The War That Came Early
The War That Came Early is a six-volume alternate history series by Harry Turtledove, in which World War II begins in 1938 over Czechoslovakia. The first volume, Hitler's War, was released in hardcover in 2009 without a series title. Subsequently, the paperback edition was announced as The War That Came Early: Hitler's War.
- 1 List
- 2 Points of divergence
- 3 Volumes
- 3.1 Hitler's War
- 3.2 West and East
- 3.3 The Big Switch
- 3.4 Coup D'Etat
- 3.5 Two Fronts
- 3.6 Not with a Bang
- 4 Characters
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The series is six volumes, with five volumes published:
- Hitler's War
- West and East
- The Big Switch
- Coup D'Etat
- Two Fronts 
- Not with a Bang (scheduled for release in July, 2014)
Points of divergence
In this series the initial point of divergence occurs on July 20, 1936 with Spanish Nationalist leader José Sanjurjo listening to his pilot's advice and changing the conditions of his flight back to Spain - he thus averts the crash that caused his death in our timeline. However, in the following two years Sanjurjo makes much the same military and political decisions which Francisco Franco actually made, so that the course of the Spanish Civil War remains virtually the same, except for the name of the Nationalist rebels' leader. Only in 1939 would Sanjurjo take a significantly different decision, attacking and conquering Gibraltar (while in recorded history Franco would carefully maintain cordial relations with the British). This, however, comes after the series' main point of divergence.
The timeline again — and far more significantly — diverges from history in September 1938. UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier meet German Führer Adolf Hitler at Munich, ready to take the ultimate act of appeasement and force Czechoslovakia into surrender. However, exactly their supine attitude and manifest wish to avoid war at any price arouse Hitler's predatory instinct. While his generals want to gain time for further building up Germany's armed forces, Hitler feels that the time to strike is now, with his opponents in such disarray. With the excessive British and French concessions, Hitler has no pretext to launch a war; however, news of the assassination of Sudeten German leader Konrad Henlein by a Czech nationalist suddenly provides a pretext. (In actual history, Henlein lived until 1945.) Hitler jubilantly declares that there is no further room for negotiations and that his army will attack Czechoslovakia immediately. Chamberlain and Daladier believe that Hitler himself had Henlein assassinated (which is, ironically, not true) and — much against their will — are forced to declare war in fulfilment of their treaty obligations to the Czechoslovaks.
This timeline can be considered to have been created by the (fictional) Czech nationalist Jaroslav Stribny, who assassinated Henlein. He is never seen onstage and the reader is given no access to his thoughts and reasoning. Posterity in this timeline would link his name with that of Gavrilo Princip, whose act of assassination had set off the earlier World War.
|Publisher||Del Rey Books|
|Publication date||August 4, 2009|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
The War That Came Early: Hitler's War, published in 2009, was the first book in the series. As usual, Turtledove tells his story through a suite of viewpoint characters, mostly young soldiers and junior officers. The novel follows the progression of the war between Autumn 1938 through to the Spring 1939.
The German Army concentrates most of its available forces for the attack on Czechoslovakia, leaving the Siegfried Line greatly under-defended and gambling that the French would not launch any major offensive. Indeed, the French content themselves with a token offensive, conquering some minor German border towns and later evacuating them with no strategic effect, and failing to seriously relieve the pressure on their Czechoslovak ally. The Soviet Union does send airplanes to aid Czechoslovakia, but — having no shared border — cannot send ground troops through the intervening territory of Poland and Romania without risking war with these countries, a step for which Joseph Stalin is not yet ready. Czech soldiers offer tenacious and persistent resistance to the overwhelming German forces, with Prague and other cities heavily damaged and a great toll of civilian casualties; also the Skoda works and other industrial centers are totally destroyed, denying Germany use of them for its armament program in the later parts of the war. However, the Slovak Hlinka Guard stages a pro-Nazi rebellion, and many Slovak soldiers — even if not joining this uprising — fight only half-heartedly and tend to desert en masse. After German forces cut Czechoslovakia in two and are joined by Hungarians invading from the south and Poles from the north, Czechoslovak resistance crumbles, with the country's leaders forming a government in exile in Paris. A considerable number of soldiers (mostly Czechs, with some anti-Fascist Slovaks and Ruthenians) also get to France, where they would play a significant role in later parts of the fighting.
