Thursday, August 8, 2019

Guest Post: Indo-Aryan Migration into Africa by Allen McDonnell

This post originally appeared on Today in Alternate History.

4,000 YBP, a branch of the Euro-Aryan migration travels southwest from the Fertile Crescent along the Mediterranean coast of Levant and floods into Egypt. At first, the new settlers are welcome, but before long they grow in influence. By 3500 YBP the migrants have spread onward into Upper Egypt further up the Nile river valley, and by 3,000 YBP, the migrants have spread into southern Sudan and the mountains of Ethiopia having followed the river valleys up into the highlands of east Africa. Because of their aggressive pattern and booming population, the Afro-Aryan migration reaches and conquers the region around Lake Victoria a century ahead of the Bantu attempts to migrate into the same very fertile territory. The Bantu are turned away and move on to occupy the Congo River drainage. The barley and wheat brought by the Afro-Aryans from their fully occupied Egyptian lands do very well in the fertile central African uplands, sometimes called the African Great Lakes region.

In the Persian Gulf and further southeast into the northern Indian subcontinent, their success is slower as the native population density is already significant by this time in history. The Afro-Aryan branch, once it penetrates south of Upper Egypt, comes into a lightly settled fertile territory inhabited almost exclusively by hunter-gatherer cultures. The agricultural population advantage allows the new Afro-Aryans to swiftly expand and occupy this 'vacant upland' in less than two centuries, first conquering and then genetically replacing the San and Pygmy populations that had existed here for millennia. Those who practice herding lifestyles soon occupy the vast strip of the Sahel prairies between the Sahara Desert and the tropical forests extending their reach all the way from the Atlantic Ocean coast across to the Indian Ocean coast.

Over the course of centuries, the settlers who invaded the uplands adapted to their environment in competition with the Bantu peoples who dominated in the West African lowlands of the Congo basin and the Atlantic coast. Both cultures competed to the point where their technology and combat capabilities let them maintain a low-level conflict on their borders without either side having enough advantage to evict or successfully conquer the other.

When the Portuguese explored the West African coast south of the Sahara Desert, they discovered that the Afro-Aryans held the coast south of the Sahara Desert, itself held by the North African Berber peoples. Then as they rounded the bulge of Africa they came to the lands occupied by the Bantu peoples that extended through the tropical lowland forest belts all the way south through Angola. When they got as far south as the southern Sahel, however, the situation reversed again with the Afro-Aryans occupying the tropical grasslands that encompassed most of the southern end of Africa. This variegated pattern of occupation and nearly continuous border-conflict between the different peoples created what the Europeans of the sixteenth century took as a massive opportunity. Spain and Portugal had claimed vast areas in the Americas, but neither had the population density to be strong everywhere at once, which in turn led to massive labor shortages. The solution seemed simple enough: by supplying first one side and then the other with arquebuses in different ports of call, they created local power imbalances that encouraged the different factions to raid their enemies. Those raids in turn led to captives who were easily purchased and transported as slave labor to the New World.

Slavery as a cultural practice had been part of nearly every human civilization from before recorded history even began, and nobody thought twice about the implications. The sugar plantations in the Caribbean islands and the mines in the mountains of South America needed laborers, and cheap slaves from Africa filled the bill perfectly. The fact that the Afro-Aryans strongly resembled Indo-Aryans because their ancestors had been living in a tropical environment for thousands of years meant the only distinction those slaves had over European-Aryans was effectively their skin tone and hair color.

In North America, occupation by Europeans France and Great Britain, with small colonies from the Netherlands and Sweden as well, was very tentative at first. Spain and Portugal had both grown rich and to an extent powerful from the wealth brought in by their colonies providing spices, precious metals and gemstones. The French version of this extractive colonization was to concentrate most of their efforts on the Fur Trade in the territory of North America under their sway. The Dutch, British and Swedes, while they were happy to seek precious metals and export furs, had other focuses, namely agricultural products like spices, especially vanilla, chocolate and allspice all of which were native to the Americas. They also grew sugar cane where they could as the profits from sugar as a spice-export were extremely high. Tobacco, while not a spice or a food, was very valuable agricultural export as the nicotine in its leaves caused a mild addiction to its users. Most of these crops were themselves very labor intensive, and once the idea of importing slave labor was accepted by the colonists in North America, a steady stream of imports began.

