The Cuban Missile War Timeline
Saturday, October 27, 1962
9:00 AM -- CIA memorandum indicates five of six IRBM sites in Cuba appear to be operational. Cuban mobilization continues at a high rate, but Cuban forces have strict orders not to fire unless fired upon.
10:00 AM -- In a meeting of the ExComm (Kennedy-created organization designed to guide him through the crisis... kind of a war cabinet for the crisis) a letter from Krushchev offering to remove the missiles in exchange for American missiles removed from Turkey is recieved. Discussions continue throughout the day about how to respond. Kennedy says that to go to war rather than accept a trade would be an "insupportable position."
11:00 AM -- A U-2 based in Alaska accidentally strays into Soviet airspace. After realizing the error, the pilot radios for backup as he flies back to Alaska. Two nuclear-armed F-102s respond, and although the flight is shadowed by Soviet aircraft, no shots are fired.
12:00 AM -- A U-2 is shot down over Cuba, and the pilot, Major Rudolph Anderson, is killed. Upon recieving the news, the ExComm believes the shootdown was ordered by the Kremlin and is intended to escalate the conflict. In reality, the shootdown was ordered by two Soviet lieutenant generals in Cuba, and the Kremlin was unaware of the situation.
1:00 PM -- The destroyers USS Beale, Cony, and Murray begin the investigation of a reported sonar contact.
3:41 PM -- Low-level reconnaisance aircraft fly over Cuba in an effort to gain intelligence. They take heavy fire, and one aircraft is hit by a 37mm antiaircraft shell but is able to return to base.
4:00 PM -- Kennedy meets with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maxwell Taylor, about the U-2 shootdown. He decides not to order a reprisal raid on the SAM sites that shot down the aircraft, angering many in the Pentagon, but indicates that if another aircraft is shot down, he will authorize retaliation.
(Note: Throughout the day, Kennedy keeps in close contact with U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in an effort to broker some sort of agreement with the Soviet Union, using Thant as the go-between.)
4:17 PM -- The USS Beale makes contact with the Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59. In an attempt to "communicate," the Beale begins pinging with active sonar and drops practice depth charges on the submarine.
4:28 PM -- In Washington, Kennedy and ExComm agree to a response to Krushchev's trade letter, and agree to the deal as long as the American missile withdrawal will be kept secret. In exchange for that concession, the United States will agree to a guarantee of noninvasion with Cuba.
4:59 PM -- The USS Cony, having also arrived on the scene with the Beale attempts to signal B-59 with hand grenades dropped in the water above the submarine. Though aware that American tactics involved the use of practice depth charges, the Soviet submariners believe they are under attack.
POD: This perception causes many in the submarine's crew to believe that war has already begun. A "totally exhausted" Captain Valentin Savitsky, unable to establish communications with Moscow, "becomes furious" and orders a nuclear torpedo be assembled for battle readiness. Savitsky roars "We're going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all." Attempts to dissuade him prove fruitless, as many in the crew believe that the submarine is already at war, and that if they will die, at least they will take some Americans with them.
5:16 PM -- A single 15 kiloton nuclear torpedo is launched from the B-59. At 40 knots, it closes the distance between the submarine and the USS Cony quickly.
5:16:28 PM -- A 14.7 kiloton nuclear blast vaporises the USS Cony and USS Beale. The accompanying USS Barry is completely wrecked. Dozens of crewmen aboard the nearby aircraft carrier USS Randolph are blinded due to the closeness of the blast, and several of its accompanying destroyers are damaged as well. The B-59, meanwhile, is hit by a massive underwater shockwave which buckles its hull. Water floods the various compartments of the submarine, sending it deeper and deeper into the ocean, collapsing compartment by compartment due to the pressure. Ironically, the last compartment to be destroyed is the one occupied by crewmen who refused to go along with the orders to fire the nuclear torpedo.
5:21 PM -- President Kennedy is informed of the nuclear detonation. Reportedly, his first words are "Ours or theirs?"
5:46 PM -- Following an emergency conference with ExComm, Kennedy orders immediate retaliation against Soviet submarines. No nuclear weapons are authorized to be used, but Soviet submarines west of 60W are to be killed on sight, but no action is to be taken outside of the western Atlantic Ocean. The Soviet Ambassador, Anatoly Dobrynin is to be notified of this fact immediately. In Moscow, no one is yet aware of the nuclear detonation.
5:50 PM -- The order to hunt and destroy Soviet submarines in the western Atlantic is recieved by US Navy ships at sea along the blockade line. The USS Essex, which is heading a task force hunting a submarine at the time of the message, launches alert aircraft, and all ships arm weapons.
5:52 PM -- In Moscow, Premier Krushchev is notified that a nuclear detonation has taken place in the Carribbean. The report comes from the freighter Pella, which had seen a large mushroom cloud to the north as it approached the quarantine line. Krushchev demands an immediate verification and orders that a message be sent to the embassy in Washington. As a precaution, he orders a heightened state of alert for Soviet strategic forces.
5:59 PM -- Anatoly Dobrynin arrives at the White House to meet with President Kennedy. A heated exhange follows, and Dobrynin leaves the White House fifteen minutes later, almost at a run. This fact is observed by reporters who have been watching the comings-and-goings at the building since the beginning of the crisis. Dobrynin's car speeds away in the direction of the Soviet Embassy. In his haste, Dobrynin fails to call ahead to the Embassy.
6:16 PM -- The Essex task force, having finally located the Soviet submarine it was tracking, begins to launch depth charges against the submarine. The attack proves successful, and the submarine is driven to the surface where it is sunk by gunfire from the depth-charging destroyers. Before being destroyed, it manages to transmit a distress call indicating that it is under attack by American ships and is sinking. The garbled call is picked up by nearby Soviet ships and is relayed across the Atlantic to the Soviet Union.
6:43 PM -- Having been delayed by a traffic accident in Washington, ambassador Dobrynin reaches the Soviet Embassy, and rushes to the radio room to pass his information along to Moscow and awaits a reply.
6:49 PM -- News of the sinking of the submarine by the Essex task force reaches Moscow. Upon reciept of the news, Krushchev orders immediate counter action, ordering the Soviet military to full readiness and also ordering that Soviet ships and submarines may attack American ships at sea. Civilian ships are to dock at the nearest friendly port.
7:12 PM -- The Soviet Zulu-class submarine B-75 acknowledges recipt of its orders and orders torpedoes armed. Due to a misunderstanding of orders by its captain, Nikolai Natnenkov, its first target is an American freighter bound for Jacksonville. The freighter is hit by two torpedoes and sinks, sending out a distress call as it goes to the bottom. As with the Soviet submarine's distress call an hour before, the message is passed on by other ships. It is only one of three to go across the radio within fifteen minutes as other Soviet submarines begin to work. One of the sinkings is east of the 60W line set by Kennedy.
7:13 PM -- Ambassador Dobrynin's message reaches Premier Krushchev. Krushchev questions the message, as the Americans now seem to be attacking Soviet submarines. He demands Dobrynin ask Kennedy if a state of war exists between their two countries.
7:35 PM -- News of the freighter sinkings reaches Kennedy's desk. He orders that American ships prosecute any Soviet vessels in the Atlantic Ocean. After extensive negotiations with the Joint Chiefs and ExComm, he orders that a strike be readied for the missile sites in Cuba. If war is at hand, Kennedy thinks, those missiles must not leave the ground.
7:47 PM -- Krushchev's message reaches Dobrynin in Washington, who immediately calls the White House to demand a conference with Kennedy over the phone. The conversation is short and to the point, as Kennedy is furious over the nuclear attack and the percieved Soviet sneak attack. The first real stages of fear setting in, Dobrynin relays the message to Moscow via radio, and requests that Krushchev come to the radio in person so that a direct channel can be set up between him and Kennedy.