Impact on the Spanish Civil War
The outbreak of the European war comes in the nick of time to give a new lease of life to Republican Spain which faced an imminent collapse. France reverses its former "Non-Intervention" policy and a flow of munitions across the Pyrenees helps the Republic win the Battle of the Ebro and reunite its territory which was cut in half by the Nationalist rebels some months before; the International Brigades, which had been on the point of being withdrawn from Spain, remain there "for the duration". Subsequently, however, Spain becomes a backwater, forgotten by the rest of the world with the spotlight turned elsewhere; both Spanish sides are alike starved of supplies by their respective patrons, who need the munitions for fronts deemed to have a higher priority. The Spanish war becomes stalemated, with neither side able to make any decisive move. Sanjurjo turns his attention to conquering Gibraltar, the British enclave ceded to Britain in perpetuity by Spain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Spanish Nationalist troops suffer great losses from the naval artillery of the moored British warships, but with the aerial help of the German Condor Legion British resistance is overcome and the Royal Navy ships are forced to withdraw into the open sea. Conquest of Gibraltar is a fillip to Spanish national pride and to Sanjurjo's personal reputation, and might have strategic implications for later moves of the war in the Mediterranean; however, by depriving the British Empire of a highly valued strategic asset, Sanjurjo irrevocably ties the Spanish Nationalist cause with that of Nazi Germany, foreclosing any chance of surviving in power past a German defeat. Towards mid-1939 the long-deadlocked Madrid front becomes active, both sides moving reinforcements there. The Nationalists aim to finally conquer the city, while the Republicans — who deploy to Madrid the International Brigades — seek to push them away decisively and end any further threat to the Spanish capital.
After having taken a minor part in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, the staunchly anti-Communist Polish government openly tilts to the side of Germany, considering that of their two neighbouring dictators, Adolf Hitler is the lesser evil in comparison with Joseph Stalin. Consequently, Polish-Soviet tensions grow until finally bursting out into open war, with Stalin accusing Poland of oppressing its Bielorussian minority and launching an invasion with the proclaimed aim of liberating these people (and regaining formerly Russian territory which the Soviet Union had to cede at the Peace of Riga, concluding the Polish–Soviet War in 1921). The Poles ask for the help of Germany, becoming its formal ally, and getting some military aid — mainly fighter planes.
The Soviet advance stalls, due to the Polish-German resistance (and to the harsh mid-winter conditions). Though not committing ground troops en masse, Germany finds itself fighting a two-front war, its nightmare from the 1914–1918 war — which increases the urgency of quickly winning the war on the Western Front. It also means that Germany can spare no resources to the conquest of Denmark and Norway, so the Scandinavians are left to watch the war from the side-lines. While air raid regulations and wartime rationing become part of daily life in both London and Berlin, in neutral Copenhagen the lights are on at night and life goes on as usual.
Japanese invasion of Siberia
For some years previously, there had been a power struggle inside the Japanese military and political establishment, with the admirals pushing towards a naval war aimed at wresting control of the Pacific from the US, while the generals — particularly those of the powerful Kwantung Army — preferred an attack on the Soviet Union as an extension of Japan's ongoing conquest of China. The news of the Soviet Union becoming entangled in a war with Germany and Poland, and not doing very well in it, tips the balance in favour of the generals. The Japanese shift from an undeclared, low-intensity border war with the Soviets at the Mongolian border to an all-out invasion of Siberia, with the clear strategic aim of cutting the Trans-Siberian Railway, the sole, long extended supply line of Vladivostok. Cutting the line would mean that the city — and the entire Soviet Far East — would swiftly become untenable and fall into Japanese hands. Well aware of this, the Soviets fiercely contest the Japanese advance north of the Amur River and hold the invaders off the vital railway line. Meanwhile, the Americans present in Japanese-occupied China — for example, at the American Legation in Peking — are worried at the increasing arrogance and aggrandizement of the Japanese Empire. Marines attached to the legation glare at the Japanese soldiers in control of Peking and long for a chance to come to blows with them. However, decision-makers at Washington, D.C. are content to see the Japanese direct their aggressive energy at the Soviets. The US continues to supply Japan with fuel and scrap metal — in effect tacitly supporting the Japanese war effort.
