Prolonging the Futility: A WW2 European TL

Oct 42-Nov 43
This is not going to be a fancy TL or even a particularly high quality one. Rather, it is going to tease out how Germany would fare if they rolled “sixes” (or “ones” if it is Axis and Allies) after the US is in the war.

The POD is Hitler gets bit by his dog after playing too rough and dies of sepsis. (The King of Greece was bit by his monkey and died about 20 years before, so this is a legit POD).

To avoid an ASB, I will have the Germans get defeated at Stalingrad as it is unlikely they are going to simply retreat when they “almost won,” even amidst general chaos. This POD occurs in October 1942, before the Soviet counteroffensive. Herman Goering wins a short power struggle, but he is toothless and the military generally runs things. Goering wants peace, but never at terms the West and East (and military) are willing to accept.

Hence, as this situation unfolds, the German strategy is primarily focused on “buying time” as they wait for enough jets and submarines to “turn the tide” which will never turn. Strategy is based upon husbanding soldiers and keeping allies in the war. I will pull “stunts” which do not defy the laws of physics but help prolong the war as much possible. We will just have to handwave these away and “go with it” to make it fun. Here we go:

Oct 42-Jan 43: The Time of Troubles

After Hitler’s untimely death, general chaos existed in Germany. This chaos was blamed for sudden German setbacks in Stalingrad, North Africa, and the opening of a corridor to Leningrad. Goering, afraid of being couped and replaced by some military-puppet, did as he was told. Germany withdrew from the Caucasus (before they drilled any precious oil) to the Kerch peninsula and the surrounding areas with the “hope” an offensive can be resumed in 1943. The sixth army and 4th panzer army executed a “break out,” but only a third of their personnel ever made it back to German lines. Nearly all heavy equipment was lost. Last second Luftwaffe air raids on Baku and Grozny were conducted, but rather haphazardly. Nevertheless, the damage done was more than anyone anticipated, due to the oil saturated soil. Russian oil production was significantly shut down for six weeks as they took out fires and rebuilt their damaged facilities.

Italian, Romanian, and Hungarian forces were shattered and they withdrew almost all forces back to their home countries. Not wanting to lose his allies, Goering permitted this. Nevertheless, the Romanians maintained occupational forces in Odessa, Moldova, and parts of Ukraine.

Due to near-political anarchy after Hitler’s death, a full withdrawal from Vichy North Africa took place and German/Italian forces are repositioned to help buttress defenses in Crete, the Dodecanese, Greece, and Sicily. Stalin demanded a second front to be opened in France in 1943. The Germans, realizing their allies may jump ship as the war is beginning to turn against them, immediately worked on having significant reserves within Germany itself. This not only maintained the specter of a complete military takeover of the nation (making Goering effectively a puppet), it made it possible to funnel men to wherever the Western Allies may open a front next as well as placed the gun at the head of junior Axis partners encouraging them not to jump ship.

In a most unanticipated move, the Office of the Four Year Plan gave Goering the recommendation liberalize economic policy in the east due to the collective farm/pillage economy being incredibly inefficient at growing crops. So, in a bid to isolate his Balkan allies even more so and squeeze them firmer within Germany’s grasp, Goering guaranteed Western Ukrainian independence to Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Bandera and his ilk were given free reign to kill their political enemies and run the country. In exchange for military training and weapons, they agree to export food stuffs to Germany and permit German investment in industry and mining concerns.

Most dastardly, Bandera also permitted the expulsion of political and racial undesirables, needed for Germany’s slave-labor economy. By April 1943, Bandera adeptly subdued his opposition, and though there are still partisans, he quickly raises with German support a million-man army by the end of the year. Agricultural production increases significantly. A similar movement is not contemplated in Belarus, eastern Ukraine, and occupied Russia, due to the German economy being dependent on slave labor and there being no politically reliable group of people to entrust authority to.

Feb 43-June 43: The ATL “Kursk”

As German forces rushed to withdraw from quantitatively superior and surprisingly adept Soviet armies in the winter of 42-43, the Soviets over-extended themselves. A significant battle occurred at Kharkov, and due to significant German reserves the city never changed hands. This saved the Soviets a bloodying they otherwise received in OTL, but it permitted further German exploitation of natural resources in these areas.

The success of Goering’s program in Ukraine led to its expansion amongst the Baltic states with tepid support from the German Army. This effectively exhausted whatever political capital he had to act on his own initiative. An “anti-communist” treaty is signed between these states, but it is more of a propaganda coup than anything. Instead of ensuring mutual defense of its members, it simply makes clear that the Germans will offer material support to nations “liberated” from the Communist yoke. It was essentially “everyone for themselves.” Not surprisingly, Poland is left out.

With no Kursk being contemplated, significant resources were put into manning the Panther-Wontan line, due to it appearing the Soviets had the initiative, even after third Kharkov. IOTL, in July 1943 there were about 3.9 million Axis members facing off to about 6.8 million Soviets. By June 1943, this number is similar but slightly more in the Axis favor: 4.1 million to about 6.9 million Soviets. While the military wanted to retain Eastern Ukraine, significant peace feelers were sent out to Stalin to sacrifice East Ukraine, Smolensk, and the Rhzev salient (which was not withdrawn ITTL due to a lack of utter catastrophe in Stalingrad). Investing in a defense-line west of these areas hence made sense, being that the Soviets accepting a peace treaty was considered possible.