7:48 PM -- US Navy vessels on the quarantine line and around the world acknowledge the presidential order. Over the next twenty minutes, 17 Soviet vessels will be sunk around the world. Six American ships will join them at the bottom of the sea.
10:57 PM – As a precautionary measure, and in response to panicked phone calls from several congressional leaders, President Kennedy issues a Civil Defense Defense Emergency message, informing Civil Defense authorities across the country of attacks against American ships at sea. As a result of the Defense Emergency, Civil Defense measures begin to be put into place, and in several cities, air raid sirens are accidentally switched on, causing panic.
11:48 PM – As tensions heighten in around the world, in Berlin a brief firefight breaks out between American and Soviet soldiers. A Soviet soldier, patrolling with a loaded rifle, trips, firing a single shot harmlessly into the air. On the other side of the border, American soldiers, tense with the news from the other side of the Atlantic, fire on the Soviet soldiers that they believe are attacking. After ten minutes of firing, each side retreats deeper into its sector of Berlin, having received pullback orders from their respective commanders, who want to avoid conflict as long as possible.
Over the next few hours, the situation at sea continues to deteriorate as diplomats on both sides of the world work to arrange a voice-to-voice meeting between the two leaders. Meanwhile, ships and submarines are fighting a war while most of the western world sleeps. In Washington, Kennedy is increasingly bombarded by questions from political leaders across the country as news of the nuclear attack and subsequent sinkings trickles out. Not many people in the United States have gone to sleep, and stay glued to their televisions and radios for the latest news bulletins. Premature air raid sirens have awoken many from bed, and in some cities there are riots and bouts of looting, which are suppressed by local police.
Sunday, October 28, 1962
12:04 AM – In Washington and Moscow, Kennedy and Krushchev hang up their phones with a sense of finality, concluding a nearly 90 minute discussion – if such a disorganized, shout-filled conversation deserves that label – that leaves both leaders believing the other has fired the first shots. During the argument, Krushchev revealed one important bit of information in an effort to dissuade the United States from invading Cuba – that there are tactical nuclear missiles in Cuba, and that the Soviet commander on the scene has the authority to use them.
12:23 AM – Kennedy is notified about the Berlin firefight.
12:46 AM – Krushchev is notified about the Berlin firefight.
1:16 AM – After discussing the conversation and the reports out of Berlin with the ExComm, Kennedy orders a review of the air strike plans presented by General Taylor on the 21st. Pressured by many members of the ExComm, and by his military advisors, Kennedy believes that the best way to bring the crisis to an end is to destroy the missiles that are causing it. Krushchev’s warning about the nuclear-tipped FROG missiles cautions Kennedy against a seaborne invasion, at least until those missiles are put out of commission by air strikes.
After a review of the plans, Kennedy okays a combined strike intended to destroy the IRBM and MRBM launchers so far pinpointed as well as the three airfields holding nuclear-capable IL-28 bombers. As a support mission, aircraft are also tasked with hitting the five SAM sites protecting the launcher sites. General Taylor reminds the President that only about 90 percent of the known launchers will likely be destroyed, and that there may be other launchers not pinpointed by U-2s and the CIA. Kennedy, in a deep malaise, and seeing no other option, authorizes the strike. He repeatedly reminds himself that the risk is worth it, that it could save millions of Americans. Even if the Soviets launch…
1:37 AM – After nearly an hour of discussion, Krushchev comes to an undeniable conclusion – the Soviet Union is in a position it cannot win. A strike against the NATO countries, even if successful, would invite a massive nuclear attack, something that would utterly destroy his country. He is aware, even if the United States is not, of the massive gap between his ability to hit the United States and its ability to hit back. His country is ringed by missiles, and it cannot destroy them all in time. Over protests from his military advisors and many of the Cabinet, he orders that a new line to be established with the White House. He will unconditionally withdraw Soviet missiles from Cuba, and hopefully bring the nascent conflict to the end. Unnoticed in the commotion, First Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Shelepin slips from the room, and begins to make phone calls to close friends in the KGB.
1:46 AM – President Kennedy gives the final go-ahead for the strikes against IRBM and MRBM missile launchers in Cuba. Due to the distance from staging airfields, the first bombs are scheduled to fall at exactly 2:35 AM.
In a conference with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Kennedy is appraised of the nuclear situation, and the fact that the latest Strategic Integrated Operations Plan, the plan for nuclear war with the Soviet Union, China, the Warsaw Pact, or any other nation on Earth, has been updated with the latest information, and that the most up to date installment, SIOP-63, has been implemented and is ready for execution at any time. Kennedy refuses to discuss the topic, and instead veers conversation towards the upcoming attack on Cuba.
1:53 AM – A firefight similar to the one that took place in Berlin takes place along the inter-German border, near the town of Wanfried. Unlike in Berlin, both sides call for reinforcements, believing that an invasion is underway (Berlin’s long history of tension causes commanders there to be more reluctant about engaging in hostilities, particularly on the Western side, where the strategy is to retreat deep into the city and force the Soviets to fight house-to-house.) Battalion-level artillery is engaged, beginning a fight that will last for nearly an hour, as both sides finally realize that there is no wide-scale invasion taking place. Yet.
2:13 AM – As the preparations for Krushchev’s second conference with Kennedy are nearly complete, the Premier settles in his chambers and waits for the connection to be made. It will never take place. As midmorning sunlight streams through the windows of his office, the door bursts open to admit several KGB soldiers, who enter in a hail of gunfire. Krushchev dies quickly, and across Moscow, similar firefights take place as Shelepin’s coup unfolds. In Washington, Kennedy waits for a phone call that will never come. A potential recall order goes ungiven.
2:24 AM – The first wave of American aircraft are picked up by Cuban radar sets. The entire Cuban air defense network is at full alert.
2:31 AM – The first American aircraft cross into Cuban airspace. MiG fighters launch from Cuba, but they are vastly outnumbered by the approaching American aircraft, which number nearly 200.
2:34 AM – SAMs lift off from the five closest sites to the IRBM launch positions.
2:35 AM – MiG fighters engage USAF F-105s and US Navy F-4 Phantoms in air combat above Cuba. Due to the odds stacked against them, the dozen-plus MiGs are shot down in short order, with the loss of only three American aircraft. Twelve American fighters establish an orbit over each of the three defending airfields, with an additional 12 in reserve.
2:37 AM – The first bombs begin to fall on Cuban SAM sites. Though the American bombers take a few losses from SAM fire, Cuban antiaircraft gunnery is atrocious, and downs no aircraft. All five SAM sites are destroyed, and additional bombers tasked with hitting the Cuban airfields begin their work.
2:39 AM – The first bombs impact amid the nine known Cuban IRBM and MRBM missile sites. The five-hundred and thousand-pound weapons explode with deadly effect, rupturing fuel lines, destroying launch trailers, and more importantly, fragmenting nuclear warheads across the landscape. Several missiles explode in secondary blasts, adding to the destruction. The first wave of American aircraft departs the scene, leaving behind an ocean of destruction, as lakes of rocket fuel burn uncontrollably, having been ignited when fully-fueled missiles were struck by bombs.
3:16 AM – The second wave of American aircraft arrives, smashing targets that have already been hit. More launchers and missiles go up in flames, as do the hangars housing Soviet IL-28 bombers. MiG-17 fighters from bases further away manage to down a few more American aircraft, as do the surviving SAM sites, but the bombing proceeds apace.
