The Third World War 1945


1944 – Purely by chance, a handful of spies in the Manhattan Project are uncovered by American counter-intelligence.  The investigation sparks off a very quiet hunt for other Russian spies, as well as some panic on the part of the American Government.  If there were spies in the most secret of installations, what else might the Russians know?


Churchill and Roosevelt discuss the matter secretly, during one of their frequent meetings.  Churchill knows Stalin personally; he knows what he’s like and has no illusions about his ally.  He urges Roosevelt to purge as many Russian spies and ‘agents of influence’ as possible, warning him that – with the Allies advancing through France – the question of who gets what territory is going to have to be settled soon.  Roosevelt is horrified by the possibilities, all the more so when Churchill reminds him of how Stalin made a deal with Hitler and how the Russians treated Polish prisoners in Russia.  They agree that while they have to keep supporting Russia – the Russians are tying down vast numbers of German troops – they also have to prepare for the post-war world.


Back home, Roosevelt begins quietly removing known communists and communist sympathisers from the US Government, citing national security as the cause.  Roosevelt dumps Henry Wallace as VP and replaces him with Harry Truman.  Hoover works hard to isolate and remove other communists, while General Groves cracks down hard at the atomic research project.  The paranoia disrupts the building program and the atomic bomb is delayed.  Furthermore, Poles within the US are encouraged to make noises over what happens in Post-War Poland and the US refrains from making Stalin any promises.


In Moscow, Stalin is alarmed, all the more so because many of his agents have been removed or have been forced to go quiet.  His natural paranoia asserts itself and he assumes that the West is planning an attack on the USSR once the Germans are crushed.  Although he still needs the Americans and doesn't dare move into an open breach with the US, he starts making preparations for a pre-emptive strike of his own.  Without the atomic spies, the Russian atomic project is years, perhaps decades, behind the US’s project.  The US will have a bomb in late 1945, perhaps earlier; the Russians won’t see theirs until 1955, at least. 


Stalin also reaches out to various communist groups that take orders from Moscow.  Some are non-responsive, mainly the American-based groups.  The French Communists, on the other hand, are happy to obey orders that tell them to remain armed and maintain a low profile, but continue to recruit members and fighters.  Some British groups are responsive, others are not...and the signs are alarming MI5.  Sheer luck breaks the cover of one of the Cambridge spies and the British are able to round up the entire circle. 


At Stalin’s urging, the Russian Generals reduce the expensive (in lives) pace of their advance, allowing more of their forces to remain intact as they finish with Poland and prepare to advance into Germany. 


Early 1945 – As Germany is attacked from both sides, Roosevelt dies, to be replaced by Truman.  Truman was involved, right from the start, in countering communist spy activities and subversion and the Russians fear that he intends to take a hard line.  They’re right.  Truman wants guarantees from the Russians of their good behaviour and of the freedom of Eastern Europe before he makes any promises to Stalin.  He is supported by Churchill and, oddly, Attlee, who was shaken to discover just how far the Moscow-loyalists had penetrated into the British Left.


Although Hitler intends to fight to the last, others in Germany have other ideas.  Himmler, for example, intends to link up with the West to fight the Russians.  This is deluded thinking, but Stalin picks up on what few signs there are and assumes that he’s about to be betrayed.  Matters are not made easier by the fact that the Germans surrender far more willingly to the West than to the East, convincing him that a deal has been done.  Rather than forcing his way into Berlin and the other fortress cities, Stalin orders them surrounded and starved out.  He has other fish to fry. 


Berlin actually holds out longer than in OTL, although not by much.  Hitler kills himself and his new wife on the eve of starvation.  His successor, Donitz, tries to negotiate with the Western Allies alone.  In OTL, this failed; in ATL, it works better than he expected.  The West isn't going to offer Germany much, but it’s better than Russian domination.  Officially, Truman has accepted the German offer because of the need to start shipping men to Japan.  On May 16th, 1945, the European War officially ends.


Truman is not best pleased with the situation.  Although the West has made no promises, the USSR is occupying Eastern Europe and part of Germany.  The Western Press is picking up on stories about how the Russians are treating the Poles, stories forwarded to them from the various western intelligence services.  On the other hand, the US still has to deal with the Japanese and there is a serious concern that the US will have to invade China to destroy the remaining Japanese armies.  Or, for that matter, that the Russians might swoop in and occupy China.  There are just too many problems for him to handle at once. 