Rightly or wrongly, by 1750 the belief had developed in the now entirely British areas of the continent of North America that Afro-Aryan slaves were better suited to the climate of the continent while Afro-Bantu slaves were better suited to the tropical Caribbean islands where most of the spices were grown. As a consequence the variegated pattern of populations from Africa was sorted out in a similar stripe set in North America. In Central and South America, the Spanish and Portuguese had no particular preference as the life expectancy of slaves tended to be very short so whatever cheap slaves they could get they purchased. This is not to say no Afro-Bantu slaves were imported in the north, a great many were working out to roughly 20 percent of the total of enslaved persons.

Because the enslaved population included mixed race First Peoples, Afro-Aryans, Afro-Bantu, and European ancestry the concept of genetic rather than social superiority did not become the common definition. Indeed because First People/European and Afro-Aryan/European mixed-descent children came about frequently in early colonial conditions when the female European population was very limited it was realized that the grandchildren of such relations could (6/8 European) "pass for white". At the same time it was considered that for an Afro-Bantu mixed race person would only "pass for white" if 7/8 European ancestry. Of course, any sort of crossing genetic lines vastly complicated things. Add in that men with power over enslaved women, whether they were free or a privileged slave with a supervisory role would frequently take advantage of females they considered attractive resulting in pregnancies and such neat genealogies became purely hypothetical. Further complicating matters in the antebellum South around New Orleans, a large number of indentured European labor was also imported, particularly from Germany which was undergoing frequent political upheaval in the post Napoleonic war period.

After six generations of slavery with the constant genetic influx from supervisory males into the population, the average African American of the 1850's was not in any sense 'pure African blood'. In fact, a growing percentage of the enslaved population was approaching the 'pass for white ' skin tone and by any objective standard they were lighter in skin tone than that hypothetical blond Norwegian working in the tropical sun.

The American Civil War erupted in 1856 when the Republican ticket of President John McLean and Vice President Abraham Lincoln won the nomination and went on to win 151 electoral votes. By following the Lincoln strategy of going after the high population northern states like Pennsylvania and New York and counting on the fact that the New England states would automatically choose an anti-slavery ticket, they won a plurality. The southern Democrats had thrown their support behind the sitting president, Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, in hopes that party unity would be enough to defeat the abolitionists but the issue of slavery was looming ever larger in American politics. Abolitionists had been arguing for some time that if a man with three European grandparents was 'white ' in the eyes of the general public that such a man being born into slavery was an affront to decency.

With the outbreak of the war, President McLean instructed the Army to use a 'color test ' which involved comparing the bare forearm of any applicant to a piece of tan colored cloth. Anyone whose skin was the same as the cloth or lighter was registered as a 'white ' soldier and entered the regular ranks. This method was used to test captured slaves from the beginning of the conflict and those slaves who 'passed for white ' were drafted immediately into service, where they served alongside immigrants fresh off the boat from Europe and backwoods farmers from all over the Northern tier of states. This standard was passed into Federal law in 1857, declaring that enslaving any person who passed the 'color test ' was both illegal and immoral and any such persons were already free even if being illegally detained by their purported owners. By carefully choosing the cloth dye used for the test President McLean ensured that half or more of the enslaved population were declared already free as an opening act of the war. As the war grinds on, this allowed the Union forces to capture and draft a constant supply of fresh recruits, avoiding the consequences inherent in drafting large numbers of immigrants and rural Americans. Drafting of former slaves along with arming, training, and treating them like European recruits causes them to be both extremely loyal and fierce on the battle field. By February 1859, the Confederacy is on its last legs with thousands of slaves running away to Union forces even when they know they cannot pass the 'color test '. To deal with this influx, President McLean convinces Congress to pass the Former Slave provision to the Homestead Act, which provides for any former slave to receive 160 acres of western lands provided they live on that land and improve it for seven years time. Accordingly these runaway slaves who do not fit the Army standards to serve in white regiments are sent west as quickly as new land can be surveyed and assigned to get them out of federal custody as refugees that must be cared for.

