Patton's World of 1947 (Part One)
By John Stafford
[Ed. Note: Panzer Grenadier: Iron Curtain, Patton's Nightmare kicks off a new alternative-history story arc looking at the world war that could have broken out in the early days of the Cold War. Here designer John Stafford shows the events leading up to the conflict portaryed in his book.]
General George S. Patton, Jr., held the communist way of life in low regard. He studied history, and firmly grasped the culture of his nominal Soviet “allies” throughout the course of the war. In Europe the immediately after the war he observed the Soviet consolidation and later pillage of the territories under their control, along with the destruction of Germany and the exhaustion of France and Britain. He feared that time and the weakness of the European Allies would allow the USSR to create a hegemony that would bring communism to all Europe. One telling quote from General Patton: A Soldier's Life (2002) by Stanley P. Hirshson, reveals Patton’s stance in August 1945:
The difficulty in understanding the Russians is that we do not take cognizance of the fact that he is not a European, but an Asiatic, and therefore thinks deviously. We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinaman or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them, I have no particular desire to understand them, except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kill them. In addition to his other Asiatic characteristics, the Russian has no regard for human life and is an all out son of bitch, barbarian, and chronic drunk.
Earlier, in May 1945 General Patton noted in his diary:
In my opinion, the American Army as it now exists could beat the Russians with the greatest of ease, because, while the Russians have good infantry, they are lacking in artillery, air, tanks, and in the knowledge of the use of the combined arms, whereas we excel in all three of these. If it should be necessary to fight the Russians, the sooner we do it the better.
Sooner was better because he also knew that in the immediate postwar period, the Soviet armed forces were correcting some of those deficiencies, especially their logistics, while the Americans and Europeans were quickly drawing down their forces and level of readiness. Patton feared having to fight the revamped Soviet Army with a scratch force of poorly trained troops.
In Patton’s Nightmare, the general’s fears are coming to fruition. Because we have modified the historical events, Patton is in a position to fight the Soviets when the tensions peak between the Allies and the USSR over the Berlin blockade. One might ask why the United States does not just threaten to use nuclear weapons. It is our belief that Truman and his allies would not have desired a full-out war over Berlin; defending Berlin was the right thing to do, but the cost had to be managed. Dropping nuclear weapons upon Soviet territory would certainly have made it an all-out war for Stalin and his communist coterie, and Truman and his allies would not have wanted another long war. If the desired ends could be accomplished conventionally, then it would be the preferred option, with nuclear weapons held as the alternative if things did not go as planned.
In this scenario, Berlin is just 200-250 kilometers from the American starting positions. It’s feasible that Patton would be given the go-ahead to launch an effort to secure Berlin and push the Soviets back (historically, this option was discussed and eventually vetoed by General Lucius Clay, the American occupation commander during the Berlin Blockade). Once the city was secured, peace terms could be offered, with nuclear weapons backing up the diplomacy. Although Allied intelligence did not have a good source inside the Soviet nuclear program (unlike the Russian penetration of the Manhattan Project), they did believe the Soviets were two to three years away from a successful nuclear device (the actual detonation of the first Soviet weapon came on August 29, 1949).
The players have the opportunity to fight the scenarios as we think it might have unfolded. For those of you who want to take matters into your own hands, you can enjoy the campaign game, struggling to reach Berlin in a timely manner, and preserving your dwindling force against the unending Red horde. The following timeline lays down the road to war as it might have occurred.
Timeline (Italics events or dates are unhistorical)
• 3 August 1943: Lieutenant General George Patton does not slap a soldier hospitalized for psychoneurosis, nor does he accuse him of cowardice, thus preventing a massive media tarnishing of his image.
• 27 August 1944: General Dwight Eisenhower suffers a severe stroke that immobilizes half his body; he is hospitalized but unable to continue his duties. Truman names General George C. Marshall to replace Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander with Allied concurrence. General Omar Bradley is sent to Washington to replace Marshall as Chief of Staff, and Patton is promoted to fill Bradley’s position as Commander, 12th Army Group.
• 4 December 1944: Patton launches a spoiling attack into the German buildup area for Wacht Am Rhein, preventing the Battle of the Bulge.
• 22 February 1945: The Allies take Cologne and establish a bridge across the Rhine at Remagen (two weeks early).
• 6 April 1945: Americans enter Nuremberg (10 days early).
• 12 April 1945: President Franklin Roosevelt dies, and Harry Truman takes office.
• 16 April 1945: Soviet troops begin their final attack on Berlin
• 23 April 1945: On the outskirts of Berlin Field Marshal Georgi Zhukov is killed by a German sniper. Marshal Vasily Chuikov assumes command of 1st Belorussian Front.
• 26 April 1945: Adolf Hitler commits suicide (four days early).
• 27 April 1945: US forces approach Berlin from the south, encountering the 1st Ukrainian Front forces under Marshal Ivan Konev.
• 1 May 1945: Unconditional surrender of all German forces, Victory in Europe (VE) Day (six days early).
• 23 May 1945: Stalin appoints Marshal Konev as first commander of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany. General Marshall is his counterpart for the Americans.
• 5 June 1945: Allies divide up Germany and Berlin and take over the government. Patton recognizes the threat posed to the rest of Europe by the Communist occupation, and convinces the Allied leadership to be cautious. The Allies insist on a revision of the German occupation zones based on the American advance to the Elbe River.
• 26 June 1945: United Nations Charter is signed in San Francisco.
• 1 July 1945: American, British, and French troops move into Berlin.
• 16 July 1945: The first U.S. atomic bomb test; Potsdam Conference begins.
• 26 July 1945: Churchill defeated by Clement Atlee in the first British vote for British Prime Minister in ten years. Marshall and Patton see this as foreboding, as Churchill was a staunch anti-Communist and the Atlee government is pushing Socialist reforms. The generals begin to develop a “go it alone if we must” attitude.
• 6 August 1945: The first atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
• 8 August 1945: The Soviets declare war on Japan and invade Manchuria.
• 9 August 1945: The second atomic bomb is dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
• 14 August 1945: The Japanese agree to unconditional surrender.
• 2 September 1945: The Japanese sign the surrender agreement; V-J (Victory over Japan) Day.
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