Weapons of Choice

Weapons of Choice

Infobox Book |
name = Weapons of Choice
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = John Birmingham
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = Australia
language = English
series = Axis of Time
subject =
genre = Alternate history
publisher = Macmillan
release_date = 2004
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Paperback)
pages = 544 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-7329-1199-0
preceded_by =
followed_by = Designated Targets

"Weapons of Choice" is the first novel of the Axis of Time alternate history trilogy, written by John Birmingham.

Plot summary

The Transition

In 2021, a US-led Multinational Taskforce, commanded by Admiral Phillip Kolhammer is preparing to wage the latest campaign in the War on Terror: intervention in an Indonesia wracked by civil war between secularist and caliphate forces. The flagship is the aircraft carrier USS "Hillary Clinton", named after "the most uncompromising wartime president in the history of the United States." Attached to the task force is a mysterious research vessel whose scientists attempt an experiment with space and time. The experiment goes horribly wrong: the research ship is destroyed by the resulting wormhole while the task force is sent back in time to 1942 (It is also theorized that the task force fell "sideways" into an alternate universe 1942). The majority of the task force winds up being deposited in the Pacific on the eve of the Battle of Midway.


Accidentally, the time travelers collide with the US force that would have won the battle. The 21st century personnel are rendered unconscious and control reverts to AIs, a Japanese ship in the task force is spotted and the contemporary US Fleet opens fire. By the time both sides realise their mistake, most of the 1942 US Pacific Fleet has been destroyed.

At the same time, the northern Japanese fleet, en route to attack the Aleutian Islands, stumbles across an Indonesian frigate ("Sutanto") and divines both what has happened near Midway and what the future holds for Japan. Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is swiftly informed and orders the Japanese Fleet to sail home immediately.

The Allies head for Pearl Harbor, where tensions between the WASP male sailors of 1942 and the mixed-gender/ethnic/sexual personnel of 2021 result in riots, brawls and a murder. However, Allied leaders are already beginning to take note of future mistakes, advances and other windfalls of the Transition. The technology alone is astonishing enough, but the historical ramifications are even more momentous.

The Axis powers are not idle either. With the aid of both contemporary Axis officers and Indonesian sailors Yamamoto prepares a new plan designed to reverse the outcome of the war and stave off America’s rise to power. The "Sutanto" is stripped down while certain crew members make their peace with Allah and prepare for their final mission. Hitler is soon apprised of the Transition and dispatches his own envoys to Japan.

The Allies soon discover another Indonesian frigate half-buried inside a mountain in New Guinea—and Japanese soldiers busy stripping her down. An air strike obliterates the vessel, but now both sides are aware of the other’s gains. To gain some goodwill amongst their new compatriots, the Multinational Force decides to liberate the prison camps at Singapore and the Philippines. The operation results in thousands of Allied POWs and civilians rescued and immense devastation being inflicted upon local Axis forces; this victory is diminished when the task force encounters the "Sutanto", packed with explosives and crewed by jihadi fanatics. Though destroyed before ramming the Multinational Force’s flagship, some ships are sunk or damaged by the shockwave.

More disturbing news follows when an Australian submarine manages to sneak into the Imperial Japanese Navy base at Hashirajima. Two Japanese carriers and some other vessels are destroyed, but the bulk of the Imperial Japanese Navy has already left port.

Yamamoto outlines his plan to the Japanese war cabinet. Japanese troops will be withdrawn from China and used to invade New Guinea and Australia. Hawaii will also be dealt with. Meanwhile, Hitler sends Joachim von Ribbentrop to Moscow to deliver certain proposals to Stalin...

