Into the Fire - the "Minor" nations of WW2 strike back

Should Chapter 40 stand?

  • Yes

    Votes: 15 50.0%
  • Yes, but with further changes

    Votes: 12 40.0%
  • No

    Votes: 3 10.0%

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    30
Chapter 32: Sinking the Bismarck (May 1941 – Atlantic)
May 1941

Atlantic theater

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With the war continuing in Greece, and the opening of the Mediterranean, the hunt for convoys going to England or Gibraltar became more and more essential for the German High Command. The flow of equipment into Greece from the United States was seemingly unending and something needed to be done about it.

Conrad Albrecht, head of the Kriegsmarine, felt pressure mount on his shoulders as Hitler pushed him to do something. Problem: he had very few heavy units at his disposal: the battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. The Tirpitz, sister-ship to the Bismarck, was not yet operational. But while Albrecht would have liked it to join the Bismarck on its high seas adventure, it would not happen. Hitler needed to see the Kriegsmarine surface units finally achieve a success, and harming the convoys in the Atlantic was the main way of doing so.

With little choice in the matter, Albrecht relented, trusting the command of the operation to admiral Otto Feige [1]. This one had very little experience with commanding large units, especially in combat. His previous experience was commanding the heavy cruiser Lützow on its voyage to the Soviet Union, and then acting as an advisor to the Soviets on finishing the vessel. But men that had that experience were a rare breed in Nazi Germany, as most of them were now resting with their ships at the bottom of the ocean, or in Allied prison camps…

Nevertheless, Admiral Feige embarked on the Bismarck on May 6th, 1941, for what would be the battleship’s first and final mission. The two ships left Gotenhafen, transiting through the Danish Straits and towards Norway, during which they were spotted by the Swedish cruiser Gotland. The Gotland’s report about the Bismarck’s sortie soon found its way into British hands, leading to the alert being given and several reconnaissance flights being flown.

The British would soon photograph Bismarck in Bergen, leading the Admiralty to believe a sortie was imminent. Immediately, the battlecruiser HMS Hood was dispatched along with the battleship Prince of Wales, to join a force of three cruisers (HMS Suffolk, Norfolk and French La Galissonnière) and six destroyers patrolling the Denmark Strait. The French cruiser, out of repairs and a brand-new radar, would be the first to spot the Germans, in the night of May 13th. The French cruiser followed at a safe distance, bringing its companions to the chase.

The French cruiser kept its course, managing to continually keep the Bismarck on radar but clearly out of range of its guns. And when Feige sent the Prinz Eugen to deal with it, the cruiser withdrew and let the Norfolk handle things. In fact, the Norfolk would even have a small engagement with the Bismarck, having strayed a little too close to the battleship.

With the German ships clearly in sight, though, admiral Holland (aboard the Hood) had time to execute his head-on approach, though the angle was not completely at the British advantage. At 05:30 in the morning of May 14th, the two British heavy units had spotted the German ships, and got ready for contact. Detected early by the hydrophones of the Prinz Eugen, there followed a small lull when the German ships tried to avoid head-on contact which would be unfavourable for them.

The British shot first, though their volley in fact aimed at the Prinz Eugen. The Prince of Wales struck again, and managed to hit the Bismarck twice, with the Hood hitting once, causing damage to a boiler room. With little damage done, Holland closed the range at high speed, before the first volley of the Bismarck struck. Two shells of the Bismarck hit the Hood. One struck the forward turret, disabling it almost immediately, while the other penetrated her deck armour and caused massive damage and a massive water ingress. Soon, the battlecruiser had to reduce its speed to 9 knots and fell out of formation [2].

Seeing the wounded cruiser, the cruisers immediately laid smoke and came to the rescue, providing risky but much-needed cover fire as Hood retreated behind the wall of smoke, leaving the Prince of Wales to stand alone against the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen. Despite the odds, Prince of Wales fought on, hitting Bismarck twice and Prinz Eugen once. In return, the British ship was struck no less than six times, including on its radar installation, killing or wounding the men stationed there. John Leach, commanding the battleship, finally decided to withdraw after the aft turret was put out of action, laying smoke to join the three cruisers to escort the Hood back to Scapa Flow.

