Balkan Campaigns

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The Balkan Campaigns were a two-front war in the Balkan Peninsula which bled the Holy Roman Empire white. It consisted of attacks from the south by the Allied Powers, with almost simultaneous (but in fact uncoordinated) attacks from the east by Russia. For all practical purposes, the FK and Allied Powers (including the NAL) used their navies to deal a death blow to the Kriegsmarine then their air forces and armies to weaken the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. Relatively little territory had been gained--and at a terrific cost on both sides--when the White Army came in and grabbed the Balkans from the East, facing a much-weakened foe. Among the benefits involved was seizure of the Ploesi Oil Fields.

Xliponia managed to remain neutral throughout, and as a result became a hotbed of international espionage.

Contents

Prelude

In many ways the Balkan Campaigns of the Second Great War were the brainchild of Kemrese prime minister Calweir Brecryg. It was he who insisted to the other Allied Powers that the best place to attack Prussia's hegemony was into "the soft underbelly of Europe." However, an even bigger reason for the campaigns was the French Stalemate, by which that nation had (so far) been spared the ravages it had suffered in the First Great War. Simply, the French government was unwilling to change the status quo sufficiently to definitely alter the strategic situation lest tactically the nation suffer another catastrophe.

At this point the Scandinavian Realm was neutral, which mean fighting the HRE in the Baltic meant possibly forcing an entry into the war of that power. What worried planners was that the SR and her mighty fleets could join with Prussia. That left the eastern Mediterranean as the only obvious theatre in which to challenge the enemy.

There were advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage was that to bring significant Allied forces into that area meant at least initially facing relatively inferior troops and ships such as those of Greece. It would also provide succor to Egypt, at the time facing Prussia's ally Ethiopia. The Suez Canal would be more easily protected while at the same time the presumed troop movements in response to Balkan attacks might give the French armies the advantage they needed.

Disadvantages included the severe difficulty of amphibious operations. Another was the nature of the terrain once a successful landing had been achieved--mountain passes which would be entirely new territory to allied soldiers. Another disadvantage was a surprise. the Khedive of Egypt proved an unusually tough negotiator. He would not allow the use of his country by the FK or anyone else unless full independence for Egypt became an official war aim. Sherrinford Bell in particular balked at this condition, but in the end he had no choice.

On the Imperial side, the Balkans were an essential bulwark of what was to prove a greater Holy Roman Empire, a kind of protectorate version of Byzantium that would hold the Dardanelles in perpetual friendship with, and in service of, the Kaiser. Likewise the Ploesi Oil Fields in what would one day become Romania were a resource almsot beyond price. As Hungary and other Prussian allies moved in, taking back the area from Russia and her allies, defenses were entrenched. Only a few of the Kriegsmarine mighty battleships were moved into the area before the FK re-entered the war, but the plan was to use these to maximum effect.

Likewise, the White Council saw that re-conquest of Moldova, Oltenia, Muntenia, Hungary, Bulgaria and other small nations was an inevitable goal in their long-range plans to topple Hessler and crush their former ally.

The build-up was long in coming, and as a direct result the intelligence operations in and around neutral Xliponia reached epic heights. Elaborate plans were the rule, and it is no surprise that the country has remained a popular setting for novels and motions pictures of intrigue ever since.

Operation: Augustus

Control of the Eastern Mediterranean was vital, and the key to that control was naval and air power. An internal dispute broke out almost immediately about overall command of the Allied Theatre of Operations. The majority of FK naval forces were dedicated to operations in the North Atlantic, which left the Italian and French navies but augmented by ships and the air arm of the NAL's Solemn League Navy. Supreme Command came down to two candidates--Admiral of the Fleet Henri Darlan (1881-1953) of the French navy, and the American airman Admiral "Fighting Fred" Halsey (1882-1959) who commanded the largest (by far) single contingent of Allied airships in the theatre.

A complicated system of joint command was worked out, with Halsey, Darlan and the Italian General Giovanni Messe (1883-1968) enjoying overall command of the air, sea and land forces respectively.

The first stage of the Balkan Campaigns was an invasion through Italy of the westernmost lands on the Balkan peninsula, specifically Croatia, Dalmatia and Albania. The purpose of this--Operation: Augustus--was to permanently remove an axis of threat too close to Italy proper while gaining a foothold from which to invade other points in peninsula. That part of the operation actually proceeded relatively smoothly, although slower than the planners would have liked. The major reason for such success was almost certainly the air and sea operations aimed at the forces on Crete. The Allied Third Fleet embarked from Egypt and launched a full-scale bombardment against the Greek/HRE stronghold. In this the airships played a major role, including two SLN Air Carriers, the T.M.S. Abrom Lincoln and T.M.S. Crazy Horse, the latter being Halsey's flagship. As expected, the Luftwaffe had to divert signifcant resources to protect Crete, because its fall would have meant relatively easy air strikes much deeper into Greek territory.

This particular battle was very long and bloody, serving perfectly its function of preventing Imperial forces to concentrate on the Italian invasion of the Balkans. Yet in the end, a contingent of FK and Continental Army troops were able to land on Crete, under the commands of American General James Patton Jr. and English General Giles Montgomery. With command of the air, Crete was indeed conquered within weeks. This meant that Operation Augustus surpassed its planners hopes, because both arms of the trap accomplished their goals.

Allied military planners hoped this would prove a harbinger of what was to come. They were mistaken.

Battle for the Aegean

The next phase of the Balkan campaigns was supposed to be relatively simple. Italian troops would apply pressure from the west, Turkish troops doing what they could from the east, while the French/American fleets would "island hop," seizing strategic choke points throughout the Aegean Sea. It was hoped that Russia would add its own military weight with large-scale operations from the north.

Several problems broke out almost immediately. Coordination proved more of a theory than an operational reality. Troop movements into the Balkans bogged down very quickly in bloody stalemates or even bloodier inching forward. Turkish counter-attacks were crushed quickly.

Worse, the small Kriegsmarine did manage to operate in close coordination with the then-still-mighty Luftwaffe to seriously impede operations by the French and American forces. Personal animosity between Darlan and Halsey also played a part, as did tensions between Generals Montgomery and Patton (although their personality clash never directly interfered with operations, popular myth to the contrary).

As a result, a campaign that had been planned to last up to six months was not completed until almost two years after its start.

Russian Intervention

What tipped the scales--and in many historians' opinion prevented disasterous amphibious operations from having to take place--was the massive Russian counter-attacks into the Balkans, re-capturing Moldova, Muntenia, Oltenia and other nations. Imperial forces were forced with withdraw to deal with this new threat, leaving skeletal defenses in place. Greece now saw itself surrounded by heavily armed enemies and for all practical purposes bereft of allies. A change in government led to a negotiated truce, thus forestalling major military operations on its soil at the cost of some national humiliation. In 1947 a peace treaty was signed by the Greek Monarch, largely in hopes of preventing a SNOR-ist conquest.

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