By September 1859, the Confederacy no longer exists. There are no longer any slaves to work the plantations as the drafted soldiers both think of themselves as white, and returned from service with their caplock rifles as gifts of the government for self-defense. The former slave holders find themselves heavily outnumbered by well-trained and well-armed men whom the Federal government extend voting privileges. The old European ancestry power structure is completely gutted. A number of former slave-holders who were particularly cruel to their enslaved persons find the tables turned when they are lynched or have their homes destroyed by organized gangs of vigilantes. The smarter ones quickly discover the option of fleeing the region to be the safest option and they do so. Those who remain discover that the new majority have quickly passed laws removing the rights of all former illegal slave holders to vote or serve on juries or in elected office. For several years, armed gangs from both groups seek to terrorize the other, but the clear majority of new armed and trained citizens inevitably eliminate their opposing gangs one by one. Many of the new majority legislatures in the former confederacy had followed the Arlington example and confiscated the former slaveholder property for failure to pay special taxes levied against them. The properties had then been broken up into parcels of 160 acres or less and auctioned off to the general public. Even in those cases where the former owners had managed to scrape up enough funds to buy back a portion of their lands most of it went to new owners, both former slaves and immigrants.

Tragically President McLean was assassinated three months after his second inauguration by a Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth. In one of the last pieces of legislation signed by President McLean, it is made official law that Baltimore is the legal port of entry for European immigrants. President Lincoln rising from Vice President to lead the country in July 1861 finds himself in the position of welcoming massive numbers of northern Europeans into the USA in Maryland. Before this time the two ports of Baltimore and New York had competed for the immigrant trade, but it was felt by President McLean and supported by Vice President Lincoln that bringing fresh immigrants into the former Confederacy was the best way to erase the scars of the war.

Friday, July 12, 2019

March 1, 1845 – Opening of the Northwest Passage Canal

President Henry Clay announced before Congress the official opening of a project a lifetime in the making: a canal to allow travel by water from the Atlantic to the Pacific without having to navigate southward across the equator. Explorers had searched for a Northwest Passage over centuries, discovering many of the rivers that would later evolve into colonial settlements. While a route by sea was theoretically possible north of Canada, the extreme cold froze even seawater, and several expeditions perished before enormous icebreakers proved capable of traveling there in the twentieth century.

Clay’s American System pursued a different tactic: if a Northwest Passage could not be found, why not build one? Canal-building boomed in the 1820s after the successful completion of the Erie Canal across northwest New York. Opponents called it “Clinton’s Ditch” after the governor’s pursuit of an outrageously expensive, 350-mile canal that required eight years of digging. After its opening in 1825, however, the passage between the Hudson River and the Great Lakes proved to be an exponential boon to the economy as well as a focus of westward settlement. Ohio boomed and soon built its own canal to complete an inland waterway from New York to New Orleans.

Henry Clay had radically encouraged transportation improvements as Secretary of State under John Quincy Adams with projects like the National Road and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The Democratic-Republican Party from the Era of Good Feelings began to fracture over the question of federal authority and states’ rights, the latter championed by southerners who felt they were missing out on major investments, such as John C. Calhoun’s South Carolina. Adams took a narrow victory for his reelection in 1828, mainly from Clay’s efforts to win votes in the Ohio Valley. Clay determined to have his own victory in 1832, but to do so, he needed to grab attention from the expansion-minded South.

Clay campaigned with promises to boost settlement through the West by bridging the Missouri and Snake rivers into a Northwest Passage with a system of canals. New Orleans seized on the idea, and campaigners supported Kentuckian Clay as a fellow westerner rather than an untrustworthy northerner. The city had grown to become the fifth largest in the United States and looked to grow beyond its previous claim to fame in the heroism of General Andrew Jackson, who perished in the fight to defend the city from British seizure in 1815. It would serve as the southern gateway to the Pacific, drawing in trade from the European ships frequenting the Caribbean.