Despite objections from the Bismarck’s captain, Ernst Lindemann, Otto Feige refused to give chase. Feige was under strict orders from Albrecht not to engage the Royal Navy if possible and to solely focus his attention on merchant shipping [3]. With the Bismarck damaged, however, it was not possible to continue the mission. Feige thus ordered to make a dash for Brest, in France, while the Prinz Eugen would have to hunt merchant ships.

On the British side, the HMS Suffolk was tasked with escorting the damaged Hood back to Scapa Flow, while the two remaining cruisers and the Prince of Wales would continue to shadow the Bismarck until reinforcements came to sink the vessel.

However, these attempts came up short. Prince of Wales had to abandon the pursuit, followed by La Galissonnière and finally Suffolk on May 15th, when the British lost contact with the Bismarck. But with half the Royal Navy on its heels, there was little chance for it to escape. The next day, a Catalina spotted the battleship making a run for Brittany. Immediately, the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, operating south, launched Swordfish who found a ship…the cruiser HMS Sheffield. The attack run was perfect, but the torpedoes much less as many exploded prematurely…thankfully.

A second strike was sent a few minutes later with more aircraft, who found the German battleship. Five hits were recorded on the Bismarck, which now saw its speed reduced to 14 knots, allowing for the British to close in. The first to reach were the destroyers, HMS Maori, Sikh, Zulu and Cossack, and the ORP Piorun. The battleship was still heading east unimpeded, and the destroyers could do nothing much more than harass the battleship. Sensing that the British force would not be able to close in, the commander of the Piorun, Eugeniusz Pławski, decided to take matter into his own hands.

Completely against orders, the Polish destroyer made a circle, and rushed towards the Bismarck at maximum speed. The battleship saw the little destroyer come, and fired a full broadside, which the destroyer dodged with difficulty, before launching a full salvo of six torpedoes. It was then that it was hit by a shell coming from the battleship, which annihilated its front turret and forced the destroyer to disengage. Too late for the battleship to escape damage. Five of the six torpedoes hit, further damaging the vessel and reducing its speed to 8 knots, and causing the flooding of several compartments. In response, the Piorun was mercilessly straddled and sunk by the Bismarck’s gunfire. Pławski was not amongst those rescued by the HMS Zulu.

But his actions had the desired effect. The battleship was effectively immobilized, allowing for the British to close in. The British force was led by the battleships King George V and Rodney, which were supported by the cruisers Norfolk, Dorsetshire and La Galissonnière. Struck under fire and against impossible odds, the Bismarck sank on May 18th, 1941, leaving only 216 survivors. Otto Feige was not amongst them, and neither was Ernst Lindemann, a shell having devastated the command bridge.

The Luftwaffe would try to attack the British force as it sailed back home, to no avail.

As for the Prinz Eugen…well, on May 22nd, four days after the Bismarck sank, it was spotted by a Loire 130 seaplane as it tried to find a convoy in the Mid-Atlantic. This seaplane had been launched by a task force of three ship: the French battleship Richelieu, and the light cruisers Georges Leygues and Primauguet. These ships had left their base in Gibraltar earlier in order to sweep the area around the Azores for the Bismarck in case it headed south. With the sinking of the battleships, the French ships were re-directed towards finding the tankers which were supposed to refuel the battleship in the area, a task which greatly annoyed the French sailors. When the Prinz Eugen was spotted, it was like divine intervention for the French. On board the German cruiser, Vice-Admiral Helmuth Brinkmann immediately ordered to turn tail and run. Unfortunately for it, this order came too late, and the Richelieu’s shells were just as deadly as those of the Bismarck. Struck by several shells, the Prinz Eugen did not take long to capsize. Vice-Admiral Brinkmann was eventually rescued by the Primauguet but died of his wounds on board the French light cruiser. 608 of his crew would live to see the prison camps of the Sahara.

The Allies could thus enjoy a victory over the Kriegsmarine, which had been ended as a fighting force. The Prince of Wales would see repairs, while the Hood was out of action for six months, but would finally see the extensive refit that it was waiting for since the beginning of the war, which would include reinforcing her deck armour this time [4]. For the Poles, the sailors of the Piorun were elevated not only to the status of heroes, but legends. It is not for nothing that Pławski now has an avenue named after him in Gdansk.

