Keynes' Cruisers Volume 2

Kure Navy Yard, 1200 September 25, 1943

The carrier Zuikaku touched the water for the first time in nine months. She had barely made it home after the fiasco in the southern seas. An American submarine had torpedoed her near Formosa as she crept north. Of the six tracks spotted, three were clean misses while two of the hits were duds. The last one ripped open a hole where another three thousand tons of water entered her already waterlogged hull. The repairs were slowed by the lack of some critical materials that could only be sourced elsewhere in the empire. Mines and submarine attacks had added at least another month to the time for the ship to re-enter the sea. It would not have mattered, her air group would not have been ready much earlier.

The heavy cruiser Asama and a trio of destroyers were ready to escort the carrier for her post-repair trials.
Damn exploders. That sub CO must be PISSED
 
RAF LAGANS FIELD, September 25, 1943
aka Base Aérea Nº 4 aka Lajes Field in the Azores which means Portugal is cooperating with the Allies

and by the date of the first successful UB kill at least 2 months earlier than OTL

(I'm deducing it's the first kill. If there had been any earlier successes the UB silhouette would already be established ;) )

Portugal may even be further down the road to Belligerent status iTTL.
OTL it was a step by step process starting in August 43 with only British involvement due to the long-established Luso-Britannic Treaties.
 
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Once Zuihaku is up and running how many carriers do the Japanese have left?

(Setting aside the question of how effective those air arms on said carriers are. I'm guessing somewhere between "mediocre" and "oh boy, we're screwed.")
They’ll serve as an excellent distraction for the suicidal charge of the battlewagons that remain. Both of them.
 
Story 2238
Southern Russian Steppes, 1300 September 25, 1943

Over the course of the morning, a few Red bombers had flown over the positions of the Torino division. No attacks were made even as companies and battalions were breaking cover and shifting positions. Orders had come from 8th Army Headquarters for all divisions and independent combat brigades to form all-around perimeters and hold in place against all foreign units. Units were allowed to retreat from the front line as needed to create the required density. The logistics and support units were ordered to shelter in place within the defensive squares that were now being formed.

No one knew why these orders were being given. A few companies of the most dedicated blackshirts in another division had refused to retreat from a salient. They were left holding four times the recommended frontage without supporting arms as other battalions and batteries had begun to withdraw over the past three hours. Some German staff officers and liaisons had continued, unfettered access to their radios and their transport. A Junkers took off from from a corps headquarters with eleven men aboard. Other Germans and Romanians were being politely confined to quarters by some of the more forward thinking officers.
 
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Story 2239
Thessaly, Greece, 1330 September 25, 1943

The motorcycle company of the Bulgarian division entered the city. Their base camp was well to the east of the big Greek port, but they were needed in the city. The captain looked at his map. Two more blocks and the first bike took a left and then a moment later, a right. An hour after entering the city, the Bulgarians were taking up the positions of a Germany battalion that had already started to entrain to stabilize an emerging crisis in the south.
 
the Bulgarians
How motivated are the Bulgarians to actually take ever more part in the war with it now looking less good for Axis, with the Greeks much stronger than OTL (and Italy collapsing) would they not be worried about what might soon happen to them?
 
How motivated are the Bulgarians to actually take ever more part in the war with it now looking less good for Axis, with the Greeks much stronger than OTL (and Italy collapsing) would they not be worried about what might soon happen to them?
They are mainly securing the German rear areas to free up Germans to fight. That is not too risky for themselves.
 
I guess that a larger part of greek Macedonia along with Thessaloniki was promised to Bulgaria.

I wonder for how long Bulgaria will continue its participation in the war. In OTL they switched side at once when the Soviets reached the Danube. They had no will to participate in any Axis campaign, not even to contribute a single division as a gesture. Now Lemnos is in Allied hands. That means that there is a direct threat against bulgarian-occupied Macedonia and Thrace.

The authorities in Sofia will have in mind that in Allied (or at least Greek) minds, their participation in the war just became more serious. And Greeks now are in control of part of their country and are bound to have a far larger military than OTL. In OTL the Bulgarians executed some 40,000 Greeks in the rather small territory they occupied (source: Balkan Genocides: Holocaust and Ethnic Cleansing in the Twentieth Century, by Paul Mojzes), more than the Germans and Italians combined. The aforementioned source mentions also that 100,000 Greeks were expelled by the end of 1941. The official greek archives mention that until 1944 a total of 200,000 Greeks were expelled. Mindful of these actions, the Germans didn't expand the bulgarian occupation zone after the italian capitulation, as they would have faced a much more hostile greek population themselves. Of course, now there is an active front and their need is dire.

Therefore, this is certainly an escalation of the bulgarian participation in the war.
 
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They are mainly securing the German rear areas to free up Germans to fight. That is not too risky for themselves.
To put it mildly Greeks of that generation did not like Bulgarians all that much. Not accidental that for most resistance organizations that cropped up in Greek Macedonia the Bulgarian occupiers were public enemy number one with the Germans second. Soo I wouldn't much fancy being that lone Bulgarian unit caught in the sights of the resistance.
 
Southern Russian Steppes, 1300 September 25, 1943
IOTL the 8th Army's survivors had returned to Italy in March-April 1943. This is an indication of the less catastrophic winter campaigns of 1942-43 - they could maintain viable formations in Russia until the autumn.
 
