The Death of Göring and the Victory of the Luftwaffe
by Mr Bluenote
Tools of the Trade
Oh yes I've walked the path that
gives me confidence strong and pure
Now I realised that freedom rises
from comfort in the source
I built these walls around me
And I can't break them all away
And I focus on the strength I call
Insufferable and insane
So hold on to the end...
Its all about the blood, the sweat, the tears
A tribute to the strength built through the years
A tribute to soul...
- Machine Head, The Burning Red.
An empty plate for love & hate, so hungry like they never ate
And if you fight, noone fights back - 200 killings
Now I know that death is wearing black
A hand that holds me without strength - a hand that touches me without weight
The troops of love are flying out - very angry, very loud
- You can see it from the air - when you get hit,
You don't know where, and nothings seems fair
A hand that holds me without strength a hand that touches me without weight
And with no flag left to defend - a hand that pushes me
Anything as long as you touch me - Touch me - touch me - touch me
- D.A.D., A Hand Without Strength
In the latter part of the summer of 1940, Luftwaffe was once again armed to the teeth and ready to rumble. New deadly weapons – especially bigger cluster bombs and much heavier ordinary bombs, the 2000 and 2500 series of both armour penetrating PD’s and general purpose SC’s, as well as Hs-33 rocket powered torpedo bombs, had arrived at the three Luftflotten involved in the Battle of Britain and an influx of new planes, FW-190 fighters, the twin engine Ju-88 tactical bombers and four engine He-177 strategic bombers, had added to the already formidable hitting power of Luftwaffe’s western units. To enhance this power further, a group young and very eager Geschwader-leaders, just itching to have a go at The Lords, as the German Jagdfliegere called their British counterparts with equal amounts of respect and disdain – their national-socialistic indoctrination showing - had risen to command the last months due to Wever’s foresight.
The FW-190 was an all-round fighter, a tough reliable warhorse, compared to Messerschmidt’s temperamental thoroughbred racehorse-like Me-109 – as seen during the coming Battle of Dover, where many Me-109’s suffered serious mishaps while attempting to land – the gear was too narrow and flimsy. Even though hurried through the final phases of test and production, Focke-Wulf’s expert designer, Kurt Tank, once again proved to be perhaps the world’s finest aircraft designer. Ironically the FW-190 in many ways was considered as an evolutionary backstep as it was equipped with a radial engine, the BMW 801Dg, not the liquid cooled inline engine favoured by most fighter designers at this time. It was, however, both fast, manoeuvrable and deadly as the FW-190 came armed with four heavy machine guns and two 20mm cannons – later to be replace by two machine guns and four 20mm cannons or a mixture of 30mm and 20mm cannons and heavy machine guns.
The Ju-88 medium bomber – the so-called Schnellbomber – from Junkers Flugzeug und Motorenwerke – rumoured to have been designed by two Americans - also began to make its presence felt, both among its jubilant crews and the less than jubilant British. The Schnellebomber’s versatility, good range and high air speed boosted both Wever and Milch’s political standing as both men had fought a vicious campaign to stop it from being converted to a heavy dive bomber. As it were, the Ju-88 was an incredible aircraft who’s performance was quite impressive. Had it been made into a dive bombing capable aircraft, there was no telling how the plane would have performed. Now, however, it would serve with distinction in a multitude of roles; as an intruder, night fighter, reconnaissance plane, bomber as mentioned and in an anti-shipping capacity as well. The Ju-88 took to the skies for the first time in December, 1936, and began to enter service with Luftwaffe Lehr and Erprobungs-units in late 1939. For such a fragile looking aircraft the bomb load was large - some 2 tonnes. The engines were two 1,200hp Jumo 211B's – ironically also radials. The crew – between 2 and 5 men depending on the model and mark - was placed close together at the front of the aircraft in a glass cockpit with a perfect all-round view. The Ju-88 had a range of some 1,700 km. As the war went on, some models were built with longer wings, so that the Ju-88 could carry the newest and heaviest of Luftwaffe’s munitions - the 2500 and 3000 series. Its’ a testimony to the Ju-88’s ruggedness and survivalbility, that throughout the war it served on all fronts and often flew from nothing more than rough dirt strips. One draw back was its light defensive armament, however; the Ju-88 only had three machine guns for self defence, which would end up being upgraded continuously as the war went on. Production continued more or less at full speed up until 1947 and a grand total of 22,000 were built all in all.
In July and August of 1940 the Ju-88’s of the Sonder Erprobungsgruppe began to operate as Pathfinders over most of the British Isles. Later the Pathfinders would be joined by Fernnachtjägere and Nachtjägere – Intruders and Night Fighters respectively – from the newly created Lehrgruppen that would later from the backbone of the FW-220 Gruppen - Groups. Again the Ju-88 proved its value as targets were found and struck with remarkable accuracy, as well as RAF’s bomber streams were interrupted time and time again with subsequent great losses to the British.
The He-177 Geier – Vulture - was big, ugly and somewhat ungainly, but it had triple the range of the old Do-19 – that is, between 6,000km and 7,000km depending on the exact model -, and packed double the punch – some 6 tonnes of mostly internally held bombs and munitions. It was armed for close defence with various combinations of 20mm cannon, heavy machine guns and light machine guns, and could sustain incredible amounts of damage. By the autumn of 1940, the He-177 had all but replaced the Dornier in most of Luftwaffe’s frontline Schwere Kampfgruppen. All in all more than 5,000 of these planes would be built during the war. About 50 served on the Eastern Front as gunships armed with a side-mounted 75mm guns or the 30mm rotating gun for tank-busting. Powered by four Jumo 201G each with over 2,000hp the Geier was fairly fast and had an impressive endurance and pay load capacity.
During Operation Karin, the He-177’s of Luftwaffe’s Schwere Kampfgeschwader 12 were equipped with both Gustav Schwartz Propellerwerke’s rocket assisted anti-ship glide bomb, the Gustav XX – the weapon responsible for the sinking of HMS Warspite -, and Henschel’s new Hs-33 rocket powered anti-shipping torpedo bomb. Working closely with KLK’s heavy units, the bombers proved once and for all that air power was superior to sea power.
Luftwaffe and the KLK was stronger than ever, while RAF had just barely managed to keep its strength as pilots and air crews grew increasingly scare. Luftwaffe’s intelligence sources, now slightly more accurate after Schmid’s dismissal, estimated that the British were scraping the bottom of the manpower barrel. Even aircraft production was hampered by bombings, but were nonetheless rising and would most likely reach German levels within 6 months. One factor, however, was truly crippling for the British; lack of high octane aviation fuel. The near closure of the British ports by Luftwaffe and KLK attacks prevented foreign, basically meaning American, fuel from reaching the British Isles in sufficient quantities. Both operational units and especially training units suffered under the lack of aviation fuel.
Red Rocks of Dover
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see
I'll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry skies
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes
And though I'm far away
I still can hear them say
But when the dawn comes up
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see...
- Vera Lynn, The white cliffs of Dover.
Run and tell all of the angels
This could take all night
Think I need a devil to help me
Get things right
Hook me up a new revolution
Cos this one is a lie
We sat around laughing
And watch the last one die
I’m looking to the sky to save me
Looking for a sign of life
Looking for something help me burn out bright
- Foo Fighters, Learning to Fly.
After nearly three weeks of respite, the Luftwaffe along with its junior partner, the KLK, returned in force over the skies of Britain. The German strategy had been further refined and both the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy had front row seats for yet another grand demonstration of German air power.
The second round of the Battle of Britain started with two simultaneous attacks on Britain. The KLK led an attack on Scotland from its bases in Norway along with Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 5. Do-19’s, He-177 and He-111’s streamed in high and low to hit various Royal Navy anchorages as well as various port and dock facilities with Ju-88 Pathfinders and Intruders respectively showing and paving the way. British air defenses were blinded and some anti-aircraft artillery positions even wiped out by pin point attacks by low flying Ju-88’s of the Fernnachtsjäger. A few inconclusive air battles were fought as older marks of the Hurricane fighter rose to challenge the German bombers and their fighter escorts.
Further south Luftwaffe, and some minor elements from the KLK-units based at Ghent hit Portsmouth, Harwich. Liverpool and several other RN key facilities along with strikes on rail hubs and CH and CHL RADAR sites. The attacks on the British RADAR installations in the coastal areas were carried out by Ju-87’s and the ever present Ju-88’s and paved the way for intrusions by bombers and long range Me-109's and a few of the new FW-190. The new Focke-Wulf fighters were all gathered in Lehrgruppe Mölders, and would prove to be very effective.
Having successfully executed their mission, several of the Luftwaffe bomber streams came under attack by Hurricanes from RAF Fighter Command. A large air battle subsequently erupted just south of London where the aptly named London Big Wing hit the Luftwaffe formations. At first the Luftwaffe fighters seemed swamped by numbers, but the British Big Wing soon began to lose it coherency as dog fights erupted left and right, and as more German fighters was vectored in by Do-19 controller aircraft’s. The furious air battle became a running battle as RAF fighters rose from every available base and the German bombers desperately, but in good order, ran for home. The battle ran all the way to the Cliffs of Dover, where it would reach its bloody climax as more Luftwaffe Jagdgruppen joined the fray. RAF Hawker Hurricanes and Super Hurricanes clashed with Me-109’s and the FW-190’s of Lehrgruppe Mölders in a growing battle that saw both sides commit more and more planes in a desperate attempt to break the other part. Most of the German bombers escaped, covered by the heavy fighter screen, but a handful of aircraft were nonetheless lost in combat and even more as they crashed due to either plane or crew damage when they tried to land.
Over Dover, the British and German fighters tore into each other with a vengeance and both sides suffered appalling loses. Superior German command and control, however, in the end won the day – as usual one is tempted to say. But it was a very close call indeed. The appearance of the FW-190 helped make this a most bloody day for the British Royal Air Force as the new plane were deemed accountable for nearly a full third of the British loses. At the end of the day, Luftwaffe had lost some 120 planes - the British claimed to have downed over 200 for the loss of only 50 of their own fighters, though. In reality, only 80 Luftwaffe planes, including aforementioned bombers, were downed by enemy fire. The last 40 planes were simply lost due to accidents as especially the Me-109 seemed to suffer from a multitude of mishaps ranging from botched landings – the undercarriage was notoriously unreliable – to problems with the drop tanks or midair collisions. The fact that a third of their planes had been lost due to accidents were not lost on OKL. The pilot training programme was thus adjusted slightly to emphasis aerial combat and serious attention devoted to solving the drop tank and landing gear problems. The Me-109, however, would always suffered from way too many mishaps due to its weak and narrow undercarriage, but the new model of drop tanks would be more reliable and safer to eject.
RAF Fighter Command had lost at least 160 aircraft, not only 50 as claimed. A significant percentage of these losses were accidents as the Super Hurricane were prone to difficulties and the fact that RAF’s pilots were either worn down – the short recess in the fighting had helped, though - or simply inexperienced. Nonetheless 130 of the lost aircraft were down to combat losses, which hammered home the point that Luftwaffe doctrine, training and aircraft’s were superior. The loses were unbearable for especially the British, who lacked Luftwaffe’s centralised production apparatus, its impressive leadership and massive training organisation. The insecurity and instability in the Pacific and South East Asia had made the respective governments of Australian and New Zealand unwilling to sent reinforcements in any great numbers to Britain. Canada as well seem strangely reluctant to provide help – the anti-British sentiment in the US apparently rubbing off. US Ambassador to the Court of St.James, Joseph Kennedy, gleefully sent a series of negative reports home to State, claiming that with casualties rising as they did, the air war would be over in weeks.
Ambassador Kennedy’s reports would play a major part in the American Presidential Election of 1940 as President Roosevelt’s standing as a fairly pro-British and interventionistic President began to hurt him severely in the polls. The fact that FDR had chosen to run for his third term with Wallace as his VP didn’t help either as the mood in the general public was very anti-Soviet and thus viewed everything slightly Red with deep mistrust and dislike. The Roosevelt-Wallace duo was opposed by the Republican Taft-McNary ticket.
At OKL, General Martini, newly appointed head of the reorganised in-house intelligence service, Nachrichtendiest die Luftwaffe, did wonder a great deal about the British ability to control an air battle – their steady hand during the Dover air battle had duly impressed Luftwaffe’s higher echelons. RAF Fighter Commands seemingly unerring way of knowing more or less exactly where their own planes were, puzzled Martini. To the best of his knowledge, RAF did not poses RADAR-equipped command and control planes, so the answer had to lie elsewhere. Martini hoped to find some way of disrupting the British 3C-ability, before Luftwaffe was forced into yet another large scale air battle – the losses being a bit over the top for Luftwaffe as well, even though a good part of said losses were due to mishaps and the Battle of Dover was claimed as a major German victory… by Goebbles and his Propaganda Ministry. After some inept analysis and long hours in Signals, Martini came to the conclusion that the RAF fighters must be equipped with some sort of transmitter – an early IFF-set so to say - and, more importantly, that the battles were directed by local bases, so-called Sector Airfields, not a central unified command as such. Two such Sector Airfield were quickly identified by their electronic emissions and targeted for special attention. Biggin Hill, Kenley and later Tangmere would face total annihilation.
In OKW it is beginning to dawn on the generals that they can not hope to invade the British isles. Well, invade yes, but not conquer. Especially, or so Keitel and some of his cronies claimed, since Martin Bormann at The Four Year Plan Office and Hjalmar Schact as Minister of Economics and General Plenipotentiary for the War refused to give up the many river barges needed for such an invasion. Bormann and Schact were adamant, however, and surprisingly backed by Hitler himself, who would not see the German economy suffer more than absolutely necessary. So instead of a full fledged invasion – Operation Seelöwe -, and thank God for small favours as Raeder was noted for saying, Operation Orfeus was put forth. Airborne units, be it air dropped, landed and heliborn from the 7th Paratroop Division and the 22nd Air Landing Division, along with General Dietle’s veteran mountain troops from the Norwegian campaign were to assault the Isle of Wight, and then kept in supply by air. Wever, having a dedicated transport fleet at full strength once more, was pretty certain this could be done, even if there against all odds should occur heavy fighting. Once the island was secured, an offer of peace would be presented to the British. Operation Orfeus were to be launched in September, and only after RAF was worn even further down and the Royal Navy destroyed as a determining factor. To do this a new series of air raids were orchestrated by Luftwaffe and the KLK, and an audacious Kriegsmarine plan, Operation Karin – long time in the works – finally approved.
In the Baltics, Kapitän zur See – Captain – Densch viewed his orders with disbelief, but nonetheless complied. The LKM Hermann Göring terminated its barely started sea trails and steamed for Kiel where Konteradmiral Bachmann would hoist his flag and thus take command of Schlachtgruppe Bachmann
At Wilhelmshafen and Kiel the surface elements of the Kriegsmarine began to gather in increasing numbers, while the U-boote returned home from their stations to refit for yet another cruise to the North Sea and Norwegian Waters.
One word, a voice unheard
You can change the world
With everything I know you're made of
One word, a voice unheard
You can change the world
If everyone would stop and listen
The art of innocence make so much sense
But placed in the wrong hands, well then it's wasted
Filtered through the eyes of a pure mind
A one-of-a-kind paradise for you and I
- P.O.D., Change the World.