Stalin has his own estimate of the situation.  If he can kick the Americans out of Europe (apart from Britain, perhaps) he can make it impossible for the US to deploy the atomic bomb against Russian interests.  He stalls, hinting that he might invade Manchuria, while rushing additional forces to the West.  Vague reports of German resistance and insurgency are broadcast, claiming that the Russian build-up is purely defensive.  Truman doesn't believe them, but the truth is that the US is war-weary.  There is little willingness for a new war.  As the noose tightens around Japan, the call is ‘bring the boys home!’


Britain is in a similar boat.  Atlee, the new Prime Minister, is in a very weak position.  The exposure of communist influence means that he has to stand up to Moscow, or the Conservatives will eat him alive.  He also has to secure the British Empire, bring home the troops and somehow deliver a post-war Britain worth living in.  He doesn't need uneasy rumblings from Russia, let alone the reports that French Communists and Italian Communists are preparing for a civil war. 


June 16th 1945: The Russians strike.


The Russian attack is extremely powerful and carefully planned.  At zero-hour, the Russians come over the border with maximum force, concentrating on smashing the American and British occupying armies.  The Red Air Force flies a massive series of missions against air bases, while the Red Navy launches submarines to strike at Allied shipping in the sea.  That isn't the only angle of attack.  Russian commandos mount assaults on Allied bases and political leadership, while the various Communist Parties are urged to attempt to take power.  The French Government is thrown into disarray as General De Gaulle is assassinated.  Washington shudders as an assassination attempt is made on Truman in the White House.  London convulses as Russian commandoes cause havoc.


The Allied lines in Europe are shattered.  SHAFE (for want of a better term) realises that attempting to stand in the path of the Russians is futile.  He orders a withdrawal back to the French border, knowing that the Russians will likely run out of steam and will be forced to halt and resupply.  There are thousands of isolated battles as units struggle to make their way to the regrouping area, or dig into German cities and try to hold out until relieved.  There are even some attempts by German citizens to deter the Russians from advancing any further, although those don’t last long as the Russians respond with overwhelming savagery. 


Allied aircraft – mainly British and American – are launched to join the battle.  The Reds have a far larger air force on hand, but the Allied pilots are trained better and fighting for their own freedom.  The Red Air Force is weakened by the fighting, allowing some of the allied bombers to slip in and start hitting the advancing Russian columns.  Once a declaration of war is passed, the Russians are targeted everywhere.


Smaller Russian forces advance down from occupied Iran into British-held Iran, evicting the British and other American forces.  Some Iranians welcome the Russians.  That doesn't last long.  There are communist factions launching insurgencies in India and the Far East.  Most of them are nothing more than minor headaches, but the Indian communists are threatening the British hold on India. 


The Russians have carefully prepared a propaganda offensive, stating that the Allies planned to rearm the Germans and send them into the east to conquer the USSR.  This is, of course, arrant nonsense, but it is believed by many.  The US Government’s actions don’t help so much – the FBI rounds up every known and suspected Communist including many who have nothing to do with communism.  This includes black ‘radicals’ who just want equal rights and suchlike.  The UK has carried out similar measures.  France’s state of near civil war makes it impossible for the French to do anything of the sort.


The British Army has recalled every soldier who was demobilised after VE Day.  They get shipped over to France to join the defence lines, along with MPs to handle transport and secure French ports.  Some French – mainly the former Free French – are keen to assist, but the Communists are less willing.  The Communists have taken Paris and used it to proclaim a Communist France, but the remainder of the country isn't going along.  Italy has effectively gone communist, although loyalist Italians are holding out in some parts of the country.  Greece is caught up in a communist insurgency that the government cannot suppress. 


As SHAFE expected, the Russian attack runs out of steam in West Germany, although smaller forces have punched out Denmark and are threatening Belgium.   The Allies use the time to rebuild and rearm their forces, although the chaos in France suggests that supply lines through France will be useless soon.  The decision is taken to secure the Netherlands and use the ports there to funnel in a new army, should one be sent.  The US forces that were earmarked for the invasion of Japan are being returned to Europe, along with the vast bomber force that was being used to turn Japan into a burning wasteland.  The Japanese Government hails this as a sign that events might turn in their favour.


A rather nasty political issue has exploded in the Allies face.  As the armies retreated, they brought along with them German POWs from various camps.  Some of them want to be rearmed and sent in to fight to defend Germany and the West from the Allies.  Quite a number have been pressed into service by Allied formations needing men and equipment.  Others have escaped, taken up weapons from the war and gone out to fight the Russians on their own.  The Russians use this as propaganda, claiming that their original charge was actually true after all.  The US is willing to ignore this and press the Germans into service, but the British and the French are not so keen on the idea.  It is also true that the press-ganged Eastern European (and even Russian) soldiers fight harder when facing Germans. 