3:57 AM – The third and final wave of American aircraft arrives to drop bombs on the pinpointed offensive missile sites. Three more SAM sites are knocked out, as is another airfield suspected of housing nuclear-capable bombers. This time, no Cuban aircraft rise to challenge the Americans, and the only opposition comes from an increasing number of SAM missiles and antiaircraft artillery fire. When the last aircraft finally heads north, it leaves behind a moonscape of fire and shrapnel, torn bodies and wreckage. More importantly, it leaves behind a single intact launcher and four untouched SS-4 missiles.
4:15 AM – Having taken the air strikes on Cuba to be a declaration of war, Fidel Castro begins the attack on Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, as forces have long been in place, and only needed the order to act. A massive artillery barrage begins to fall on the base. Castro asks Moscow for assistance. Moscow, of course, has more pressing concerns.
5:00 AM – With the Cuban missiles having been destroyed beyond his wildest expectations, Kennedy breaks out of the malaise he has been in since hearing of the nuclear attack against the U.S. Navy. Yes, there is a worldwide naval war going on, and Cuba is now fully at war with the United States, but the threat of imminent destruction seems to have passed. Now, the work of fighting the war can begin.
6:45 AM – It is now early afternoon in Moscow, and the counter-Krushchev plotters have gained the upper hand. In the short term, they agree to govern the Soviet Union via a committee, but all of them know that won’t last. In the meantime, there is still the issue of the Cuban situation, which has only gotten worse. The plotters agree to a man that the Soviet Union must respond with force, and eliminate the western nuclear threat. It will be a great challenge, but all agree to a plan of action – an invasion of Western Europe, with the aim of eliminating western nuclear arms that might threaten the Soviet Union.
Krushchev, knowing the real numbers on the ground – the United States with 27,000+ nuclear warheads, versus the Soviet Union’s 3,000+, and most of those on short-range launchers – knew the strategy wouldn’t work. The plotters do not. Contacting the various commanders of armies along the frontier, they set their plan into motion. Some subterfuge is needed, giving orders as if they come from Krushchev (after all, his death can be played off as being the fault of a CIA assassination when the time comes), but the plan goes surprisingly smoothly. Everyone is too focused at the enemy in front to worry about what might be happening behind them. H-hour will be at dawn the next day, in order to achieve the greatest amount of surprise possible. The Red Army may not be fully ready, but neither will NATO… or so the thought goes.
9:00 AM – The war in Cuba is now in full swing. President Kennedy has called for a special meeting of the combined Congress in order to take a vote on a declaration of war. The question on everyone’s mind is whether it will be only against Cuba, or also against the Soviet Union. In Cuba itself, Kennedy has authorized the use of everything short of nuclear weapons in order to ensure the safety of Guantanamo Bay. Planning proceeds in regards to an invasion strategy. In his heart, Kennedy had hoped that the air strikes would not bring Cuba into war with the United States, but it had been a long shot at best, and the potential payoff had been too high. Reconnaissance flights continue to search for any missiles or launchers that might have escaped the three air strikes, but nothing is found.
11:00 AM – After a short struggle, the plotters in Moscow succeed in relieving several Red Army commanders who had shown themselves to be more loyal to Krushchev than was otherwise healthy. The strategic nuclear forces of the Soviet Union are firmly within the grasp of the KGB, and thus the plotters as well. Doubts about moving ahead with an invasion so quickly are quashed by the need to distract Soviet citizens until the plotters can secure their hold on power entirely. Until then, no official announcement of Krushchev’s death is reported, and life continues as it has throughout the Cuban Crisis.
1:00 PM – In what is perhaps the oddest joint session of Congress in the history of the United States, a formal state of war is declared between the United States and Cuba. Over a third of the assembled chamber casts votes via telephone, due to the fear of a surprise Soviet attack. This bending of the rules is allowed due to the extraordinary circumstances of the vote. Immense public pressure is being placed on Kennedy to retaliate in nuclear form, given the public knowledge that the Soviets have already used a nuclear weapon, but Kennedy feels as in control of the situation as he’s been in the last 24 hours, and resists the pressure.
3:00 PM – Several hundred miles northwest of Cuba, the Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-130 spots an ideal target – the aircraft carrier USS Essex. The Essex task force has been chasing the submarine for the last 12 hours, and several close depth charges have caused minor damage throughout the boat. Now, the captain has a chance to even the score. Because of the long range, and thanks to the five destroyers screening the Essex, Captain Nikolai Shumkov orders the submarine’s single nuclear torpedo readied.
3:04 PM – After closing within 4,000 yards of the Essex – as close as he dares – Shumkov orders a long-range deflection shot at the Essex. The 15kt nuclear warhead will kill the carrier even if it detonates a ways off after running out the 4,000m programmed distance. After launch, the B-130 executes an emergency turn, and slips away undetected.
3:06:03 PM – Having run its programmed course, the 53cm torpedo detonates its 15 kiloton warhead fewer than 200 yards from the hull of the Essex, which has completely failed to spot its attacker, the torpedo, or to take any sort of zig-zag course, confident as it is in its screen of destroyers. It, along with three of its escorts, is vaporized in less than a second. Only one destroyer, which had detected the noise of the B-130’s emergency turn and had gone to investigate, evades massive damage.
3:21 PM – News of the second nuclear detonation reaches Washington. Unlike the first nuclear attack, reports are immediately picked up outside the White House, and the President is bombarded by calls for retaliation against Cuba. Kennedy is shocked and appalled. One nuke might have been a mistake. Two is enemy action.
4:49 PM – After a meeting of ExComm, a retaliatory strike is agreed upon. The city of Guantanamo, Cuba, will be targeted by a 50kt nuclear device, to be delivered by the US Air Force. This will have the effect of responding to the Soviet move, as well as relieving pressure on the embattled defenders of Guantanamo Naval Base.
5:37 PM – A massive protest begins outside the Soviet Embassy in Washington D.C. Rioters storm the gates of the embassy, burning buildings, and lynching the few people still present in the building. Police, unwilling to stop the violence, stand by while the building burns before eventually breaking up the protest. Ambassador Dobrynin, having been evacuated several hours earlier, watches the events unfold on television. He will leave for Mexico in less than an hour, en route to Moscow, having been quietly recalled by the new regime. The assistant ambassador will remain in Mexico to coordinate the American withdrawal from Europe the plotters hope will take place following their victory.
6:21 PM – Three B-52s of the 96th Bomb Wing launch from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, each armed with a single 50 kiloton nuclear bomb. Only one is scheduled to drop its weapon, but the other two are backups in the event that the primary bomber is shot down.
6:42 PM -- Aircraft lift off from various bases across Florida and the Caribbean. Their mission will be to clear the airspace around Guantanamo and ensure the safe arrival of the B-52s.
7:17 PM – The first wave of aircraft begins hitting SAM and antiaircraft positions around Guantanamo city. Several go down to Cuban SAM-2s, but many more missiles are successfully evaded. Operation of the sites is hampered by the unfamiliarity of Cuban personnel with the Soviet weapons, and reload time is slow. Many sites are destroyed before they can launch a second missile. A few MiG-17s scramble from Cuban airfields, but are shot down in rapid succession by the F-4 Phantoms that maintain a constant presence over Cuban airfields.
7:52 PM – A second coordinated wave of aircraft begin launching attacks on Guantanamo city’s defenses. Many sites uncovered during the first wave’s attack are destroyed in this wave of bombing. The way is opened for the B-52 attack.
8:34 PM – 45 minutes after sunset, the B-52s arrive at Guantanamo. Only one makes an approach over the target, as the other two aircraft stand off in reserve. A few American bombers make one final run through the remaining defenses to draw off whatever missiles or antiaircraft fire remains. As a result, only one SAM is launched at a B-52, and that at one of the reserves, which is damaged in the attack.