With eyes so dilated,
I’ve became your pupil
You’ve taught me everything
Without a poison apple
The water is so yellow, I’m a healthy student
Indebted and so grateful -
Vacuum out the fluids
- Nirvana, Drain You
While the Germans seemed to go on from one victory to another, the mighty Red Army had fought a series of inconclusive border skirmishes with the Empire of Japan in Outer Mongolia and along their common eastern border and were now mired in a bloody occupation of Finland, a small country that almost singlehandedly fended off the Red Army.
Since the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army had moved in and taken control of Manchuria in 1931, an undeclared low level war had raged between the Empire of Japan and the USSR. Along a 4,000km line drawn at a whim in a inhospitable wasteland, the two countries and their respective armed forces viewed each other with a mixture of greed, disdain and eagerness. Numerous border skirmishes and disputes characterised the next several years as both sides reinforced their respective forces and duelled for supremacy and positions. In 1936, the USSR signed a mutual assistance treaty with Outer Mongolia – basically taking control of the area -, and in early ’37, Soviet troops began to deploy in Outer Mongolia in numbers.
After the Lake Khasan incident in 1938, where over 2,000 men – both Soviet and Japanese soldiers - were killed, Stalin made it clear during a speech at the annual Party Congress in the spring of 1939, that any acts of aggression, be they small, clandestine or otherwise, against the Rodina – the Motherland - would face the full fury of the Soviet Union’s armed might. The Japanese Government and High Command, engaged in a furious naval build-up, and under the influence of its naval officers, seemed adamant not to provoke the Soviet Bear, at this stage at least, and made sure no such acts of aggression were forthcoming… for now. Nonetheless minor clashed occurred weekly, and the paced picked up after the Soviet occupation Finland and the three Baltic States and after the annexation of Eastern Poland.
While the tensions in Siberia and Outer Mongolia were fairly easily handled – a handful of younger Red Army officers had risen to command out there, shielded by the distance from the Purges, and seemed to be in charge of the situation - the occupation of Finland, and to a lesser extent that of Eastern Poland and the Baltic States were troubling the Red Army. This was a type of conflict the Red Army was not used to. Usually NKVD units took care of internal security, while the Red Army now and again provided some support, but this was war and therefore Army business! However, drawn out guerilla warfare in a hostile climate, terrain and environment such as the Finnish were draining the resources and the spirit of the Red Army and doing so fast. The words Bielaja Smertj - the White Death – alone spread fear among the masses of conscripted infantry heading for Finland on a regular basis. The Marshals and Generals in the STAVKA – the supreme command of the Soviet Armed Forces – even considered asking the NKVD for help, but pride and a fear of failure prohibited them from doing so. In Stalin’s USSR, the price for failure was death- if one were lucky - in a cold dark basement in the Lubjanka Prison at the Felix Dzerinskij Square.
Furthermore, the Red Army had suffered immensely at the hands of the NKVD, so it seemed unnatural – to say the very least - to ask for any help from that quarter. During the Purges, a full third of all officers were arrested and subsequently executed or sent to the Gulag-camps in Northern Siberia. Hardest hit were the higher echelons, as 3 out of 5 Marshals and 14 out of 16 army commanders were executed.
The NKVD itself were not immune to the Purges, and had several of its members purged on Stalin’s orders. Besides a series of low ranking members, Yagoda and Yeszhov – the successive heads of the NKVD - had both been executed. That alone made the ever cautious Beria, the present head of the NKVD, very reluctant to get involved in the mess in Finland. Even in the dreaded and feared NKVD one did not want to appear as a failure.
The Finnish War cost the Red Army over 300,000 casualties, which was what it was – men could easily be replaced, this was the USSR after all -, but furthermore the Red Army had lost some 700 planes and nearly 2,000 tanks. Considering the fact that Finland had next to no tanks, or armoured vehicles of any sort, and no Air Force to speak of, this was disturbing, highly disturbing, but nobody dared tell Stalin that his vaunted Red Army was no good! Indeed some senior officers went as far as convincing themselves that all was well. Ignorance was not only bliss, but also safety in the USSR!
Generally speaking the Soviet Supreme Command didn’t know what to do. Puny Finland's small army of some 200,000 men had nearly beaten the Red Army and thus exposed the its many short-comings. Lessons were naturally learned, but still to Red Army seemed like a leaderless and unskilled mob! The Marshals and Generals of the Red Army – well, most of them - already knew their men were poorly trained, equipped and led, but the Red Army and STAVKA had relied on quantity rather than quality ever since Tjukachevskij and the start of the Purges. And if one showed an unhealthy interest in pre-Communist history, one would know that this had always been the case in Russia, and the Soviet Union as well. But now, quantity no longer seemed adequate!
Not only did it seem like the age old Russian/Soviet strategy of swamping any given enemy in impossible numbers was not all that efficient any more, it also was more than obvious that it was very hard to supply, maintain and control such huge forces in the field. Especially considering, that the Red Army was highly mechanised, it was rather ironic that the Red Army lacked radios, trucks and the logistical muscles to fight a modern war.
Thus jubilation and exuberance were the dominant moods in Berlin the capital of the Third Reich, whereas a perpetual state of fear and paranoia ruled the Soviet Union's capital of Moskva - Moscow.
This city is a prostitute
She has red spots on her forehead
Her teeth are made of gold
She's fat and yet so lovely
Her mouth falls to my valley
when I pay her for it
She takes off her clothes but only for money
The city that keeps me in suspense
One, two, three!
Pioneers are here and there,
singing songs to Lenin.
She is old and nevertheless beautiful
I can't resist her
I can't resist
She powders her old skin
and has gotten her breasts rebuilt
She makes me horny I suffer torment
She dances for me I have to pay
I have to pay
She sleeps with me but only for money
It's still the most beautiful city in the world
- Rammstein, Moskau (translated from German).
Apathy has rained on me
Now I’m feeling like a soggy dream
So close to drowning but
I don’t mind
I’ve lived in this mental cave
Throw emotions in the grave
Hell, who needs them anyway
- Green Day, Burnout.
Moskva, the ancient seat of Russian government, where Tsars, one more bloodthirsty than the other, had ruled millions of Russians for centuries were now the lair of the worst dictator humankind have ever seen. The dictator, a man who made the Tzars, even the worst ones, seem like innocent choirboys, Josef Vissarionovitch Djugasjvili - know under his nome-de-guerre as Stalin, the Man of Iron -, was feeling uneasy, and that usually meant someone had to pay with their lives. Stalin was growing ever more frightful of the seemingly unstoppable German war machine and of its leader, the German Führer, Adolf Hitler, not to mention suspicious of the greedy Japanese.
Stalin had all by himself, rightfully, drawn the conclusion that the Red Army were far from able to fight a modern war. Its equipment was below par, so was its training and, naturally, its officer corps. It also lacked the ability to support itself during combat over longer periods – the forces fighting in Finland had experienced major supply failures as they on occasion - on occasion meaning all too often - ran out of not only ammunition, but also – which was quite impossible to fathom in the USSR of all places – out of fuel. The Far Eastern Army units seem to do quite well, though, but then again they only had to deal with the Japanese and no major battles had been fought. Furthermore it confirmed Stalin’s view that it was vitally important to avoid a war with the Third Reich for as long as possible. There would be no immediate war, though, as Germany would not invade the USSR, while its armed forces were still embroiled in a war with Britain. But to the amazement of Stalin, the Party Leadership as well as that of the Red Army, as it were, time seemed to be running out for the British and running out very fast indeed.
To make sure, the red Army would be ready for its next trials, more pressure was put on whatever Finnish resistance was still active. Which was quite a lot as large parts of the Finnish countryside was disputed to put it rather diplomatically. The terrain itself, and the locals severe anti-Soviet attitude, made it something of a Sysiphos task to control Finland from a military standpoint. Having recognised that, Stalin ordered more men, this time from both the Red Army and the NKVD into Finland. At the same time all mean were taken to bring the Finns to heal, which is a vary sugarcoated way of putting it. Basically, the Soviets went about murdering and killing more or less anybody of military aid and then some. The Soviet actions in Finland would prove to be something of an omen of things to come – the Eastern Ear between Germany and the USSR would see the very same type of almost genocidal tactics used, this time mostly by the invading Germans, and the same quite murderous guerilla tactics employed by the Soviets. Nonetheless, and however distasteful it may appear nowadays, the Soviet tactics worked – Finnish resistance subsided to an acceptable level.
Not surprisingly several foreign observers made quite a fuss about the Soviet’s hard-handed tactics. Churchill amongst others made his famous Peace-speech, as it is ironically known! The theme was of course modelled on Tacitus’ even more famous quote; Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant - They made a desert and called it peace. With his usual eloquence Churchill hammered home the fact that Communism now and forever had lost its innocence, and that the spirit of Soviet Russia and Communism itself could longer be called benign, nor worthy of aspiration or admiration. The speech and its philosophical connections would later, or so the story goes, inspire no other than Albert Camus to write L’etranger du Monde – The Estranged. Unfortunately, few people in Britain really cared much for Churchill at this point. His views did win supporters in the USA, though.
The Finnish War ironically also gave Hitler amble food for thought. The Finnish debacle convinced Hitler, and his inner circle, that the Wehrmacht would easily annihilate the Red Army, and thus planning for Operation Friedrich der Grosse began in earnest. Furthermore, with Operation Orfeus in the workings, Hitler and his cronies at the OKW knew that the days of Britain were numbered. Operation Friedrich der Grosse would be the codename for the worlds largest military operation. The plan called for an invasion of the USSR in mid-May, 1941, which would give the Wehrmacht sufficient time to destroy the Red Army and take control of the western part of the USSR before winter put a stop to military operations on the Eastern Front, as operations in the USSR would be known.
The Chained Bear and the Red Falcons
An angelface smiles to me
Under a headline of tragedy
That smile used to give me warmth
Farewell - no words to say
beside the cross on your grave
and those forever burning candles
to remind us of the shortness of our time
Tears laid for them
Tears of love, tears of fear
Bury my dreams, dig up my sorrows
Oh, Lord why
the angels fall first
- Nightwish, The Angels fall First.
Oh yes I've walked the path that
gives me confidence strong and pure
Now I realised that freedom rises
from comfort in the source
I built these walls around me
And I can't break them all away
And I focus on the strength I call
Insufferable and insane
So hold on to the end...
Its all about the blood, the sweat, the tears
A tribute to the strength built through the years
A tribute to soul...
- Machine Head, The Burning Red.
As the Germans smelled blood, as did Stalin, albeit in a slightly different way. He once more purged the officer corps, and ordered a rapidly build-up of the Red Army’s strength and rapid expansion of its logistical capacity and support functions – something made possible only by a successive series of harshly implemented Five Year Plans that had made the USSR’s industry into a virtual powerhouse of an unimaginable magnitude.
Since 1928, the USSR had seen rises raw material extraction between a 100 and 200% and a whopping 300% increase in power output, not to mention the many kilometres of newly laid down rails and new industrial centers build in unpronounceable places. The industrialisation process had cost the Soviet people no end of pain, but Stalin as usual ignored any complaints, claiming that if the industrialisation did not take place, the beloved USSR would be at the mercy of its enemies, surrounded by them as it were. Ironically, history would prove the Man of Steel correct. By 1941, when the Eastern War erupted in full fury, the Red Army had grown to a mind-numbing size of 300 divisions. Most of the divisions both in 1940 and a year later were infantry divisions, or Rifle Divisions as the Soviets called them. As in every other country at the time, these Rifle Divisions were supported by horse-drawn artillery – and in the case of the Red Army a lot of it - and cavalry divisions. Most were fairly badly equipped, trained and led, though.
The Red Army were still lacking trucks and radios as well as supplies and reserves. The urgency of the military build-up had forced the Marshals and Generals of the Red Army to focus on creating new combat formations -, which meant that insufficient resources were available to create a logistical apparatus in support of said front line units. The importance of an abundance of radios for some reason didn’t quite sink in, but rear area supply dumps with fuel and ammunition did begin to spring up in the in early 1941. Unfortunately for the Red Army just behind the Rifle, Cavalry and Tank divisions as they were forming up along the borders with Romania and Germany.
The Red Army did have an ace or two up their sleave, so to say. Not all the competent officers had been purged. With the rising tension in the Far East as well as in Europe, a few good officers had been given the possibly to gain prominence (and importantly, without getting executed in the process). One of them, Ivan Stepanovitj Konev, would go on to become the Rodina’s foremost field commander of all times. Another was Konstantin Konstantinovitj Rokossovskij, who was not only known as a brilliant leader of men, but as the inventor of mechanised warfare – not quite true, but at the time it was hard, not to say highly dangerous, to argue with Stalin’s propaganda machine. Ironically both men nearly got purged themselves, but their commands in faraway Siberia and Outer Mongolia, as well as their undeniable successes – well, they prevented the Japanese Kwantung Army and their Manchurian puppets from becoming too frisky - spared them from joining men like Zhukov and Tjukachevskij before the NKVD’s hardworking firing squads. Both Rokossovskij and Konev’s fate would be closely intertwined with one of the USSR’s few other aces, its powerful tanks.
In 1940, two new tanks were beginning to enter service, albeit somewhat slowly. One was the heavy and tough 50 tonnes, diesel powered KV-1. The KV-1 was a typical standard tank-design for the time, just a lot heavier than other tanks and better armed than most with its powerful 76,2mm high-velocity main gun. The other tank was the fast and reliable T-34. The T-34 was by no means a marvel of engineering, but it did introduce a new feature; sloped armour. Sloped armour was ideal for deflecting shells and thus added protection out of proportion with the armours actual thickness. The T-34 also had a diesel engine and the powerful 76,2mm gun.
The focus that was placed squarely on the Red Army and especially increasing the production of tanks and aircraft’s influenced the other branch of the Armed Forces – the Red Navy - immensely. Even though its commander in chief, Admiral Nikolai Kutznetzov, who had been appointed Commissar of the Navy by Stalin in the spring of 1939, was a powerful patron and quite the visionary regarding naval warfare, ship building was nearly halted in early 1940, as Stalin decreed that the USSR should apply its industrial might, revolutionary fever and resources to produce yet more tanks and aircraft’s. Some minor vessels got built, though, along with a continuous stream of mostly coastal submarines. The Red Navy was without question the weakest branch of the Soviet Armed forces, but did as noted above have a rather powerful submarine branch, as well as a handful of fairly powerful surface vessels. Said submarine fleet promoted the German Kriegsmarine to develop the Fl-41 Grief – Griffin – helicopter. The Fl-41 was the world’s first dedicated ASW, or Unterseeboot Jaeger in German, helicopter and would prove highly successful in the Eastern War as well as in the British Continuation War. Both the surface and submarine branches of the Soviet Red Navy would face nearly total destruction at the hands of the German Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe. As with the Red Army, the Red Navy’s officers corps had been badly damaged by the Purges, but Admiral Kutznetzov did a lot to better things, but to little avail as will be seen.
