Timeline: Morgen die ganze Welt
Thursday, May 13, 1943 The End in Africa
The last remnants of the German Afrika Korps surrender in Tunisia. The last defiant message from Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen von Arnim, ends with "The Afrika Korps must rise again!" This is unlikely after the disasters of Stalingrad and El Alamein. The Führer and Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler - always ready to think "outside the box" - contemplates extreme measures. He knows better than anyone else of the predicament that the Third Reich is in.
Saturday, May 15, 1943 Frankfurt airport
"Bad weather Herr Ambros, we should delay the flight" says Friedrich Schmidke, pilot of a Junkers Ju-52 standing ready on the apron.
"Out of the question, I have a meeting with the Führer. Proceed as planned," snaps Otto Ambros. He adds privately so I can save the world.
Friedrich carefully keeps his thoughts to himself as they walk to the aircraft. The engines sputter into life one by one. Friedrich ups the revs, watching the gauges - all is well. The lightly loaded Ju-52 gathers speed with alacrity and soars into the air, disappearing almost instantly into low clouds. The engine noise fades but then there is a bang and a flash visible through the clouds. The aircraft descends, smoke coming from the left engine. The pilot forces the aircraft to the right, trying to make an emergency landing. Mistake: The Junker stalls and falls out of the sky like a dead weight, crushing first the right wing, then the cabin and then bursting into flames.
Otto Ambros, I.G. Farben's authority on nerve gas, dies in the aircraft accident. He was summoned to the Wolfschanze "Wolf's Lair" for a meeting with the Führer organized by Reichsminister Dr Albert Speer. Dr Speer was quite desperate to stop the Führer from using nerve gas. The new gas is at least 300 times more deadly than cyanide. It penetrates skin, making gas masks useless. Sarin is very volatile and will quickly spread over a large area, driven by the wind. Tabun is less volatile and will contaminate an area for a long time. Dr Albert Speer is afraid because the use of such a powerful weapon is bound to come with unforeseeable consequences. Otto Ambros would have given powerful support against the use of nerve gas. He was convinced that the Allies had nerve gas too and would retaliate against German cities. As sometimes happens when a great scientist has a firm opinion he was absolutely wrong.
When the Führer hears about Otto's accident, his intuition springs into action: he decides to implement the recommendation of the HWA (Heereswaffenamt) to use the world's most fearsome weapon. Dr Speer is aghast but the Führer consoles him with the words "cheer up Albert, the fates have decided today."
The first operational use of nerve gas will be against the Soviets. The total stock of 12,500 tons of Tabun and Sarin is allocated to the Eastern Front, where a great battle has been planned for months in the Kursk salient codenamed Operation Citadel. German panzers are up to the task with the new Tiger I tanks: Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein has retaken Kharkov after five brilliant battles. The Soviets are reeling from the unexpected setback. But the momentum has to be maintained before the Soviets can recuperate. Frontline generals like Generalfeldmarschall Walter Model have been warning of a shortage of infantry divisions. This cannot be helped, it is a result of disastrous losses at Stalingrad.
Manpower is the greatest problem in warfare. Infantry is essential for pinpointing antitank defenses and protecting against enemy counterattacks, allowing armor to break through and smash the enemy rear. It would be very wasteful to use tanks without infantry support. Now nerve gas is expected to accomplish the vital task of the infantry but do it even better and faster, without losses.
The Führer issues Führer-Anweisung 43 (Führer directive 43) as follows:
1. Nerve gas will be used in Operation Citadel. 90% of available nerve gas stock will be used for the initial breakthrough north and south of the Kursk salient.
2. Operation Citadel will proceed as soon as nerve gas is ready to be deployed which is to be no later than June 1st. No delays because of insufficient reserves will be tolerated. Armor will play a secondary role in the beginning phase.
3. The use of nerve gas will be accomplished with utmost secrecy. Army units will be instructed on basic safety precautions regarding war gas. Under no circumstances will units be informed of the fact that a new war gas is being used.
4. When Operation Citadel is successfully concluded as expected the army must be prepared for an armored counterattack by Soviet strategic reserves, defeat them and exploit breakout opportunities without delay. Specifically, the 4th army must be prepared for a drive towards Moscow.