Even so, opinion in the West is turning against the communists.  There is just too much evidence to show what life is like under the Russians.  There are plenty of stories of Russian atrocities carried out against Allied soldiers, even if the Western public is unwilling to go to war for the Germans.  As 1945 starts to draw to a close, the commandoes in Britain and America are largely wiped out and public opinion starts to support the war. 


Stalin is not too displeased with the results of his war, but he knows that it is far from over.  He urges his Generals to prepare a final assault to cut the Allied lines, break into France, link up with the French Communists and end the war on his terms.  He also orders the deployment of additional forces into Iran, with the intention of expanding the war into Iraq, India and Saudi.  This is a slow process, not helped by the deployment of American troops to Saudi. 


Truman and Atlee meet in Iceland for a conference on the future of the war.  They both agree that the war has to continue until Stalin is removed as a threat, although Britain is near collapse and America is suffering from war-weariness.  The lend-lease program is resumed and expanded, allowing the British Army to expand and continue deploying new forces into the field.  Longer-term programs to up-gun allied tanks and other vehicles are continued, although there is a problem with putting together a heavy tank design to match the T-34 and JS-1.  The British have been modifying the Sherman Tank and converting the design into Firefly tanks.  There are new Pershing, Comet and Centurion tanks coming online as well.  The Russian tank advantages are going to fade away.


One great advantage the Allies have is a far superior bombing ability.  The Red Blitz on London was something of a damp squib as it faced jets and British radar stations.  The sheer mass of bombers proved a problem, but the RAF adapted, reacted and overcame.  The USAAF bombers that had been earmarked for transfer to Japan have been rerouted to the UK and used to bomb advancing Russian forces.  Ironically, the fact that Moscow is out of reach means that there is no argument between the strategic and tactical schools of bombing; the tactical field gets all the planes.  The Russians do their best to put up a defence, but they don’t have anything to match the allied planes.


The Allied line is reforming just within France, with reinforcements being shipped in or convoyed through France.  The Allies are having to waste manpower securing the French ports and transport links, as communist insurgents and a witches brew of French Nationalists are trying to impede reinforcements.  The ROE are very lax and anti-French attitudes are tightening, unfairly in most cases.  There is still a working French Army within the allied order of battle. 


Stalin’s generals do the best they can.  Knowing that allied lines are weak, they decide to launch an all-out push on a broad front, seeking to smash the allied forces and advance to the ports.  If they succeed, the Allies would either have to accept a communist Europe or gear up for a re-run of D-Day against a tougher opponent.  Stalin keeps pushing them, but they don’t understand his haste – why is he so intent on a quick victory?


Stalin’s spy nets within the US have been damaged or have gone silent (pro-communists suddenly discovering that Stalin is evil) but he is still picking up some data.  The US may well test an atomic bomb in late 1945 and then start cranking up for mass production.  Stalin orders a few atomic scientists shot to encourage the others, but the truth is that the Russians are a long way behind the US.  The handful of captured German scientists cannot add much to the Russian schedule.  A few do show the way to producing missiles and even long-range bombers, but those are all long-term plans.  Stalin needs to win now.


The Russians begin their offence with a massive bombardment, calling in thousands of artillery guns to plaster the Allied positions.  Allied aircraft are vectored towards the guns at once, trying to quiet them, but there are too many guns to allow for a quick victory.  The Red Air Force is deployed against its own targets, while commandos hit the rear of the lines.  The allies have learnt, however, and the guards are on alert.  Most of the commandos don’t live for long once they open fire.


As Russian tanks advance, the allies fall back, getting in punches and then retreating before the Russians can cut off their escape.  On the map, it looks like the Russians are winning, but as long as the allied army remains in being the Russian gains are insecure.  Delays mount as the Russians strive desperately to break through the allied lines and drive into their rear, but the allies have no intention of allowing it to happen.  They don’t want to stand still and be crushed.


The Russians have a significant weakness that now comes into play.  Their supply lines are weak and based on American-built trucks.  Those trucks are now targeted frequently by allied airmen and many of them are breaking down because the Russians no longer have access to spare parts.  The Russians are actually in danger of running out of food, fuel and ammunition.  The Generals have been working desperately to keep the supplies running, but it hasn’t been easy.  The Russians have long ago worn out their welcome in Europe and resistance groups – including former Nazis and Polish Home Guard – have been making a surprising impact.


As the days go on, the Russian advance grinds to a halt and the Russians start forming entrenched positions.  (These became known as ‘mottis’ in the Winter War, or Caldrons in the East.)  The allies learn rapidly that while the Russians are immobilised, they’re far from harmless, so they allow the bombers to stamp each of the entrenchments flat.  Some surrender to American or British forces.  It is rapidly discovered that no Russian unit is willing to surrender to Germans, even the relative handful of Germans serving with the allied forces.