The Voenno-Vozduznie Sily - Red Army’s Air Force –, or VVS for short, was not an independent service as in Germany or Britain, but was controlled by the Red Army. It should be noted that the Red Navy had air units of its own, but the Soviet Naval Aviators mostly flew outdated bomber and torpedo aircraft’s that would suffer dearly when faced by the Kriegsmarine’s Luftstreitkräfte Kommando - KLK -, and/or Luftwaffe. On paper, the Red Army’s Air Force was quite impressive, however. By 1936, Soviet factories were producing about 3,500 aircraft a year. Most of these were bombers like Tupolev’s TB-3 and the Tupolev Skorostnoy Bombardirovschik - high speed bomber – series of SB’s. Doctrine as well as dire need dictated that priority be placed on bomber production, something the VVS and Red Army in general would regret dearly in the years to come. In the early summer of 1941, when Operation Freidrich der Grosse was launched, the VVS deployed some 18,000 planes – out of which nearly 10,000 were placed in Frontal Aviation units - of all sorts in its inventory and had around 20,000 pilots, while ground crews and the like numbered close to 200,000 people.
The Red Army Air Force’s favoured simple designs, that could be mass produced and flown by more or less uneducated and trained personnel. The most numerous aircraft’s by 1941 were Polikarpov R-5 reconnaissance planes, MBR-2 for naval reconnaissance, the Polikarpov series of fighters – of which the I-16 featured prominently -, the Tupolev SB-2 and Ilyushin DB-3 for ground support and tactical bombing and the heavy ANT-37/DB-2 – a converted ANT-25 - long range bomber. DB stands for Dalnij Bombardirovschik meaning Long Range Bomber.
As the war progressed the VVS - Red Army’s Air Force - suffered, just as RAF did during the Battle of Britain, under a lack of trained pilots and air crews, but in part made up for said lack by producing some rather simple, but surprisingly good planes. Planes such as the MiG-3 fighter by Mikoyan & Gurevitj, the LaGG-3 fighter by Lavotjkin or the truly deadly TiY-2 by the Tupolev & Yakolev design bureau would at times make the Luftwaffe earn its keep the hard way. The TiY-2 was actually an impressive machine, that went on to serve with Red China units until the fall of Mao’s last stronghole in 1953 as well as the Ukrainian National Air Force. Powered by a super-charged Mikulin engine with some 2,200hp and armed with an increasingly powerful array of machine guns and cannon as well as rockets in its later variants, the TiY-3, with the somehow fitting nickname of Ubiytsja - Killer -, was nonetheless an agile and tough fighter suited for low to mid-level dogfighting. It had a sleek fuselage, a bubbled canopy and was made entirely out of lightweight metal, but had what can only be described as an armoured box around the pilot. The TiY-3 made its way into the pages of history as the USSR’s perhaps finest plane - some historians still claim the honour belongs with the Su-6, though – and first thoroughbred interceptor. Furthermore a series of fairly good and most of all rugged ground attack aircraft and tactical bombers were built as well – Petlyakov’s Pe-2 and another plane designed by Andrei Nikolaevich Tupolev, the Tu-2 and the devastatingly efficient and deadly twin engine Su-6 Akula – Shark - with its four recoilless 45mm cannon by Tupolev’s protegé, the ingenious Pavel Osipovich Sukoi. Dr.Sukoi would later go on to construct Russia’s first entirely domestic jet-fighter, the Su-12, and its first super-sonic aircraft, the Su-22 – made with the world first erectable cockpit.
Dead Angels of Albion
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
We’re disposable teens
You said you wanted evolution
The ape was a great big hit
You say you want a revolution, man
I say that you’re full of shit
The more that you fear us
The bigger we get
The more that you fear us
The bigger we get
And don’t be surprised, don’t be surprised
Don’t be surprised when we destroy all of it
- Marilyn Manson, Disposable Teens.
Their faces gaunt their eyes were blurred and shirts all soaked with sweat
They're riding hard to catch that head but they ain't caught them yet
'Cause they've got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting as they ride and hear their awful cry
Yippie-aye-aaa, yippie-aye-ooh, ghost riders in the sky
As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
A-trying to catch the devil's herd across these endless skies
Yippie-aye-aaa, yippie-aye-ooh, ghost riders in the sky
- Johnny Cash, Ghost Riders in the Sky.
In August, 1940, the offensive air war over Germany had basically failed. A combination of factors played a key role in RAF Bomber Command’s defeat. First, the lack of long range escorts hurt the bombers immensely as they were fairly easy targets for Luftwaffe’s newly created Luftflotte 9 with its growing numbers of FW-190’s – organised in two understrength, as of now, Jagdgeschwadere under respectively Günther Lützow and Walter Oesau, famous for his downing of British General Edmund Ironside - and its even more deadly nightfighter arm – Nachtjäger Geschwader 55 – under Johannes Steinhof and its other, equally important element – the intruders – Fernnachtjäger Geschwader 111- under Walter Nowotny. The FW-222 Raubvogel had not entered service yet, but ordinary fighters could with good guidance from Do-19 C&C aircraft’s and ground control be directed unto the bomber streams and do a lot of damage. A good number of Ju-88’s had been converted into both Night Fighters and Intruders. Both variants had RADAR – made possible by a combination of miniaturisation and a small enlargements of the Ju-88’s in form of a bulge on the otherwise slender fuselage - and its usual glass nose replaced by what was basically a gun platform with two 20mm cannon and two heavy machine guns – the weapons mix would rapidly be replaced by an all cannon armament. The Intruder version of the Ju-88, besides its heavy armament, carried a small bombload of cluster bombs in its somewhat shrunken internal bomb bay, but lacked the sophisticated communication and navigation gear the Night Fighter was came equipped with.
As part of his reorganisation of the Luftwaffe, Wever promoted Ernst Udet to General der Jagdflieger - General of the Fighter Arm –, or GdJ for short, with Hitler’s blessing. Udet was an old friend and comrade in arms of dear deceased Hermann, and thus had a special place in der Führer’s heart as well. In many ways Udet hated his job as a senior officer, bound by his desk, drowned in paper and entangled in politics, and therefore spent as much time as possible out in the field among his Jagdfliere. As General of the Fighter Arm he now had plenty of opportunity to visit various Jagdgeschwaders and other outfits such as the two new Nachtjäger and Fernnachtjäger Geschwaders. Luftflotte 9, or Luftflotte Reich in daily Luftwaffe terminology, was Udet’s baby. While not the sharpest knife in the cupboard when it came down to modern technology and its use, Udet nonetheless had a knack for picking good officers, inspiring his subordinates and making the most of his allocated resources, not to mention an innate charm and an unpretentious mannerism that sat him apart from many of other high ranking Nazi Gold Pheasants. Luftflotte 9 would haunt and rawage RAF Bomber Command and ultimately prove its downfall, at least in round one.
After the advice of the rather obscure British air war theorists, Arthur Harris, the British had begun to form their bombes up in huge swarms. While on paper a sound theory; massive damage done, safety in numbers and the possibility of overwhelming the German air defences, this tactic proved devastatingly wrong. The massed and massive stream of bombers only gave Udet’s boys, be they ordinary fighters pilots or elité Jäger pilots-, a very target rich environment, to paraphrase Udet himself. Furthermore, the Intruders had a field day when the huge stream began to form up in Britain before its mission. With so many bombers participating, it took a lot of time to get every aircraft airborne and in formation, and then it took even more time to meet up with the other elements and form the actual bomber stream. Even the otherwise high flying super heavy De Havilland Manchester was vulnerable when circling an airfield with all its navigation lights on – as the bombers did in this phase for safety reasons. The Ju-88 Intruders wrecked havoc on the British airfields with both their heavy weapons and the cluster munition used so liberally by Luftwaffe. All this meant, that the bombers had not been able to turn the tables on the Germans, and with much of RAF Fighter Command basically blown out of existence or simply just fighting to stay alive and airborne, and a distressingly large part of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet damaged or actually sunk, along with the growing concentration of German warships of all sorts in various Kriegsmarine bases within easy striking range of the British Isles, the beleaguered British Prime Minister, Lord Halifax, began to wonder whether peace might not be a better idea than stubborn resistance.
As a result of the PM’s considerations, an off-the-record enlarged Cabinet meeting took place in late August, 1940. Among those present were Eden, Bevin and Atlee. In spite of the closed and highly secretive nature of this meeting, a series of Halifax quotes has leaked over the years. One of the more memorable are his opening lines: "Peace, most honoured Gentlemen, is essential for this Realm, if we the British are to maintain our rightful place as the foremost of nations and the Empire are to thrive and prosper. The survival of our beloved Realm must take precedence over any and all objections – be they based on honour or lust for victory and personal glory. Our Empire can not be allowed to fade away into the night, like an old, tired Lion ousted from his Pride by a young usurper!" It is usually believed that only Eden and the two Labour MP’s, stout Bevin and clever Atlee, open resistance to the idea of peace with Hitler and his Riech prevented Halifax from issuing a public statement calling for an armistice.
The gathering German warships and the rather awesome power they represented had the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, deeply worried. Due to heavy German air attacks on naval anchorages, ship yards and other facilities, he had been forced to disperse most of his naval assets, including withdrawing most of Home Fleet from Scapa Flow to more easterly anchorages away from Luftwaffe and the KLK. If the German ships set sail and went to sea, he was unsure whether his ships could reach them before they got to where they wanted to be, and where ever that might be, it was bound to be detrimental to British interests. With a heavy heart, the First Sea lord ordered Home Fleet west again and hoped for the best. At least the Fleet Air Arm – FAA – had some decent fighters now and RAF Fighter Command had promised to reinforce its northern squadrons. Deep down, Pound feared that Fighter Command actually were glad to shift some units north, out of the hell Southern England had become. At least it seemed, according to Intelligence and its Norwegian contacts, like the German 5th Air Fleet and the KLK units in Norway had been seriously hurt during their many raids on Scotland. It was reported that many Luftwaffe and KLK bases were almost empty and that numerous damaged planes were visible in many places. Pound began to ponder if some kind of strike on the Kriegsmarine ships gathering around that accursed German carrier – Herman Göring, was it? - in Kiel was not in order, now that the German air forces seemed temporarily weakened. Seize the day and all that! Especially since KM Bismarck had now arrived from the Baltic as part of Schlachtgruppe Bachmann. Pound had to admit that he was quite surprised to see the Bismarck ready for action so soon. Come to think of it, so was the Intelligence chaps at the Admiralty. Oh, well, Pound thought, as long as the damned Luftwaffe and those pesky naval fliers was out the way…
Turn around and pick up the pieces
I, like a rock, sink
Sinking til I hit the bottom
The water is much deeper than I thought
Nothing to swim with
Kicking but I keep sinking
A lesson that no one could have ever taught
Cause I can almost breathe the air
Right beyond my fingertips
I’ll turn around and pick up the pieces
One more push and I’ll be there
Back where I belong
- Hoobastank, Pieces.
Comin’ down the world turned over
And angels fall without you there
And I go on as you get colder
Or are you someone’s prayer
You know the lies they always told you
And the love you never knew
What’s the things they never showed you
That swallowed the light from the sun
Inside your room
- Goo Goo Dolls, Black Balloon.
Even if RAF Bomber Command’s air offensive against Germany had basically failed, the bombers kept streaming into Germany at a high cost to both sides alike. Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte Reich (9) shot down numerous bombers each night, but the heavy Manchesters and Stirlings nonetheless got through in some numbers and caused immense damage on German cities, or their total destruction as seen in the case of Hamburg, Bremen and later Köln – a city that would truly suffer in the War as it later got annihilated in nuclear fire.
After yet another large bomber raid on a German city, Köln, Hitler once more pressed for a direct response in form of attacks on British cities. Wever once again voiced his firm opposition, but ended up giving in to Hitler – on the advice of Milch and several of his closes advisers. Wever, and Milch, however, was not about to stoop to British Tactics, so a series of militarily and industrially significant cities were picked; Liverpool, Belfast and Hull. Subsequently Portsmouth and Southhampton along with the Sector Airfields, including Tangmere, in Southern Britain would get hit round the clock in preparation of Operation Orfeus. Having received their orders, the Luftflotten in France concentrated their heavier units, the Schwere Kampfgeschwaders etc etc, and, after giving warming in form of air dropped leaflets, bombed the three cities one by one into smoking ruins over a period of six days with a stand down on the seventh day – the biblical reference was not lost on the British. The large amounts of coal stored in warehouses in Hull – the primary port of entry and exit for coal - caused firestorms that quite literally burned the city to the ground, while Liverpool and Belfast was made nearly inhabitable, thus both the shipbuilding capacity and as well as port capacity in general was hurt dramatically and imports declined measurably. During the 6 days of consistent air attacks, RAF Fighter Command was practically nowhere to be seen as the commanders of Britain’s air defence desperately tried to conserve their strength, being nearly out of aviation fuel and pilots as they were and an invasion looming at the horizon.
In the German propaganda ministry, Dr.Goebbels made the most of the chivalrous Luftwaffe’s attempt to minimise civilian casualties by declaring their attacks to the British inhabitants. Not only did this serve to give the Germans a morale upper hand, so to say, and badly damage British morale, it also played well with the public opinion in the USA, who also noted that the German U-boote did not strike at unarmed merchant vessels in this war… maybe the leadership in Berlin were not the animals, the British – who themselves sank everything they could get into reach of AND destroyed cities without warning – claimed?! As said, Goebbels and his lackeys in the Propaganda Ministry had a field day…
Furthermore the newly identified Sector Airfields were being pommeled into the ground by Ju-88 Schnellbombers and everything else the Germans could reach them with from elderly Ju-87’s to Hs-129’s and even fighters – the FW-190 proved to be quite the ground assault aircraft, even though its engines had a slight tendency to overheat at certain altitudes. Biggin Hill, Kenley and Tangmere for al purpose cease to exist as munitions of all sorts reigning from the SD-6-G to the 2 tonnes Hermann SC2000 free fall bomb rain down on the airfields. Luftwaffe also introduced a new system designed to hit a smallish target with maximum power; the Staffel- or Gruppenkeil - Arrowhead-formation - where three bombers fly in V-formation followed in quick succession by another V –formation of three bombers and so on. With near complete control of the sky over Southern Britain such tactics were devastingtly effective and destructive.
After the 6 Days Raid, as the bombing campaign against Liverpool, Hull and Belfast was know, Portsmouth, Southhampton, the Isle of Wight and the coastline of Kent and Sussex was the focus of Luftwaffe and KLK attention and was attacked repeatedly. Airfields and RADAR sites and the mentioned Sector Airfields was hit again and again in preparation for Operation Orfeus. British casualties were mounting dangerously as the loss of 3C is hurting RAF Fighter Command beyond belief. A new jammer device, introduced by Air General Martini, blocked the British IFF-system and the situation in Southern England turned from bad to worse. In August, RAF Fighter Command for all purpose stopped being a danger and at the end of the month nearly didn’t exist at all, much to the joy of the Luftwaffe leadership as Luftwaffe's own losses mounted due to the intense pace of air operations…
As in France, the 500kg SD-4-H1 cluster bomb, and its bigger brother the SD-6-G, had a tremendous effect on British airfields, even the grass ones favoured by the Hurricane squadrons. Furthermore the bombs were being used in great numbers on the roads and rails running in and out of London, and on the British infrastructure in general. Combined with the effort to mine the Thames, London began to get isolated from the rest of Britain and food, fuel and other resources became scare indeed. The lack of direct enemy attacks and the drop in basic commodities gave rise to a rather defeatist atmosphere in the city.
