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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:52 pm 
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i have never been happier to see this is still going :)


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:28 pm 
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WHOO HOOO!!!!! Its back!

Every time you update this, I am inspired to go play a few more games on one of the various Hearts of Iron games I have.

Belushi TD


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:23 pm 
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It's one of those what-ifs that used to keep me awake after reading OTL war stories......
Amazing stuff.
Thank you.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 12:29 am 
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Thank you all, gentlemen.

The war is far from over though. The Japanese are on the backfoot, sure. I haven't really dealt with this yet, but the British have no desire to actually invade Japan proper, what with Europe eating up most of their manpower and the Japanese being who they are. Effectively their only option is to isolate the Home Islands and bomb/starve them into submission, hence the future invasion of Okinawa and the rest of the Ryukyu Islands. They certainly won't stop the Americans in case they want to have a go, but you won't see Royal Marines storming the beaches of Hokkaido. Since they know that this runs the risk of ceding all of Japan proper to the dirty godless commies (tm), they are trying to get the Americans to agree to pre-agreed occupation zones.

The Japanese know a lot of that and they will lash out.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 2:07 am 
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That option reflects their prewar planning on a war with Japan, which called for a blockade from Hong Kong, so it does make a lot of sense as a choice.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 6:43 am 
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Wow! I almost missed this! An excellent piece of work.

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Frankly I had enjoyed the war...and why do people want peace if the war is so much fun?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:20 am 
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Still here - glad it's back!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:36 pm 
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Thank you I'm so so glad you are back well done.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2017 1:24 pm 
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(With all due apologies to IBM, RadioShack, Motorola, Sinclair and whoever else might be offended.)

01000011 01101000 01100001 01110000 01110100 01100101 01110010 00100000 00110011 00111000 00110110


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A Colossus of men: Sir Alan Turing and the history of Computers, from Bletchley Park to the Interlink
James Edward Conroy, (University of British Columbia Press, 2008)

In the popular perception, modern computer history traces itself back to the likes of Alan Turing and Konrad Zuse, and with good reason. On opposite sides of the front, both these men did pioneer work and neither received the public recognition they deserved until decades after the war, though in the case of Sir Alan Turing, this may in part have been caused by his personal background. This chapter is by no means meant to provide a full history of Computers and how they shaped and continue to shape the world around us, but merely an introduction to their history.


In 1944, Sir Alan was the developers of the Colossus Mk.II, an improved version of the prototype that quintupled computation speed. Bletchley park had comissioned it's construction in 1943, to decipher both the Lorenz cipher used by what was left of the German Kriegsmarine, the German Army and Air Force. A slightly differing variant of this cipher was used for high-level/priority communications between Berlin and Moscow, and it was this variant that had prompted the Post Office Research Station to request the assistance of Britain's foremost expert on computation machines.

Even though limited in scope and in it's single unit was not a Turing-complete Computer as defined by Sir Alan in the 1950s. It was a machine for a set of narrow and very specific purposes, and all of them cryptography related. Yet the fourteen examples completed before the end of the war did splendid service in that field, even though all of them were destroyed and all documentation about them burnt after the end of the war.

The history of the Colossus-Group and what they created is the subject of Chapters 2-4 of this book.

In early 1945, as fighting still raged in eastern Poland and a number of Axis holdout in France were still resisting, Sir Alan and several others from GCHQ as well as Colossus-Group engineers journeyed across devastated western Europe to Berlin, in order to inspect something that a German Engineer had created and that was reportedly even more advanced than their own. When they met with Konrad Zuse he led them into a house along Methfesselstraße in Berlin-Kreuzberg. What the British engineers and scientists saw there was nothing but the beginning of modern computers.

The Z3.

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Even though technically it was a development of another machine (retroactively dubbed the Z3 Type 1) and not fully electronic, unlike the Colossus machines in Britain, it was nevertheless fully programmable via 80 column punch cards, a technology that, as Zuse happily admitted, was stolen from International Business Machines, an obscure and long-defunct American company that had originally patented the idea in 1928. Developed for the Reichsluftfahrtministerium, it was originally to be used for aerodynamic calculations that were part of the Jet engine research efforts going on at the time. The war had ended for Berlin before that could happen.