The Soviets, due to their significant material superiority, held a significant offensive in Rhzev in May 1943. The goal was to pinch of the salient and capture a significant portion AGC. The stakes for the Germans were huge, as an impressive showing a Rhzev was important in order to give the perception to its allies that it had solid footing in the East. Further, it would give Germany a “piece” to play in making peace with the Soviets along a new border at the Panther-Wotan line.

The battle was incredible in its ferocity. German reinforcements, ensured the salient had nearly 900,000 men. The Soviet offensive in this area was predictable and it was situated against the most heavily defended area on Earth, with layers of defensive lines, mine fields, Panzer battalions readied to respond to break throughs, and a significantly growing number of Tiger I and Elefant tank destroyers—both of which proved devastating in prepared defensive grounds thanks to their 88 mm guns. They were able to knock out enemy formations before they can even be reached. Germany also enjoyed local air superiority and muddy terrain, helping them as the defender. Stalin, who had an additional five military fronts in reserve, threw these into the battle when the initiative was first lost. Sheer numerical superiority looked like it would win a day. It was a close contest and the Germans nearly lost, but the Soviets at this juncture had most of their experienced personnel in Ukraine and so their armies were too green and did not have the established doctrine to break through such prepared defenders. Contrariwise, the German military in 1943 was man-for-man the most experienced in the world and with a suitable defense, was able to punch far above its weight. Stalin called of the offensive not long before the Germans were seriously contemplating withdrawing.

If Stalin was a little more audacious and reckless, he could have forced a general German collapse. But, he lost his nerve. Why? The Soviets anticipated the Wallies were soon to open a front elsewhere and wanted to maintain enough forces for a significant offensive predicated upon liberating Eastern Ukraine. It was felt continuing further would have compromised this follow-up offensive.

July 43 – Nov 43: The lost summer

Up until this point of the war, the German population had received news of some victorious summer offensive. While there was some popular anticipation of this, the German military neither had the fuel nor the personnel to pull this off, even at the local level. The Battle in Rhzev had significantly attrited resources they could not replace.

Manstein, the Field Marshall entrusted with AGS, boasted that he could withdraw and counter-attack any Soviet offensive in the South. This “backhand blow” would allegedly convince the Soviets after Rhzev that they qualitatively could never defeat the Axis. It was hoped that if Germany can merely “hold the line” against the Allies, a peace deal can be struck—giving eastern Ukraine and western Russian would be “more than generous” in exchange for peace. This was simply residual victory disease that did not adequately contemplate the numerically inferior position Germany still was in, despite their victory at Rhzev.

With the increasing success of the Allied bombing campaign, the Luftwaffe had nearly switched to an entirely defensive posture—something that helped improve the German resource situation slightly ITTL compared to OTL. In any event, in July 1943, the Allies struck Sicily and easily overwhelmed the Axis, who quickly withdrawn. Air and naval superiority made any Axis attempt to maintain the island impossible. The Italians nearly exited the war, but Mussolini barely maintained power. Germans reserves rushing to Italy’s defense ensured this and Mussolini would rule until the end of the war.

What followed would be both a major victory and significant defeat for the Allies. The Soviet offensive against Kharkov in the end of August was unstoppable. On the open steppe, the “endless” supply of Soviet mechanized corps overwhelmed and quickly surrounded Kharkov. Manstein sprung into action and was seriously repulsed, both sides experiencing similar losses. Instead of blunting the Soviet spear, the Soviets kept pushing until they reached the Dnieper by late November 1943. With land to trade in exchange for losing men, the Germans were executing a fighting withdrawal.

Attempts at peace against the Soviets failed and the Rhzev salient was withdrawn in order to strengthen the Panther-Wotan line and prevent a more serious disaster then what happened in eastern Ukraine. This actually shocked the average Soviet, as the reputation for “Summer Germans” led many to believe the Germans had husbanded a significant force for a coup de main on Moscow itself. This belief had tied down significant Russian reserves, but the Soviet army was so big at this point, it made no significant difference to their overall operations. Their reserves, though defensive, were perceived by the Germans as an actual attacking force—hence hastening their withdrawal.

In Italy, the Wallies were surprised by the ferocity of the Axis defenders when they attacked southern Italy in 1943. In fact, they were repulsed and driven into the ocean (something that nearly happened IOTL). ITTL, the real difference maker was significantly larger Luftwaffe and Italian air force support (due to Italy staying in the war and no Kursk disaster as in IOTL) and with the help of guided bombs, Italian naval support (which was more of a death ride, but it served its purpose), as well as immense local superiority on the ground the Wallies could not prevail. Allied attempts to “island hop” in the Dodecanese also resulted in failure.

This proved to the Wallies that any amphibious attack on France would require the complete destruction of the Luftwaffe and the transportation network in order to prevent such a disaster from happening ever again. Ironically, if a naval invasion was re-attempted sometime in the winter (akin to the Anzio landings) there was a chance it could have succeeded, as every month that passed the quality of German forces in the theater degraded. However, the shock defeat in Italy made the Wallies unable to stomach such an maneuver unless chances for success were 100 percent. In October and November Sardinia and Corsica were occupied. This was the extent of success the Wallies enjoyed in the Mediterranean in 1943.
 
Velikiye Luki was captured in the otl, making any hypothetical defense of Rzhev extremely tenuous due to making it a lot more difficult for the Germans to resupply via the railway. Also, they'd probably be a bunch of boneheads and still hold on to Tunisia though I'm not sure wuss-Goring and Team Prussia would let 300,000 Axis personnel get captured.
 
