Chapter 21: A Date Which Will... This chapter is similar to chapter 20 in that it is mainly an information chapter plus some dates and a story segment at the end. Chapter 22 will resume more dates and story segments but I need to get this out of the way. This chapter will deal with tanks/panzers; will be doing the tanks currently in service to each major power. Germany: Germany armored divisions field a wide range of panzers. Germany started the war with Panzer Is, IIs, IIIs, and very few IVs. As the war progressed the I and II were phased out of frontline service and are now used as military police enforcement in occupied areas and as training vehicles. The IIIs was upgraded from its older arsenal to a more effective 50mm in late 1940/early 1941. Since mid 1942 when the anti-tank Panzer IV was beginning to outnumber the III the Panzer III is now used on secondary fronts such as the Northern Front and stationed along the Westwall to act as a deterrent. The Panzer IV is the latest and most powerful panzer in the German arsenal but does have some flaws including the lack of sloped armor. The Panzer IV since 1941 has had a forward sloped armor chassis but this is an add on not purpose built from the ground up. Germany is currently doing research and final testing the Panzer V “Panther” and the Panzer VI “Tiger”, these are almost the same as OTL’s but have much fewer mechanical or engine issues. Imagine the Panther tank of 1945 and that is what the Panther will be in ITTL in 1943. Tiger will have much more powerful engine but still retains the non-sloped armor. France: The French tank force started the war with one of the largest tank forces in the world. Throughout 1940 many French tanks were equal to the German Panzer IIIs and IVs. However due to the escalated war in the East the Germans have rapidly advanced their panzer divisions to the point that by late 1941 the Germans had outclassed nearly all French tanks. This has led to the French Army to order new and more powerful designs. These new designs are the Char B2 and B3 and the ARL41. The Char B2 is an overall improvement of the Char B1 but the B3 is truly a successor to the B1. The B2 has been produced since late 1941 in moderate numbers while the Char B3 with its powerful engine and 75mm cannon alongside its sloped armor makes it the equal and in some ways superior to the German Panzer IV due to being designed and built with sloped armor in mind. The B3 has only just started mass production but the potential for the B3 is vast. The ARL41 was a heavy tank design started in late 1940 to combat German/Axis tanks in the field successfully. For over a year there were a multitude of issues ranging from weight distribution, lack of engine power, and short barreled cannon. However by mid 1942 the ARL41 has been deemed combat ready and has started production. The ARL41 is slow but has incredibly thick armor and a 90mm long barreled cannon. It and the B3 are predicted to be the main French tanks for years. The B2 was a stopgap advancement of the B1 but with the B3 coming out it is being neglected. German tank destroyers are the STuG III, the STuG IV and the Hornisse (Hornet). The STuG III like the Panzer III is being sent to minor fronts with the STuG IV and Hornisse dominating the Eastern Front. Britain: The Royal Army’s main two tanks are the Crusader and the Chamberlain. They are equal to the Panzer IV and have the potential to be better with continued upgrading/improvements. The British are beginning to use the American tanks sent by the U.S. but compared to the Crusaders and Chamberlains they are few and far between. If curious of what the Chamberlain is, look up the OTL Churchill. Same tank just named different for reasons stated in previous chapters. Italy: The Italian Army fields older 30s model tanks (Fiat M13/40 medium tanks with the rest being made up of Fiat L3s, Fiat L6/40s and Fiat M11/39s and a small number of M14/41s) and lost the bulk of the 30s era tanks in Greece. This has led to the use of Italian constructed Panzer IIIs called the “Titan” and the Titan has performed well but is still less powerful than the French B3 and the British Crusaders/Chamberlains. Italian manufactures and designers have a new tank called the “Centurion” which is in final testing which will equal the current variant of the Panzer IV, the early variants of the French B3 and the current versions of the Crusader and Chamberlain. Soviet Union: The workhorse of the Soviet Union in late 1942 is the T-34. The USSR started the war with a small contingent of T-34s but was able to quickly produce them as 1940 came to a close. The other tanks the Soviets used early on were 30s era tanks and in this war of rapidly advancing technology were outdated by early 1941. The surviving units of these older designs are now acting as scouts and the majority of armored vehicles in the Far East/Mongolia/Caucasus area, especially on the Turkish-Soviet border. The KV-1 is the heavy tank of the USSR and has doggedly assisted the Red Army but due to the resources needed to construct a KV-1 could be used to make several T-34s the KV-1 is