Once Clay was elected, the problem became how to build the canal in a land that was mostly unexplored. The area around the nearby Yellowstone River lay in legend among trappers as a place of boiling mud, which John Colter called “fire and brimstone” when he journeyed through it after departing the Louis and Clark Expedition, which went northward as it struggled to find a way across the Continental Divide. Clay’s expeditions discovered that the legends were accurate with numerous geothermal springs including geysers. To the west, they discovered a narrowing of the Rockies that would allow for a channel to be cut south from the Madison River branch of the Missouri to reach the long, flat valley along the Snake River, joining the Columbia River before pouring into the Pacific.

Clay’s engineering teams faced an enormous challenge of actually cutting through the rock. It was infeasible to cut very deeply, meaning the crews would need to build over 100 locks that would bring riverboats up and down the steep inclines. The nearby strange land around the Yellowstone headwaters proved to be a divine gift. Ingredients for blasting powder such as sulfur and nitrates were readily available from the geological formations as well as ample wood for charcoal, leading to the largest gunpowder manufactory west of the Mississippi. A miraculous 136-square-mile lake rested above the canal-building area, and workers cut a controlled channel to bring water down to readily refill the locks.

Although there were many who decried the enormous expense of the Northwest Passage Canal, which would be billions in today’s dollars, most investors were eager to contribute. The National Bank shouldered much of the loans, which saw investment from foreign interests eager to save months of travel time to the west. Clay’s administration sold land long the rivers at high prices, easing the federal expenditure. Towns quickly sprang up not just to support the workforce but also in anticipation of heavy river traffic in the years to come. Speculation ran wild, popping the bubble in the major economic downturn in 1837, coinciding with Clay’s departure from the presidency as his American System policy had worn thin.

Clay played up the economic crash, blaming his Democratic rivals squarely, even though that was a gross over-simplification. The simplification did lend to easy slogan, and Clay’s reelection in 1840 was a sure thing based on demands to make the country rich. Despite the international praise at the opening of the canal, it soon became obvious that the system had to close down in winter due to bitter cold freezing the channels and burying them in snow during blizzards. Clay did not seek reelection in 1844, nor did anyone ask him to.

The Northwest Passage proved to be a mixed success. It did prompt massive settlement westward, leading to statehood for territories in the Great Plains and past the Rockies. Feeling the growing pressure of American settlers, Great Britain pushed for clarity on the boundary of Oregon Country, which was finally agreed to at 49 degrees with American claim to Vancouver Island. Tensions continued to build with Mexico, whose own designs connecting the Pacific and Gulf via a canal between the Gila and Rio Grande rivers had been halted by political instability and the issue of building a supply of water in the desert to fill the necessary locks. This would soon lead to war.

Although impressive in its time, technology would put an end to the Northwest Passage Canal when train travel took over within two decades. The locks were desperately expensive, and soon they became nothing more than areas for recreation and tourism in a radically developed area that would suffer terrible environmental damage for decades to come. Following the downturn of American manufacturing, which surged in the region until after the Second World War, the area declined into what many called the Western Rust Belt.


In reality, Jackson did not die at New Orleans, and his popularity would lead the Democratic Party to victory routinely in the early 1800s. The area along the Continental Divide would remain largely unexplored for decades to come when Yellowstone’s headwaters proved to be as majestic as the legends of fur trappers said. Yellowstone became the first National Park, signed into law by President Grant in 1872. In 1978, Yellowstone became a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the largest nearly-intact ecosystem in Earth’s northern temperate zone (Shullery, 2006).