Among the many preparations to Operation Orfeus, RLM and the Luftwaffe finally got around to replacing the Ju-52 transports of the aviation schools and various training outfits. The replacement plane was the very versatile Siebel Si-204 made by the otherwise fairly unknown Siebel Flugzeugwerke KG. The Siebel Si-204 was to serve as a trainer, transport, ambulance and utility aircraft, while the Ju-52’s were concentrated with the ones already serving with the Lufttransportflotte – Air Transport Fleet, Luftwaffe’s dedicated air transport arm. The Si-204 was used throughout the war as a jack of all trades type aircraft, with over 2,000 being produced in various factories by war's end.
The Junkers Ju-52 Transporter itself would eventually – probably for the best, considering the losses during Operations Feldherrenhalle, Hermann and Orfeus, the last combat mission in which the Ju-52 was unused in numbers – be replaced as Luftwaffe’s main transport aircraft and workhorse by the Ju-252. The Ju-252 was an unarmed aircraft with room for 35 passengers in a pressurised body. The Ju-252 had an exceptional performance, and was mainly built by cheap non-strategic materials. A hydraulically powered Trapoklappe - rear loading ramp - allowed loading of heavy vehicles or freight whilst holding the fuselage level. The Ju-252 would be in service along with the diminishing fleet of Ju-52 and the bigger Ju-290 armed transporter and the huge Messerscmidt Me-323.
A Sea on Fire
Orders came for sailing
Somewhere over there
All confined to barracks
'Twas more than I could bear
I knew you were waiting in the street
I heard your feet
But could not meet
My Lili of the lamplight
My own Lili Marlene
- Vera Lynn, Lili Marlene.
My flaws are the only thing left that’s pure
Can’t really live, can’t really endure
Everything I see reminds me of her
God I wish I didn’t care anymore
The more I touch, the less I feel
I’m lying to myself that it’s not real
Why is everybody making such a big fucking deal?
I’m never gonna care anymore
What the hell am I doing?
Is there anyone left in my life?
What the fuck was I thinking?
Anybody want to tell me I’m fine?
Where the hell am I going?
Do I even need a reason to hide?
I am only betrayed
I am only conditioned to die
- Slipknot, Everything Ends.
In OKM and OKL respectively the final preparations for Operation Karin and Orfeus had now been made. In Norway, out of sight airfields had been enlarged or constructed from nothing by the hard working Luftwaffe Construction Brigades of newly promoted Luftwaffe Oberst Speer. The fact that Speer was now serving as a Luftwaffe officer, albeit only as a glorified Pioneer, was yet another slight Hitler would never forgive Wever for – time spend on building new air fields and the like was time not spend on building great monuments and what not to Hitler and Nationalsocialism -, but Speer had proven himself extremely capable and Wever needed him to have some sort of authority. As it were, however, the KLK and Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 5 now had several more or less undetected out of the way air fields in Norway where they now concentrated their navalized He-111’s and He-177’s of Luftwaffe’s Schwere Kampfgeschwader 12 and a series of other planes needed for Operation Karin. At the more well-known air fields at Bergen, Stavanger and around Trondheim, the damaged planes and a handful of still functioning planes where left in plain sight. Reinforcements were brought to Norway via Sweden and under all sorts of disguises. Opr. Karin relied on the British Royal Navy believing that the KLK and Luftwaffe in Norway was out of the game for a brief time, so OKL and OKM did all they could to lull the British into a false sense of security.
In Kiel, the new and nearly untested ships of Schlachtgruppe Bachmann, the carrier KM Hermann Göring and the mighty battleship KM Bismarck along with their escorts, was ready to sortie. Radio signals filled the air as the ships got under way. Apparently the air complement of the Göring was not quite ready yet, so most of the carrier’s planes would have to be picked up at Trondheim. An uncoded message from a very angry Kapitän zur See Densch, the Göring’s captain, was aired in response to these news. At the British Royal Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence, this was viewed with great interest.
From their bases at Wilhelmshafen and Kiel U-boote, having finished a hasty refit, began to sneak out to sea – a series of dummies left in their place – and headed north-northwest to their new duty stations. Meanwhile surface elements of the Kriegsmarine continued to gather at Wilhelmshafen, while lighter vessels, E-boote and a few destroyers deployed to the French Channel harbours.
Another type of vessels was gathering in Channel ports as well. As part of misdirection, the Kriegsmarine deployed their limited stock of landing crafts to harbours opposing Dover and the Ramsgate- area. Without the river barges that Bormann and Schacht refused to give up, the Kriegsmarine's capacity for amphibious operations was in reality very small, but with subterfuge, dummies and the like some sort of threat was created. The available crafts included the Marinefährprähme - Naval Landing Crafts -, which had just entered service, having received priority since Opr.Feldherrenhalle and the Marine-Artillerie-Leichter, MAL – Naval Artillery Lichter-, used by marines from the Kriegsmarine’s Kampfgruppen and Sonderabteillungen along with commandos from Abwehr’s Brandenburg-force of Feldherrenhalle-fame. Furthermore the Kriegsmarine possessed a series of Siebel Ferries. Even two of the experimental VS hydrofoil transports were deployed to the Pas de Calais area.
The Marinefährprahme, or MFP’s, were vessels built for universal use. They could double as both transport vessel and combat transports as well as supply ships. Furthermore they could be upgraded to serve as gun boats, mine layers or sweepers. They MFP’s were large, reliable ships capable of hauling 200 fully armed soldiers or over 140 tonnes of equipment in rough weather.
The Marine Artillerie Leichter, MAL’s, were among the smallest landing craft in service of the Kriegsmarine and were more or less dedicated to the function of assault craft because of its relative small size. The MAL’s were designed after the requirements of the Heer, and could be transported by land, albeit with some difficulty. The MAL-design would prove its usefulness during Operation Friedrich der Grosse, where MAL’s were used extensively in the Caspian Sea, Sea of Azov, the Leningrad-area and the Black Sea.
The Siebelfähre, or Siebel Ferry - named after its inventor -, was a heavy transport ferry made by joining two pontoons – normally used for bridging by the Heer’s pioneers – in a catamaran-like structure and fixing BMW aircraft engines at their rear ends. The construction was topped by a large platform with two ramps – one at each end, utilising the new drive on/off concept. There were several versions of the Siebelfähre planned from artillery ferries to invasion command or hospital ferries, but at the time of Opr.Orfeus only a few of the transports were built. Several mock-ups were created, however, in Channel ports near Dover and Ramsgate.
Besides the conventional designs for transports, landing crafts and assault ships, the German Kriegsmarine had experimented with a number hydrofoil designs – vessels lifted out of the water by high speeds and thus riding on a fairly small surface, the wing-foils, and thereby reducing drag - since the late 30’s. Most of the designs were design studies for fast attack crafts, a kind of super E-boot, but some were for fast assault transports or fast transports. The two VS-ships were of the latter kind and herefore classified as Fast Hydrofoil Transport VS-1 and VS-2. The VS-series was able to transport a medium tank and could double as a fast mine layer.
Light Heer units – perfect for amphibious operations - were deploying along the Channel coast as well, as were the Kriegsmarine’s marines – the Kampfgruppen of Feldherrenhalle fame and two Sonderabteillungen, Tirpitz and Bergmann. The last Sonderabteillung, Ingenohl, and Abwehr’s Brandenburg-commandos were secretly being deployed further south along with Air General Student’s 7th Paratroop Division, the 22nd Air Landing Division and General Dietle’s 3rd Gebirgsjäger Division. The entire force was determined for Operation Orfeus, the airborne invasion of the Isle of Wight. Student himself had decided to lead the airborne attack, the greatest ever made. Opr.Orfeus called for a three waved attack and several follow-up flights with reinforcements, supplies and equipment and the use of Luftwaffe’s Construction Brigades to repair and expand RAF’s airfields on the Isle, as it would be vital for the success of Orfeus to have local fighter cover and close air support at hand. Ju-52’s and modified Focke-Achgelis Fa-284 helicopters would carry the troops from their bases in France to their destination off the coast of Southern Britain. Operation Orfeus was intended to be the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, so to say. In all three branches of the German Wehrmacht, as well as the OKW itself, the dominating view was, that the British was becoming increasingly war-weary and they just needed the final nudge to have them accept a peace offer. Operations Karin and Orfues was in tandem designed to provide that final nudge…
With the departure of Schlachtgruppe Bachmann from Kiel, Operation Karin was in operation. KM Göring, lacking a significant part of its air complement, KM Bismarck and their escorts was steaming north towards Trondheim in Norway. Meanwhile, the Luftwaffe and KLK had withdrawn from their usual air bases in Norway in the hope of luring the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet, its last truly battle worthy element, out to fight, where the Germans could get at them.
In London, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, was in two minds. Intelligence indicated that the enemy’s air power in Norway was temporarily out of the picture, and thus any naval engagement would by fought under at least a neutral sky. But deep down, Pound was worried, the apparently planes-less Göring and the not quite tested Bismarck was looking a little too much as bait to him, and where there was a bait, there was a trap to be damn sure! Still, he could not allow to the German Battle Group – Schlachtgruppe Bachmann, was the German term -, to break out into the Atlantic. The supply situation was bad enough as it were, with so many port cities nearly reduced to rubble and thus basically useless. Only God knew what would happen if these ships were allowed to wreck havoc on the Atlantic convoys. Furthermore he had the PM asking him daily for good news, and the not quite opposition of Labour and rogue Conservative screaming at him for not doing enough. With a heavy heart Pound ordered Home Fleet to intercept the German ships, and to head south towards the Channel afterwards, the threat of invasion loomed ever nearer as more and more German ships deployed to the Channel. Pound and his staff had determined that they would have close to a week before the German Fleet gathering in Wilhelmshaven was ready for action and actually could reach the Channel. Furthermore it looked like most of the U-boote was at port for repair and refit as well. Yes, there would be time for the destruction of Admiral Bachmann’s force and them some to spare, before anything happened in the Channel, Pound was sure of it.
From its bases in Northern Scotland, the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet began to form up around the famous HMS Hood, and the three battleships, Prince of Wales, Rodney and Nelson, as well as the battlecruiser Repulse and three elder carriers. Several heavy and light cruisers as well as a powerful destroyer screen was added to this already quite potent force. The RN had taken a beating during the last months, but it was far from dead yet! A single periscope spotted the huge mass of ships as they steamed out to meet the German Battle Group.
You give up on yourself
Somehow you got betrayed again
Thin ice and luck runs out
Who will you blame it on this time?
Due to lack of interest in you
The light at the end of the tunnel
Was turned off
And something I noticed
Beating you is thrilling me
I've got a secret for you
If you took your own direction
If only you practice what you preach
If you follow your advice
You wouldn't be burning bridges all the time
- Megadeath, Burning Bridges.
He’ll have you down on your knees
You play his fatal game
He’ll satisfy your every need
You’ll never be the same
- Slayer, Aggressive Perfector
In both OKL and OKM staff officers and their commanders in chief, respectively Air General Wever and Admiral Raeder, had their eyes fixed on situation reports and meteorological dittos from and for the North Sea. Weather so far looked good as the planners of Operation Karin – the destruction of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet – had hoped for. At this time of year the weather should be fine, but one never really knew with the North Sea. The situation reports indicated that all was going according to plan as well, units were deploying as they should, so no human problems to worry about either.
The German U-boote, having reached their duty stations only mere days before, now began to converge on the ships of the Home Fleet, while other placed themselves in a picket line where they almost certainly would block the British line of retreat. Finally a few U-boote, one commanded by no other than Gunther Prien – the Chief of Operations himself -, approached the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet main anchorage at Scapa Flow. During the deployment a few incidents naturally occurred, but nothing major or truly disturbing. Actually, Konteradmiral von Friedeburg, the new Befehlshaber der Unterseeboote – Commander-in-Chief of the Submarine Arm of the Kriegsmarine – would have worried if none of his U-boote had been spotted and engaged – silence facilitates paranoia, and that was not a state of mind he wished for the Royal Navy’s Admiralty to be in. Nearly all of the German U-boote deemed operational had been made available for this mission, and subsequently some 40 boats were able to deploy as part of Operation Karin. The U-boote that converged on the British Home Fleet steaming on an eastwards course had been ordered to attack whatever carriers that were among the ships and sink them at any cost the minute they got the codeword, and so the various U-boote commanders would – each and every of the ambitious, eager young men wanted to secure his name in the history books by sinking a British carrier, and who knew, then maybe even a battleship?!
From the port of Kiel Schlachtgruppe Bachmann was working its way north at a good speed, steaming through Skagarak and up along the Norwegian coastline. On the flag bridge of the KM Bismarck, Flag Admiral Bachmann was straining to keep still. It was not in his nature to act as bait, a bait that would most likely get eaten whole, but he could see the point. Could the British Home Fleet be destroyed, then the war would for all purpose be over. But still, to potentially sacrifice two splendid capital ships and several minor ships was not agreeing with his sense of how things should be.
In Norway, units of Luftflotte 5 and the Kriegsmarine’s Luftstreitkräfte Kommando – KLK- began to prepare for the operation as well. The last two weeks had been a continuous and mixed game of hide and seek and masquerade. It seemed, however, that it had worked; the British and their Norwegian allies in the resistance movement had no idea that both Luftwaffe’s mighty Luftflotte 5 and the KLK were up to full strength, even reinforced, and armed to the teeth with new weapons, just waiting to have a go at the Royal Navy’s big, fat capital ships. The pilots as well as air and ground crews were exuberant – they could end the war! They knew deep in their bones that this was their great chance, and by Good and the grace of the Führer they would seize their chance and make the most of it!
The navalized He-111’s and a plethora of other aircraft from the KLK began to deploy to their old frontline airfields as did the heavy He-177 bombers of Luftwaffe’s Schwere Kampfgeschwader 12, the few Do-19’s still in active service and the Luftflotte’s ordinary medium bombers the JU-88’s and the few older He-111’s alongside the aging, but still quite effective Ju-87 divebombers. Droptank equipped Me-109, rigged for long range escort duty, soon followed suit. During the early hours of the 6th of September, 1940, a massive strike force assembled along the cost of central Norway. The planes only touched down for topping of their fuel supply and for whatever last minute changes there might be. It didn’t take long for the Norwegian resistance to notice and begin to radio London, but the information would not reach Admiral Pound on his Flagship, HMS Nelson, in time – actually it would not reach the poor Admiral at all.
Three of the valuable Do-19 command and control planes had been made available for Operation Karin – the rest being deployed as part of Operation Orfeus in northwestern France – and now took to the sky to keep an electronic eye on the British ships. One of the Do-19’s had been equipped with an experimental FMG-45 Valaskjalf downlooking RADAR. The Do-19 searched for the British ships in a wide search pattern and found them, acting on a U-boot report, around noon. Having located the British Home Fleet, orders were given to begin Operation Karin.