being phased out of production while the KV-1s already in the field are used to break open an enemy’s fortified area. The T-34 and KV-1 despite fielding excellent armor and cannon were vastly unprepared to fight a mobile, blitzkrieg type of war due to lack of radio communication (because most tanks did not have radios, just the commander’s tank) and this was telling throughout 1940, 1941 and much of early 1942. Realizing the flaw of insufficient radio communication the Soviets have spent much time and effort to put a radio in every Soviet tank to better coordinate and attack (before the mass use of radio the Soviets used flag signals). So by late 1942 almost all Soviet tanks have radios and the few that do not are getting one installed. Japanese: The Japanese Imperial Army has by far the worst tanks in terms of effectiveness and numbers when it comes to armored units of the major powers. The Type 97 Chi-Ha tank is the most capable out of Japan’s tank designs but is still very much inferior to the Soviets, the Entente, the other Axis members and the Americans. A new tank, the Type 103 tank is on the drawing boards with a few prototypes built and tested but little progress has been made as there does not seem to be a need for it just yet. Army commanders in Siberia and China are demanding the Type 103 to be mass produced but Japan is industrially preoccupied supplying its Navy with ships and planes alongside the Army having sufficient amount of rifles, bullets and grenades. When Japan launches its attacks on the Entente/American territories and if they are taken the extra resources will go towards the construction of the Type 103. The Type 103 has a 57mm cannon, two machine guns and can perform well in jungle environments but has weak side armor and no sloped armor at all. United States: M3/M5 Stuart: is the most common American light tank. This is also the most supplied tank to the British Army as it is being phased out as the American military is upgrading its armored units to be more of a contender against current Soviet and German tanks. M3 Grant: Produced the same year as the Sherman the M3 Grant showed some promise but is quickly being overshadowed by the Sherman as the Sherman is dominating the medium tank field in the American armed forces. The few Grants that have been made are being sold off to Entente forces to supplement their forces while allowing the U.S. military to focus on newer/better models. M4 Sherman: The Sherman is new but is quickly being praised as the finest American tank yet. Production for tank is relatively low due to the military budget restraints, however with the Grant and the Stuart being deemed outdated and the process of phasing them out has begun the Sherman will, in a year or so time, be the main American tank across the board (light, medium, heavy). August 22nd, 1942- Lieutenant General Gott has reached Italian controlled Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. Within hours his better trained and equipped soldiers cut off the Italians from the rest of the country and by the end of the day have forced the Italian commanders to surrender. With Addis Ababa secured, the bulk of the Italian forces defeated, and the return of Ethiopia’s exiled King of Kings all Italian forces in Ethiopia surrender as their situation is hopeless. Many are unable to surrender to Gott and his British and French soldiers as the Ethiopians are taking revenge. Hundreds of Italian troops are butchered. Gott and Entente authorities try to stop it but can only stop the executions in major cities. In Britain and elsewhere in the world the liberation of Ethiopia garners little attention and praise. Only Churchill and members of the military appreciate what Gott did. Plans are to move Gott north to Egypt but London has ordered Gott to establish a stable government and ruler ship, alongside cleansing Ethiopia of fascist supporters, before he can move on and this is predicted to take months. Also in Egypt Field Marshal Wavell is trying very hard to keep Gott away from his command as the distrust and mutual hatred of the two is reaching legendary proportions in the British Army. Wavell does not want to share the ‘coming glory’ as he puts it as British forces in Egypt prepare to assault eastern Libya. August 25th, 1942- General de Gaulle and Montgomery in Sweden launch the Entente offensive. Montgomery’s tanks spearhead the advance which is to reach the eastern coats of Sweden while simultaneously the French move south to occupy southern Sweden. With southern Sweden gone the Swedes north of Entente lines will be starved of reinforcements and resupply thus ushering in a quick surrender. That is the hope anyway. Entente aircraft, reinforced the past few weeks, take control of the skies with both sides losing heavily but the Axis unable to sufficiently reinforce their depleted squadrons. Axis lines had not anticipated the location of where the Entente would attack and are therefore lacking in anti-tank material and armored support. With Axis forces retreating due north and due south with the British driving east and the French south from their