Travis Hunter and his rangers are stationed at base 990. The base is located 990 A.D. in the wilds of America. The purpose is for them to not be caught in any change to history that the VBU would make. This proves to be a good idea as the Soviets have once again changed history. When they can’t contact their base in 2008 a jump to 1991 shows that America is now under the control of the Soviets. Studying a history book they find out the change occurred during the Battle of the Bulge. The German offensive was successful and they were able to get in range and use nuclear bombs to destroy London and the channel ports. The allied armies collapsed and the Soviets were able to roll over all of Europe. The Americans were later able to nuke Japan and win that war but the experience in Europe turned America to an isolationist path. The Soviets manages to take control of the world and in 1956 a brief war further reduced America to poverty. So by the 1970’s a Communist revolution occurred and the Soviets were invited in as peacekeepers.
So now Hunter and his Rangers must go to the Ardennes in December 1944. Disguised as American troops they must stop the Soviets from helping the Germans. All the while they have to survive the Malmedy Massacre and not screw up history so it comes out as it should.
The final book in the series once again has our heroes saving time from the insidious Soviets. The plan to change the outcome with altering the Battle of the Bulge is a sound one. The history is plausible and is written with much attention to historical detail. You learn a lot about the battle from this story just as you do with the other books in the series. A consistently well written and researched series. It kept the rules for time travel that was established consistent and plausible.
Now by 1991 it was obvious that the Soviets weren’t going to conquer the world. On the author’s web page it tells that the final book they wanted to write would have had them travel back to the eighties and save an unknown Soviet apparatchik named Gorbachev from assassination. Thus ensuring that America won the Cold War. That would have fit the current world reality and gave the series a sense of closure. Unfortunately the publisher pulled the plug on the series and book was never written. So we will just have to content ourselves with knowing they succeeded in changing time for the better.
1944 Italy. Joe Beccione is serving in the American Army. Born to Italian immigrant parents in Hell’s Kitchen the tough guy is a good brave soldier but has a problem with discipline. One day a MP jeep hits the young brother of the girl he wants to marry. In his anger he shoots the MP and soon is about to face a firing squad. He escapes and makes his way to a group of renegades. Lead by a German named Franz Kessler the group survives by raiding both Allied and German supply convoys. It is a hodgepodge of deserters and criminals from every nationality. Beccione fits right in with this group. Yet he wonders about Kessler an obviously educated man. A man who can one minute shoot down soldiers but have a sad look in his eyes. A man who is worshiped by the local peasants and he reciprocates in kind. In fact he goes out of his way to help them.
Then they finally find out Kessler’s true purpose. On a mission to liberate stolen valuables in a complex of caves held by the Germans as an artillery position. Soon this village will be the site of a major battle and will destroy the village of Valderosa. Kessler convinces his men to protect the village by fighting off both sides so they can’t occupy it. Now they battle both the Allies and Germans in a big epic battle.
It is hard to write an anti-war war novel but Fredrick Smith manages to do that. Kessler is a pacifist who served in the First World War and lost his brother and father. Later he loses his Jewish wife to a concentration camp. His son in the army and daughter killed in an Allied bombing raid. Stationed in Yugoslavia he witnesses atrocities and is forced to kill to survive. He deserts and forms his own army. One that will exist to protect the civilians that are caught between the armies that are fighting. That he believes foreign armies care little for the civilians and they are the true victims in the war. That all soldiers are in some way to blame. Of course he sees that an Allied victory is the only good outcome. Yet he will fight them to save his beloved peasants. His personality gets his men to fight and die to protect a village. A village at the end that manages to come to the rescue and pay back the survivors. A fascinating book that makes you think.
Fredrick Smith was a RAF gunner on a bomber during WWII. He wrote a successful series called 633 Squadron and some other books. He writes characters that have an interesting backstory and did a lot of research on the war in Italy. Might give some of his other books a try.