Only a few of the German planes were armed with conventional munitions as most of them were rigged for naval combat. It was hoped that the U-boote would take care of the British carriers, now that they came with Sea Hurricanes, but the light screen of Me-109’s was deemed sufficient to handle whatever ariel opposition the Germans might run into. The majority of the German aircraft’s was thus armed with a combination of armour penetrating PD 2000 and 2500 bombs, Hs-33 rocket powered torpedo bombs and various models of Gustav Schwartz Propellerwerke’s rocket assisted glider bombs – the new Gustav XXV was for example wireguided to prevent any jamming and the Gustav XXc was equipped with new shapecharged warheads.
A destroyer in Admiral Pound’s force spotted a periscope at one o’clock and from then on all the way to midnight between the 6th and 7th of September, 1940, the North Sea became a warzone. The German U-boot was most likely sunk, but several others were now in reach of the British ships and therefor immediately began their attack runs. For nearly two hours a battle raged between the German U-boote and British surface vessels – a few British submarines did vector in to aid their fellow combatants, but had little impact on the fighting at that time – and left one carrier listing severely – soon to be abandoned – and one sinking rapidly. One light cruiser and two destroys had also been either damaged beyond salvage or outright sunk. The German U-boote had been taking heavily losses, though, and was forced to break off the engagement. Due to their heavy losses and lack of torpedoes, the U-boote would be out of the battle for now. Schlachgruppe Bachmann – acting on orders from the Do-19’s now circling the battle zone - was, however, steering directly at the British – to keep them interested so to say – while Luftwaffe and KLK air units began to appear. The remaining carrier, HMS Glorious, in Pound’s force launched all the planes it could, while receiving, rearming and subsequently launching planes from the two other carriers – as some had managed to get airborne besides the standing CAP. Me-109’s and Sea Hurricanes now duelled for air control – not really much of a battle since the Germans were superbly led by their airborne command and control and outnumbered the fighters of the British Fleet Air Arm – FAA - three to two. While the fighters duked it out, the FW-200, He-111 and JU-88’s came in low launching the multitude of rocket powered anti-shipping weapons, torpedoes and even some regular bombs, while JU-87’s from Norway, with nearly the entire Schwere Kampfgeschwader 12 and a handful of Do-19’s flying overhead, came in high. Even though the British AA-fire was devastating, the anti-aircraft gunners were overwhelmed and ship after ship got hit by bombs, torpedoes and various missiles. Even dodging and running like mad men, the ships could not escape the concerted and well-coordinated German air attack – a lesson the Royal navy would take to heart after this black day. HMS Nelson was the first capital ship to sink, followed by HMS Glorious and from then on it was pretty much a done deal. KM Bismarck, from extreme range, exchanged a few round with the far from combat, or even sea, ready HMS Prince of Wales, before the latter got hit by a PD 2000 and simply exploded. With Pound gone and the command structure messed up and the fleet more or less sinking around them the cruisers HMS Northfolk and HMS Southhampton rapidly disengaged and ran for home under full steam. Little good it would do them as they ran into the remaining U-boote on picket service and subsequently got torpedoed. Ironically, the Germans only major casualties, besides losing some 30 planes, was due to British submarines. As the British naval forces tried to disengage, the KM Bismarck and the heavy cruiser KM Hipper was torpedoed by two British subs and sunk.
With the good news from the North Sea, Wever, with the consent of OKW, ordered Operation Orfeus to go a head.
To Invade or not to Invade…
Us, and them
And after all we’re only ordinary men.
Me, and you.
God only knows it’s not what we would choose to do.
Forward he cried from the rear
And the front rank died.
And the general sat and the lines on the map
Moved from side to side.
Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who.
Up and down.
But in the end it’s only round and round.
Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
The poster bearer cried.
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside.
- Pink Floyd, Us & Them.
Longboats have been sighted the evidence of war has begun
Many nordic fighting men their swords and shields all gleam in the sun
Call to arms defend yourselves get ready to stand and fight for your lives
Judgement day has come around so be prepared don’t run stand your ground
They’re coming in from the sea
They’ve come the enemy
Beneath the blazing sun
The battle has to be won
Invaders ... pillaging
Invaders ... looting
- Iron Maiden, Invaders.
Approaching the deadline for Operation Orfeus, Hitler’s hands began to shake. Even with the victory of the North Sea under his belt, and the general success of his navy and air force against their British counterparts, Hitler had deep seated distrust, almost fear, of anything afloat. Hitler had never been keen on naval affairs and was terrified of the possibility of a failure that would undermine all the successes so far. Nobody wanted a two front war, and Hitler had more or less already committed the Wehrmacht to an invasion of Soviet Russia in the early summer of 1941; Operation Friedrich der Grosse, and thus could not allow the Wehrmacht’s attention, and its resources, being diverted away from the main goal. Both Raeder and Wever, however, assured the nervous Führer that the combined forces of the Luftwaffe and Kriegmarine would be more than able to invade, take and hold the Isle of Wight. Operation Orfeus itself was more or less a guaranteed success. It was, however, up to him, their Führer, to insure a following peace with Britain.
Hitler finally agreed and gave his permission to launch Operation Orfeus – neither Wever or Milch had the stomach to tell him that the relevant forces were already moving as a result of the decisive sea and air battle fought, and won, earlier. Ironically, Hitler was far from intent on destroying or even forcing Britain into submission – Hitler allegedly never even wanted a war with the stubborn Island nation, but got one nonetheless. At the strategic conference held in the aftermath of Operation Karin, Hitler was unusually explicit about his, and therefore Germany’s, future plans, such as they were. Hitler’s rambling’s on and about Britain would no doubt have baffled the Islanders, many who even now believed that Hitler was hell-bent on devouring the British Empire as he had numerous other nations during his reign. Especially Hitler’s comment that the will of good men can not counter the terrible strain of war would no doubt amuse some Brits with a wicked sense of humour. Generally speaking though, Hitler wanted Britain out of the way, so that he could concentrate on curtailing and destroying the greatest threat, as perceived by him, to Germany, the German Volk and European civilisation; Soviet Russia. Having had first hand experience in the last war, Hitler, and his senior commanders – not to mention most of the Germans themselves-, was as mentioned earlier loath to get involved in another two front war. Since Britain had ignored all Hitler’s wishes for peaceful co-existence – again, such as he saw it -, conflict was inevitable and thus Britain must be forced to accept the next offer of peace by means of brute force. On September 9th, Hitler announced that the attack would begin the next day. The Isle of Wight was to be the target for a combined arms assault from both air and sea. At noon, Hitler left Berlin for his mountain retreat in Bavaria with his coterie of Golden Pheasants.
To keep the deception of a full scale amphibious invasion of Britain, the large German military formations along the Channel were at high alert and being reinforced all the time – in reality being brought up to full strength after the French Campaign. The Germans worked hard at making their so-called invasion preparations a credible threat. Ships and vessels of all sorts being gathered at the various channel ports, units still flowing into the area, supplies still being stockpiled and so on. The Luftwaffe kept flying interdiction and other missions that could only be deemed as preparation for an upcoming invasion. From recently constructed gun sites superheavy artillery at Pas-de-Calas began to bombard the area between Dover and Hythe as well as the cities themselves. German units along the French, Dutch and Belgian coastlines as well as in country stoped using radios and went under total radio silence on the evening of the 9th of September. The planners at OKW, and OKH and L, hoped the British would think the Germans quite ready to go ahead with a full scale invasion…
Due to pressure from newly appointed First Sea Lord, Admiral John Tovey - Admiral Sir Dudley Pound’s successor -, the codeword Cavalier was sent at midnight between the 9th of September and the 10th. Cavalier put the Home Forces on full alert and signalled imminent invasion. Admiral Tovey furthermore began to redeploy his meagre naval assets, but was hampered by continuous Luftwaffe and KLK air attacks on both ships and harbour facilities. Several RN commanders begged for permission to launch attacks on German occupied ports and harbours along the Channel coast, but Tovey, knowing full well that he had preciously few ships left, for the time being said no!
The British public along with both Houses, the Imperial General Staff and the Halifax Government were in respectively an uproar and deep crisis over the near total loss at the hands of the Germans in the battle of the North Sea. The domestic news papers were screaming for peace, war and the heads of several military commanders and political leaders, sometimes all at once. The foreign news papers was either aghast at the situation or slightly smug. In the German propaganda ministry, Dr.Goebbels as always made the most of the German victories and the heroic figures of the Luftwaffe and the until now seriously outgunned Kriegsmarine. Whatever friends Britain had, besides their new near allies, Japan and Italy, began to seek closer ties with Germany instead – nobody backs a loser.
But losers sometimes backs a winner. From his radio studio in Berlin, William Joyce – dubbed Lord Haw Haw by a witty Daily Express reporter -, hosted Germany Calling. Germany Calling was another of Goebbles propaganda tools and in general not very effective, at least not among the British. On the 9th, however, Lord Haw Haw captured a wider audience than else. His words were heard in much of Britain. "I make no apology for saying again that invasion is certainly coming soon, but what I want to impress upon you is that while you must feverishly take every conceivable precaution, nothing that you or the government can do is really of the slightest use. Don't be deceived by this lull before the storm, because the storm will come. Rather ask yourself, why you find yourself in this hopeless situation! My dear listeners, if you were in Germany now you would see how little antagonism there is against the British people. The German people know as do the Führer that the British people are not in favour of permanent hostilities. Hitler is aware of the political, military and economic confusion in England, and is only waiting for the right moment. Then, when his moment comes, he will strike, and strike hard and bring peace by the force of arms!"
Basically, Britain was in deep trouble and the Halifax Government knew it. Even with reinforcements flowing in from all around the globe, many freed up from their former duties by the better relationship with Italy and Japan, the policy makers at Whitehall felt at a loss. They knew not what to do, other than seek peace as fast as possible. Even the Eden-Bevin-Attle Trojka saw no other way at this critical time either, but was reluctant to admit it in public. A midst this crisis, former PM, Chamberlain died after having been ill for some time – apparently cancer as well as stress had killed the former PM. Chamberlain would forever be remembered as the British Benedict Arnold - the Man Who Sold Europe. Chamberlain’s death had, however, another effect, Lord Halifax’ Government had for along time survived and been fairly sure of a majority in both Houses due to Chamberlain’s still formidable support among the members. Now, with Chamberlain gone, Eden and his allies began to appear as a viable alternative to Halifax. Still, the British leadership were reeling as a price fighter after a near knockout. As the politicians argued and the IGS was frozen by lack of leadership and direction – C-in-C of Home Forces, General Allan Cunningham, was having a near-nervous breakdown and the Chief of the IGS, General Dill, though competent enough, was simply being overwhelmed be the task at hand and was also beginning to show the strain - the Germans, quite literally, landed punch number two, Operation Orfeus…
The Doors of Hades stands Ajar
Peace at any price
With a gun to your head, bang, bang
Weakness runs in your family
What runs in mine is death
This is your 5 minute warning
Burn all of your classified documents
And if cooler heads don't prevail
First strike from a political dead man
Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive
He understands only one language - action
And he respects only one word - force
No sign of them stopping, no time for back channel communiques
We need all the help we can get, air strikes and invasions, retaliate, I say!
The will of good men can not counter the terrible strain of war
- Megadeath, Blackmail the Universe.
You’ll take my life but I’ll take yours too
You’ll fire you musket but I’ll run you through
So when your waiting for the next attack
You’d better stand there’s no turning back
The bugle sounds as the charge begins
But on this battlefield no one wins
The smell of arcrid smoke and horses breath
As you plunge into a certain death
- Iron Maiden, The Trooper.
Marines from the Kriegsmarine’s Sonderabteillung Ingenohl and Commandos from Abwehr’s Brandenburg regiment were the first units to go at the stroke of midnight. From their bases in Northern France, the Marines set to sea and headed out for the Isle of Wight, while the Brandenburgers deployed from U-boote and in one instance a Spanish ship. The Brandenburgers landed at several key points on the Isle of Wight and snug ashore with no opposition. The German Commandos used British uniforms and for most parts also spoke British – in post-war Britain rumours were about that some even were British or Irish - to secure that they got to their intended targets without being stopped, or at least without much trouble. While the Brandenbrugers moved silently inland and struck their targets one by one, the Marines moved in their van and took command of the captured installations in something like numbers. Of course the entire mission relied on the follow-up forces of Air General Student.
In the early morning of September the 10th, the avantgarde of Student’s 7th Paratroop Division and the 22nd Air Landing Division launched their attack as planned. The attack came in three waves, first gliderborne sturmpioneren as seen in both Norway and Holland, then a larger paradrop and finally a combined glider and paradrop operation to land as many men and light equipment as possible. Nearly the entire available fleet of Ju-52’s and other lesser well known transport aircraft were used in Operation Orfeus. As part of third wave was fuel heavy helicopters operating on their extreme range and under a protective umbrella of Me-109’s. The helicopters would play a vital part in shifting the German troops around the Isle of Wight, thus speeding up the German take-over operation immensely. Later, Field Marshall Brooke of the Combined Imperial Staff would admit that the British originally got the idea of Airborne Dragoons from the German use of helicopters in Operation Orfeus, as well as the idea of helicopter gunships.
As Schnellbombere, StuKas and Panzerknäckere blasted several key locations as well as air bases on the south coast of Britain more for effect than true damage, gliders landed and helicopters touched ground, while air transports flew overhead and disgorged stick after stick of Fallschirmsjäger. With the various military installations in utter confusion, the veteran German paratroopers secured their objectives with next to no casualties – except for one major incident where two Ju-52’s collided due to heavy cross winds. So far, however, Operation Orfeus was going well, very well indeed. Within the hour, a unit from Luftwaffe’s Construction Brigades had landed and begun to construct two rough airfields. The Construction Brigades played an absolutely vital role in Opr. Orfeus. The LCB’s needed to construct airfields capable of handling Ju-52’s, otherwise the invasion might fail because of the lack of supplies and reinforcements.
Just as the first German units landed on the Isle of Wight the entire Channel coast became a beehive of activity as both the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine stepped up their operations in the area to a frantic pace. In OKL, it was judged that this level of action could be sustained for no more than 24 hours, but those 24 hours would be critical. Could the British be forced to negotiate a peace, then the charade and all the hard work had paid off, if not…
With the local defenses in disarray due to the Brandenburgers quite ungentleman like infiltration tactics – several Home Guard and a few regular army units from the small local garrisons actually engaged each other in the belief that their opposite numbers were Germans - and the fast moving Marines and Fallschirmsjäger, no serious resistance was encountered from either the British Army, nor the broken remnants of the once proud Royal Air Force.
The LCB’s had made the first useable airstrip at around three o’clock in the day and roughly one hour later, the first transporters carrying the first unit of General Dietle’s Gebirgsjäger as well as the rest of 7th Paratroop Division and the 22nd Air Landing Division began to land on the isle of Wight. The transporters also carried more gear and materials for the LCB and the airfield was soon expanded and on the 11th a second airstrip became operational. At the same time Luftwaffe fighter planes – in reality only four, but the numbers were grossly exaggerated by both the Germans and British for each their own reasons - began to operate from the Isle. The fighters had not any real aerial use, as the RAF was nowhere to be seen, but their presence alone was a severe blow to British morale and a ditto boost to the German forces fanning out across the Isle.