previously held positions causes Model to send an encrypted but near desperate message: “I need men and panzers. Now!” German High Command, with the war in the East having quieted down, is moving to grant this request but this will take time. As a stop gap measure a division from Denmark and a division residing in Helsinki (which had just arrived there to move east to support the simmering offensive there against Soviet forces in the Karelia region) are immediately ordered to ship to southern Sweden. Both comply and board their transports with the Kriegsmarine acting as a guard. These 20,000 men will bolster Axis resistance in the southern cut off portion of Sweden but will not be able to assist the northern part. They will arrive in two days. Model and the majority of his panzers which were west of Stockholm and north of the Entente drive, attack the flanks of the Entente forces but have not been able to cause any noteworthy damage on the whole British/French assault. August 27th, 1942- The two German divisions arrive but the Swedish southern position has deteriorated severely with a quarter of the territory already lost. Axis forces are in full retreat. The German reinforcements are able to slow but not stop the southern retreat. Model and his panzers continuously make attacks and raids on the long northern Entente flank but do little but hurt the beast that is the Entente force. August 28th, 1942- After three days of blitzkrieg attacks, with support from air support and rapid troop movements Montgomery has reached the east coast of Sweden but at the cost of a fifth of his tanks and troops but with the north and south portions of Axis controlled Sweden truly cut off from each other Montgomery and de Gaulle can now attack and defeat Axis forces individually. In Berlin and Stockholm the mood is grim but Axis forces in both the south and north must regroup and resupplied for the inevitable counter-attack. Model is worried and rightly so. He radios Berlin for orders. They reply with “Hold the northern line” and “Await for further orders”. August 29th, 1942: Captain Helmut Sturnmeir stood in Stockholm’s docks with his anger barely controlled. Not just his anger but his commander Model’s anger as well. The messages from Berlin were becoming few and far between and cryptic. When Model finally received directions to go to the Swedish docks he had replied he would so with disgust. He was fighting a war for the north and they expected him to leave the front and go to Stockholm. Instead he sent a representative, his military attaché to the Swedish government: Helmut Sturnmeir. Nothing but the arrival of the Führer himself would drag Model out of combat and Hitler was reported to be preoccupied with operational planning for the summer offensive against the Soviets. A small torpedo boat sailed close to the docks and within a few minutes was pulled in and docked itself. A man with a swastika armband steps out and at first Steiner thought it was a Party or government (was there a difference anymore?) lackey had come to “assess and advise”. That was until Sturnmeir noticed that the rest of him was in black and silver: SS colors. Steiner’s expression went from annoyed to worried. The SS had never ventured into the affairs of the Heer or monitored it, at least not to the degree the NKVD monitored the Red Army but his presence here was worrisome. The asphalt soldiers as they were called followed Party orders fanatically. His being here could not be good. As the SS men (a few other SS members got out of boat as well, none armed other than pistols Steiner noted) walked closer Sturnmeir noticed the first SS man that stepped out had the markings of the Waffen-SS. At least he was soldier unlike the Allgemeine-SS and especially the SS that guarded the concentration camps. The lead SS man continued to get closer and Sturnmeir saw he was a brigadier general or whatever their own name for it was. Confused as whether to use the Party Salute or military salute Sturnmeir just saluted as if the man were part of the Wehrmacht. The brigadier general returned the salute and held out his hand surprisingly. “SS-Brigadeführer Walter Krüger. And you are?” he asked innocently enough. “Captain Helmut Sturnmeir attached to the Lieutenant General’s staff, attaché of the German Heer to the Swedish government. Welcome to Sweden, Herr Brigadeführer.” “Well I never thought I would be sent here to be honest. I only received the orders two days ago. Speaking of orders where is Model I was told he would meet me here in person,” an undertone of superiority and danger lurked there Sturnmeir thought. The Army captain frowned and looked the Waffen-SS man in the eye. “Lieutenant General Model,” he stressed the rank, “is at the front attempting to slow down the Entente advance. Sir,” he added the sir as an afterthought. Krüger looked at the Army man in surprise but laughed full heartily within seconds. “My, my I had forgotten the emotions the Army field. I was only curious, captain. No mean for offense. I am so used to receiving answers from SS men. They try very hard not to retort with anything