8:36:11 PM – The B-52 “Lucky Lady” drops its weapon on Guantanamo, half a kilometer north of the city’s center. The resulting explosion incinerates the town, killing an estimated 20,000 people instantly. Along the perimeter of the Naval Base, firing comes almost to a complete halt as defender and attacker alike turn to stare at the enormous fireball rising into the sky a dozen miles to the north. The early twilight is banished by the atomic blast. Before the fireball has even risen to its peak, the fighting resumes.
8:49 PM – Fidel Castro learns of the destruction of Guantanamo. For a moment, the voluble Cuban leader is struck silent. He quickly launches into a tirade, demanding an immediate nuclear response from General Issa Pliyev, commander of Soviet forces in Cuba. Though Pliyev is still reeling from the assault on his longer-ranged missiles, Castro knows that the general still has several short-ranged, small-warhead missiles intended for battlefield use. He demands that the general use these against Guantanamo Naval Base in retaliation for the American nuclear strike.
Pliyev refuses. He has direct orders from Moscow, received two days prior, not to release any nuclear weapons without the expressed order of high command. Besides, he has sent nearly half of the 41,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers on the island to aid in the attack on Guantanamo. Pliyev fought the Germans from the gates of Moscow to the borders of Hungary. He will not endanger his country for Castro’s revenge. His soldiers will have to do. For Castro, it is not enough. Nuclear weapons have fallen on Cuban soil, and he must respond in kind.
9:17 PM – The Moscow Plotters receive news of the destruction of Guantanamo. For most, this only hardens their resolve that NATO’s nuclear bases in Western Europe must be destroyed quickly, and at as low a price as possible. The initial phase of the invasion, scheduled for launch in only a few hours, will consist of a series of massive air raids against NATO airbases and missile sites, coupled with a land invasion aimed at Brussels and Paris. Air support of ground forces will be sacrificed to missions targeted at NATO missiles and air power. Those are the primary targets, and they must be destroyed.
9:36 PM – Cuban soldiers, under direct orders from Fidel Castro, forcibly seize six FROG rocket trucks from a base near the burning city of Guantanamo. It’s a peaceful takeover – no Soviet technicians or soldiers are injured – but Castro’s deputies make it clear that they will brook no resistance to their launching of the missiles, orders or no orders.
10:02 PM – After no small amount of confusion on the part of Cubans unused to the Soviet equipment, five nuclear-tipped FROG missiles lift off from southern Cuba, heading south towards Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The sixth fails to launch, due to a problem with the rocket.
10:05 PM – Having traveled the roughly twenty miles from their launch site, the five nuclear warheads begin their return to Earth. One missile overshoots the base entirely, landing in the Caribbean Sea. Another impacts at the far eastern end of Guantanamo’s runway, blasting chunks of concrete into the air in an enormous fireball. Two fall amidst the American buildings on the eastern side of the bay, killing hundreds of Americans in an instant. The final missile impacts amid aircraft hangars and a control tower on the western side of the bay, destroying Guantanamo’s ability to launch aircraft and killing several hundred more Americans. Among those killed are the commanders of the Marine brigade currently battling along the perimeter of the isolated base. Though the marines fight on, they have largely lost contact with higher command.
10:12 PM – Pliyev learns of the Cuban seizure of the missiles after the Cubans release Soviet technicians following the launch against Guantanamo. He is utterly furious, and aides are forced to separate Pliyev and Castro, who are at each others’ throats over the issue. Pliyev storms out of Castro’s headquarters in Havana, heading west to Pinar Del Rio and the remaining Soviet nuclear missiles.
10:31 PM – News of the destruction of Guantanamo reaches Washington, D.C. Kennedy and the rest of the ExComm, who had previously believed Krushchev’s claim of tactical nuclear rockets to be a bluff, are stunned to the core. The CIA and aerial reconnaissance had not revealed the presence of any FROG launchers on the island, and so they felt confident in launching an attack against the known Cuban missiles. Kennedy feels a brief instant of guilt, but quickly moves to what should be done.
Clearly, the air strikes on the known IRBM sites were not enough. This leaves only one option for a President who wants to eliminate the nuclear threat in Cuba – invasion. FROG missiles, unlike SS-4s, are too easily transported and too easily hidden to be hit reliably from the air, and although an invasion force will be exposed to these weapons, there is no other option if Florida and the rest of the southern United States are to be truly safe.
In addition, the destruction of the Guantanamo base has left American soldiers still on Cuba in an untenable position. Kennedy is tempted to order an immediate evacuation of the remaining marines around the ruins of the base, but General Taylor reminds Kennedy that any invasion will face long odds, and an evacuation will sap resources from the invasion effort as well as eliminating a distraction for the Cuban defenders. If the marines can hold out for 24 hours, the invasion will bring them relief. Otherwise, they will become a liability, rather than an asset.
Reluctantly, Kennedy agrees that the Enterprise and Independence carrier groups to the west and south of Jamaica, respectively, should prepare to assist the invasion rather than begin an evacuation. After an additional consultation with ExComm and others, Kennedy agrees to the Joint Chiefs’ request for a nuclear strike on Havana both to retaliate for the destruction of Havana and to soften Cuban defenses for the invasion, which has an H-hour set for noon, 14 hours hence.
Kennedy is under enormous pressure from Congress to “level Cuba” and end the threat once and for all. Ironically, this would probably have been the right move, as it would have irrevocably eliminated the nuclear threat from the island – at the cost of every human being living on it. Kennedy’s humanity prevents him from taking that cold-blooded action. In his heart, he knows that the invasion of Cuba will cost many lives, but those lives will mean a cost far less than that of the devastation of Cuba. As long as there is still hope, Kennedy will not destroy the world.
10:53 PM – A single B-52 of the 9th Bomb Wing, based at Homestead, Florida, lifts off from Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami. Due to the large number of SAMs and antiaircraft fire expected around Havana, the bomber is armed with a single AGM-28 Hound Dog standoff missile. As more and more SAC bombers are called into service, armed, and sent to standoff positions near the Soviet Union, every bomber is valuable, and this one will not be risked.
11:11 PM – From a position 100 miles west of Marathon, Florida, the B-52 “Super Sally” releases its missile towards Havana. It falls to an altitude of 5,000 feet before igniting its engine and rocketing toward Cuba. Cuban radar is completely ignorant of its launch.
11:26:15 PM – After covering the 200 miles from its launch point as a speed in excess of Mach 1, the 1.1 megaton nuclear bomb in the tip of the missile detonates. Although it explodes over the south side of the city, rather than the downtown section of the city, the large size of the warhead renders any inaccuracy moot. Among the nearly 1 million people who die in the first five minutes after the detonation is Fidel Castro, who has been directing the ongoing fight from a bunker beneath the city.
General Pliyev, driving west in a chauffeured car, is rocked by the explosion, despite being 30 miles from the city. The car slows, then continues on. The Cubans will be utterly enraged, he realizes – he has to get to the remaining nukes in order to prevent them from seizing them. He has no desire to see a Cuban-launched nuclear missile start a war between his country and the United States, not out of any love for the United States, but rather a love for the Soviet Union.
Monday, October 30, 1962
12:35 AM – An exhausted President Kennedy emerges from a conference with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other American military advisers. Virtually every topic in relation to the growing war is discussed, ranging from the pending invasion of Cuba (Kennedy gives the go-ahead for operations to commence in 12 hours’ time), the growing Soviet activity in Europe (Kennedy okays a war-warning message to Gen. Lauris Norstad, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, as a precautionary message), and the growing number of flashpoints around the world, from the Korean border to the Persian/Soviet border, to Europe, Berlin, and the situation at sea, which is finally settling as ships that had been in close contact with vessels Soviet Union are either sunk or sink those near them.
