by Max Barry

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The World, circa 1962
"A world where European imperial ambitions flared up so hot they almost completely burned down what would've been the 1st World."

OOC: This backstory (1939-1943) is heavily based on PDF's Blunted Sickle timeline and the France Fights On project, wonderful reads on the Alternate History Forum, centered on a woefully under-looked scenario of WW2, which IMO, is a lot more believable and interesting than Hitler and his Wunderwaffe conquering the world. It also proved to be an excellent backdrop for a multi-polar Cold War full of brinkmanship that I'll have fun guesstimating about. Now, if defying the "Surrender-Monkey" shtick wasn't enough, I ask for your suspension of disbelief dear reader, as "catgirls" with a mysterious past are thrown into this otherwise banal setting. Enjoy!

The Point of Divergence

This story begins in Summer of 1939, in the Plains of Manchuria with rat droppings inside a kitchen, contaminating the foodstuff of a certain mess hall catering to the staff of the Kwantung Army of the IJA. Though the infection killed nobody, the resulting dysentery among many officers caused among other things a delayed response in Japanese planning in replies to border scuffles against the Soviet Union. On 23 August 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union shocked the world when they signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Nonaggression Pact...and the Kwantung Army simultaneously shocked the Soviets when they finally replied to their allies and their meddling in China. Thus the Japanese militarists had unwittingly caused an obstacle to Stalin's plans in Poland. In the following month the Japanese doubled down, emboldened by small victories that supposedly reflected their old victories of 1905. Despite their best diplomatic efforts, the Imperial Japanese Army was bent on following on with its envisioned Hokushin-ron strategy, and a bid to claim Asia's Northeast at Russia's expense. In the following weeks, the IJA was marching to Vladivostok. Stalin was pressed to save the Russian Far East with all the force he could muster and all of Soviet Russia braced for a logistically difficult land war in Asia where the terrain favored Japan.

1939 to 1942: The European War

The Japanese attack had left Hitler in a dire situation: despite preparations, the Nazis were left with no partner in crime to secretly turn to during the upcoming invasion of Poland, but sensing his window of opportunity was closing, Hitler chose to invade. On the 1st of September of 1939, German forces invaded their eastward neighbor. The western front of that invasion was seen as a swift and crushing victory for the Heer's mechanized troops and the Luftwaffe's terrifying bombers, however when going eastward, the re-organized and cornered Poles offered a stiffer resistance than expected: the conquest of Poland was concluded in 27 November, a month more than anticipated, with double the casualties expected. And as a result, the Wehrmacht needed some vital months to rebuild their lost mechanized formations, the creme of the crop that'd have been used in France.

Nazi Germany once again saw its windows of opportunity closing dangerously fast with the Anglo-French forces rearming at an alarming pace and the British Expeditionary Force amassing within France. With the "use it or lose it" scenario unfolding behind their eyes was materializing, the invasion of France was set for July of 1940. By that time, General Gamelin had caved into the suggestions of his deputy Gen. Georges, over the lack of feasibility of the Dyle Plan, that is, the ability to defend Holland without neutral Belgium's support, a move that Prime Minister Edouard Daladier approved of. The Dutch had to quietly turn to the British Imperial General Staff for help, which quietly acceded three spare battalions for the task, and the Dutch also realized they had to pull back behind the Water Line and into Fortress Holland, even if it meant temporarily leaving have their country to the invaders.

To make a long story short, the Entente got to fight the war of attrition they hoped for. Hitler's big gamble to encircle the Allies failed, and though the Panzer Army Group A -the Nazi cream of the crop- managed to break through and occupy Paris, the exiled government in Lyon didn't back down...and the enemy found themselves cut off and encircled by the 5th French Army; the Wehrmacht tried to break free or relieve their best, without avail. The rest of 1940 was a mobile repeat of the Great War's without any trenches or gas. With the military doctrine of Bewegungskrieg, or "war of maneuver", the Germans showed tactical brilliance when it came to combining mechanized formations and air attacks; they inflicted heavy losses on the slower Entente. But in the end, even if the French Army's performance was not the best, it was good enough to hold the line, and that was all that mattered. Starting in 1941, the Luftwaffe and the Nazi war industry had a new enemy to contend with: the Palmeran State's very heavy strategic bombers. With no new conquests to plunder and a very heavy toll on industry following increasing strategic bombardments, the Nazi's economic house of cards began to fall nor could they afford to extend their trade pact with Soviet Russia, which was mostly busy in the Far East.

By Spring of 1941, the amassed Anglo-French and Colonial forces led by Lord Gort and General Georges were capable of taking the battle to Belgium, Holland and even began pushing towards the Ruhr and Rhine in Fall; albeit at a very steep price which could only have been filled by the 2.5 million strong volunteer army from the British Raj, partially moved in place by the Palmeran merchant fleet. Meanwhile, during the 1st and 8th of October 1941, something happened in Germany: ever since Guderian's surrender to the French and the setbacks of the Belgium Counter-Offensive of '41, it was rumored that the Nazi Party's armed branch, the SS, were keeping the Wehrmacht's high command in line. From what could be told, several generals attempted to assassinate Hitler with a bomb. In the following days, suspected collaborators were executed and imprisoned as the Army was partially purged. The conspirators' motives are less than clear, though many suspected that elements of the Heer wanted to negotiate a surrender with the Allies.