Velikiye Luki was captured in the otl, making any hypothetical defense of Rzhev extremely tenuous due to making it a lot more difficult for the Germans to resupply via the railway. Also, they'd probably be a bunch of boneheads and still hold on to Tunisia though I'm not sure wuss-Goring and Team Prussia would let 300,000 Axis personnel get captured.
I am surprised they held on for two months afterwards. I'd agree with you that this development would made holding onto Rhzev ITTL too difficult. However, due to relief operatrions coming within 5 miles in the city IOTL, I am going to hand wave it away and say a more prompt evacuation of Stalingrad, as well as more JU52s not being shot down near the Volga=Velikiye Luki gets relieved and then reinforced. Not impossible, and way easier then re-typing any of the above.
 
Dec 43-Apr 44
Dec 43-April 44: Licking wounds

While the average citizen of an Axis-allied country had not yet realized that the war was definitely lost at this point, popularly it was delt that a peace deal was a month away and that at the Soviet’s expense major land concessions would have justified the price of blood necessary to “stop Communism.”

This view was not completely unjustified. The back of the Luftwaffe was not yet broken. The Allies were not invincible and were in fact defeated in Italy, and due to weather, would be held at bay until at least the Summer.

Furthermore, Axis forces ITTL were significantly stronger. All Axis members were still in the war. Axis allies, such as Western Ukraine and the Baltic states, raised a rather large sum of soldiers and “auxiliaries” to the tune of 1.4 million men. IOTL in May 1944 the Axis had 3.4 million men on the Eastern Front IOTL squaring off against about 6.4 million Soviets. Without the disaster as Kursk, the Soviet disaster at Rhzev, and the flood of Ukrainians and Balts, the numbers were much closer to some sort of “parity:” 4.9 million to 5.9 million Soviets. Due to not capturing significant portions of European Russian and eastern Ukraine as quickly, the Soviets needed land lease to merely feed their army more than ever. In fact, they needed to actually decommission some divisions being raised up so men can work in the factories making fertilizer and work on the farms. Less German POWs also meant less slave labor which was vitally important to the Soviet gulag economy.

However, Germany’s “liberation” of Ukraine also proved to be a significant dent into their industry, as while a slight increase in agriculture existed, German industry lacked personnel and the food to feed all of their slave labor. The holocaust transpired in earnest as a “war necessity.”

Stalin husbanded men for one last serious offensive, code named Bagration, which would be focused specifically on Ukraine, and a minor offensive against Finland focused on knocking them out of the war. However, the former would only occur after the Wallies would open up another front. By May 1944, the back of the German Luftwaffe was broken and the Allies were awash with men to attack France. Ironically, they simply did not have the naval assets due to the war in Japan to attack Southern France and/or Italy as well as northern France simultaneously. They certainly had more than enough soldiers to pull it off, just not a way to land everyone at once.

Allied planning at this point was to strategically bomb Italy, Corsica, and Sardinia from Sicily to “hurt morale.” This merely guaranteed Italian resistance until the end of the war. Far from being “useless,” the Italians proved adept at subduing resistance in Greece and Yugoslavia, their assistance freeing up the dregs of the German army and their Osttruppen to man the fortress divisions needed in France.

As for peace feelers, Goering saw no need to make peace at this juncture. If only the Soviets can have a significantly bad harvest and be defeated behind prepared defensive lines, as they were the year previously at Rhzev, the Soviets may “peace out.” With this, the Wallies would make peace, end the strategic bombing, and Germany would “win” the war as they would be sitting on most of Europe. The Germans even felt that defeating an Allied landing was likely, due to their experience in Italy. Despite the growing amount of civilian deaths from strategic bombing, the resolve of the Germans to fight was increasing and victory was considered likely by most people.
 
May 44-July 44
May 44- July 44: The end is just beginning

Everyone was waiting for the inevitable onslaught in France. Terrible luck struck the allies. D-day was planned for June 5th and was delayed due to weather. The next day was considered too dicey, due to the bloody nose suffered in Italy a year before. It was decided to wait until July when the lunar cycle would have been just right and weather, hopefully, more cooperative.

This largely delayed Soviet plans other than their attack on Finland, which was initiated as scheduled in early June. Squaring off against 270,000 Finns were approximately 450,000 Soviets. The Germans promised material support, which they made good on, but wat only marginally better than OTL. Despite the reputation of being “super soldiers,” the Finns were not prepared to repulse such an offensive. However, with Germany sitting in a theoretically strong position, they could not simply leave the war either. At the 11th hour Germany send significant Luftwaffe support and material which would have otherwise been destined to arm Ukrainians and Balts. Due to the situation in Ukraine, and no Soviet offensive there, the Germans were not in a rush to adequately equip them anyway (they were mostly equipped with old weaponry captured in France and the Netherlands alongside whatever the Germans had left over—though they did receive plenty of Panzerfausts). The Finns held off the Russians, but only after withdrawing to the VKT line by late June. However, the line held.

While ITTL Soviet superiority in numbers is not as drastic, this does not mean they are not more mobile and better trained than the standard Axis counterpart. The Axis, due to avoiding many losses in “Tunisgrad” and “Kursk,” had approximately 4.9 million men manning the front. The total German personnel on the eastern front even still was only about 2.7 million. Almost 2.2 million men out of a total 4.9 million are unreliable Ukrainians (one million), uncooperative Balts (approx. 400K), about 550,000 Romanians and Hungarians, and the remainder various Waffen SS divisions and Ostruppen of various ethnicities. Not all of these soldiers were located in active parts of the front, making Axis “parity” merely a specter. Most of the Hungarians were on their own borders, while many of the Romanians are in Moldova, Odessa, and the Crimean peninsula.

