Disclaimer(s): this TL is set in the alternate world of Protect and Survive. I strongly suggest you to read at least the first four chapters of the aforementioned 2011 Turtledove Award winner for Best New Cold War in order to better contextualize my little & humble work. I ask you politely to forgive my stiffy and mediocre English because it isn't my native language; I also use a lot of Italian terms, don't have any fear to ask what they mean, I'll try my best to translate them. Comments, suggestions, constructive criticism are welcome and encouraged. So, here's the first installment.
WEST STAR - Mount Moscal (VR), Italy.
01:46 PM CET, 02/21/1984.
The darkness the cold the wind
Alfa Romeo and Carabinieri Campagnole and soldiers
Via Roma Tangenziale Ovest Autostrada del Brennero
The lights the beacons the sirens
full speed and radio crackles
the SP9 Affi the gates
appuntati and brigadieri
pale faces grippin' M12s hintin' shaky nods
Goin' underground, sheltered (and buried?) by the mountain
When hostilities broke out, COMLANDSOUTH together with COMFIVEATAF and their staff were quickly relocated to the designed war post, where they soon were joined by permanent delegations from NAVSOUTH, STRIKEFORSOUTH and US Marines Corps. The task was extremely simple, the task was extremely difficult: to coordinate the defense of Italy against Warsaw Pact & Yugoslavian forces and to keep an eye on the Lybians. The available forces were neither so large nor so up-to-date. Generale Bonsignore knew it, mere awareness of it, reinforced by the allarming reports he had received hour after hour, didn't let him get more than a couple of hour of sleep a day. Red eyes and rings under them, he was now on the phone with the V° Corpo d'Armata commander, grudgingly planning a counter-offensive clamoured by Consiglio supremo di difesa, even before that against the enemy, against common sense. We suffered massive casualties, we are understreght, we're starting to lack supplies for everything. Only things we aren't running out are idiots. And now I have also to sell this suicidal move as something good; sheer madness, but that's probably what Rome wants from me.
<< Generale De Robertis, I know exactly your frontline situation, I read every report you sent twice.>>
Just in case even I didn't already seemed idiot enough to you.
<< Now, listen to me. We have to cross Isonzo and then secure the flank just behind A4 highway in order to launch an assault and regain Ronchi dei Legionari airport, then move into Monfalcone.>>
You're right, Corrado, with the enemy in the outskirts of Remanzacco, bound to Udine, how can I order to you to release the Battaglioni Carri GALAS and CHIAMENTI to the south?
<< Meanwhile VITTORIO VENETO has to thrust up to north-west, all along the SR14.>>
I know too they're trapped into Trieste, only one third of their nominal strenght.
<< We gotta break the siege, before it's too late; if the city fall, it will bring down with itself the country's morale, we already lost Gorizia.>>
The country's morale is all time-low since the Hamburg incident and Gorizia, Trieste, they were doomed from the start.
<< I am not blame the loss on you, Generale, your men fought valiantly against overwhelming enemies.>>
Good god, I'm talkin' like a LUCE newsreel in the times of Duce.
<< It's vital to start before the night. No, listen to me, I can't provide you full CAS after datk, Ginas and Yankees are blind nighttime. Generale, please, it's not time to discuss about modernization of air force...>>
If you knew how it's humiliating to lie to an honest man when he's sayin' the truth. Our Aeronautica's should be ranked as a 50s aviation museum, not as a modern air force.
<< Generale, you will receive suitable support, that's for sure. Now I have to confer with COMFIVEATAF. I'll recall you within an hour and we will arrange the operation in detail. I know, I know. Have a nice day, De Robertis.>>
He put down the receiver and heaved a sigh. He stood up. He was incubating a huge headache and in dire need of a good sleep. But there was no way: he had a crowded schedule, and the first meeting, toward which he was going, was a tough one. Bonsignore didn't like Generale di Squadra Aerea con incarichi speciali Castoldi and the feeling was mutual: different age, different roots, different characters, different ideas about cooperation between the two armed forces; moreover his contiguity to SISMI and his connection with certain political and business underworlds were open secrets, as the friendship with several Agency's men in Italy. He entered into COMFIVEATAF's office, findin' him sunk in the armchair, vaguely bored, surrounded by a swarm of subordinates busy with phones, maps and telex.