For the Germans, this marked the end of the Kriegsmarine as a surface fleet in the Atlantic. Albrecht, after the loss of the Bismarck, knew where the winds were blowing and preferred to resign rather than be dismissed by Hitler. Leadership of OKM fell to Karl Dönitz, head of the U-Boot arm, while Albrecht was reinstated by Hitler as “Commander of the Naval forces of the Baltic”, which was, at the time, not a bad position to be thrust into. Indeed, as Hitler abandoned the idea of a surface fleet against the Allies, he did not abandon the Tirpitz or the Graf Zeppelin, which would be used against the Soviets instead.

As for the Atlantic convoys, they would be left to the U-Boots. Hitler actually ordered Dönitz to send U-Boots to the Mediterranean as reinforcements for Mussolini, who saw his own surface fleet mauled and badly beaten, whether at Taranto or Cape Matapan. These transfers would trickle over the course of 1941, though not without the Allies reaping a large tribute. And as for the Allied heavy units, the success of the Luftwaffe against them, whether in France or in Greece, prompted Hitler to invest more into bomber units like those of the X. Fliegerkorps, which would have to harass and sink the Allied fleets in harbour or at sea.





[1] Günther Lütjens was captured by French sailors after his ship, the Gneisenau, went down during the Battle of the Norwegian Sea. His superior, Wilhelm Marschall, was killed. Lütjens is currently in a prison camp in Canada.

[2] So a lucky shot, but not one so lucky that it was fatal like the OTL one that sank Hood.

[3] As OTL, I do not see why Feige would do something different from Lütjens, or that Albrecht would take more risks than Raeder. Plus, Feige isn’t an idiot, he isn’t going to risk a torpedo attack from three cruisers just to finish off a battleship out of action for at least a few months.

[4] Due to the extensive nature of the refit, I am not sure how long she would actually need to spend in a shipyard to do this. If there are any naval experts out there, I'd appreciate if you could tell me how long this would take since it would heavily influence the South-East Asian theater.
 
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Is the Hood going to have her refit in the UK or being sent to Norfolk, or somewhere else in US? That would determine how long it might be out for and how long to get it in the pipeline. The Illustrious went into refit at Norfolk on 12 May and was finished in late October with the ship returning to Norfolk to Full service on 9 December.

 
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Będziesz zaszczycony na zawsze, Piorun! I was wondering if they would try for a boarding action, but managing to torpedo strike the Bismarck is good enough

As for Hood, there is a great video on what would have happened if she'd managed to escape her tangle with Bismarck on youtube by Drach ("The Refit of HMS Hood - But what if she had survived?") who, after studying the plans that are available in the archives, presumes that she gets to Iceland for emergency repairs, to the UK for longer lasting repairs to let her cross the Atlantic and then off to Bremerton for not just a refit but a complete overhaul and modernisation. The time needed is mentioned to be at least two and a half years with her working back up around the time of the later Pacific campaigns...

Assuming three years is more likely unless corners are cut, Hood would make it to the BPF ITTL and might tangle with some Kongos and maybe even steam in company with the US fleet when they hear about Ten-Go and go steaming in with the KGVs and have a barroom brawl with Yamato
 
Będziesz zaszczycony na zawsze, Piorun! I was wondering if they would try for a boarding action, but managing to torpedo strike the Bismarck is good enough

As for Hood, there is a great video on what would have happened if she'd managed to escape her tangle with Bismarck on youtube by Drach ("The Refit of HMS Hood - But what if she had survived?") who, after studying the plans that are available in the archives, presumes that she gets to Iceland for emergency repairs, to the UK for longer lasting repairs to let her cross the Atlantic and then off to Bremerton for not just a refit but a complete overhaul and modernisation. The time needed is mentioned to be at least two and a half years with her working back up around the time of the later Pacific campaigns...

Assuming three years is more likely unless corners are cut, Hood would make it to the BPF ITTL and might tangle with some Kongos and maybe even steam in company with the US fleet when they hear about Ten-Go and go steaming in with the KGVs and have a barroom brawl with Yamato
Or she gets sunk with PoW and Repulse.
 
The mad charge of the Piorun definitely raises the prestige of the Free Polish navy to legendary levels, though I am not sure if sacrificing one of their very few ships was strategically worth it.

So the Tirpitz is getting sent to the Baltic? Ooh boy Leningrad is not going to enjoy that! And with Finland seriously gunning for Karelia, there's reduced need to the Germans to interdict the northern convoys.