Different or not, the Colossus-Group did not take long to realize what they had. At that time it lacked several features to make it a truly Turing-complete machine, but it was nevertheless confiscated and brought to Britain along with it's creator and his principle assistants. Kept as far away from Bletchley and the Colossus machines as was practicable, Zuse and the Z3 were tasked with assisting Turing in his next big project, a project that would eventually bring forth the Vulcan 'trilogy' of electronic computers.

Built between 1948 and 1950 at Camebridge on the behest of the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Artillery, the trio of computers were the first machines built from the start as Turing complete machines, fully electronic, digital and programmable in almost the modern sense. Over the next decades, digital computers slowly became a commercial product in their own right, and in 1954, the Government ceased official funding for further research, dissolving the Vulcan Group whose members each went their separate ways. Sir Alan took up a teaching position at his Alma Mater at King's College in Camebridge, founding the Centre for Computer Sciences in 1962 and continuing to work there until his retirement in 1987.

Zuse on the other hand returned to Germany. He continued research and work into Computers and Semiconducters before founding the Zuse Großrechnerbau KG in 1966, running the company up until he retired from active management in 1986. Today the Zuse Elektronik AG is known as the largest of globaly only three major CPU manufacturers, just barely beating out it's rivals at Toshiba in Japan and Sinclair Electronics in the British Empire.

Both remained friends for the remainder of their lives to the point that Sir Alan, to die soon after himself, travelled to Berlin to deliver the eulogy at Zuse's funeral in 1995.

Microcomputers were not invented by Zuse, the first one to have the term applied was a machine designed by a conglomerate of Royal Mail, British Imperial Airways and British Rail Engineers as a part of Ticket Reservation System 1980, meant to last all these institutions all through the decade, making it the first global and non-military computer network.

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A familiar sight for travellers throughout the Empire and much of the Euroblock well into the 1990s.

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As it was, Zuse was about to launch the biggest revolution in microcomputers until the advent of the Interlink, the Z78.


Developed over a three year time period with occasional input from Sir Alan (though how much input he had remains open to debate) and with limited backing by a number of German universities, the machine initially meant for educational and business use, something reflected in it's capabilities that were initially limited to monochrome and it's price, at the time 1910 D-Mark, roughly 1400 CAD at time of printing, so it was hardly accessible to the common customer.

Even so it was a breakout success, with the first machines appearing in British stores that same year and in January 1979 also in Canada. Imitators were quick to appear, but at first none of the so-called Zuse Compatible Machines (or ZCMs) quite reached the original in build quality and capabilities, especially when the 78-2 added colour graphics and a soundchip adapted from a Video-game console, built a built in harddisk controller (with a drive being an optional extra) as well as more user-friendly connectivity for printers and other external accessories such as the Z-010 tape deck.

The machine coined the term 'Personal Computer', oddly enough with the English abbreviation of the term winning out over it's German counterpart even in that country, and it was with a set of 78s with which the now massive Canadian gaming industry was started. All this allowed the machine to break into the home market, along with a price reduction and the explosively growing home gaming, The Z-78 and it's revisions remained in production until 1984, with the last example coming off the production line being preserved in the publicly accessible Zuse AG museum. Development had not halted, with the Z81 released in 1981, appropriately the first PC with a 20 MB harddrive as standard.

Computer technology outside Germany did not stand still, as ZCMs became a common thing across the Euroblock and the rest of the world, though they never quite managed to break into the German market. The only serious competitor to ever coming close to unseating Zuse during the 1980s rose to fame in the United Kingdom in 1980, with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum released that year, promptly to enter a lengthy legal battle about the Z prefix, with a German court eventually allowing Sinclair Electronics to keep using it.

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Though not quite as fast as contemporary Zuse machines and sold as an all-in-one unit that one would connect to a TV or a third-party monitor, it nevertheless offered the ability to connect an external harddrive and a mouse/gaming controller as standard. This, together with it's low price point made it a choice for lower budget households, especially since the machine, affectionately called the Speccie, was extremely capable with games for a machine of this size and configuration.