5. All generals and their staff will be extensively briefed on nerve gas and tactics.
6. Chemical warfare units will be created that will take control of the battlefield until it is safe for unprotected soldiers to enter the area. These units will take care of soldiers accidentally exposed to nerve gas on the battlefield. They will also decontaminate tactically important areas.
7. Production and research of nerve gas will get the highest priority.
8. The use of war gas cannot be concealed. Therefore statements will be prepared to blame any casualties on the explosion of illegal Soviet war gas dumps.
9. Additionally mustard gas and cyanide will be used in the attack. This will be done secretly but information will be deliberately leaked to double agents.
Monday, May 31, 1943 Operation Citadel
At Kursk there is a 200 km bulge in the front line as a result of German counterattacks after the Battle of Stalingrad. It is an obvious springboard for a new Soviet offensive and at the same time a target for the next German attack. The Soviets have fortified the area with all available troops, tanks, artillery and aircraft, in total one-fourth of Soviet manpower, one-third of the Red Air Force and one-half of all armor. There are three defensive lines up to 25 km deep and theoretically impregnable. Other fronts have been dangerously depleted, but the efficient Soviet spy network "Rote Kapelle" has confirmed that the hated Germans are going to attack the Kursk salient.
The Soviet STAVKA has prepared a giant trap where the German armor will be destroyed. Then the Red Army will counterattack and Christmas will be celebrated in Berlin. Both sides are actually gambling here with fearsome stakes. But nerve gas has loaded the dice.
This evening soldier first class Felis Ivanovitch is somewhat listlessly on guard at a forward supply dump near Savidovka. At 22:15 he hears a dull thud and a muffled explosion directly in front of him. On the horizon there are flashes of artillery fire and after half a minute, the grumble of artillery reaches him. There are more explosions rather far away. Not being the type of hero advertised in war propaganda, he moves suspiciously to investigate. He comes upon a small crater with some smoke coming out of it. A dud? Careful! This may be a gas shell that the political commissar has been lecturing about one week ago. He sniffs the air nervously while fingering his gas mask canister. Deliberating whether to risk making a fool of himself by giving a false alarm he notices something odd. It is still light although the sun has set. But now it is rapidly getting darker. He also starts sweating although it is not warm. His right arm trembles uncontrollably. Realization comes quickly and he takes a deep breath to shout an alarm. Too late. Air has become solid in his lungs, impossible to breathe in or out. He crumples like a puppet with all his muscles trembling. Within seconds, Felis is dead having received a massive nerve gas dose. His last clear thought is one of hate for the Schwaben who cowardly kill from a distance.
In a way, Felis is one of the lucky ones who die quickly of a massive overdose. At lower dosages nerve gas incapacitates humans and kills them miserably in hours or causes permanent neurological damage. Gas masks are ineffective. Many Soviet soldiers will be found wearing the useless gas masks and quite dead.
The artillery bombardment is calculated to achieve a deadly concentration of 50 mg per cu m nerve gas density over a total area of 1200 sq km near Orel and Belgorod. 10,000 metric tons of Tabun and Sarin are used. The lethal effect corresponds to the explosion of 300 atomic bombs! But no infrastructure will be damaged to delay the offensive - which is a bonus.
Soviet artillery, the most effective component of the Red army opens up randomly, then gradually falls silent as the nerve gas reaches the guns. Far behind the lines Soviet soldiers start shooting at each other but that also stops suddenly as if on command. After a mere five minutes, German artillery falls silent and an uneasy peace descends over the battlefield.
Tuesday, June 1, 1943 Panzer voran
2:00- The church-like silence is rent to pieces. In pitch darkness German trucks roar forward and unload engineers in chemical suits. They check for landmines and remove obstructions in eerie silence. Those infernal landmines are always treated with respect. Soviet forward observers should have opened fire on them but they all have perished or retreated long ago, straight into the nerve gas.
4:00- Reconnaissance groups in chemical suits probe forward. They secure observation posts unhindered while Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers fly overhead to bomb Soviet airfields, headquarters and communications with the remaining nerve gas, mostly Tabun.
