Awesome: The Big One
The Big One
- Stalin's Dying Moment of Awesome (that we're only told about): when Moscow fell in 1942, he shaved his head and trademark moustache, joined an infantry unit as a random private, and died covering the retreat of the soldiers, joining the ranks of "the never-to-be-forgotten Russian folk-heroes"... Just as Planned. There are tales of him actually escaping Moscow and being executed in a military coup, but that of Stalin dying in battle as a random private is the one that will be recorded in official history, for obvious reasons. In the short story "Changing of the Guard it is revealed that the "killed in a coup" account is actually the correct one. This story forms the preface to the upcoming novel "Kazan Thunderbolts.
- Another Offscreen Moment of Awesome we're told about in the same book is the Battle of the Orkneys. In 1945 the German Navy sailed out with all their remaining surface fleet of two carriers (yes, in this timeline Germany built the carriers), five battleships, three heavy cruisers and twelve destroyers, sending bombastic messages back home-and giving away their location early. What followed was the mother of all carrier strikes, launched by 24 carriers (twenty Essex-class, three Independence class V Ls and two Gettysburgs, this timeline's version of the Midway-class). The German fleet ceased to be although it cost the carriers more than 400 aircraft to do it.
- Colonel Kast and his Kampfgruppe 40, a unit of light bombers, manage to track down the carrier USS Shiloh and inflict fatal damage right before the nuclear attack. Before then, for seven years, the Germans had failed to even track down the carriers, let alone sink or even damage one of them. They also knew they would get wiped out in the process, but did it anyway because nineteen aircrafts attacking the whole American navy and scoring a hit would have been worth something.
- What did Goering do when he was told of the raid? Not much: he went in the NAIADS headquarter, openly criticized Hitler while they waited for the bombers to come to Berlin, and when the last defensive line failed to stop the bombing he bet one of the girls manning the place on how many nukes would be dropped on them (a honeymoon in his hunting lodge versus a cheap bracelet) to make sure everybody would think about the future and what they'd do if they survived. Then he made sure the NAIADS commander took the precautions necessary so that the bunker and its occupant could survive to anything but being at ground zero of a nuke and, once everyone above him was dead, he saved what remained of Germany by surrendering, and paid the bet to the girl (he had bet on nine nukes, the girl bet on the twelve that the Americans effectively dropped). Incidentally, the surrender was the whole reason he was at NAIADS to begin with: to use its powerful communication apparate to surrender once he had the authority to. Oh, and he guessed they were carrying nukes before the first one was dropped-and may have manipulated Hitler and the other Nazi leaders into believing the raid was being defeated, thus keeping them where they would be killed.
- This is also a moment of awesome for the builders of the bunker, that survived twelve nuclear strikes in quick succession. Granted, none of them was directly above the bunker, and it was heavily damaged once all the strikes hit it, but it survived, and nobody inside died.
- An incident that made a certain troper feel warm inside. A restored Caliphate has pissed off the United States by shooting at an American bomber on a mostly peaceful recon mission, and the US has issued an ultimatum to the Caliphate: Grovel and pay restitutions, or we will wipe you out to the last man, woman, and child. The Caliphs are unconcerned; God will save them from the infidel, and visit his righteous wrath on the Americans. Eventually their professional military advisor, a defected Nazi who remembers when Germany was wiped off the map, gets their attention by shooting one of them, and delivers the following speech, paraphrased.
- Wehrmacht Officer: When the Americans came for my country, they killed 60 million people. Each of the bombs those American planes are carrying are as powerful as all the bombs dropped on Germany combined, each plane can carry 4 such bombs, and the Americans have sent thousands of those planes. You say Allah will protect you from the Americans? Who will protect Allah from the Americans?
- When the Royal Navy escaped to Canada, the Germans managed to capture two incomplete and scuttled carriers, and had the British yards use the pieces to build a working carrier. The British resistance managed to slip all sort of defects under the nose of the Nazi overseers, such as watertigh bulkheads and seals that dripped all the time, watertight doors that didn't fit, and, just to be bastards, the critical hatches to escape in case of fatal damage would jam, the officer latrines couldn't be opened from the inside and the paintjob of the mess was nausea-inducing. The ship stunk. Literally, as the yard workers made sure the paint was as smelly as possible.
- They also did one better with the original HMCS Quebec, seized in shipyard. After a while, the Germans put a prize crew on her so she would be transferred to Germany for completion. Thanks to whatever the yard workers did to her (rumour being that dockside workers replaced the rivets holding the hull plating under the engine room in place with painted-over soap), the ship floundered mid-cruise and sank where she couldn't be recovered. This is Truth in Television in that it is believed to have been done to an old Australian destroyer being sent away for scrap.
- American industry. The sheer scale of what it can produce is awe-inspiring, even (especially) for the enemy. To say it with Major-General Marcks' words:
- "When we fly a Tante Ju transport up here, everybody fights for centimeters of space, for every kilogram of load, because we do not know when the aircraft will be available again. When a mother in Arkansas wants to send her little boy some cookies, if there is no space on the aircraft, the Amis build another one."
- Marcks' comment above was part of him explaining a staff officer with little experience how the Americans had just destroyed his headquarter: to replace the heavy artillery battery he had got destroyed earlier, the officer had used the long-range radio to talk with his connections, and an American aircraft with radio interception equipment, something the Germans cannot afford to build, used that to fix the position of the radio, and thus the one of Marcks' headquarter, to call in a railway artillery strike, the guns using 406mm caliber weighing 1,300 kilos each made to penetrate the ground 30-40 meters before exploding, transforming the whole area in quicksands and burying whatever the shockwave from the explosions had not destroyed and making that zone impossible to walk over until it froze back. Marcks found out just in time to order a general evacuation...
