The battle for France has now become the most crucial theater of the war in this long alternate history, and this entire volume takes us there as
Patton and Bradley cook up an operation that echoes the Operation Cobra offensive that delivered the great breakout. But this time, things are quite different. In the real history, the Allied
armies were compressed into a very small area, along a front little more than 60 miles long. Here that front stretches over 400 miles, and having breached the line on the River Loire, the
Allies are now pushing for the Seine. Operation Thunder is the result in the West with the Americans, which kicked off in the last volume, as Patton glibly tells Bradley, “Hell, we aren’t going to slither up and hiss at them, we’re going to clobber them with those heavy bombers and go right through them.” So thunder it was.
In Breakout, the operation becomes a big pincer operation aimed at encircling Le Mans, and Patton’s drive is threatening to cut off a good chunk of the 7th Army, its line anchored at Avranches. At stake is all of Normandy, and particularly the port of Cherbourg, which was able to receive 15,000 tons of supplies per day and support up to 20 divisions in the real history. Yet at this time, the Allies already have 45 divisions along that 400 plus mile front in France, and another 15 in the Pas-de-Calais. While those troops are easily supplied through the Channel Ports of Boulogne, Calais, and Dunkerque, the four armies in the south are now straining to keep moving, and the critical shortages of fuel and munitions begin to take effect. As May gives way to June, it has already been nine hard months of fighting in France, with the Germans reinforcing the west to a degree never seen in the real history. Most every division is arriving about two months early, due to Marshall’s accelerated delivery schedule, but it has still not been enough to enable the big breakout… Until now.
This novel sees Operation Thunder really get moving, and the drive for the Seine is on. Strangely, the front now begins to look like the lines of battle in August of 1944, except for the lodgment in the Pas-de-Calais that is now keeping the German 15th Army well employed. Now the British get in on the action here as well, with both O’Connor and Montgomery hoping to steal a little of Patton’s thunder. The resulting action will soon see them with talk of Rouen, Paris and Reims on their lips, when before it was Le Mans, Chartres, Tours, and Orleans. In the midst of all this action, General Berg’s modern-day warriors find themselves pulled from one crisis point to another, and learn first hand what it is like to fight under the smothering power of those P-47’s, no matter how good your armor is.
In the meantime, this volume also treats us to some good airship action. Volkov and Himmler have hatched their plan for the Hexenkessel offensive against London, and that is where the book opens, with the fires being stoked by a storm of V-1’s. Then Fedorov and Karpov detect the next big strike aimed at London. Unable to find a storm in the mild summer season in the Norwegian Sea, they have a chance encounter that sends them on another hunting expedition. In segments that read like the naval fiction the series has often presented, Karpov is at the helm of Tunguska as they stalk a group of three German airships that seem to be heading off on a most unexpected course. That action frames the book, with the stalking up front, and the intercept and fighting at the end.
This volume will also set up the next book,
Starfall, which is a title hinting at the name of an Allied airborne plan dubbed Operation Comet. That was the operational plan that
immediately preceded Market-Garden but only the name is stolen away from the real plans in this alternate history. Eisenhower has been itching to use his airborne reserve, and all three divisions in
the Pas-de-Calais are withdrawn to England, joining the British 6th Para there. The whole point of throwing Overlord ashore in the Pas-de-Calais as opposed to Normandy was the prospect of producing a
breakout to capture the great deep-water port of Antwerp. Capable of supporting 40 divisions, that port is the real prize that will address the increasing supply problems for the Allies.
“breakout,” when it finally comes in this novel, happens in a most unexpected place, and it has Eisenhower eyeing Antwerp like a starving man outside a fine restaurant. The
result is Operation Comet, which looks to be the principle action slated for the next volume,
Starfall, but the target will not be that bridge too far that foiled the Allied Market-Garden operation. Instead, Montgomery and Boy Browning dream up something quite different, and its going to be a book I wouldn’t miss for the world.
In the meantime, Breakout sets all the conditions that will now enable the Allied forces in Europe to begin planning their decisive operations aimed at ending this war. Here we get a Cobra like operation and the race to the Seine, and soon the skies will be filled with those silk chutes as we leap into some of the most colorful and exciting chapters of the war in the west.
But don’t sell the German Army short just yet. Without Hitler’s interference, both Guderian and von Rundstedt have been conducting a skillful defensive battle, and making the gradual withdrawal that von Rundstedt planned in the real history. Thus far, while their Operation Valkyrie counteroffensive failed, they have avoided any major encirclement, skillfully trading space for time. There had been no dreadful Falaise Pocket, and the Wehrmacht in France is still a cohesive and capable force. Now Breakout hopes to shift the balance in a more decisive way for the Allied cause
Don’t miss the party! Get Breakout on or before August 1.