10:00- Reconnaissance units report that the winds have driven the nerve gas cloud eastward. Communication vehicles relay the command "Panzer voran". Thousands of engines start up over a 35 km front at Belgorod and a 30 km front at Orel. The atmosphere is buoyant, the soldiers' morale is at its peak. From the lack of Soviet reaction it is obvious that a heavy blow has been struck. German tanks eagerly move forward to their first targets: Savidovka and Butovo. Soldiers have been briefed the day before on the gas attack and medics carry atropine emergency antidotes. Now they nervously watch for the first sign of poisoning: blurry vision. Field engineers lead the armor checking for signs of persistent Tabun. There is no resistance of any sort. Trenches are filled with dead soldiers looking like discarded rag dolls. Incredible. Even battle-hardened SS veterans have to look away from the scene.
Pokrovka ... Ivnya ... Oboyan ... the 4th Panzer Army continues north past impressive antitank defenses and elaborate layered defense works, unsuspected by German planners. Quite useless now. Then further past acres of T-34 tanks with dead crew scattered around them, then rows of brand new trucks, and artillery pointing blindly at the sky. "Where does Stalin get all this stuff?" some soldiers wonder. By midday, Army Detachment Kempf reaches Korocha and forms a defensive line to shield the flank of the 4th Panzer Army. The German 9th Army is halfway to Kursk and three days ahead of the most optimistic schedule.
Occasionally an anti-tank mine blows the tracks off a tank. No big deal. The crew dismounts, waits next to the road for a recovery vehicle, smoking their cigarettes and tolerantly waving at their cat-calling comrades. The next tank then leads the advance. Everything runs as smoothly as a field exercise. The one thing missing is insects: nerve gas has killed them all. A war correspondent will later write in Signal magazine "Not an ant is left alive - this is what the end of the world looks like."
Some Soviet reconnaissance aircraft are observed. The pilots are obviously bewildered, not knowing what to make of German armor movements deep in Soviet territory. It is their last flight as Stukas have bombed their airfields with nerve gas.
Wednesday, June 2, 1943 Battle of Kursk
There is a short, sharp fight at the fortified city of Kursk which has escaped the nerve gas cloud. It ends abruptly when Luftwaffe bombers smash the defenses and Tiger I tanks break through with brute force. Soviet soldiers withdraw in panic or surrender.
The Kursk offensive is successful beyond the wildest dreams of the OKH. Unforeseen by the OKH, winds have blown some Sarin clouds to the east, causing havoc for hundreds of km behind the lines among Soviet reserve forces. By 4:00 in the afternoon, Generaloberst Hermann Hoth's 4th Panzer Army moving south and Generalfeldmarschall Model's 9th Army moving north have secured Kursk and the first phase is completed, one week ahead of schedule. Solemn generals salute each other and shake hands while cameras are flashing. Twelve Soviet armies have been encircled or wiped out in one day including the 5th Guards Tank Army, the heroes of Stalingrad. It is the "Greatest Military Defeat in Human History" and the only battle that eclipses Hannibal's victory against Rome at Cannae. The Soviets had correctly anticipated the main thrusts of the German offensive and had concentrated their forces accordingly. But the use of nerve gas made that strategy counterproductive.
German tanks turn west to mop up encircled Soviet armies.
Thursday, June 3, 1943 Battle of Kursk
The extent of the Axis victory slowly becomes apparent. One million tons of supplies have been captured. This will give additional impetus to the offensive. The greatest advantage of nerve gas warfare now becomes evident: while all enemies are killed infrastructure is undamaged. There are no delays to clear rubble or repair roads and bridges. Panzers are already moving east in the direction of Tula, Livny and Voronezh.
Soviet troops north of Kursk were poised for a surprise flank attack on Generalfeldmarschall Model's 9th Army as soon as it was committed to the Kursk offensive. Now the attack is cancelled and Soviet soldiers are diverted south to try and pinch off the German advance.
Surviving Soviet defenders in the Kursk pocket are dazed and bewildered, some trembling with neurological damage. They are mopped up and sent into captivity. 1.3 million Soviet soldiers are dead or captured, one-fourth of Soviet manpower including many elite units. More than 3,000 highly regarded T-34 and KV-1 tanks are captured, doubling Axis armor. Thousands of captured American trucks are immediately put into Axis service. 20,000 Artillery pieces - all in excellent shape - get a new owner.
Now there is a critical shortage of tank crews. Tank schools are ordered to send their recruits to the front, even when not ready as long as they can vaguely recognize the shape of a tank. Truck drivers are bundled into T-34s and become tank drivers just like that. Soldiers who have an uncle driving a car become truck drivers.
Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov, arguably the best Soviet general, is reported missing in action from his Headquarters, while General Nikolai Vatutin is found dead.
German forces are in excellent shape, ready to follow up on the success. Morale, that elusive element, is at an all-time high. Losses are minimal: some 2000 German soldiers have run into nerve gas and are incapacitated in spite of prompt atropine treatment. They will never completely recover. Several hundred soldiers are killed by landmines. It will take years to clear the millions of landmines in the Kursk area.
The only bad news is that the Panther tanks are not ready for service. They have all become immobilized due to engine breakdowns. This would have been a calamity without nerve gas. Now the tank developers are only berated like naughty children instead of being chewed out.
Saturday, June 5, 1943 Battle of Kursk
German armor pours through the now undefended gap in the front. Soviet counterattacks are casually brushed aside. Livny is quickly captured. The advance is temporarily slowed when German troops run into pockets of persistent Tabun nerve gas at crossroads. Engineers clear paths through contaminated areas with sodium hydroxide spray. Rumors of the advancing German panzers causes panic far behind the front lines. Soviet forces are withdrawn from other theaters to try to plug the gap. Over 100,000 Soviets are sent to hospitals where doctors can't make sense of the nerve gas symptoms. They will never fight again.
The OKH releases news of the Kursk battle but plays down the significance of the victory.
Sunday, June 6, 1943 Battle of Kursk
Voronezh is the first major city recaptured by the Germans since the Kursk offensive. On desolate airfields more than 2800 brand new aircraft are found intact, some with dead pilots in the cockpits. One of the deceased is Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub, the leading Soviet ace. He is buried with full military honors which has the side effect of providing great propaganda value. The Soviets have lost thousands of their most experienced pilots to nerve gas and these losses cannot be replaced quickly.
The captured aircraft will be used by German allies, with most going to Italy. The Luftwaffe disdains Soviet aircraft as inferior. Il Duce Benito Mussolini uses his influence to obtain the all-important Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft, Petlyakov Pe-2 light bombers and Lavochkin La-5 fighter squadrons.
Captured aviation fuel on airfields allows the Luftwaffe to operate at full efficiency for the next few months.
Monday, June 7, 1943 Battle of Kursk
Tula, 200 km south of Moscow is captured by the Germans. Large numbers of abandoned tanks and trucks are found. They're clogging the roads in massive traffic jams. Major Alois Bruch, surveys the chaos from his Pzkw IV command tank and radios to headquarters "Look at that, Ivan has panicked and run clear to Siberia. Uncle Joe's surprise party is not going through."
The Germans are amazed at the size of the enemy reserves. Clearly Stalin was up to mischief. Most trucks are American, imported through Murmansk. Large numbers of M3 Stuart light tanks and English Matildas are captured. Enemy soldiers have clearly panicked and may have been affected by the Sarin cloud. It is something to take note of.
Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein prefers to strike east towards the river Don and cut Soviet Union in two. The Führer overrules him and demands that Moscow be captured for political reasons. Generalfeldmarschall von Manstein has no choice but to comply and orders local attacks over a broad front in the Smolensk and Kharkov area to tie down Soviet armies while concentrating forces in Tula.
Tuesday, June 8, 1943 Battle of Kursk
Captured tanks are put into service by the Germans to create 20 new armored divisions. There is a shortage of crew but Soviet tanks are relatively easy to handle. The Wehrmacht is already familiar with the T-34 as a few hundred captured ones are already in use. 250 T-34s are immediately sent to Sicily to reinforce Panzerkorps XIV. The Korps has only 47 tanks left. 400 More are sent to Greece where they will be under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel. Three infantry divisions from the reserve and some Luftwaffe squadrons are withdrawn from the Eastern Front and are sent to Italy, Greece and Southern France. Italian pilots arrive to ferry captured aircraft to Italy.
The most urgent need in Sicily is aircraft and aviation fuel. 40% of all Luftwaffe losses have occurred over Malta and Sicily. As a result, the aerial siege of Malta has been lifted. Without reinforcements the Allies will achieve local air superiority. An Allied invasion is expected at any moment somewhere in Southern Europe. The Allies have made many efforts to mislead the German Abwehr into expecting an invasion in Greece or Sardinia. The most devious ruse was the use of the dead body of a British soldier, apparently drowned and carrying fake invasion plans for Greece. The Führer actually suspects this is a ruse but nevertheless most reinforcements are sent to Greece.
