Thursday, July 7, 2016

Fictional AltHistory #7: Kasierreich Part 1

One of the greatest things about video games, computer games especially, may not be the games themselves, though they may be pretty good. No, one of the best things about computer video games can be the user modifications, or mods.

For years I was on the fence about mods. For one thing, you have the ones for Minecraft that just makes everything ten times more stupidly complicated, but also has things like nuclear reactors. Then there are the ones for, say Fallout: New Vegas that focuses solely on trying to make sure rocks are not hovering a few inches above the ground and you won't see things like old ladies flying through the air.

Okay... so that bullet to the head did a lot more damage than I thought...
But then there is the Paradox Interactive games. Those games are a modders dream: complex yet deep mechanics, easy file manipulation, and, despite the lack of fancy graphics or things, a deep storytelling ability.

For today,  I'm going to take a look at one of those mods (which in itself is played on a modded version of Hearts of Iron 2 called Darkest Hour), the immensely popular Kasierreich. But unlike my usual "What ifs?" when it comes to fictional media, Kasierreich itself is a massive Alternate History, where Germany won World War One (the Weltkrieg ATL), so instead I'm going to look at a few of the bits of AH in the lore, and explain if they are plausible, with a ranking of 1 (totally implausible) to 10 (very implausible) just to make things easier.

 Urge to hum "Die Wacht am Rhein" rising...

POD: No Submarines, No USA

The major point of divergence in the Kaiserreich TL is that German military leaders like General Ludendorff decide not to resume unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1917, not wanting to bring the US and it's massive industrial potential and manpower reserves into the fight on the side of it's enemies. This, along with Russia dropping out of the war, gives Germany a huge advantage through 1917 and 1918.

Plausibility: 5/10. German leaders had long considered the sorry state of the US military in the years leading up to the Weltkrieg to mean that the US was virtually defenceless. While the US Navy was getting some new and powerful Dreadnought battleships, the army was tiny, ill-trained and not prepared for the new kind of war taking place in Europe with trenches, poison gas and machine guns. Even though the US was the birthplace of the airplane, the US military didn't even use airplanes until 1907. In OTL, the US had to use French airplanes when they served in France.

So serving alcohol en-route to the Western Front may have been a bad idea.

But Germany knew very well the power of Industry, and the Americans were serving as a major supplier of arms and money of the Allied powers long before FDR called the US the "Arsenal of Democracy." The potential power of the US would be enough to give more level headed leaders of Germany cause to pause. But the men that lead Germany by 1917, like Ludendorff and Hindenburg in a de-facto military dictatorship, were not exactly the kind of men to make such far-reaching decisions. They thought in the present, not the future: they saw the weakness of the US Army now, considered the Americans weak and degenerate, and assumed that it couldn't get stronger, or it would take so long that Germany could still attack Britain and France and smash them before the US could arrive. Germany made the same mistake in 1914 considering the British Army, a small, but professional force that became the basis of the massive British Expeditionary Force that earned the begrudging respect of the Germans, despite the massive casualties. So maybe that lesson would convince the Germans to not do anything to drag the US into the war.

So in the end, I'm going to make this one a coin flip. In hindsight, we know it was a bad idea to have the US enter either WWI or WWII, in both cases because of the actions of dictatorial powers that considered the US military weak at the time, so it will always be weak. But, maybe the three years between 1914 and 1917 would have been enough time to allow the Germans to learn not to mess with enemies that could bring huge resources and manpower to bear on them.

As Josef Stalin would like to tell you from 1943...

POD: No German Offensives in 1918

The second major POD of the Kaiserreich TL, on top of the one I mentioned before, was that Germany decided not to launch attacks in 1918 like OTL's Spring Offensive, instead allowing the occupied territories of the Ukraine and Russia to supply food and raw materials to Germany that the British blockade had cut off since 1914. Without the imminent arrival of millions of Americans to shore up the Allies, the Germans could dig their trenches deeper and prepare for 1919, and let the Allies smash their heads on the vaunted Hindenburg Line time and time again in 1918, like they had been attacking Germany since Day One of the war. Only minor attacks in Greece and Italy were prepared to take pressure off the struggling Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary were planned for 1918, with a grand offensive in 1919 managing to overwhelm the western Entente, forcing France to surrender and Britain to retreat across the English Channel.

Plausibility: 8/10. Where before the Germans may have underestimated the power of the US and the UK, by 1918 they knew the power of the machine gun and artillery for defensive war. In fact, after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan in 1914 on the Battle of the Marne and the inability to get around the Entente in the "Race to the Sea," as early as 1915, except for a few attacks on Ypres (that used poison gas for the first time) or Verdun in 1916, Germany was more willing to stand on the defensive in the West, and trying to defeat Russia in the east, which by 1917 was done.

Welcome to your new home away from home in Northern France!

Germany in 1917-18 was a wounded giant. While it possessed one of the largest armies in the world of the time, the Allied blockade had strangled both it's food imports and it's exports, leaving the Germany economy in a dangerous situation. It's manpower was running low, and while propaganda proclaimed victory was near, the privations of the blockade was doing little to boost morale on the home front. So, allowing a breather in 1918, let the vast resources of Ukraine help alleviate the shortages on the home front, and organize some puppet governments in the East to supply troops and keep the people happy would go a long way to helping Germany in 1919.