[4] Due to the extensive nature of the refit, I am not sure how long she would actually need to spend in a shipyard to do this. If there are any naval experts out there, I'd appreciate if you could tell me how long this would take since it would heavily influence the South-East Asian theater.
RamscoopRaider is one user of this forum who would likely know this, they love their naval stuff. Not sure if me just pinging them out of the blue would be within etiquette though.
 
The mad charge of the Piorun definitely raises the prestige of the Free Polish navy to legendary levels, though I am not sure if sacrificing one of their very few ships was strategically worth it.
You can always get a new ship ( just like OTL Britain will be probably building more ships than she can man ) , reputations however are much harder to obtain.
 
I feel sorry for Piorun. Right next to the sacrifice of Taffy 3, it will be one of those stories where David defeated Goliath again.


I hope that in return the Katyn massacre will not take place in the USSR. So more former Polish Army soldiers would leave the USSR, which would allow for greater expansion of the Polish Army in the West and the creation of the Polish Front in 1944 in the East.

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I feel sorry for Piorun. Right next to the sacrifice of Taffy 3, it will be one of those stories where David defeated Goliath again.


I hope that in return the Katyn massacre will not take place in the USSR. So more former Polish Army soldiers would leave the USSR, which would allow for greater expansion of the Polish Army in the West and the creation of the Polish Front in 1944 in the East.

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Unfortunately the Katyn Massacre has already happened since 1940. So unless there is another major butterfly it wouldn't be avoided ITTL.
 
Is the Hood going to have her refit in the UK or being sent to Norfolk, or somewhere else in US? That would determine how long it might be out for and how long to get it in the pipeline. The Illustrious went into refit at Norfolk on 12 May and was finished in late October with the ship returning to Norfolk to Full service on 9 December.


Different scenarios. Illustrious' repairs would be far less extensive than Hood.

As for Hood, there is a great video on what would have happened if she'd managed to escape her tangle with Bismarck on youtube by Drach ("The Refit of HMS Hood - But what if she had survived?") who, after studying the plans that are available in the archives, presumes that she gets to Iceland for emergency repairs, to the UK for longer lasting repairs to let her cross the Atlantic and then off to Bremerton for not just a refit but a complete overhaul and modernisation. The time needed is mentioned to be at least two and a half years with her working back up around the time of the later Pacific campaigns...

That's probably the decision I'll go with. "Short" repairs in the U.K and then longer repairs and modernization work in the U.S. It would also free up the slot picked up by the Vanguard for a modern battlecruiser and extend Hood's life all the way to the 70s or even 80s. But that means Hood won't appear again until mid-1944...

Or she gets sunk with PoW and Repulse.

That's if PoW and Repulse get sunk in the first place. Due to the KM getting bludgeoned and the RM being out of action, there will be more ships available for the Far East.

A very lucky hit as Hood would be in an East Coast US shipyard.

Yeah, the Hood won't be sent to Singapore anytime soon.

The mad charge of the Piorun definitely raises the prestige of the Free Polish navy to legendary levels, though I am not sure if sacrificing one of their very few ships was strategically worth it.

Massive propaganda and pride victory. Being "the ship that prevented the Bismarck from escaping" while being a small destroyer against a massive battleship is free PR.

You can always get a new ship ( just like OTL Britain will be probably building more ships than she can man ) , reputations however are much harder to obtain.

As said by Admiral Cunningham himself!

I hope that in return the Katyn massacre will not take place in the USSR. So more former Polish Army soldiers would leave the USSR, which would allow for greater expansion of the Polish Army in the West and the creation of the Polish Front in 1944 in the East.
Unfortunately Katyn has already happened and there weren't a lot of butterflies possible to stop it.
 
That's probably the decision I'll go with. "Short" repairs in the U.K and then longer repairs and modernization work in the U.S. It would also free up the slot picked up by the Vanguard for a modern battlecruiser and extend Hood's life all the way to the 70s or even 80s. But that means Hood won't appear again until mid-1944...
Mid-1944 return would means Hood v Nagato is possible unless things go badly ITTL. Are you planning on cancelling Vanguard as she would have been on the slips in a few months at John Brown's...