The only bright spot is China, which has offered to negotiate a cease-fire between the United States and Cuba through the United Nations. In a statement from its embassy, the Chinese state that they have no interest in becoming involved in the conflict, and hope that the Soviet Union, United States, and Cuba will accept its neutrality and offer of mediation. The CIA backs the statement, as no offensive actions have been observed from China, and indeed the opposite has occurred, demonstrated by a CIA intercept of a communiqué between China and North Korea, warning the latter against any invasion of South Korea while the United States is occupied – China clearly has no interest in seeing its corner of the world blanketed in nuclear fire as Cuba has been.
In light of the circumstances, Kennedy orders that SIOP-63 be updated for a hold against China, but that the hold can be removed as needed. SIOP-63 is the first American war plan to include such “hold options” for individual countries in the Soviet Bloc, as well as including targeting options for specific aspects of the Soviet economy, military, or population. Before SIOP-63, the only options were everything or nothing, or a custom plan tailored on the spot, potentially causing mass chaos and confusion in the coordination.
Before adjourning to bed for a short rest -- Kennedy has been awake for more than 40 consecutive hours – he remarks that it’s a dark day when the only good news is from China, and that he hopes the world will still be there when he wakes up.
12:50 AM – Upon receiving the war-warning from Washington, Gen. Norstad orders a full NATO war alert (the highest peacetime alert having been given some time before) and orders the dispersal of NATO command from its peacetime headquarters in Brussels to its secret alternate command posts near the Belgian/German border. An increasing number of “Soviet activity” messages are reaching his desk, and those, plus the global situation, point to one conclusion – invasion.
1:15 AM – The Moscow Plotters meet for the final time before the invasion. Already, many in the Red Army are beginning to question who exactly is giving them their orders. Had there not been a large emergency staring them in the face, they probably would have already uncovered the truth. Of course, had there been no Cuban Crisis, there would have been no need to remove Krushchev. Now, everything is being put on this one last roll of the dice. Events in Cuba have made it abundantly clear to the plotters that if things are not handled quickly, they will not be handled at all. Krushchev believed he could handle Kennedy – events in Cuba showed otherwise.
Many bombers are already in the air, streaming from bases deep inside Russia to targets in Western Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Only the bare reserves – nuclear-armed retaliatory bombers -- stand in reserve to finish things if the strikes do not succeed.
1:17 AM – Raul Castro, personally commanding the Cuban and Warsaw Pact forces attacking the beleaguered defenders of the ruins of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, learns of the destruction of Havana and the presumed death of his older brother, Fidel Castro. When asked what his orders are, he replies, “Fight. What else can we do?” He orders word of Havana’s destruction be spread among the soldiers, in order to spur them to fight harder.
1:24 AM – NATO radar stations in West Germany and Norway pick up an enormous swarm of aircraft over Eastern Europe. Electrons know no borders, and the Soviet and Warsaw Pact buildup is noticed with alarm by NATO aerial commanders. With General Norstad out of communications and en route to his alternate command post, NATO sector commanders are left to order their horrifically outnumbered aircraft into the air. Air defenses along the line are put into operation with varying degrees of quickness.
1:39 AM – President Kennedy is awoken from a deep sleep in the White House. Bleary-eyed, he is ushered into the Situation Room and informed of events in Europe. Additional aircraft have been picked up approaching Japan and Alaska. Exhausted, and having gotten less than an hour of sleep, he orders American air defenses to full readiness, and orders an Air Defense Emergency for NORAD and Civil Defense. Across the United States and Canada, air raid sirens begin to howl, startling the few Americans and Canadians who have gone to sleep into wakefulness.
Kennedy asks if any missiles have been detected. When a negative is received, there is an ironic laugh. At least they’ll be able to see what hit them, Kennedy remarks. He orders SAC to Defcon One. The instant a bomb falls on North America, he’ll order a strike on the Soviet Union.
Several of Kennedy’s military advisors are extremely agitated at this statement. By ignoring strikes against American forces outside North America, he is endangering the United States’ ability to strike back, they declare, and by limiting America’s response to targets outside the Soviet Union, he would be inviting a counterstrike. Despite his exhaustion, Kennedy weathers the arguments. Unless the Soviets attack first, he will not give the order to launch. His military leaders stifle the obvious response – so what happened in Cuba, then?
Eventually, the aircraft turn back, but many remain in holding patterns that mirror American bombers holding at Fail-Safe positions near the Soviet Union.
1:42 AM – Gen. Pilyev reaches the site of his remaining nuclear weapons. Detoured several times due to American air strikes, the dispersal site holding the final remaining SS-4 launcher and missiles, as well as three SSC-1a cruise missiles is guarded by 400 Soviet soldiers and over 5,000 Cuban soldiers. Immediately upon arriving, Pilyev is confronted by an agitated Cuban officer, who says he has orders from Castro to secure the launch of the remaining nuclear weapons against American targets.
Pilyev, having seen the destruction of Havana in the rear-view mirror of his car, rebuffs the furious officers, and orders him to return to his post. The sentiment festering among the Cubans guarding the missiles, however, is a hostile one – having heard of the destruction of Havana, they want revenge, particularly the soldiers who had families in the city. The nuclear weapons at hand are the perfect way for them to get that revenge, and they cannot understand why “that damned Soviet general” will not let them be fired off. The Americans, after all, have already used nuclear weapons on Cuba – it is only right that they should have revenge.
Pilyev warns the Red Army troops to be alert. He doesn’t like being out of contact with higher authority, the broadcasts he’s picking up from the United States are making him nervous, and worst of all, the Cubans look mutinous. If things are as bad as American radio is making them sound, he wants to launch the missiles on his authority, not those of some ragged militiaman. And if the orders never come to launch, he’ll be even happier. But that won’t matter a damn if the Cubans don’t go along, he thinks darkly.
1:50 AM – Soviet soldiers cross the border from East Berlin and Potsdam into the western sections of Berlin in an attempt to cut the city in two. French, British, and American forces resist where possible, but retreat to pre-planned fortress lines. House-by-house fighting, point-blank armor fights, and brutal combat will be the hallmarks of the fight for the city, the first operation of the Soviet invasion of western Europe.
1:57 AM – Soviet aircraft begin bombing targets in West Germany, Norway, and other NATO countries. The first targets hit are airfields, SAM sites, and suspected nuclear storage sites. The aircraft are met by a hail of ground fire as well as the alerted mass of the NATO air forces. F-105s clash with MiG 21s over Germany as the largest aerial battle in history unfolds as dawn breaks over Europe. The sky is streaked with missile and aircraft contrails and the dots of ejected pilots’ parachutes. Below, NATO troops hunker down for what they know is coming. They won’t have long to wait.
2:01 AM – Artillery and rockets begin to fire across the German border. Warsaw Pact armor and infantry follow on the heels of the initial bombardment, slashing across the countryside – for the first 100 yards. They are then met by a storm of anti-tank missiles, counter-artillery, and every rifle in Western Europe. Warsaw Pact forces advance extraordinarily slowly, despite chemical bombardment.
2:12 AM – Gen. Norstad establishes command at the alternate NATO headquarters in Belgium. Taken aback at the ferocity of the assault, he orders aerial reserves into the fight.
2:37 AM – The initial Warsaw Pact air assault plan is in shambles. Rather than concentrating on wearing down NATO air defenses, Soviet aircraft have been diverted to air-to-air fighting, forcing them to jettison their bombs before engaging NATO aircraft. Soviet air planners are at a loss. Their mission orders were specific – to target NATO special weapons depots wherever found – but the necessities of the fighting mean that the mission must be pushed back. Adding to their troubles is the standing order to keep 20 percent of nuclear-capable aircraft in reserve – just in case. Their only consolation is that NATO forces are surely in even worse straits.
6:02 AM – A hasty early battle analysis given to Gen. Norstad indicates that Warsaw Pact air attacks have primarily been focused on air defenses and special weapons storage sites. Surprisingly, almost no attention has been paid to ground forces actively engaged in combat, allowing NATO troops to put up a solid, if weakening, defense.