Invasion of the Low Countries and Northern France
Soon, world attention shifts away from the other war theatres to the Western Front, where the German Army launches its bold effort to implement the Schlieffen Plan of 1914, using the armoured striking force they lacked in the previous war, and knock France altogether out of the war. In the dead of winter a massive surprise attack is launched on the neutral Netherlands. The Dutch Army, caught completely unprepared, resists to the best of its ability, but German bombers destroy defenceless Rotterdam, and rather than have more of their cities suffer the same fate, the Dutch government surrenders after five days. Belgium, which earlier refused to let French and British forces deploy on its soil, does so belatedly when already invaded. After three weeks of fighting Belgium is overrun and King Leopold — lukewarm to begin with — surrenders. The Germans then proceed to invade France, by-passing the Maginot Line by way of the Ardennes. However, though the French are pushed back again and again, the force of the German Blitzkrieg is not as overwhelming as it would have been had the German arms industry gotten another year of producing more advanced tanks. With the war launched in 1938, they have to rely heavily on the Panzer I, a light tank intended originally for training. Also, with an active Eastern Front against the Soviets, the Wehrmacht can't concentrate all forces westwards. Much of the Allies' armaments are inadequate or obsolete, too — artillery antedating World War I and air forces still having many biplanes (which on some occasions are able to hold their own in aerial battles with more modern types). Still, the Allies are not broken, and wage a fighting retreat deeper and deeper into France. Though Dunkirk and other Channel ports are conquered by the Germans, making communications with Britain difficult, the British Expeditionary Force remains united with its French ally, as well as with some Belgian forces continuing to fight despite their country's surrender, and with highly-motivated exile Czechoslovak troops.
Disaffection in the German Army and the Battle of Paris
The continuation of bitter fighting and the absence of the expected French collapse cause disappointment among German officers, who feel that Hitler had acted precipitously in launching the war. A conspiracy of conservative officers is foiled by the Gestapo, with the conspirators executed or sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp. In the aftermath, a widespread witch-hunt is launched throughout the German Army, targeting also many officers who had not been involved in the conspiracy at all. This increases the feeling of frustration and disaffection in the German ranks, added to the increasing fatigue of the ongoing hard fighting. The Germans advance southwards, capture Verdun without the massive toll exacted there in the previous war, get further south than in the 1914 Battle of the Marne and penetrate into the outskirts of Paris. The French capital is heavily bombed, with the Eiffel Tower destroyed — as are many other private and public buildings. Still, though neither Daladier nor Chamberlain are inspiring war leaders, resistance continues with the defiant proclamation "Paris is the front, here we will stop them". The Allies also start deploying armour effectively, having learned from their German opponents and with the French command at last listening to the advice of their best armour expert, Colonel Charles de Gaulle. The German forces prepare for a decisive push, to surround and conquer Paris, but are confronted by a massed force of determined French and British troops, as well as Czechoslovaks and African Black soldiers from the French colonies. The exhausted German soldiers are stopped and the Allies — to their own soldiers' surprise — manage to start pushing them back. The Germans are in a predicament, with no strategic achievement to show for the months of grueling fighting, overextended and their flank threatened by French forces at the Maginot Line, by-passed but not defeated. The war is going to continue on two fronts, West and East — the name of the next volume.
The threatened Jews
With Nazi Germany already straining its resources for external war in November 1938, there is no Kristallnacht of Germany-wide pogroms and burning of synagogues. Still, discrimination and persecution of Jews becomes ever more intensive and oppressive. Even Jews completely assimilated in the German culture, who thought of themselves as Germans (and as patriotic Germans) are driven beyond the pale, not allowed to join the Army even when they want to (and when they had served with distinction in the previous war) nor being allowed to use the air raid shelters when Allied bombers start arriving overhead. The conquest of Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France expose an increasing number of additional Jews to the racist brutality from which German Jews suffered since 1933. The Jews have no clear idea how far the Nazis intend to go, but they have many reasons to feel foreboding and start assuming that they could count themselves lucky to be still alive at the war's end. Still, as long as Poland is Germany's ally and not an occupied territory, Oświęcim remains an obscure Polish provincial town, not known by its German name: Auschwitz.
West and East
|West and East|
|Publisher||Del Rey Books|
|Publication date||July 27, 2010|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
The War That Came Early: West and East, published in July 2010, is the second book in the series. Both locked into two-front wars, neither Germany nor the Soviet Union makes significant progress against the other in Eastern Europe.