seen as a disobedient comment. It is refreshing actually.” Sturnmeir exhaled, surprised at not only the SS general’s response but the fact once he said what he said he prepared for the worse of consequences. “Glad to assist, mein Herr.” The SS man laughed again as Sturnmeir motioned for the SS group to follow him. “Have you been told why I am here, captain?” “No, sir. Berlin was very tight-lipped about it.” “I can see why. With the British continuing to break our Ultra codes we did not know if they broke the latest version or not. And the information was sensitive enough to send me personally to talk to you, err, well Model I meant.” “Why are you here, sir, to monitor the general’s actions in Sweden or to promote inter-branch communication?” “Neither. Although the last will happen as a result of the reason I am here I am sure of that.” “Then why?” “To win this campaign or at least prevent us from losing it. Now I’m not saying you, Model or the Army hasn’t performed well,” he said quickly as Sturnmeir frowned again, “In fact you have performed admirably with the resources and manpower you had. But you asked for reinforcements and we were the next available batch in any significant strength.” “And what strength is that?” Krüger smiles, “An entire Waffen-SS panzer division fielding entirely Panzer IVs with a division of elite SS panzergrenadier troops accompanying that plus three infantry divisions of the Army, we are the reinforcements you asked for.” August 29th, 1942- In the northern half of divided Sweden German reinforcements have arrived to the shock of local commanders who had no expected such a large force so quickly (Berlin kept radio silence to not give the Entente a potential heads up). The Waffen-SS panzer division had come from the Eastern Front months ago for R&R in southern Germany as it was heavily mauled outside Smolensk. It had been rebuilt to full strength (300 panzers) and was about to move east when it was rerouted to northern Germany to be sent to the northern part of Sweden alongside its panzergrenadier contingent. The three Army divisions have been sent to the southern half to bulk up the defenses there. In Berlin they are planning to send a full strength Army panzer division to the southern portion but none are available. Instead of one full division they are beginning to assimilate three decimated divisions into one and will send when deemed combat ready in a couple of weeks. A few Luftwaffe squadrons are detached from the East to assist in Scandinavia and are already entering combat against the British and French air forces. (The reason for the very quick reinforcement is that Berlin had already begun to send reinforcements to Sweden the Entente offensive had only hastened the preparation and the actual sending of troops). While all this reinforcement is happening the Axis lines in southern Sweden continue to shrink. The one good news in the south is of a large force of Swedish infantry have been able to hold a nice chunk of the western Swedish shore and are being constantly supplied by Axis ships and planes with anti-tank weapons alongside every other form of material supply from food and water to bullets and grenades. They are holding out as thorn in the Entente side… for now. August 30th, 1942: Commander Mitsuo Fuchida continued to survey the air space around him, looking for any planes bearing the American star. Beside and behind him flew hundreds of planes of the Imperial Navy Air Service, the Rising Sun a stark contrast to the white and green plane colors. Cloud coverage was about one-fifth coverage and all was quiet on the radio bar the local American music. Fuchida listened in and the syrupy music that blared from his headset caused him to frown. The Americans called it jazz and Fuchida was not a fan, that much was certain. A large cloud was in front of him and for a few seconds he was surrounded by the whiteness of the cloud. Once through he looked at the island of Oahu and the military base of Pearl Harbor. Fuchida grinned. There was only a few American aircraft airborne, probably just in training maneuvers or the default air patrol. The Japanese fighters in the first wave would eliminate these and establish air superiority. But other than those few American aircraft the airspace was clear of enemy contacts. Below him in the harbor itself was battleship after battleship with dozens of destroyers, frigates, cruisers and even, his eyes opened in anticipation, two aircraft carriers; the Empire had hoped for the carriers to be there . The Empire had caught the Americans sleeping. Fuchida glanced at his chronometer. 