The Germans had arguably permitted the Ukrainians to grow out of control. And so, Ukraine had about one million Germans even still. This included the majority of their mobile elements in reserve and most of the men tied down in major cities, such as Kiev, and on the Panther Wonton line. Ukrainian soldiers offered significant static defense on the Panther Wontan line (approximately 500,000 ill-equipped men) but they kept the rest in reserve—mostly to prevent a sudden German reneging on their arrangement. This meant approximately 1,000,000 men were manning the Panther Wontan line, only half we reliable, severely undercutting the usefulness of the prepared defenses—which at this juncture were extremely formidable. The Germans likewise had to keep significant amounts of personnel in the Crimea to prevent landings, as the Soviets had naval superiority in the Black Sea. Each Axis member was wary of another stabbing them in the back, so it was not a very stable situation for any of them.

When ATL D-Day finally occurred, it went off without a hitch. Even though Erwin Rommel was there at the beaches (as he requested), there was simply too many beaches to defend and supporting naval fire was too overwhelming. Rommel’s tactics made no difference. Men were squandered trying to push the Allies into the sea, attempting a repeat of what occurred in southern Italy. Unlike Italy, the Germans did not have local air superiority and the quality of their fortress units were extremely deficient.

Chomping at the bit to begin his offensive in Ukraine, as soon it was clear the second front was going to pan out in France, Stalin unleashed Operation Bagration in Ukraine. Approximately 2.7 million men squared off against 1 million Axis members at the Panther Wontan line. Though the line was adequately manned, the attacks were focused in the Ukrainian held portions of the line. Though they fought surprisingly well, the local numerical superiority as well as the qualitative superiority was too much for the Ukrainians. Bridgeheads were quickly set up across the Dnieper. Though German reserves sprung into action, the initiative belonged to the Soviets and German losses were irreplaceable. When a Soviet breakthrough was apparent, the Germans were forced to withdraw their units from the Panther Wontan line.

Kiev was declared a fortress city. The fighting was vicious and the Ukrainians fought hard. However, the Soviets bypassed the city and the Germans, not wanting to lose Ukrainian support, allowed some of their infantry divisions to be surrounded with the best the Ukrainian army had to offer.

After this point, the Soviets had a war of movement that mostly suited them. However, the Germans still had decent mobile reserves (something that was not the case IOTL due to the disastrous collapse after Kursk and the constant reeling back in Ukraine during the first half of 1944 IOTL). The Germans accomplished a major victory, permitting the Soviets to overstretch and capture Zhitomir, only to have a counter offensive surround an entire Tank Army.

In summary, the Soviets had captured one third of western Ukraine before they had stretched out their logistical tether too far. What they did capture was Ukrainian-partisan infested and Kiev had enough supplies to hold out for about eight weeks. There would be no serious attempt at an airlift. Manstein attempted a breakthrough, but the Germans and Ukrainians in the city were far from reaching it. They lacked mobile elements and the breakthrough itself made little headway. Kiev would turn out to be a disaster for the Germans, resulting in 100,000 POWS and missing (the Ukrainians casualties were also approximately 100,000 men). What awaited many of them was a fate worse than death. However, about fifty percent joined the ranks of the partisans themselves and emptied out into the countryside.

Soviet casualties in this offensive were unacceptably high. They lost approximately 800,000 men compared to 400,000 on the Axis side (150,000 Germans, 250,000 Ukrainians). In some respects, the Ukrainian losses were replaceable as Bandera was still drafting more and more men by the day. Further, many of these losses were in fact buttressing a partisan movement that sought to liberate Ukraine itself. Partisans, though little better than heavily armed bandits that alienated those who they stole from, had enough of a chilling effect to hamper Soviet attempts to swell their ranks by drafting eligible males in the lands they conquered.

Goering sent out last-second peace feelers to Moscow. Stalin allowed it to leak to western media that these overtures were being seriously considered. In fact, the main point of contention would be how long a period would be given to draw back to pre-Barbarossa borders and the permittance of a continued Ukrainian state. In reality, Stalin would have not accepted these terms. He was able to exact more Lend-Lease concessions, including shipments of high-tech aircraft including the P51 Mustang, whose licensing was permitted. At this point it was clear the Germans were no longer an offensive threat and it was best to simply wait for Axis infighting before resuming of the offensive in the East.
 
Aug 44-Sep 44
Aug 1944-Sep 1944: The liberation of France

The situation in France was rapidly deteriorating for Germany. With the cream of their military in the Soviet Union, the dregs in France were quick to surrender or withdraw. The situation in southern France, upon Operation Dragoon, likewise evaporated quickly—so quick that US forces had reached the German border by mid-September.

Paris fell to US forces by the end of the month, but the Germans destroyed all of its crucial bridges and rail stations. As retaliation for US strategic bombing on Rome, the Eiffel Tower had been scrapped for steel and the arc of triumph demolished. These were mostly symbolic acts, however, as most of Paris was left in an intact state.

