In the waning days of the European theater of the Second
World War, the forces of the Soviet Union were closing in on Berlin, and Adolph Hitler. Newly ascended American President Harry Truman halted the United States army on the banks of the Elbe river, so that the Soviets could take the city, in light of the horrific casualties they suffered through the German invasion of their country.
When the Germans were finally finished, Germany was divided into zones of occupation for the forces of the four major allied powers, as was the city of Berlin. This was the beginning of more than forty years of stalemate in Europe, and the setting of what became known as the cold
At least, that is what happened in our history… but what if things had gone differently?
I just finished reading Robert Conroy’s new alternate history novel, Red Inferno, in which the author asks the same question. In this story, Harry Truman, not wanting to appear weak to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, sends a token, two division-sized force to Berlin as the Russians were closing in on the city from the east.
Josef Stalin, being absolutely freakin’ insane, decides that Truman is trying to halt the Soviet advance, and after provoking an “incident”, attacks the American force. The United States responds, and a new war is born before the previous fight against the Germans is finished. The Soviets decide
that for the sake of their own security, the United States must be driven out of Europe, but Truman isn’t having any of that, and fights back
During the initial Soviet assault against American forces, a sizable remnant of American units are cut off and trapped in Potsdam, Germany, and are trying to survive against Soviet pressure while the American leadership tries to slow down the inexorable main Soviet thrust to the west. Because of pressure by the Red Army, the U.S. can do very little to help the besieged units in Potsdam, but this force is resupplied by air, and survives by its wits (and the employment of German soldiers to help them fight the Soviets), and the good leadership of it’s officers.
I won’t give any real spoilers, but the book ends with some interesting twists that I think you'll like.
The premise of this story is sound, and I enjoyed it. Conroy did what he usually does in his novels, and limits the number of point-of-view-characters to sensible numbers and goes easy on the philosophy, while concentrating on telling his tale.
This book was a fast, fun read. The combat scenes weren’t gratuitously gory, neither was their any gratuitous sex (which doesn’t really bother me, but there you are, I’m a Philistine, ok?). If you are a fan of alternate history, you will, without a doubt, enjoy this novel.