Development of early forms of the Interlink began right around that time. Between the TRS-80 system still used by British Rail and it's sister companies all over the Empire, as well as the nascent NAVCOM and GPS systems and the networks and dial-to-connect bulletin boards springing up it was only a matter of time until someone would try to apply those technologies to a wider commercial market. Even though the exact details are still classified to this day, the Royal Navy had long desired a faster means of communication between the various naval stations spread across the world that wouldn't rely on the open airwaves or vulnerable telephone switches. NRC (Naval Relay Chat) was presented to assembled Naval Officers as well as the Prince of Wales in 1984.

Even though classified fairly high at the time, the concept itself soon leaked out to the various universities, with various colleges in Camebridge independently working on a clone of the system before their efforts were unified, and by 1988 most major Euroblock universities were connected via the 'Inter-University Link' shortened and contracted to 'Interlink' later that year. They had been connected since the early 1960s as stated above, though ironically the Data Transfer Code[1] was not invented until 1976, with the IUL adopting the DTC in 1977 and 'going global' in 1981 on the heels of the PC revolution.

A more detailed history can be found in Chapter fifteen and onwards of this volume.

Public availability began in 1986, though at first several Education boards pushed for 'educational use only'. However, due to both Sinclair and Zuse adopting DTC-compatible external modems as an optional extra, working together with the National Communications Board, a non-profit that governs Interlink address distribution to this day. By 1990 those had become internal and standard, with an increading number of subscribers and users. From a paltry figure of 0.4% of the global population having access that year this has grown to around 65% in 2007. Near 100% of households in the Eurobloc own at least one device capable of connecting to the Interlink via broad-band access.

However one stands on the issues of Net Neutrality, age appropriate content, Interlink addiction or any number of issues that have arisen in the two decades since that fateful Monday morning in 1986, it all started with Sir Alan Turing and a cryptographical computer. When asked to comment on the technology in an interview a few weeks before his death in spring 1996, Turing commented that in his opinion there had not been a greater enabler in communications and no greater equalizer of knowledge since the printing press.

When one of the minds behind the NRC system was asked in 2005 about how the Interlink had changed society, the answer was one that is today splashed across websites and shirts across the world:

“Lady, we haven't even seen the tip of the iceberg yet.”

tbc

This chapter had to be computer related. Anyhoo, now that the Battle of the South China Sea is done, the next big one is the Battle of the Fulda Gap and after that the final stages of Jaywick. Since the former needs a great deal of research (I'm not at all familiar with the area beyond it's relation to Cold War planning) a few world-building posts are coming up next. After this would you ladies and gents be interested in a discourse on (Video-) gaming?

[1]Effectively TCP-IP

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:14 am 
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Specy rules! :D

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Frankly I had enjoyed the war...and why do people want peace if the war is so much fun?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 4:37 am 
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The Specy is effectively TTLs C64, except that it's compatible with the effective industry standard (to the point of using a version of the same OS) and endures to become one of the big three.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:31 am 
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A very interesting installment on the side. Quite spooky to read it after finishing writing something about alternate computer developments and a Sir Alan Turing - great minds must think alike!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 6:08 am 
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In my head there was a deal made when he joined the Colossus Group, he keeps his homosexuality behind the curtains, and he isn't prosecuted in return and gets to do his work.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:18 pm 
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Shiver...

It's like the ST-TOS 'Shadow' episodes...

I take it Bill Gates didn't get the OS contract the other guy missed being too busy with his aerobatics ??

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:29 pm 
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There is no Bill Gates in AAO. The OS was likely developed by someone who will be as rich as him though.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 5:17 pm 
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Chapter 387


Excerpt from a lecture on the influence of American exiles on British economy, culture and society held at Queen's University Belfast, 2016.


What American history books tend to describe as 'Workers spontaneously seizing the means of production' was neither carried out by workers nor was it any form of spontaneous, except of course during the initial uprisings in the old US industrial cities like Detroit and in several black-dominated areas of the rural south. As we have discovered from various reports by refugees and defectors, except for those initial seizures that really were carried out by workers in their own plants, most of the forced nationalizations during and after the civil war were done to a planned schedule, going from biggest to smallest, by government officials backed by local militias or APA regulars. Like the supposed mass defection of the various National Guard units, this is one of the closely held and guarded truisms of American reading of the war. On the whole though it must be said that when the territory of the old United States fell into the hands of the Communists during the war, they generally managed to seize the at least the factories or places of operations of most economic entities.