By the end of September, the Soviets had secured a separate peace with Finland, forcing Finland back to its 1940 borders. It became clear to Goering that he could not have approx. 2.5 million Germans with about 2 million allies on the Eastern front, facing off against 5.2 million Soviets. At this point, Germany was being bombed into smithereens and if he did not do something, Germany itself would be invaded.

The result was that with the agreement of Ukraine, Germany withdrew 500,000 men. AGC was stripped bare, as it was hoped that Belarus’ forests would prove to be a force multiplier. With Finland’s withdrawal from the Axis, the need to keep as many men in AGN was unnecessary. Germany granted home-rule to the Baltic nations. Other than a few mobile divisions, most German occupation forces were recalled to Germany itself. All things said and told, one million men were withdrawn from the eastern front.

Goering was devious, and made sure to keep significant reserves in Yugoslavia, Greece, and Poland so on a moment’s notice Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary can be immediately occupied with the help of the Italians. It was clear that enough soldiers had to be placed in the east to prevent the Balkan nations from breaking rank and making a separate peace. However, the fight now was largely an eastern affair.

The preceding had an unprecedented effect on the Balkan nations. Romania increased their significantly large standing army to 800,000 men. Approximately 100,000 men were in the Crimea and Odessa and another 300,000 in Moldova and the Carpathians. Significant numbers were held in reserve due to fears of Hungarian, Italian, and Bulgarian encroachments.

At the same time, Hungary increased their standing army to nearly 400,000 men, fearing German, Italian, and Romanian invasion. The Bulgarians increased their own standing army likewise. All things said and told, 5.2 million Soviets squared off against 4 million Axis. They had the numerical advantage, but not as overwhelming as OTL.
 
In reality the Soviets would be permitted to use their P-63 Kingcobras; let alone licensing a national security secret like the p51.
 
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In reality the Soviets would be permitted to use their P-63 Kingcobras; let alone licensing a national security secret like the p51.
At that point of the war, the Soviets on paper had little reason not to peace out, so the pot would have to be significantly more sweetened. The Soviet got jet engines after the war for practically nothing, so its not impossible to be licensed a P51.
 
I still think Goering would have stopped the Holocaust Also that the Ukrainians and Balts would have been reliable in that they had good reason to hate Stalin and fear his vengeance.
 
Oct 44-Jan 45
Oct 44 – Jan 45: The last chance at peace

In October, Stalin opted to attack the “soft” parts of the eastern front, particularly Estonia, with the hope of breaking through into Latvia, and then Lithuania; as well as a massive attack into Ukraine. Successful campaigns would create a salient which would allow the Soviets to either surround AGC or force a withdrawal to 1941 borders.

All said and told, 500,000 Soviets were earmarked to attack Estonia, with an addition 250,000 soldiers held in reserve for follow up operations in the other Baltic states. Approximately 1.75 million men were slotted for the attack on Western Ukraine.

In both theaters, the Soviets completely overwhelmed their enemies. Estonia’s small army of 125,000 poorly trained auxiliaries evaporated under the Soviet onslaught, even though it was buttressed by a strong Waffen SS division as well as four quality German divisions on good defensive grounds. They could not hold out against the onslaught. The Waffen SS and German divisions retreated into Latvia (along with Estonian anti-communists), which had about 200,000 auxiliaries as well as a Waffen SS division. They likewise folded to the pressure, though a significant pocket of Latvians and Germans continued to hold out in the Courland Pocket.

Soviet reserves were thrown into the invasion of Lithuania, which due to the German destruction of the rail infrastructure, was on a logistical shoestring. The Lithuanians likewise had approximately 200,000 auxiliaries and were buttressed by 200,000 German soldiers, which moved into the battle from East Prussia, with Latvian and German forces who had previously retreated as well. At this point, the Germans had a significant degree of parity and were able to break through to the Courland Pocket and stabilize the front.

Soviet losses were relatively severe, with the loss of 300,000 men. Axis losses were higher on paper, about 325,000—but most of these were poorly trained Estonians and Latvians , many of which (though “missing”) were in the forests acting as partisans.

In Ukraine, even though there was a rough parity (about 1.3 million Axis soldiers versus 1.75 million Soviets), the Soviets had the edge in equipment and quality. Losses were roughly equal on both sides and the Ukrainians withdrew. The Crimea was entirely bypassed, as was the fortress city of Odessa, saving the Romanians a significant blow similar to the one they experienced in 1942 outside of Stalingrad.

The Soviets reached the northern Carpathians by December, but at this point the Axis fell back to a Romanian defensive line manned by 400,000 Romanian soldiers, 400,000 western Ukrainians (in the western parts of Ukraine west of Moldova), and 300,000 Germans (those of which that did not withdraw into the Crimea itself). Having experienced 500,000 casualties, the Soviets had rough parity and mobility was not a factor that would suit them at this juncture. Though they occupied the majority of Ukraine, particularly its breadbasket, what they had left to themselves was a partisan Hell that would take years until after WW2 to subdue.

All things said and told, the Soviets were in a good position to regain 1941 borders by 1945. They recaptured important population centers, but a loss of 1944’s harvest in Ukraine meant that the Soviet military could not make due on their losses. Having begun the campaigns with roughly 5.2 million men in the eastern front, their losses were approximately 1,000,000 casualties. Worse yet, the Axis were sitting on good defensive ground on the Carpathians and Crimea which would require at least two million men to break through—stripping the other fronts bare as both sides roughly had parity (3.4 million Axis to 4.2 million Soviets). Stalin looked for major events to unfold in the West as he had no choice but to bide his time.