The end of the year – with both sides settling down – brings a nice present for Truman.  The first atomic bomb was detonated successfully. 


In Japan, in the meantime, starvation is running all over the country. 


Early 1946: The Allies weren’t entirely idle during the winter months.  SOE and OSS had been working hard to make contact with resistance and dissident groups within both Europe and Russian.  There are some moral concerns about working with former Nazis – or even Germans in general – but they are pushed aside in the wake of the crisis.  A handful make contact with Ukrainian divisions that aren’t too keen on fighting for Stalin, opening up the prospect of entire Russian units deflecting. 


Furthermore, with help and support from allied units, the Free French have been routing the French Communists.  That was helped by the accidental bombing of Paris and several other French cities by Russian aircraft, despite claims from Radio Moscow that it was an American flight that intended to wreck the city.  (A bomber was shot down and Russian pilots were caught when they tried to escape.)  As France is secured, the way is opened for more French units joining the allies, although that may not be easy.  There are tremendous rumblings in Algeria as the French Communists promised Algeria independence if they won.  The French Government is weak, but it is strong enough to prevent a resurgence of civil war.


The developments in the Middle East are of greater importance.  The US has been shipping additional troops into Saudi Arabia, backed up by USN carriers and warships.  Those troops have been advancing through Iraq and pushing into Iran, where they were warmly welcomed by the locals.  The Russians made themselves very unwelcome.  As the Americans set up new airbases, US bombers start pounding the Russian oil wells below Stalingrad.  It starts causing considerable problems for the Russians.


The developments in India, however, are far darker.  With so many competing factions – and little support from home – the Viceroy has been forced to activate Plan Balkan – a retreat of British forces from India, leaving the country to anarchy.  The nationalists are torn apart by competing factions – Gandhi was killed by the Communists in 1945 – while various Princes are attempting to set up their own minor kingdoms.  They might make it too – as the British retreat, they’re the only thing holding the country together.


The US has also been pouring money into technological development.  A US version of the V2 rocket is developed and test-fired against Russian positions.  The US concludes that there isn’t enough bang for the buck, although that may change when small atomic bombs are on hand.  They have captured most of the German rocket scientists, who have been promising the stars – literally.  It’s wartime; no one is deterred by the loss of a test pilot or two.


Although the lines have stabilised, that is about to change.  A revitalised Allied army is preparing for its first advance, while allied bombers have been hacking away at the Russians ever since the war began.  In his base, General Patton rubs his hands together with glee.  The largest American army in history – and the most powerful – is about to advance.  It will be a damn fine war.


The Battle of the Rhine: SOE had been in contact with a number of senior Ukrainian officers in one of the Russian armies – which just happened to be a vital location.  Once the signal was sent, the Ukrainians drew weapons and killed the NKVD watchdogs and other Russians who were supposed to be watching them.  The entire Ukrainian division effectively defected.  Using their communications to keep the Russians from realising that something was up, the Ukrainians opened the door to allow the allies to advance.


As soon as the Russians realised that the allies were advancing – and started ordering countermeasures – the allies sprung their trap.  The bombers hit every Russian command post, targeted because they were using US-designed radios to command and coordinate their forces.  Heavy shelling hit other Russian formations.  The net result is that the Russians lose a large amount of their ability to coordinate their forces.  Entire soviet armies remain immobile because of a shortage of orders from high overhead (the Russians were not encouraged to think for themselves.)  Patton’s thrust smashed through weaker sections of the Russian line while isolating others and subjecting them to heavy bombers.


The Russian Generals, once they determined just what the Americans were doing, ordered an immediate counterattack.  A heavy Russian tank force, held in reserve, advances directly against the American spearheads, intending to smash them.  They only expose themselves to allied air power, which shatters their lines before they can reach their targets, and allied antitank weapons, far superior to the Russian average.  The wise course of action would be to retreat, but Russian logistics are in tatters.  A large percentage of logistics was handled by ‘allied’ formations and their crews have deserted.  The German road and rail network has been seriously damaged.  Matters are not helped by a new round of uprisings in East Germany.


Patton, a hard-charging man if there ever was one, keeps feeding in American, French and British manpower.  The Russian strongpoints, already isolated, are marked down for further attention later; Patton wants to get his spearheads as far forward as possible.  The Russian Generals, in defiance of Uncle Joe, have been trying to reform another line to the east, but Patton is determined that that won’t be easy.  Chaos breaks out to the west as several encircled Russian armies try to break out, some successfully punching through the allied lines and making it to the east.  Others start surrendering, realising that the Americans won’t kill them if they surrender.


