The American Campaign Continues
By the close of June 1946, the American pocket centered around Boston had been conquered putting virtually all of New England under German occupation. Hoth took the next few weeks to rest and resupply for the drive on Pittsburgh, ordering his soldiers to confiscate whatever was needed to compensate for supply issues. Hoth’s drive was slated for July 21.
The Western Drive
Since the successful conquest of Toronto in early March, Guderian discovered a distinct stiffening of Allied forces the further south he went. As the land narrowed at the approach of the Great Lakes, the Allies were able to concentrate their forces into tighter and tighter formations which would negate German maneuver.
Guderian ground his way steadily through Allied lines toward Michigan. Paratroopers were used to secure the Blue Water Bridge against demolition. German losses were heavy as they struggled to hold onto the bridge against fierce American/Canadian assaults. When Guderian arrived, only one company remained of the battalion that had originally been dropped. The German position was further compromised by American naval forces sailing across the Great Lakes into the St. Clair River, firing at will on Guderian’s forces and attempting to destroy the bridge the Wermacht were pouring across. Hundreds of Luftwaffe aircraft soared through the sky scoring hit upon hit on the naval aircraft lighting the night sky with pillars of flame. Veterans would later call it one of the most nightmarish days in the war. Death was everywhere, the cold autumn wind lashing the combatants. The bridge collapsed under repeated naval fire slowing the German drive by a week and effectively ending the battle. Guderian’s engineers would work feverishly to repair the bridge achieving miraculous progress.
Tens of thousands of American troops rushed to halt Guderian’s renewed thrust toward Detroit including naval recruits training on the Great Lakes. The ferocity of American attacks shocked Guderian who authorized the use of flamethrowers to push back Allied assaults. It was largely a disorganized affair, American forces accepting anyone able to carry a rifle into their ranks. Detroit fell on April 16. Guderian would mop up American forces throughout Eastern Michigan over the next week while preparing a drive on Indianapolis.
Guderian’s drive into Indiana was just as rapid, Elkhart falling April 23, followed by Ft. Wayne on April 29. The first signs of organized American forces appeared as he approached Muncie, May 2. The VI Corps, under Major General Ernest J. Dawley, had moved east from Illinois in late March, taking up position north of Indianapolis on April 17. When news came of Guderian’s march south, Dawley prepared his forces to meet him. It was patrols of the 45th Division which first encountered Wermacht troops outside Muncie. Brief gunfire was exchanged before American forces withdrew to report German troop movements.
German and American forces would skirmish over the next three days in and around Delaware County with Guderian forcing Dawley gradually southwestward. The fourth day of fighting transpired near the White River, five miles from Yorktown. The river to his rear, Dawley found himself trapped. With a lack of decent armor, only VI Corps’ artillery served to deter German charges meant to drive them into the river. This was quickly solved by Guderian’s panzers which sliced through the VI’s infantry and overran Dawley’s main guns. Suffering heavy casualties, many American soldiers dove into the White River swimming across to the southern shore while being shot at by Wermacht rifles and panzer cannons. Scores of bodies would foul the water for weeks to come, some washing up as far as ten miles downriver.
Indianapolis was encircled by Guderian May 10 and taken two days later severing a vital transportation hub in a largely bloodless offensive. Guderian would then turn southeast cutting a swath through disorganized American forces, put together piecemeal from whatever was available, on his way to the Ohio border.
Hoth Continues South
Hoth made rapid progress through Northern and Central New Jersey, capturing Newark and then advancing into Pennsylvania within five days. Hoth diverted south, taking Philadelphia within the week and pocketing Southern New Jersey before moving west toward Pittsburgh, splitting off part of his forces to finish off what American forces remained centered around Atlantic City. The bulk of his forces would cross the Susquehanna River three days later. Patton waited at Harrisburg. The battle that followed lasted three days (July 3-6), Patton ultimately making a fighting retreat.
Hoth sped west against minimal opposition toward Pittsburgh. He reached the outskirts of the city on July 10. Once more, Patton waited for him. The Battle of Pittsburgh stretched for a week. An advantage Patton had that he had lacked in previous engagements with Hoth was air support. He had gathered every available squadron he could find after browbeating his way up the chain of command until he reached Eisenhower himself. The threat of losing nearly half of American steel production was enough to convince Allied commanders of Patton’s need for aircraft and further supply. Across the sky and over the ground, German and Allied forces clashed shaking the very foundations of the Earth. With numerical superiority, Patton willingly sent wave after wave at Hoth from all sides. Planes fell across the field of battle, streaking like falling stars across the horizon. One Luftwaffe pilot crashed spectacularly into Loew’s Penn Theater setting off a minor fire in the city. Hoth himself would recount in his memoirs “It was the most hellish experience of my life. It was as if the sky were falling and hell itself were opening up, American soldiers screaming like demons as they ran toward us. Their eyes flared with hate.”
