|"Ready for the Fatherland"|
|First Appearance||What Might Have Been, Volume 3: Alternate Wars|
Martin H. Greenberg
|Collected||Counting Up, Counting Down|
"Ready for the Fatherland" is a short story of alternate history by Harry Turtledove. It was published in What Might Have Been? Volume 3: Alternate Wars (eds. Gregory Benford and Martin H. Greenberg), q.v.; and Counting Up, Counting Down, Ballantine/Del Rey 2002 (0345442261).
The story's point of departure comes on 19 February 1943 at a Wehrmacht command council in Ukraine, when Field Marshall Erich von Manstein kills Adolf Hitler in response to an insult. In short order, Hitler's successors make a separate peace with the Soviet Union, and are able to keep the Western Allies from gaining a toe-hold in Italy and France, causing World War II to end in a stalemate. The Cold War becomes a three-way conflict, with the United States and Britain jostling against Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
The action of the story picks up in 1979 as two British agents travel to fascist Croatia to meet with a Serb partisan, seeking British arms. In truth, the Brits are there to entrap the partisan, and arrange for his capture and arrest by Croatian authorities, in exchange for their country having access to oil in the North Sea without German interference.
Structurally, "Ready for the Fatherland" is similar to Turtledove's story "Must and Shall," which is printed back-to-back with it in the "Counting" anthology. Each has a lengthy prologue establishing the POD before jumping several decades ahead in time, and the central characters in each are government agents, performing jobs that are ethically questionable. Further, "Ready for the Fatherland" is rather similar to the writings of English author John LeCarre, telling a story about the ugly pragmatism that shapes international politics, particularly the politics of the Cold War. Turtledove adds the wrinkle of a Nazi Germany continuing after World War II, and how that gives the ostensible "good guys" merely another set of evils to chose from.
There are similarities with the concluding parts of The War That Came Early. In both, German generals eliminate Hitler, and then succeed in ending the war with Germany still a functioning major power - resulting in a three-way jostling for power in the post-war world, rather than the bipolar post-1945 division of OTL .
In his introduction to the story in Counting Up, Counting Down, Turtledove writes that the story was inspired by his wife's visit to Rijeka. He also points out that it was written before the collapse of Yugoslavia into several warring nations, but says he can't be considered prophetic as that region had been obviously heading that way for some time.