The NKVD receives orders from Stalin.  All non-Russian formations are to be disarmed and transhipped to Siberia.  Their commanding officers are to be killed out of hand.  It would have been easy in a stable world, but in the chaos of the battle the operation is muffed and several non-Russian units rise in revolt.  One of them forms a strongpoint to the west of Berlin and screams for help from the Allies; others either flee towards allied lines or die in place, fighting Russians intent on punishing them for ‘treachery’.  Furious at what he sees as a disaster, Stalin ruthlessly purges a few officers and parts of the soviet government.


Patton has other problems as the allied advance slows to a crawl.  They have occupied a large part of Germany and are attempting to free Denmark.  That leaves them with the question of how to handle German politics.  It may not be politically correct, but the allies have been making use of German manpower – and no one can deny that uprisings in the rear had a baleful effect on the Russian military.  Patton doesn’t give a damn about the situation, but it is a political headache for everyone else.  The French and the British are very keen not to rearm German Nationalist factions who might want to start a third Germany-Everyone War.  The Poles are adamantly opposed.  And, of course, the Russians still fight harder when confronted by German opponents.


Truman eventually puts forward a compromise.  Germans may serve in the allied armies, but only under allied command.  The Germans will be occupied by allied troops for a period of up to ten years – giving time to burn out the remaining Nazis – and then elect a government.  It isn’t actually a bad deal for the Germans.  Worse, perhaps, is the starvation that is now starting to grip Eastern Europe.  Several nasty epidemics break out – suspected to be Russian bioweapons, although actually caused by the conditions – and the West has to rush medical supplies into the region.  The Russians, of course, couldn’t care less if the Poles were to be exterminated through disease.


As the allies reconsolidate their lines, the bombing offensive continues to reach further and further into Russian territory.  The allies have been working on long-range bombers for years, designs far superior to anything the Russians or Germans ever had, and as the technology improves they reach deeper into Russia.  Moscow itself is bombed in late 1946, raising the spectre of an aircraft armed with an atomic bomb reaching the city.  Truman is unwilling to take the risk at first – too many bombers are being shot down on their way to the target – but sooner or later it will happen.


This raises a problem for Stalin.  Radio Moscow has been proclaiming success after success.  The allied bombing raids put the lie to that…causing discontent to start appearing in Russia itself.  Stalin has the tools to deal with overt dissidence – the gulags always have room for newcomers – but the far more dangerous possibility is of a power shift in the Kremlin itself.  Not everyone loves him and if he looks weak…he responds the only way he knows how, with deadly purges.  The Generals who dare to tell him the truth become few and far between.


The liberation of Denmark, where the Russians have been making themselves as welcome as a dose of the clap, has opened up the Baltic to allied shipping.  Supplies can now be shipped directly into Germany, while American and British carriers can raid and bomb at will.  The same is happening in the Far East, with the Russian Far Eastern Fleet wiped out by the USN.  The Russians have attempted to deploy submarines to attack allied shipping, but there are too few subs and the allies are too good at hunting them down. 


Large parts of the Russian economy have simply ground to a halt.  Stalin doesn’t care about the suffering in Russia – still less in the Ukraine, where the entire population is being punished for the crimes of a few – but he does care about the effects on the war.  The Russian Government is having problems forwarding enough supplies to the front, while entire armies have been immobilised for want of fuel and spare parts.  The Russians have no shortage of manpower, at least in theory, but getting them to the front isn’t easy.  They had a surprising number of dependencies on lend lease and the US is no longer sending them.  Worst of all, the Russians cannot account for this – as Stalin was keen that lend lease should never be officially acknowledged.


The allied armies continue to expand as they tap into new sources of manpower.  Exile Poles find themselves fighting alongside Germans and Czechs, with the British and Americans providing the heavy firepower.  The American industrial machine is producing more than enough – including newer and heavier designs of tank and bombers – to equip a far larger army.  Berlin falls towards the end of 1946, with Patton intent on advancing all the way to Moscow if necessary.  The allied plans intend to do just that.


In the Middle East, the Russian position has been effectively destroyed and Iraq and Iran have been liberated.  American forces are slowly advancing up towards Baku, despite all the Russians can put in their way.  Most of the locals really don’t like the Russians and are happy to kill them when the Americans offer help and support.  The only real hold on the American advance is the poor logistics, which the US is handling by building new roads and rail networks.  Neither Iraq nor Iran will ever be the same again.


The Indian Civil War has died down to a dull ember, with a Coalition of Princes in command of the country.  Both of the major Hindu and Muslim nationalist parties have been destroyed.  What remains of the British Raj has quietly acknowledged the truth that the Princes hold the only effective power in the state.  The Coalition may not last forever, but it’s the best anyone is going to get.


