Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

Part 4-10
  • …The scar faced former Senior Private known as Adolf Hitler was an unlikely leader for Germany. Born in Austria to a minor customs official he never completed high school and lived the life a starving artist for several years after failing to get into the prestigious Vienna School of Fine Arts eventually drifting into Munich. Medically exempted from service in the Austrian Army he volunteered for the Bavarian one and was accepted due to an administrative error. He spent the war as a courier attached to a regimental headquarters, was wounded in 1915, 1917 and 1919, and decorated with the Iron Cross Second Class in 1914 upgraded to First Class in 1919. He was hospitalized during the last Entente offensives from the shell burst that left him with his distinctive facial scarring and only released after peace broke out.

    Discharged in Munich in 1920 he drifted around Bavaria after having to leave Munich due to high cost of living. In 1922 he attended a meeting of the German Socialist Parts in Ingolstadt and was immediately hooked. The party leadership in turn discovered his unique talent for oratory and he rose to lead the party’s propaganda department by the end of 1923. At this time he met the failed writer Joseph Goebbels and recruited him into the party. The two men formed a formidable team and Hitler’s charisma along with Goebbels skills enabled the explosive growth of the German Socialist Party.

    Hitler however did not get along with the leadership of the party for both ideological and personal reasons and from 1926 on was increasingly excluded from administrative matters, kept on only for the brilliance of his oratory and fear of splitting the party. The creation of the German National Front in 1931 enabled the party leadership to begin working to squeeze out Hitler without fear of him defecting to another far right party. By the Kaiserhof meeting in 1932 this was almost complete, with Hitler’s dismissal planned for right after the 1933 elections, hence Hitler’s absence from it on that fateful day…

    …Hitler’s elevation to Chancellor saw him immediately issue an emergency decree banning the German Communist Party and suspending freedom of the press and habeus corpus. He then had an enabling act passed by the Reichstag to transfer legislative powers to the cabinet for a matter of years. With the Communist deputies absent only the SPD voted against it as the other parties decided it was necessary to put a damper on the chaos of the Weimar Republic…

    …Following the Enabling Act Hitler took the chance to merge the German Peoples Party along with the other parties of the National Front into the Socialist Volks Party, the SVP. It was this party that would contest and win the election of 1933, which Hitler allowed to give his new party a sense of legitimacy…


    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009


    …Avoiding Hitler is of course the biggest WWII related POD there is as he is responsible for starting it. Utopian Counterfactuals often start with avoiding him, WWI often being seen as enough of a horror to avoid another world war without someone like him. Other better thought out ones, usually from Britain or the European continent have a more nuanced view of what a world without Hitler would look at, though of necessity far better for Europe than ours.

    Mostly however replacing Hitler is used to make things worse in popular counterfactuals. It is something of a trope that attempts to improve history by removing Hitler always fail miserably. Either a more competent Volkist or Psuedo-Volkist replaces him or worse his absence leads to Germany becoming Communist.

    This of course misses the parts of Hitler that made him so dangerous. His success was not the result of careful planning and manipulation but recklessness backed by freakish levels of luck. A “competent” dictator of Germany would not have ran the German economy to the edge of default multiple times in a hideously rushed militarization. A “competent” dictator would not have risked war with half of Europe with an underprepared army against the advice of his own generals not once or twice but three times. Thus most “competent Hitler replacements” do almost everything the same as Hitler in order for a Second World War to occur with only a few details…

    …A somewhat worrying trend is for authors on the far-right to have “like Hitler in every way but not genocidal” Hitler stand ins that lead Germany to glorious victories….

    …Similarly Hitler has a habit of showing up in positions of power in counterfactuals he has no right to be in. His becoming chancellor was due to his being at the right place at the right time, no more. He had a talent for oratory and winning the respect of his underlings, but his time in the DSP showed his difficulties working with equals and superiors, along with a somewhat lacking work ethic and notable personal foils. Outside the very specific circumstances that occurred he has no path to becoming Chancellor of Germany, let alone some of the odd positions he keeps being found in…

    …While unlikely to come into being and even less likely to survive any length of time a Communist Germany is perhaps the only thing that could be realistically worse than real life’s Volkist Germany. German industry and science mated to Russian resources and manpower would be a nightmare scarcely imaginable…


    -Excerpt from Sideways: An Examination of Common Divergences in Counterfactual History, Gate Publishing, Atlanta, 2016




    This Concludes Part IV of Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

    Part V: The Downward Stairs will begin shortly









    Okay here is what I think is the most implausible part of the TL, at least so far, Hitler still ending up Chancellor. Basically to get a 1940's WWII as nasty as possible for the US with what I see as a reasonable 1914 POD that still results in an Entente victory in WWI you need a German leader who acts more like Hitler than is reasonable, and rather than just create another Notler, I decided screw it I'm going with Hitler even if the plausibility sucks
     
    Part 5-1
  • Ghastly Victories: The United States in the World Wars

    A TL by RamscoopRaider

    Part V: The Downwards Stairs




    The road to hell is paved with good intentions-Portuguese Proverb

    By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes- William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV Scene I

    As thou sowest, so shalt thou reap- Cicero, De Oratore II. 65

    If you would have peace prepare for war- Vegetius, De Re Militari

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure- Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, 1736

    He who hesitates is lost- Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy




    …Adolf Hitler quickly proved himself to be a rather different sort of dictator than Erasmo Sanna, with whom he was often compared. Indeed in the early days Hitler was considered to be functionally a German knock off of Sanna by most observers, a notion seen as ludicrous today. The SVP had a great deal of similarity in aesthetics to the Fascist party, and in the broad sense the two regimes did resemble each other more than strictly necessary for authoritarian regimes.

    Personally however Hitler was a much different man than Sanna and that showed in his administration. Sanna was a careful and pragmatic schemer with a view to the long term and a clear picture on how others thought. He was careful to always have some sort of opposition visible if powerless, and in his massaging of electoral results never pushed the Fascists above 65%. He was careful to assure foreign diplomats that he really didn’t mean that rhetoric about Italian irredentism and it was all red meat for the voters. He gave every impression that he could be worked with and was a reasonable man.

    Hitler by contrast rigged margins of 81% in the 1933 Reichstag election and 93% in the subsequent referendum on the German withdrawal from the Versailles treaty. He soon made all other parties illegal and began quashing dissent on a level not seen outside the Soviet Union. His bellicose rhetoric raised alarms across Europe and he did little to reassure foreign politicians about his intentions.

    Furthermore Hitler immediately began an unsustainable military buildup along with an extensive public works program. Unlike the program in Italy aimed at capital improvements and long term buildup, Hitler’s program was aimed more at showing off. Hitler funded grandiose new buildings and a massive highway network in a country where few people owned cars. His military buildup, while more practical, still was rather more wasteful than the Italian version…

    …Hitler, despite his rigging of the votes, erosion of civil rights, suppression of dissent and bellicose rhetoric was genuinely popular in the early days of his regime. His public works programs while built on glorified IOUs from the very beginning, a practice admittedly continued from Weimar, did reduce unemployment to minimal levels and provide a number of bragging points. He publicly pulled out of the Versailles treaty and got away with it. He cleaned up Berlin, turning it from a modern Sodom to a respectable city once more and doing the same to parts of northern Germany that were arguably even worse than Berlin…

    …Hitler’s first concentration camps opened within a matter of months of him taking power. Originally meant to hold the hordes of communists arrested in the post Kaiserhof attack. This was soon followed by Socialists and Anarchists, then Social Democrats and Trade Unionists, then homosexuals, dissidents and certain religious minorities…

    …Hitler was a great admirer of the American Eugenics movement and quickly put Eugenics laws into place stricter than those of most American states. These laws would tighten and eventually include compulsory euthanasia for certain cases, a step no American state would or could take. Revulsion at this was part of the reason for the temporary rollback of eugenics laws in the 50’s and early 60’s and their abolition in the 90’s and 2000’s …

    …One of the most dramatic areas where Hitler differed from his predecessors was Poland. Unlike the Weimar government Hitler was willing to recognize the Polish state and deal with them. He ended the ongoing trade war and normalized relations. Soon afterwards he signed a short term non-aggression pact with Polish strongman Józef Pilsudski. Given his later behavior and the private thoughts revealed in his diaries this is surprising, however it served as the start of the gradual erosion of the post WWI security order in Europe and temporarily secured one border of the German state…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009



    …One of the greatest questions people have when learning about the leadup to the Second World War is why no one did anything about Hitler. Up until the very eve of the war Germany was substantially weaker than France and could not hope to win even or short war with her, thus why didn’t the French do something about Hitler. There were ample provocations, starting with the referendum rejecting Versailles, or even the halt in reparations before that. Given a causus belli and the presence of a belligerent revanchist surely a preemptive attack was the right thing to do?...

    …France’s political instability and financial weakness, along with the massive losses she took in the first war, left her unwilling to act without Britain. Britain for her part thought the Versailles Treaty was unfair and that Germany was right to withdraw from it, thus she was doing nothing wrong. Furthermore with Germany out of the way elements in Britain saw France, Britain’s traditional enemy, as her next likely foe and viewed France’s attempt to build an anti-German coalition with alarm. This combined with the Depression saw the German withdrawal from Versailles being met with nothing.

    The financial climate meant that there was not even an increase in military spending to match Hitler’s military buildup…

    …Given the trauma of the Frist World War no one thought anyone would be willing to risk putting the world on the road to another hell like that…

    -Excerpt from Why did they do THAT!?! Historical Madness in Context: Volume III, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2015
     
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    Part 5-2
  • …Hitler’s exit from the Versailles regime forced the German armed forces to do a massive rethink of their long term plans. No longer being bound to a restrictive regime of arms control and with a militarist leader demanding a massive rearmament campaign they had to create a new plan. The Reichsmarine, the 1935 reorganization into the Kriegsmarine having not yet occurred, was no different.

    There were three major views on what this plan should be, two from within the navy, and one from without. These were a Balanced Fleet Plan, a Commerce Raiding Plan and a Minimal Navy Plan. The first was to build a conventional navy, a core of battleships supported by appropriate numbers of cruisers, destroyers, submarines and lesser vessels. The Second was to build more Panzerschiffs and heavy surface raiders along with large numbers of long range submarines. The last was to build just enough light units to defend the German coast and spend the rest of the money on the Heer and Luftwaffe.

    All of the plans made certain arguments. The Commerce Raiding plan argued that the High Seas Fleet, despite all the money spent on it did not significantly aid the German war effort against Britain and France, while the U-Boats and Surface raiders did have a measurable negative impact on the Entente War effort. Britain in particular as an island required seaborne imports that could be disrupted by commerce raiding. Thus from that perspective a large surface fleet was a waste of money, and that a commerce raiding fleet had the potential to bring Britain to its knees and win a war.

    The Minimal Fleet advocates argued that neither Commerce Raiding nor the High Seas Fleet won the last war. Arguably the U-Boats lost the war by driving the United States into the war. A commerce raiding campaign could not be successful without risking doing the same given the relative naval geography of Europe highly limited Germany’s ability to attack British commerce. Therefore investing in commerce raiding was a waste of money likely to make things worse. Attempting to build a balanced fleet to challenge the British was even more so than the High Seas Fleet a fools errand. Thus the logical thing was to spend money on the Heer and Luftwaffe to defeat France on the continent, once France fell the UK would naturally make peace.

    The Balanced Fleet advocates argued that their approach was best for the situation Germany actually faced. France and Britain were on the outs and the USSR was a pariah. Against either France or the USSR Germany could easily win a naval race and maintain control of the sea. They had managed that against Russia in the previous war and were able to perform amphibious flanking maneuvers, and had forced France to neutralize the channel in any conflict not involving Britain. Building a fleet on the assumption that all naval wars would involve Britain risked leaving them dangerously underprepared for facing other foes.

    It was the last view that prevailed for several reasons. Most important was national prestige, big ships were considered central to this and Hitler was unwilling to go without them. Secondly was the fact that a balanced fleet of a certain size was need for the other two plans. A fleet larger than the Soviet Baltic fleet was considered necessary to protect vital iron ore imports from Sweden, and further necessary to prevent a close blockade in event of war with Britain and allow a commerce raiding campaign any room to begin…

    …This approach was vindicated by diplomatic reality. German plans to build a balanced fleet fit into the British desire for Germany not to build a commerce raiding fleet. Thus Britain was willing to look the other way to Germany’s behavior in Europe to a large degree provided they did not build a fleet larger than France’s, something codified in a 1935 diplomatic agreement…

    -Excerpt from Naval History Between the Wars, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2007



    …With the shackles of Versailles thrown off Germany now had the ability to match the desire for an airforce. The choice of a leader for that airforce was obvious, Germany’s most prominent aviator, the Red Baron himself. Von Richthofen had been involved in the efforts by the Reichswehr to get around the Versailles treaty, a great deal of public acclaim and was part of the Prussian aristocracy that dominated the Reichswehr.