Thursday, June 10, 1943 Battle of Moscow
The Moscow offensive starts with the Soviets reeling. The Luftwaffe has achieved complete air superiority in the Moscow area and hinders Soviet road movement. Bombers gradually pulverize the extensive anti-aircraft defenses of Moscow while Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighters strafe roads at will. Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel's Stuka squadron makes four sorties per day shooting up anything that moves with their 37mm anti-tank guns. Soviet transport is only possible during the short night hours.
General Andrey Jeremenko is in charge of the defense of Moscow, while Stalin has prudently left for Gorki.
Thursday, June 10, 1943 Pointblank
The Allied Joint Chiefs of Staff issue the pointblank directive. It is an order to destroy the Luftwaffe in preparation of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion. Aircraft factories will be targeted and aircraft support industry. The Royal Air Force will conduct nightly air raids on cities. This will be a battle of attrition and nobody expects the going to be easy. There is some concern about rumored Axis victories in the east although this may be Axis propaganda. However, it is now urgent to help the Soviets in any way possible.
Saturday, June 12, 1943 Battle of Moscow
The Soviets use masses of soldiers in human wave attacks trying to gain time. The Germans use captured artillery to smash the attacks. Soldiers fire panzerfaust rockets at pointblank range into Soviet ranks causing great carnage. When the chaos is complete, the German 9th Army attacks and breaks through to Mozhaisk west of Moscow where Operation Barbarossa stalled in 1941. Armored columns of the 4th Panzer Army capture Kolomna to the east threatening to envelop Moscow. There are no more reserves to counter the Germans. The Luftwaffe is making a supreme effort to disrupt Soviet communications.
Nerve gas stocks were exhausted in the Kursk offensive but production now receives the highest priority.
Tuesday, June 15, 1943 Battle of Moscow
Unstoppable German armor pincers meet at Aleksandrov north of Moscow, completely surrounding the capital. The 3rd SS Panzer Division Totenkopf reports sighting the Kremlin towers as in 1941.
At the same time, two Soviet armies are surrounded on the Smolensk front west of Moscow. Desperate counterattacks are ineffective. Everything seems to go wrong for the Soviets.
Friday, June 18, 1943 Siege of Moscow
The Axis grip on Moscow consolidates.
The first artillery shells land in Red Square. The OKH is concentrating 20,000 artillery pieces - many of them captured - for the siege of Moscow. Heavy Ferdinand Elefant tank destroyers and Tiger I tanks take up positions for the assault.
The 4th Panzer Army commanded by Generaloberst Hermann Hoth, pushes east in pursuit of fleeing Soviet units.
Tuesday, June 22, 1943 Siege of Moscow
Amid rumors of German secret weapons, the demoralized Soviet armies in the Smolensk pocket crumble and surrender on the anniversary of Operation Barbarossa. This is seen as a good omen by the OKH. What a difference nerve gas has made. Generalfeldmarschall Ernst Busch is now able to push forward in the north, retaking Demyansk where the Soviets have made small advances at a great cost.
German radio operators intercept messages from Stalin to Smolensk armies that have ceased to exist, ordering them to fight to the death. 400,000 Soviet soldiers join the millions that are already in prison camps. The OKH notes with interest that some Soviet recruits are as young as 17, a sign that the Soviets are running out of manpower. A complete division of sturdy Siberian women has been captured. The women are suspected of atrocities and torture and will be investigated.
The Allied secret service has intercepted and decoded German enigma messages that seem to indicate that Germany has developed a new type of poison gas. The Allies have been aware of a new German gas weapon but no details are known. Spies are asked to find out more. Stalin is informed of Allied suspicions. Nobody realizes just how lethal the new poison gas is. Stalin angrily orders STAVKA to prepare for gas warfare.
Wednesday, June 23, 1943 Siege of Moscow
General Jeremenko in charge of the defense of Moscow signals to Stalin for reinforcements. The outlook is grim: he has 250,000 soldiers confronting 850,000 German soldiers with heavy tanks and guns. Many of his soldiers are wounded or affected by nerve gas. Supplies are short. Relief is impossible. To the contrary, Generaloberst Hoth is racing towards Gorki on the river Volga in best blitzkrieg style, advancing 60 km per day. The Wehrmacht excels in this type of warfare.