The question of why the Soviets aren’t providing close air support in the amount expected is brushed aside as Norstad orders the creation of a deception plan designed to take advantage of the Soviet focus on nuclear weapons sites.
10:00 AM – The initial bombardment of Mariel, Cuba begins. Despite the chaos surrounding the destruction of Havana, some Cubans return fire on the American destroyers shelling the town and surrounding coast. They are quickly silenced, but sporadic artillery fire continues to fall around the ships. In less than a half hour, La Boca, at the entrance to the harbor, is in flames, as is the airfield on the shores of the harbor. American aircraft are everywhere, strafing and launching rockets against anything that even looks like it might be hostile. Guantanamo and the two nuclear torpedoes used against American ships ensure that no one is in the mood to take prisoners.
11:13 AM – Gen. Pilaev is again approached by the same Cuban officer, who demands that he use the Soviet nuclear weapons. The Americans are attacking Mariel, he declares, and begs Pilaev to use his weapons to drive the Americans back. The begging escalates into cajoling, and when Pilaev still refuses – into threats. If Pilaev will not help, then he is no better than the Americans attacking Cuba’s shores. If Pilaev continues his intrangesince, then he is leaving no other option than for the Cubans to take and use the weapons themselves. In a moment of pique, Pilaev replies, “you can have these weapons when you pry them from my cold, dead, hands.” The Cuban officer, furious, marches off. Pilaev orders the company guarding the missiles to be ready for anything, and orders the radiomen feverishly working to establish contact with anyone in Moscow – or barring that, the Soviet combat group in San Antonio de los banos -- to work faster. Time is clearly running out.
11:49 AM – A Soviet heliborne operation to capture the American headquarters at Nurnberg on the left flank of the main Soviet advance captures several documents reportedly detailing the locations of several redeployed stockpiles of tactical nuclear weapons. The information is quickly helicoptered back to East Germany and passed up the chain of command.
12:05 PM – Paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions begin landing in Cuba. Assigned to the far eastern and western flanks of the invasion, respectively, the 101st lands near the town of Abajo and its adjacent airfield, while the 82nd lands in and around Cabanas. Fortunately, the weather is good, and only smoke from the burning of Havana mars what is otherwise a picture-perfect jump for the 101st. Even the Cubans seem quiet as the Screaming Eagles fall from the sky, as most of the militiamen who otherwise might have been defending have been rushed to fight fires in Havana, 15 miles to the east.
The 82nd is greeted by light small arms and antiaircraft fire, and the Cubans there have no burning Havana to distract them. The men of the “All-American” division dig in under increasing fire, and await support. It isn’t long in coming.
1:37 PM – The first elements of the 1st Armored division and several Marine brigades begin landing to the east and west of the Mariel harbor entrance. The First Armored, better known as “Old Ironsides” lands to the west of the harbor, and scout elements strike quickly inland to capture the Mariel airfield, two miles from the beach. Resistance is light, as the Cuban militia in the area have been largely cowed by the naval bombardment, repeated airstrikes, and the landing of a company of airborne infantry on the airfield.
The same can’t be said on the harbor’s eastern side, where the towns of Mariel and La Boca are scenes of burning, hellish urban warfare as the Marine regiment assigned their capture becomes drawn into close combat with a regular Cuban Army company. Refugees from the fighting begin streaming south, only to be strafed by American aircraft under orders from higher authority to ensure that no guerilla fighters manage to close with American lines. The fact that the columns are moving away, not towards the battlefront, is ignored.
2:22 PM – Gen. Pilaev is alerted to a commotion in the Cuban camp nearby. Handed binoculars, he observes a mass of Cuban militiamen and regulars scrambling around as the officer he had a confrontation with gestures wildly. He is about to order a pre-emptive mortar bombardment of the Cuban camp – which seems ready to launch an attack on him – when a radioman rushes up. Contact has been made with the Soviet group at San Antonio. He immediately orders reinforcements for his position, but is taken aback when the officer on the other end of the radio replies that the Americans have landed only 11 miles to his north.
Pilaev is torn – clearly, there is a danger to his missiles, but equally clear is the even greater danger from the American invasion. He cancels the request for reinforcements and orders that every attempt be made against the American landing. Several minutes later, the order turns out to be justified as the several thousand Cubans in the nearby camp march out in good order to the northwest – towards the Americans – and away from him. Inwardly, Pilaev breathes a sigh of relief.
3:11 PM – The first two full companies of the 1st Armored Division are formed up and receive orders to advance inland. One company drives west to provide reinforcement to the increasingly embattled 82nd Airborne, while the other drives south, to engage Cuban forces that have begun digging in near Poblado Quiebra Hacha. In the eastern sectors of the beachhead, Marine forces begin advancing south and east, in order to link up with elements of the 101st Airborne, but are distracted by the need to clear the streets of Mariel and capture the docks within the city.
3:56 PM – In accordance with the pre-invasion briefing, which emphasized speed, speed, and more speed, lead elements of the 1st Armored refuse to be bogged down in the town of Poblado Hacha, and instead attack west of the town, breaking through the thin Cuban line and sweeping south of the town in order to encircle it. The Cuban militiamen have virtually no weapons that can reliably disable the American tanks, and are forced to retreat in the face of superior firepower. The few Cuban regulars in the area have none of the new Soviet RPG-7s, and the RPG-2s they have been supplied lack the range to knock out American tanks conveniently. Sneaking within range is nearly an impossible task due to the open terrain, but several American APCs are destroyed in a lucky ambush. Nevertheless, the American armored advance continues.
4:17 PM – The Moscow Plotters meet to discuss the latest developments in the fighting. Many of the plotters, having lost faith in the plan to eliminate NATO’s nuclear capability through conventional means, call for the employment of several tactical nuclear weapons in order to ensure the destruction of known enemy weapons. Alexander Shelepin is one of several to vocally object to this idea. Though the Soviet Union can far better suffer nuclear attack than the NATO forces, Shelepin has no desire to see nuclear fire rain down on Europe. He wants to lead the Soviet Union, not kill it.
Forced by events to reveal the Nurnberg discovery, he declares that even now, Soviet aircraft are en route to destroy the NATO bunkers described in the documents, and that soon, all the talk of nuclear action will become moot. On that note, the plotters disperse, but there is the unspoken feeling that if this attack is not successful, a new approach may be needed.
4:44 PM – Elements of the First Armored Division complete the encirclement of Poblado Quiebra Hacha. As the men of the unit celebrate their minor victory, word comes in that large numbers of Soviet troops and a small amount of armor is assaulting the Marine beachhead east of Mariel. Air support is plentiful, but the Marines are hard-pressed, and orders go out for the First Armored to make every effort to relieve the pressure on the Marines.
5:46 PM – South of the town of Brujo, Gen. Pilaev watches through his binoculars as a ragged stream of battered Cuban trucks and soldiers marches into the formerly abandoned camp. They are clearly the worse for wear, and crude bandages can be seen on many of the Cuban soldiers. Pilaev orders one of the few friendly Cubans that remain to get as close to the camp as possible in order to find out what happened. He has suspicions, but feels the risk is worth the potential benefit.
His suspicions are verified when the man returns with news that the column is the remains of the group that left the camp three hours ago. Thanks to constant American aerial attack, they had only gotten thirty miles before turning back in the face of air strikes. Nearly half their number had been killed or injured by the constant American attacks. Pilaev can believe it. American aircraft have been flying overhead for nearly two days now, and although his missiles are hidden in caves blasted from the mountainside – an abandoned coal mining operation – he still fears discovery from the ever-present eyes in the sky.
