The Problems with Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191
Version 1.1a (29 August 2010, formatting changed a bit 30 Oct 2010)

There are a very large number of spoilers in this article.


World War I

I can't fault Turtledove for having the Richmond Front along the Potomac bog down; because from the Appalachians in the west to the Atlantic in the East; it's only about 140 to 150 miles wide; with repeated rivers that you must cross, which provide natural defensive lines – making it even more of a meatgrinder than the Western Front at 450~ miles was in our WWI.

But what about the entire 1,000 mile front between the Appalachians in the East and the Rockies in the West? The Eastern Front in WWI was 990~ miles long; and it was much more fluid than the Western Front.

The Central Plains Front would be even more fluid, since the US was a much more mechanized society in the 1910s than Europe; providing the armies with plenty of vehicles to requisition for the war effort.

But somehow, Turtledove has this massive front bog down; except for minor desultory movements in the arid wastes of the Southwest.

And of course; it takes until very late 1917 and early 1918, before the U.S. Generals begin to figure out how to execute combined arms assaults – and even then, the “Barrel Roll” which began the end of the war was something completely at odds with what the U.S. High Command was ordering – Custer basically did it on his own initiative, despite being told in no uncertain terms not to do it.

Towards the end of his WWI books, I got the feeling that Turtledove was thinking:

“Woah, wait. If I follow this huge 'Barrel Roll' breakthrough over every front to it's logical conclusion, it means I can't fully utilize my Hitler Featherston character over the next seven books!”

Thus the completely illogical armistice that ends WWI, when the United States should logically not be seeing one. They've been drubbed by the CSA twice before; and have built up this whole fetishization of revenge through Remembrance Day.

Now that they're rolling through Confederate armies, deeper into the South's heartland; why would they stop the war?

Overall, I can buy early CSA victories in 1914 and early 1915 as the CSA would be even more militarized than the USA, with extensive mobilization plans and stockpiles of equipment to quickly raise large armies; in addition to just plain more dedicated munitions factories in peacetime in order to have even a chance of standing up to the much larger USA.

But once the USA has converted its industry over to war production by mid to late 1915?

The war would read something like this:

1915 was when the “Tide Turned”. First, General Custer's unprecedented 'left hook' smashed through the thinly held Confederate lines west of the Mississippi. This was followed by General Pershing's steady march through Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Army of the Potomac under General Arthur MacArthur, Jr advanced mile by mile towards the Rappahannock.
The year that followed, 1916 was remembered long as the “Year of Victories”, as advancing U.S. Armies reached the Gulf of Mexico, the Georgian Coast, and the Army of the Potomac's Artillery placed Richmond under siege from a range of 29,000 yards with special reduced weight shells.
On 24 March 1917, the Confederate States of America surrendered unconditionally to the United States of America.

The “Interwar Years” of the 1920s and 1930s

Turtledove's interwar period chronicled in his “American Empire” trilogy was pretty much a carbon copy of the 1920s and 1930s in Germania the Confederacy. In fact, the only real major difference was that Turtledove had a Freedom Party stalwart assassinate the Confederate President to take the Freedom Party out of the political running for the 1920s; instead of simply recycling the “Beer Hall Putsch” which did the same thing for the Nazi party in Germany.

World War II

Of course, the Nazis CSA attack the United States in a sneak attack on 22 June 1941.

It's worth noting that there were several confluences of factors which led to the German attack opening on 22 June 1941.

If Turtledove was smarter, he'd have had Operation Blackbeard go off around May 10-15; which was one of the early planning ranges for Barbarossa; allowing him to keep the whole “Confederates are Nazi Germany” thing, but in a much more subtle and less blatant way.

So, we follow the brave Germanians Confederates as they march through the United States on a near direct lift-off of the 1941 German Summer Offensive, including the vast amount of unpreparedness by the Soviet Union United States.

Let's not mind the fact that the conditions that led to such success for the Nazis that Summer were unique to that specific period in time and region; such as the massive reorganization of the Soviet military at that specific point, on top of a massive mid-level officer purge just a few years prior.

We then segue a book later into the 1942 Confederate Summer Offensive, which is a really thinly veiled rip off of Operation Blau.