A few notable exceptions to this exist, one being the Springfield Armory that was defended by loyalist elements of the Massachusetts Army National Guard to the point where all the communists managed to capture were a few shells of burnt-out buildings and not a single machine tool. Another is the Colt Company that, while it never managed to find widespread success outside the United States and ceased operations in 1957, did bring the plans and first prototypes for what was supposed to be adopted by the Army but is still being produced today and officially known as the L2-series in British service or sometimes as the M2 Browning, using the proposed but never adopted U.S. Army designation. By doing so they deprived the American People's Army of a design that has done long, faithful and incredibly successful service in Allied and Eurobloc militaries for seventy years now. The story of the L2/M2s escape is one that could and did rate more than a few films.

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The point of this small excursion into that part of history is that as much as the UAPR wishes to deny that anyone willingly fled before them and wanted to remain a dirty capitalist pig instead of working for the good of the people and union, it did happen and those refugees have had a massive impact on us.

It also needs to be noted that the farther away a company was from the initial core areas held by rebel forces, the likelier it was that the company or at least the owners and relevant intellectual properties managed to escape. Of course quite a few of them were merely buying time considering that Mexico was added to the American sphere in the 1950s, but several fled north instead of south, and some made it across the Atlantic. Of course not all of them managed to thrive, but a few not only survived long term but are economic juggernauts today. In the following we shall take a look at the two most well-known ones, their history after leaving America, their activities since then and where they are today.

The first one hails from Atlanta, Georgia, but for our purposes it's history actually begins with the Battle of New York, where one businessman narrowly escaped death when Communist militias formed from dockyard hands and other workers began to fight the NYPD and the New York Army National Guard in Manhattan. He had been there precisely because his company had lost some assets when the Communists seized several cities around the Great Lakes, and now his narrow escape across the Hudson River into New Jersey would end up bringing the Eurobloc one of it's most well-known brands. His name? Robert W. Woodruff, President and eventually sole owner of the Coca-Cola Company.

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The ubiquity of this brand is common knowledge to you all, in fact many in this hall, including yours truly have one of the various products of that company next to them, however unhealthy they may be.

Among all the exiles the Coca-Cola company was uniquely placed for success. Whereas Raytheon struggled at first and was saved by the Commonwealth's demand for their know-how and products created by the environment of World War Two and afterwards of the Cold War, Coca-Cola, on the face it at least, had little else to do than to notify it's various international stations that from now on corporate operations would be run from London instead of Atlanta. However, the delay between Atlanta HQ becoming untenable and Woodruff re-establishing himself at Grosvenor Square in London after the USGE abandoned the building on cost grounds had done immense damage to operations, with several distributors going bankrupt or working for others.

The story how the company fled is another one worthy of a film. If you so desire, watch the 1968 version, it's the least influenced by the company and probably the most accurate.

Long story short, when Woodruff returned from New York back to Atlanta, he made a short stopover in Washington DC, and to his dying day he credited this short three-hour halt with the survival of the company. While there he took in what he called a 'despondent, already defeated atmosphere' by the troops tasked with defending the city against the Red militias everyone expected to arrive within minutes, the reality-denying way with which the Government officials conducted their affairs. If he decided then and there that the country was doomed is uncertain, as he never really said when he decided this, but it convinced him to make preparations just in care.