France and the United Kingdom successfully attack Germany in Western Europe, but Germany invades Denmark and southern Norway. Meanwhile, Japan advances against the USSR in Eastern Asia. There is little change in the Spanish front, and German Jews are now being forced to wear the Yellow Star — while Polish Jews are fighting alongside German soldiers.
The Siberian campaign
The Japanese successfully sever the Trans-Siberian Railway, cutting off shipments delivered to Vladivostok. Cold weather and mosquitoes take their toll on the Japanese soldiers, and skirmishes with the Russians are commonplace. Despite the distance from the industrial areas of Russia, Soviet soldiers still maintain modest air and artillery superiority, though they are still inaccurate, and both sides duck for cover during artillery barrages. Japanese attacks on Vladivostok proceed much like their attacks on Port Arthur in 1905, suffering tremendous casualties for very little ground gained.
The War in the West
The Germans have slowly introduced the Panzer III, a tank with thicker armor and a turret large enough for the whole gun crew. Panzer IIIs prove formidable against their French counterparts, but their arrival is delayed by a lack of resources and that most of Germany's armored units were sent to fight on the Eastern Front. The Nazis have completely occupied Denmark and are fighting with the British in Norway. Sweden displays its neutrality by printing both Allied and Nazi propaganda, but Stockholm is still heavily fortified in order to defend Sweden's independence. German U-boats have to take extra measures to avoid targeting neutral merchant ships, while experimenting with the snorkel. The British and French successfully launch an offensive, driving the Germans into a slow retreat towards the French border. Some of the German military high command launch another coup against Hitler, but this, as well as the previous one is put down. In the aftermath, many Germans suspected of being disloyal, from ordinary privates to generals, are arrested by the SS and Gestapo.
Germany ramps up its troop commitments to Poland, sending Panzers and infantry to cut off the Russians in the disputed territory. In response, the Russians intensify the war, launching a full scale invasion reaching as far as the Vistula River before being stopped and pushed back.
Japanese occupation of China
Tension mounts between American forces stationed in Shanghai and the Japanese Imperial army. The Japanese and well-to-do Chinese collaborators drink in fancy bars, while the Japanese show off their success in Russia, likening it to the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.
The Big Switch
|The Big Switch|
|Publisher||Del Rey Books|
|Publication date||July 19, 2011|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
The War That Came Early: The Big Switch, published in July 2011, is the third book in the series. In this there truly is a big switch, as France and the United Kingdom join Germany for a campaign against Russia as the Japanese assault on the Western Nations is about to begin.
The Russians at Vladivostok finally surrender due to a lack of food. Due to a shortage of trained bomber pilots in the Far East, the Soviets take experienced co-pilots and retrain them as bomber pilots. The Japanese force their captured Russian prisoners to go to a Unit 731 facility, Bataan Death March style, where they are experimented on by the Japanese. The Russians make peace with the Japanese on the basis of the new border being the current front line so the Russians can concentrate on their enemies to the west.
The War in the West
The Germans are slowly retreating as the British and French counterattack. The Allies evacuate Norway, leaving it to the Germans. Rudolf Hess parachutes into Scotland in a bid to convince Britain and France to join Germany and Poland in their campaign against the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill is the primary voice of opposition against this, but he dies, in an apparent accident, after being hit by a drunk driver. The Allies agree to this plan, sending their troops into Russia to fight the Soviets. The German Army withdraws from France, being only slightly harried by a few stubborn Francs-tireurs. The Czechoslovakians who continued to fight after their country's defeat are disgusted, and head to Spain to fight the Fascists there. A few groups in France and Britain consisting mainly of disaffected soldiers and politicians wonder if a coup may be necessary to stop their countries' descents into police states, while Roosevelt cancels all supplies sent to the British and the French.
The Advance Into Russia
The Germans and their Polish allies drive the Soviets out of Poland and into Belorussia. The Soviets suffer many major defeats, and the German army is at the gates of Smolensk by the beginning of winter. British and French troops arrive to bolster the German and Polish defense against the Russian counterattacks. The obsolescent SB-2 is consigned to night bombing missions as the much better Pe-2 is now available and the SB-2 is unable to defend itself against fighters such as the Bf-109. The Soviets take a measure of revenge on the British by attacking Scapa Flow with long range bombers. The Baltic is dangerous waters for both sides as it teems with mines and patrol aircraft.