With you saying Hood could have her life extended to the 70's or even 80's, I presume you mean as some sort of national pet ship thats taken care of and used sparingly. Outside the scope of this thread, but it does raise the delightful specter of Hood going to the Falklands with the fleet, engaging General Belgrano, and then being used for naval gun fire support in the landings
 
Mid-1944 return would means Hood v Nagato is possible unless things go badly ITTL. Are you planning on cancelling Vanguard as she would have been on the slips in a few months at John Brown's...

With you saying Hood could have her life extended to the 70's or even 80's, I presume you mean as some sort of national pet ship thats taken care of and used sparingly. Outside the scope of this thread, but it does raise the delightful specter of Hood going to the Falklands with the fleet, engaging General Belgrano, and then being used for naval gun fire support in the landings
What are you drinking...., I know that south-americans are into all that macho stuff etc.. But they are not stupid. 6 inch guns and thin armour against 15 inch guns, is only having an death wish.
 
Chapter 33: Operation Barbarossa – The War goes East (June – July 1941 - East)
June - July 1941

Eastern Front

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While the Soviet Union would later deny it in later years, it and Germany had been extremely close ever since the days of the Molotov-Ribbentropp pact. From the joint parades in Polish streets to the numerous trade agreements and even a negotiation of a Soviet entry into the Axis pact, the two countries enjoyed warm relations. However, with growing German appetite in the East, these relations had somewhat cooled, but Stalin, in Moscow, did not fear anything.

The Germans were already fighting a war against the British Empire, still hadn’t kicked the Allied powers from Europe, and had lost almost all of their fighting navy in the opening months of the war. Besides, the Soviet army was the largest and best in the world, and sheer numbers would easily defeat any German invasion. To prove this point, the difficulty in which Germany had in defeating the Low Countries, Norway, France or even Greece were testament to this. No, Stalin was so confident that when German soldiers defected to the Soviets warning them of the invasion, they were executed!

However, on the other side, things had been ramping up to this moment for a long time. The invasion of the Soviet Union had been planned by the Germans ever since the fall of France, and nothing would stop them from putting them in motion. And while certain officials warned of the sheer titanic effort this would require, Hitler brushed them off. The Soviets would not take long to fall. “One good kick and the whole rotten structure would come falling down”, was the prevalent mood. And then, the addition of many fertile territories such as the Ukraine would do a lot of good to the German economy, under blockade by Britain. Not to mention the Baku oil fields… [1]

And, of course, there was the sense of needing to do a crusade. Against the Jews, the Slavs, the barbarians living in the eastern border. These populations would have to be eradicated, displaced or killed, and replaced with German colonies and administrators, so that they could feed and work for the Master Race [2]. And the economists who pointed out that occupying these territories would be a burden to the Reich were, of course, dismissed as foolish or even downright traitorous [3].

To achieve this massive endeavour, Germany had to call on all its available divisions. The Luftwaffe was ordered to focus solely on Barbarossa, turning away from the Greek front where reinforcements could’ve maybe broken the aerial stalemate with the Allies. In addition, Germany would receive the support of its Allies: Finns to the north, Slovakia and Hungary and Romania in Army Group South. The latter were included in Barbarossa in order to make up for German losses in France and divisions that needed to be placed on the Greek front.

On June 22nd, 1941, the Germans finally put their plan into motion. Before the first tanks had even crossed the border, swarms of German aircraft wandered into Soviet airspace, alongside a few Hungarian and Romanian Bf-109s. Completely taken by surprise, the Soviet air force was absolutely dismantled. The few patrols that managed to take off were hacked to pieces by the Germans, though they fought hard and with the energy of despair each time. The VVS, reacting late, ordered their units to react against the Axis air forces almost as individual aircraft, without coordination. The results were devastating. By the end of the day, the Soviet Union had lost almost three thousand aircraft, against a mere thirty to forty for the attackers. And that number would continue to climb in the following days…

On the ground, it was much of the same. Completely taken by surprise, the Red Army was swept out of the field on every axis of attack. Contrarily to what some may think, though, the Red Army did not completely rout. Rather, it stood its ground, and even counter-attacked in some instances. For example, at Raisenai, in Lithuania, the troops of the 6th and 4th Panzer Divisions were faced with an armored assault that caught them off-guard. The Red Army had deployed over 700 tanks to drive a wedge in the German forces, with some KV heavy tanks even managing to reach the German rear! It must be said that the Germans themselves were surprised by the robustness of the KVs, which proved a match for a lot of their own Panzers. This did not mean that they were invulnerable, as the tanks were eventually destroyed, but at the cost of valuable time for the German armor. The local pyrrhic success at Raisenai could not be exploited as the German troops threatened an encirclement, forcing the tanks to withdraw to Kaunas after leaving as many as three quarters of their armored vehicles on the field.

