This question is inspired by Hellsing Ultimate. In it, a secret splinter division of the Nazis left at the end of World War 2 remained in the shadows building up power, until the events of the anime where they reveal themselves by flying Zeppelins into London and razing it to the ground. Oh and there are vampires too! Let's ignore that last point however.

This made me wonder...

Take a world that is identical, up to now, in every way to our own. Unknown to us, a secret organisation (To reduce the chance of offence to readers of this question, these are not Nazis). The various world governments have no intelligence on this organization - not even that it even exists. Nor do they have any reason to be suspicious. Suddenly, and without warning, Zeppelins are spotted flying across the English Channel. As they approach London, they start firebombing the city, deploying other advanced weaponry, and then depositing troops to mop up any remaining civilians. Similar events occur at the same moment in time at other major cities all around the world. (Note: How they got this far without being noticed is beyond the point of this question)

The opposing force has had a long time to plot this attack, and place resources in places that make it possible. They have either managed to get spies/sympathisers into the various world governments, or the military bases of these governments were earmarked as priority targets in the first wave of attacks.

What would happen next? I am mainly interested in military responses from the countries affected, but other forms of response from civilians is acceptable.

This should as realistic as possible. However, one condition any form of surrender by the opposing force is not an option, because like the anime that inspired this question, the commanding officer's does not simply like war, but loves war.

(Sorry if this question is not appropriate for the World Building site. It is my first question here, and I'm worried this falls under the 'open-ended question' rule.)


You can probably tell that I didn't really think this question through properly when I asked it. I have accepted fgysin's answer, but credit to o.m. who backed his answer up with some impressive statistics. Please consider this question closed.

  • $\begingroup$ Google suggests that Hellsing Ultimate is set in 1999 even though zeppelins would have made more sense earlier. $\endgroup$ – Brythan May 22 '16 at 23:25
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    $\begingroup$ This is just tangential, but why zeppelins? Even by World War II, I would imagine that fighters like the Spitfire and Hurricane could quite easily attack and destroy them, as they present much bigger targets than the bombers then in use. More modern planes could tear them to pieces, which would likely be the best option for the military. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 May 22 '16 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like Iron Sky. To get this into the realm of plausibility you're going to have to explain how slow moving, enormous Zeppelins penetrate modern air defenses. Without explaining that the situation makes no sense and we can't predict the next move. Unless... knights on horseback appear and destroy the British Army's tanks with their lances! See the problem? $\endgroup$ – Schwern May 23 '16 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ How many men in their army, and how many men do the nations think are in their army? Our response to a small number of terrorists will be very different from, say, an army the size of the People's Liberation Army deployed worldwide. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon May 23 '16 at 4:41
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    $\begingroup$ It's kinda funny to see the words "blitz attack" and "with zeppelins" in a question. Their top speeds were in the region of 100km/h. $\endgroup$ – Erik May 23 '16 at 9:02

The zeppelins might reach London if they're lucky. That is if they don't look obviously armed, and can come up with some decent excuse as why their parade of totally peaceful advertisement blimps got blown off course violating the London airspace.

As soon as their intent becomes clear (after bombing the first houses) they are pretty much history:

Let's be realistic here; these are zeppelins we're talking about. They have not been used in warfare since the first world war, and for good reason: zeppelins are hard to maneuver, impossible to hide or armor and present the biggest possible target you can imagine.

I'm not even sure a zeppelin flying over a city could withstand small arms fire, anything stronger than that and I guarantee that it will tear the airships to pieces... And there is nothing much of a defense the zeppelins can muster either: even if they have some modern anti-missile defense systems, there is nothing protecting them against simple machine gun or auto cannon fire (yes, all modern fighter craft still carry those).