    Von Richthofen soon oversaw the rapid growth of a formidable air force. A key difference between the German Luftwaffe and most air arms was its focus. Von Richthofen insisted that the Luftwaffe focus on achieving air superiority on the frontline, then supporting the Heer with reconnaissance, close air support and bombing of operational targets. This was in contrast with most air arms, who disproportionately focused resources on strategic bombing. Based on WWI experiences with Zeppelins and the big Gotha bombers Von Richthofen was convinced that it was not worth the resources to rely on it as a primary weapon…

    -Excerpt from Airpower!, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2010



    …The German Army like most in the interwar saw armored warfare as the future of combat. Working both from British theorist like Lidell-Hart and Fuller and their own such as Guderian and Lutz. Their doctrine called for tank heavy Panzer divisions to break through enemy frontlines and attack their lines of communication while motorized infantry Panzergrenadier units would trap isolated units into pockets to be reduced by regular infantry.

    Like most nations of the period the German army though it needed a number of different tank varieties. Common to most was the need for a light scout tank, a fast cavalry tank that could fight other tanks and an armored infantry tank to support the infantry. Additionally the Germans had a desire for a superheavy fortress busting tank. Of course the Germans realized that they could not go from having no tanks to a modern and powerful tank arm from scratch and began work on a series of developmental models…

    …Unlike everyone else the Germans still saw a significant place for superheavy artillery and began the process of building up a powerful arm of superheavy siege guns. This would culminate in the monstrous 80cm Gustav guns…

    …Germany saw the impact gas had in the last days of the Great War and looked to try and replicate that effect. Unconstrained by wartime shortages they could truly leverage the best chemical industry to produce something revolutionary. And in the organophosphate family of compounds they found that revolution…

    …Unlike in the majority of ground air force relationships in the world the relationship between the Heer and the Luftwaffe was if not truly friendly at least cordial. Thus when Heer observers in Russia noticed the Soviet exercises with parachute troops the Luftwaffe was ready to help the Heer to develop an airborne warfare capability…

    -Excerpt from Steel Talons: Armed Forces of the Interwar, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2011
     
    Part 5-3
  • …Following the German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact the next major blow to the interwar security order came in the Balkans. Yugoslavia, along with Czechoslovakia, had entered into an alliance with the French in the early 1920’s. For the French this was considered key to containing the Germans, along with their alliance with Belgium. The three minor nations they hoped could make up for the lack of the British against a diminished Germany.

    The German rapprochement with Poland under Hitler and the Volkists had changed that. With Poland and Germany having temporarily set aside their differences Germany both had a secure border and Czechoslovakia a threat from the north. The Poles had designs on territory in Slovakia with Polish minorities and in the absence of a German threat to their borders could present a strong threat to the Czechoslovaks. This in turn led to the Czechoslovaks being less willing to guarantee Yugoslavia against nations other than Hungary, who also had designs on them.

    This would not necessarily have been relevant save for events in Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav state had been formed as a federation with a relatively weak central government due to compromises made in late WWI. This did not sit well with King Arsen, who had imbibed a strong dose of absolutism during his military service in the Imperial Russian Army, nor did it sit well with the political elite of the former Kingdom of Serbia, who had expected any Yugoslav state would be in essence a Greater Serbia. Attempts to tighten control under governments led by the People’s Radical Party during the 1920’s ended when the Depression put into power a coalition government led by the strongly Federalist Croatian People's Peasants Party.

    This displeased both the King and the strong Serbian Nationalist movement. This displeasure increased as the government of Prime Minister Radić began working to decentralize the country again. This displeasure reached a head in 1934 when the Prime Minister vetoed the use for public funds to construct a monument to the “St. Vitus Day Martyrs,” a grandiose way of describing the assassins who started WWI, after a petition drive by Serbian Nationalists. This led to days of rioting in Srajevo and Belgrade. With the Riots as an excuse King Arsen declared Martial Law and sent in the Army. He then dismissed the Prime Minister and the legislature and began ruling by decree with the support of the military and Serb paramilitaries.

    King Arsen’s actions drove away the French and Czechoslovaks from associating with Yugoslavia. As a result the alliance between them was not renewed, placing a critical hole in the European Security order…

    …King Arsen’s death in 1935 saw his son Paul ascend to the throne. Paul was an Oxford educated Anglophile and consistently on the outs with his father, but was nonetheless the heir due to being the only adult option. King Paul ended the martial law that the country had been other, called new elections, dispersed the Serb paramilitaries and moved to enforce the Unity Constitution as it was written. A strong Federalist he aroused great hatred among the Serbian nationalists by declaring himself a Yugoslav first and a Serb second and meaning what he said.

    His ascension to the throne was too late however to fix the alliance broken by his father’s coup. Sanna had successfully been able to maneuver himself as the best Anglo-French option for containing Germany, and presented Italy and Yugoslavia as binary choices. Given that Italy was vastly stronger the Anglo-French chose Italy, preventing a glaring whole in the European security order from being patched…

    …Sanna’s sub rosa fermenting of unrest in Yugoslavia’s Serb population proved to be one of the most successful covert operations taken in the interwar period. Yugoslavia was forced from its alliance with the French into a relatively isolated position where Sanna could deal with it at his leisure. Or at least he would have been able to had events in Northern Europe turned out differently…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009




    …The next major reported sighting of Apis was during the Sarajevo Protests of 1934. It is claimed that a man resembling his description killed a police officer with a revolver, triggering the escalation of the protests and leading to the subsequent coup by King Arsen and the diplomatic isolation of the Yugoslav state. This sighting was at least close to his homeland and what he is doing fits with the real man’s goals…

    -Excerpt from Wild Conspiracies, Urban Myths and Tall Tales, American Youth Press, New York, 2010
     
    Part 5-4
  • …President Roosevelt’s priority on taking office was on the depressed US economy. His first acts dealt with the banking system. The Emergency Banking Act of 1933 declared a bank holiday and authorized the Federal Reserve Banks to issue more currency backed by good assets. The proper Banking act then created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to guarantee bank deposits and separated commercial and investment banking. The Securities Act of 1933 and of 1934 created the Securities and Exchange Commission and increased regulation and disclosure of investment. Finally he temporarily suspended the gold standard for the duration of the crisis.

    Further effort was spent on putting people to work. Organizations such as the Public Works Administration, Civil Works Administration, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The latter in particular was important beyond its limited size in its role as an integrated development agency for a whole region.

    Other programs were launched as party of the New Deal aimed at improving the life of Americans. Rural Electrification brought power to those without. The Agricultural Adjustment Act expanded on Curtis era programs and brought price growth and stability to farmers. The National Recovery Act established a minimum wage, a 40 hour workweek and ended Child Labor. Finally the repeal of Prohibition allowed Americans to drink again and ended the costly enforcement of the unpopular law…

    …Along with his reforms Roosevelt made one key error. He made it a policy to balance the primary budget, the New Deal programs were considered temporary emergency relief and were excluded, but a balanced budget was the long term goal. Thus Roosevelt slashed government and military spending to balance the primary budget. Some of this was clawed back by using the Public Works Administration to fund capital projects, like buildings and warships, but in general there was a real decline in resources available that proved actively of harm…

    …Roosevelt’s New Deal saw the economy begin a rapid recovery. By the end of 1933 Unemployment had dropped from just over 20% to under 17%, hitting 14% at the end of 1934. This recovery meant that despite opposition from conservatives who derided the program as socialism, Roosevelt was able to secure a solid congressional majority to back his work in 1934…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009



    …Further defining the timeframe of the Great Depression runs into the issue not just of the origin but the recovery. Most place it as beginning due to the New Deal of President Roosevelt. However careful analysis of the key metrics shows that the recovery began in the latter part of 1932 under President Curtis. Unemployment had peaked at the beginning of 1933 before Roosevelt took office. The Stock Market had bottomed out the week before he was elected. Other metrics similarly showed a recovery had begun in the last days of the Curtis administration.

    Thus the question regarding Roosevelt’s New Deal is not if it started the recovery from the Great Depression, but how much it aided, impeded it or allowed it to continue…

    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume X, University of California Press: Berkley, 2000





    Okay it's a short update, it's also finals week, I'm working overtime, I'm stressed out enough I bought my aunt an extra set of presents and a card by mistake, and I'm dreaming about tax law, be glad there is an update at all
     
    Part 5-5
  • …The next fateful step on the road to the abyss of another European War occurred over Austria. An ethnically German state elements in Austria had long wanted to unite with Germany, such a union was effectively only stopped by the desire of Otto von Bismarck, who did not want more Catholics in the new German nation, or a rival center of power to Prussia. In the immediate aftermath of WWI there was such an attempt at unity, one immediately banned by the Entente powers. This ban was written into the constitutions of both Germany and Austria, no union between the states could be permitted, no matter what the people of those states may desire. This ban was not seen as particularly onerous compared to others the states suffered other, and was at the bottom of the list for revision if on the list at all.

    When Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, Germany had a leader who was not only interested in and willing to revise Versailles, but also willing to pursue an Anschluss, as the union between the realms was called. Most other far right leaders were unwilling, as they saw more Catholics in Germany as undesirable, or were afraid of a dilution of their powerbase. For Hitler, who was himself an Austrian, an Anschluss was a necessity to show that his Germany was truly a Greater Germany on par with the Holy Roman Empire.

    This of course ran into the issue that Austria’s fascist leader had no intention of letting his country disappear on him. Engelbert Dollfuss had taken over the country after a brief socialist uprising, enabling the president to give him the authority as Chancellor to rule by decree. Dollfuss then took steps to build a fascist system of government modelled on Italy. A staunch Catholic he had no desire to allow his country to be absorbed into an officially secular greater Germany.

    His attitudes however were not universal and following the formation of the SVP, an Austrian branch of the organization took hold and grew. In November 1934 it had grown large enough that Hitler thought it had a chance of taking over Austria. The plan was for a unit of SVP volunteers who had infiltrated the paramilitary Heimwehr to take Dollfuss and President Miklas into custody while another unit of SVP volunteers would take over the radio station an announce the transfer of power to Austrian SVP leader Alfred Proksch. Simultaneous “spontaneous” uprisings would occur throughout Austria to allow the takeover of government to occur without interference from outside Vienna.

    Almost immediately the plan went off the rails. The organizers of the coup were unaware of the post-Kaiderhof bombings changes to the security of the Chancellor’s and Presidents residence and were stopped at the outer perimeter. Forced to then fight their way in, they were delayed long enough for the President and Chancellor to escape. Dollfuss and Miklas were able to rally troops and crush the Volkists in Vienna the next day, with the risings elsewhere dealt with over the next few days.

    Hitler attempted to rattle sabers in order to intimidate Dollfuss into a favorable solution. Sanna however was having none of that and ordered elements of the Italain Army to the Austrian border in order to respond to any breach of Austria’s territorial sovereignty. He made that point quite clear to Hitler, any attack on Austria would be treated as an act of war against Italy itself. Not expecting such a vociferous response Hitler backed down, knowing Germany could not defeat Italy at this juncture.

    The whole incident however had left Sanna worried. He had no desire for an Anschluss to occur, a greater Germany would have both the motivation and will to seek to regain the Austrian territories lost to Italy over the years. At the same time he was wary of the cost of preventing such. The mountainous terrain of Austria and South Germany meant that any Italo-German war over Austria would be long and grueling, something to cause high causalities and worse enormous financial costs that could cripple Italy for a generation. Sanna thus had to avoid both outcomes.

    Thus he turned to diplomacy, inviting the leaders of France and Britain to a Conference at Florence. The goal of the Conference was to created a United Front against German expansion. With the unraveling of its alliance with the smaller nations of Europe, France saw this as a chance to contain Germany on the cheap. With both France and Italy involved Britain figured that it could also deter Germany from any bad behavior by simply signing the agreement. Both nations thus saw the Italain offer as a godsend.

    At the conference however Sanna played hardball. His assurance of security to Dollfuss was not publicly known, thus he acted as if he could be persuaded to accede to an Anschluss in exchange for valuable enough concessions from Germany. To prevent that he subtly asked Britain and France for concessions of their own. Sanna however was careful to keep this maneuvering outside the conference itself to ensure the optics remained good for the British and French publics.

    His demand was simple, the acquiescence of Britain and France to Italy settling a particular matter of honor. Italy would be given free reign to avenge her most infamous defeat of the 19th Century with no actions by Britain and France. Of course this could not be put in writing, the British and French publics would not stand for such a thing. Sanna however wanted an express verbal guarantee of non-interference.

    After much consultation the British and French agreed to Sanna’s desires, assuming that they could always deny any such agreement had been made. Sanna however had thought of that and asked the Hungarian ambassador to attend as a “secretary” as a personal favor while wearing a false moustache and glasses in order to provide an independent witness.