Even more troubling, however, the Cuban reports that many in the camp are threatening to get Pilaev’s missiles themselves, regardless of whether or not the Soviets will cooperate.
6:03 PM – A shot rings out in the treeline near Pilaev’s missiles. One of the patrols of Soviet soldiers guarding the missiles confronts a group of Cubans intent on seizing the missiles. Both sides draw guns. No one knows who fires first, but the situation devolves into a firefight that draws more and more men from both sides into the fighting. The problem is that Pilaev only has 400 men he can count on – the Cubans have many, many more.
6:26 PM – Over 500 Soviet aircraft, guided by the information in the captured documents, launch attacks on bunkers and sites across southwestern Germany. The vast majority of the aircraft encounter a multi-pronged ambush as the night skies light up with vast amounts of antiaircraft fire, SAMs, and NATO aircraft that seem to be everywhere. Nonetheless, the Warsaw Pact aircraft press the attack, and launch bombs and cruise missiles that hit nothing but empty fields and bunkers. Norstad’s disinformation plan has been a complete success, and over 200 Soviet aircraft are downed for the loss of only a handful of NATO aircraft. In the air, the tide is beginning to swing in NATO’s favor. The same cannot be said on the ground.
6:47 PM – Pilaev’s two companies of Soviet troops last less than 45 minutes against the tide of enraged Cubans. Driven by an irrational fear of the approaching American army (which has been engaged in heavy fighting by the Soviet brigade), the destruction of Havana, and fear for their families, they overrun the final platoon of defenders. In the chaos and confusion, Pilaev’s final order – to destroy the launch trailers – goes unheard. Pilaev, pistol in hand, dies defending his dream of protecting the Soviet Union from nuclear war.
In the minutes that follow, Cuban soldiers swarm over the missiles in the nearby caves and wait for orders – no one, it seems, knows what to do next.
7:13 PM – Someone in charge finally arrives at the former Soviet missile site in Cuba. The few Cubans who have been at least partially trained on the Soviet equipment are ordered to get the missiles ready for launch. In order to avoid American air attack, all available missiles will be fired simultaneously. The approaching night, it is hoped, will shield the movement of the launchers from their caves.
8:42 PM – The lead elements of a fresh Soviet armored division, after several hours of fierce fighting with the US V Corps, achieve a breakthrough in the NATO line in southern Germany. Soviet tanks begin the race towards Frankfurt. Small amounts of American reserves – all that’s left after reinforcing embattled units all day -- can only slow the Soviet breakthrough.
9:01 PM – American aircraft overfly the former Soviet missile base in Cuba where the Soviet missiles have been wheeled from their caves and into position for launch. In a panic, and fearing detection, the Cuban commander on the scene orders an immediate launch over the protests of the few Cuban technicians with any sort of training on the Soviet missiles – the single SS-4 remaining has not finished calibrating its gyroscope, something that must be done in order to ensure accuracy. The Cuban commander on the scene orders the missiles launched anyway. The SS-4, targeted at Jacksonville, is only a small part of the attack anyway – what is important are the short-range missiles, which will destroy the Americans on the beaches and destroy their staging areas in southern Florida.
9:06 PM – Over the next three minutes, a total of nine missiles will be fired from the former Soviet missile base near Brujo. Two additional missiles fail to fire, possibly due to damage from the previous American airstrikes. A third explodes shortly after launch, showering the launch area with fiery debris. The Cubans on the scene scatter, fearful of an American attack and fleeing the fires started by the debris.
9:07 PM – Two of the five FROG short-ranged missiles targeted at the American beachhead at Mariel begin veering off course due to poor guidance by their Cuban missile men. They will explode harmlessly at sea.
9:08 PM – A special mobile radar site in Central Florida, hastily rushed into service by the Cuban Crisis, picks up four missiles lifting off from Cuba. (They do not pick up the low-altitude, short-range FROG missiles.) After verification that the missiles are not artificial (in the days previous, false warnings had been frequent, and in one notable instance had been caused by a training tape left in the radar unit) the news is flashed to Washington. Further tracking reveals three missiles are aimed at targets in southern Florida, while the fourth seems to be arcing at a target somewhere along the Georgia-Alabama border.
9:09 PM – Three 2-kiloton FROG missiles impact at various points along the Cuban coast from Cabanas to Mariel, devastating the western portion of the American beachhead. Thousands of American soldiers are killed or injured in the first minute. The thick-skinned armor of the tanks and APCs of the First Armored division fare well – those that were further away and buttoned up, at least – but the trucks and men supporting those tanks take heavy losses. The 82nd Infantry division, having been engaged in heavy fighting south of its Cabanas drop zone, takes gruesome losses. Cuban forces close to the detonation points also take losses, but most injuries are from flash blindness as many more Cuban soldiers are facing north, into the American beachhead.
9:11 PM – The first SSC-1a Shaddock launched from the Cuban site reaches its target as it plummets to the sea 100 yards northwest of Raccoon Key, a suburb of Key West. The resulting 350 kiloton detonation obliterates the island, much of Key West, and the adjacent Boca Chica Naval Air station. What portions of the town and base survive the blast are soon engulfed by the resulting firestorm.
9:12 PM – President Kennedy, who has gotten only 5 hours of sleep in the previous 72 hours, receives word of the Cuban launch from the Florida radar station. He immediately orders a full civil defense alert and orders that Washington be evacuated. Kennedy himself refuses evacuation.
9:12:56 PM – The hastily-launched SS-4 impacts three miles south of the small town of Eufala, Alabama, on the Alabama-Georgia border. Due to not having been spun up and fired properly, the missile oscillated in flight, revolving in a roughly circular pattern that brought it several hundred kilometers west of its intended target – Jacksonville, Florida. (Jacksonville had been thought of as the best target to assist in the defense of Cuba – the Cubans cared little for destroying Washington or New York – those would not help defend their country.)
The 1.1 megaton detonation obliterates the small town, vaporizing it instantly. Over 10,000 are killed in the first few minutes. However, due to Eufala’s geography, more will die in the hours following the detonation than in the first five minutes. The detonation, which takes place almost directly over the nearby Walter F. George reservoir, creates a radioactive tsunami that moves south at hundreds of miles an hour. The wave smashes the dam at Fort Gaines, Georgia, releasing a wall of water that inundates everything in its path.
Tragically, the casualties will be greatly enhanced by President Kennedy’s Civil defense warning, which instructs people to seek shelter – usually a basement. For Americans along the banks of the Chattahoochee River, they do not have time to realize what has happened and escape from their basements to higher ground. As the flood gathers steam, it travels downstream, meeting Lake Seminole along the Florida border and smashing the dam there as well. This further enhances the flood, which inundates the towns of Chattahoochee and Apalachicola in Florida before escaping into the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, by the time the flood had reached those towns, news had spread, and many were able to evacuate. Despite that fact, the nuclear detonation and resulting flood killed over 60,000 people, making it the deadliest dam collapse in history.
9:13 PM – The second SSC-1a Shaddock lands eight miles southwest of Florida City, in the Everglades. The resulting detonation sparks an enormous wildfire, but due to the fact that it landed in an unpopopulated area, there are fewer than a dozen killed or injured.
9:13:47 PM – The third and final SSC-1a Shaddock lands in the then-small town of Goulds, Florida, between Miami and Homestead. The resulting 350 kiloton detonation wrecks the nearby Homestead Air Force Base, and kills over 30,000 people, injuring tens of thousands more. Every window in Miami is shattered by the detonation. The resulting fires threaten to spread to the north, but firebreaks blasted by Miami firefighters eventually stop the fire in the town of Pinecrest, barely a dozen miles from downtown Miami.