In the Admiralty, First Sea Lord, Admiral John Tovey, finally ordered everything thrown at the continental staging points for an invasion of Britain. The commander of Nore Commander, Admiral Plunket, responded with great aggressiveness and sent two light cruisers, 10 destroyers and every available MTB against the German occupied Channel ports. The attack was launched after darkness fell and included strikes on Dunkerque, Calais, Boulogne and Ostende and was a moderate success, but the casualties – one cruiser and four destroyers - prevented Tovey form ordering another attack the night after. The German use of RADAR had proven even night time attacks to be rather costly, and at present the Royal Navy could ill afford the price.
General Dill soon was forced to take direct charge as General Cunningham cracked completely under the pressure and was hospitalised. Dill saw that there was little he could other than order his too few and too weak divisions to dig in and await the onslaught from across the Channel. He did, however, order formations in Southern Britain to move south and engage if possible. Dill had little hope, nor any real faith that it would make a difference though.
Several members of the armed forces along with Eden pressed for attacks on the German bridgeheads on the Isle of Wight with chemical weapons, but Dill, Halifax and the Minister of Defence, Henry Channon, vetoed the idea! The MoD, who clearly feared German reprisals and saw no reason for continued resistance – truth be told, so did most of the Halifax cabinet -, said: "The very idea! How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel with a people who bear us no ill will! Oh, it is all so bad that one can only make the best of it, and re-organise one's life accordingly!" Needless to say, Channon found find himself on the first boat to the United States when Eden became PM in ’43. Channon nearly got prosecuted for high treason, but cooler tempers prevailed and he was merely stripped of all titles, his citizenship and exiled to his native land.
After having read and mentally digested the latest reports, Prime Minister Halifax met with his Cabinet and among others Anthony Eden in the early morning of the 11th of September. Later, Clement Attlee, the Labour leader, would recall that the PM looked pale and shrunken, but that Eden spoke with great passion. "So, it has finally come about. The abyss the Empire has been hurtling towards for years has been reached. The Germans has landed on British soil! On British soil for God’s sake!!! And it is all due to a legacy of appeasement and a foreign policy we Britons can only be deeply ashamed of!" Nonetheless, the Hawks, as Eden and his allies in the Trojka had been known for some time in the news papers, acknowledged the fact, that peace must be reached before it was too late. They gave Halifax the political backing to seek out a peace. As Eden said: "With German armies streaming across the Channel as we speak, we have little choice in the matter anymore, but let us make sure that it will never, ever happen again!"
It’s over when the Fat Man sing
Seadrops foam all empty human skulls
Those on the shores of Atlantis
Darwin's resurrection is witnessed
By turtles he used to play with
Healed and happy She oversees
The tyrant's return to the sea
- Nightwish, A Return To The Sea
Today the wars have ended
And I am changed forever on
I’ve stopped the bleeding
From my head
And held my hands up high!
- Carpark North, Homeland.
Confusion and panic were the two dominant feelings in Southern Britain in early September, 1940. As Cavalier was acted upon, civilians were evacuated from the Channel area. As they streamed inland, tired and raw troops tried to get positioned along the coastline and the GHQ defence line south of London. Quite a few civilians not under direct order to evacuate, began to flee from what they thought would soon turn into a warzone. Chaos reigned on the roads of Kent and Sussex, but it was nothing compared to the destruction waged upon Dorsetshire and Hampshire. Aircraft from Luftwaffe’s Luftflotte 3 flew unchallenged over said counties and attacked anything that moved be it by road, rail or sea. The targets attacked was more often than not civilians fleeing. When the panic rescinded, the many unnecessary deaths would fuel the British lust for revenge for years to come.
The mood in London was more subdued, closer to being directly defeatist. The words of the hated German Führer, Adolf Hitler, seemed true: the will of good men could not counter the terrible strain of war. And the Halifax Government seemed to embody these words as the men in Whitehall grasped happily at the German peace offer delivered via the embassy in Washington in the morning of September the 12th, 1940.
While there had been some serious fighting in and around Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the defences of the isle had fallen rapidly to the air mobile and battle hardened German troops. The counter-attack ordered by General Dill, Chief of the IGS and acting C-in-C Home Forces, from mainland Britain against the Germans at the Isle had been stalled before it got under way. As the under strength 4th Infantry Division stationed near Portsmouth and the Australians in the AIF Division north of Winchester began to move, they came under heavy Luftwaffe attack – interdiction showed to be something of a Luftwaffe specialty -, as did the Southern port cities of Southhampton and Portsmouth. The two divisions nearly broke completely under the strain and while some officers rallied their men – especially the Australians proved to be men of impressive personal courage - and pushed on, the ports to be used for staging the counter-attack was being pommeled by Luftwaffe, and thus useless. The counter-attack soon fizzled out. All along the Channel Luftwaffe and Kreigmarine units, be it KLK planes from Ghent or actual naval vessels, had driven the remaining Royal Navy from the Channel or into hiding. Admiral Plunket’s command had lost yet another light cruiser and two destroyers during their travails in the Channel. Britain seemed wide open for an invasion…
Not only had the complete defeat of the British Expeditionary Force in France robbed the Army of most of its most talented officers - some like Brooke, Horrocks and Alexander would, however, reappear to haunt the Germans -, it had robbed its men of spirit. The British forces in the UK and Northern Ireland numbered around 20 divisions, with more being raised and numerous brigades, but all were basically raw, under strength and without the equipment needed to fight a modern war, or any kind of war for that matter. Furthermore hampered by the lack of fighter aircraft, trained pilots and aviation fuel the Royal Air Force - another branch of the Armed Forces that had seen the best and finest amongst its ranks die at the hands of what appeared as a nearly superhuman enemy – to a degree that made its Fighter Command unable to offer much resistance. As always, Britain had to rely on its navy, but that navy had in all but name been reduced to scrap in the North Sea Battle. It was over…
The American ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, was happy to report that his prediction made earlier regarding the British will and means to resist seemed correct. Kennedy would later be asked to leave Britain by an infuriated Foreign Minister, and new Government strongman, Anthony Eden. The Ambassador Crisis would herald the end of the US-British special relationship and in many ways also the New Britain slowly emerging from defeat.
On the 1st of October, 1940, PM Halifax met with Adolf Hitler and signed the Paris Peace Accord. In many ways the British got off easy as they had to agree on keeping a fairly low level of troops, ships and planes in Southwestern Britain, return Iceland and Greenland to Danish control, accept German supremacy, not direct rule, over the European mainland and finally pay some amount of reparations for the destruction meted out on German cities. As part of the final demand, there was to be a public war crimes trial of Air General Harris along with an excuse for the City Bombings. A PoW exchange was orchestrated as well. Ironically enough the lack of severity in the peace agreement would further fuel the Britons lust for revenge as they felt deeply humiliated by an enemy not taking the Empire serious enough to impose stricter terms.
In Berlin, Hitler and most of his inner circle, as well as Wehrmacht commanders on all levels rejoiced; they had gotten away from a war with Britain as victors. Hitler basked in the fact that even Napoleon could not boast of such an accomplishment! Little did he suspect, that as the Peace of Amiens had been nothing but a breather so would the Paris Peace Accord. Of course that was not known at the time and the Germans celebrated their incredible victory.
On the 4th of October, three days after the signing of the Paris Peace Accord, Hitler announced that 12 of his Generals would be elevated to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall - Field Marshal. The new Field Marshals received their batons at an impressive ceremony at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. Among those thus promoted were Wever, Milch and Kesselring. At the same time, most likely due to one of his strange mood swings, Hitler replaced the otherwise very loyal General Keitel as chief of the OKW with the newly promoted von Manstein and made another Field Marshal, Guderian, head of the OKH. On the 10th of October, Hitler furthermore reshuffled the Luftwaffe leadership as well as his Cabinet. Wever was retired and replaced by Field Marshal Kesselring. In the RLM Milch was replaced by von Richthofen, but went on to become Armaments Minister with full control of Germany’s armaments industry. Schacht was also retired and replaced by Funk. Now the Reich’s economy and armaments industry were basically in the hands of only three men: Milch, Funk and Bormann.
War is Over and Peace has Begun
There’s a place in the world for the angry young man
With his working class ties and his radical plans
He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl,
He’s always at home with his back to the wall.
And he’s proud of his scars and the battles he’s lost,
And he struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.
Give a moment or two to the angry young man,
With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand.
He’s been stabbed in the back, he’s been misunderstood,
It’s a comfort to know his intentions are good.
And he sits in a room with a lock on the door,
With his maps and his medals laid out on the floor-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.
- Billy Joel, Angry Young Man.
The world is burning down
Can’t you smell the smoke in the air?
War, disease and famine
This demon, she is everywhere
Poets and preachers and politicians
They’ve all had their say
And we’ve got 10,000 years
Devoted to nothing
But tomorrow and yesterday
If all of the ignorance in the world
Passed a second ago
What would you say?
Who would you obey?
- Live, 10,000 Years.
Between the final battles in mid-September and the signing of the Paris Peace Accord on the 1st of October, 1940, the Western Front was eerily quiet as an armistice naturally was in place, but huge formations of armed men still stood ready on land, entire air fleets flew patrols in the air and flotillas plowed through the seas. All ready for continued action, but no orders would be given, instead men would soon begin moving East or stand down. In the various military and political headquarters in Germany, planning was already proceeding rapidly for the next war! Unternehmen – German for operation - Friedrich der Grosse would be the worlds largest military operation seen so far, and one that Hitler really looked forward to – this was the war he wanted, not one against Aryan Albion. Nearly 200 divisions and almost 5,000 combat aircraft’s would soon be thrown at the USSR.
Having promoted several successful, and loyal, commanders to the exalted rank of Feldmarschal - Field Marshal – and rearranged his Cabinet, Hitler submerged himself in the planning of Unternehmen Friedrich der Grosse. Hitler’s ideas were often surprisingly in accord with those of Field Marshals Heinrich Guderian, the head of the OKH, and Erich von Manstein, chief of the OKW. Ironically enough the five headquarters, the FHQ – basically Hitler’s own staff and headquarter -, OKW, OKH, OKL and OKM seem to cooperate quite well with von Manstein, Guderian, Kesselring and Raeder at their respective helms. Both von Manstein and Guderian, as well as Kesselring to a lesser degree, used their new positions to rearrange their commands a fair bit. General Jodl, Chief of Operations in the OKW, was much to his new boss’ surprise a very capable officer if somewhat hidebound and thus stayed in control of Operations, while a series of other officers either got the boot or got promoted sideways, as for example Keitel, who ended up as the FHQ chief of military affairs.
While military plans were drawn up and refined in Germany by the Generals and their staffs, the diplomates of Joachim von Ribbentrop’s Foreign Minister, as well as the Fuhrer’s personal envoys and representatives were busy restructuring Europe and parts of Africa as well.
Belgium seized to exist as its southern provinces became French, as did Congo – some border adjustments were made to accommodate the British in Africa -, and the Flemish provinces became part of the new state of Holland with its new capital at the small town of Diksmuide. A state basically run by Jeroom Gustaaf de Clercq and his fascist VNV - Vlaams Nationaal Verbond – and Anton Mussert’s Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging - National Socialist Movement – or NSB for short. In 1936, the VNV had gained 13.6% of Flemish votes, and in 1939 14.7%. In contrast, the NSB had done very badly in the open elections, only winning 4 seats in the second chamber of the old Dutch parliament, but were generally considered to be loyal to the Nazi cause. Now, the VNV and to a lesser extend the NSB provided the new state with leaders and administrators, some who would be among the most fanatical Hitlerites seen and even better at rooting out Jews and other undesirables than the Rexists in France. The VNV and NSB would feud over power, resources and prestige during the short life of the state of Holland, but to the erratic Nazis it was as it should be – the strong survive and all that.
During the Eastern War, the Hollander volunteer Legions, serving with the Waffen-SS, would provide some of the toughest combat formations on the Eastern Front. Some 40,000 Hollandere and former Belgians (basically Flemings, as the Walloons would serve with the French SS-formations) would serve on the Eastern Front. The survivors would later form the nucleus of the anti-British movement on the Continent. The new state of Holland would have its problems with France as anybody with any form of francophone sympathies or even French connections were rooted out with great enthusiasm, so to say, and often got shipped of to the containment camps as Jews, Gypsies or Homosexuals.
Leon Degrelle – one of Hitler’s favourites -, and his national-socialistic Rex Movement ended up playing a major role in French politics after the break-up of Belgium, mainly due to their leaders close relationship with Germany, and Hitler himself. Leon Degrelle and Jacques Doriot would lead France into an ever closer relationship with the Third Reich and as a result thousands of young Frenchmen would die on the Eastern Front as well as labor in the German arms industry. Degrelle himself would oversee the creation of the French SS-formations and later lead them into combat.
Doriot, who had once been a stout supporter of Communism, soon wormed his way into power as Premier along with the old WW1 hero and Marshal of France, Henri Petain, who would become France’s first post-war President. Amazingly enough both Doriot and Petain, together with Degrelle proved to be quite popular with the French public. And just as Jeroom Gustaaf de Clercq in Holland, the trio proved to be among the most ardent supporters of Adolf Hitler. Doriot and Degrelle organised their supporters in a French equivalent to the old Belgian Rex Movement and soon introduced both a youth movement and paramilitary formations. Petain, true to his own twisted ideals, remained aloof of political affiliations, but let himself be used by the New Rex Movement for propaganda.
For a brief time just after the Paris Peace Accord it seemed that France as very close to a civil war as Communists, and quite a few Socialists as well, went on strike and some hotheads, maybe agent provocateurs, called for armed resistance. Nonetheless the French Army along with paramilitary Rexists, SS-units and German army formations cracked down hard and crushed the Communists. Thousands and thousands were shipped off to the containment and work camps, and thousands of others were shot after a brief trial by a SS-tribunal with representatives from the Doriot’s government. Rexists and the far righters carried out their own vendettas until the Germans, of all people, stepped in.
As part of the deal with France, Luxembourg and Alsace-Lorraine were respectively annexed and reannexed by the Third Reich. Most German military personnel would leave France, but some would stay on at the Kriegsmarine bases of Brest – shared with the French Navy – and Saint Nazire, where the KLK also had a major base. A French volunteer formation – the later named 22nd SS-Legion Karl Martel – was based outside Paris with some purely advisory German units – in reality a full division under direct OKW command. The Gestapo and SS would be free to operate in France, but only after informing and securing cooperation from the French authorities. Needless to say, few SS-men ever bothered to do this. French industry would be reorganised by Milch and Funks ministries respectively and subordinated to Bormann’s Four Year Plan office. As in Denmark, Norway and Holland, the men from the Four Year Office as well as Milch’s subordinates would have a significant say in domestic French affairs.
The isle of Madagascar would serve as a new haven, so to say, for all of Europe’s Jews. They would be shipped from containment camps run by the SS to the island as quickly as possible. Hitler took great interest in the matter and appointed Reinhardt Heydrich as head of the relocation programme. Mostly British, Italian and French ships were used, but some Danish and Norwegian vessels were hired as well. The whole operation would be paid for via war reparations from Britain, Holland and France. Thousands of Jews, especially after the war with the Soviet Union had begun, died in containment camps, work camps and in transit along with PoW’s and other – in the eyes of the Nazi’s – undesirables.