In the Baltic area, though, was a man with a plan. Erwin Rommel had been reprimanded for his hot-headedness in France, but he was now looking at ways to redeem himself. Launched at the head of his Baltischer Korps, the general was assigned under the 4th Panzer Army, alongside Von Manstein and Reinhardt. With two Panzer Divisions under his command, the general flanked Kaunas and Vilnius, outrunning and outmanoeuvring the Soviet 11th Army of general Morozov. Rommel’s actions managed to trap the Soviet 11th Army under the Dvina River, where Von Manstein had managed to establish a bridgehead. The encirclement of the Soviet 11th Army along the Drina would prove disastrous for the Soviets, who would lose a major fighting force that would be needed for the fights around Leningrad [4].

In the meantime, the 4th Panzer Army continued to dash along the Baltic states, welcomed by a quite generally friendly population. Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian flags were brought out…until they were burnt down and replaced with the swastika flag. Manstein, Reinhardt and Rommel were thus free to run straight towards Leningrad without much opposition. At the end of the month of July, the German Panzers were within reach of Leningrad, but needed to rest. In essence however, Ostland had been conquered, and Novgorod had fallen [5].

In the centre, while things were going well, it was not exactly going as well as expected. Of course, most of Belarussia had been wiped clean. Brest had been completely encircled, allowing for the annihilation of the Soviet forces there. While Soviet propaganda would boast the feats of the “hero fortress” after the war, stating that it had held for 32 days, in reality it only held for a week. And in the meantime, German forces were already driving deep into Belarussian territory, in two large pincers that threatened to envelop the entire Soviet device. And these pincers would soon close at the end of the month, trapping about half a million soldiers near Minsk and Białystok. On June 26th and 28th, these two cities fell. The Soviet 3rd, 10th and 13th armies had ceased to exist. However, this came at a high cost for the Germans who had to mop up these encirclements, and who had to rest before resuming offensive operations.

These losses were not much of a consolation for the head of the Belarussian Front, general Pavlov. Accused of having withdrawn without giving battle, and for having attended a comedy in Kiev rather than commanding at the front, he was executed along with his chief of staff and his head of communications.

The week delay in the resumption of offensive operations had frustrated the German generals, but by July, they were once again on their way towards Smolensk, which could be used as a bridgehead towards Moscow. Mogilev was encircled by the SS Das Reich Division, but fierce resistance at Smolensk blunted the until then unstoppable German advance. Not to mention the stubborn resistance of the encircled troops at Mogilev, who refused to bend under the German pressure. Soviet counter-offensives to re-establish a link with the city failed, but so did Heinz Guderian’s frontal attacks on the city. At the cost of high casualties, the 17th Panzer Division did break into the city, but without the fanfare that it previously had in Minsk or Vitebsk. This time, there was brutal house to house fighting, and while the Germans emerged victorious, they failed to establish a bridgehead on the Desna. A pause was thus ordered, with Guderian wishing to drive east over the Dniepr towards Vyazma. However, in the Ukraine, things were not going as well, and Hitler would order Guderian to divert his forces southwards. Something that Guderian never truly forgave him for…but the delay in carrying out these orders would also cost his Panzers dearly… [6]

In the Ukraine, things were not going as well as elsewhere for the Germans. While the Front commander, Mikhail Kirponos, was just as shocked about the German invasion as elsewhere, and without clear intelligence on the enemy forces, he was also more resourceful than his northern colleague, Pavlov. After the initial shock, Kirponos, under the orders of the STAVKA, counter-attacked along the front. These counter-attacks were launched at the corps level, but were at least partially organised and had specific objectives. Despite this, they failed one after the other, as their forces were annihilated by the German, but also Hungarian and Romanian forces. However, Kirponos did encounter local success, with some divisions wreaking havoc on the German rear, which forced the offensive to slow down and Soviet infantry to withdraw. T-34 and KV tanks proved deadly, and delayed the German advance for almost a week, so much so that the Hungarians were called to plug in the gaps in the shocked German lines in certain cases.