    The British government to this day denies or evades discussing their acquiescence to Sanna’s proposal. However postwar interviews with French and Italain diplomats, along with the Hungarian ambassador in question all agree on the Franco-British accession to Sanna’s demands. Actual confirmation of this will only come when British records of the conference are declassified on January 1st 2056, as neither French nor Italain records survive…

    …With this agreement in place the Florentine Front could be put into place. Britain, France and Italy all agreed to commit to the independence of Austria and to treat any German attempt to revise her borders with force as an act of war. Furthermore the three parties would oppose any further attempts by Germany to alter the treaty of Versailles. Thus Hitler was faced with a united front and forced to abandon his plans to remilitarize the Rhineland and push for the Sudetenland…

    …For Sanna the Florentine Front was a major victory. Now if Hitler acted up, as Sanna thought the man would, Britain and France would also be involved in dealing with him. Given the relative nature of the terrain that made up the national borders, much of the fighting would of nature have to be done by the French, the Alps giving Sanna a ready made excuse not to push hard against Germany. Thus France would be disproportionately weakened in such a war, giving Italy an opportunity to expand in the Balkans in the aftermath…

    …The First blow to the Florentine Front came from the British. Fearful of the Germans building a navy of Pocket Battleship raiders backed by U-Boats the British agreed to a naval agreement with Germany to prevent this. The November 1935 Anglo-German Naval agreement stated that Britain would not object to Germany building a navy provided that it did not exceed the size of the force allotted to the French in any one category, or completed any Pocket Battleships beyond the four already laid down. The problem was not so much the agreement itself, but that the British had made it without telling the French or the Italians.

    In France its existence was one of a number of factors that led to the collapse of the government that signed the Florentine Front. In Italy it was less consequential, unlike the French Sanna saw no threat in a large German navy, rather he was angry at not being consulted. Despite this he was willing to hold up his part of the bargain as long as the British and French held up theirs, something that would be quickly tested…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009
     
    Part 5-6
  • …Sanna’s Ethiopian War resulted from the confluence of several factors. First was that his rhetoric was beginning to catch up with him, his base was energized by far right expansionist rhetoric and voices were quietly beginning to ask why he had not actually done what his rhetoric was saying he would do. Secondly a convergence of factors made 1936 look to Sanna as the ideal time to conduct such a war that might never come again, Britain and France had granted approval while no major factors existed to distract him in Europe, a situation that could change in several years. Delaying the war could mean that events in Europe could preclude it, or worse spiral out of control while Italy still had significant troops out of position in Ethiopia. Further the Emperor of Ethiopia was in the process of procuring additional arms that would make a future war longer and more difficult. Finally there was Sanna’s personal connection, he had an uncle who had been captured at Adowa and horribly mistreated by the Ethiopians, stories of which played a significant role in his early life and were one cause of his virulent racism against Africans.

    Like with most things he did upon concluding the time was right shortly after the creation of the Florentine Front he set about methodically laying the ground work. To provide a fig leaf he sent construction crews into Ethiopia to work on the road between the Eritrean Port of Asseb and Dessie in Ethiopia. The road had been agreed upon in a treaty between Ethiopia and Italy in the 20’s, yet only the Italy part had been built. The Ethiopians were determined not to build the road, as they feared the Italians would use it to invade them. Sanna used the Ethiopian refusal as justification to send workers in to do it himself, knowing they would not tolerate this.

    While he waited for the Ethiopians to react Sanna began slowly transferring troops to Eritrea and Somalia, Alpini, Arditi and Bersaglieri to lead the assault in the mountainous terrain of the Ethiopian Highlands with regulars to backfill. Supply dumps were established and crash programs were made to improve infrastructure leading to the Ethiopian border. Further provocations were staged, the Italain Air Force conducted numerous recon missions into Ethiopian territory to take photographs for invasion planning while border posts inched forwards into Ethiopian territory. At the same time propaganda efforts started to undermine Ethiopia, pointing out its backward feudal structure, its superstition, its widespread use of mutilation and torture and the continued presence of 2 million slaves in the country.

    Sanna’s preparations were noticed but in the main ignored. The British and French elites saw no reason to be alarmed about the preparations for a war they had authorized and no one else had a significant interest in the Horn of Africa. A potential war there did not seem to interest anyone seriously enough to affect policy.

    On December 21st 1935 that changed. An Italain roadbuilding party in Ethiopian territory was approached by Ethiopian troops. They were told to leave and refused to do so. Then they were told to allow themselves to be arrested, and again refused. Finally the Ethiopians threatened force against the party of roadbuilders and the Somali Dubats acting as guards. Shots were fired and the Ethiopian troops overran the roadbuilding party. Sanna had his provocation. Better yet from his perspective the use of illegal Dum-Dum rounds by the Ethiopians and the mutilation and castration the Ethiopians performed on the survivors gave his propaganda a critical edge.

    On December 31st Sanna issued an ultimatum to Emperor Haile Selassie. Ethiopia had until the end of February to agree to turn over all of those involved in the December 21st incident to the Italians for justice, pay reparations, cease all attempts to purchase modern weapons, turn over the few modern weapons they possessed, allow the Italians to construct infrastructure within Ethiopia to link Somalia, Eritrea and the major cities of Ethiopia to be owned by Italy and to allow Italain garrisons in Ethiopia to enforce these provisions.

    Sanna had no expectation that Emperor Haile would agree to those terms and immediately ramped his preparations into high gear for a March 1st invasion. At this point the potential Italian invasion became front page news and people began discussing it seriously. Sanna’s propaganda was successful however and in most countries the reaction was tepid. Sanna received a few mealy mouthed warnings not to invade, along with more numerous urges to negotiate or step back his demands, but nothing that would stay hum from his course.

    Emperor Haile had no intention of agreeing to the Italain terms and began preparations as well, however an arms embargo to both sides laid on by Britain and France prevented him from receiving any more weapons as such would have to go through their ports. What he could do was launch a propaganda offensive of his own and he did so. While not enough to get appreciable action he did manage to shape public opinion in a number of countries, especially the two Sanna’s propaganda efforts had neglected as unnecessary, Britain and France.

    Emperor Haile hoped the Ethiopian Army could last long enough in the field for his appeals to bear actual but as the deadline approached became increasingly despondent at that possibility as signs of international action failed to materialize.

    On the 40th Anniversary of Adowa Sanna’s forces crossed the border in a campaign to avenge that humiliating defeat, and in doing so set the stage for the next great war…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009






    That feeling when you get told to work Sunday right before leaving on Saturday because the guy you trained on Wednesday already quit...then you come in Sunday morning to find its a miscommunication, he's quitting Wednesday and you didn't have to get up at 3am after all
     
    Part 5-7
  • …The Italain assault on Ethiopia occurred with incredible speed and violence. Sanna’s goal was to make the conquest a fait accompli that would be rapidly accepted by the world at large and to do that he held nothing back. Two columns each of 150,000 advanced from Eritrea and Somalia respectively while the Italain Air Force struck marshaling areas. Gas was used against Ethiopian positions from the first day, taking advantage of the fact that the Ethiopians had no chemical protection.

    Emperor Haile attempted to raise an Army of 800,000 to oppose this, however only 300, 000 could be mobilized and many lacked firearms, and what they did have were mostly obsolete. Worse they had no radios and communication was only by courier, making large scale coordination effectively impossible. Attempts to use plane couriers to mitigate this were halted by the destruction of the Ethiopian Air Corps on the ground at Dessie a month into the war.

    The uncoordinated and underequipped feudal armies of Ethiopia were no match for the Italain army and were destroyed piecemeal. Adowa was captured in three days, the rest of Tigray province took a month. In the South the Italians advanced 100 miles before they outraced their logistics. It was that more than anything was what limited the Italain advance, the only thing Sanna wanted less than a prolonged war was another Adowa, and to prevent that the Italain Army could not afford to outrun its base of supply.

    This slow methodical advance however gave time for international reactions to occur. Condemnations occurred from day one, however Sanna expected that, words were just words, it was actions that mattered. At the start there was very little, but as the war drew on many looked to Britain and France, the most prominent nations in Europe and the League of Nations for leadership. Despite public opinion the British and French were reluctant to issue more than mealy mouthed condemnations at the beginning. A month into the war, as news of Italain atrocities headlined every paper they were forced to act by public opinion. The British and French introduced an official condemnation of Italian behavior in the League of Nations.

    Sanna was somewhat angry at the perceived betrayal, but was willing to accept it, it was not like a League of Nations condemnation did anything to Japan after all. He simply argued that Italy had done nothing wrong. His use of gas was legal, in that Ethiopia never signed the treaty banning it and said treaty required both sides be signatories to be in force, and a proportional retaliation for Ethiopian violations of the laws of war. The Laws of War he claimed were traditionally enforced by reprisal, and Ethiopian misuse of the Red Cross and use of expanding ammunition were war crimes. He claimed that he would cease to use gas when the Ethiopians ceased to do both, knowing they could at the very least not afford to stop using any of their limited ammunition supply. He furthermore emphasized that Ethiopia allowed slavery and committed enough barbarities not to be worth any sympathy. Privately he pointedly reminded the British and French of their deal, and made a point of talking with Hitler over the phone to emphasize this.

    In an attempt to preserve the Florentine Front the British and French came up with a scheme where Italy would gain much of Ethiopia, an extraterritorial corridor besides that, and the remainder would become a Protectorate of Italy. Sanna was willing to accept this compromise, however before he could signal it, the compromise had been made public. The British and French publics were outranged and forced their governments to disavow the scheme, thus ending the best chance to preserve the united front against Hitler.

    Six weeks after the condemnation and five weeks after the abortive Anglo-French protectorate scheme the League of Nations finally got around to voting on sanctions against Italy. Britain and France voted for the sanctions and their influence enable the sanctions to narrowly pass. This action made Sanna furious. In response he then revealed that the invasion had been authorized by Britain and France, and that they were breaking a deal, with the Hungarian ambassador to Italy revealing he had been a witness while “working as a secretary” for one Lira. The British and French governments fervently denied this and redoubled their condemnations to avoid public displeasure, completely ruining any chance to make up with Sanna.

    Despite these sanctions the Ethiopians were already doomed. Ten weeks into the war the only coherent Ethiopian forces was effectively the Imperial Guard defending the Northern city of Dessie. There Emperor Haile had his headquarters, and there he was forced to make a stand.

    The battle of Dessie lasted for two weeks, so long mainly due to Italain difficulty in bringing sufficient ammunition forwards. The outcome however was never in doubt, a single division of light infantry, even an elite one, could not stand against multiple corps for long, especially given the superiority in artillery and armor possessed by the Italians. The Imperial Guard was annihilated and Emperor Haile barely escaped to Addis Ababa

    The Italians paused for two weeks after Dessie to sort out their logistics. Then Marshal Caviglia launched a grand mechanized lunge on Addis Ababa. With nothing in the way the armored column moved quickly and arrived at the city in ten days. Rather than the last stand they expected Emperor Haile had fled the city with the state gold reserves, leaving his cousin to run the nation. Rather than fight regent Imru Haile Selassie surrendered the city and the Italians staged a triumphal march through the city.

    Emperor Haile, while successfully escaping the capital was forced to abandon the gold reserves after Italain bombers disabled his train. Travelling by camel he escaped to French Djibouti and went into exile working to raise sympathy and funds for resistance abroad…

    …The capture of Addis Ababa on July 25th marked the traditional end of the war. However Italy had only captured half the country by that point. It would be two years before they controlled all of it, and even then Black Lion guerilla fighters would continue to resist them…

    …The League of Nations embargo ended on August 30th and very quickly most nations began to recognize the Italain conquest of Ethiopia. Only the USSR would refuse to recognize it by the start of WWII…

    …After the conquest of Ethiopia Sanna had a grand Romanesque triumph staged in honor of the victory on September 20th, with Marshal Cavigilia accorded the highest honors. He had one unique flourish however. Rather than the traditional slave whispering into the victorious general’s ears “memento mori” or “remember you are mortal”, he had a dozen of Italy’s best orators, dressed as Roman Lictors, accompany him and give speeches reminding the country that this victory was due to hard work and that they should not grow arrogant from it…

    …To punish the British and French for their betrayal shortly after the Embargo Sanna made an agreement with Adolf Hitler, one whose consequences he hoped would remind them why they agreed to the Florentine Front in the first place…



    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009

     
    Part 5-8
  • …With the recovery from the depression underway naval building accelerated as the early thirties transitioned to the mid 30’s…

    …After the fourth Panzerschiff Germany laid down a pair of light battleships on the model of the French or Italians, though somewhat larger. These vessels mounted 9 30.5cm guns in three triples, along with 12 15cm and 14 10.5cm secondaries in twins, could make 31 knots and were very well armored for their size. Officially they were 30,000 tons in practice they were closer to 35,000.