Denmark would serve more as vassal state than an independent country, but Hitler’s fondness for the pure blooded descendants of the Vikings prevented a total annexation. So the Danes kept their King and Parliament, while Norway had to endure years under Vidkun Quisling and his Nazi handler, Arthur Seyss-Inquart. The Germans had promised not to station major naval or air units in either country as part of the Paris Peace Accord and kept their word, but ever so slowly a major build-up of land units happened in northern Norway and along the Swedish border. Along with the German military units, the SS began to enlist soldiers for the SS-Legions. With little success in Norway, perhaps due to the unpopular Quisling, but with quite some success in Denmark. The success in Denmark was mainly due to the silent endorsement of the official Denmark and charismatic men like Kryssing, von Schallburg and Martens. As with both Holland and France several thousands of young men would perish in the frozen wastelands of the USSR. For some reason Luftwaffe saw a disproportional influx of volunteers from Denmark. Enough to form an all-Danish staffeln. Furthermore, both countries saw extensive reorganisation of their industry to better suit their masters in the Third Reich. On occasion it was noted that Borman, Milch and Funk’s envoys and flunkies were more important and powerful than the Premiers of the two countries.
A World turned Upside Down
The future was wide open
Into the great wide open,
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open,
A rebel without a clue
Into the great wide open,
Under them skies of blue
Into the great wide open,
A rebel without a clue
- Tom Petty, Into the great wide open.
In the howling wind comes a stinging rain
See it driving nails into souls on the tree of pain
from the firefly, a red orange glow
See the face of fear running scared in the valley below
Bullet the blue sky
Bullet the blue sky
Bullet the blue
Bullet the blue
In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum
Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome
Plant a demon seed, you raise a flower of fire
See them burning crosses, see the flames, higher and higher
- U2, Bullet the Blue Sky.
In the US the European War was making fairly few waves, but some effect the conflict nonetheless had. It seemed that only President Roosevelt felt an inkling of sympathy for the British Cause – as it quite often was called in a rather nasty sarcastic tone in Washington – and the beleaguered British government, but the British Premier, Halifax, didn’t seem to hold much sway over FDR, or any other American, so nothing really came of all the hard diplomatic ground work being done by the British Embassy, or by Winston Churchill’s tour of the States. On the contrary, the restraint shown by the Germans seemed to carry more favour among the American public, Being in the grip of the continued depression, many Americans shared an infatuation with the glorified German Kampffligere and the view that Churchill was a classical tragic hero and victim of the nefarious Lord Halifax.
Hitler’s rise to power had originally been treated with a kind of detached amusement in the USA and then with some kind of understanding and grudging respect in the first years of his reign – didn’t he put the workless to work, feed the starving and so on? -, and now, finally, besides the growing impression that Hitler was a winner despite of all odds – and Americans always liked those – the defeat of the British strengthened the hand of those who believed that the United States needed to stay out of European affairs. The American sympathy for Hitler and the victorious Germans also underlined the fact that quite a few Americans felt a latent racism themselves. While it was not so much directed at the Jews, even though the dominant feeling was that there were perhaps too many of those people on the loose – it was, however, very much directed at Asians and Blacks. Several highly racist organisations used the success of the Germans as an indicator that there really was such a thing as racial superior beings. The Race Question became an especially sore and disputed point during the Presidential Elections of 1944 and ’48, and might during the latter have torn the country apart had it not been for a young Texan politician, Lyndon Johnson, and his cool-headed supporters in the Deep South.
During the present Presidential Election, the Republicans attempted to capitalise on Roosevelt’s sympathies for the British Cause and general interests in affairs not American, and along with the European War, the continued depression, the rise of racist, anti-British organisations like the American Bund and Silvershirts and a general sense of the need for change and to see Roosevelt out of the White House it was more than enough to secure the Presidency for the isolationist Republican candidate. The Republican Taft-McNary ticket pulverised Roosevelt and his VP, Wallace – who also was credited with Communist sympathies. Not only did the Democrats lose very badly in the Presidential Election of 1940, they got hammered in the 1942 Congressional Elections and in ’46 as well.
A by-product of the European War and Britain’s all to obvious defeat was the increasing diplomatic and political gap between Britain and the United States, beginning with Britain’s openness towards the Empire of Japan, and apparently silent accept of said Empire’s lust for outright conquest. Furthermore the anti-British and pro-German rambling’s of Joseph Kennedy did much to fuel the American resentment of the British.
Kennedy would later play the central character in the Ambassador Crisis, where he would be declared persona non gratia and basically kicked out of Britain by Anthony Eden, the new British Foreign Minister and political strongman. The Ambassador Crisis would give rise to anti-British feelings in the USA, but also gain much support for the more and more dominant anti-American feeling amongst Britons and the citizens of the Empire. Up to Kennedy’s departure, several anti-US demonstrations in Canada, Britain itself and down under were sure signs that a New Britain was about to emerge from the shadows of defeat.
Militarily, the United States was still caught in something like a state of apathy. The Two-Ocean Navy Bill was defeated in Congress in 1940 – mostly due to increased hostility towards the Roosevelt administration. A limited embargo against the Empire of Japan was, however, passed by a surprisingly narrow majority along with some Armament Bills and thus paved the way for some increases in military spending. Within the US Armed Forces most senior officers were woefully aware that rearmament was needed and did their best with the resources at hand. But even with the slight increases offered even after defeat of Roosevelt - Taft and his VP, McNary, might be isolationist and disinterested in non-American affairs, but total fools they were not -, it was difficult to prepare the Armed Forces for war.
Especially the recruiting and subsequent training of new naval air personnel – for along time a newly built carrier for example lay at Norfolk Naval Yard, but had next to no deck or air crew – suffered gravely as the USAAF’s heavy bomber squadrons sucked in both resources and men. Even the USAAF’s own fighter forces suffered mightily under this Bombers First-policy. Generally speaking, the Americans had difficulties in even building up strategic reserves of fuel, ammunition and various other supplies needed in case of a prolonged conflict.
Due to the limited resources allocated towards defence, the US Navy concentrated on what they knew worked and the ships already in the pipeline, which basically meant battleships and their escorts, together with quite a few ocean going submarines – the U-boote’s slaughter of the Royal Navy’s capital ships during the European War had impressed the American Admirals. The fact that airpower seemed extremely dangerous, to say the very least, to surface vessels of all kinds were either written off as the ships being to close to land based aircraft – something that would not happen in mid-Pacific or Atlantic or around the American continent – or because the ships were badly armoured and armed. Hence the US warships were being not only upgunned and equipped with more anti-aircraft guns than anything else afloat, but also plastered in thicker and thicker armour.
Still, the first in a series of ever growing heavy bombers saw the light of say in late 1940 - the Boeings being dominant both in quantity and quality - and so did a series of long range heavy fighters – for example the twin boomed and engine Lockheed Tigershark with its impressive and deadly six 12,7mm machine gun and two 20mm cannon armament. The experiences in China only proved to the Americans that lots of armour and superior firepower would bring victory, as the Tigersharks and Bullmoeses seemed nearly impossible to bring down even for the heavy armed Bristol Rex and the Hawker Mordred superfighters.
Furthermore, on a bright November morning the first US-built helicopter took to the air. The Si-41 America from Sikorsky Aero Engineering Corporation might be rather troublesome to fly, but the helicopter would prove to be quite popular within the US Navy and Coast Guard. Later newer and more powerful helicopters would be introduced, not only in the Navy and Coast Guard, but also in the Army and Army Air Force.
A group of officers, among them the former cavalryman George Patton and general staffer Dwight Eisenhower - spearheaded the use of helicopters as a way of getting the most bang for the bucks, which was something the politicians in Washington could relate to. In spite of fierce resistance from oldguards like MacArthur – having returned to the US from the Philippines in late 1940 the serve as adviser to President Taft - and many of the senior brass in the War Department, the duo would go on to win the only large manoeuvres held by the US Army in the early 40’s with their innovative use of helicopters and combined infantry-tank forces and thus gain support for their ideas and doctrines.
Empires of Fire and Flame
Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down.
Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down
Hey baby there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
- Tom Petty, Won’t Back Down.
From the steamin Mekong delta
To the shores of Tonkin bay
Bombs of yellied gasoline
Is making night as bright as day
And the mogul's hard tank masters
Adore their new grenades
And the D.A.D. find their 9" shells
Are great for border raids
Yeah! I'm superfurious
I've done it again
I reach 50 when I count to 10
Jihad, I'm getting mad
And there's no fuel left
For the pilgrims
Jihad, I'm getting mad
And there's no fuel left
For the pilgrims
- D:A, Jihad.
The new understanding between the Empires of Britain and Japan, and the tacit British support had somehow helped to keep the more radical Imperial Japanese Army officers out of power and seriously limited their influence in Tokyo, and even to a certain degree helped keep the ambitious Kwantung Army under some sort of control. Still, the Japanese forces were marching ever forward in China, but seemed quite interested in preserving at least a hint of legalism and human compassion and thus used every occasion to talk about bringing peace to war torn China and creating an Asian Prosperity Zone. Tokyo even went so far as to guarantee the sovereignty of Siam. Nonetheless, the Yellow Peril - as it was unflatteringly described in many American newspapers - seemed to spread unchecked across South East Asia in 1940 and ‘41.
Since the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in July, 1937 – some would say as far back as 1931 -, Japan had waged what could only be called a war of extreme aggression in China. Said war had forced the divided Chinese warlords into some sort of cooperation, mostly meaning the Communists and the Nationalists of the Kuomintang Party. As the political situation changed in Europe, the Communists and Nationalists soon began to squabble amongst themselves – perhaps each feared the other would receive the bulk of Germano-Soviet aid. Needless to say this played well with the new image of Japan, and soon Japanese forces pushed even harder into China proper in order to bring peace and prosperity to the downtrodden masses.
Anyhow, the Japanese had neither the capability, nor the intention to rule all of China directly. The task alone would demand thousands upon thousands of administrators, officials, security and military personnel. Still, the officers of the Imperial Japanese Army pushed for direct rule over every piece of land they sat their boots on, but were time and time again overruled by the increasingly powerful Naval fraction, who now had the Emperor’s ear and trust. Because of the domestic political shift, it became Japanese policy to set up friendly, or at least fairly controllable, puppet regimes, who would favour Japanese interests. However, the atrocities of the Imperial Japanese Army – some speculates that senior Army officers deliberately sought to increase tension to build-up their own powerbase - made the pro-Japanese regimes quite unpopular, so not only did the war against the Communists and the Kuomintang Nationalists drag on, major uprisings occurred frequently. The quelling of said uprisings often strained relations with Britain and Italy. But with the instatement of General Yamashita as supreme commander in China things seemed to go the right way for the Japanese – the more or less overt aid given by the Empires of Britain and Italy did account in no small part for some of the Japanese successes -, not to mention the very public assassination of General Tojo.
Still, Japanese diplomates worked furiously, and more often than not in tandem with British dittos, to insure the nervous Australians, Indians and New Zealanders of their good and non-hostile intentions. These diplomatic endeavours were often backed up by some sort of trade agreement or concession. Nothing dampens fear as money…
Also, quite cleverly the Japanese put a stop to battleship construction. The Yamato would be the last battleship to be build in Japan. This was of course not done out of the goodness of their hearts, but as was often seen with the Imperial Japanese Navy out of cold calculation. Yamato’s three sisterships – the Musashi, Shinano and Yubar were converted into carriers. Both the British and its Empire along with the Americans was greatly satisfied with what they to a certain degree saw as Japanese disarmament.
As the war in China dragged on, both American and German volunteers went to serve with the Nationalist Chinese Forces, just as Soviet advisers arrived to aid the Communists. Most of the time it really was volunteers, but often it was military personnel on extended leave who got a first hand impression of modern warfare. Something the Americans truly needed at the time. One of the senior Germans, Hermann Ramcke, for example served for six months in China and returned to Germany and Luftwaffe service with numerous new ideas. On the other side, aiding the various Japanese client states, and in some cases event the Imperial Army itself, was British, Italian and some South African volunteers. During late 1940 and early to mid-1941, China was basically seen as the new testing ground for weapons and tactics. One episode that would go on to become quite famous was the Shianghai Incident – covered up and censured at the time – were Italian San Marco Marines clashed with German Legionnaires during the assault on the city.
The Italian designed and British perfected Reggiane Re.2000 long range fighter and the Macchi MC.200 interceptor – now named the Bristol Rex and the Hawker Mordred and armed with a combination of 20mm cannons and 12.7mm machine guns and powered by mighty Rolls Royce engines – saw action around Hong Kong, Shianghai and other major ports in China. The planes were most of the time flown by Italian pilots – as the British could spare few -, but often under the command of British officers and serviced by a combination of Japanese and Italian ground crews and British support personnel. The new generation of Ital-British fighters would chew up the German Messerschmitts and older American and Soviet planes in respectively Nationalist and Communist service with ease and give especially the Germans back in Berlin quite a few worries.
The thinly veiled cooperation in China between the three Empires would serve to strengthen their strategic partnership on a more personal level as well as prove that especially the British view that Italian and Japanese soldiers were inferior were very wrong indeed. Many RAF and RN officers would return from the Far East with nothing but praise on their lips. After Shianghai quite a few Germans would have gotten a new found respect for their southern neighbours as well.
The British not only brought home with them praise for their not quite allies, but also new ideas and doctrines. While serving out East it had become all too obvious for many British servicemen and especially those from the Royal Navy that naval warfare would in the future evolve around air power and in particular naval aviation. The almost singleminded Japanese focus on naval aviation, carriers and the elite status of their much vaunted Naval Aviators had captivated the senior leadership of the Royal Navy. The Fleet Air Arm - FAA - had the advantage of not being soiled by the recent defeat and would serve as clean, new heroes for the New British Empire.
The Japanese conquest were fueled by raw materials imported from Britain or from the British Empire. New Japanese ship and aircraft designs appeared as well. Designs that bore a striking resemblance to either British or Italian designs. In the spring of 1941, British and Japanese troops in a joint operation secured the area around Hong Kong and thus proved to the world that the two Empires were, if not directly allied, then at least cooperation on a strategic level. Nor did London utter as much as a "we’re sorry" when Japanese forces landed in the former Dutch colony of East Indies, or Indonesia, and began to establish themselves. It might of course have been because of the Australian and New Zealand forces moving north to establish a secure zone in the southernmost isles and West Irian Jaya and adding it to Australia controlled Papua New Guinea as well as British troops securing strategic areas on the southern side of the Straits of Malacca
Later in mid-1941, the Japanese would finish their conquests in South East Asia by occupying the French colony of Indo-China. After a brief naval encounter were the last major surface elements of the French Fleet were sunk, most French forces surrendered and went into imprisonment – most would not survive. Now Japan turned their full attention north…
The Bad Balkans Blues
Hanging by threads of palest silver
I could have stayed that way forever
Bad blood and ghosts wrapped tight around me
Nothing could ever seem to touch me
I lose what I love most
Did you know I was lost until you found me?
A stroke of luck or a gift from god?
The hand of fate or devil’s claws?
From below or saints above?
You came to me
- Garbage, A Stroke of Luck.