Wednesday, June 30, 1943 Siege of Moscow
The assault on Moscow starts. Heavy Ferdinand Elefant tank destroyers are used to smash through street barricades. These tanks have frontal armor as thick as a battleships. The defenders are steadily driven back while Moscow is reduced to rubble. The experience gained in Stalingrad is put to good use. Costly infantry assaults and street fighting are avoided. Buildings that have been turned into fortresses are smashed to pieces by Stukas dropping 2000 kg bombs. If that doesn't work, WASPs are called in. These recently formed Wehrmacht Speziel Einsatz (WeSpE) units are specialized in nerve gas warfare. With their yellow and black badges they are intimidating to friend and enemy alike. They are used for the first time when German troops advancing along 1st November Street encounter heavy resistance from barricaded positions. The WASPs arrive, survey the scene for a while and then set up mortar positions in nearby Trud Stadium. A volley of 80 mm nerve gas shells smash into the barricades and Soviet soldiers are seen fleeing in panic. Some fall down and writhe like crushed insects, observed by fascinated and horrified German soldiers. It takes hours before the poison gas is blown away and the barricades are safe. This is one disadvantage of nerve gas attacks. Meanwhile, the Moscow metro is flooded with nerve gas and becomes unusable. Heavy bombers fly low and drop napalm and cluster bombs where resistance is encountered. Luftwaffe observers on the ground guide the bombers by radio. In this way, Soviet forces are methodically ground down.
An offer of honorable surrender by Generalfeldmarschall von Manstein is stubbornly refused.
Rzhev and Kalinin along the Volga north of Moscow are captured.
Monday, July 5, 1943 Gorki
German Reconnaissance columns reach Gorki along the river Volga, splitting the Soviet Union in two. There was no time to evacuate the tank factories: they are captured intact. Stalin himself barely managed to escape to Sverdlovsk. German forces are now 1600 km from their starting positions of 1941 and their supply lines are overextended. They have to pause to consolidate and extend the railway heads to the front.
German forces relentlessly close in on the center of Moscow with the defenders running out of ammunition. Soviet aircraft drop supplies every night but the casualty rate is terrible.
Partisan activity far behind the front lines has decreased noticeably because the Red Air Force can't supply the partisans with weapons and ammunition any longer.
Friday, July 9, 1943 Siege of Moscow
The last desperate resistance in Moscow collapses. Tiger I tanks roar into Red Square and turn on the Kremlin. They provide cover fire for SS stormtroopers who assault the Kremlin with flame throwers and phosphorous grenades. The desperate defenders hold out for one heroic hour in savage hand-to-hand fighting, then the Swastika flies from the Kremlin. German troops break out in a thunderous cheer and some give the Roman salute which is captured on film by Axis war correspondents - invaluable propaganda. Fighting continues in isolated pockets. General Jeremenko is killed in one of the pockets of resistance. Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Paulus is found hiding in a house. He is transported to Berlin by the triumphant Gestapo. The Führer makes a jubilant speech where he announces the fall of Moscow and rejoices in the immense defeat of the Soviet Union. He predicts that the whole rotten communist house of cards will come tumbling down. His speech ends with a solemn "Gott ist mit uns - amen." The crowd replies with enthusiastic "Sieg Heil" for fifteen minutes. This speech is the first indication to the Allies of the disaster in the Soviet Union. As a consequence the RAF starts using mustard gas in nightly attacks on German cities.
Meanwhile, the Volga front is quiet. German forces are overextended and have to wait until railways are changed to German gauge. Repair shops restore damaged tanks and the new armored divisions get used to the T-34. Supply lines to Leningrad are cut for good. Starvation is weeks away for the city. In the north, German forces are pressing forward to their next target: Murmansk, the most important Allied supply line to the Soviets.
Saturday, July 10, 1943 Husky
Allied troops land in Sicily in Operation Husky. It is hoped that this will draw German troops from the Soviet Union. The Allies know the Soviets are in trouble but they don't know to what extent as Stalin is not keen on reporting failures. The OKH moves all available divisions in Italy and Greece to Sicily but this will take time. The forces present are not strong enough to repel the invasion. Armor from the Eastern Front has not arrived yet.
