is here, and as with many of the other series titles, this one has a double meaning. The Allies now have two great targets after uniting all their armies behind one front. The first is Antwerp, the great deep-water port that could be a permanent solution to the difficult supply problems that have been plaguing Eisenhower’s Lieutenants for months. The opening of Cherbourg has helped a great deal, but as the initial landings were far away in southern France, there is no operation over the beachheads as there was at Normandy, which delivered as much supply as Cherbourg did before May of 1945.
Antwerp is the key. The Channel Ports could only deliver a fraction of the tonnage that could enter through Antwerp, the largest operating port in Europe at that time. Now Eisenhower wants to use the plan he discussed with Montgomery, Operation Comet,
to make a bold attempt to seize the port, and all of South Beveland and Walcheren Islands, in one fell swoop. Therein lies the first half of this book’s title, for Starfall is a play on that code name for Operation Comet,
a dramatic airborne attack aimed at delivering that first great strategic prize. This time the British XXX Corps will start near the city of Ghent, intending to drive from there to Antwerp, a
distance of about 65 kilometers, as they first have to push east, then north over the Rupel River at Boom.
The airborne carpet is laid down here by the two American Airborne divisions, the
82nd and 101st. The British reach for the key objectives, the islands and the port of Antwerp itself. Yet in the midst of the operation, an event stubbornly insists on making its timely
appearance, the historical “Great Gale” that raged unexpectedly out of the north, also called the “Channel Storm.” It’s the weather event that Fedorov had his eye on as
a means of getting the energy to attempt their shift home, before he got sidetracked to stalk Himmler’s Zeppelin flotilla headed for New York.
That’s where this volume opens, at
the very moment where the last book let off, with the finger of Captain Hans Joachim “Hajo” Herrmann poised over the button to detonate his deadly bomb. The results of that desperate
action are presented here, and series veterans already know what the effects of a nuclear detonation close to anything like Rod-25 can do. The great airship Tunguska is Rod-25 on steroids, with
remnants of the initial strike it is named after laced through its duralumin bones. So get to the theater before the curtain lifts, this one starts with a bang, quite literally.
transitions in the first half of the book to the daring airborne operation to seize Antwerp, but those who love the Market-Garden campaign in the war will get a double treat here. The other meaning
of the title comes later, after some remarkable gains posted by the new senior British commander in 1st Army, General Richard O’Connor. The man Fedorov saved from death or captivity in Egypt,
has already taken a prominent role throughout the series, vying with Montgomery as the single man carrying the war effort forward for the British.
In the last book, Breakout, we saw how Monty
literally tried to steal O’Connor’s thunder, coming over to join his segment of the front and horning in on that action when he got stuck for lack of fuel. Monty is now suffering the very
same fate that Patton had to put up with, a lack of supply. Now it is decided that O’Connor will take over for Dempsey at the head of 1st Army in the north, and Dempsey will move south to
shoulder up next to Montgomery, as the latter looks at the thorny problem of crossing the Moselle and taking Metz.
Patton serves up his own push to sweep past Charleroi, beneath Brussels, and
drive east towards Liege in Operation Steamroller. Bradley takes Philippeville and gets several small bridgeheads over the Meuse south of Namur. But the real action is brought north by
O’Connor. Patton deems him “another crazy old horse cavalryman, just like me,“ and O’Connor does not disappoint. It is his unpredictable thrusts and runs that soon give von
Rundstedt fits, and his efforts set up the next great airborne operation of the war—that’s right, we get not one, but two big airborne drops in this volume, and the second gets the title
of the book, Operation Starfall.
This time Boy Browning intends to make it an all British operation, with the Poles along for good measure. The lack of gliders after Operation
Comet means they can only lift one Airlanding Brigade, but every other Para brigade the British have, is committed even the 2nd, (recalled to the UK in this history). The objective is, of course, the
other great apple the Allies were reaching for at this time, a bridge over the Rhine.
In the real history, Montgomery chose Arnhem, focusing on it to the exclusion of clearing the Scheldt to
open Antwerp, a grave strategic error. Here in this amazing alternate history of the war, the author has spiced things up a bit by placing good bridges over the Rhine at both Emmerich and Rees.
We asked him about it when we saw what was going to happen here.
“I first gamed this battle over 25 years ago with a cadre of dedicated war gamers using maps I drew at 500 meters
per hex,” he said, “and the excellent system from SPI’s old “Highway to the Reich” system. We played that game to death, and found it opened up a host of operational
alternatives for the Allies. So when I got half way through this book, seeing Operation Comet reaching an inevitable conclusion. I was still hankering for more. All I could think of was that
excellent game, and so I redesigned the whole thing again, this time in a computer simulation, at 500 meters per hex.”
O’Connor was the man chosen to get the ground element into
striking range of the Rhine, and so the entire second half of the book is this exciting second airborne campaign, this time aiming to jump the Rhine. So the intense focus on the all-important war in
the west continues here with several excellent operations. By the time this one wraps up, we are finally looking at the Siegfried Line Campaign as Patton pushes over the Meuse. There, looming like a
great green and grey shadow on his right, lies the expanse of the place US infantrymen came to call “the worst place of any,” and the scene of the most costly and hard-fought operation of
the entire war—the Hurtgen Forest. As Patton and his staff ponder how to deal with that huge terrain obstacle on their right, Guderian is slowly building up to deliver the great counterattack
he has been hoping to unleash with his Panzer reserves, an operation based on the Führer’s notes for a plan called Wacht am Rhein.
That name itself was a deception, intended to
make the Allies think it had to do with defending the Rhine. In this alternate history, Guderian comes to call it “Rhinelander,” and that, my dear readers, is the title of the
Season Five finale. Meanwhile, at the very end of Starfall, Elena Fairchild visits Churchill to say her farewells. She has decided, at Fedorov’s urging, to attempt to shift back home to
2021 with the Argos Fire.
The author is slowly gathering up his chess pieces and taking them back to where this whole incredible series started in book one. Rumors are being whispered that
after we finally do get to the resolution of Fedorov’s plan with Karpov, the author will then play out the remainder of the conventional war in 2021 that first got underway way back in Season
One in Men of War. I would dearly love to see that, particularly if Admiral Volsky’s ship and crew somehow manage to survive if Fedorov’s plan actually succeeds.
we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, the author continues to present the most colorful and dramatic battles of the war. So don’t miss these falling stars!
Starfall, 320 pages, 36 chapters
Don’t miss the party! Get Starfall on or before October 1