Once back in Atlanta, he did a number of things. First he used the few Trans-Atlantic connections not in Communist hands to advise the various overseas offices and subsidiaries to prepare for a loss of support from Atlanta, second he took the increasingly worthless US Dollar reserves held by the company and began converting them into as many Pounds Sterling as he could get his hands on. Thirdly, and this is what allowed him to eventually claim the company as his own, he took the hard currency he had raised as well as the most critical parts of the company archives and loaded them onto ten freight cars that he had hired. As payment he used what ready reserves of Cola Syrup were available as well as part of his personal fortune that he had converted into gold coins some years ago during the height of the economic woes the country had found itself in. During the remaining months he had in the old corporate headquarters as much of day-to-day operations was shifted to the United Kingdom as was possible, including a transfer of the 'original formula' to the vaults of the Bank of England, escorted by a few of his most trusted employees. Something else he did was to keep on much of the core staff needed to run the company, continue to pay them with as much inflation adjustment as he could afford and generally, when the time came, offering all of them a ride out of the country and to British territory, along with their families. A surprising number of workers accepted the offer, so when the convoy set off for first California and later Canada after the Government abandoned South Carolina, it was joined by more civilians 'than you could shake a stick at' to once again quote the man himself. That a manufacturer of fizzy sugar water, even one so known and well loved as Coca-Cola could hire an entire train from a railway company even though all rolling stock had supposedly been requisitioned by the Army tells us a lot about the increasing breakdown of public order in the areas west of the Mississippi.

Crossing that self-same river is another of the great company legends, with Woodruff himself trading twenty crates of Cola for passage over a bridge mere hours ahead of the Communists. The group shed some members when they reached San Francisco, but when the train then reached the Canadian border north of Seattle in September 1934, the United States were already effectively dead, with the last major field army under siege in San Francisco.

It was of course more complicated than just flying to London on the Shorts Clippers, even though the company did indeed own production infrastructure in several countries and an expansive distribution network across those same countries. The biggest problem Woodruff faced was that the war that had raged in America and the one that was brewing in Europe had massively disrupted trade in South America, the smaller expected cash flow of purely European operations made it difficult to import and produce the various ingredients needed for their then only product. This problem was solved eventually. Changing the formula to eliminate the use of 'spent' coca leaves and the so-called Colanut not only massively reduced costs for logistics and production but also proved to be an early solution to a second problem that would have arisen during the 1950s when Central and South America fell into the American sphere like domino pieces. This was an insanely expensive challenge in chemistry that actually advanced the field in several areas, but it allowed the company to survive, all in all an excellent long-term investment.

Expanding existing UK operations to serve what remained of the market was another problem looking for a solution, but that was solved in part by a 5% rise in price for a single bottle and the company taking advantage of the Government scheme that sought to negotiate low interest loans for formerly American companies that wanted to re-establish themselves in British territory.

It wasn't all smooth sailing from there, and the company was on the edge of bankruptcy for the remainder of the 30s, though sales began to pick up greatly during 1939, likely due to the 'still the real thing' marketing campaign that would last well into the 50s. The true saving grace however came in the form of the Navy, Army, Air Force Institute. Since the forces contained a greater concentration of Americans than any other part of British society, the demand for Coca-Cola was higher there than anywhere else, so when war seemed likely, the Institute sought to provide a steady supply of the drink on every battlefront. So they approached Woodruff to discover how that might be accomplished.

His initial idea was to have the price fixed, meaning that no matter wherever a soldier served, he would be able to buy a Cola for the same price as he would back home, but that proved to be too expensive for the struggling company. So they settled for the second half of the plan and instead worked together with the Institute to create a series of semi-portable bottling plants that would de-crease transportation to a manageable issue. The first of these would become operational in France mere days before Case Yellow, and by the time the war ended, several dozen served all over the world, serviced by the famous 'Cola-techs' that were civilian contractors but wore battledress so as to not stand out. Several were killed, and over the course of the war, the Coca-Cola company collected no less than eight George Crosses. Even though the initial idea could not be adopted, any variation in price was kept to an absolute minimum, guaranteed by both the company selling the product to the NAAFI at or, as in the case of the lengthy campaign on Formosa that saw a plant established before the island was secured, even below cost. The genius of this plan is expressed in both sales figures and in the appreciation expressed in letters.[1]

Another big legend is what happened to Coca-Cola's German operations during and after the war. When the Nazis signed the treaty with the Soviets, Woodruff stated in an interview that he considered this to be an 'Unholy Alliance of Evil' and yes, all written uppercase. Still, the company could not afford to completely withdraw from the market, so he continued deliveries of syrup. When the British Empire withdrew their Ambassador from Germany, Coca-Cola ceased deliveries, with the final orders out of London being that Coca-Cola Germany was to continue operations as long as they could.