So might go something like this:

  1. Zeppelins aproach and start to bomb
  2. Fighter jets are scrambled and swoop in
  3. The attack goes down in the history books as the shortest invasion in living memory

Edit: Apparently airships are fairly resistant in to small arms fire, in the sense that they don't really care about holes in their gas bags. IMHO the conclusion still stands though, as the cabin/engines/structure would still be vulnerable, and there exist many other weapons capable of wreaking havoc on a slow defenseless zeppelin.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you are mostly right. One thing though: you need to punch a lot of - preferably large - holes into a zeppelin to get it down. Small arms fire will not do any serious harm. That is, as v.Richthofen would have said, unless you stop shooting the aircraft, and start shooting the pilot instead. $\endgroup$ – Burki May 23 '16 at 8:27
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    $\begingroup$ It's an interesting question how many bullet holes you'd need to put in a Zeppelin to make it sink. I admit it could be many... You do have a lot of time to riddle it with bullets though... :) $\endgroup$ – fgysin May 23 '16 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ True... but you need to carry all those bullets. And you need to make sure noone in the zeppelin shoots back at you while you are methodically emptying clip after clip at that big thing in the sky. $\endgroup$ – Burki May 23 '16 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ If you read up on zeppelins, you will find that they can withstand absolutely insane amounts of small arms fire. You might be underestimating how HUGE they are, and they're not pressurized, so they hardly leak any of their gas. That said, incendiary or explosive weapons will down them in short order, so your final conclusion is correct; they wouldn't last very long. $\endgroup$ – Erik May 23 '16 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ Duly noted, thanks for commenting. I updated my answer. $\endgroup$ – fgysin May 23 '16 at 9:46

The secret conspiracy finds that they might have been able to end conventional military resistance, but then what?

Even if your hypothetical invaders could defeat organized resistance from organized field forces, they have to find a hundred million reasonably reliable troops to patrol the streets. Otherwise they haven't invaded, they would be holding the existing government hostage with a threat of more strikes.

There are estimates how many boots on the ground it takes to run a counterinsurgency operation. Conditions vary, but don't try with less than 20 troops per 1,000 population. Rumsfeld tried to ignore this in Iraq and Afghanistan, and look where it got him.


Let's put aside for the moment that thing about the zeppelins. Frankly, they are hardly any use as weapons. I personally would deploy them as means of surveillance and intimidation, once the first strikes are placed.

But to address your question as to what will happen next:

As you can see for example with the massive struggle of US forces in Afghanistan et.al. : To strike back with military, you need one thing: a target.
This might pose a problem. While you will get all kinds of guerrilla action against those forces that are visible, including, of course, attempts to bring those Zeppelins down, if only because they make such a visible (although otherwise useless) target. Ground operations of all kinds, attempts at assassination of the local leaders, sabotage in any conceivable way will obviously happen.
But major military operations against the foe himself, i.e. against the actual leaders in the shadows, would first of all need to find these leaders physically.

So, looking at coordinated military action, you will be sure to find lots of commando missions (or not find them, as they would prefer) and all kinds of electronic measures to try to localize the leaders.

In the meantime, your not-nazis should try to win the sympathy of every invaded country. Because failing that, they will be defeated, no matter what.


Even if the zeppelins arrive at their target unharmed and they managed to land troop the whole tactic will fail as bright violent spark. Even with the consideration of roundabout 1000-1500 hard-to-kill vampire-like creatures there will be no foothold. It will be an impressive shock to each striked nation, but as soon as counteraction are deployed the operation will fail on long terms. Even the Nazi-Vampires in the anime where not invincible as the retaliation will be made with heavy weaponry (tanks, artillery, bombardment, etc).

A Blitztactic has its advantage in generating a "shock and awe" effect, taking the attacker into initiative. Its a fast first strike to disorientize defenses, so that counteraction will always behind. So the Attacker determines where all happens, as the defender has to locate the enemy in order to plan defense. So as long the Blitz-Unit moves it will be in advantage. After that it needs reinforcements or will be rapidly outnumbered and outgunned.


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