President Roosevelt, alarmed at Japan's aggression, freezes the flow of oil and raw materials to Japan. Shortly after, on Sunday, January 12, 1941, Japan launches surprise attacks on French Indochina, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Hong Kong, Malaya, Hawaii, and a few minor targets. The Asiatic fleet is devastated, anchored at Cavite and attacked without warning. At Pearl Harbor, the Americans have warning of the attack and only lose a carrier and a battleship, as well as some fuel storage facilities.
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil War is in stalemate, which does not change throughout the book. When France switches sides, the regiment of Czechs are sent to Spain to help the Republicans.
The Threatened Jews
Jews in Germany are forced to bear a new name. Jewish males will have to have the new first name of Moses, and Jewish females have the new name of Sarah, but can still live a more or less normal lives in their homes. In the Czechoslovakia, the country's entire Jewish population is consigned to a ghetto in Theresienstadt. The worst is the fate of Jews in the German-occupied parts of the Soviet Union: captured Red Army soldiers are killed out of hand, Jewish civilians in captured towns are subjected to cruel harassment, and in the American press there are stories of systematic massacres. Polish Jews remain protected by their country's being an ally of Germany, German soldiers in Poland being ordered not to interfere with local Jews.
|Publisher||Del Rey Books|
|Publication date||July 31, 2012|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
The War That Came Early: Coup D'Etat, published in July 2012, is the fourth book in the series. In this volume the situation of the war changes once again, with a military coup in Britain turning them against the Nazis and their allies fighting the Soviets. In the Pacific, throughout 1941, the Japanese gain ground throughout South East Asia with the Western powers unable to prevent it.
The War in the West and North Africa
The war in north Africa is very desultory as the reluctant and badly equipped Italians are defeated again and again by the British.
The Japanese take Midway Island away from the American forces there, and start a bombing campaign against the Hawaiian Islands. All US Navy front-line aircraft carriers, except for the USS Ranger, are sunk at the Battle of Midway. The Heavy Cruiser USS Boise is sunk by a Japanese submarine.
Spanish Civil War
The Threatened Jews
|Publisher||Del Rey Books|
|Publication date||July 23, 2013|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
The War That Came Early: Two Fronts, published in July 2013, is the fifth book in the series. This is a continuation of the story, but now on two fronts for Germany as the world moves into 1942-43, with the French and British now fighting the Germans in Belgium, and only the Russians fighting them in the East. Due to the shift of manpower to the Western Front, Germany is now starting to lose ground in Russia. On the other side of the world, Japan starts biological warfare with the USA.
The Germans are forced to move many men and materials from the Russian front to the new western front. French and British troops are also moved from directly helping the Russians back to the Western front in France and Belgium. British forces are pushed back towards Egypt and Field Marshall Montgomery is killed when his transport plane is shot down by the Germans. The 1942 US elections really don't change much with FDR winning his third term and a few Democrat seats are lost, but the USA remains out of the European theater of war. FDR does sell/send Britain some B-17s that the RAF uses for daylight bombing raids of German cities. The German U-boat (U-30) sinks the British Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal.
Due to the shift of manpower to the Western Front, Germany is now starting to lose ground in Russia. While many panzer, Stuka, and infantry units are moved to fight on the Western Front, there are just enough left to hold off the Russians somewhat. The biggest difference is Germany's use of Panzer IVs as medium battle tanks instead of just infantry support. They receive larger guns (75mm vs the 37mm of Panzer IIIs) and better armament so that they can now go toe-to-toe with Russian T-34 tanks. The bigger shock for the Russians is newer German Tiger I main battle tanks (Panzer VIs) with their 88mm guns that are true "tank killers". There is no mention of the Panzer V (Panther) tank. The German Luftwaffe also introduces FW-190s into the mix with their Me-109s.
In the Pacific, the Japanese are at a stand still. While they now have Midway, they still don't have the Hawaiian Islands. The Americans are down to only one fleet level aircraft carrier (USS Ranger) that stands guard over the Hawaiian Islands, but is later joined by two "baby flattops" (converted merchant vessels that each carry only 1/2 the aircraft of the Ranger), the first of many. From Midway, Japanese launch a biological attack against the Hawaiian Island by dropping canisters of plague infested fleas living on rats. However, the United States was apparently prepared, as it frequently issues vaccinations to servicemen, countering each new disease the Japanese send.