With their supply lines stretched, the Wallies were stopped in their tracks by the Germans in the Netherlands and the German border. By December, total German and allied forces in the West totaled three million men. Though many quality divisions were shipped in from the east, many were not mobile (especially compared to Allied divisions) and subpar fortress divisions of Crimean Tartars and ex-Soviet POWs as well as Volkstrum padded the numbers. Nevertheless, by this point of the war, they actually slightly outnumbered the Wallies, at least temporarily.

Goering’s military planners opted for a “small solution.” Italian forces with German help were to recapture the port-town of Nice, which was being held by the dregs of the US and French armies. This was intended to be an uncreative, full-frontal assault where surprise would help achieve the objective.

In the Ardennes region, Rommel planned an ambitious attack, a two pronged offensive aimed at surrounding United States forces east of the Meuse. If fuel depots were captured according to the plan, a drive towards Antwerp would be attempted. The attacks would be timed for a period of time when weather would ground the Wallies’ air force.

The cream of Germany’s military was slotted for the attack and despite the obvious overtures in the east which indicated a greatly diminished German presence, Western military planners did not seriously anticipate a German attack, especially considering they ruled the skies and intelligence had not picked up on it.

On December 16th, Rommel attacked and achieved a massive breakthrough. Lessons in 1940, where miles of backed up vehicles tied up German logistics, were learned well and avoided at this juncture. By Christmas Eve, the Germans had surrounded 200,000 American soldiers. Fuel depots were captured and Rommel broke with his commander, Gerd von Rudstedt, and thrust significant mobile elements forward towards Antwerp. General Patton’s breakthrough attempt was repulsed, but was so sudden, along with the break in the weather, that Rommel lost his nerve and reversed course. Nevertheless, German forces secured the surrender of the pocket by the end of the year, suffering token losses. It was a “massive” victory, but Pyrrhic as it did little to change the strategic situation—not that this was fully appreciated at the time.

Through Swedish intermediaries, peace investigations began in earnest. Stalin demanded a return to 1941 borders, including eastern Poland, the Baltic states, Crimea, and Moldova. The British demanded that Greek (and Norwegian, Yugoslavian, and Danish) independence be restored, the Alsace-Lorraine be returned to France, that the Rhineland be demilitarized, and Belgium and the Netherlands have restored independence. The Americans demanded that Austria be partitioned from Germany and Czechoslovakia restored. All agreed that Germany must pay reparations. In other words, a Treaty of Versailles 2.0.

Goering felt that fundamentally, this was a good deal. He perceived that Germany faced disaster, and retaining gains in Lithuania and western Poland, as well as hegemony in central Europe, would suffice if the Germans could retain Alsace-Lorraine and avoid demilitarization and reparations. Hence, his goal was a return to German borders in 1914.

Mussolini was willing to part with his French acquisitions, but not his acquisitions in Yugoslavia and the Dodecanese. He also demanded a restoration of Sicily and Sardinia to Italy. He was also unwilling to pay reparations.

The more junior Axis members really did not a say, but demanded retention of their acquisitions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Moldova, and etcetera. In reality, Goering was willing to have a separate peace that left the junior Axis members to fend for themselves.

The German military loathed this “deal.” Why, if they attained victory in the west and a stalemate in the east should they just give away the Crimea or Lithuania? Why have the Soviets right at their border? Goering was “gently” encouraged to step down, which he did, and another senior Nazi member take his place, the pliable Franz von Papen. After this point, the nation was entirely led by the military.
 
Feb 45-May 45
Feb 45 – May 45: Being bled white

Though the average American soldier was terrified of fighting the Germans after what had occurred, propaganda assured them that Germany had “shot its bolt.” A slow push into Germany was what was called for.

The Germans, through the destruction of dykes, had made much of the Netherlands impassible, greatly stymying the British in the north. But, the Wallied offensive to the south in March was unstoppable. Having 4.3 million highly mobile troops squaring off against 2.9 million Germans and allied conscripts, the fight quickly turned into a bloody rout. The losses were in the hundreds of thousands and the Siegfried Line, mostly in a state of disrepair due to earlier focus on the Atlantic Wall, proved to be bloody, but fruitless. The Germans maintained high concentrations of men in the Rhur on the western side of the Rhine, while Patton and Montgomery bypassed this region and struck towards the Rhine River to the north and south of the Rhur. They made it there by mid April, but access to the other side of the river was denied and the Germans retained contact with the industrially-necessary Rhur. The Germans lost nearly half a million men, the Allies approximately 350,000.

The Germans held local counter-offensives whenever they were able and this significantly slowed down the Allies. While the US army successfully made a pontoon bridge at the vicinity of Remagen, the Germans had enough forces to contain the bridgehead and had in fact pushed it back into the river after artillery fire damaged the bridge in the middle of a counter-offensive. This led to the capture of about 7,000 American soldiers, a propaganda coup.

In April, the Western Allies tried to pinch off the western fragment of the Rhur region near Moers. The fighting was savage and house to house. It would prove to be a mini-Stalingrad of sorts, with losses of approximately 100,000 soldiers on both sides. SS executed Germans who were malingers, including civilians who did not take up arms. There would be no retreating east of the Rhine. Everyone would fight where they stood. Due to significant German defenses in the central and northern parts of Germany, the Wallies made the decision to attack its soft underbelly, piercing into Baden-Württemberg and then Bavaria, the idea being these parts of Germany would be less densely populated, forcing more Germans to fight where they can be surrounded and defeated easily.