During the war that part of the structure was effectively a company unto it's own, going so far as to develop the first variant of Fanta as an Ersatz-Cola and using it's status as a producer of foodstuffs to keep men with families away from the front. They kept away from the Nazis as well as they could, and when after the war, or at least when the front had moved far enough away the first representatives arrived from London, they found the President of Coca-Cola Germany standing in front of the factory gates. He handed them over the keys as well as a bank account where he had stashed much of the wartime profits.

After that their rise to the top seemed to be almost unstoppable.

Today they hold no less than sixty-one percent of the global market for fizzy sugar water, with their biggest competitor being Nuka Cola out of the USSR, and even they are a distant second with twenty-five percent of the world.

Now, Raytheon is a story a whole lot less interesting.

tbc


[1] Adapted from OTL. The most amazing thing is this picture of a soldier on I think Okinawa with all the grime of the fight on him, knocking back a bottle of Coke. Staged or not, it inspired me to write this. Extra credit if you figure out what I changed on that logo beyond removing the white bit at the bottom. Also, there is no way on God's green earth I would let the commies have the Ma Deuce.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:16 pm 
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The Browning is actually built in the UK by Manroy Engineering. IIRC they are the suppliers of HMGs to the MoD.

On Coke I was rather hoping that perhaps a British soft drink might take its place. Perhaps Tizer, or perhaps R White's Lemonade. Famously its advert from 1973 featuring a certain Declan Patrick MacManus before he was famous - Linky.

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Frankly I had enjoyed the war...and why do people want peace if the war is so much fun?


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:31 pm 
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trekchu wrote:
Extra credit if you figure out what I changed on that logo beyond removing the white bit at the bottom. Also, there is no way on God's green earth I would let the commies have the Ma Deuce.[/b]

Looks like you changed the colour of the background - but missed a bit inside the letters :lol:

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 2017 12:35 pm 
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I was considering alternatives, but my addiction to their product is total.

That said, those alternatives exist.

And someone caught it. I probably missed the insides because I did that at 3 in the morning.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:02 am 
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Chapter 388

15th April 1944

Calling it the Battle of the Fulda Gap is actually something of a misnomer and did not appear in official parlance after the term 'Fulda Gap' had been coined in that infamous 1950 study by the Ministry of Defence about a hypothetical Soviet attack on western Europe through Poland and eastern Germany, nor did it entirely take place in that geographical feature.

As the largest tank battle in history, it can be assumed that it had a profound influence on the war. Aside from the death or capture of several high-ranking German generals the aftermath also saw the complete collapse of the right flank of Army Group Centre and thus paved the way for the fall of Berlin later in the year. On the Allied side it marked several changes in personnel. Firstly Field Marshal Alexander was shortly thereafter appointed as the new Chief of the Imperial General Staff after the resignation and later death of Sir John Dill, secondly General William Slim was appointed as his successor, a suggestion that was somewhat controversial at the time but proved to be an excellent choice.

On the Axis side it would prove to be the last throw of the dice for the Wehrmacht as an offensive force. The losses they would take in the titanic struggle could not be replaced, not with Imperial forces advancing within artillery range of the Ruhr valley within a few weeks of the battle and because it destroyed what was left of morale. That most of the major cities in southern Germany had already fallen or were about to do so didn't help either. It would lead to the Soviets effectively abandoning western Europe was not something anyone on the Allied side had anticipated, but given what is known about Stalin today that can not be seen as surprising in the least.

The war itself was deeply impacted by events, the aftermath leading directly to the fall of Berlin later in the year, the surrender of the German Reich a short time after that and the end of the war in Europe some nineteen months after the guns had fallen silent in the Fulda Gap.