Spanish Civil War
Nothing much has changed, both sides are still in a second-level theater of war with limited support from their bigger allies. However, now that France is fighting the Germans once again on the Western Front, the regiment of Czechs are requested by the French government to return to France to help the French Republic fight the Germans in Belgium. The Czechs, remembering France's earlier betrayal, are wary, to say the least.
The Threatened Jews
Life for the Jews in Germany, what little there is, goes on as before. Strict rules and curfews with no relief is combined with miserable treatment by the Nazi authorizes. The RAF starts daylight bombing raids on German cities that kill both Jew and Nazi alike. On one bombing raid, the Bruck family is killed when their bakery/home is destroyed by bombs from RAF B-17s purchased from the USA. Sarah Bruck survives because she was out shopping at the time, but the Nazi government takes the remaining property and assets of the bakery just the same.
Not with a Bang
The two historical viewpoint characters are marked as such
- Luc Harcourt — A young French soldier caught in the battle to defend his country. He rises from lowly private all the way to sergeant, fighting at the start of the war in western Germany, the Low Countries, France, all the way to the western Soviet Union. He is killed by Willi Dernen when the French Army changes sides in Coup D'Etat.
- Aristide Demange — A veteran of the Great War and Luc Harcourt's superior officer. He is promoted from sergeant to lieutenant as the war goes on, but still talks and acts like a no-nonsense noncom. He almost always seen chain smoking Gitanes cigarettes. By the end of Coup D'Etat his unit crosses over to the Russian side, with Demange and his fellow soldiers in a transport truck bound for parts unknown. When the Western Front reopens, he and his unit are eventually "escorted" out of Russia by the Russians. He returns to France where he and his unit fight the Germans in Belgium.
- Vaclav Jezek — A Czech soldier who sees action in Czechoslovakia before its defeat and again later in France. It is during the fighting in France that he obtains his signature weapon, an "obsolete" anti-tank rifle that he uses as a sniper rifle. His unit is later thrown out of France when France allies with Germany in The Big Switch and sent to fight fascists in Spain. There he kills General Francisco Franco with his anti-tank rifle. Vaclav continues to use his "elephant gun" to take out high level targets some of which are high ranking German officers checking out the Nationalist front lines. He goes on to stop a Nationalist armored assault when he destroys three Italian made CV33 tankettes. Some time later he is recognized for his efforts, given a medal, money, and leave in Madrid when he meets up again with Chaim Weinberg who is recuperating from his latest wounds.
- Alistair Walsh — A British staff sergeant of the British Expeditionary Force caught up fighting the Nazis in France. He is later transferred to Norway. After being evacuated from there, while on leave in Scotland, he takes Rudolf Hess into custody. He resigns from the Army after the "Big Switch", and is drawn into Ronald Cartland's anti-Horace Wilson clique. After the clique seizes power from the Wilson regime in Coup D'Etat, he reenlists and is sent to North Africa to fight the Italians. After the British lose a lot of ground in North Africa and Field Marshall Montgomery is killed, Staff Sergeant Walsh is transferred back to England where he meets up again with some Members of Parliament that lead the retaking of the government away from the Nazi-lovers. He then finds himself in West Belgium in a second Battle of the Somme. The British bombard German positions for days before attacking, this time with tank support. However, the British and French tanks are no match for the German Tigers and the British assault is stopped dead in its tracks with Walsh stuck in the middle of no man's land.
- Chaim Weinberg — An American International Brigadier and New York City Jew, fighting on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War. During R&R he meets "La Martellita" a feisty female Spanish Republican, ardent communist and local Spanish unit commander. He gets her pregnant after walking her home drunk one night (he happened upon the same bar where she was drinking heavily during The Big Switch, certain that it meant the end of the Republic). She is very angry with him for her new condition, but insists on marrying him so that her child will be legitimate and have a proper last name. Once the child is born, Carlos Federico Weinberg, she quickly divorces him and wants nothing more to do with him. Chaim goes back to the front lines and gets himself shot up. La Martellita visits him in the hospital and brings his new born son along for him to see. She reminds Chaim that she still wants nothing to do with him, and apparently starts dating a Soviet political officer. After he recuperates, he goes back up to the front lines when he meets an old friend Mike Carroll. The Nationalists start a mortar bombardment at their line, and they are both hit. The mortar kills Mike Carroll and mashes Chaim's left hand and side of his head. Chaim is sent back to the hospital where his head wound is bandaged and his hand has the first of many, many operations. While recuperating in Madrid, he runs into another old friend Vaclav Jezek where they spend an evening retelling war stories and killing a bottle of rotgut cognac.