    These battleships were to be escorted by a set of five 12,500 ton heavy cruisers. These cruisers however, despite only mounting 8 20.3 cm guns in a conventional arrangement, along with 12 10.5cm secondaries, a 32 knot speed, and moderate armor, ended up displacing over 18,000 tons standard due to inefficiency in the German design office. A light carrier half sister of these vessels was planned to give Germany a start in naval aviation…

    …Upon the realization that their rivals were also building light battleships at about the same time France and Italy both changed their plans. Rather than four light battleships and four heavy, they decided on two light and six heavy. Again for reasons of convergent evolution both designs ended up as fairly similar adaptations of their existing light battleships.

    The French design retained the all forward arrangement and upgunned to 380mm guns with 9 155mm and 12 100mm secondaries. Speed was increased to 32 knots and armor increased to resist 15” shellfire on 40,000 tons displacement.

    The Italians similarly scaled up their design to 45,000 tons and 15” guns. 9 152mm and 16 100mm secondary guns were carried, the former all on the centerline in a superfiring arrangement reversed from the main battery. The Italian ships were two knots slower than their French counterparts, but had more powerful guns and an unique armor arrangement. Namely they had an additional 75mm plate of armor held in front of their main belts to tear the armor piercing caps off enemy shells of up to 15 inches so that the main belt could bounce them.

    Both the French and Italians had considered 16” guns, but rejected them due to reasons of development time. If they were to be incorporated both navies thought it would be on the seventh and eight units they were planning to build…

    …After years of neglect the USSR started building large warships again. Not able to start constructing capital ships immediately they started with a set of destroyer leaders, followed by a set of 7500 ton cruisers armed with 9 180mm guns. These cruisers were lightly armored but theoretically capable of 37 knots, in practice this turned out to be 35 knots given they were around 700 to 1000 tons overweight, with a main battery with both horrible rates of fire and poor barrel life…

    …The United Kingdom had perhaps the thorniest situation of any of the great naval powers. They had the largest fleet, yet also the largest commitments, worse they had ten capital ships that needed immediate replacement. This along with tight budgets dominated their thinking. Thus they were operating on the assumption that they would have to work within the existing WNT limitations and would do their best to tighten them further.

    It was this thinking that dominated the planning process for replacing their capital ships. They needed to start immediately once the holiday expired, but at the same time they had to work within the limits of the treaty. Given that they had about 280,000 tons to work with, that translated to 6 45,000 ton ships, 7 40,000 ton ships, 8 35,000 ton ships or 9 30,000 ton ships.

    The 45,000 ton ships if built would be 16” fast battleships, the 40,000 ton ships either 16” fast battleships of 15” battlecruisers, the 35,000 ton ships 15” or 14” fast battleships, 15” or 14” battlecruisers or 16” slow battleships and the 30,000 ton ships 15” or 14” battlecruisers or 14” fast battleships of 15” or 16” slow battleships. Given the proliferation of fast capital ships and large cruisers the slow battleship options were discarded as unfitting of the current strategic environment. Similarly given the need for quantity to replace ten ships, the 45,000 ton option was removed. The decision by both the Italian and French to move to building larger capital ships and the expected renewal of Japanese capital ship building made any 30,000 ton ship liable to be too weak.

    This left the options at a 40,000 ton 16” fast battleship, a 35,000 ton 15” or 14” fast battleship or a 35,000 ton 15” or 14” battlecruiser, the difference between the fast battleship and battlecruiser being around 3 knots of speed and paid for by a reduced main battery. Given the desire to stuff the genie back into the bottle and return to a lower tonnage limit, 35,000 tons was chosen. 15” was chosen as the caliber of main armament to give a better chance of hurting the 16” armed ships that currently existed. There was an argument that the Americans were more likely to agree to 14” as a limitation as they had guns of that caliber, but that was ignored given American intentions to design a new gun for their new ships. This left a choice between a battlecruiser or a battleship, given that the RN had 7 battlecruisers and 10 battleships it was retaining, it was decided that battleships were the greater need…

    …The USN had taken advantage of FDRs generosity in allocating emergency relief funds in 1933 and 1934 to fund a trio of 25,000 ton carriers and the remainder of the 10,000 ton 6” cruisers they were authorized. Thus 1935 saw them lay down the first 3200 ton “scout cruiser”, that was totally not a destroyer leader…

    …USN capital ship building assumed that the 6 14”/45 armed battleships would be replaced by a quartet of 16” armed battlecruisers as soon as the building holiday expired. This would be followed by the rest of the standards being replaced by 6 16” battleships, which would follow a 1 for 1 replacement of the existing ships as they aged out. Intention for the battlecruisers was for 33 knot ships with 9 16” guns in a 3x3 arrangement, the battleships would be 28 knot ships with a thicker belt and a fourth turret. Both would have 20 5” DP guns as a secondary armament and be built out of Special Treatment Steel to save weight and increase strength.

    The United States gave no thought to the idea of constructing smaller capital ships, having tried that in 1904 with the Mississippi class pre-Dreadnoughts and not liked it. They would build the largest possible warships they could do, anything less would be poor value for money and would have difficulty with whatever they thought Japan was going to build next…

    …After the Typhoon incident of 1933 the Japanese were forced to refit much of their construction. In trying to put as much firepower on as little tonnage as possible they had left their ships structurally weak and top heavy, upon encounter with a Typhoon several ships suffered severe damage and a destroyer capsized but remained afloat. This led to a great deal of work in reinforcing existing ships and modifying those under construction. It also led to the demise of the idea of using “600 ton” torpedo boats as unlimited destroyer substitutes.

    Instead the IJN looked at the relative success of the “Special Type Gunboat” in riding out the heavy seas and decided to build a fleet of “shadow destroyers”, gunboats that could be rapidly converted into destroyers in the leadup to a war. This would go with the fleet of “shadow carriers” they were building from fast tenders and subsidized merchantmen who would also be converted into the leadup to war and complement the two fleet carriers of the Shoukaku class they had built and the two officially 22,500 ton Taiho class they were currently building…

    …As the Second Wilmington Naval Conference approached the IJN made what in hindsight looks like a foolish decision from the outside but made perfect sense when one considered internal politics. The IJA was growing and had gained in prestige from its establishing of a protectorate in Manchuria, and the subsequent expansion of that protectorate and neutralization of KMT activities in parts of Northern China. Thus in an increasingly nationalistic time the IJA had been seen as standing up for Japan and received budgetary increases to match.

    The IJN had to do something to gain the same public perception and justify budget increases as not to be left behind in influence by their rivals. Thus they made the decision that unless they received serious concessions at the coming Second Wilmington Conference they would withdraw from the Naval Treaty system…

    -Excerpt from Naval History Between the Wars, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2007





    Okay another naval update, not really a timeline progression one, sue me I wanted to write something fun after 19 pages about a coffee shop chain that will not be named
     
    Part 5-9, Into the Abyss, Revisionist Viewpoints
  • …Cracks in the New Deal began showing in 1935. Both the National Recovery Administration and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration were found unconstitutional by the US supreme Court. Roosevelt threatened to pack the court with more justices, but faced severe public backlash from this proposal and was forced to backdown. His proposal did get through to the Supreme Court, who realized that while killing controversial and unpopular programs like the NRA and AAA were one thing, if they did the same to more popular programs the public might not save them. Further interference by the Supreme Court ended due to retirements and deaths letting FDR appoint several replacement judges…

    …The AAA was quickly replaced by a similar program with one key difference. Rather than paying farmers to let land lie fallow, they were instead paid to plant soil enriching cover crops that were not marketable. This policy was more popular and survived Supreme Court challenges…

    …Somewhat chastened by the loss of the AAA and NRA FDR nonetheless pressed on with five major programs in his “Second New Deal”. The first of these was a stronger tax policy, establishing corporate taxes and raising the income taxes on the highest earners. This was known as a “soak the rich” tax and Roosevelt was called a class traitor by other members of the elite, nonetheless he managed to steal the thunder of a number of populists such as Huey Long of Louisiana.

    Secondly he championed labor rights. Child labor was banned, a minimum wage established and maximum working hours were established. Furthermore the right to collective bargaining was enshrined in federal law, giving unions a much stronger position.

    Thirdly he established a federal housing program with bipartisan support to end slums. In retrospect this program was heavily criticized for mandating segregation in government built housing and contributing to it elsewhere, however it was considered a major step forward at the time.

    Fourth was the creation of the Social Security Administration. This created a set of universal old age insurance in the United States, with a retirement age at 65. It quickly proved to be one of the most popular of the New Deal Programs and is arguably FDR’s defining legacy as president.

    Fifth was the creation of the Works Progress Agency to replace the previous Public Works and Civil Works agency. The Works Progress Agency funded large scale public works in every state and all the territories building roads, bridges, dams and more. Its rural electrification department brought electricity to millions who had been living without while its youth program taught valuable skills. Its artistic programs provided a major enrichment of American culture and served to unleash a fountain of creativity…

    …The WPA proved to have the most impact on the Second World War of all the New Deal programs. Important infrastructure such as the AlCan highway and the third set of locks on the Panama Canal were funded through the program. Furthermore by targeting the early relief measures in swing districts, Roosevelt was able to secure a cooperative Congress in the 1936 elections…

    …1935 saw Volkism begin to reveal its true nature as more than just Fascism under another name with the unveiling of Hitler’s Racial Laws. Targeted at Jews, Blacks and Gypsies these laws explicitly removed the right of these groups to be citizens of the German state. They were further barred from marrying or having sex with German citizens in a clause borrowed from US anti-miscegenation laws. A “Civil Service Reform” Law then saw these groups barred from government services and professions such as education, law and medicine.

    Enforcement of these laws was put on hold due to the upcoming 1936 Olympics in Berlin, having been awarded to the Weimar Republic. Hitler was worried that vigorous enforcement of these laws might overshadow the glory he expected his “Aryan” athletes to win at the Olympic Games and the grand spectacle he had planned.

    Despite this many saw the warning signs that these laws were only a beginning of further repression. However the strict capital flight laws created by the Weimar Republic meant that they could not leave without surrendering over 90% of their wealth. Combined with the racism of many potential destination countries and Germany’s minorities found themselves trapped in a country that was becoming increasingly hostile…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009



    …Popular history tends to view the Fascist Party of Sanna as fundamentally similar to that of the present day Fascist Parties in the United States, being a socially conservative, economically interventionist party with a strong authoritarian streak, but still a colorblind member of the democratic process. This paper will show that the current American Fascist Party shares little besides the name with the original party, and that other present day fascist parties have significantly diverged from their routes over the decades thanks to outside pressures…

    …While Sanna’s undoubtable lack of Antisemitism and the lack of any explicitly framed Racial Laws like those of Germany before the Second World War are used as arguments that Sanna and his Fascists were not racist, the truth is rather different. Rather Sanna was better at disguising laws aimed at Gypsies, Arabs and Africans as anti-vagrancy, anti-crime and counterespionage laws. It is clear from the man’s diaries that punishing these groups was his intent, his personal racism coming across strongly there.

    This racism is not incompatible with his famous public remark on Hitler’s anti-Jewish rhetoric, “Blaming the jews? Has Germany no more witches to burn?”, implying that antisemitism was as much a medieval superstition as belief in witchcraft…

    …Sanna was arguably harsher on homosexuals than Hitler was before his attempted assassination by homosexual activist Ernst Rohm at the Berlin Olympics. However rather than throw them into concentration camps Sanna preferred to put them in asylums or so called “reorientation programs” meant to eliminate their homosexuality…

    …While not operating concentration camps on the scale of Hitler’s Germany Sanna did make inconvenient individuals disappear without due process. He was merely pragmatic enough to do so sparingly, preferring either to harass them into leaving Italy, entrap them into being accessories to a crime or get them ruled mentally incompetent…

    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXX, University of California Press: Berkley, 2020
     
    Part 5-10 Into the Abyss, Revisionist Viewpoints, Sidewise
  • …Sanna neither liked nor trusted Hitler. He was however willing to work with him in order to show the British and French the nature of the error they had made in going back on their word about Ethiopia.

    He offered Hitler a simple quid pro quo, Hitler would recognize the Italain conquest of Ethiopia and in turn Sanna would diplomatically support a German remilitarization of the Rhineland and Saarland, the latter having returned to German control following a plebiscite.

    Hitler was ecstatic at the possibility, he had already been considering such an action ever since he took office, having had to be talked out of doing so immediately after the Plebiscite in the Saarland. The high command of the Wehrmacht, while approving of the remilitarization in principle thought that the timing was not yet right and that France needed to well and truly be distracted for a remilitarization to occur. Italain support was sufficient to quell enough fears for Hitler to feel comfortable proceeding without worrying about a military coup overthrowing him.

    Hitler however needed a fig leaf to justify it. He planned on only sending 20 battalions and two squadrons of aircraft, so that the violation of the post Versailles treaty system was not “flagrant” and the Italians could thus stand by a promise from the mid 20’s to punish “flagrant” violations of the treaty system. The British had made the same promise and Hitler needed something to give them a reason not to consider the violation “flagrant,” the Anglo-German Naval Agreement was one thing, but more was obviously necessary.