In Japan, fifty percent of the population has either died outright or starved to death, despite the sudden falling off of American air raids.  The Japanese cities weren't built to endure bombing on such a scale and, as the food fades away, so does the famous Japanese solidity.  Angry mobs turn on the government, the military and all signs of official power, tearing away at the remains of the Japanese state.  Many soldiers join them; others remain loyal and use all of their weapons to bring the civilians to heel.  The death of the Emperor as a mob storms the palace creates a nightmare for the US; the Japanese have literally no one left who can surrender.  The remains of the Nationalist Government heads to the Japanese positions in China. 


China itself is a confused multi-sided civil war.  The Chinese Communists have turned on the Nationalists.  The Japanese are fighting desperately to hold on to at least some territory, even though both Chinese sides – and a whole host of warlords – are fighting them in between fighting fellow Chinese.  The US is no longer willing to support the Nationalists so much, although they still receive a trickle of supplies from America.  It’s just to keep them in the game.


As 1947 rolls around, the war is about to get far worse.


Early 1947: Unknown to the Russians, Allied diplomats have been holding secret discussions with the Swedes and the Finns.  Although the Swedes are unwilling to enter the war, they are prepared to cooperate to some degree, both out of fear of the USSR and in order to encourage the Allies to overlook Swedish collaboration with Germany.  The Finns, on the other hand, are more than willing to join the war and recover long territory, provided that the US provides sufficient weapons and supplies to re-arm the Finnish Army.  Just by luck (and Hitler’s really odd defence priorities) there is also a sizable German force that was interned in Norway at the end of the war.  The force is basically offered the chance to fight for the Allied cause and, in doing so, help save Germany.  As soon as the Finns are ready, they launch a major attack against Russian positions in the former Finnish territories, backed up by Allied airpower.


Stalin reels as another hammer-blow lands on his country.  The Finns are not quite up to Russian standards, but he’s had to pull out forces from Finland to go west and the Finns advance quickly and firmly.  The German force in Finland fights well, although their presence is actually a boost to Russian determination to stand and fight, as in Europe.  It looks as if the Finns will continue to advance towards Leningrad and overwhelm the defenders.  The Finns aren’t feeling that ambitious – their logistics are not good the further they move from Finland – but they help to concentrate Stalin’s mind.  Leningrad prepares for another siege.


The sudden distraction helps the Allies as the combined army starts to head East.  The American-armed force advances towards Berlin – aided by the sudden appearance of more German insurgents – and surround it in March, despite a determined defence by the Russians.  Stalin orders the army garrisoning Berlin to hold the line and refuse to surrender – Berlin is his prize and he isn’t going to give it up.  Patten has learned the danger of fighting in a city and orders the allied force to merely surround and hold the defenders in place, rather than try to blow the defenders out.  As the month rolls on, Stalin’s fortress cities become death traps, with some of the defenders surrendering and others fighting to the death.


The allies have discovered that Stalin outdoes Hitler when it comes to scorched Earth solutions.  Millions of Germans and Poles have been uprooted and their homes and farms destroyed, causing starvation on a massive scale.  As the Russians retreat, they destroy everything that can be used for military purposes, including factories, farms and buildings.  Large parts of Poland become deluded of life as the Russians loot, rape and slaughter, before falling back.  The allies become less interested in taking prisoners as they take in the horrific sights, which helps stiffen Russian resistance.


Stalin, determined to hold out and convinced that he can break the allied coalition by holding his nerve, unleashes one of his secret weapons.  The Russians have captured several hundred V2 rockets from the Germans, along with the engineers who built and fired them.  Those rockets are now loaded with chemical weapons and fired towards the allied lines.  Most of them miss – the V2 was not known for being accurate – but a handful come down in the midst of allied positions and cause a number of deaths.  The use of chemical weapons – which even Hitler never used – sends shudders through those old enough to remember WW1, but it fails to break the allied resolve.


Truman makes the decision he’s been sitting on since 1945.  The US has been stockpiling atomic weapons, intent on building up enough of them to take out most of the USSR.  With the Russian air defence network worn thin, the chances are good that a bomber could get in and out with a nuke.  After consulting with Churchill, Truman dispatches a single bomber – targeting Leningrad.  With the city serving as a base for Russian resistance to the Finnish Front, it makes a logical target.  Although Truman would like to kill Stalin himself, it is pointed out to him that killing the only person who can actually surrender is not such a good idea.  The city of Leningrad is destroyed by the first A-Bomb used in combat.