- Pete McGill — An American Marine stationed at the American Legation in Peking, China who witnesses growing tensions in the far east leading to him being sent to the Shanghei International Settlement. He falls in love with a White Russian taxi dancer, but she is killed and McGill is severely injured in a Communist terror bombing. He is recuperating in a military hospital Manila when the Japanese invade the Philippines and bomb Pearl Harbor. He is then assigned to the USS Boise which steams off to take the war to the Japanese. The USS Boise is sunk by a Japanese sub and Pete is nearly killed. He is rescued and recovers in the Hawaiian Islands. After recovery, he is assigned to the fleet carrier USS Ranger as a gunner.
- Sergei Yaroslavsky — A Soviet Red Air Force bomber pilot caught in the battle against Poland and Germany. He is killed when his parachute catches fire bailing out of his damaged SB-2 in The Big Switch.
- Anastas Mouradian — Sergei Yaroslavsky's one time co-pilot. He is promoted to first lieutenant and full pilot and gets to fly the new Pe-2.
- Ivan Kuchkov — Sergei Yaroslavsky's bomber, also known as "the Chimp". He survives getting shot down with Yaroslavsky and is conscripted into the Red Army as an infantryman. Ivan gets into and out of trouble in Two Fronts and is almost sent to a punishment battalion for being in the wrong place at the wrong time when one of his privates accidentally shoots and kills their unit's political officer when he refused to give the correct password for the day. He and the private are let go when the two NKVD investigation officers agreed that it would be more paperwork for them to get the two into the punishment battalion then if they were to report that it was an accident.
- Kapitänleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp (historical) — U-boat captain of the U-30 who sank SS Athenia accidentally, and as a result his boat has been given the task of field testing a new experimental piece of equipment called a "snorkel", which is designed to increase the sub's speed when slightly submerged below the surface. Lemp finally gets promoted to Lt. Commander after he and his crew sink the British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal while out on patrol looking for merchant ships to sink.
- Leutnant Hans-Ulrich Rudel (historical) — German Stuka pilot and preacher's son. He has always been most loyal to the party above all, even God. Thus, he was approached by the SS, who were looking for him to become an informant. Starts to show deviation from his initial beliefs as he protects his wide-mouthed tail gunner and falls in love with a Jewish barmaid. In Two Fronts, he and his squadron are sent back to Germany to fight on the Western Front.
- Joaquin Delgadillo — A Spanish Nationalist foot soldier in the Spanish Civil War. He is taken prisoner and is killed by a Nationalist bomb during an air raid on the POW camp where he is being held.
- Willi Dernen — A German Wehrmacht infantry man who sees action in France and Russia. He is killed by advancing Russian troops when he "stops a bullet with his face" in Two Fronts. The story line goes on with other members of his platoon, Coropral Arno Baatz (whom everyone hates) and Private First Class Adam Pfaff.
- Hideki Fujita — A Japanese Imperial Army Sergeant stationed in Manchukuo who sees action against the Soviet Union, later takes command of his unit when the commanding lieutenant died. After the fall of Vladivostok, he becomes a guard at a Unit 731 facility. He is reassigned to Unit 113, another biological weapons unit, in Burma after captured American marines escape from his custody. He does great while in Burma, but is bored to death, so he asks for and gets a transferred into the flying unit that drops the biological bombs on Chinese. His unit commander then asks him to join him and some hand picked others in the unit to move to Midway Island when he is the crew member that drops bio-bombs on the Hawaiian Islands, to little effect.
- Ludwig Rothe — A German Wehrmacht Panzer II commander who takes part in the invasions of Czechoslovakia, the Low countries and France. He is killed by Luc Harcourt in Hitler's War.
- Theo Hossbach - A German Wehrmacht Panzer II radioman who serves under Ludwig Rothe, is wounded when Rothe is killed and serves in a new Panzer II on the Eastern Front in West and East. One of his new crewmen is Adi Stoss, an alias used by Sarah Goldman's brother to enter the Wehrmacht. Theo and his crew get a newer but used Panzer III in 1941, and then an upgraded new Panzer IV in 1943 only to have it destroyed by advancing Russian tanks. Theo and his crew get out of their damaged panzer and are left looking for a way to escape the Russian assault in the conclusion of Two Fronts. Members of his panzer crew are: driver Adi Stoss; tank commander Sergeant Hermann Witt; and gunner Private Kurt Poske.