    Fortunately for Hitler and unfortunately for the rest of Humanity the French gave him exactly what he wanted…

    …Since the effective breakup of the Florentine Front the French were looking for something to deter Germany, with Britain seeming to prefer appeasement and the Italians potentially willing to throw France under the bus for a big enough bribe they had no effective great power alliance. Worse their alliance of lesser powers was almost gone

    The loss of the alliance with Yugoslavia had been a major blow to plans to have a smaller network of states substitute for a greater power, without Yugoslavia there was no longer a clear enough edge to convince Hungary and Poland to remain neutral rather than align with Germany against French aligned Czechoslovakia and Romania. Worse Belgium had decided to return to their previous policy of neutrality, worried that their alliance with France might drag them into a war which did not matter to them.

    Thus with Britain and Italy off the table, and a collection of minor powers not viable, France turned to the only other great power interested in containing Germany, the Soviet Union. French Foreign Minister Barthou had sought an alliance with the USSR, having worked for it since 1934. Previous French governments however had refused it, not wanting to let the communists get greater influence in Europe and preferring to work with Italy. The accession of Socialist Leon Blum to the office of Prime Minister in early 1936 changed that. Blum, dependent on the Communists for a parliamentary majority, was willing to work with the USSR. Thus France signed a military alliance with the Soviet Union, and in doing so invalidated several post-Versailles agreements on European stability.

    Hitler had his fig leaf…

    …On July 14th German troops crossed into the Rhineland. Under strict orders to retreat if the French intervened they advanced to cheering crowds and crossed the Rhine by noon. At the same time messages were delivered to the ambassadors of Britain, France and Italy informing them that Germany was forced into this action by the Franco-Soviet Pact and that the move was necessary for German security.

    The French, despite a visceral dislike of the move were unwilling to make serious steps. Mobilization was judged as both too expensive and too politically divisive, any military action would have to be done with standing forces. Given an overinflated picture of German strength the French military told the government that military success without mobilization could only occur with British and Italain aid.

    Sanna, per his agreement with Hitler, supported the German move, stating that in the light of France’s illegal actions the Germans were making necessary defensive moves. The British public and a number of major politicians either agreed, or simply thought that the demilitarization of the Rhineland was an unjust and unnecessary humiliation from Versailles Germany was now correcting. The remainder simply thought Britain was in no position to risk war, thus the British urged the French to act with restraint.

    The French therefore limited their response to diplomatic protests, introducing sanctions bills in the League of Nations and moving some soldiers to the German border. The last move was a desperate bluff to get the Germans to back off, the French troops being ordered to stay on their side of the border.

    The high command of the Wehrmacht fell for the French bluff hook line and sinker, urging Hitler to withdraw from his suicidal course of action before it was too late. Other ministers urged more calm and Hitler listened to them, after confirming via reconnaissance flights that they French were staying on their side of the border. After several days the hollowness of the French bluff became apparent and Hitler’s move was an unmitigated success. Any doubts about his leadership…

    …With the remilitarization of the Rhineland Sanna felt his message had been sent. Britain and France had paid a price for breaking a deal with him, now he was once more open to cooperating with them to contain Hitler, for the right price.

    Unfortunately events in Spain made that cooperation impossible…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009


    …From a legal perspective the argument that the Franco-Soviet Pact violated the myriad of 1920’s treaties intended to keep the peace in Europe is an extremely weak one, the pact being purely based on working within the framework of the League of Nations treaty system…

    …It is clear from what we know of French politics at the time that the pact was most likely intended by the French purely as a bluff to deter Hitler by presenting him with the specter of a two front war if he acted too aggressively. French refusal to include any clauses relating to military coordination support this view…

    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXXI, University of California Press: Berkley, 2021


    …The Rhineland crisis is often considered the best chance to avoid WWII as we know it, and for good reason. Had even a handful of French troops crossed the border the Germans would have retreated in disgrace. Hitler would have been humiliated, and if he insisted on a fight with the French overthrown by the Wehrmacht. Even if he acquiesced to the retreat his credibility would have been shot and his ability to make aggressive moves without being overthrown would be gone…

    …This makes the Rhineland crisis the single biggest missed opportunity in the leadup to WWII to avert the War, or at the very least change the circumstances to something much less horrifying…

    -Excerpt from Sideways: An Examination of Common Divergences in Counterfactual History, Gate Publishing, Atlanta, 2016
     
    Part 5-11 Naval History
  • …The first matter of discussion at the Second Wilmington Naval Conference was the inclusion of Germany into the treaty system. The Anglo-German Naval Agreement had effectively placed Germany within the system, therefore it was argued that they might as well be included in the conference itself. The British were in favor of this, the French were opposed and almost everyone else was neutral on the matter. In the end the French decided to cave on the matter, in exchange for loopholing in a few extra ships in the unregulated miscellaneous category…

    …It was clear from the beginning of the conference that their could be no extension of the building holiday, the lesser powers with the exception of Spain and the Netherlands were all laying down new ships, Britain was as well and the United States and Japan were preparing to. Reduction of total tonnages was similarly a non-starter, a proposal to reduce by one ninth would leave Britain too short on ships for her requirements, while neither the US nor Japan were willing to do so.

    Instead it was proposed by Britain that the individual limits on Battleships be reduced to 40,000 tons and 15” guns and the limitations on aircraft carriers to 25,000 tons. This would reduce the individual cost of each unit and keep the capability gap between the large units the US and Japan wanted to build, and the smaller units the UK needed for global coverage minimal.

    The lesser powers at the conference agreed to the UK proposal, as it made things easier for them, though the Italians would have to lie on the size of their planned 15” battleships. The US was willing to agree with the carrier proposal, as their carriers under construction were 25,100 tons and only needed to shave a bit off. The US was also willing to agree to the 40,000 ton limitation for battleships, as they felt they could design an acceptable battleship on that tonnage with certain compromises. They were not however willing to drop the 16” limit, given their lack of a 15” gun and the development of a newer 16” design underway. Given the presence of so may 16” ships already, 14 US, 8 Japanese, 6 British and 1 Soviet, this revision was agreed to.

    The problem soon proved to be Japan. Japan was willing to agree, provided their “legitimate concerns” were addressed. Namely that because Japan had only 4 ships above the 40,000 ton limit, compared to 10 each for the US and UK, and by lesser amounts, Japan should get a tonnage increase to 630,000 tons, or 70% of the bigger powers to compensate. They further wanted an increase in cruiser and destroyer limits to 200,000, 160,000, 120,000 and 160,000 tons for A, B, and C class cruisers and destroyers respectively, to account for their increased requirements due to their ongoing support of the “legitimate Chinese government” based in Manchuria.

    This was completely unacceptable to the United States, as it would make achieving an acceptable force ratio against Japan in the Pacific far too difficult. The US delegation thus flat out refused to compromise on this matter. Given this choice they would settle for a simple renewal of the total and individual ship tonnage limits of the previous conference.

    The US found itself surprisingly isolated on this. Italy quickly backed the Japanese proposal in a diplomatic quid pro quo for recognition of Ethiopia. This was followed by Germany, who saw no case where they might be fighting Japan and would prefer the lower limits set out to save money for the Army and Air Force. Spain supported the Japanese proposal for a similar reasons, they were never going to fight Japan and smaller ship sizes thus made the smaller ships they could afford more competitive.

    The really surprising part was that France and the Netherlands, both of whom were worried about potential Japanese aggression against their colonial possessions, were considering Japan’s position and that Britain was not dismissing it out of hand despite the IJN being the RN’s premier threat. The former two were well aware that they could not fight the Japanese on their own, and expected to have British help, making Japan stronger was seen as outweighed by making the smaller ships they planned to build more competitive. The British, with the most direct contact with the Japanese were worried about a failure of the treaty system, given the tone of the Japanese negotiators. If the Japanese withdrew that would mean an expensive naval race at the time expansion to the RAF and British Army was eating the budget. Strengthening Japan was thus seen as the lesser evil provided it remained substantially weaker than Britain.

    The British, French and Dutch thus began working on a counter proposal, that they hoped would get the Japanese to agree while still being less than what they demanded. Namely from 70% in Capital Ships and 80% in lesser units, they hoped to try 67% or 65% and 75%. This along with a united front might be enough for the US to agree, and thus the treaty system to be salvaged. Failure of course would see the Japanese leave and the treaty system break down…

    …The planned compromise was soon overtaken by events. Namely the outbreak of the civil war in Spain saw the Spanish delegation divided, with the military side supporting the Burgos government while the civilian side supported the Madrid government. This led to the suspension of the Spanish delegation and the exit of Spain from the Treaty system…

    …The Spanish distraction extended negotiations over a potential compromise long enough for fighting in China to heat up again as the government of Inner Mongolia violently asserted its autonomy against the KMT with Japanese aid in Chahar and Suiyuan provinces. This seeming aggression on the part of a Japanese proxy saw the British, Dutch and French delegations forced by PR to abandon their support of a compromise. The 40,000 ton reduction was thus taken off the table.

    However the Japanese remained adamant about an increase in lighter units due to their “legitimate security concerns in supporting the legitimate Chinese government,”. This was of course unacceptable to the US, or now the British, French and Dutch. The Japanese government thus left the conference for “failing to address their legitimate security concerns,” effectively sealing the end of the Treaty system…

    …In an effort to salvage something the remaining powers agreed to continue to abide by the overall tonnage limits and individual ship limits as long as Japan did, and to make no more than the “minimum necessary” diversions to match the Japanese…

    …The failure of the Second Wilmington Naval Conference saw the functional end of the interwar Naval Arms control system, and with it the experiment in multilateral arms control it represented. Never again would voluntary arms limitations agreements involving multiple nations occur…

    -Excerpt from Naval History Between the Wars, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2007
     
    Part 5-12 European Wars and Revisionist Viewpoints
  • …To understand the Spanish Civil War, which shaped the leadup to WWII, we have to understand the Rif War. After their loss to the US in the Spanish American War, the Spanish acquired control over the portion of Morocco known as the Rif through negotiations with France as a bid to restore national pride through colonial expansion. Spanish Iron mining in the territory, while profitable for Spanish elites displaced the natives and caused environmental damage. The natives were justifiably angry and in 1921 under the leadership of a former civil servant and judge Abd el-Krim they rose in revolt.

    El-Krim proved a military genius, while his Spanish counterpart Silvestre one of the worst generals of the age in a time that produced Douglas Haig and Liugi Cadorna. Outnumbered by more than seven to one el-Krim routed the Spanish in the initial campaign inflicting almost 15,000 casualties and driving the Spanish out of over a decade of territorial gains in the so called Disaster of Annual. Only large scale reinforcements and use of chemical weapons allowed the Spanish to maintain a series of footholds in North Africa. It was a debacle on par with Adowa or the retreat from Kabul, though exceeding either in scale and arguably humiliation.

    With use of heavy artillery the Spanish were slowly able to inch forwards from their few coastal redoubts, however the situation remained a costly stalemate in large part. Spanish support for the war was lukewarm, even before the war African expansion was a divisive project, with such a high cost in blood and treasure Spain was nearing a civil war. After a mutiny among African bound troops in fall of 1923 decisive action was needed to avert one. Thus a month later General Miguel Primo de Rivera launched a coup and seized power as a “moderate dictator”. De Rivera withdrew back to a more defensible position and waited for el-Krim to make a mistake.

    El-Krim promptly did, attacking the French held portion of the Rif in 1924. Despite an initial success inflicting 6,000 losses on the French, the French did not rout as the Spanish did. The French brought in reinforcements and counter attacked alongside the Spanish. A quarter million Franco-Spanish troops took almost four years to then grind down 12,000 Riffian irregulars, a testimony to the genius of el-Krim. However in the end the Riffians were defeated and Spanish control restored.

    The war however had been exceptionally costly for Spain. For De Rivera this was a problem, as he used a Fascist inspired program of public works to remain in power. The cost of the Rif War had tapped out Spain’s lines of credit, the Great Depression and a poor harvest in 1929 ruined her current accounts. Public discontent mounted as pressure grew for De Rivera to give up power, however the increased stress did him in before that could happen, with him dying in March of 1930.

    Without De Rivera to insulate him King Alfonso was blamed for the ongoing economic crisis. Already unpopular due his policies having led to the disaster of the early Rif war, the incredibly incompetent general Silvestre having been a particular favorite of the king, the added unpopularity saw a spike in anti-monarchical sentiment. Barely a year after De Rivera resigned the King abdicated and Spain became a Republic.

    The Constitution of the new Republic however was a problem. It was drawn up by a provisional assembly far more liberal than the Spanish people, and aroused much opposition. It functionally declared war on the Catholic Church in a very Catholic country, and explicitly weakened protections for private property, resulting in many losing their land. When moderates wished to revise this Constitution, the far left refused, and the provisional assembly denied elections for two years to prevent any changes in policy.

