Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Anglo-American Nazi War

Years ago now, I stumbled across the website while looking up alternate history on the web after reading about S.M. Stirlings Draka series. Little did I know then that I would stumble upon a series that has captivated the minds of many since its author under the username Calbear first penned it back in 2009. That story is, The Anglo-American Nazi War, available under the title Festung Europa, on Amazon it is the definitive edition of the story by author Jon Kacer.

The story takes place during World War II, and the point of divergence is the Nazis not engaging in North Africa and the fall of Stalingrad in 1942. This causes Stalin, in one of his brutal rages, to liquidate not only his main generals (Zhukov among them) but also most of Stavka. Stripped of much of their planning staff, the Russian operations of 1943 are disasters, and Stalin soon suffers a "fatal heart attack" and the Soviet Union falls into civil war. Into this vacuum the Nazis pour, and crush all resistance inflicting a crippling peace on the Russians, allowing them to turn their attention to the war with the West.

The Western Allies, now facing some 200 battle hardened divisions of Nazi troops, understandably balk at an immediate invasion of Europe. Instead, a brutally increasing air war peters into stalemate by 1947. From there both sides, seeing little opportunity to hurt each other, have an informal "truce" where no air attacks will take place, but there is no peace either, and the "Warm War" begins.

Unlike other "Nazi Cold War" scenarios (such as Fatherland or A Kill in the Morning) the Allied doctrine of Unconditional Surrender remains in place and so the truce is rather informal. The active combat remains limited to anti-submarine warfare in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Then of course, the Nazis being Nazis, decide to reignite the conflict by launching one of the most spectacular(ly ill advised) operations in military history kicking off the war again in 1954.

From there the story follows the operational history of the war, only rarely dealing with the battles themselves when they serve to illustrate a particular strategic/doctrinal point about the combatants.

The author, much like David Weber, knows his stuff. To his credit he does not shy away from the horrors or heroism of war, and is quite frank with some of the brutal calculations the Allied commanders make, offering no moral comment, but simply recording it as what must be done to win. Heck, even commentators in the original story thread were horrified at what took place, even to the Nazis on occasion!

Aside from that, as I said, the author knows his stuff. Prospective weapons of war that were never used in our own WWII come to the fray here, and even weapons that were never used!

For instance, we have Allied adoption of helicopters, which frustrates some Nazi planning against paratroopers. You also have the M92 Chamberlain Heavy Tank which mounts an enormous 120mm gun. Though when faced with something as terrifying as the Nazi Panther Mk III with its sloped armor and 105mm gun, it seems less mind boggling. The many cool planes that contribute to the air war are too numerous to mention, but suffice to say they are used quite well. Combine that with numerous other clever uses of existing military weaponry, it makes for some fascinating "what if" reading.

The story also pulls no punches in describing just how depraved and barbaric the Nazi regime was. Even the short descriptions of the horrendous labor conditions for the slave workers across the Reich are chilling, and when one considers that this is a Reich that stretches from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is terrifying to contemplate (the story at one point estimates some 90 million killed by the Nazi extermination efforts in this time line).

Many of the excellent portrayals of action in the story, are thrilling, including one great moment showing the Free Poles going into action against the SS and kicking serious ass. This is very much a history book rather than a novel though, and should be treated as such. There are no view point characters, merely the fictional in universe author offering their perspective on the war and its history. As such it may be a "dry" piece for some, but if you are a student of history or an alternate history enthusiast, it is well worth the read.

That being said, I had a few quibbles with the story.

For one thing, while I acknowledge the premise of the story is probably more sound than many would argue, I question a few of the authors conclusions. The first is that even after the resumption of the "Hot War" the SS do not meaningfully upgrade their armored capabilities in response to Allied tank designs. There is no mention of a Panther Mk IV appearing, or any other type of new heavy tank. Armor design was the bread and butter of the Reich in vehicle manufacture, and I did expect something of a reaction by them. The Luftwaffe had some design upgrades as the war wore on, but perhaps this was simply an oversight by the author.

Another is how badly he treats Russia and the former USSR, brutalized and vassalized by Nazi invasion, and made to pay staggering tribute, they get the short end of the stick from 1941-1990 alas. This though, may be my reaction to just how terrible things turn out for poor Russia here.

I also question the viability of the "False Peak" strategy adopted by the Allies to draw the SS to destruction in the work. An interesting and remarkably effective strategy in this work, I think it perhaps works too well, as even the SS were not unadaptive robots and could probably have reached the conclusion that something was afoot with all these fake attacks. However, as both a strategic and narrative piece it works well so I can't complain too much.

All these aside, the work stands up. Mr. Kacer knows his history and his military minutia, and manages to present it in a compelling and fascinating way. I have re-read it many times as a result. As previously stated, the book is good, and if you enjoy this sort of thing I encourage you to check it out!

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