Allied forces consisted of no less than twelve Armoured and twenty-six Infantry or Mechanized Divisions. To assemble this force Field Marshal Alexander had been forced to strip most of the rest of the front of it's mechanized forces and generally almost all of their reserves, risking that a second Soviet strike elsewhere could not be contained. To see why, one must look at the general situation in late spring of 1944. The growing Polish Army was guarding the Allied flank, and farther south the Romano-Canadian Armies kept the Soviets at bay, while in the west the French were running rampant through their country, being set to advance towards Vichy. In the north-west the Allies were attacking north from Stuttgart against sporadic and increasingly weak resistance. But at the same time the Soviets were massing a mechanized Army at least as large as the one that was facing the Allies in the Fulda Gap, and if that force struck the Poles or the forces connecting them to the Canadians in the south, then most of the Allied armour would be just plain out of position.

What Allied intelligence indicated, but could not confirm until after the end of the war was that Stalin had no intention of throwing more good money after bad, meaning that it was somewhere around this tine he gave up the German Reich for lost. The notable exception to this was of course the so-called 'National Redoubt', but in how far that was mere politics and propaganda depends on which historian you read.

The Axis forces outnumbered the Allies as usual, with sixteen Armoured Divisions (seventeen if one is to count the barely trained but fairly well equipped Panzerdivision Hermann Göring) and around thirty other Divisions. However, unlike the Allies the Axis, and the Germans especially would find it difficult to replace any losses they might take. The Soviets less so, mostly because of one of the greatest what-ifs of the war. Allied Intelligence learned some months after the battle that there was supposed to have been a secondary attack by two Soviet fronts into the allied flank with the goal of re-capturing the ruins of Warsaw and destroying the fledgling but growing Polish Army that was busy recruiting every male that could hold a rifle. Yet this was cancelled by STAVKA, much to Hitler's fury and his increasing divorce from reality. When the GRU and the then-current Soviet leadership released a set of papers in the mid 1950s as part of a wider effort to discredit Stalin and the wartime leadership of the Communist Party, it was revealed that Stalin himself had 'suggested' that the attack be nixed, for two reasons. One was that while the units to be used for this were indeed part of the mechanized strategic reserve, most units were only nominally combat capable at the time. Some were Divisions that had suffered at the hand of the Allies and were still refitting, some were relatively newly raised and would be shredded to tiny pieces by the battle-hardened Allied veterans, and all of them were currently re-equipping with the newest Soviet equipment. It was those units that would meet the Allies in the titanic struggle in Eastern Poland in 1945, equipped with the newest Soviet technology, which in turn would prompt the early deployment of the QF 20 pounder and the Centurion Mk II Universal Battle Tank just in time for the last big battles of the war.

In terms of deployment, the position of the fronts favoured the Axis. Separated from the main Allied position by the Thüringer Wald, the Axis line was centred on a line running roughly from Erfurt to Kassel, and from there in a roughly West-North-Western line towards the pre-war border with Luxemburg and Belgium, meaning that a shallow but noticeable bulge of Allied forces existed, supposedly prime for destruction. The long-term planning for the offensive had been the reason why Hitler had allowed the fighting withdrawal that had allowed the Allies to 'temporarily' occupy all of Bavaria and modern-day Baden-Württemberg.

However the Allied forces had realized that this lightning-fast advance could not last an were all to aware of the strategic position created by nature. Not only because Napoleon had used the Fulda Gap to retreat after the battle of Leipzig and that it was the best route of advance for Axis tanks into the flank and back of the Allied forces advancing north after taking Stuttgart earlier in the year.

Allied had discovered at about the same time the King's Jewish Legion and the remnants of four Waffen-SS Divisions had destroyed each other in Nuremberg and counter-planning had begun almost immediately. The risk of concentrating 90% of all available armoured units in the area had been contentious to the point that Marshal of the Empire Sir John Dill had offered his resignation months earlier than planned to Prime Minister Churchill, only for it to be rejected and his objections being overruled in the same sentence. Even though it remains unproven, it is highly likely that this helped squash his resistance to the appointment as his successor, as in one of his last writings Dill expressed his doubt that he still had the confidence of the Prime Minister. Even the Queen, in the middle of preparing for the formal celebrations of her eighteenth birthday and formal ascendancy to the throne in a war-time appropriate fashion almost became involved at one point. That is not to say that Alexander was not without doubts of his own. In 1980 minutes of a meeting between him and Churchill taking place in Vienna only three days before the beginning of the battle were released which make it clear that if he had any other choice, he would prefer not to take the risk and instead continue with the old plan that had been to take the Ruhr valley and then drive into Belgium and France before attacking Berlin where a defence even fiercer than Nuremberg was expected.