6:07 a.m. Sunday morning, August 30th, 1942. Fuchida went to Imperial radio frequency. “All pilots, we have caught the giant asleep. Tora, Tora, Tora!” The confirmation of Hai’s came over the radio. Fuchdia led his squadron on to attack the carriers. They were more important than anything, Fuchida yelled, "Banzai!" along with the other Japanese pilots. As the Japanese planes descend on the American harbor and the ships residing there Fuchida was the first Japanese aircraft to fire on an American ship. His bullets would kill three sailors as they were on deck having a smoke. Caroline Walker strode on a sidewalk in Honolulu, capital of the Hawaiian Islands. She was a tall, for a woman, red head with deep blue eyes. Her good looks and excellent medical education, paid for by her rich father, gave her a promising future in the States as a nurse. However on a trip to Hawaii to celebrate her graduation from college she fell in love with the place. So many things to do here. Surfing, which she quickly learned, and going up and down all the hills and mountains. She never returned to the States to get a job in her father's company. She would have been a nurse for the executives in the company more than not. But here... here she was free. No rules, no restrictions. Everyone was nice. She loved Hawaii and would not leave. Her father and mother were noticeably angry about it and cut her off financially. So she worked odd jobs, enough to get by. Caroline was on her way to a babysitting job while the parents went to church. A buzzing sound above her made her look up. Plane after plane flew by and she frowned. What was the Navy doing enacting exercises on a Sunday morning? The planes flew by and dropped something. She cocked her head and squinted to get a better look. The stuff that dropped hit a building down the street and exploded. Fire and smoke encompassed that portion of the street. Caroline stood there frozen, not comprehending what she was seeing. In the background her mind registered dozens, scores more of explosions from what she could only assume were from the planes. A small child waddled out of the smoke. A boy of five or six with blood streaking down his soot covered face. He was crying and Caroline's mind snapped out of the shock. She pictured the small boy as her younger brother Jared when he was that young. She rushed to the boy and grabbed his hand, causing a cry of alarm. The boy cried and pointed towards the smoke, "My mommy is in there!" he screeched. Caroline could see through the dissipating smoke and saw a women on the concrete, blood pooling the ground and spreading. Caroline turned the boy's head toward her. "What's your name?" He hiccuped his tears, "Franklin." "OK, Franklin. Let's go." "What about Mommy?" "She... she cannot come with us. Come on, we have to go. Now." Franklin came with her, perhaps influenced by her authority, perhaps knowing his mother was truly gone. Overhead the planes lowered down and fired their machine guns into the confused crowds in the streets. Bullets chipped the concrete all around. Miraculously no bullets hit the two of them but more civilian bodies littered the street, men, women and children, the bullets did not care who or what you are. One of the planes was hit by anti-aircraft fire and fell to the ground and crashed into the street. Caroline looked at the plane. The cockpit had a large hole in it, possibly an anti-aircraft round, that had punched through and killed the pilot. Blood was everywhere. On the side of the plane was a large red circle. Her eyes opened in surprise. The Rising Sun was the symbol of the Japanese Empire. The full implications caused her to widen her eyes in shock. They finally did it. The Japanese finally did it. After years of a tension filled peace the Japanese attacked the United States. It was madness. It was war. August 30th, 1942- Pearl Harbor: Japanese aircraft launch a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. Led by Fuchida the first two waves attack and either disable or destroy the American ships at anchor and the Army Air Force and Navy aircraft on the ground. The three American aircraft carriers: the Enterprise, the Saratoga and the Lexington are crippled in the harbor with one sunk and the other two heavily damaged (Enterprise is sunk while the Lexington and Saratoga are heavily damaged). (There are currently two Essex carriers deployed in the U.S. Navy: the Essex and the Victory, since the Lexington Yorktown class carrier is still around there is no Lexington Essex carrier, the two Essex carriers are split. The Essex is in the Atlantic Fleet while the Victory is in San Francisco). By day’s end the American Pacific Fleet is crippled. With air superiority established and the American Fleet taken care of the Japanese land their Army divisions on Oahu and other major Hawaiian Islands. Their advance is rapid, taking advantage of the Americans being surprised and disorganized. While the individual American soldier is better equipped and armed the Japanese have the advantage of fanaticism, surprise, and air support. Within hours the Japanese have established beach heads and are pushing inwards to take the major islands. With Hawaii in the process of being secured Japanese naval elements sail west towards Midway to secure that island. They are carrying a division of infantry for Midway while three divisions are on the Hawaiian Islands. The Japanese have lost 44 planes throughout the day and a destroyer along with a supply ship (both were hit by submarines that were on patrol, the submarines that sunk the destroyer and the supply ship were able to escape and sail