Story 2240
Brenner Pass, 1400 September 25, 1943

An infantry cannon fired. A moment later, the three inch shell exploded. A moment later, the companion gun fired again even as the gun crews went through their intricate loading dance. Another shell was on the way before a machine gun began to ping the gun shield. The crew dug their shoulder into the traverse mechanism as the battery commander spotted where the Italian machine gunner had exposed himself. A minute later, half a dozen shells collapsed the strong point.

Even as the infantry guns were firing, another platoon of German infantry advanced. Satchel charges blew a whole in a building. Grenades exploded in a house that had held a dozen Italian soldiers whose position had denied the Germans the ability to advance along cover for the past three hours. As soon as the first grenades exploded, half a dozen men with submachine guns went into the chaos. They added noise and smoke with rapid fire precision. Soon the fighting descended to rifle butts, bayonets and elbows. The second wave of German soldiers ended the fight. Half a dozen men were wounded in the forty seven seconds of combat while only two Italian soldiers were able to flee the building to the next strong point that would soon be outflanked.
 
Brenner Pass, 1400 September 25, 1943
Having clashes in the very border itself is a huge butterfly on its own. As far as I know, nothing of the sort took place in OTL. Now what the Italians can do is to blow up 2-3 bridges and tunnels and they delay the german responce by days at least. The terrain is great for defence. Even a half-hearted effort should be enough to at least seriously delay the Germans. Lets say the Germans capture Brenner intact in the same day. It's the freakin Alps! They would have to capture intact every single bridge and tunnel until Trento! A single squad with explosives can derail Wehrmacht's plans.

The other path to Italy is via the littoral rail line. Even that passes through a series of rivers. If a modicum of defence can delay the responce via the railways, the only other solution is to have at hand large motorized units in Slovenia. A mobile field army to rush to Veneto.

 
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Having clashes in the very border itself is a huge butterfly on its own. As far as I know, nothing of the sort took place in OTL. Now what the Italians can do is to blow up 2-3 bridges and tunnels and they delay the german responce by days at least. The terrain is great for defence. Even a half-hearted effort should be enough to at least seriously delay the Germans. Lets say the Germans capture Brenner intact in the same day. It's the freakin Alps! They would have to capture intact every single bridge and tunnel until Trento! A single squad with explosives can derail Wehrmacht's plans.

The other path to Italy is via the littoral rail line. Even that passes through a series of rivers. If a modicum of defence can delay the responce via the railways, the only other solution is to have at hand large motorized units in Slovenia. A mobile field army to rush into Veneto.

It’s not just that. Add in if they have time to lay mines and booby traps it will be even worse, imagine trying to clear a pile of rocks that might or might not have explosives in them. Yes you can set a charge, but up there having a a second charge go up might trigger an avalanche. All kind of fun things come to mind up there.
 
It’s not just that. Add in if they have time to lay mines and booby traps it will be even worse, imagine trying to clear a pile of rocks that might or might not have explosives in them. Yes you can set a charge, but up there having a a second charge go up might trigger an avalanche. All kind of fun things come to mind up there.
Indeed! The Alpine route will be closed. The littoral one remains, through the battlefields of WW1. The terrain is certainly better than the Alps but it has its own challenges. Even in the best case senario though, the littoral line can support only a single army. With the situation in the border as it is, the Allies can sail even in Genova and have reasonable time to set up shop.

If you guys check the map I posted in my previous post there is one thing that stands: Milan via Genova is closer than Milan via Trieste, even with no italian resistance at all. Now that the Italians are actively resisting the Germans (effectively or not), Milan is even further away for the Germans.
 
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It’s probably worse than that. IIRC there are 4 or 5 rail lines going north to south through Switzerland. The Swiss will obviously still stay neutral. All the Italians have to do is stop the trains at the border (or tell the Swiss that they aren’t allowed in). They don’t need regular troops for that; just border guards or police.

Also, what’s happening along the Franco-Italian border?

Speaking of “Franco,” where is the Blue Division in all of this?
 
Story 2241
Off the coast of Naples, 1445 September 25, 1943

A dozen P-38s circled the amphibious fleet. Three divisions were already ashore. The most significant opposition was two battalions of German infantry that had made it out of their barracks and into a solid defensive position blocking one road into the port city. Two divisions had taken dozens of casualties from accidents, drownings and other mishaps. One division was bleeding as two out of its three regiments were intensely engaged in clearing the German dead enders.

Another two divisions were due ashore overnight. They would be landing over the beaches while engineers were proofing the port infrastructure against demolitions and sabotage. Minesweepers from five navies were already sanitizing the pathway to the port. Just south of the minesweepers, HMS Manchester and USS Savannah lazily turned down their horse track pattern that they had followed for the past three hours. The two cruisers ceased fire moments ago as a four minute barrage requested by a Canadian forward observer ended. The magazines were getting low, and by nightfall, the two cruisers would be relieved by a French cruiser division that would provide on-call fire support until tomorrow morning. The radar operators aboard the ship ignored a blip that was dodging in and out of clouds as there were hundreds of Allied aircraft within range at any time, and the IFF was too easily spooked.

Suddenly, a look-out aboard Manchester yelled as he spotted a black dot descending rapidly. There was no plane in sight. A few anti-aircraft machine guns began to fire, a quad pom-pom mount started to fire when the dot was less than a thousand yards away. Exposed men who could not turn a gun at the threat hit the deck. The cruiser began a hard turn to port even as steam was released to the turbines to increase speed. It did not matter. The bomb punched through the B turret roof and exploded two decks down. Within seconds, fires were starting and the crew began a fight to stay alive and afloat that would not end until the next morning when the ship slowly crept back to Sicily under heavy escort.
 
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