Of course, it all ends in crushing defeat at a city named Stalingrad Pittsburgh. And of course, the brave and farsighted Soviet US plan to suck the Germanians Confederates into Stalingrad Pittsburgh and then launch Operation Little Saturn Operation Rosebud, which brushes aside the Romanian Mexican auxiliary troops that the Germanians Confederates have on their flanks outside Stalingrad Pittsburgh and encircles the city.

Naturally, the Germanians Confederates trapped inside Stalingrad Pittsburgh hold out until 2 February 1943; the same exact date in both timelines!

If you're completely shocked at how closely the dates and things all line up; I suggest you don't read In the Presence of Mine Enemies.

It's basically “Lets lift the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989-1991 and recycle it into the collapse of the Nazi Empire in 1989-1991! Nobody will notice the difference! No sir!”

The Technological Side

Let's please not talk about this. It's so painful to even talk about. I think I will just start this section out with this line:

The Mules (soldiers often called them Asskickers) had wind-powered sirens built into their non-retractable landing gear, to make them as demoralizing as possible.

Can he be any less blatant?

Never mind that the kind of aircraft that the USA and CSA would build in a sane universe would be very large, very long legged aircraft, due to the much greater distances in North America.

From the western border of Germany to its eastern border, it's about 450-500~ miles. From Savannah to Dallas, it's 900~ miles; and many states are several hundred miles tall or wide. The sheer distance means that the US and CS are going to trend towards much heavier and longer ranged aircraft than the European norm.

Towards the end of the Settling Accounts series; Turtledove has to describe an American “Turbo” (jet) fighter. At this point, he's not even trying, and just describes the Me-262, right down to the number and caliber of the cannon in the nose.

It's just sheer laziness, when he could just have bought the following books when he began this whole story arc:

American Combat Planes by Ray Wagner (misc editions), 1982
The American Fighter by Enzo Angelucci with Peter Bowers, 1987
U.S. Bombers by Lloyd Jones; 1970s
U.S. Fighters by Lloyd Jones; 1970s
U.S. Naval Fighters by Lloyd Jones; 1970s

And then spent a couple hours looking through them for interesting aircraft that are sufficiently distinctive, like the Curtiss XP-55 Ascender, the Fisher XP-75 Eagle, etc.

If you needed something to fill in the slot for the B-29, without being so blatantly obvious, the XB-30 Constellation proposal by Lockheed for the same requirement would be a nice way of doing it.

But Turtledove didn't even take the most cursory amount of time to do any research it seems, other than going onto Wikipedia to look up the number of cannon the Me-262 had in the nose.

The Black Holocaust

This is usually explained away as “the genocide against the Jews by the Nazis was not logical either!”.

But if you look at the demographics for the two different populations (Jews in Europe and Blacks in the United States); a different picture emerges.

1900 European Jewish Population Percentages:

France: 0.22%
Germany: 1.04%
Russia: 3.29%
Austria-Hungary, Poland : 6.36%

1930 U.S. Black Population Percentages (Link to Census Bureau Website)

Alabama: 35.7%
Arkansas: 25.8%
Florida: 29.4%
Georgia: 36.8%
Louisiana: 36.9%
Mississippi: 50.2%
North Carolina: 29%
South Carolina: 45.6%
Virginia: 26.8%

A special note is worth observing. During the twentieth century, there was an enormous mass migration of blacks from the deep south into the north. In 1900; 90% of all blacks lived in the south; but by the 1970s, it was only 50%.

Turtledove in the TL-191 books has repeatedly stated that black migration between the two countries is minimal at best; with the North in many cases being actively hostile towards the idea of letting blacks from the CSA settle in the north. So the migration that occurred from 1900 to 1940 in our timeline is not going to happen, driving those percentages I cited earlier even higher.

I can understand Featherston's obsession with another Congaree Socialist Republic uprising causing the CSA to institute a very harsh internal security system with internal visas controlling the movement of it's black population; and having certain areas declared black-free for “security reasons”; such as a 20 mile radius around Richmond. (I am not sure, but I think he does that.)

The percentages quoted above show why it's simply impossible for any serious “Black Holocaust” to take place – you would literally be killing off a third to half of your labor pool in a state.

How will you run your war factories to make bombs bullets and shells? How will you even begin to match the USA in war materiel output?

The Summary

In short; Turtledove is a lazy hack who just cranks books out.

Out of the entire TL-191 universe; only two things really made sense to me:

That's it.