Monday, July 8, 2019

Guest Post: Skorzeny's Daring Rescue Fails

This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

September 12, 1943:

On this day in alternate history, Operation Eiche ended in disaster. This was a daring rescue mission to whisk Hitler's former Axis partner Benito Mussolini away from Campo Imperatore Hotel to a meeting at Wolf's Lair. But for reasons unknown and despite the objections of the pilot, Commando leader Otto Skorzeny insisted on accompanying him in the Fieseler Fi 156 STOL. This overloaded the plane, which crashed into a cliff and killed everyone on-board.
The Fuhrer had been enraged when Victor Emmanuel III, the King of Italy had replaced the Duce with Marshal Pietro Badoglio. As he suspected, this led to an armistice signed only three weeks after the Sicily landings. When Mussolini was placed in captivity, Hitler even threatened to seize the Pope. Instead, his Austrian-born countryman Skorzeny was ordered to rescue the Duce.

The light security detail at the Hotel was unmistakable evidence that the fate of Benito Mussolini was considered a complete irrelevance to the outcome of the war and, indeed, the future of Italy. But Badoglio miscalculated and this would lead to the early collapse of his Government. Hitler wanted a figurehead for his Northern Italian puppet state, and, although alternative leaders such as Alessandro Pavolini or Rodolfo Graziani would probably do, Il Duce, despite being a dejected figure, was strongly preferred for the appearance of continuity. Therefore, the Duce still at least had some symbolic value.

After the crash, the morale of the Italian Social Republic never got off the ground without the Duce. This was to be to the great military advantage of the Communist partisans operating in the North with the assistance of British SOE. Although Churchill was denied his opportunity to strike at the soft under-belly of Europe, nevertheless it was a development not without consequence because Western Yugoslavia was liberated before Soviet forces could arrive. 

The head of the Yugoslav Partisans, Josip Broz Tito, had made an arrangement with the Germans to jointly oppose any Western landing. The inevitable result was the partition into a western kingdom led by King Peter governing from Sarajevo, and an eastern Communist state ruled out of Belgrade by Tito. This settlement was formed by the percentage agreement, a "naughty document" proposed by Churchill and signed by Stalin, stating that Great Britain would get 50% sphere of influence control.

Tito would die in 1980 and be succeeded by another strongman, Slobodan Milosovic. However, East Yugoslavia would not survive long past the fall of Communism in 1989, after which Peter II finally became the constitutional monarch of a united country.

Author's Note: in reality, they only just missed the cliff, and it was considered the greatest special forces triumph of WW2. This led to further operations including the kidnapping of Admiral Horthy's son and also Operation Grief during the Battle of the Bulge. Peter II was was prevented from returning to Belgrade by Prime Minister Subasic. This was after Stalin demanded a three man regency council to govern until a plebiscite was held on if Yugoslavia should become a republic or remain a monarchy. He died in 1970 following a failed liver transplant. His cirrhosis was caused by depression resulting in alcoholism.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Guest Post: Icebreaker Begins

This article originally appear in Today in Alternate History as 5th, May 1940 - Icebreaker begins

In retrospect, the timing of Josef Stalin's first stroke during early 1936 was precipitous. Certainly, the Soviet leadership's weak handling of the Spanish Civil War was a short-term boost to the Fascist dictators. For the Western democracies, it was rather fortunate, then, that powerful new figures in Russia were exercising an iron grip of the Kremlin four years later. The real significance ultimately was the end to a cleansing of Communist Party ranks, stopping short Stalin's planned purge of the officer corps in the Red Army.

A second, far more debilitating stroke followed shortly after high representatives of the Nazi German government concluded negotiations leading Moscow on the evening of August 23, 1939. In fact, both parties had signed a dead letter even though the ink was hardly dry on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. From a strategic perspective, the neutrality of the USSR prevented Great Britain from using the dominance of the Royal Navy to impose a WW1-style embargo on the Germans. Despite the steady flow of supply from the USSR to Germany, there was never any realistic prospect of the Western Allies actually declaring war on both the Soviets and the Nazi, even though both countries had blatantly violated sovereignty of a neutral nation when they partitioned the Second Polish Republic. The opportunity for the Western Allies to strike Soviet oil-fields in Baku was passed up by Chamberlain, even though an earlier Churchill Government might well have calculated otherwise. Clearly, the Western Allies could not afford to fight both great powers.