Come sail your ships around me
And burn your bridges down
We make a little history, baby
Every time you come around
Come loose your dogs upon me
And let your hair hang down
You are a little mystery to me
Every time you come around
We talk about it all night long
We define our moral ground
But when I crawl into your arms
Everything comes tumbling down
- Nick Cave, The Ship Song.
Nothing happens in a vacuum, especially not a war between Europe’s great powers. While Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin rearmed and involved themselves in the Spanish Civil War and the fight for Finland, life went on in the Balkans, only to be rudely interrupted as a full scale central European war finally erupted on the 1st of September, 1939.
The Versailles Peace Treaty had left many ambitions unfulfilled and they soon surfaced with a vengeance. As Germany, the USSR and the Western Allies were otherwise occupied, the Balkan and Mediterranean countries sat out to satisfy their ambitions, often on behalf of their neighbours, or in some cases internal opposition.
The year before the outbreak of what was to become known as World War 2, the Romanian King, Carol II, had banned the fascist Iron Guard group, even though they had been stout Royal supporters since Carol II’s return from exile in 1930. Carol II, however, far from the stupid Playboy King he was often portrayed as, skilfully played the various political fractions, mainly the rival Peasant and Liberal parties, against each other to a point where he could choose his own Cabinet and basically ran the country as an absolute monarch. Having succeeded doing that, the Iron Guard, or the Legion of the Archangel Michael, had served its purpose and was put down by the Royal Romanian Army, and hundreds of prominent members was arrested, and quite a few executed. This put him somewhat on the bad side of Hitler as the Iron Guard had been rather pro-German and extremely anti-Semitic.
That Hitler had not forgotten Carol II’s betrayal was more than obvious when Germany signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact with the USSR on the 23rd of August, 1939, little more than a week before the Panzers tore into Poland. Still, quite anti-German, or more adequately put pro-Western, in outlook Romania allowed the Polish government and gold reserves, as well as some 100,000 soldiers and civilians to flee via its territory.
After the fall of France in June, 1940, and the subsequent defeat of Britain and signing of the Paris Peace Accord later the same year, Romania lost its most important, and basically only, allied, which would prove to have potential terrible consequences for Romania as a secret protocol in the nefarious Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact gave the USSR the right to "reclaim" its old territories, Bessarabia and Bukovina. Furthermore Hungary had an eye on Transylvania, already having taken territory from both the former nations of Czechoslovakia and Poland. As Romania found itself more and more isolated and under diplomatic pressure, Bulgaria too began to look hungrily at Southern Dobruja, the area just south of the Black Sea port of Constanza.
Carol II gambled on the German need for oil and hoped to pacify the Germans by giving them sole access to Romanian oil – never to happen, though, as Italy too was dependent on Romanian oil as well as Yugoslavian raw materials – and skilfully involved Italy in the diplomatic negotiations. With the extremely anti-Communistic Italy and seemingly unstoppable Germany involved in negotiations in Bucharest, Carol II and his Cabinet found it safe to refute all Soviet claims and put Hungarian and Bulgarian claims a side for later – meaning not ever - resolution. Both Hungary and Bulgaria’s territorial ambitious would be more or less satisfied by gobbling up Yugoslavian territory during the dismemberment of the country in the summer of ’41 in happy cooperation with Italy as the latter’s forces reorchestrated a Blitzkrieg Balkan-style.
The fact that Italy seemed all too cozy with the British, and generally looking out for themselves more than being a good fellow Fascists country like Spain, France and Holland, and apparently having a very good relationship with both Hungary and Bulgaria, made Romania an even more attractive ally for Germany. Generally speaking neither Germany or Britain gave much thought to the situation on the Balkans, as long as the oil flowed and nobody really rocked the boat. That, of course changed, with the German-Soviet war in the summer of 1941.
As Romania refused to back down over Bessarabia and Bukovina, Stalin was caught in a bit of a dilemma, as the Red Army had far from recovered after the catastrophic, but ultimately victorious, war in Finland – at this time it was estimated that some 5 Red Army soldiers were killed each day in Finland. Nonetheless Soviet military formations soon begin to flow into the western and southwestern border regions. In general, the Red Army kept mustering more and more divisions near the German-Soviet border and Romanian-Soviet ditto from circa November, 1940, and for most of the first 6 months of ‘41. In Berlin, the German generals were elated as they saw this as their big chance – the more enemy forces being placed in forward positions, the more would be bagged when the war broke out. A sense of supreme confidence was evident in even the most pessimistic German officer.
On 2nd of December, 1940, Carol II signed a defensive alliance with Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Denmark, Norway, France and Holland. Soon thereafter a large German Military Mission, in reality an entire army, deployed to Romania.. The Military Mission were sent to train the Royal Romanian Army and to protect the oil fields and refineries. At the same time, Italian advisers flowed into Romania - Mussolini not to be outdone by Hitler – and begun to train the Aeronautica Regala Romana - Romanian Royal Air Force – and the Royal Romanian Navy. By the spring of 1941, there were close to some 400,000 Germans stationed in Romania and some 5,000 Italians. Both Italy and Germany either donated or sold military equipment to Romania. The Aeronautica Regala Romana saw its units being equipped with older Macchis and Messerschmidts – both Italy and Germany were replacing a lot of older equipment - along side their own IARs and, ironically, Hurricanes. The Royal Romanian Army got nearly fully motorised by Italian and German as well as indirect American contributions as Ford had a gigantic plant in Bucharest, Atelierele Ford Bucuresti, that expanded several times during the 40’s. Furthermore the Royal Romanian Army boasted a strength of some 250 tanks and armoured cars, growing to nearly 500 by the summer of 1941 when Unternehmen Friedrich der Grosse kicked off. At the time, the Royal Romanian Army was the best equipped and trained non-German force fighting side by side with the Germans. The attention given to the Romanian Armed Forces fostered thoughts of grandeur among the Romanian senior leadership, where especially Defence Minister, General Antonescu, former head of the Scoala Superioara de Razboi – War Academy -, was eager to test his mettle in war.
Hungary, having seen territorial expansion as a reward for a rather pro-German political stance, saw itself caught between either a continued pro-German policy as advocated by the Arrow Cross Party led by Ferenc Szálasi or a more independent policy as advocated by the Prime Minister, Count Paul Teleki. Admiral Nicholas Horthy – who had ruled Hungary as Regent, basically Head of State, since the exile of King Charles IV after the Great War – did his outmost to keep Hungary neutral and while granting Germany military access as well as status as privileged trading partner and signing the defensive military pact, sought closer ties with Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, a state which Hungary had close political, economical and military ties. Both Italy and Hungary were lukewarm supporters of Hitler’s radical racism and tried to ignore the race laws passed in both countries as much as they could. Furthermore Italy supplied Hungary with much of its modern military equipment and was a major trading partner, not to mention more sane, so to say, politically than Germany – Horthy would under no circumstances involve Hungary in a war with the USSR, even though picking on lesser nations was quite acceptable. Basically this was why Hungary did not push for acceptance of its claims on Romanian Transylvania, as is was bound to leave Hungary deep in dept to Germany. Hungarian territorial ambitions would be fulfilled, though, by an unprovoked and Italian led attack on Yugoslavia after Germany had invaded the USSR in mid-41.
Bulgaria too had seen its share of turmoil after the Great War and suffered dearly during the Depression. The unstable environment in Bulgaria led Tsar Boris to establish himself as absolute monarch with the pro-German nationalistic politician, Bogdan Filov as his Premier. Both Agrarian and Socialist (the Communist Party had been outlawed since the 20’s) Parties were forbidden and their members persecuted quite vigorously. Still, there was lots of social tensions buried not too deep beneath the surface, along with lots and lots of ambitions, and the Tsar and Filov crept ever closer to the Germans, but were not late in giving the Italians an unwanted hand in dismembering Yugoslavia. Even though the Tsar and especially Filov – who was educated in Germany – were very pro-German and did all reasonably they could to please the German Führer, they succeeded in keeping Bulgaria out of the war between Germany and the USSR – probably mostly out of fear as a pro-Soviet sentiment dominated in the countryside and among the workers in the cities. Bulgarian officers and some 16,000 thousands of "volunteers" served on the Eastern Front under German command, though. In that context it has to be said, that the Red Army fielded a "brigade" of ex-pat Bulgarians under Nikolai Petkov. Apparently the Bulgarian People’s Brigade never saw any front line action. Petkov himself disappeared during the war.
The Mediterranean Medley
Take my love.
Take my land.
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don’t care, I’m still free.
You can’t take the sky from me.
Take me out
to the black.
Tell ‘em I ain’t comin’ back.
Burn the land and boil the sea.
You can’t take the sky from me.
Have no place
I can be
Since I found Serenity.
But you can’t take the sky from me.
- Theme from Firefly.
We have the right to live in peace
You must fight for what you keep
If what you keep holds truth inside
Stand up, defend, or lay down and die
Stand up, defend or lay down and die
Stand up, defend or lay down and die
Stand up, defend or lay down and die
Stand up, defend or lay down and die
- P.O.D., Freedom Fighters.
With trouble brewing and open warfare raging all around them, the otherwise quite stubborn and independent minded Greeks saw it wise to secure some sort of backing from one of the Great Powers. First France, the Britain was seen as suitable partner – or more correctly protector -, but as the German war machine beat the of said countries into pulp and hammered the second into its most massive defeat since the American Revolution, Mussolini’s Italy seemed more appropriate. The Greek government under the Mussolini-like Metaxas felt the growing German and rather ham-fisted diplomatic pressure on the region, and as with Hungary found it best to seek Italian aid – the lesser of two evils for sure. There was price to pay, however.
The Ital-Greek relationship was actually rather good, both countries being ruled by Strongmen with and all. And even though the Italian government wanted nothing more than to expand and increase its influence in the Aegean Sea - Mussolini was rather keen on establishing naval and air bases on some of the Greek isles there to protect the sea routes to the Italian Dodocanese isles and see the Italian flag hoisted on yet more territory – the tone and mood between to the countries were polite and generally good natured. During the Battle for Britain, the first Italian advisers arrived in Greece, just as the first batch of Italian weapons were sold to the ill-equipped and far from modern Greek Armed Forces – a deal for British Hurricanes had for instance been cancelled due to Britain’s own sudden and desperate need. Several elderly Italian ships and submarines were sold, and in a few cases simply handed over, as well.
At the same time Italian troops occupied the tiny country of Albania with nothing more than the most flimsy of excuses. Apparently, the government of King Zog of Albania had neglected to repay some Italian loans or some such thing – at the time, noone really paid much attention -, and soon the now rather famous and feared Italian Marines backed by paratroops and Bersaglieri units from the elité Celere-divisions landed and swarmed all over the small mountain state. King Zog spend the rest of his life in house arrest in Venezia. After his death, his family were allowed to leave Italy and soon took refuge in Brazil.
Later, after the Paris Peace Accord had been signed and the Ital-British cooperation began to see the light of day, several air and naval bases on the Ionian Islands, plus a larger, mostly logistical base on Crete, were leased to the Regia Aeronauctica and Marina respectively after serious pressure being applied from both London and Rome.
While not too satisfied with the presence of foreign troops on the sacred soil of Mother Greece, the Greeks nonetheless quite happily joined in on the Italian carving-up of Yugoslavia after the German assault on the USSR in the summer of 1941. Greek and Bulgarian troops almost clashed on several occasions during the invasion, and Italian troops had to be used to secure a demilitarised zone between the armies of the two nations for a while. The occupation zones and areas of annexation would only finally be in place in late May, 1942.
With Germany occupied in the USSR, and France consumed with its own problems, real or imagined, Mussolini, always the gambler, threw the dice and ordered his Legions against Yugoslavia in the summer of ´41. In 1941, the Italian Armed Forces had mostly been re-equipped with modern weaponry and its tactics been polished and updated. The seemingly easy series of German victories had been a real eye opener for Mussolini and the Italian leadership in general, who had initiated a major sweep of the Comando Supremo - Italian High Command - and upper echelons of especially the Regio Esercito – Royal Italian Army -, but also the Regia Marina – ditto Navy. Literally hundreds of senior officers, most actually being generals, suddenly found themselves in defacto retirement in the Colonies. Not only did the new Italian High Command reorganise the Italian divisions, adding a third regiment to the frontline divisions, put they also began to recruit large numbers of NCO’s as in the German army. Led by the resourceful Marshal Ugo Cavalero, the Comando Supremo and Nuevo Regio Esercito did perform quite well in Yugoslavia - even if the road at times was bumpy and the Italian troops faced adversely. After little more then three months of fighting, Yugoslavia was no more.
On the 23rd of September, representatives of Yugoslavia's remaining power structure signed an armistice with Italy and its Hungarian, Bulgarian and Greek allies in bombed-out Beograd, thus putting a stop to the fighting that had wrecked the country for some 90 days. More than 60,000 Yugoslavians had died and some 200,000 thousand were taken prisoner. The Italian led coalition had lost some 20,000 men altogether.
After long and hard negotiations, Italy and Germany readjusted their common border, so that most of the former Yugoslsavian region of Slovenia was annexed by Germany and the Italian dominated region known as South Tyrol was seeded to Italy in return.
Seen in retrospect, the hardest duty for the Italian soldiers in the Yugoslavian War was to keep Italy’s allies from initiating further bloodshed and warfare against each other. A problem that only grew with the creation of Croatia and the puppet state of Serbia, which proved extremely unstable to say the very least. In Croatia and Serbia genocidal campaigns soon followed as did severe persecution of political adversaries. Often to a point were Italian troops time and time again had to step in. As the 40’s turned into the 50’s, Serbia slowly collapsed as a state and would in the end play an instrumental role in bringing about the so-called Collapse of Dictatorship.
In Turkey, the Italian and British dealings in the Balkans reinforced Premier Ismet Inönü’s view that Turkey must remain neutral at all costs, even though the anti-Soviet element in his cabinet and in Tyrkish politics in general was well-entrenched and quite pronounced. Actually, the Italian involvement in Greece and Germany’s apparently unending success of arms ensured the pro-German element in Turkey were more prominent, while never dominant, than ever before. Never a nation of gamblers, Turkey steered well clear of getting into a shooting war with the USSR, even as the Germans kept pushing deeper and deeper into the Soviet Union, but did supply strategic raw materials in impressive quantities to Germany during the first years of said war, only to stop as Britain reenters the war in ’44. After the war the former near-allies, Italy and Britain, will use the regional rivalry of Greece and Turkey to keep each other on their toes, so to say, and turn the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean into a potential warzone for most of the 50’s and early 60’s until the Collapse of Dictatorship.
Meanwhile political instability and popular uprisings played hawock with the former French mandate in Syria and Lebanon. After the defeat at first the hands of the mighty Wehrmacht and then the humiliating defeat at the hands of the much loathed Italians afterwards, France was in no condition to exercise its right to rule in said territories. The deteriorating situation led the British to intervene and occupy both Syria and Lebanon in the spring of ´41. In reality, however, it was Commonwealth forces that did most of the hard work as the British themselves had scarcely recovered after their own defeat in the Battle of Britain. It is even rumoured, that Italian units were used to ensure British success. Something that might hold some truth as the Italian Navy often used Lebanon as a secondary base.