east to California. The ships are carrying vital intel on what had happened in Hawaii). Philippines: In the Philippines the Japanese Imperial Second Fleet launches its attack. Japanese aircraft quickly take control of the skies over the northern and western portions of the island. General MacArthur and his island fortification specialist Colonel Ryan Andrews’s preparations for a coming invasion prove very successful with the Japanese Army have difficulty landing on some of the major islands (of the Luzon portion of the Islands) with interconnected fields of fire on key beach locations, forcing the Japanese to land on more minor, smaller beaches to land without suffering immense casualties. Within hours the Japanese have established beachheads in Luzon and continue bombings and fighter strafes over Visayas and Mindanao which hamper American and Filipino supplies and motor transport. Japanese fighter-bombers and fighters bomb and harass Manila, capital of the Philippines killing hundreds of civilians and damaging but not crippling the American base and military depots in the city. By the end of the day Japanese forces will only have advanced only a scant handful of kilometers (but have connected most of their landings into a cohesive front) but reinforcements continue to pour in and are pushing the joint American/Filipino back albeit slowly. MacArthur and Andrews are content with this. They are using their Filipino auxiliaries as the cushion, taking the brunt of the Japanese attacks while the 100,000 or so American soldiers are acting as the strategic reserve and the killing blow, which has already decimated two Japanese landing zones. The Japanese are landing with about 200,000 men but are calling Tokyo for reinforcements to break through the containment zones the Americans and Filipinos have established. Tokyo however cannot comply as its entire transport system is already supporting the troop/naval movements against Hawaii/Midway and the Dutch East Indies, along with some supporting actions against Entente holdings in China. So for now the Japanese in the Philippines are barely advancing but have continuous air support and naval support and have established beachheads to land supplies. They are not able to advance in any meaningful way until significant reinforcements arrive which will be sometime as available naval transport is dangerously low. China (Entente portions): Japanese, with heavy support from their Chinese puppets, attack all of the major Entente holdings on the Chinese coast. The small and ill-equipped Entente forces practically melt before Japanese aggression and by midday had taken most of the holdings. Only Hong Kong, with the support of Royal Marines and a few Army units have held out any length of time and continue to hold the city as Japanese/Chinese forces pour in. Dutch East Indies: Japanese landings in the Dutch East Indies go extremely well as the Dutch had very few military forces there in any shape to fight. The Dutch naval forces which were protecting the East Indies were quickly destroyed by Japanese air and naval forces. The native Indonesians support the Japanese as they see the Japanese as liberators from a European colonial empire. This attitude will quickly change in the coming weeks. By the end of the 30th the Japanese have landings on Malaysia and Borneo and are moving steadily to major cities and strategic locations. Throughout the Pacific the Japanese have destroyed dozens of Entente ships, mainly frigates and destroyers with the most powerful Entente ship sunk being a British heavy cruiser. The U.S., outside of Pearl Harbor, loses only a few ships but only a few ships were outside of Pearl Harbor. The majority of the Pacific Fleet that was not in Pearl Harbor is located around the Philippines and once the Japanese started the attack the commanding officer in charge of the naval forces in the area, ordered the U.S. Navy ships to Australia. The Japanese have lost overall nearly a hundred aircraft plus about a dozen ships either sunk or so heavily damaged as to be considered lost. Most of these losses are frigates, destroyers and a few supply/transport ships while the damaged ships can be easily repaired within a few months (in most cases). Overall the Japanese operations have gone accordingly to plan, in some cases better than was expected. The only part of the operation not doing as well as hoped is the invasion of the Philippines as Imperial Command had underestimated the preparations done by MacArthur, Andrews and the Army Corps of Engineers. In London Prime Minister Halifax is shocked by these turn of events and with regret does declare war on the Empire of Japan. In Washington Congress is assembled by Roosevelt to discuss the matter of a declaration of war. The Netherlands declare war on the Japanese and will assist Entente forces in the Pacific only. The Dutch will fight the Japanese and their puppet allies NOT the Germans and the other European Axis Powers. The French shortly after the British declaration of war also declare war on the Japanese. The greatest war in the history of Mankind continues to spread.