As plainly evidenced by the articulation of his own megalomaniac vision in his prison diary Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler had every intention of invading the USSR as soon as his Western flank was secure. However, he badly miscalculated Soviet intent when he massed seventy percent of the Wehrmacht in Western Europe. The Red Army, having abandoned their defences to occupy Poland, seized the opportunity to pounce as soon as the Battle of France was underway. The so-called Operation Suvorov was actually a variation of a secret operational plan devised by Stalin to use Nazi Germany as an "icebreaker," i.e. to take control of the continent by manipulating Hitler into a wider war that he could not possibly win. The so-called "Man of Steel" would not live to see victory, because "Dr." Beria saw fit to relieve cranial his pressure with a 9mm drill.

The critical period of time for the Soviet strike was 11-12 May when German supply dumps and  100% of the Luftwaffe had been irretrievably committed to the West. Only eight divisions of German troops were deployed on the Eastern front, and none in defence of Hungary or Romania. Even though the Wehrmacht had struck decisively and the Dutch had surrendered, the British, French and Belgians were undefeated. This was the point of vulnerability when the Soviets chose to strike.

Ironically, a purge of the Red Army would have probably have made Icebreaker infeasible. In the present moment, however, with the Red Army at full strength, this was a tactical masterstroke but only time would actually tell whether Soviet logistics could sustain such a risky initiative. As the old military truism goes, "Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals talk about logistics." In all probability, the Soviets lacked the logistical capability to defeat Germany in 1940. 

Consequently, it was decided to attack on two fronts. About 400,000 Soviet troops crossed the border from occupied Poland into Germany. Meanwhile, a 100,000 strong Soviet force attacked the small Romanian army and occupied the oil-producing region of Plioesti. It was anticipated that this strategic strike would cause acute resource shortages for the Wehrmacht within six months or less. By then senior officers of the Wehrmacht had overthrown Hitler and called for a ceasefire.

Communism had won the day and post-1940 Europe was a transformed continent. The Soviets and the Axis Powers entered a Cold War Period that frequently threatened to, but never quite broke out into open conflict. All of these countries would collapse to popular democratic movements during the late 1980s. Meanwhile Britain and France had lost their global leadership and lay in the shadow of the two neighbouring super-powers, USSR and Germany. Both WW1 victor powers would de-colonise and form a Western European Community with the Low Countries as they struggled to remain relevant as the millennium approached.

Author's Note: In reality between twenty-five and fifty percent of officers were purged, which seriously weakened the operational fighting strength of the Red Army prior to the outbreak of war.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Guest Post: 15th March 1935 - Aleppo Canal opens

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

Against all expectations, the "sick old man of Europe" was re-born as the new country of Ottomanistan, a rich oil-producing Caliphate, in the two decades that followed the Empire's humiliating defeat in the Gallipoli Campaign. Inevitably, the victor powers' influence in the region sharply declined during that same period.

The reason for this reversal of fortune was the growing revenue from the kerosene trade that had rejuvenated the Caliphate's coffers. This was a welcome development because the old empire had been heavily burdened by the still unpaid debts to Western banks that dated back to the Crimean War. At last the return to Great Power status was surely marked around the world by the iconic picture of Jamal Pasha the Bloodthirsty and tribal leaders opening of the Aleppo Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Euphrates River. This shorter route offered advantages over the Anglo-French owned Suez Canal although it required a complex series of engineering works to succeed. This included dams and fresh water reservoirs in order to prevent salt water from polluting the agricultural hinterland.

The end of six centuries of empire had been widely predicted prior to the outbreak of the Great War. It was the British Admiralty that had conceived the breakthrough idea of triggering this collapse. They planned to capture the Dardanelles using outdated naval ships unfit for combat against the German fleet. This initial gambit ended in failure, but in a second attempt, the New Zealand and Australian Division and the Australian 1st Division made landfall. Of course, had the Entente Powers not switched the invasion point to Suva Bay, then Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal would be alive and Enver Pasher perhaps still in charge of the military triumvirate.

