is under daily bombing but losses are beginning to mount for the Italians as more of the limited number of AA guns and the few Bulgarian fighters available are being used more effectively. The surprising addition of Turkish fighters mid month force Italy to rethink their operations in the area and step up the number of fighter escorts.

In Macedonia Italian forces begin prodding the Bulgarian and Turkish lines. While not committing many troops they force the enemy to stay on guard and devote resources to the bulge.

Filov is unwilling to launch any new offensives after the massive losses acquired in the Macedonia fiasco. Filov no longer believes the war is winnable and is merely trying to get a favorable peace deal.

In Ankara, Prime Minister Refik Saydam and his cabinet have lost all faith with their "ally," and have come to the conclusion that the only way to have victory is for Turkey to act alone and deal a bloody enough blow to Italy that will send Mussolini to the negotiation table

*Note: The collapse of the Eastern Alliance was almost inevitable. It was not an alliance of principles or a single goal, each party had its own objectives and it was merely a matter convenience to ally. In exchange for Turkey aiding Bulgaria in their goals to prevent Italian expansion, Bulgaria would then have to aid Turkey in its expansion into Greece. With such a crushing defeat dealt to Bulgaria the fragile relationship has been shattered and both sides though still allied are attempting to pursue their own ends to the stop the war.*

September 1941

The battle over the skies of Bulgaria rages on but air to air conflict starts to decline as Turkish squadrons are inexplicably pulled from the front by mid month.

The testing of the prototypes of the IK-3 and Stuka have gone well and production models have been ordered. In Italian designation they are respectively the G. 52 Hawk and the Breda Ba. 90 Lupine.

Turkey starts a massive troop deployment into Bulgaria and Macedonia calling on nearly 25 divisions. At the same time the Bulgarian army is attempting to beef up its numbers with even more conscripts and willing volunteers from the former Yugoslav territories.

October 1941

No progress is made in Norway with the front becoming a virtual stalemate. While still being fluid any gains made are usually lost and no side can secure a complete advantage.

However Russia is a different story, German panzers roll across the country defeating everything the Soviets throw against them. The common belief is that Moscow will be taken by November.

Further south in the Balkans the air attacks against Bulgaria are rolled back to slow losses. Though not stopped completely they are much less intense and frequent. Mussolini is planning for a spring offensive and will need every plane and bomb available to support the ground forces.

Along the Nis the first P.40 tanks are being deployed to units.

Previously damaged or destroyed factories in Yugoslavia are being repaired and brought online to provide the army with additional resources. In same cases blackshirts are needed to be sent in to motivate the "employees," but for the most part the workers have a sense of resigned acceptance to their predicament.

It is a period of quiet throughout the occupied land. There are of course partisan uprisings but they are largely confined to certain areas and are not seen as a major threat.

It is Italyís phoney war and soon that would change...

October 31st 1941

9:00 AM Local Time

Turkey demands that Greece allow a rights of passage for Turkish forces enroute to Albania. Greece immediately refuses and cites its neutrality in the war. Athens sends the alert to all soldiers posted on the border.

12:00 PM Local Time

The world watches in horror as 25 divisions of Turkish troops cross into Greece from positions in Macedonia and Bulgaria. The Turks flood across northern Greece from Kilkis to Drama trying to cut the nation in half and also open a route into Albania.

End of Part 4.

Please visit my forum for discussion and access to new parts as they become available.

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