- Flight Lieutenant George Brumby, of the Royal Australian Air Force, flies a Dragon Rapide, a slow and flimsy cargo biplane. Not only he does it in weather that keeps the best aircraft around grounded, but got a kill with that: an enemy fighter tried to shoot him down, but Brumby continuously outmanouvered it until he managed to make it crash on a pine.
- In The Big One we had a mention of the Battle of the Orkneys between the main force of the Kriegsmarine and the US Navy. Here we get to see it as it really happened rathr than through the eyes of a Unreliable Narrator. The Germans have eight battleships (the two Scharnhorst-class battleships, now refitted with 38cm guns and a better bow, the two Bismarcks, both with the new bow, and four Derfflinger-class, based on the H-39 proposal and armed with 40.6cm guns), three carriers (the Graf Zeppelin, the Oswald Boelke, formerly the cruiser Seydlitz, and the Werner Voss, assembled from the incomplete British-built Implacable and Indefatigable), three heavy cruisers (the two surviving pocket battleships and the Admiral Hipper), three light cruisers (the old Koln and the two Leipzig-class cruisers) and thirty destroyers (the ten survivors of the pre-war model and nineteen overgunned ones of a new model). The crews include Germany's best officers, such as Lindemann (as the commander of the fleet) and Lutjens (as his chief of staff).
The US fleet, commanded by William Halsey, has five carrier groups (not carriers, carrier groups. That is 25 carriers, most of them Essex-class with a few Gettysburgs), plus the escort of two convoys (a large merchant convoy whose escort included two old battleships and a smaller troop convoy, faster but with only cruisers and destroyers from the British Empire) and a small hunter-killer group (two light carriers and a group of destroyers that search for U-Bootes to destroy them) that happened to be in the area, track them early thanks to land-based radio interception aircrafts picking up their radio chatter and their own recon planes identifying both the German carriers and the German recon planes without being caught (the advantage of having a radar on a plane with the enemy not having it).
The first strike comes from the hunter-killer group Sitka, whose planes massacre the German recon Stukas. But not in time to stop them from spotting and reporting their position.
Believing Sitka to be an actual carrier group, and thus guessing it was only time before they suffered a carrier strike, admiral Brinkmann, commander of the German carriers, gave a desperate order: launch the planes with their engines cold, knowingly sacrificing some of the bombers and fighters (as their engines would stall at the wrong moment) to put them in the air faster, thus striking the enemy earlier and having their fighters, Ta-152s adapted for carrier use, in place for the enemy attack without having the deck full of flammable fuel and bombs. They barely made in time to put in the air 32 (of 48) fighters before twice their number of American FV-2s, carrier-adapted versions of the P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter-bomber, showed up and attacked, starting from the last 14 of the 48 fighters taking off (the missing two had failed to take off and sunk due the col engines). The German fighters were obviously wiped out, but still managed to use their superior manouverability to score 20 kills before being annihilated. Then the first American anti-ship wave (Corsairs for anti-aircraft defence suppression) showed up and left the carriers and their escort of light cruisers and destroyers heavily damaged and softened up for the torpedo and dive bombers to take down all the carriers and light cruisers plus nine destroyers.
As for the German carrier strike... Sitka had 32 modern Bearcats, was being reinforced by a squadron of Corsairs, and was facing less than 70 Stukas (the survivors of the recon squadron, equipped with bombs just in case and coming in piecemeal, and 30-40 properly fitted ones coming in as a single force with an escort of twelve Ta-152s), and their philosophy in terms of anti-aircraft fire was to fire so many guns that if the shells and fragments didn't hit the attacker then the attacker hit them. The Stukas were wiped out, and the only reason they managed to hit the carriers (one by a 250 kg bomb from the last scout and one by a damaged Stuka that crashed on her. Only the second achieved great damage) was that the Corsairs mistook the Bearcats for Ta-152s (the paintjob was similar, and the Corsair pilots had forgot the warning they'd been given about that) and attacked them first.
Then the attack on the main force started. Multiple waves of rocket-armed FV-2s, rocket and bomb-equipped Corsairs (with some bombs being napalm), Skyraider torpedo bombers and Maulers with rocket-propelled bombs, for a total of about two thousands aircrafts against eight battleships, three heavy cruisers and a group of destroyers, all with inadequate point defence. Curb-Stomp Battle doesn't even begin to describe what happened.
And so, the High Sea Fleet of the Kriegsmarine ceased to exist. Halsey's report on the battle is quite descriptive:
- The German Fliegershrek is a primitive anti-aircraft man-portable rocket, based on the Panzershrek anti-tank rocket. Being one of the earliest two-stage rockets, it's incredibly inaccurate, and pretty much impossible to aim properly. Captain Lang, the above-mentioned staff officer with little field experience, can. It helps that he wrote the user's manual, and to do so he had to fire a lot of them, gaining more experience with the thing than most frontline soldiers.
- A detachment from the German 71st Infantry Division has captured a railway junction and setted the rails so that two American railway guns would have no choice but stop or go deep into German-held territory. There was a group of Siberian ski troops trying to help them, but even with air support they couldn't capture the junction and hold it. So what did the Siberians and the railway gun crews do? The Siberians attacked under aircraft cover and setted the junction so that the railway guns would be able to retreat, and the guns ran through it at full speed with their crews firing their personal weapons while the first one smashed through the half-track put on the rails to stop the attempt. Oh, and they picked up the Siberians while they were at that.