The room clattered
with scraping chairs and clicking heels as the Führer entered
the palatial conference room with its open-walled view of the
Alpine countryside. As he moved to the end of the long marble
conference table he felt again the quickening, the narcotic
thrill unknown since the last days of the Russian campaign. Both
the victories won at the negotiating table and the trimphs earned
in dictating to an empire paled to insignificance when compared
to that greatest of all human endeavors, war - this time against
the United States of America. In a way, he would regret it when
this last and foremost opponent ceased to exist, but then he had
always been a sentimentalist.
To his left stood Field Marshal Manstein, his chief of staff for the army. Next to Manstein was Doenitz of the Navy, and then Air Marshal Kesselring, Chief of Air Operations. To his right, down the other side of the table waited Himmler, Göring, Kaltenbrunner, who headed intelligence, the ever-present Bormann, and Albert Speer, head of industrial production and economic strategic planning.
Hitler's gaze fixed on General Kaltenbrunner. "The updated report you turned in yesterday. Do you vouch for it ?"
"The reports are most reliable, my Führer. They come straight from the President's own Chief of Staff. Furthermore, what he's saying dovetails with reports from other sources."
"Then it is all too clear," Hitler announced. "They will try to lull us with hackneyed platitudes about peace - until this wonder weapon is ready. Then watch how their song changes. If they have this bomb first, that farmer and his fat degenerate friend in London will dictate to us."
He paused and looked around the room.
Hitler's gaze returned to his intelligence officer. "Is the estimated date we have for completion as reliable as the rest?"
"Such things are never certain, of course, but Harrison's Chief of Staff believes it to be accurate. The Russians too believe the Americans will achieve their target date. A couple of the American and British scientists, Communist sympathizers, are leaking information to Stalin, and they believe the dates." Kaltenbrunner carefully did not discuss his own pipeline into the Kremlin.
"Gott im Himmel!" Hitler roared. "The idiot Americans will give this bomb to the Russians - Stalin will be at our throats!
"In a way we are fortunate," the intelligence officer continued when Hitler had calmed himself. "Had they maintained their initial pace they would have the bomb right now. Luckily, they slowed down their atomic research after Pearl Harbor so that they could devote all their resources to dealing with Japan. Alas, once the war was over, Roosevelt managed to get the project's priority upgraded again, under the code name Manhattan.
"We already have two intelligence teams in place to survey the main manufacturing site for the bomb." Kaltenbrunner paused and pointed at the map of the United States that covered the wall behind Hitler. "There, in Tennessee. They've concentrated all their production of radioactive material at one site. They're planning to build a second site in the state of Washington but it'll be two years before that's completed. Our sources don't know yet at what rate they are producing the crucial elements in Tennessee so we must assume the worst, that they will complete work within eighteen months, just as Harrison's Chief of Staff boasted."
Hitler stirred. "Early 1947."
"Yes, my Führer."
Hitler shifted his gaze to Speer.
"And our bomb?"
"1948 at the earliest, and that only if everything goes perfectly, which it will not. As I have said previously, the British sabotaged some key research sites, and we still don't have a secured supply of uranium ore. Beyond that it will take us at least eighteen months to build the massive facilities required to refine bomb-grade uranium in the sort of quanties that will be required. Like the Americans, we will need a factory area where nearly a hundred thousand workers can labor undisturbed."
"Then why not move now?" Hitler demanded. "We are already running rehearsals and training exercises. This conference merely confirms what I already knew. We could be ready in four weeks, six at most."
With one or two exceptions the entire group froze with almost the same look of nervous dismay. This had all been hashed out weeks ago, but Hitler had been known to change his mind. It would be very bad if this was one of those times.
"Because, my Führer," Speer replied quickly, "as we already discussed, we have another generation of weapons just coming on line, but it will be four to six months before we are up to full-scale production. When we have them in sufficient quantity, the new jets, television-guided rocket bombs, hydrogen-powered submarines and improved rockets will give us a tremendous edge. But we need time to develop sufficient reserves. Four months would give us another thousand of the new Gotha fighters and eight hundred more Arado bombers. As for the television-guided rocket bombs, we have only two hundred and fifty; in four months we will have a thousand, enough to send every single American carrier to the bottom.
"What we showed off at the parade looked glorious - and was! - but that display comprised nearly every plane we own of those designs. We will need these new weapons if we are to destroy the American fleet. During their Pacific War the Americans made tremendous advances in naval warfare. Their fleet is formidable. Our best plan is to keep a close watch on their Manhattan Project - and move just before they have the final design. For the next six months, time is our ally, and with our marvelous new asset in their White House, we will know their every move; if there is some breakthrough we can act earlier if need be. Please, my Führer, let us wait just a little. Come spring, we will be ready."
Hitler lowered his head as if calculating the odds once again. He finally raised his head. One by one, his gaze speared the commanders of the three military branches. "No latter than April."
Those gathered around the table visibly relaxed.