    In 1933 the provisional assembly was forced to hold regular elections, and the Conservative Confederation of Autonomous Right Wing Groups (CEDA) won the most seats. The current assembly of primarily socialists and radicals tried to have President Zamora annul the results of the election, in order to preserve many of the reforms they valued more than the democratic process, but he refused. He did however refuse to allow the CEDA to form a government, instead having the center right Radical Republican Party do so. In doing so he achieved the worst of both worlds, he weakened the democratic process and alienated both the left and the right, the latter for shutting them out and the former for letting the right have any power.

    When the Radical Republicans let members of CEDA into the government in 1934 it triggered a major uprising of socialists and communists that briefly seized control of Asturias. The revolt was crushed within two weeks, but it convinced many that the Spanish left was not interested in political power.

    A year later in 1935 when it looked like the CEDA would form a government following discord in the Radical Republicans president Zamora called a new election specifically to prevent this from happening. The parties on the Spanish left joined together in a so called popular front, officially led by the socialist PSOE but with Communist PCE and thus Moscow pulling the strings. This resulted in the Right doing the same, forming an Italian style National Front.

    When the elections were held in early 1936 the Popular front won through blatant vote rigging, tolerated by President Zamora. Zamora however was not left wing enough for the new government and was quickly replaced by Manuel Azana, the leader of the popular front and architect of the 1931 constitution and the provisional assembly.

    Azana looked the other way when socialists and communists began seizing farms, burning churches and killing political opponents. Instead he focused on his political opponents, oppressing the Fascist Falangist party in April and having its leader murdered under the guise of arrest.

    The situation rapidly became intolerable and multiple groups began plotting to overthrow the tyrannical government before it became worse. These disparate plots were woven together by General Emilio Mola, who soon attained Italian, German and Portuguese backing for his endeavor. Working with other generals and leaders of various conservative parties he established an organization with General Jose de Sanjurjo as a figurehead off a vast movement that spanned across Spain and her colonies.

    On July 31st an uprising in Morocco was planned, followed by one in Spain the next day, the former to ensure the elite Army of Africa was available for the latter.

    When President Azana sent police to illegally arrest the parliamentary opposition and murder chief of the CEDA Jose Gil-Robles on July 20th, the planned uprising was forced to move more quickly than planned…

    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004


    …While one cannot deny that the Spanish Election of 1936 saw widespread electoral fraud, the official explanation of the Spanish government that only widespread electoral fraud allowed the Popular Front to win the 1936 elections is. While the Spanish government continues to prove uncooperative on this subject, research by Latin American scholars piecing together disparate non-government sources seems to indicate that the Popular Front may have won a narrow victory even without the electoral fraud…

    …There are of course several reasons why the official Spanish government narrative of the events of Spanish Republic’s political history has become the dominant narrative of the period…

    …Evidence that Manuel Azana and Niceto Zamora had anything to do with the fraud in the 1936 election is thus on further examination lacking in both quality, quantity and reliability, making this premise most likely as great a fabrication as Azana explicitly ordering extrajudicial actions against his political opponents…

    …It is quite clear from this evidence that the National Front conducted electoral fraud on a scale almost as great, if not as great as that of the Popular Front…

    -Excerpt from Revisionist Viewpoints in History Volume XXXII, University of California Press: Berkley, 2022
     
    Part 5-13 European Wars, Into the Abyss, Historical Madness
  • …The murder of the moderate rightist Gil-Robles was bound to arouse some sort of violence in the heavily charged environment of the Spanish Republic. This violence would force the Spanish Communists, Socialists and Anarchists to mobilize, and thus nullify many of the advantages General Mola was counting on. Thus he moved up the revolt by a week to July 24th.

    The operation went of as planned in Morocco, General Franco, the youngest General in the Spanish Army and a noted hero of the Rif War, took control of the Army of Africa with ease and had the colony under control by nightfall. The Canary islands were taken as well.

    The Twenty Fifth saw the revolt against the Popular front in mainland Spain occur. Seven of the eight divisions in mainland Spain immediately joined the Nationalist revolt, the exception being the 3rd Division in Valencia which dithered for a week. The major cities of five of the eight military districts of mainland Spain were taken by the Nationalists within a few days. In Madrid and Barcelona armed anarchist, communist and socialist militias fought back, eventually overrunning the army forces after two weeks and ten days respectively. However Seville was captured in the initial revolt, which provided a base which the Army of Africa could be airlifted to using leased German and Italian planes.

    About three quarters of the Spanish Army had joined the Nationalists, with a similar proportion of the heavy equipment and ninety percent of the officers. Around half of the paramilitary security forces also joined the nationalist cause. The Navy was split about 50/50, with the Popular Front having more hulls, but the Nationalists controlling both Battlecruisers and Heavy Cruisers, and the Popular Front ships generally being disorganized due to most officers joining the nationalists. Only in the air did the Popular Front have a small advantage, mitigated by the poor state of the Spanish Air Force.

    After the first few days the Nationalists controlled Old Castile, Leon, and Galicia, as well as parts of the surrounding territories, enclaves around Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz and Valencia and most of the Balearic Islands. The Popular Front controlled the remainder, with actual control belonging to anarchists, communists or socialists depending on the exact territory. The

    Nationalists set up a governing junta in Burgos with General Sanjurjo as the nominal head and General Franco as overall commander of the military. The Popular Front remained based in Madrid, though in practice decision making was highly decentralized with certain areas effectively independent. The Popular Front further lacked a central military command in more than just name, being heavily reliant on militias.

    Both sides immediately started receiving external help. For the Nationalists it was from Italy, Germany and Portugal. For the Popular Front it was from France, Mexico and the USSR. French support for the Popular Front only lasted a month and a half before the British pressured the French to end official aid to Spain in the interests of preventing the situation from escalating into a general European War. Unofficial French aid would continue for several months, and France would ignore aid from other countries passing through its territories to various degrees for the remainder of the war…

    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004


    …Sanna’s price for a resumption of the Florentine front was an end to unofficial French aid to the Popular Front, and a free hand to support the Nationalists. With a free hand Sanna could dominate whatever Fascist government emerged from the Spanish Civil War and thus begin wresting the leadership of the international fascist movement back from Hitler. Furthermore an Italain ally in Spain would discourage France from intervening if Italy chose to redeem certain territories in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    This compromise was broadly acceptable to the British establishment, provided of course they could have a fig-leaf of non-interventionism to sell the British population on. This was seen as acceptable by Sanna, requiring only a bare minimum of subterfuge to implement. The problem proved to be the French.

    While Prime Minister Blum was willing to work with Sanna, even if he would vastly prefer not to, the same could not be said for all of his governing coalition. In particular the communists would veto anything more than strict neutrality, and that only because exercising their ability to bring down the government would likely lead to a right wing one. Given that Blum could not govern without the Communists, he could not allow Italy a free hand in Spain.

    Thus when Sanna sent volunteer troops into Spain to counter the growing influence of Germany with the Nationalists, it served to drive Italy closer to the Germans, however much Sanna would have wished otherwise…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009


    …Sanna biggest flaw in the years leading up to WWII proved to be his transactional nature. He would rarely do something on the international scene without expecting a commiserate reward for doing so unless he saw a direct threat to his position. As a result despite a strong dislike of Hitler, and a preference for a more rational German government, he refused to act because no one would compensate him for it.

    Instead he ended up supporting Hitler, who would offer him something…

    -Excerpt from Why did they do THAT!?! Historical Madness in Context: Volume III, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2015
     
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    Part 5-14 European Wars, Steel Talons, Airpower, Historiography
  • …The Nationalists opened with offensives in the south under General Franco to link up the disparate pockets, followed by a thrust to link up with nationalist territory in the North. Meanwhile General Mola was crushing Popular Front pockets in the northwestern part of the country. Both moves proved highly successful and were completed by the end of August.

    By contrast the Popular Front attempt to crush the isolated Nationalist position in Valencia and regain control of the Balearic islands. The former was a partial success, having mostly ground down the Nationalist garrison by the end of August while the latter was an unmitigated disaster. Poor coordination meant that the landing was delayed until September 1st, misunderstanding of the tides saw troops have to land too far offshore, provision for gunfire support was inadequate and over the beach logistics was bungled. Worse was what happened after the Nationalist heavies forced the straits of Gibraltar. Not being able to cover their naval supply line against the modern Castila and Canarias class warships, the Popular Front attempted a withdrawal. This was bungled with almost 2,000 men left behind and forced to surrender, worse an Italian “volunteer” squadron of torpedo bombers struck the anchorage, sinking the battleship Jaime I and forcing the fleet to scatter and allowing two transports to be killed by Nationalists submarines…

    …In September the Nationalists launched three assaults. The first and smallest targeted the area around Malaga to the south. The second smallest assault was Mola’s campaign in the north to capture the western half of the Pyrenees and cut supply routes to the Popular front from France. The largest nationalist offensive was Franco’s campaign to first relieve Toledo, under Popular Front siege, then to take Madrid. The Popular Front for their part lacked the organization to conduct any more major offensives and was limited to local attacks and responding to Nationalist moves.

    The Malaga campaign and Mola’s Pyrenees campaign both proved to be completely successful, achieving their objectives by the end of November. Franco’s campaign was not as successful, while he relieved the siege of Toledo by September 16th, Madrid proved more difficult. Its symbolic importance was such that the disorganized individual commanders of the popular front saw that it needed to be defended and rushed to reinforce it. Thus Franco’s four attacking columns, plus an internal rising that spawned the term “fifth column,” found themselves facing a never-ending fountain of enemy reinforcements.

    After failing to take the city on the march in September, or in a preplanned deliberate attack in October, Franco chose to surround the city and attempt to starve it out. Fierce WWI style trench warfare thus sprang up northeast and southeast of the city as Franco attempted to cut the eastern supply routes. This bloody stalemate continued for the rest of fall and winter, while Nationalist forces made minor gains elsewhere, taking advantage of the popular front preoccupation with Madrid and lack of coordination and leadership…

    …Both sides of the war received considerable foreign troops as volunteers. Italy, Germany and Portugal sent what were effectively organized and equipped military units to the Nationalists while the USSR did the same for the Popular front. Similarly Catholic, Fascist and Volkist organizations raised volunteers for the Nationalist cause, while the Communists did the same for the Popular front. While never constituting a significant portion of the numerical strength of either side, the organized units proved of outside importance. The Soviet units proved to be the only Popular Front forces equipped to a reasonable standard, thus were the only effective mobile reserve they had. On the other side the professional foreign troops were able to spearhead assaults and allow the Nationalists to break WWI style stalemates to a much greater degree than they would have otherwise been able to…

    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004


    …The experience of their volunteer troops in Spain proved to be invaluable for Germany and Italy. Using their new equipment and doctrine in a wartime environment allowed them to see flaws that were not apparent in testing or wargames. The Italy and Germany made major changes in armor design and organization, among other things, thanks to the war in Spain that put them comfortably ahead of most of the world in some ways…

    …The USSR also learned a considerable amount of lessons from its firsthand participation in Spain. Unlike in Germany and Italy, most of this knowledge was lost due to Stalin’s paranoia, as officers who had served in Spain were held in greater suspicion during Stalin’s purges…

    -Excerpt from Steel Talons: Armed Forces of the Interwar, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2011


    …The Spanish Civil War had two different impacts on air forces around the world, depending on if they had actually sent volunteer squadrons or not.

    In those countries which had not participated it was used by airpower advocates and bomber barons as a vindication of their views. The fast bombers used by both sides proved difficult to intercept, with Popular Front Barcelona suffering under constant raids by Nationalist bombers that they could do nothing about. Thus it was argued that the bomber will always get through, fighters and air defenses were pointless, better to spend the money on more bombers. This of course ignored the fact that the Popular Front lacked the radars that were becoming more common in first tier states, had insufficient heavy AA and a perennial shortage of fighters.

    Airpower advocates further misinterpreted one of the most controversial incidents of the war for their own benefit. The attack on Alcarras, a deliberate massacre according to the Popular Front, a navigation error during a bombing of an HQ in Lleida according to the postwar Spanish government, saw between 300 and 1200 die in an aerial attack involving 20 tons of bombs. Air Power advocates used deliberately inflated numbers of dead to oversell the effects of the attack, getting ratios in excess of 60 dead per ton of bomb, where outside the use of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, WWII experience would show that anything above 12 deaths per ton of bombs on an urban area was an outlier…

    …Among those air forces who actually participated in the Spanish Civil War different lessons were learned. Namely that morale bombing, as advocated by airpower advocates, did not work, civilian morale would not break under air attack. What was effective was using airpower in an operational role, attacking targets supporting the frontline such as headquarters, reserves and transportation infrastructure.

    Furthermore the Italians and Germans learned that their biplane turn fighters were inadequate against Soviet monoplane energy fighters. This would give them a definite leg up in adapting energy fighter monoplanes over the other western European states…

    -Excerpt from Airpower!, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2010


    …Use of the term Popular Front to represent a side of the Spanish Civil War, rather than just a political alliance, originated with the post-Civil War Spanish Government. This was part of a concerted campaign by the Spanish government to strengthen their legitimacy by denying it to their former opponents. Thus they did not use the term “Republicans” as that term implied they were the legitimate government of the Spanish republic. For similar reasons they did not use the term Loyalists or Government faction. The term Popular Front was used as something more formal than their preferred terminology of Reds that did not imply legitimacy in the same way.

