The recent power failure gave me time to resume my Hearts of Iron II game, until the battery ran out. 1943 started with anarchy in the Portugese colony of Macao, which the home government was unable to do anything about --- too far away, I suppose, and too occupied with the Axis's war with the Comintern to despatch the forces needed to subdue the rioters. This would be only a cause for schadenfreude except the rebellion in Macao tried to spread to Hong Kong, forcing the units my United States and the United Kingdom had there to suppressing that instead of waiting for ... something ... to happen.
It was quiet then, until 14 May 1943, when France declared war on Germany, and the Allies and the Axis were at war at last. The world would see a new kind of lightning-war, with close air support and massive air superiority merging with fast-moving, hard-driving motorized troops diving deep into enemy territory. Before Bastille Day a Great Power would be vanquished, a Minor Power overrun, and several other Lesser Powers forced to change alliances, and an alliance would be shattered, clinging to a shrinking hold in Europe and colonies under constant assault.
Germany's armies were mostly along the eastern front, battling the Soviet Union; the Allies therefore sought to drive east from the Maginot Line and Belgium's frontiers and get as far as possible before the counter-attack could come. With tight day and night fighter raids for air superiority, strategic bombing to disrupt reinforcements, and tactical bombing to overwhelm the meager western guard, and motorized infantry leading the charge, the German city of Freiburg was conquered by the allies and put under French military government by 13:00 Greenwich time, 14 May. Within another twelve hours, Yugoslavia's government joined the Axis, suffered a coup d'état, and left the Axis prompting Germany to prepare for an invasion of the Balkan state, whenever it should have the forces to spare.
As Cologne fell to Allied assault and was put under Belgian government --- the game assigns control of conquered territory to the allied nation from which the invading army enters; if it's a seaborne assault, to the army which first enters it --- my detachment of marines from Hong Kong were able to take Macao from both its legal Portuguese rulers and from its de facto rebel government. This would also be a toehold for invading Japanese-conquered China, should the Japanese empire decide to war with the Allies. Meanwhile, half a world away, six divisions of American motorized infantry landed in Faro, the southern tip of Portugal, unopposed. The march up the peninsula would take until the 9th of July to complete, however, before Portugal would be forced entirely out of Europe.
Italy, which had no direct route to the Soviet Union, had concentrated its forces to its north, and it was nearly two weeks for French and American troops to occupy Genoa. American mountain infantry kept smashing against the defenses of Turin, until French forces sweeping down through Austria could occupy Trento and provide for a three-way assault on the city. Despite the conquest of Milan and Venice, the Allies could do little to break the Italian steel, and the invasion crashed again and again against the rocks of La Spezia, Bologna, and Ferrara.
Meanwhile in Africa France invaded Libya by way of Algeria, while Britain invaded Libya by way of Egypt. Britain was occupied as well in taking Ethiopia, while the South Africans moved into Mozambique and Angola, although due to the relatively poor roads this would be slow, taking months to complete. I had troops ready in Malta to move into Libya, but found the slender Navy squadron left in the Mediterranean no match for the mighty Italian fleet, and forces were stuck in Malta, unable to join the battle in North Africa. (Meanwhile the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy patrolled the Atlantic, although they didn't have enough units on the ground in Europe to significantly affect the course of that front, while the United States and France did. The Canadians particularly tended to appear as mopping-up and consolidating forces behind French and American conquering forces.)
There would be better news on the German front. With the combination of air power and motorized infantry driving fast and hard: by the end of June, the Allies had occupied as far as Dresden and Leipzig, occupying Munich, and targeting the cities which had been part of Austria. June ended with the smashing of Axis armies in Potsdam. The Battle of Berlin started at 23:00 Greenwich time on 30 June 1943, and the Allies won nineteen hours later. General MacArthur entered the city at 22:00 the first of July.
At 18:00 the 4th of July a United States invasion force from Dover landed in Kiel, opening an American-governed sector of occupied Germany and forcing the evacuation of one of Germany's fleets under the guns of Vice-Admiral Cooley's 17th Fleet (two aircraft carriers, one battleship, two cruisers, a destroyer, and two submarines). The American zone would spread out to Lübeck, Hamburg, Hanover, and Bremen soon enough.
On the 9th of July, Axis minor power Rumania --- which had been forced to turn over men to the war against the Comintern, and territory to other Axis powers --- abandoned the Axis and joined the Comintern, accepting the status of being a Soviet satellite state for the chance at regaining Transylvania.
Finally, the 10th of July, with everything west of Berlin occupied and the German Navy making a desperate flight from its North Sea ports, the German government surrendered. In the confusion of the moment it was unclear who they surrendered to: the Soviet Union --- still tied up along the Dnieper --- claimed to have annexed the whole of Germany; but the French were military governors of the bulk of German, Austrian, and Czech territory, while the United Kingdom was still leader of the Allies. Austria immediately proclaimed its independence from Germany, and the next day saw the creation of new, independent (if Stalinist) Poland and Czechoslovakian states. France meanwhile announced the organization of its German territory into a new Federal Republic of Germany, consisting of all the German territory not now stored to Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia, or occupied by the United States. On Bastille Day, the United States ratified these decisions, placing the Federal Republic of Germany under Allied administration, but keeping its northern, occupied territory ... and noting the continued raids on convoys into Kiel, from some navy somewhere. (The game does not model cargo-carrying convoys or their escorts with explicitly visible ships, so that their attacks happen somewhere in the mysteries of the deep ocean; all we know is when ships don't reach their destination on schedule.)