Despite the Soviet armoured forces being shattered, STAVKA commander Zhukov ordered Kirponos to strike again, with the forces he had. Kirponos vigorously objected, saying that this attack would destabilize the whole front, but had to comply. In the end, these attacks would just gnaw at the Soviets even further. This failure prompted Kirponos to be removed as Front commander and replaced by Semyon Budyonny. This one was completely ineffective, and when the German Panzers broke out towards Uman, reacted with no real cohesion or plan. Instead, he let the Germans and Hungarians run towards the south, and encircle three more Soviet armies. The Soviets attempted to break out, but were met with failure. Von Rundstedt had managed to outsmart Budyonny and move his Panzers on his rear faster than he could redeploy reinforcements. Commanders of the encircled divisions asked to break out towards the southeast, but were met with rebuttals wishing for them to break out towards the east, where the German lines were strongest. Instead, the German-Hungarian Panzers ground the Soviet units down, though a good chunk would resist until August, delaying the German advance.

Kirponos, for his part, had taken charge of the defense of Kiev. The city was put under a state of siege, ready to receive the German attack. With the charge on Uman, though, the Panzers were busy at work elsewhere, and Kirponos’ preparations of the city had made the Germans wary. Indeed, Von Rundstedt noticed that the defenses of the city were galvanized and that sending troops would be akin to leading lambs to the slaughter. Kiev could not be assaulted, and one of the initial objectives of Barbarossa was finally checked. The Soviets thus had time to protect the flank of the Ukrainian city, around Gomel and along the Dniepr.

Zhukov, seeing the German advance, advised Stalin to retreat to the Dniepr, thus past Kiev. When confronted with the possibility of abandoning the city to the Germans without a fight, Stalin rebuked Zhukov. Frustrated, the latter dared Stalin to send him to a frontline unit if he did not consider his advice valid. Though he escaped the front, Zhukov was demoted and sent to the reserves, leaving general Shaposhnikov in command as chief of the Red Army.

Despite these misgivings, Kirponos did his best in Kiev. Taking advantage of the German fatigue, he blocked an attempt at creating a bridgehead on the Dniepr to the south of the city, and managed to hold Korosten with the help of Vlasov’s 37th Army. Suddenly, the Germans became much warier of the threat Kiev posed to their position. A dagger ready to strike at the heart of their device, but also a golden opportunity to encircle more than a million Soviet troops… [7]

Finally, at the very south of the device, the Romanians launched their offensive. Aiming to retake Bessarabia, the forces of the Romanian 3rd and 4th Armies rushed towards Chernivtsi, capturing it on July 5th, despite fierce opposition from the Soviets. Here, the Romanians were less supported by the Luftwaffe, which also had to cover Greece, and thus mostly relied on their aircraft, which had been modernized with German help (Bf109, Ju 87...). Supported by the Germans of the 11th Army, the Romanians used their German-made Panzers to good effect: with their own sweeping strike, they rushed to Chisinau, then the Dniestr, shocking the Soviets with their fast breakthrough. The Romanians managed to obtain a bridgehead on the Dniestr, and seized Tiraspol. The Romanians aimed to cut off Odessa, but with the difficult terrain and almost omnipresent marshes, the advance stalled.

In the meantime, the Soviet 9th Army had trouble withdrawing in the Danube, where the Romanian gunboats dueled against the Soviet ones...but with increased pressure from the sea and air, the Soviets did not have time to properly withdraw in the Delta. With the breakthrough along the Dniestr, the 9th Army was ordered to bunk down in Odessa, but facing harassment from sea and air, only half of the 9th Army made it there. As a result, the Odessa Military District was essentially wiped out. The 9th Army was annihilated on the banks of the Black Sea and the rest of it would eventually make a last stand at Odessa, while the 12th and 18th Army would be encircled in the Uman pockets, further north. The 9th Army would fight along with a token force called the “Coastal Army” would manage to resist in Odessa, and would make the Romanians pay as they entered the city. Savage urban fighting ensued for two long months, but the city was doomed. The sacrifice of the Soviet defenders was valiant, but in the end only delayed the inevitable, and the city would fall to the Romanians on September 26th, 1941.

