“Mister President, those men and women are outnumbered fifty to one, they have fought and held this long despite the inadequate equipment and war stocks their governments provided them to do the job, and the fact that they are about to be over run, and where the blame lies for that, is no fault of theirs.”
A pin could have been heard dropping in the seconds that followed, and Terry Jones was not alone in realising a line had just been crossed. The President had been questioning whether there was fault in the ability of the men and women in uniform at the battlefront, but the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had laid the blame squarely at the door of government.
The Joint Chiefs are free to criticise the Chief Executive, but on a one to one basis behind closed doors, not in front of onlookers even if they were on the staff.
The President became very still, and his eyes narrowed a fraction as he looked at his top soldier. Henry met the President’s gaze and held it calmly in the knowledge that if he were to be relieved now it would matter not one iota.
The President broke the silence.
“A simple yes or no would have sufficed, General.”
Henry went on to outline what they believed the enemy would do once they achieved a breakout.
“We expect the Third Shock Army to head for Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge and Antwerp, with their Sixth Shock Army following on behind through the breach and to then swing south west for the French ports. What remains of Second Shock and Tenth Tank army will probably hook left and right to roll up the rest of our lines. These are their last, first class outfits and they about used up their second-class units in keeping up the pressure on us and trying to force the rivers up to this point in time. Which leaves third class units to assist in the mopping up, whilst the fourth class…those manned by troops in their forties and early fifties, will in all probability be used to secure the lines of communication.”
The President had rested his elbows on the table before him, and his hands were clasped together, the fingers entwined and he rested his chin on the spire they formed.
“What, may I ask, does General Allain intend to do about that?” The President followed on before Henry could answer. “There is just a cobbled together, infantry heavy division sat in the way of god knows how many tanks so does he honestly believe that will hold them until our new Corps arrives on the scene?” with that he sat upright and raised a coffee mug to his lips while he waited for the answer.
Henry responded with four words.
With a snort that sent coffee splashing across the papers in front of him, the President choked in mid swallow. An aide hurried over and began mopping up the spilt coffee before him, and the President coughed whilst fishing out a handkerchief and dabbing at a growing stain on his shirt. Leaning to one side to see past the charring aide he stared at Henry.
“He’s going to attack.” Henry Shaw repeated.
The President knew what forces were in Germany, and so he had to ask himself, and Henry, if SACEUR had taken leave of his senses.
“General Allain is quite sane Mr President; he is just faced with desperate choices at a desperate time.”
Turning back to the screen Henry continued his explanation by highlighting two NATO units sat slightly to the rear of their own lines and at either side of the expected breach.
“These two units, the 2nd Canadian Mechanised Brigade and the French 8th Armoured Brigade, are currently in hide positions and have been brought up to strength as far as possible as regard reinforcements and supplies. Once the lead enemy manoeuvre units have passed through the breach they will close it behind them, sealing the breach.”
“General?” The President was pointing the end of a pen towards the screen.
“If memory serves, that Canadian unit was over a hundred miles away two days ago and holding a section of the line to the north, and the French brigade was a lot further south, so who is in those positions now?”
“The King Alfonso XIII Light Infantry Legion Brigade relieved the Canadians in place thirty hours ago, and the Lusitania Light Armoured Cavalry Regiment took over from the French 8th Armoured about this time yesterday. They are both Spanish rapid reaction units and as such carry little in the way of excess baggage so the move took very little time.”
The President was about to ask another question, clearly surprised that these moves and the Spanish units involved had not previously been even hinted at. He wasn’t certain that the Spanish units in question were even under SACEUR’s control. However, General Shaw had already turned away.
The map on the big screen panned back to encompass the south of Europe and the UK. Blue parachute symbols were clustered about the locations of airfields far from the fighting.
“Tomorrow morning at 0300hrs GMT, elements of the Belgian, Turkish, Greek, Spanish and Italian airborne forces, along with three battalions of the 82nd and the British 1st and 2nd Parachute battalions will drop into occupied Germany to attack enemy airfields and supply lines.”
Henry paused before finishing and looked at all the faces peering from him to the screen.
“This is a one shot deal and there will be no reinforcement or re-supply.”
The President sat listening with raised eyebrows as Henry spoke, and when he had finished the President looked around the table.
“Why is it that this is first that I have heard of it? Why haven’t any of the European leaders spoken to me about this? Why General, was I not consulted?”
Henry gave him that answer.
“I think you will find sir that General Allain felt that the other leaders would only have seen it as throwing good money after bad, and would have wanted to preserve those forces for the defence of their own borders. He may also have felt that by consulting you sir, it would have put you in an awkward position.”
“No shit.” The President replied with much irony, and then as another thought occurred to him his brows knotted together in confusion.
“So how did he get those airborne units, General?”
“He didn’t consult the national leadership’s sir.”
“Only the Generals’.”
Andy Farman @ Goodreads
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