The devastation is a terrible shock to the Russians, even though Leningrad is much less vulnerable than any Japanese city.  Stalin orders an immediate hold on all media reports and all rumours are dismissed as alarmist, while sending in the troops to cordon off the city and prevent anyone from escaping.  This would be hard enough under normal circumstances, but with a Finnish-German force advancing from Finland it becomes impossible.  Worse, a number of Russian soldiers are starting to show signs of radiation poisoning – which Stalin insures that Radio Moscow blames on American-Capitalist-Running Dog-Poison Gas – and morale is falling.  The NKVD itself is weakened, meaning that quite a few Russian soldiers simply pick up their guns and desert.


Truman speaks directly to the world, explains what happened and warns that the US has built up a massive arsenal of such bombs.  If the Russians refuse to surrender, he says, further atomic attacks will be launched.  Using American radio transmitters, the signals are beamed into Russia, hoping to encourage a revolt.  The NKVD daunts any plotters, sadly, but Russian lines in Poland are just coming apart.  Staving and helpless, they start to surrender en masse to the advancing allied force.  The Allies plunge on into Poland – overcoming their logistics problems by capturing ports along the Baltic Coast – and liberate the Baltic States in June.  The Russians, in their retreat, wreck everything, creating yet another humanitarian disaster.  The US has to slow down long enough to ship in emergency aid from American farms.


Stalin refuses to surrender, even after a coup attempt is mounted by some of his Generals and even an NKVD faction.  The loyalists manage to avert it in time, despite shoot-outs in Moscow, liquidating anyone who could even remotely pose a threat.  The beuoucracy that kept the USSR going is falling apart.  Thousands of planners were killed in Leningrad – or by conventional bombers as the USAAF strikes deeper and deeper into Russian territory – and the remainder don’t dare cough for fear that Stalin will take it as a sign of disloyalty.  For the first time since the Germans invaded, mass resistance is appearing in the Russian countryside, with peasants liberating themselves from the collective farms and fighting back when the NKVD comes to call.  They are joined by deserting soldiers, who bring arms and experience at fighting – and the certain knowledge that capture means death.


After waiting three weeks for the Russians to see sense and surrender, Truman authorises the use of two more atomic bombs; one on Moscow and one on Stalingrad.  The latter city, in particular, is serving as the base for defending the Caucasus and attempting to recapture Baku.  Stalin may or may not survive the bombing of Moscow – no one was ever sure, leaving Russian mothers to tell their offspring tales of a bogeyman – but both cities are destroyed.  And, along with them, the force holding the USSR together.


The remaining Russian armies suffer a general collapse.  Hundreds of thousands simply surrender to the advancing allies armies.  The remainder simply start heading back home, carrying their weapons and grudges with them.  The NKVD comes apart as soldiers, blaming them for the disaster, turn on them wherever they find them.  Large amounts of Russian weapons are captured by Polish and Ukrainian nationalists, who don’t hesitate to turn them on any Russians they encounter.  New revolts break out through Russian Central Asia, some aided by American forces in the Middle East.


There is no formal surrender.  The allied army reaches the ruins of Moscow in 1947, laying a massive logistical chain behind them.  The post-war occupation, Truman realises, is going to be a bitch.


In Japan, the USMC finally lands, upon receiving an offer of surrender.  They discover that most of the country is dead, leaving only a tenth of the pre-war Japanese population alive.  The Americans quietly occupy the country and start considering what to do about the remaining Japanese forces in China.  The Russians in the Far East have declared independence from Moscow and are operating on their own.  It is all a god-awful mess.


The Post-War World: In the wake of the general Russian collapse, Allied forces (mainly American) occupy most points of interest in Russia as far east as the Urals.  The ruins of the three nuked cities are largely cordoned off – radiation poisoning was not so well understood at that time – and abandoned, although thousands of survivors continue to live in the remains.  The collapse of the communist party takes down all of the Russian government, adding to the famine spreading through Russia.  The peasants are not interested in feeding cities that have held them in bondage for so long. 


Ironically, there are thousands of Russians who remember the free market experiments of the 1920s and are capable of operating within a free economy.  Over the three years since the end of the war, the Russian economy is rebuilt into a far more productive system – at least when it comes to farmland.  If they are allowed to keep and sell their produce – which they are, under occupational law – the farmers can produce a great deal more food.  (Historically, the Russians could have tackled their food shortages by removing the collective farms.)  The Allies sponsor a loose democratic government to serve as a base for a new Russian system, one that is intentionally weak and devolves authority down to the local level.  The Allies round up Russian weapons scientists and encourage Russian factories to retool to feed the civilian market.  What little resistance there is comes from the remains of the communists, who are often destroyed by their fellow Russians rather than the US.  By 1960, Russia is a weak, but relatively stable democracy. 


