Fox at the Front
1st Edition cover
|Author||Michael Dobson and Douglas Niles|
|Cover artist||Tony Greco|
|Genre||Alternate history, War novel|
|November 2003 (hardbound)
June 2004 (paperback)
|Preceded by||Fox on the Rhine|
The story picks up on December 27, 1944, just minutes after the climax to Fox on the Rhine, where Field Marshal Erwin Rommel has introduced himself to George Patton and offers to surrender Army Group B to him. Both generals agree that the threat of the Soviet Union was greater than all German forces under Heinrich Himmler, who has considered him a traitor. Rommel instructs Hasso von Manteuffel's Fifth Panzer Army and Heinz Guderian at the Sixth Panzer Army to surrender their units at the first Allied unit they encounter. However, given the large concentration of Waffen-SS forces in the Sixth, Himmler orders Jochen Peiper to take over the unit at its headquarters in Namur (killing Heinz Guderian in the process) and counterattack against the Allies. After a US infantry force sent to accept Guderian's surrender is ambushed, Peiper marshals a small kampfgruppe from the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler to attack Rommel's Dinant headquarters, but is forced to withdraw because of heavy US and German resistance. He also collects wounded German forces along the way during the trip back to the Rhine. Patton's liberation of Bastogne and the cooperation of Rommel's forces allows Third Army to race to the Rhine faster than the rest of the Allied forces by early January 1945, capturing a bridge in Koblenz to try cutting off as many SS units as they can. Some SS forces, including Peiper, make it across the Rhine. After he arrives in Berlin, Himmler puts Peiper in charge of the Das Reich division.
Rommel is also facing tension on the German side, as he is being eyed to head the government-in-exile of the so-called German Democratic Republic (GDR), but decides to stay firm and command the Wehrmacht survivors from Army Group B, who have been called the German Republican Army (GRA). Having crossed the Rhine, the GRA and Third Army keeps pushing deep into the interior. All the while, Himmler orders Field Marshal Model to randomly reassign all Wehrmacht officers to prevent any conspiracies to defect, especially after US forces coordinate with General Karl Student in overseeing the surrender of Army Group H in Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front, the Soviet Union resumes its assault across Poland as Stalin assigns political officer Alexis Krigoff to keep tabs on the attack. The zampolit also reports to the NKVD about generals who are too cautious in their attacks. Das Reich and the Sixth Panzer Army are sent to the Eastwall (a copycat of the Westwall) to help in the defense of the front.
On February 18, a reconnaissance team from the US 19th Armored Division ambushes a train going out of Ettersburg. Upon derailing the train, the group discovers thousands of corpses and few survivors whom they provide medical assistance. Rommel is alerted and goes down to Ettersburg to see it personally. He discovers that the train came from the Buchenwald concentration camp and organizes an assault under the cover of a snowstorm with German troops in the lead. The camp is liberated and the prisoners are taken care of by Allied medical units. Rommel is horrified at the depths the Nazi party have reached in Germany's name, nearly killing some camp guards in anger. Although he leads the way in the cleanup, the Allied and GDR leadership convinces Rommel to let the proper medical authorities handle the workload at Buchenwald and concentrate on capturing Berlin ahead of the Soviets, who have stumbled upon the Auschwitz camp as well.
On March 13, while Sixth Panzer tries to blunt the Soviet advance, the Allies execute Operation Eclipse - an airborne drop and ground assault on Berlin, where Sepp Dietrich surrenders all German forces in the city. A US commando raid also captures Himmler as he tries to escape to Czechoslovakia in a convoy. Enraged at having been beaten to Berlin, Stalin orders Zhukov to encircle the capital by sending his forces to the Elbe and cut off Third Army and the GRA from the rest of the Allied forces still in the west. Zhukov also uses the opportunity to heavily cripple the GRA forces in the northern outskirts while the encirclement continues. The Allied troops in the city are ordered not to attack the Soviets lest they become provoked to unleash their firepower on Berlin. Peiper, who was cut off during the Das Reich's retreat from Kustrin, is captured and sent to a reeducation camp in Siberia.
Over the next few months, the Allies carry out a massive airlift operation into Berlin, providing reinforcements and supplies while evacuating civilians. The Soviets also use the period to bring more ground forces into the blockade.
The uneasy calm is broken on July 1 when a US transport crashing on the Soviet lines after a major dogfight is interpreted on the ground as an Allied attack. The Soviets attack at all points throughout the blockade with the main thrust directed against the 19th Armored Division at Potsdam. However, Zhukov discovers that Krigoff was behind the assumption, having convinced the commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army to press the attack, with the intent of capturing Gatow and Tempelhof airports. While the attack bogs down because of Allied airstrikes, Patton believes that the next Soviet attack will break through the US lines. The determined Soviet assault forces the Manhattan Project to bring the atomic bomb that was supposed to be used for the Trinity test for deployment in Berlin.
On the morning of July 8, General Groves oversees the drop of the Fat Man bomb aboard the Enola Gay with the Soviet artillery and armored concentration in Potsdam as the target. Although doubts persist about whether the bomb will work, the explosion erases them altogether as it obliterates Potsdam, where Zhukov and Marshal Konev's headquarters is located. The shock value from the event also forces the other Soviet attacks to stop.
In the aftermath of the bombing, Stalin agrees to withdraw all Red Army forces to the Polish side of the Oder River, but leaves behind a small force on the German side to fortify the area. British spy Kim Philby, who spent the past few months digging for information on the atomic bomb, is killed by British Intelligence as he attempts to alert the Soviets that the Berlin bomb was the only working copy (having been tricked by a fake stockpile several days before). Krigoff, who was sent to Lubyanka prison after the siege, narrates his part of the story to Stalin before he is killed in his cell. The United Nations also convenes a war crimes tribunal to try all Nazis, but Himmler himself would not make it to the courtroom, as the US soldiers who discovered Buchenwald leave him to die in a camp with Jews and other inmates.
Other subplots in Fox at the Front include the struggle of a B-24 Liberator crewmember who crashed in Fox on the Rhine and his stay in Buchenwald alongside Rommel's personal driver, a teenage Volksgrenadier soldier who is later fielded into the Hitlerjugend and Das Reich divisions, and the exploits of Fox on the Rhine character Gunther von Reinhardt as he negotiates for a peaceful solution with Himmler. Like in the previous novel, the fictional history book War's Final Fury by Professor Jared Gruenwald provides further insights into the events of the novel.
- Heinrich Himmler-SS and Gestapo leader, Führer
- Erwin Rommel-Wehrmacht field marshal, commander of German Republican Army
- Joachim Peiper- Waffen-SS officer
- Sepp Dietrich- Waffen-SS general
- Hans Speidel- Rommel's chief of staff who is appointed as the German government-in-exile's defense minister
- Heinz Guderian- Wehrmacht general
- Carl Goerdeler- German government-in-exile chancellor
- Franklin D. Roosevelt- US president
- Lewis Brereton - commander, First Allied Airborne Army
- Leslie Groves - US general in charge of Manhattan Project
- George Patton- commander, US Third Army
- Courtney Hodges- commander, US First Army
- Dwight D. Eisenhower-Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe
- W. Averell Harriman - US Ambassador to the Soviet Union
- Paul Tibbets- captain of the B-29 Enola Gay (renamed Mickey Mouse Express by Groves)
- Joseph Stalin- dictator
- Georgy Zhukov - marshal and commander 1st Belorussian Front
- Nikolai Bulganin- politician
- Lavrentiy Beria- chief of NKVD