Historical characters featured

British Commonwealth

*British PM Winston Churchill;
*Australian PM John Curtin;
*RN Admiral Sir Leslie Murray


*USN Admiral William Halsey;
*Professor Albert Einstein;
*US Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower;
*USN Admiral Ernest King;
*US Army General Douglas MacArthur;
*US Army General George Marshall;
*USN Admiral Chester Nimitz;
*US President Franklin D. Roosevelt;
*USN Admiral Raymond Spruance


*Reichsminister Joseph Goebbels;
*Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler;
*Führer und Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler;
*Oberführer Hermann Hoth;
*Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop;
*Standartenführer Otto Skorzeny


*IJN Vice Admiral Boshiro Hosogaya; Commander, Northern Area Force
*IJN Rear Admiral Kakuji Kakuta; Commander, Second Carrier Striking Force
*IJN Captain Tadeo Kato; Captain of the IJNS Ryūjō
*IJA General Hiroshi Oshima; Japanese ambassador to Germany
*IJN Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto; Commander in Chief, Combined Fleet

Ships of the MNF

This list reflects the knowledge of the MNF as of the end of "Weapons of Choice". A number of ships of the MNF did not go through the Transition with the rest of the fleet; as of the end of the book, it is unclear which of these ships remained in the 21st century, which were destroyed by the Transition or immediately after, and which fell into enemy hands. More information about the fate of the missing ships is revealed in the sequel, "Designated Targets".

* USS "Hillary Clinton" — "George Bush"-class supercarrier
* USS "Kandahar" — "Baghdad"-class littoral assault ship
* USS "Leyte Gulf" — "Nemesis"-class stealth cruiser (Overlapped USS "Astoria". Stripped for equipment and destroyed.)
* USS "Amanda Garrett" — "Cobb"-class air warfare destroyer [James H. Cobb] (missing after Transition)
* USS "Providence" — "Harpers Ferry"-class amphibious landing dockship
* USS "Kennebunkport" — LPD-12-class landing assault ship
* HMS "Trident" — "Trident"-class stealth destroyer (trimaran)
* HMS "Vanguard" — "Trident"-class stealth destroyer (missing after Transition)
* HMS "Fearless" — "Aden"-class helicopter assault ship (destroyed in Transition)

* HMAS "Havoc" — "Savage"-class attack submarine (non-nuclear)
* HMAS "Moreton Bay" — "Jervis Bay"-class troop-carrying catamaran
* HMAS "Ipswich" — "Newcastle"-class light littoral assault ship

* JDS "Siranui" — Modified "Nemesis"-class stealth cruiser
* KRI "Nuku" — "Parchim"-class frigate (arrived on island in New Guinea, stripped by Japanese)
* KRI "Sutanto" — "Parchim"-class frigate (Recovered by Japanese; destroyed by Allied Forces.)
* "Dessaix" — French "Sartre"-class stealth destroyer (missing after Transition)

(For the 1942 ships, see Midway order of battle.)

Critical response

"Weapons of Choice" has been both hailedFact|date=July 2007 and criticizedFact|date=July 2007 by members of the alternate history community. Some believe it to over-emphasize the racism and sexism of the 1942 Allies, to the point of their being barely morally superior to the Axis. However, this harsh reality has become more and more widely accepted amongst the historical community. Examples of these realities include: the Immigration Act of 1924 which specifically excluded Asian immigration due to racist Americans' Anti-Asian attitudes and the various Jim Crow Laws which repressed African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement.

Walk-on roles of real people

*Harry Turtledove, one of the most prominent alternate history authors, appears as "Commander Turteltaub", an aide to FDR. Turtledove has on occasion used the name 'H. N. Turteltaub' as an alternate pseudonym for his works. See also under Interesting Quotes below.
*S.M. Stirling and Eric Flint, also alternate history authors, were tuckerized as Secret Service agents.
*"Lieutenant Matt Reilly - Australian thriller writer. Meteorology Officer, USS "Leyte Gulf". Redshirted.
*Garth Nix, Dale Brown, Tom Clancy and Stephen Euin Cobb - thriller writers appearing as counterboarding specialists aboard USS "Leyte Gulf".
*"Lieutenant Carey" - possibly Peter Carey, an Australian novelist.
*"Captain Harry Windsor" - a SAS officer sometimes referred to as "Prince Harry". Prince Harry of the United Kingdom, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, and currently (as of 2007) third in line for the British throne.
*"Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Viviani" - Logistics officer of the Marine battalion in the 21C forces. Most likely Professor Nancy Viviani, formerly of Australian National University, also Griffith, a well-known expert in International Relations.

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