Germany had no choice but to strip the eastern front bare. They withdrew from Belarus without a fight, following a scorched earth policy. German forces were likewise evacuated from Courland and the Carpathians. Only about 20 percent of their forces remained in the east. This meant that about 300,000 Germans still opposed the Soviets, while Romanians, Hungarians, Balts, and Ukrainians were expected to shoulder the rest of the load—about 100,000 of these soldiers were in the Crimea alone and the remaining 200,000 in Poland. Norway was mostly evacuated, adding 250,000 additional German reserves. A small token force was left behind simply to force the Wallies to waste resources to actually retake the nation.

This led to a tenuous geopolitical situation, as the Wallies were increasing their numbers even after horrific losses. Germans were conscripting the elderly, children, and locally even women into the Volkstrum, pushing their numbers to around 4 million soldiers on the Western front. Even then, the Wallies by the end of May had nearly 4.5 million soldiers of superior quality. Stories of French soldiers raping German women in villages reacquired after counter-attacks stiffened the German resolve to fight.

A conference was held in Iran in March. Soviet war planners were posed the following borders from the western allies: 1939 borders with the exception of Moldova and acquisitions in Finland, an independent Lithuania, a unified Poland, and Germany/Austria broke up into occupation zones which would include the French and Polish. Italy would be occupied only by the Western Allies.

The deal was an insult and offered the Soviet Union nothing for continuing the fight against the Axis allies. Stalin left the meeting earlier due to “urgent business” and Molotov the next day feigned an inability to accept these terms. In other words, the Soviets would keep fighting but not agree upon such a zone of influence post war—yet.

Soviet war planners decided that the Balkan Axis partners were too much to take on, but that the Germans were at this point the weakest link. They would invade through Lithuania to East Prussia and likewise attack through Belarus to the Vistula. These regions would be permanently annexed to the Soviet Union after the war and peace would be made with Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria with the hope that they would prove to be a significant thorn in future Allied planning for a potential invasion of the Soviet Union. This would only be after a Soviet occupation zone in East Germany and Austria would frustrate Allied operations.

In April, the Soviets attacked Latvia, which fought admirably but its half-starved and outnumbered military stood no chance. The Soviet military was highly mobile and was able to make significant headway into Lithuania, but prepared defenses and stretched supply lines led to the advance being stopped in its tracks by German reserves from Poland and Germany. The front stabilized in eastern Lithuania. It was discovered Belarus was mostly vacated, so instead of pressing against prepared defenses, Rusian reserves flooded south instead of into a follow-up attack on Lithuania.

Romania tried to decrease oil shipments to Germany, but even at this late a stage Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria threatened invasion—a loose interpretation of what the Axis treaty required of them. The Axis did not crack. Running out of currency and gold to pay Romania, shipments decreased. People are not as motivated to drill oil for no pay. Germany did withdraw most of its contingent from the Crimea and stationed it in Romania in Flak battalions and the like. It was not overtly an occupation, as Romanian soldiers by far outnumbered the Germans on their soil, but it was awkward nonetheless.

Soviet forces in Ukraine, without much planning, struck into the Crimea and Odessa trying to seize the opportunity. The Romanians defending the peninsula were surprisingly well dug in. The Romanians lost about 100,000 men fighting from strong defensive grounds, the Soviets 150,000. It was a very costly victory at this late stage. Partisans in Ukraine were running amok and the Soviet position was only on paper strong. They were not going to be able to dislodge Bandera from the very western fringes of Ukraine north of Moldova, a position the Romanians were all too happy to let him maintain as the Ukrainians effectively acted as the first line on the Carpathian Line. The Russians could have pushed harder, sweep Bandera aside, and force a withdrawal from Moldova, but did not press the issue—something the Romanians understood to be an olive branch of sorts in the post-war order.

American attacks into southern Germany achieved a breakthrough, but casualties were horrendous. They reached Munich by the end of May, but a quarter million Americans were lost (the Germans suffered 400,000 casualties). Patton fed men into Munich, where fighting was house to house. An unanticipated German counterattack surrounded two American divisions who failed to withdraw from the outskirts of the city. Fighting would persist in Munich for another month.
 
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I think the western allies losing 250k per major engagement would be overly traumatic. They'd continue the air offensive, but I do understand with Russia wanting to peace out if they are simply used for bodies that the Wallies would have to make bolder decisions. I almost think that they'd wait for a late spring offensive to minimize loses yet maintain political tenability in this scenario.
 
I think the western allies losing 250k per major engagement would be overly traumatic. They'd continue the air offensive, but I do understand with Russia wanting to peace out if they are simply used for bodies that the Wallies would have to make bolder decisions. I almost think that they'd wait for a late spring offensive to minimize loses yet maintain political tenability in this scenario.
I actually think 250K is a bit small, especially without a OTL eastern front. When the Germans are not simply withdrawing or surrendering people are going to fight and casualties will inevitably result.
 
June-July 45: Cracks in alliances
June-July 45: Cracks in alliances

After the losses in southern Germany, Patton was relieved from command and replaced with the more pliable Mark Clark. This would prove a most disastrous move. Clark was indecisive, inept, and generally untalented. It took him nearly a week to start issuing orders as he “learned” the situation on the ground. He turned Munich into another Stalingrad and another 100,000 American casualties were suffered taking the city against fierce German resistance.