"Now, let us consider England. The American Manhattan Project is the reason we must fight, but the assault on Oak Ridge is just part of this operation, and a minor one in terms of men and materiel. Gentlemen, I expect to be in Buckingham Palace within forty-five days of the commencement of hostilities. Furthermore, I expect you to arrange matters in such fashion that England's death throes act as a lure to bring the American fleet within range of the Luftwaffe.
"This will not be a repeat of 1940," Hitler said meaningfully, looking straight over at Göring. "Thanks to Speer, control of the air will be achieved using our ME-262s and the new Gotha 229s, which are superior to anything the British have. With drop-tanks these fighters will be able to supply cover over all of England, thus eliminating our greatest problem in the previous war: protecting our bombers. This time, in all the British Isles there will be no single place of refuge. As for the invasion itself" - Hitler paused to look over at Manstein - "I've reviewed your proposals." He fell silent for a moment, then, theatrically, "I approve. I will help you refine them, of course, but in general, I approve of your implementation of my original plan."
Manstein smiled and nodded his thanks.
"Full operational details for the invasion to be on my desk within thirty days. Training schedules in Russia are to be doubled immediately."
Hitler looked back at Göring.
"For the Luftwaffe the task is twofold. First you must gain air superiority both in the Midlands and the North, so that the invasion is not hindered by the RAF and the Royal Navy. Next you must destroy the American fleet. Do not doubt that they will come to you. The Americans will not stand idly by and watch England fall. Harrison made that clear to me at Reykjavik.
"According to our naval planners" -- he nodded towards Doenitz -- "the Americans will be able to marshal a fleet of at least twenty carriers at several ports along their east coast and perhaps even recall elements from as far as Pearl Harbor. They also have five active divisions within the United States, three infantry, one airborne, and one Marine Corps, which we can expect will be loaded aboard transports. This fleet should be ready to sortie to England's relief by day twenty-five and will take ten days more to make the crossing."
"The American fleet will be pounded from the time it leaves port until it reaches English waters," Göring puffed. "I have developed plans for Luftwaffe ground units to seize airstrips in Iceland and Greenland. The Americans will have my planes overhead from the beginning to the end of their voyage. And I do mean the end," he said with a laugh as he leaned forward in his seat to look directly directly across at Doenitz. "Of course, Admiral, your U-boats will be there to pick off what's left," the Air Marshal added with poisonous condescension.
"Just provide decent reconnaissance this time," the man in charge of the German Navy replied icily, "and we will harvest our share."
Hitler slapped the table and the two fell silent.
"We need two years to complete our own bomb. To ensure that we have those two years, England must be eliminated once and for all, so that it can no longer serve as a base for air attacks. Furthermore, our holdings in Africa must be pushed clear into the Congo to secure the uranium mines, and to prevent the Americans from building airbases there. But, above all, their fleet must be destroyed, because without their navy the Americans are simply not a threat. To that end, I expect full cooperation between all branches of service." He scanned the room, pausing thoughtfully on Doenitz and Göring. "Full cooperation. Those who do not cooperate will be replaced."
"My Führer, I believe it is my duty to you to raise some concerns," Doenitz said after a moment's silence. All eyes turned to Doenitz, and then towards Hitler to gauge his reaction.
"Go on then," Hitler finally said, apparently all affability.
"My Führer, this American fleet survived attacks from over six thousand Japanese suicide planes during the 1944 campaign. They lost only fifty-six ships, only two of which were carriers, light carriers. Only one fleet carrier was lost, not in battle but as it was being towed back to Pearl Harbor. They will not be an easy nut to crack."
"And our own carriers, which you pressed so hard for?"
"In an open engagement against twenty American carriers they would would be quickly sunk," Doenitz replied simply. "We must keep them out of that engagement so that they can continue to support the invasion of England, and later, if they survive, help take the islands in the South Atlantic."
Hitler glared at him. "Then why did you press so hard to have them built, if they can do nothing when the so-terrible Americans come? Why?" We ceased production of the current generation of fighters, so that you could have your verdamnt carriers!"
This was not precisely true. Hitler himself had concluded that after England had stood down there would be no need for prop-driven fighters before they were made obsolete by jets, which were scheduled to be in full production by 1946. Better the resources go to weapons that would still be useful well into the 1950s, when it might be time to deal with the Americans. Or so he had thought before the Manhattan Projects. Now - "If it weren't for your pointless demands we would have twenty thousand fighters and fighter bombers! The American fleet would be sailing into a -- into a furnace!"
"We won't need his carriers," Göring interjected. "Sinking that fleet is a job for the Luftwaffe. And, trust me mein Führer, even with only one thousand jet aircraft, we have the means to accomplish that mission."
In one of his volatile mood shifts, Hitler nodded calmly and nodded to Göring. "Go on, explain it to them."
The rotund head of the Luftwaffe stood up and went over to the map.
"For one thing, this time their fleet won't be facing pilots drunk on saki, and flying bamboo planes." He laughed expansively. After glancing at Hitler, the group joined in.