Instead, Ottoman participation in the Great War ended with the Armistice of Constantinople. The ancient Greek province of Thrace was returned to the Hellenic Kingdom, and Anatolia was formed into an independent new buffer state. Western Allied forces occupied the straits and the city of Constantinople was ceded, under existing Treaty obligations, with some reluctance, to the Tsar. This was justified because keeping Russia in the war was a strategic objective of the Western Allies. Even though Russian forces had been less than twenty miles away, this marked the historic (if arguably, undeserved) achievement of a long-term Imperial policy objective. Not only was the Russian Black Sea Fleet now engaged, but massive Anglo-French supplies and reinforcements could be sent to relieve the pressure on the Eastern Front. To support this thrust, the Royal Navy was given freedom of the straits and a port in the Aegean. Consequently, the outcome was a win-win for the Entente Powers, if not actually a war-winning game changer as originally hoped for.

Of course the departure of sixty million citizens of Turkic origin transformed demographics for Ottomanistan. Declaring a new capital in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the sixteen million remaining Ottoman citizens were predominantly Arabic, and Ottomanistan retained control of the Islamic religious centre of Medina. The new Grand Vizier would be Jamal Pasha, the former Governor of Aleppo, following Enver Pasha's resignation due to the humiliation of defeat. A confident and charismatic national leader, this proved to be the first step in the recovery of Ottoman fortunes. As world demand for petroleum increased, the country that was seen as a shadow of its former self suddenly found great wealth in its natural resources and power in competing offers of alliance with old enemies and allies in Europe.

Author's Note:

In reality the failure to secure the high ground at ANZAC Cove led to a tactical stalemate with the landings contained by the defenders in a perimeter less than 1.2 mi (2 km) long. In this scenario we have used the more favourable landing site of Suva Bay that was used later in the campaign under the hopelessly incompetent generalship of Sir Frederick Stopford. The picture shows Djemal Pasha with Iraqi tribal leaders, celebrating the completion of the al-Hindya dam on the Euphrates river near al-Hilla, south of Baghdad.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Guest Post - VJ Day Delayed

If there was irony as well as tragedy in the propaganda phrase "Loose Talk Costs Lives" then it was because the experimental physicist Luis Walter Alvarez was shocked and appalled by Truman's wildly inaccurate depiction of the bombing of Hiroshima. The president had mistakenly said that the energy of the blast was equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, the measurement of the test bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico. Of course he might have been exaggerating simply because he had threatened the "complete and utter destruction" of Japan in his Potsdam Declaration. Alvarez, however, knew for certain that it was only 13 kilotons. This was because of the radio transmitter-based measurement device that he had parachuted out of a chaser plan flying directly behind the Enola Gay.
Even had it been blatantly ignored by the military hierarchy, the measurement would still be required for the bombing of Nagasaki even though Alvarez was not assigned to the operational mission. This proved to be a costly miscalculation because he decided to take matters into his own hands. Whether through guilt or anger, but certainly for the wrong reasons, Alvarez took the fateful decision to attach to the device a warning letter addressed to a scientific colleague called Ryokichi Sagane, a physicist working at the University of Tokyo. The letter was edited by two of Alvarez colleagues, Bob Serber and Phil Morrison.

The Japanese military recovered the letter and handed it to Sagane on August 11th. The emotional Alvarez liked to think that maybe his persuasive words would play a role in the rapidity of the Japanese surrender. If so, he was very badly mistaken because Sagane deduced from his words that the United States had exhausted its stock of enriched uranium.

The Imperial Japanese Government agreed with him but in the present moment were equally if not more concerned by the rapid advancement of Soviet forces. This fear was actually shared by the Americans who would have a third bomb (fourth if one counted the test) ready by August 18th. Due to Alvarez breaking the rules, it would be necessary to drop this device on the city of Kokura in order to end Japanese procrastination before the Soviets could make a move on Japanese territory.

As events were to transpire the shape of the post-war world had been transformed in the very moment that Sagane opened the fateful letter of warning. The Soviets learnt of this development via intercepted signal traffic. With their forces crossing the Yalu River, they decided to act upon this intelligence by declining the American request to pause the invasion of Korea at the 38th parallel.