This is incidentally the first time I've managed to beat Germany without triggering the ``Roosevelt Dies'' event. I've never seen this specific ``Germany Surrenders'' event before either; the collapse of Germany was vastly faster than I could have ever imagined, and it kind of suggests that the Soviet Union, which had been stalemated against Germany since December 1938, was rather a bunch of wimps.
But now the war would be carried, with the new ally, against the Axis powerhouse of Italy, and the minor states of Hungary, Bulgaria, and the overseas Portuguese territories.
On the 18th of July, Bulgaria dropped out of the Axis, joining the Comintern, and prepared for war against Italy, Portugal, and Hungary, the last of which it might have actually been able to do something about. However, France's fast-moving and expert armies were far ahead of everyone else, and annexed the Hungarian state as of the 26th of July. The challenge remaining would be to battle Italy and the Portuguese Empire into submission.
Britain and France would divide Italian Africa between them over the course of August. Britain and South Africa would divide Mozambique and Angola, while the United States's newly-raised infantry sailing from Miami would take São Tomé. With the ever-energetic France taking the Cape Verde islands and Bissão, Portugal looked to be all set for the official annexation. And yet there was something attacking convoys to Kiel.
Back to Italy: again and again American and French forces could not break past La Spezie. I sent a landing party, then, to take Sardinia, which seemed to be an attractive base for launching invasions of Sicily or the Italian boot. Sardinia was easily taken, but its seaport and airport were quite overwhelmed by the forces moving into it, and it would not be ideal as an unsinkable aircraft carrier. It would suffice, though, to land mountain and motorized infantry, and a tank brigade, in Naples at the start of October. This would finally break the long stalemate in Northern Italy. As the boot fell, Italian forces drew back, trying to meet the Americans before they could get past Anzio --- and letting France whittle away the north of the country. By the 25th of October, the United States occupied Italy from Anzio south, France from Rome north, and the last continental holdouts in Italy were battling from Cassino, soon to lose. Italy was reduced to Sicily and the Dodecanese Islands.
Early November revealed what had been attacking the lost and under-escorted convoys: Germany's lost Navy had fled for Portugal, and now it in a single fleet-in-being of 42 ships, from battleships down to troop transports, was haunting the North Sea. With the invasion of Sicily drawing more of the United States Navy to the Mediterranean --- and the positioning of new Navy ships into the Pacific to guard against Japanese potential threats --- only a division of two submarines were immediately available to battle the unwieldy Axis ghost of a Navy. But they would do, the submarines holding the Bismarck and its other vessels in a combat that neither would win, but which would keep the Portuguese Ghost Navy, lacking a home port, lacking a base, lacking a nation, with only the resources on hand when they shipped to keep them alive to an unknown fate, too occupied to threaten Allied shipping.
The United States launched the invasion of Sicily from the south, the 11th of November, and moved to Palermo so swiftly that a British bombing run actually attacked the province after it had come under Allied occupation. France declared the annexation of Italy the 16th of November, and the war in Europe was now complete --- apart from the destruction of the Portuguese Ghost Navy.
It may seem improbable to suppose that the Allies would forget that Portugal occupied the Azores, those being some of the oldest European colonies in existence, not to mention a critical stopping point for early trans-Atlantic flight. And yet improbable things happen in warfare, particularly when the humble player does not think much about the Azores. But this was the remaining Portuguese holdout, and now the last redoubt of the whole Axis, not to mention the base from which the Ghost Navy drew its few supplies. With three motorized infantry freed up from the conquest of mainland Portugal, and the naval squadron from Gibraltar as muscle, the United States approached the Azores --- losing a battle the 17th of November against the Ghost Navy yet still sinking fourteen of the Portuguese fleet --- and on the 21st of November occupied the last Axis territory.
With no base left the Ghost Navy ... dispersed, perhaps. The United States's combat patrols could not find the remnants, and the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and French Navy seemed to find no contact with them throughout the North Atlantic. With no further battles on any front and no more territory under an Axis flag, the United States formally annexed Portugal on the 14th of December.
After seven long months of the Allies in combat, the Second World War was finally at an end. The World saw its first peaceful New Year's Day in seven years.
Trivia: Mikhail Yegorov and Meliton Kantaria, of the 1st Battalion of the 756th Regiment, raised the Red Victory Banner over the Reichstag which marked the symbolic end of the Siege of Berlin. Source: The Second World War, John Keegan. (What does it say of me that I automatically find a potential fact as discrete, unambiguous, and theoretically knowable as that one to be highly suspect?)
Currently Reading: The Man In The High Castle, Philip K Dick.