    This terminology was for the period following the end of the Spanish Civil War to 1965 generally only used by Fascist, Volkist and other extremely conservative sources, with Republicans being the standard terminology outside of that . Following 1965 there was a rapid adoption of the official Spanish government terminology due to…

    …This adoption was functionally complete by 1980 in the English speaking world, with only far left sources continuing to use the term “Republicans” when describing the Spanish Civil War…

    -Excerpt from Historiography of the 20th Century, Columbia University Press, New York, 2020
     
    Part 5-15 Naval History
  • …The Spanish Civil Warsaw three significant naval actions that had effects outside the conflict, all within the first year. The first was the battle of the straits of Gibraltar. Two Nationalist Battlecruisers and two heavy cruisers engaged one battleship, one light cruiser and five destroyers belonging to the Popular Front. The superior fire control of the nationalist ships allowed them to engage at far greater ranges than the Popular Front ships. As a result the Republicans lost one of their two battleships, the Alfonso XIII, a cruiser and two destroyers, and the nationalists gained access to the Mediterranean coast. This was the most operationally effective clash between capital ships since the battle of the Falkland islands and proved the gunship still was the decisive factor.

    The second action was the Italian volunteer air attack on the Jaime I. This action proved that a battleship, one that actually was cleared for action and had time to maneuver could be sunk by aircraft, and not even heavy bombers but relatively small float planes. This was of course dependent on Jaime I having only two 3” AA guns and two machine guns for air defense and being deficient enough in torpedo defense for a single light torpedo to doom her. However it was a true proof of concept that sent alarm bells ringing in admiralties across the world.

    The third action was the Popular Front attempt to sink the Nationalist España by air attack while she was bombarding Bilbao in December. Unlike her sister Jaime I the Nationalists had added 8 20mm Italian AA guns, two German 75mm Flak guns and 4 13.2mm French machine guns to the AA armament of the España. She thus survived her encounter with the Popular Front Air force, as her air defenses caused most of the Popular Front and Soviet volunteer pilots that attacked her to drop early. Thus all seven torpedoes and all but one bomb aimed at her missed. This action provided a degree of relief to the Admiralties of the world, that if sufficient Air Defenses were emplaced on them battleships were relatively safe from air attack…

    …The Failure of the Second WNT saw the British continue the plans they had already for 8 battleships of 35,000 tons with 9 15” guns in a 3x3 arrangement, supported by a number of 5500 light cruisers, the 7500 ton ships having already been ordered. To support these four additional aircraft carriers were ordered, bringing the RN over the now superseded tonnage limit when counting HMS Argus. These were 20,000 ton armored ships, carrying far fewer aircraft than the trio of 22,500 ton Ark Royals the RN already possessed, an acceptable tradeoff given the reluctance of the RAF to procure carrier aircraft, but having an armored deck to avoid the risk of being left incapable of flight operations. Fitting this armor on 20,000 tons proved difficult and a number of compromises were made in doing so, necessary to lay down the ships at the same time as a major battleship building project was underway. Indeed despite efforts to avoid conflict completing everything ordered at once proved too ambitious for the post building holiday British industry, especially given the preference made to refitting foreign battleships to earn hard currency, and functionally everything larger than a destroyer was behind schedule…

    …By the end of the WNT system Germany had finalized her long term building program, termed Plan Z. In addition to the four Panzerschiff she already had, along with the two light battleships she had under construction, fourteen more battleships would be built. Two of these would be 37,500 ton officially, actually 43,000 ton 15” armed transitory designs, basically supped up versions of the WWI era L20 design studies with modern technology, the next eight would be enlarged versions officially 45,000 ton, in practice 50,000 ton, 16” armed ships, with guns designed to be bored out to 16.5”. The last four would be 35,000 ton Baltic ships, 27 knots rather than 30, possessing 9 15” guns in an all forward arrangement, with a shallower draft and greater maneuverability. These would be supported by a total of 16 heavy, 30 light, and 30 scout cruisers, along with three fleet aircraft carriers, 75 destroyers, 75 torpedo boats and around 500 submarines. The submarines included 100 small vessels for defense and training, 300 medium vessels for waging commerce war in the Western Approaches to Britain and 100 large vessels, a mix of transports and very long range raiders.

    The goal of this plan was to be able control the Baltic Sea against the USSR, prevent a close blockade by the British in the North Sea and to have sufficient submarines to eventually starve them out all at the same time, with completion timed for the end of 1949. This timeline was almost certainly unachievable, Japan with an even more developed Naval industry only planned on 12 new battleships by the end of 1951, rather than 14, suggesting Germany was unlikely to pull it off.

    Furthermore Plan Z would eventually fall afoul of the AGNA, but Hitler cared nothing for that, and it would be the 40’s before that happened. In the meantime it would not overly alarmed the British and that was enough for its approval…

    …Seeing Germany and Japan launching Naval buildups Stalin decided to respond with one of his own. He ordered that by the end of 1951 16 new Battleships be built, four for each of the USSR’s fleets. Along with this would be 16 battlecruisers, 32 light cruisers and four fleet carriers. The battleships were supposed to be 45,000 ton, 3x3 16” armed, 30 knot ships, due to an agreement with the British similar to the AGNA having voided the original plan of 55,000 ton ships with 9 18” guns and 36 knots of speed. The battlecruisers would be 3x3 10” armed 34 knot ships of 23,000 tons. The aircraft carriers never had their characteristics fully defined.

    Both the quantity and the individual quality of the ships vastly exceeded what the USSR could build. The battleships would need an additional 17,000 tons to get the characteristics desired, while the battlecruisers would need an extra 5,000 tons. Furthermore there was no naval industry to support such a buildup. Thus some serious revision needed to be done.

    To save resources it was suggested to Stalin that the Battleship and battlecruisers designs were too large to maneuver in the Baltic or Black Seas, instead half of the battleships should be built to a smaller, slower design for use there and only half the battlecruisers ordered. This change was approved of by Stalin, along with a decision to build the large Battleships at 56,000 tons and 27 knots, lying through their teeth that they were still 45,000 tons for the foreign press. The smaller battleships would be 30,000 tons and 26 knots, with 1 twin and 1 triple 16” gun forward and 1 quad 180mm gun aft. Finally the battlecruisers had grown to 12” armed 31,000 ton ships, though only capable of 32 knots. With that growth however came a demand for a number of 20,000 ton heavy cruisers between the battlecruisers and light cruisers.

    This program was still insanely ambitious, far beyond Soviet means, and would be further revised in the coming years…

    …The Japanese saw the end of the treaty system as a chance to build a navy that could reliably defeat the Americans in a decisive battle. The decisive battle remained the core of their doctrine with good reason, given Japan’s economic position vis a vis the United States any other alternative basically amounted to losing as slowly as possible. Conducting this battle would require a force to find the American fleet, a force to attrit it and a core of battleships to destroy it.

    Unconstrainted by the treaty system Japan could build a number of airbases on their Pacific island territories, mandates and otherwise, that could serve as scouting and attack elements. Similarly their fleet of submarines could be expanded for both scouting and attritional attacks. 14 small light cruisers of 7-8,000 tons with floatplanes were planned for further scouting, as well as leadership of their destroyer and submarine forces in attritional attacks. They would also free up several light cruisers that had been performing that duty already for conversion to torpedo attack ships to attrit the American battle line in night attacks. A further increase in the number of heavy cruisers was planned, both for carrying float planes to scout and to carry heavy torpedoes for attacking at night as a prelude to the main event. An additional eight large armored deck fleet carriers would be built for providing air strikes to attrit enemy units before the decisive battle came.

    For that an additional 12 battleships were planned. The IJN leadership were well aware that they could never outbuild the Americans or the British. Thus each battleship they built would have to be superior enough to an enemy battleship to quickly defeat it and move on to another target, while the older battleships prevented the new ships from getting mobbed by superior numbers.

    Japanese estimates indicated that the Americans would not build a ship that could not fit through the Panama canal, and thus would be limited to 66,000 tons. On that tonnage they figured that they could fit 10 18” guns, 25 knots of speed and limited protection against 18” shells. This of course ignored the Tillman design of 80,000 tons, 15 18” guns and 25 knots with a subpar hull form that could easily be modified to 30 knots from back in 1919 fit through the original canal locks, or that the US was expanding the Panama Canal for larger ships. This inaccuracy did not stop it from being the notional design the Japanese felt they had to beat.

    Original estimates called for a ship with 12 46cm guns, 30 knots of speed and good protection against 18” shells, all on 50,000 tons. Once this blatant impossibility was found and discarded a number of alternatives were considered. All were based around 46cm guns, to handily defeat armor schemes meant for 16” shells. Multiple layouts of 8-12 guns were considered, along with sizes of ship, and types of propulsion. In the end a 70,000 ton, 27 knot ship with 9 46cm guns in a 3x3 arrangement was chosen, with a 40cm belt, 20cm deck, 9 15.5cm and 12 13cm secondaries. Officially of course it would be 45,000 tons and armed with 16” guns as not to give the game away...

    The goal was to have five built or laid down before 1944, at which point it was expected the deception would be discovered. At that point two transitional designs would be laid down, with 6 or 8 51cm guns and capable of 30 knots, to defeat foreign 18” armed battleships that were sure to follow discovery of the deception. After these a final five ships with 8 or 9 51cm guns would be laid down, and the 46cm ships would be rearmed with 51cm two gun turrets. This would ideally give Japan a strong lead in quality by 1951 with a dozen “Peace Goddesses” that would ensure superiority in the Pacific at least until 1955...

    …With the end of the Treaty system the USN went ahead on plans to order four 45,000 ton battlecruisers as planned. The vessels would be armed with 9 16” guns, protected against the same, sail at 33 knots and have a secondary battery of 20 5” DP guns. Along with them 12 more “Scout Cruisers” were ordered by FDR in 1936 as part of a targeted military spending bill. The plan was to spend money in potential swing districts to keep a majority of congress willing to support the New Deal.

    This program included six new 2000 ton gunboats for China, twelve “monitors” that were essentially 2,000 ton floating 6” coast defense batteries to get by WNT prohibitions on fortifying islands in the Pacific, twelve large coast guard cutters, 24 1500 ton destroyers, and 10 auxiliaries, all designs planned before the treaty but bought in greater number. In addition 16 fast tankers would be subsidized for Standard Oil, 60 older destroyers would be heavily modernized and the four battlecruisers of the Lexington class would get deep rebuilds to increase their speed to 33 knots, fit a 20 gun DP battery and make their armor protection more acceptable…

    -Excerpt from Naval History Between the Wars, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2007

     
    Part 5-16 Steel Talons, Into the Abyss, Historiography
  • …French war planning in thee interwar emphasized the defensive, rather than the attack a la outrance of the pre WWI era. France no longer enjoyed the demographic superiority that let her dominate Europe under Louis XIV and Napoleon, or even the parity of the 19th century. Now with the demographic transition and the fallout of the Great War she had to make every man count.

    The Maginot Line was their solution to this problem. A huge line of fortifications on the Franco-German border it would theoretically allow less well equipped reserve divisions to hold off the German’s best without taking heavy casualties. The Germans would thus be forced to invade through Belgium, as the only viable logistics routes lay in that direction, guaranteeing they would also be fighting the Belgian Army, eliminating some of the discrepancy in national manpower reserves and guaranteeing the participation of Belgium now that their alliance was over. It would also ensure that any new Zone Rouge’s would be in Belgium, rather than in France, thus sparing the French state from further damage.

    Furthermore by forcing the invasion of Belgium, France was more likely to drag Britain into the war even with their interwar wariness of each other. That alone would more than make up for the demographic disadvantage France faced…

    …The biggest issue with the Maginot Line was that the Belgians immediately realized its secondary purpose and made contingency plans accordingly…

    …The sheer Costs of the Maginot Line further exacerbated the French problem of trying to maintain a 45 division army on a 35 division budget. While the French military on paper remained powerful, with things such as a large and modern armored corps, cuts to more low visibility components would give the French giant feet of clay…

    -Excerpt from Steel Talons: Armed Forces of the Interwar, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2011


    …Despite the setbacks caused by the Japanese in Jehol and Shantung, along with the succession of Guangzhou and the 1934 invasion of Xinjiang by the Soviets, the Nationalists under Chiang Kai Shek were still able to defeat the Communists in the South by the end of 1935. About to be overrun by a sixth campaign of encirclement the Communists fled to the mountains of Shanxi province via a circuitous route through western China to avoid Nationalist blocking forces. Chiang was not about to be stopped by this and set about planning a campaign to deal with the Communist stronghold once the snows melted in 1937.