Monday, July 12, 1943 Sicily
The US 7th Army and British 8th Army make good progress in Sicily in spite of a vicious counterattack. Italian troops make little effort to resist but German divisions resist fiercely.
Saturday, July 17, 1943 Sicily
General George S. Patton captures Palermo the capital city of Sicily in a surprise attack. This is the first large Axis city captured by the Allies. The Italians are shocked. Axis forces make a fighting retreat to Messina, preparing to evacuate Sicily. But now the first German reinforcements have arrived: 250 T-34s.
Sunday, July 18, 1943 Moscow
The Führer Adolf Hitler, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Dr Joseph Goebbels, Generalfeldmarschall Edhard Milch and an army of lesser dignitaries visit Moscow to attend the victory parade. Many see Tiger I tanks for the first time. It is a heartening sight. No enemy can stand against such monsters.
In the evening, they attend the opera "Twilight of the Gods" conducted by Herbert von Karajan in the Bolshoi theater. The theatre has been damaged by shell fire but this lends flavor to the event. The performers are flown in from Berlin. Film Director Leni Riefenstahl makes a documentary about the performance that will be shown everywhere from the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to the White House in the United States.
When Prime Minister Winston Churchill later privately views the documentary, he sourly remarks "Now the devil himself can't stop the Hun."
Monday, July 19, 1943 Sverdlovsk
Joseph Stalin makes a radio speech where he angrily accuses Hitler of using mustard gas. He promises that the Soviet Union will retaliate in kind. German propaganda officially releases the news that the explosion of illegal Soviet poison gas dumps caused the release of large quantities of mustard gas and cyanide. German spies also plant information suggesting that the Soviets were experimenting with new war gases that were unstable.
As arranged, Soviet spies think they have found out that mustard gas and cyanide was transported from Germany to the front lines. Nerve gas was labelled as cyanide and this was not detected by spies. To reinforce the obfuscation, some bombs loaded with cyanide were disabled and dropped on remote enemy targets. Soviets were expected to analyze the unexploded bombs and find the cyanide.
The Allies tentatively accept the use of mustard gas and cyanide as an explanation of the Battle of Kursk. They are relieved because gas only works if the opponent is not prepared.
RAF mustard gas attacks have been ineffective. All German households have gas masks. Dr Goebbels learns that only sparrows and pigeons were killed in the attacks. But officially in radio speeches he accuses the Allies of uncivilized gas warfare causing thousands of casualties. Ironically, as long as the Allies drop ineffective war gas bombs, damage will be minimized.
Wednesday, July 21, 1943 Sicily
Luftwaffe fighter squadrons and some 1000 Italian Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik ground-attack planes, Douglas A-20 Havoc light bombers and Lavochkin La-5 fighters arrive in Southern Italy from the Eastern Front. They will be used to challenge Allied air supremacy. The best squadrons have been withdrawn from the Soviet Union where the Red Air Force has been decimated. Most importantly, large quantities of aviation fuel arrive, made possible by captured fuel in the East.
The Eastern Front is now used as a practical training area for new pilots, with the Red Air Force crippled. The Luftwaffe has decided to concentrate on the West.
Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring is put in charge of all Axis forces in Italy and Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel takes command in Sicily. When the Führer asks what he needs to drive the Allies out of Sicily, Rommel replies: "2,000 aircraft and 600 tanks." The Führer nods and says "You will get them." The newly created 35th Panzer Division using T-34s and the veteran 501st Tiger Battalion are transported across the Strait of Messina in great secrecy. Total Axis armor is already 400 against 600 Allied tanks, but Axis tanks are superior.
Friday, July 23, 1943 Messina
Allied forces in Sicily advance on Messina intent on cutting off the Axis retreat. Meanwhile, more Axis reinforcements arrive in Messina daily. The Axis 35th Panzer Division has deployed, heavily camouflaged and will be the spearhead of a massive counterattack. Generalfeldmarschall Rommel is calmly waiting for the Allies to commit themselves.
In Rome, Il Duce Benito Mussolini is removed from power and arrested. Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio, who is anti-Axis is appointed Prime Minister and is now in charge. This shows how fragile a dictatorship really is, at least in Italy.