Even in a situation like this, he has managed to turn a military post in a sort of satrapia.
Suddendly Castoldi's eyes came alive with a strange twist, stand up, salute back. Something more reptile than human.
<< Ezio! I was waiting for you! Please, take a seat.>>
False smiles, soapy manners.
<< I think you're here to talk about that...counter-offensive so much claimed by CSdD, isn'it?>>
<< Exactly, Generale Castoldi.>>
He emphasized to the maximum the rank. He wanted to keep the distance between them, they weren't friends, they weren't confederates in one of his beloved secret masonic lodges. Castoldi faked to not catch on that, keepin' on beckon and gesturin' to his staff without sayin' anything.
<< I need a strong interdiction operation against X, XIII, XIV Yugoslavian Corps, 9th, 17th Hungarian Motorized Rifle Divisions and their assets around Trieste plus intense CAS during the VITTORIO VENETO movement in order to allow the linkage of the city's Comando Truppe to the main front. At the same time we have to assure air coverage to Battaglioni Carri GALAS, CHIAMENTI, Brigata Corazzata POZZUOLO DEL FRIULI and Meccanizzata GORIZIA, the V° Corpo d'Armata attack force aimed at retaking Ronchi, Monfalcone and operating the link-up.>>
COMFIVEATAF stood up, walked around the desk and invited COMLANDSOUTH to go with him outside the room, in the corridor. They were just after the door when Castoldi made a sly face and took a disgusted Bonsignore's arm
<< You don't believe in that plan, don't you? Trieste is fucked up, you know it as well as me. And I believe you also know that this "counter-offensive" is just a sop to some socialist, former partisan Savonese. Poor old man, he thinks we are still in WWII.>>
Bonsignore hold his tongue.
This little, intriguing bastard talks about the Presidente della Repubblica as one of his fellow rogue political friends; he's right about the plan's feasibility, and probably is right about the source of such naive strategy too. But I also know that Capo di Stato Maggiore della Difesa, another well-connected masonic idiot, instead of remember to Pertini the sorry state of the Armed Forces, probably had boasted some nonsense statement about our mythological military power.
<< However orders are orders and we got to set good example; I suggest you to not endanger much of your spare forces in a so foolish action, anyway. Send just a dozen of tanks, better if they are the more disposable, and a couple of BAR battalions, better if they are rookies. Personally I'll send in merely two old Starfighters and four, maybe five G.91R., no more than that. We will be able to say we fulfilled our orders, but our assets failed execution. Isn't it perfect?>>
Good god, he's worst than I've ever thought.
Bonsignore was closing to the boiling point.
<< Generale Castoldi, I don't want even remember to you what expect to traitors and saboteurs during wartime.>>
A little bit closer.
<< Come on, Ezio. We are a secondary front, NATO will win or lose in Germany or in the Atlantic Ocean. We only have to hold on without too much bloodshed and wait for reinforcements; there's no place for a silly "counter-offensive".>>
He loosed his arm and shouted, disregarding of the thunderstruck looks by VAM guards in the tunnels.
<< No, no, you're a silly, a silly bastard: You don't like the orders? Fine with that, resign, go home, get stuffed. But if you accept them you have also to execute them, and with the full spectrum of your crappy aviation not with a token representation of it! You're a useless piece of shit in a uniform you never deserved! You and your friends should be...>>
The couple look up at a podgy, spectacled Tenente, stuck in a salute and with a sheet in the other hand.
Castoldi replied the salute then left alone Bonsignore to grab what seemed to be a telex.
He read it impassively.
Without a word, he gave it to COMLANDSOUTH.
To: COMFIVEATAF, COMLANDSOUTH.
Subject: Update to Sitrep 02/21/84.
'Nuclear blast reported west of Kassel, BDR, @ 1204 Zulu.
'Yield still unknown but rated inside tactical range.
'Early reports suggest US Army unauthorized use of a battlefield nuclear device.
'Investigations are ongoing.
'Further communications will follow ASAP.
<< It looks like we have to find a modus vivendi, my dear Ezio.>>