    In a desperate attempt to stave off total defeat the Communists proposed a Second United Front to focus on fighting the Japanese, who were growing increasingly bold in North China. Chiang refused, his strategy was “first internal pacification, then external resistance.” He was well aware that China was in no condition to fight Japan, therefore he would appease them to buy time to make properly ready for such a fight. He further recognized that the Communists were a greater danger than the Japanese, every Japanese move aroused resistance both from the Chinese populace and foreign nations, while the Communists were ignored or even supported by the USSR. Finally he knew that the Communists would allow the Nationalists to take the brunt of Japanese attacks, doing only the bare minimum against them to avoid appearing to be collaborators and instead would gather strength for a renewed civil war after the Japanese were defeated, or possibly even before.

    Not all of the KMT’s leaderships was able to see this reality so clearly. For many of them the Communist offer seemed reasonable and necessary, given the active threat of the Japanese and the current weakness of the communists. Racism against so called “eastern barbarians” played a further part, the Communists were fellow Chinese after all. A conspiracy formed in the upper ranks of the KMT with General Yang Hu Cheng as a front man.

    While Chiang was visiting the Headquarters of the KMT’s Northeastern Army the conspirators made their move. Chiang was seized and placed under arrest while the conspirators got in contact with the Communists. Chiang was not killed or replaced as the conspirators realized doing so would set off a power struggle in the KMT that would benefit no one but the Japanese and Communists. Instead he was compelled to sign documents establishing a Second United Front against the Japanese, temporarily ending the conflict between the two. He was then released to resume his post and prepare for the coming conflict with the Japanese…

    …Chiang would eventually manage to deal with the conspirators who imprisoned him during the Northeastern Army Incident. By that point however the die was cast and he could not break the Second Untied Front without political and practical consequences too great to be borne. Thus the best chance to destroy the Communists before WWII was lost, when Chiang’s predictions came to pass exactly as he had foreseen…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009


    …The largest problem with histories of the Chinese Civil War is the lack of reliable primary sources detailing the high level political dealings of the time period. The inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party are almost completely opaque from the beginning of the Sixth Encirclement Campaign until its effective dissolution. The inner workings of the KMT are only somewhat better known, but even here reliance is mostly on a relatively small number of biased oral sources. Thus exact details about pivotal events such as the Northeastern Army Incident are impossible to know. Therefore much of the historical narrative of the Chinese Civil War is fundamentally built on hearsay and propaganda…

    -Excerpt from Historiography of the 20th Century, Columbia University Press, New York, 2020

     
    Part 5-17 Into the Abyss, Airpower
  • …Franklin Roosevelt was easily renominated as the Democratic candidate for president at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, on the first ballot even thanks to a transition to simple majority rule rather than requiring a supermajority. This move was done at the behest of the DNC chairman, who pointed out that rule resulted in Wilson becoming president, rather than his father Champ Clark. John “Cactus Jack” Garner was also renominated as vice president…

    …The Republican National Convention was fiercely divided between three candidates. Senator William Borah of Idaho had done the best in the primaries however the progressive insurgent had little support from the establishment. Governor Alf Landon of Kansas had the support of the Republican establishment. Alf Landon however had several enemies such as senator Arthur Vandenburg of Michigan and powerful newspaperman Frank Knox, these men supported another run by popular former secretary of commerce Herbert Hoover.

    On the first ballot Landon had 500 of 1003 votes needed to take the nomination, with Hoover at 333 and Borah at 170. Rather than see Landon win the anti-Landon coalition negotiated with Borah. It was suggested that Borah should take up the Vice-Presidency given Hoover’s greater popularity, Borah however responded that he could become Landon’s vice president just as easily. A compromise was brokered by Theodore Roosevelt Jr. who pointed out to Hoover that Borah was nine years older than Hoover, if Borah pledged not to run in 1940 then Hoover would take the VP slot. Borah agreed and Hoover transferred his votes.

    With 503 votes the Republican nominees were William Borah and Herbert Hoover…

    …Borah and Hoover ran a strong campaign however the problem was that Borah and Hoover both supported large parts of the New Deal. Therefore many conservative opponents of it stayed home, and most centrists had no reason not to vote for Roosevelt given the improving economy and unemployment having fallen to 11.8%. Thus Borah and Hoover only managed 60 electoral votes compared to Roosevelts 471, and 19.1 million to Roosevelts 25.4 million votes. Franklin Roosevelt was thus handily reelected as President of the United States…

    …The 1936 congressional elections saw the Democratic majority increase to 75 in the senate and 334 in the House, with enough of that majority supporting the New Deal that Roosevelt could continue his reforms. His ploy with targeting spending to buy votes proved successful…

    -Into the Abyss: The leadup to the Second World War, Harper and Brothers, New York, 2009


    …The British Home Ground system reached full deployment in 1936 and became the first operational defensive radar system. It was a very crude system that was rapidly surpassed but nonetheless it was from a technical perspective a perfectly adequate system that used very well understood and reliable technology…

    …The major missed opportunity with Home Ground was the lack of attention paid to it. Home Ground had to be forced on the RAF by Parliament, as the RAF was firmly under the control of their own version of the American Bomber Mafia. Air Chiefs of Staff Salmond and Courtney both opposed anything that would divert funds from increasing the bomber strength of the RAF.

    Admittedly they had solid data to support their claims. Significant exercises in 1934 showed that even when the RAF’s fighters were given the exact time, vector, altitude and composition of incoming bombers before the exercise began they could manage a successful interception less than 30% of the time. No early warning system could ever aspire to providing such an accurate and early warning as that…

    …The biggest flaw in Home Ground was how it was organized. Home Ground and other Radar and radio detection units were placed in a separate Signals Command, rather than integrated into Fighter Command. Furthermore there was no equivalent to the central plotting system used by the old London Air Defense Area or the later Metropolitan area. This made it very difficult to pass information on to where it was needed…

    …Home Ground had an early flaw in that it had a blind spot against low flying aircraft that depending on the exact location could be as high as 1500 feet. A supplementary Home Ground Low system would reduce this blind spot to 500 feet by 1940…

    …The construction of the massive chain of large radar stations that composed Home Ground was impossible to miss. Very quickly the Germans figured out that they were some kind of Radar system. In 1938 the Airship Hindenburg was used for several electronic reconnaissance missions and a complete signals profile of the Home Ground system was gathered…

    …Home Ground caused Von Richtofen a number of significant worries. While not actively planning for a war with Britain there was considerable worry that the British would sell the system to the French. This would make attacks on the French Army, necessary to mitigate the gap in modern equipment between it and the Heer, much more difficult. Therefore a great deal of resources were poured into discovering how to disrupt or destroy radar systems. The two main results of this were the Funkenfaust jamming systems and the Luftjäger low level attack squadrons…

    …Despite publicly downplaying the effectiveness of Radar the RAF spent a great deal of resources determining how to counteract it to reduce potential bomber losses. The quickest and easiest solution was dropping strips of aluminum foil to drown out radar signatures in a cloud of false echoes. These strips, now known as Chaff from its American name, would go on to be a mainstay of radar countermeasures all the way to the present day. More resources however were spent on the incongruously named Radish series of unmanned aerial vehicles.

    Converted from obsolete aircraft the various models of Radish drone were meant to home in on enemy radar systems and crash into them, detonating a large payload of explosives on impact and destroying them…

    …The Radish would prove of greater importance to the Germans than the British given that the infamous Project Nothung had its roots in attempting to combine the electronics of a captured Radish drone with a scaled up high speed target drone…

    -Excerpt from Airpower!, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2010

     
    Part 5-18 European Wars, Steel Talons New
  • …The Nationalist Spring offensives kicked off in April and focused on the northern and southern portions of the front. In the north the goal was to crush the Popular Front pocket around Bilbao, in the South it was to take the Almeria region as a feint towards Cartagena so that the Popular Front would divert troops from Madrid.

    The northern attack was completely successful, the Popular Front forces in that pocket had been cut off for many months and lacked the level of equipment found on the main line. Furthermore many of the Basque nationalist elements there decided that the Nationalists were better than the Communists running the Popular Front, thus General Mola found himself in possession of complete plans for the Popular Front defense of Bilbao while many forces assigned to defend it simply went home. Mola thus took the city by the end of June and ended the campaign there.

    In the south things were less successful, while the region was taken by the end of June the Popular Front did not divert any reinforcements from the ongoing battle of Madrid. Furthermore the Popular front forces there did not attempt to stand and fight but used guerilla tactics to hit and fade while attacking Nationalist supply lines. The Almeria offensive was probably the worst performance by the Nationalists and the best of the Popular Front in the entire war, despite the Popular Front conceding territory…

    …The Nationalist summer offensive began in August. Launched from the city of Teruel the target was the port of Castellón. Taking that city would cut the Popular Front remnants in half, any communications would be purely by sea and subject to interdiction by superior Nationalist naval and air forces. Thus Generals Sanjurjo, Franco and Mola all agreed that the Popular Front would have to defend against it, potentially at the cost of losing Madrid. The best nationalist units, including the Spanish foreign legion and the volunteers form Germany and Italy were thus concentrated to spearhead the offensive.

    The gathering of forces by the Nationalist at Teruel was impossible to ignore and the Popular Front gathered the best troops they could spare from Madrid, along with their reserves of Soviet equipment to meet the coming thrust. The somewhat anarchic nature of the Popular Front prevented them from truly exploiting their advanced knowledge, as many groups refused to leave the ongoing fighting at Madrid for potential fighting at Teruel.

    The Battle of Teruel began with large scale Nationalist air attacks on Popular Front positions, the German Dive Bombers of the Condor Legion being particularly effective. This was followed by a short hurricane bombardment then an armored advance. The Popular Front armored forces attempted to counter and the largest tank battle yet ensued. The Popular Front arguably had better tanks, their Soviet T-29’s were better than the Panzer III and L5/34 Tankettes that made up the majority of the modern Nationalist tank force. The Nationalists had far more tanks and much better coordination and were able to overcome the disadvantage and break through.

    Truck mounted Nationalist infantry quickly exploited the breakthrough and held the shoulders of the breach with the help of artillery fire while tanks and armored cars raced ahead. On September 10th the Nationalists reached the sea, two days later Castellón fell. The Popular Front was cut in half and victory for the Nationalists was in sight. The fall of Castellón triggered many countries to begin officially recognizing the Nationalists as the legitimate government of Spain, presaging the fall of the Popular Front government…

    …Following the first offensive from Teruel the Nationalists planned a second, aimed due west rather than east south east. The goal here was to take Madrid from behind, rather than face the lines of fortifications built up during the long stalemate. The October offensive quickly bogged down as the Popular Front through all available reserves at the thrust to preserve their capital. This was not enough to stop the Nationalist advance and General Franco’s troops continued to slowly grind forward. By October 25th they were able to place the last supply route to Madrid under long range artillery fire and the writing was on the wall. That Popular Front evacuated the city on November 1st, with Sanjurjo triumphally entering it on November 5th. Madrid had fallen and the Spanish Civil War was nearing its end…

    -Excerpt from European Wars for Americans, Harper & Brothers, New York, 2004



    …The Soviet T-29 infantry tank and BT-4 cavalry tanks had been major shocks to the Germans and Italians. Both mounted a 45mm gun more powerful than any tank mounted weapon they possessed and enough armor to be immune to rifle caliber AP bullets at anything over point blank range. Furthermore the BT-4 proved faster than anything they had in service while still being as well armored as their current tanks…

    …For the Germans their Panzer III had always been a training model, meant to give their panzer divisions something to practice with given the unsuitability of the experimental Panzer I and II for mass production until future designs were ready. The T-29 and BT-2 merely convinced them to accelerate production of the stopgap Panzer IV and to try and accelerate development of the Panzer V Infantry Tank and Panzer VI cavalry tank. The specifications for the Panzer VI were further enhanced to require 70kph of speed, making an already ambitious project virtually impossible…

    …The experience of the Spanish civil war convinced the Germans that while the 37mm was adequate, a better anti-tank gun would be needed relatively soon, despite the successful use of the 75 and 88mm Flak guns in the AT role…

    …For the Italians the Spanish civil war showed that their assumptions about the unsuitability of larger tanks in mountainous terrain were false. The L5/34 with its 13.2mm gun was quickly modified into the L6/38 with a 20mm gun while development started on a new tank and a stopgap to precede it. Sanna was well aware that development would take time, as such he needed both a short term vehicle and a long term one. The M16/39 would mount a 47mm gun with armor and speed comparable to the T-29, while the M22/41 would mount a 65mm gun and much superior armor to match what the Soviets would be deploying by then.

    The Italians did not attempt to develop a high speed tank to match the BT series. It was recognized that such a vehicle would require a large and powerful and thus expensive engine for its size, an engine better suited to either a more powerful tank or an aircraft. Instead the Italians determined that a cheaper armored car could do the same job in the areas they expected to fight in…

    -Excerpt from Steel Talons: Armed Forces of the Interwar, Dewitt Publishing, Los Angeles, 2011

     
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