And it was not only on land that the Romanians were winning, but also at sea. On June 26th, the Soviets organized a raid on the Romanian port of Constanța, but was met with abject failure. The Soviet force, comprising of the cruiser Voroshilov and four destroyers, shelled the port, before being attacked by…Romanian destroyers. The destroyers, along with fire from coastal batteries, pushed the Soviets into a minefield, which the Moskva ran into head first. The vessel quickly sank, forcing the rest to withdraw. But the Romanians were not done, as while an air battle was going on, a formation of Romanian Ju 87 pursued the Soviet fleet with cover provided by Romanian Air Force IAR-80s. Not used to bombing ships, the Romanians missed most of their shots, but were helped since the Voroshilov had to reduce speed because of damage done by one of the mines. The cruiser, struck by four bombs, sunk around noon, with most of its crew recovered by the Soviet destroyers.

This was not the only Romanian naval victory, as a few days later, the Soviet submarine Shch-206 would be sunk by the old torpedo boat Năluca. On August 15th, the Romanian submarine Delfinul would sink the old Soviet destroyer Dzerzhinsky which carried supplies into Odessa. Despite some heavy losses, the Romanian Army had commended itself well in Bessarabia and southern Ukraine, and helped the Germans achieve their objectives in the south. They would thus be redeployed towards Nikolayev (today Mykolaiv) for the upcoming invasion of Crimea [8].

In conclusion, Barbarossa had succeeded beyond the Germans’ wildest dreams. But the operation was not over, and it would now be time for them to rush even further east.



[1] No one dared to mention that the Germans wouldn’t have the necessary tools to repair the devastated oil fields even if they did come to take them.

[2] This plan was known as the infamous “Generalplan Ost”. The goal was no less than the genocide of more than sixty million people.

[3] For fear of Hitler’s wrath, many reports, notably by general Thomas, were falsified to present things according to Hitler’s way. The initial reports, though, did not look good for the German economy, even if the Ukraine and the Baku oil fields were seized without damage…

[4] OTL Manstein and Reinhardt failed to encircle large numbers of Soviet troops due to the 11th Army’s hasty retreat. Not the case here as Rommel outmaneuvers them.

[5] So things here are actually going better for the Germans. No Soviet 11th Army means no counter-attack at Soltsy, and the Soviets cannot defend Leningrad as well as they did in OTL. Rommel’s force essentially stands in for an 8th Panzer weakened after losses in the Battle of France.

[6] Things go about as OTL for the Germans until Smolensk. A bloodier battle means that the 10th Panzer Division, already bled on the Western Front, cannot break out on the Desna and the Germans are now vulnerable to a Soviet counter-attack on Smolensk city rather than the outskirts.

[7] Things go slightly better for the Soviets than OTL on this front, with slightly more effective Soviet counter-attacks due to a less prevalent Luftwaffe and the prevention of a bridgehead on the Dniepr. Kiev is still threatened, but the Germans haven’t reached Korosten yet. Uman still happens, but because of the delay of the Panzers and the Romanians focused on the south, the Soviets can save some troops beyond the Dniepr which they lost in pockets in OTL.

[8] Minor nations do better here. Romania beefed up with more modern tanks and aircraft means a more decisive victory along the Dniestr means that the 9th Army cannot withdraw all of its forces in time and less defenders are present in Odessa. As a result it falls a little sooner than OTL, but the Romanians also suffer more casualties.
 
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It begins. Hungary and Slovakia haven't had a good chance to show off yet, but Romania is definitely making the south move faster. The center's slightly to Germany's disadvantage. But the north is going VERY well. Combine Rommel's charge with a more committed Finland, and I expect Leningrad will fall.

Would the Germans even accept a surrender of Soviet forces in Leningrad? Letting the citizens of the city starve is in line with the Hunger Plan...
 
Wheres the Blue Division? The Walloon/Flemish (or Belgian) Legion? The LVF? (And if Germany is really desperate for manpower) - asking Eoin O'Duffy for Irish volunteers...
 
It begins. Hungary and Slovakia haven't had a good chance to show off yet, but Romania is definitely making the south move faster. The center's slightly to Germany's disadvantage. But the north is going VERY well. Combine Rommel's charge with a more committed Finland, and I expect Leningrad will fall.

Would the Germans even accept a surrender of Soviet forces in Leningrad? Letting the citizens of the city starve is in line with the Hunger Plan...
Well, the TL focuses on minor powers doing better... Leningrad goes behind the Germans back and surrenders to the Finns?
 
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