How silent fall the cherry blossoms page 63 alternate history discussion electricity physics

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The attack on December 16th had been bad enough tearing open a hole in the American lines. But the surprise chemical attacks of the 17th and 18th had been absolute murder, both figuratively and literally. The gap between Montgomery’s and Patton’s army’s was still gaping large and the Wehrmacht was pouring everything it had left through it. The 5th and 6th Panzer Divisions were now closing on Antwerp. If no one stopped them all estimates said they would be in the city within a week.

One of the issues Montgomery had thought might be in his favor was the fact that the Germans didn’t have enough fuel to power an offensive for overly long. But then at several key points the Germans had come across whole depots of fuel left behind by quickly disintegrating American units. The irony was that the Germans were heading toward Antwerp now being powered primarily by American diesel fuel! If the situation weren’t so serious Montgomery might have been laughing. He was certain the Germans were!

Then there was the news from Paris. General Eisenhower’s death had hit everyone on his staff hard, including him. Montgomery and Eisenhower were known to have had major differences, but all in all Montgomery had the highest respect for Eisenhower. He would be sorely missed. In the meantime there was no one to coordinate a defense. So, it was every man or commander for himself.

Now looking at the map of the situation Montgomery felt a creeping feeling of déjà vu. If the Germans reached Antwerp then Montgomery’s supplies would be cut off and the 21st Army Group would also be cut off just as the British had been in 1940. Only this time it was unlikely that there would be a second miracle of Dunkirk. The question was should he drive southward and try to link up with Patton whom, he hoped, would be counterattacking from the south? Or, should he pull back and try to stop the Panzers before they reached Antwerp?

There was no contact with Patton at all since the attacks had started. The fact was that communications on the front at this point were all but non-existent. German agents, dressed in American uniforms, had cut telephone lines and destroyed communications centers. Montgomery was operating in the blind until he got word either from Paris from whoever would replace Eisenhower or from Patton.

General Montgomery considered and then started issuing orders. The 21st army group would begin to withdraw and reorganize around Antwerp as necessary. If all went well Montgomery intended to stop the Germans at Antwerp and push them back. If it did not he intended to try and hold a corridor for his army group to retreat back into Northern France. One way or another there would be no repeat of June 1940.

Click to expand…Thing is, he’s already got some fairly major forces defending Antwerp – the majority of 1st Canadian Army has just finished clearing the Scheldt Estuary and now has minimal front (mostly river lines to the North – given the Germans have just committed all their reserves they won’t be facing much!) to hold so will mostly be resting/refitting round Antwerp. Instead of using them to set up a stop-line, he’s ordering the withdrawal of 2nd British Army to around Antwerp in case he needs to secure his lines of communication for a withdrawal to Northern France or the UK.

Montgomery has ordered 2nd British Army to withdraw towards Antwerp. That means all the other forces under his command have to too, and ensures that far from Patton having an anvil to hit the Germans against they’re guaranteed a safe withdrawal route North – not to mention he’s throwing away all the bridgeheads taken during Market Garden.

He’s in a massively strong position, with the Germans doing their best to emulate Gaius Terentius Varro at Cannae – if he holds position, all he needs to do is keep his nerve and wait for the Americans to attack from the south. Even if they take Antwerp, the Germans will have pretty much their entire reserve force at the end of a narrow, 100 mile corridor with powerful enemy forces on both flanks. Unless the enemy commanders panic (which Montgomery appears to be doing and Patton appears not to be) it’s a military disaster in the making.

If so, the Allies actually have an option that didn’t exist in Japan, such as tactical use to destroy German troop concentrations and defenses in cooperation with ground offenses (remember, the long-term effects of radiation after the initial explosions were not fully understood).

However, assuming the targets are cities deep in Germany or Austria, the USAAF would have to use a different approach than they did against Japan. The use of virtually solitary high altitude B-29 "weather planes" to drop the bombs as at Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be far too risky. Even in 1945, USAAF bombers penetrating into Germany had to traverse more hostile airspace than they did in Japan. And German air defenses, while still not ideally suited to the extremely high altitudes B-29s could bomb from, were still much more capable than their Japanese counterparts.

Regarding targets, I really think Linz would be seen as a waste of effort and Vienna has no real association with the Nazi regime. If I was wanting to send a message, I’d choose either Munich (important for the Putsch in Nazi legend) or Nurnberg (Key site for Nazi rallies). A reasonable and safer option would be Hamburg (on coast and much less risk of the B-29s being lost). I also wonder if the US might not immediately drop the first bomb they had, but at least wait until Fat Man was also available to deliver a bigger message at once.