Even so, he didn't have a choice. He didn't like surrendering tactical initiative to the enemy, but there was no choice. There had never been any question of concealing such massive troop movements from the enemy, and neither side had really attempted to do so. Both sides had attempted to misdirect the other, but between captured intelligence and growing Allied air superiority, Alexander was having the better of the intelligence war, and that Hitler's increasing tendency to only see what he wanted to believe, so famously depicted in 2004's 'Downfall', therefore dismissing reports that the Allied tank concentration wasn't aimed in the general direction of Bremen certainly helped. Here too Stalin could have been the deciding factor given that the NKVD was aware of the plan for the offensive having fallen into Allied hands, but he chose not to act. This included sacrificing a massive number of Soviet troops, something which certainly didn't endear him to the Red Army.

So to exactly no one's surprise, on the 15th of April 1944, a generally nice Saturday in all other respects, more guns than anyone had seen since the last war opened fire within minutes of each other.

Image
'Saint Andrews' of the 2nd Royal Scots Hussars moving into position prior to the battle

~**---**~



Seeing what he still felt was 'his' Regiment going into battle without him pained him. It was a simple truth that had hit him for the first time mere hours after he'd taken up his new posting. He'd been tempted to refuse promotion at first, but 'needs of the service' and all that.

Still, Brigadier Jan Niemczyk VC couldn't help but worry for the men as he watched the counters denoting the 3rd Shock Army advance ever closer to the blue arrows that denoted the slow advance of the 7th Armoured Division. Eight months since he had handed the Hussars to Lieutenant-Colonel Niven, no relation, who while barely being from Five had quickly won the men over despite that obvious shortcoming. He had proven to be a capable officer and had handled the Regiment well in the fighting since.

The Division primarily faced heavily mechanized Soviet forces that had exploded from their forward positions at daybreak. The light Allied forces between them and the main line of resistance did their best to delay them, but being mostly recce troops, they had suffered accordingly. Still, the ten-and-then-some miles of almost no man's land between the Soviets and the 7th Armoured had bled the Soviets, with plenty of T-34s and assorted vehicles falling prey to the new 3.5 inch PIATs that thanks to well-applied hit and run tactics took a steady toll on the enemy.

“There's going to be an awful lot of them, Jan.” Major General Hervey, GOC 7th (BE) Armoured Division replied.

Jan grinned. Being as close as possible on first name terms with one's CO was a good thing. “The lads can take them, Sir.”

“They'll have to. 8th Guards have hit 11th Army hard and in their infinite wisdom, Army Group have decided to send the reinforcements there.” Hervey frowned. Even though Jan knew that the General liked Slim, GOC 9th Army Group. Yet he still could have done with some extra firepower, even though it was the in his opinion singularly useless IV Corps of the Italian Army. Jan had seen them fight before and he didn't quite share that opinion, though admittedly those troops were still very much inexperienced.

Before he could reply, he heard the tell-tale freight-train shriek of incoming shells, and once again wished the Artillery could do more about it, but between interdicting the Soviet advance and the large number of Soviet tubes...

The ground shook with the impacts, and he couldn't help but glance at the ceiling. Since there were no appropriate facilities to be found in their sector, the Division CP was in a dugout, hidden from aerial observation by a small wood it. Jan doubted that the log bunker would take a direct hit, but he knew better than to jinx it. He glanced over at the General who looked at a picture of his wife and children.

It was a ritual that the General had before going into battle, and right on time, because just as he placed the picture back into his breast pocket, one of the wireless operators
turned his head.


So it began.


tbc

_________________
“Ancient astronauts didn't build the pyramids. Human beings built the pyramids, because they're clever and they work hard.”

-Gene Roddenberry


Last edited by trekchu on Thu Jul 13, 2017 6:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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