The same can be said for both Belarus and the Ukraine, now free of Russian domination.  The ethnic Russians in the Ukraine were largely forced into Russia during the collapse of soviet power, creating a more stable Ukraine.  The Baltic States were also liberated, but remain poor and weak, at least at first.  The Russians wrecked havoc as they retreated. 


There is no attempt to extract reparations from Germany (or Russia) in the post-war world.  Instead, the Germans are pushed into creating their own democracy and wiping out the remaining Nazis.  A united Germany under allied occupation is surprisingly good at rebuilding, provoking fears of a Third German War among the rest of Europe.  Even so, Germany will be operating under strict military limits until 1990; the French and the Poles will continue to maintain a military force capable of crushing Germany.  It may not be a problem.  Germany was scorched by the Russians as they retreated and that near-genocide won’t be forgotten soon.


Both Britain and France remained economically weak for a decade after the end of WW3, losing most of their empires without a serious fight.  Luckily, the Far Left was soundly discredited by the war, giving birth to a new form of socialism – ‘socialism with a human face’ – that was designed to improve the lot of the poor rather than bring down the rich.  The post-war European Community will be more democratic than collectivist, which far greater representation from Eastern Europe right from the start.  France, luckily, missed out on the Algerian War – Algeria became independent while the French were fighting their civil war.  This actually worked out in their favour as there is more genuine friendship between the two states. 


Britain continued to maintain ties with India, still run by the Princes although a genuine democratic movement was forming from the remains of the pre-war movements.  Oddly, the political ferment resulted in considerable economic growth for India and reduced tensions between the different factions.  Hindus and Muslims might never be friends, but at least they were learning to get along. 


The Middle East remained a confused mess for quite some time.  Iran left the war with the goodwill of the US and became a reasonably strong democracy, as did Iraq, although the political and ethnic tensions in the area continued to baffle the United States.  Israel exists in this timeline, but as a much-reduced state; the vast majority of USSR Jews were pushed into emigrating to Japan or the US instead of the Middle East.  The whole area is a great deal more peaceful.  When raiders from Saudi Arabia began attacking Iraq, the Iraqis crushed them and added Saudi Arabia to Greater Iraq.  Mecca was placed into the hands of Jordon’s Royal Family.


China remained a warring battleground until 1955, when the communists were finally crushed and the Nationalists found themselves in control of a greater China.  In order to win the war – under guidance from America – the Nationalists became much more responsive to their people.  The early post-war years were mainly a dictatorship, but China managed a transition to democracy throughout the 1970s.  Like Russia, China would remain a poor, but stable democracy for a long time to come.


Post-war Japan was barely capable of remaining a viable country, even under American control.  The US kept a large occupation force in the country, mainly composed of black troops, who formed relationships with many Japanese women.  Eventually, the US annexed Japan as a territory and eventually – with a mixed population of American expatriates – accepted Japan as four new states.  The post-war Japanese culture was very different to the pre-war culture and indeed, to some extent, the Japanese race can be said to be considerably diluted. 


The US faced the danger of a massive recession in the post-war world, so Truman pushed for a post-war recovery plan for Europe and the Middle East.  The plan was accepted by Congress, although weaker than OTL, and helped to ensure that American economic dominance remained on a firm footing.  Truman desegregated the US military and handled the Civil Rights era by a mixture of firm polities and encouraging black emigration to Japan.  Over the years, the poison of racism slowly slipped out of the body politic.


Without the need for massive cold war spending, technical development was slowed for a long time until various investors began working on reaching space.  There was no need for spectaculars, so investment was focused on building up capabilities and placing the first space station in orbit by 1980.  By 2000, there are bases on the moon and a growing network of probes exploring the edge of the solar system.  Computing technology remains somewhat behind our timeline, although they’re catching up fast.  Part of the reason for this is friendly competition between democratic states, rather than two states each determined to outdo the other.


Ironically, this world doesn't suffer from the nuke-phobia of OTL.  Nukes were not entirely decisive in ending the war, so they were regarded as less fearsome.  The charge of racism – nukes were only used against ‘little yellow men’ in OTL – won’t exist.


Overall, this world is a far more peaceful one than OTL.  Without the USSR and its imprisoned states, the UN becomes what it was meant to be – a genuine force for peace and conflict resolution.  Non-democratic states are barred from taking part, encouraging them to convert to democracy.  The US – still the most formidable power in the world, although lacking the reach of OTL – is a firm backer of the UN, as is the remainder of the free world.  And that is far larger than OTL.