In late 1941 and early 1942, the Allies wasted no time with the fatally weakened German high command and its depleted war industry: the BEF over-ran Northwestern Germany and the French had finally cracked through the Rhine's defenders. In the 6th of March, 1942, Hermann Goering surrendered to the Entente and Allied High Command on behalf of an incapacitated Hitler: by then, most of West and South Germany were occupied, the Russians unexpectedly used their reserve forces in Europe to invade East Prussia and cities were partially in ruins.

Hitler would eventually be remembered as a "Third Rate Napoleon" (even if many Frenchmen considered it an odious comparison) whom was ironically spared from execution on the fears he'd be martyred. Instead Adolf Hitler became Führer of a prison cell in French Guyana, and later, a specially built jail in the Kerguelen Islands after he complained about his health conditions in the tropical heat, his punishment being given newspapers to read over how his country was being rebuilt. Most other top Nazi leaders were either shot or given sentences that ranged between life to 10 years for breaching Articles 227-230 of the Treaty of Versailles. Despite the courts' shortfalls, it did provide a historical basis for the Hague International Criminal Court and a revised Geneva Convention once the staggering amount of Nazi atrocities against civilians in Poland, genocidal plans and massacres against French-Senegalese colonial troops were uncovered.

The Allies were unsure of what to do; economically the British and Palmeran governments favored a liberal approach, in other words, to get a German consumer economy and non-military industry up and running to prevent the disillusioned masses from going Red or returning to "Militarism", even if it meant backpedaling a German welfare state at first. And also because a working Germany would greatly aid in the recovery of post-War Europe and lower the costs of Allied occupation. The French and Belgians favored immediate reparations and concessions from Germany, and the former also wanted to prevent Germany from ever re-arming by dividing Germany into several nation-states even if it meant dunking the European economy and potentially causing a refugee crisis that they'd deny to pay for.

In the end a middle ground was chosen: Germany was to be "de-Militarized", especially its civil administration, and the nation would be organized into a federal republic, as de-centralized as possible. The liberal economic approach was chosen, though a fixed proportion of the German GDP would go towards paying for a lengthy Allied occupation -low in the West and higher in the East- and it would be payed in Deutsche Marks so the Germans couldn't weasel their way out of claiming bankruptcy. The ex-Reich would pay $10 BN in intellectual property/patent rights to affected nations, split in importance in the following order: France, Poland, Belgium, UK, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Palmeran State. Military factories would be dismantled and weapons stocks would be given to Allied nations (whom later sold much of the hardware to China).

Having its own experiences with the benefits and shortcomings of a foreign-imposed arms limitation and a recent tradition of having a legally restrained Militaristic Aristocracy, the Palmeran delegation -and Judge - proved vital in drafting parts of Article 15 of the 1945 German Constitution: which relinquished Germany's sovereign right of belligerency, with the exception of the use of military forces for self-defense within its own borders. The Anglo-French later added that the nation's forces would be aimed at "preserving an international peace based on justice, order and the liberty of the peoples". In a risky move, the Entente granted Poland most of Nazi Germany's still-useful dismantled bellicose factories, as it would be the main bulwark against Soviet aggression. So in other words, re-arming a democratic Germany wasn't an immediate concern.

The Anglo-French authorities interpreted Nazism as a cultural byproduct of "Prussian Militarism", something that polemically equated being German with being a Nazi according to some critics. However the continental Entente powers found it a clear threat that the defeated Reich would re-arm itself and repeat another 30-something year cycle of wars with its neighbors if nothing was done in the occupation. The failure of Versailles was interpreted as a failure to occupy the Reich and properly nurture an adequate cultural-political climate for "liberal democracy" to thrive...which meant rooting out "militaristic ideologies, and specifically, National Socialism" from society.

In the end "de-Militarization" had to cut corners when it came to screening hundreds of thousands civil servants to maintain an efficient and localized civilian administration...and Allied IBM tabulators were overwhelmed with the amount of German resumes to review. Only card-carrying Nazis accused of "serious" and "moderate" offenses were to be tried for breaching articles 227-30 of the Treaty of Versailles . The French also had a tendency to collectively blame all Germans for the war and its atrocities, the British more eloquently called it "collective responsibility"...resulting in atrocity propaganda campaign that all Germans were collectively guilty and what they could do to fix their wrongdoings: centered around films and texts related to the mistreatment of Poles, a Jewish labor camp in Poland, and miscellaneous abuses to political dissidents by the old regime.

The Post-War World Order

The Palmeran State benefitted greatly from the War; not only did it suffer minimal casualties, the nation's diplomates wasted no time in securing contracts and permits to operate in the British Raj during the conflict and open up a new market, though poor, was more than sufficient for the relatively modest industry of the home island to cater to, thus preventing a decline in growth.

The 1950s were seen as a time of unnerving brinksmanship.