The US 8th airforce had long ran out of targets to bomb and simply continued to bomb rubble, towns, and simply agitating the Germans, prolonging their resistance to fight. Germans strangely continued going about their business, attending soccer events mere miles from the front lines, manning their farms until the Americans were seen in the distance, and showing up to workshops in towns where they worked on small facets of larger weapons, such as aircraft, which would be assembled elsewhere underground or in Silesia.

FDR had died in April and the new President of the USA, Truman, wanted the British to fight “their fair share.” Montgomery had not struck south towards Cologne simply because the Germans had a rough parity (something like 1.5 Allied to 1.2 Germans) and he was afraid of being bogged down, as he was still in parts of the Netherlands.

However, Churchill stepped down on June 3rd and Earl Attlee became Prime Minister. He compelled the British military to force Montgomery to act, which he did. By the end of June, Montgomery reached Cologne, but with similarly horrendous casualties that the Americans experienced. Fighting in Cologne was house to house and the British did not succeed in taking the city. After 350,000 casualties during the campaign, Montgomery was relieved and the British were spent as a fighting force, experiencing a loss of nearly half of its combat effectiveness and most of its mobile elements.

Having liberated the Netherlands in the meantime as well as having invest 400,000 soldiers to the occupation of Norway (the Allies had invested too many men in this operation as it was stripped more bare than they had expected), the Wallies were not capable of theater-wide movement as both Cologne and most of the Rhur region remained in German hands. In the last 12 months, the Allies experienced nearly 1.5 million casualties. The invasion of Japan, scheduled for November 1945, was also expected to be a bloodbath. Britain interestingly did not want peace as much as the Americans, who had lost much of their morale to fight against a country that never attacked them.

Allied morale in the Pacific, especially after Iwo Jima and Okinawa, was low as the common soldier realized how high the casualties would be in occupying Japan. Germany was a bloodbath that protractedly continued every month. Most men did not expect Japan to be any different.

The Soviets in the meantime made some progress, but it was limited. With the southern front being ignored due to the logistical nightmare that existed in Ukraine due to the partisans (as well as significantly decreased manpower due to 1944’s harvest and decreased drafting of men in re-occupied lands), Russia quickly moved into Belarus (which like Norway, was far less occupied than they expected) and initiated their sole true summer offensive, into Lithuania. Belarussian infrastructure was far too damaged to permit an invasion into Poland with significant forces.

The invasion of Belarus was significant. About 900,000 Soviet soldiers faced off against 100,000 Germans, 300,000 Lithuanians, 60,000 assorted Waffen SS, and 80,000 Estonian conscripts. The Lithuanians had prepared defenses that acted as significant force multipliers, and the Soviets even suffered a serious defection of a large part two Ukrainian divisions (made of recent conscripts). The Soviets were not foolish enough to do the same with the few Latvians and Estonians they were able to impress into service, as most of these men were sent to the far east.

The Soviets eventually broke through the defenses but their offensive petered out in western Lithuania, being met by German reserves from Poland. The third Vienna Award was agreed upon with Hungary and Bandera, which in exchange for both nations receiving occupation duties in East Poland, they would receive territory. This would have been unthinkable in the past, but Germany needed every soldier they can get to fight the Wallies. Further, it was becoming clear that The Soviets would press into East Prussia.

It became clear to the Germans that the Allies were, in the meantime, exhausting themselves. The Generals were losing their stomach to fight and pushed Papen for peace.

At this juncture, the peace was posed against Versailles 2.0. Stalin demanded all of East Prussia and Poland, something Germany could not accept. Details of these peace talks were leaked, leading Romania and Bulgaria to leave the Axis and declare neutrality. On July 16th, Italy, Hungary, and (some) German forces invaded Romania under the pretense of freeing the 100,000 Germans soldiers who were dastardly betrayed.

Romania was largely occupied, but the Carpathians laid completely in their hands. Ukrainian soldiers helping man fortifications were expelled to the far fringes of western Ukraine still in Bandera’s hands, which then began fighting with Romanian soldiers in Moldova, which crumbled under the pressure. They were helped by the two repatriated Ukrainian divisions who had surrendered in Lithuania not long before.

At this point, Greece was almost entirely evacuated by the Germans, with occupation duties taken over by Italians and fascist collaborators. Greece, at this point, became functionally independent outside of the Italian and Bulgarian occupation zones. The Italians were the de facto rulers, largely governing by stoking anti-communist feelings. At this point the Italian army was not minor, nearly four million men strong (though significant reserves were in Italy itself, working their farms before the harvest as well as “defending” against the possibility of an Allied landing). They likewise were making Stugs, Panzer IVs, and FW190s under license (something that Germany permitted since 1944 as they were in desperate need of Italian crops and cooperation). Italian occupation in the Balkans was necessary to maintain order and keep Romanian oil flowing to both sides.

Bulgaria maintained their independence and rebuffed Italian moves at their border. Like Turkey, Bulgaria maintained territorial independence and generally avoided picking sides.

At the same time, a successful atomic bomb test occurred in New Mexico. The decision was made to stop active military operations in the West and drop atomic bombs on Germany, hopefully hastening their surrender.
 
The Italians would have had increased production of the G-55, C-205, and Re-2005 which would have made licensed 190s unnecessary. As with most sophisticated Italian technologies they would have been built in small numbers. It also would have been exciting to hypothetically see what the Italians would have developed with German licenses for engines and other technologies.

I agree that the Italians would probably have Panzer III/IV chassis licensed at this point.
 
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