- Peggy Druce — An American civilian in Czechoslovakia at the time of the invasion who witnesses Nazi cruelty towards the Jews and who finds herself unwillingly living in Berlin. She eventually makes her way home and speaks out against the Nazis. After she finds out that her husband (Herb Druce) had an affair while she was trapped in Germany, she admits to having a one nightstand with an employee of the US Embassy in Berlin. Their marriage goes down hill from here. She tries to salvage her marriage, but her husband goes off on long business trips for the US government, attempting to save it money; on one of his trips, he apparently convinces authorities to cancel the Manhattan Project, considering it an expensive pipe dream. While in Reno, NV he sends her divorce papers. She agrees to the divorce and is not happy with it. She starts hitting the bottle more and more as time goes by, but she still makes political speeches for the Democrat Party and FDR.
- Sarah Bruck (née Goldman) — A teenage German Jew from Münster who along with her family struggle to live day to day in the wake of Nazi Anti-Semitism. She falls in love and marries Isidor Bruck, the local Jewish baker's son. After only being married to Isidor Bruck, Sarah goes out to do shopping. While shopping late in the day (after 5PM when Jews were permitted to shop what was left in the stores) her husband's family bakers is dsetroyed during a British daylight bombing raid. Isidor and his parents are killed in the blast. Sarah is safe because she was not at home during the bombing, but she looses all, her new husband and his family. She then finds out the that Nazi government is taking ownership of their property and other assets for the "good of the reich", leaving her nothing. She goes back to living with her mother and father in Two Fronts.
Non-viewpoint historical characters
- Juan Antonio Ansaldo — Spanish pilot and extreme-right militant (viewpoint character in a single episode)
- Ronald Cartland—British MP and former soldier; leader of the faction that opposes Horace Wilson
- Neville Chamberlain — Prime minister of the United Kingdom (1937–1940)
- Winston Churchill - Minister of War for the United Kingdom (dies in 1940)
- Édouard Daladier — prime minister of France
- Großadmiral Karl Dönitz — leader of the German Kriegsmarine
- Colonel Charles de Gaulle — French Army commander.
- Joseph Goebbels - propaganda minister for Nazi Germany
- Hermann Göring - Reichsmarschall of Nazi Germany
- Konrad Henlein — leader of the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia; his assassination in September 1938 triggers the German invasion of Czechoslovakia
- Adolf Hitler — leader of Nazi Germany (viewpoint character in a single episode)
- Friedrich Hoßbach — German military adjutant to the Fuehrer
- Benito Mussolini — leader of Fascist Italy
- Franklin D. Roosevelt — President of the United States
- General José Sanjurjo — leader of the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War
- Archibald Wavell - British General and prominent figure in the 1941 British coup
- Horace Wilson - prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 until 1941, when he's overthrown by a military coup
- Milton Wolff — commander of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War
- Marshal Ion Antonescu - leader (?) of Romania*
- Chiang Kai-Shek - leader of the Kuomintang and the Republic of China*
- Marshal Khorloogiin Choibalsan — leader of Communist Mongolia*
- Christian X of Denmark - king of Denmark*
- Francisco Franco — Spanish Nationalist General, is killed in 1941 by Vaclav Jezek
- Miklós Horthy — Regent of Hungary*
- Hirohito — Emperor of Japan*
- Leonard Kaupitsch - German military governor of Denmark*
- Nikita Khrushchev — Soviet Army leader and Commissar*
- Leopold III of Belgium - king of Belgium*
- Maxim Litvinov - Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union*
- Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim - commander-in-chief of Finland*
- Mao Zedong — leader of the Communist Party of China*
- Edward Rydz-Smigly - de facto leader of Poland*
- Joseph Stalin — leader of the Soviet Union*
- Jozef Tiso — leader of the Nazi puppet Slovak Republic*
- (* — mention only)
- http://www.randomhouse.com/book/206972/not-with-a-bang-by-harry-turtledove. Retrieved 2013-11-4. Missing or empty
- Silver, Steven H. "Hitler's War". Retrieved 2010-10-29.
- In actual history, Germany prepared Operation Felix, a plan for occupying Gibraltar, but Franco opposed its implementation.