"For another," Göring continued, "the Americans must drive straight for the Channel, since by this stage the invasion will already be in progress and their only hope for saving England will be to defeat us immediately. Our third Air Fleet, which will have just completed its task of destroying the RAF, will now turn to face the Americans as they move into the channel. The American carriers will have some of their new Panthers and Phantom jet fighters, but not more than a hundred taken together. They will be overwhelmed by our thousand Gotha 229s. The rest of their planes will be the older P-80 jets, which aren't even designed for carriers and have a high rate of damage on landings, and their antique Bearcats and Corsairs. Our ME-262s will annihilate them.
"As for the carriers themselves, we will have over one thousand of the new television-guided Henschel 294 rocket bombs." Hitler nodded appreciatively. He was thoroughly briefed on this particular super weapon, and approved of it heartily.
Beaming with delight, Göring continued. "They will be air launched from specially equipped JU-88s that will move under fighter protection to within ten kilometers of the carriers before doing so. Six or seven hits from these bombs, diving vertically, each loaded with a ton of high explosives, will sink even their newest Midway class carriers. Simultaneous torpedo strikes will be carried out on carriers and other war vessels using Arado 234s. Transports and lighter ships will receive the attentions of rocket-firing ME-410s and 510s. As soon as the fighting vessels have been disposed of, any transports that have survived will be invited to surrender. If they do not - well, they cannot be allowed to reach Engand, of course."
Göring paused for breath and triumph, then continued. "When my boys are done with them, your precious carriers will be safe enough, Doneitz. Maybe even the French fleet will finally sortie out to do battle with the American lifeboats that will cover the sea."
Hitler too looked around the room triumphantly, as if Göring's promises had already guaranteed victory for the Reich. "With England denied to them as a forward base and their fleet smashed, the Americans will have no means of striking at us for a year or more. By then two things will have happened. First, we will be within months of developing our own atomic bomb. Second, yet another generation of wonder weapons will be in the hands of our military. New York and Washington will be at our mercy, and if they continue to fight they will soon be facing atomic bombs delivered by rocket. That will destroy their will to resist. If it does not, they will simply die."
Hitler's gaze slowly swept the room and each in turn nodded approval, even Doenitz. "This meeting is concluded," he announced. "You know your duties. Get to them."
As the men who ran the Reich filed out, they noticed a towering SS officer waiting in the antechamber. All were curious, those who recognized him even more so than the others. Almost before the last of the group had exited, an aide gestured the tall SS officer into the presence. As the door closed behind him, Colonel Otto Skorzeny snapped to attention and heiled Hitler.
Hitler smiled and motioned for Skorzeny to join him at the conference table. This time Hitler's affability was not assumed. Otto Skorzeny was his kind of soldier. "Sit down, my dear Otto. You are well? You leg - does it still trouble you? That was a magnificent achievement - and on one leg!" Hitler laughed admiringly.
As he sat, Skorzeny laughed modestly in response. "Compared to your achievements in the Great War, mein Führer, mine are pale. And what is a broken leg compared to a year in hospital from poison gas?"
"Otto, Otto, you deserve your glory. As for me, I was an enlisted man, a runner. How can that compare?" Hitler was enjoying their little gavotte. Here was praise from a man whose praise had meaning.
"You were one of the very, very few enlisted man ever to win the Iron Cross, mein Führer."
"Kind of you to say so, Otto, very kind." Hitler basked for a moment, then turned the conversation to the matter at hand. "Perhaps you are wondering why I have asked you here today. It has been a while since I have enjoyed the presence of your company in private."
"I must confess, mein Führer, to a certain curiousity," Skorzeny said as drily as he thought wise.
"You are to plan for a mission, the most difficult of your career."
Skorzeny said nothing, but within him joy began to kindle.
"America and Germany will soon be at war."
At last. Skorzeny allowed a flicker of that joy to shine through. Hitler nodded approvingly.
"This shall be the final struggle. All that we risked is as nothing compared to that which we now embark upon; truly this is the culmination of mein kampf. And you, Otto Skorzeny, shall strike the first blow." Hitler looked him in the eye, man to man. "To one such as you I will not belabor the personal advantages that will accompany success. But do consider this: your success or failure will determine whether the Reich survives or is destroyed. In your hands rests the future of Germany." Both Skorzeny and, despite himself, Hitler, were caught in the moment. It was as if some higher power, the German race itself perhaps, were reaching through them to grasp the future in its fist.
After a time, Hitler motioned for Skorzeny to follow him to the far wall, where the map of the United States waited. Hitler extended his pale hand. "Here" - jab - "is the target you must destroy. This is not a job that the Luftwaffe can do alone, though Göring has pleaded otherwise. With my background I realized immediately that it required a combined effort by air and ground assault forces led by someone with consummate special skills."
Skorzeny nodded his thanks at the praise.
Hitler proceeded to explain the situation in detail, concluding with, "The full resources of the Reich will be at your disposal. You will answer directly to me and to no other. If you have problems with anyone, report them directly to me. Before you leave talk to Speer and Kaltenbrunner. They will provide you with briefings on the target. I expect you to develop a full strike plan and deliver it to me within the week."
Grinning like a starved wolf that has finally scented blood, Skorzeny leaned forward to study the target for just a moment more. This would be a very difficult assignment. His joy was complete.
Copyright © 1995 by Newt Gingrich & William R. Forstchen