Meanwhile, the Chinese cities of Nanking, Tientsin and Shanghai were occupied by the Red Army. The consequence of this would be that China, rather than Korea, would be partitioned along the Yangtze River following VJ Day. In the long-run this outcome might well have saved Chiang's Nationalist regime but in the present moment the Soviet expansion in the Pacific was unexpected. Indeed it seemed to many in the West that the atomic bomb had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. This proved not to be the case because Nationalist China, strongest of the Asian economic Tigers, became the bulwark of American power in the Pacific long beyond Chiang Kai-shek's death in 1975. The continuation of his rule had enabled the government of South Vietnam to weather the storm of civil war.

Author's Note: In reality, Sagane did not pass the letter until after the war, and Alvarez did not actually sign it in his name until much later in 1949.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Guest Post - Viking Gunpowder

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

25 September, 1066 - Supremacy of Vikings assured at Stamford Bridge

By the time that the incomparable Norseman Harald Hardrada was born it appeared that the age of the Vikings was drawing to a close. Their once-feared sea raiding parties were increasingly met with organised resistance and fortifications as Christianity spread and centralised authorities developed across the continent of Europe.

But their shock troops simply needed to find the right weapon in order to defeat organised troops led by a monarch. Necessity is the mother of invention, and a game-changing technology eventually arrived in the nick of time during the middle of the eleventh century. A priest of Loki had been experimenting with a flash powder effect, and his student conceived of using it for military purposes. The result would be a "grenade," an explosive weapon of gunpowder in a clay pot that could thrown by hand on a rope. The tight control exercised by the priesthood would ensure the Viking monopoly lasted for half a century.

This powerful weapon transformed the invasion of 1066, creating even more awe than the Viking destruction of the monastery on Lindesfarne. After the proud English king's boast of only giving Harald Hardrada land for a grave, he himself was buried six feet under at Stamford Bridge. Thereafter followed the Viking Conquest of Britain, including the use of grenades to defeat the invading Normans as they came ashore at Hastings. Fifty years later, Sigurd I Magnusson would carry the grenades back to Byzantium where Greek fire had been placed in stone and ceramic jars seven centuries earlier. This weapon would later be used to devastating effect in the First Crusade as Scandinavia stood at the helm of continental Europe.

Addendum by Allen W. McDonnell:

Roman Catholics had already learnt the secret of gunpowder by the time that Sigurd the Crusader entered Constantinople during 1107; however, they had to wait their chance until the arrival of the Bubonic plague. Armed with Arquebusies and light artillery, Papal forces reconquered the Viking lands in its wake. The pandemic triggered the start of a new era of enlightenment; not culturally inclined, the Viking had only accumulated knowledge about the limited subjects of nature and geography.

But the collapse of Viking authority was not to overshadow the sea-raiders' tremendous success in protecting Europe from the invasion of the Mongols. This achievement was due not only to the use of gunpowder, but the bold decision to train every man to fight the Mongols and not just the nobility.

Thus the Papal Forces were fortunate to be able to occupy a continent largely free of external invaders. From his Vatican in the city of Prague, the Pope was able to expand Roman Catholicism from Moscow to Montreal and Narvik to Sicily during the long period of expansion, 1350-1800. However, the continent of Europe entered the nineteenth century without steam technology, with engines still to be invented. Armies built and maintained a few dozen weapons each with no standardized designs. The continent stood on the edge of a new industrial revolution.

Certainly new advancement was needed by Papal Forces, for technology constraints had brought them to a pivotal moment much like their predecessors, the Vikings during the mid-eleventh century. Undefeated Islam still controlled Spain/Portugal and after taking the Byzantine Empire the border between Catholic and Islam lie in Greece. Prague's armies struggled to hold back Muslim armies from entering the Balkan states. Further east, Roman Catholic control ranged from the Ural mountains across northern Europe. But the real threat was from the Protestant reformation that was taking place across the Atlantic ocean in North America. This is where Prague's influence was greatly weakened by distance and events appeared to be moving in a totally new direction...

Author's Note: in OTL the Battle of Stamford Bridge was the end of the last major Viking incursion into Europe.

Site Meter