As for the actual attacks, the way the Kaiserreich Wiki describes it, I'd say the Germans would have had a great chance at success. The Entente attacks, focused on no less than five points of the line (it didn't say where) were a categorical failure. Only the British attacks on Lille were anywhere close to a success, and even then it was costly. Over 800,000 Entente troops were killed or wounded. The Germans however used the tactics, like infiltration, artillery support and mobile reserves stationed close to the front lines that they first used in Riga in 1917 and perfected in Greece in 1918, that were vastly superior to the massed front attacks such as at the Somme and Verdun earlier in the war. The Germans smashed the French, already on the brink of a second mutiny, and forced the British to retreat toward the the Channel Ports, where the British and French Navy helped hundreds of thousands of British troops to retreat back home, though in a very organized manner and not at all like the Dunkirk evacuation of OTL. Simultaneous attacks on the Italian lines forced the Italians into a route, and the Austro-German troops besieged Venice. By May Paris was surrounded, and in August Rome was captured. Italy capitulated, and France gave up in October as Germans invaded from the South as well. Only the UK and Germany now stood facing each other.

Kinda like this. Just with more artillery and fewer pints of beer.

POD: War at Sea

For the next two years, the only land battles occurred in the Middle East. The British, in comparison to the Western Front, had enormous success in the Middle East: Capturing Jerusalem, Palestine and Mesopotamia. But with German reinforcements, the Ottomans pushed the British back, who eventually stood their ground at the Suez Canal, and dug in. German and Ottoman attacks came to nothing, turning the area into a new, brutal trench warfare. German troops were sent to Russia to crush the Bolsheviks (even though Lenin was allowed back to Russia thanks to Germany), and prop up Alexander Kerensky's Provisional Government so long as they agreed to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which they did.

But the big news was at sea. The German High Seas Fleet became more assertive as the British Royal Navy had to suddenly cover a huge amount of water to keep the blockade functional, and began to attack targets of opportunity, and began to attack convoy's in the Atlantic. As Attrition began to take it's toll on the Royal Navy, they stripped escorts from the convoy's that was Britain's only life-line to the outside world, allowing the submarines to once again sink ships at will. The British, desperate for any form of success, sent a small force to bombard the Baltic coast, and the HSF returned to the North Sea, where the British were waiting nearing the Faroe Islands. On March 15, 1920, a huge naval battle that dwarfed Jutland four years before took place near Rockwell. The battle was a marginal British victory, but the cost in ships and lives was high, and eventually both sides retreated, and only small skirmishes between small ships occurred for the rest of the war.

It was as big of a let down as this!

Plausibility: 4/10. The biggest problem I have with this is how the Germans would even be able to get past the blockade in 1919 to inflict the damages that would make the British panic enough to try to attack the Baltic. If anything, there would be a big battle in 1919 as the Germans tried to break out... and it would have been, like Jutland, an inconclusive Battle. The Germans may sink more ships, but they still wouldn't be able to get out of the North Sea, so British strategic superiority would not be challenged. This would be the point when an un-restricted submarine warfare campaign would have broken England: Even if the US entered the war, would they try to invade Europe, even with the UK as a spring board? I'd say no: when the Allies did it in World War II, it was only because the Germans had nearly bleed themselves white facing the Soviets, the Strategic Bombing campaigns, along with the ever present Italian campaign and a lot of misdirection that kept Nazi's away from the right beachheads. In this TL, Germany has no Soviets, no strategic bombing, no Italian campaign, and a pretty good idea of what the Entente would want to do. So Germany could have unleashed the U-Boats, and there would be nothing the UK could do but try to stop them, and nothing the US could do but an ineffectual declaration of war.

POD: The Peace With Honour

By 1921, tired of war, both sides eventually negotiated the "Peace With Honour" between Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire on one side and Britain, her Dominions, Portugal and Japan on the other. Britain would recognize the gains made by Germany and return all German colonies along with Cyprus, and Germany would respect the rest of the British and Japanese Empires.

Because we all know how well German guarantees of borders work...

Plausibility: 9/10: More often than not in history, when a nation that's a great land power fights a nation that has superiority of the seas, you'll see the naval power winning, as they can reinforce their troops that they land to take on the land power, and maintain their supply lines better than a land power who doesn't have as strong a maritime tradition tries to go to sea. In this case, Britain is the sea power, and Germany is the land power. And, as always, the biggest problem when you fight England in a war is the fact that the only way to fully knock them out is to be able to invade them. However, in almost every case since the defeat of the Spanish Armada, England/Britain/United Kingdom had the larger navy. And you can't cross the English Channel or the North Sea without a strong navy to counter the Royal Navy. As one Admiral told the House of Commons during the Napoleonic Wars: "I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea." That statement will still hold true in 1921, even after the Battle of Rockwell in ATL.

But after seven years of war, the death of millions, the gutting of an entire generation of Britons, it's hard to see how the government of the UK could continue the war. If they didn't end it, they would be forced from office by a government that would end it. Germany, while also suffering from the same societal and population pressures, was a more authoritarian society that had, in 1919, won a great victory and drove not only Russia, Italy and France from the war, but forced all British soldiers back to their little island. In 1918, the war only ended because the German generals basically said that they couldn't fight anymore, and that the Kaiser should abdicate, and the navy was in mutiny. None of those points are feasible here. The Germans knew they were in no shape to invade England, so it would be best to try to sign what is basically a draw. If the British people supported it, the war could have lasted indefinitely, but I just don't see them wanting to do so. So this "Peace With Honour" is about the best either side would get.

And it sets the stage for this! Go Canada go!

You can see Part Two here!

But what do you think? Could Germany have really gone "Deutschland, Deutschland ├╝ber alles?" Or if you have a topic or idea you would like me to talk about, please leave comments below, email me at, or tell me on Twitter @tbguy1992.

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