When the tide of battle began to shift, Patton refused to retreat. If Pittsburgh were to fall, the blow to America would be enormous. He gambled everything, committing his reserves rather than retreating once again. Casualties were enormous for both sides. In the end, the battle came down to armor and air. The Luftwaffe gradually regained control of the sky, setting their sights on American ground forces. Patton’s armor had been decimated by frequent charges at Hoth’s lines. Despite his repeated shots, Wermacht forces held with their 88s. Now Hoth was ready to unleash his reserve. Patton found himself encircled. Only at great effort and loss of life did he manage to escape with a small contingent. The II Corps was no more.
Despite victory, Hoth’s battle strength was shattered. He was left at 40% strength in armor and had suffered well over 50% casualties. He would not be ready for offensive operations for well over two months. Despite the losses, Hitler was ecstatic. The core of American steel was seized and a vast swath of American industry now lay in German hands or was destroyed.
Despite their animosity, Raeder and Goering began planning a joint air/naval offensive aimed at the Newport News Naval Yards. With Luftwaffe support, the Kriegsmarine would once more venture into waters off Virginia in order to destroy the naval yard.
The Siege and Invasion of Hawaii
By June 1946, Japanese forces had successfully reached and begun to blockade the Hawaiian Islands after a skirmish that saw the remnants of the American Pacific Fleet retreat to San Francisco. Following the Battle of Midway, American naval power in the Pacific was at its nadir and unable (some would say unwilling) to hold back the advancing Imperial Fleet of Japan.
Over the next month, Japan worked at cutting Hawaii’s supply lines and eroding its military capabilities. Japanese Zeroes battled a desperate American USAAF. Though they fought valiantly, the American pilots would eventually succumb not due to Japanese superiority but to a lack of fuel and parts. Once air supremacy had been established, the Japanese began to bomb every military target they could find. Special importance was placed on Pearl Harbor’s fuel storage, maintenance, and dry dock facilities. The noose became tighter.
An American naval response to lift the siege was not to be had. With the German campaign raging along the east coast and the successful Nazi attack on the Panama Canal, the American fleet was simply not able to be everywhere it needed to be. Dulles reluctantly left Hawaii to its fate as the country rushed to rebuild the shattered Pacific Fleet.
Food supplies on the islands were largely gone by early August 1946. The population of the islands was too big to support natively. Other supplies, such as medical, became scarce leading to a rise in deaths from infection. Black outs became common, the power plants systematically destroyed by the IJN, though often rebuilt with what materials Hawaiians could scrounge up.
The situation would become strained. Some citizens grumbled over the fact that the Army got precedence when it came to food stocks, sometimes forcibly expropriating food at rifle point. Others wanted the Japanese population (Nissei), locked up fearing they were working with the enemy. One radical idea was to use the Nissei as a bargaining chip with the IJN, using them as hostages for food, fuel, and supplies.
Starvation was a cruel weapon the Japanese were all too willing to use. After the death toll of the Midway invasion, the Japanese were not willing to attempt a landing on another island and relive the horrific experience. They were inclined to grind down American forces and then simply step over their emaciated bodies.
Japan finally initiated its assault in early October. With fuel stocks depleted, the USAAF was unable to challenge Japanese aircraft as it soared over the islands strafing American forces, defending the Japanese landings. Oahu was first. The US Army’s emaciated soldiers failed to hold back the charging Imperial troops. Pushing inland, Japanese soldiers discovered atrocities. Tales of cannibalism were related to the Japanese by Nissei who had been rounded up in camps and systematically butchered to feed the citizens. They also spoke of being beaten by American soldiers and used as slave labor to haul around equipment when fuel had run out. For the smallest offense, many were shot point blank. Others were raped. Imperial troops were quick in capturing and executing every American soldier they could find. They would also commit violent acts of murder and rape against the white civilian inhabitants as retribution.
With Oahu in their hands, and the sad state of American forces revealed, Japanese forces expanded their operations seizing the remainder of the chain. Plans were drawn up to begin rebuilding the former naval installations. The Nissei became willing supporters of the Japanese, renouncing their American citizenship following the vile treatment they had received at the hands of American forces. The rays of the Imperial standard extended further eastward.