9:33 PM – An American divisional commander, having lost the vast majority of his command in a vain attempt to keep the Soviets away from Rhein-Main Air Force Base, personally authorizes the use of nearby nuclear weapons, despite having received no such orders from NATO command or Washington. Washington is still grappling with the launch from Cuba, and no orders are coming from above. The chaos of battle is such that his orders are not questioned as every available man rushes to try to beat back the approaching Soviet armor.
9:38:27 PM – Two 10 kiloton nuclear devices immolate the lead elements of the Soviet armored division approaching Rhein-Main.
9:47 PM – After a hurried evacuation of Washington by most of the government, President Kennedy convenes a teleconference with the Joint Chiefs of Staff as to the best response to events in Cuba. No further missiles have been detected as incoming, but Kennedy is advised that it does take some time to reload the missile launchers, particularly if they are being crewed by inexperienced Cubans.
The situation on the ground is bleak, as the three nuclear blasts have greviously injured the right (western) flank of the invasion, and the First Armored is in a fight for its life as the Cubans exploit the gaps in the line. The eastern flank of the invasion is in scarcely better shape as the marine division there grapples with a strong brigade of Soviet troops. Hesitantly, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommends a full nuclear response to cover an evacuation of the island. Clearly, the situation is untenable, and the threat of further attacks demands a nuclear response.
An exhausted Kennedy, after further discussion, agrees. He can see no other alternative, and he doesn’t want to see all of the American troops in Cuba die in nuclear fire. He okays nuclear attacks in order to shield the evacuation and on suspected missile sites. In the eyes of Gen. Curtis LeMay and the other military advisers, they have just been given a blank check for anything involving nuclear weapons in Cuba.
9:59 PM – The Soviet corps commander on the scene orders an immediate retaliatory strike on Rhein-Main.
10:01 PM – Kennedy receives word of nuclear attacks in Europe, but details are not easy to come by. Stunned by the news, he is tempted to call off the upcoming nuclear bombardment of Cuba for fear of escalating the conflict, but decides that there is no alternative – the United States cannot afford more missiles launched from Cuba.
10:14 PM – Three Soviet nuclear devices destroy Rhein-Main Air Force base and the scratch forces attempting to defend it. The temporary no-man’s land created by the five nuclear detonations buys American forces time to contain the Soviet breakthrough.
10:31 PM – The final go-ahead for the initial phase of the nuclear bombardment of Cuba is given. The first phase consists of a full regiment of MGM-29 Sergeant surface-to-surface missiles and a squadron of B-47 Stratojet bombers, an ironic paring of the latest Army missiles with some of the oldest aircraft in SAC’s inventory (newer planes having all been called into alerts against the Soviet Union). Between 10:30 and 11:30 PM, over 40 nuclear devices ranging from 50kt to 4 Mt will be deployed in Cuba. Most are dropped or launched into the Pinar Del Rio region of Cuba west of Havana, at suspected missile launch sites and airfields, but many are deployed on the flanks of the invasion. Five are deployed around Guantanamo as the survivors of the naval base are evacuated. Fewer than 1,000 of the pre-war 20,000+ contingent survive.
West of Havana, the evacuation proceeds at a strange quick but calm pace. Repeated nuclear strikes have brought the fighting almost to a halt, and American soldiers embark on the beaches at night in a surreal scene lit by the enormous fires that surround the beachhead. Those who have chemical and nuclear gear wear it, adding to the strangeness of the scene. Many evacuees describe the scene as something beyond hell, as badly burned men are loaded onto evacuation ships. The armor of the Marines and First Armored holds back what little hostile action there is.
11:12 PM – Kennedy finishes a conference with Prime Minister McMillan of Great Britain, who ahs informed the President that he intends to strike first at Soviet targets should the inevitable escalation continue. Great Britain is directly in the Soviet line of fire, and barring the sudden outbreak of common sense, the only way for Britain to survive is to strike first. Nuclear fighting has clearly broken out in Germany, and McMillan informs Kennedy that he has authorized his forces on the ground to respond to nuclear attack with missiles of their own – even to strike first if it appears that the Soviets are going to employ nuclear weapons. Britain is already undertaking full Civil Defense measures, Kennedy is informed.
11:55 PM – In Moscow, an emergency meeting of the anti-Krushchev plotters devolves into a shouting match as Alexander Shelepin begs his fellow communists not to employ more nuclear weapons in Europe. He is ignored, and is asked to leave. As he is escorted from the room, he finally understands what Krushchev hoped to accomplish by voluntarily evacuating the Cuban missiles. Now, those missiles are gone, having taken with them thousands of American invaders’ lives.
After Shelepin is removed, the discussion moves along rapidly. The destruction of Cuba and now the blasts in West Germany have made it clear to the plotters that the West is clearly on a course of nuclear war. In his absence, they curse Shelepin for keeping them from acting sooner to destroy the West’s nuclear capability – even those who had supported Shelepin participate in his damning in order to save their own positions. It is agreed that the West’s nuclear weapons must be destroyed as quickly as possible, and that the only way to accomplish that mission is to use the Soviet Union’s nuclear capability.
Tragically, those who most strongly advocate for the use of nuclear weapons do not have the information that Shelepin and Krushchev had – that of the gross imbalance in nuclear power between the Soviet Union and United States. A first strike, the plotters feel, would have great effect on the no-doubt limited number of nuclear weapons the United States and NATO could bring to bear, and thanks to the sacrifice of Cuba, that number should be even further degraded. After only 35 minutes of conversation, a consensus is reached – the missiles will fly in three hours. That is enough time, the plotters feel, to alert Soviet forces in Europe, and set the country ready for what few American missiles make it through the Soviet strike. NATO’s nuclear capability has been damaged by the ongoing fighting in Europe, and Soviet strikes at missile bases in Turkey and Iceland have no doubt taken even more missiles away from the equation. The plotters depart for their shelters with a sense of confidence that everything will be all right. As they drive through the streets, air raid sirens begin to howl.
Tuesday, October 31, 1962 – The Last Day
12:37 AM – Orders go out to the Strategic Rocket Forces, PVO air defense, and Long-Range aviation. The attack is to commence in three hours. Soviet bombers, already at the ready, begin to take to the air, while ICBMs begin spinning up their gyroscopes and begin receiving location and targeting information.
1:32 AM – Having misinterpreted the preparation order, the Soviet commander on the northern flank of the invasion of Germany issues an order allowing for local commanders to use tactical nuclear weapons as they deem appropriate.
1:46 AM – British and Dutch forces defending the embattled city of Hamburg are vaporized as a spread of six tactical nuclear weapons is employed in a semicircle around the city. British forces respond with their own nuclear weapons to stem the resulting Soviet breakthrough. Losses on both sides are massive, and at least one detonation takes place in the city itself, causing enormous civilian casualties.
1:58 AM – A radio broadcast, reportedly by Ludwig Erhard, Vice Chancellor of West Germany, is picked up by radios across the front. The message calls for an immediate cease-fire and says that the government of West Germany will surrender unconditionally to the Soviet Union in exchange for a suspension of nuclear and chemical attacks in West German territory. The message repeats several times before suddenly cutting off. No official contact with the West German government has been made since the early hours of the Soviet attack, when Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was presumed killed in a Red Army Faction assault on his armored limousine. The broadcast is not taken seriously by either side, and fighting continues.
2:07 AM – Informed of the events near Hamburg, and informed by his military advisors of an increasing number of radar contacts near the Soviet Union, Kennedy authorizes the use of American nuclear weapons in a “forward defense” role, similar to the strategy already employed by Prime Minister McMillan.
2:12 AM – Three 10 kiloton nuclear artillery rounds land in a Soviet staging area west of Hannover, presumably fired by elements of the US V Corps. Soviet commanders on the scene respond with nuclear artillery fire of their own on the position from which the rounds were launched. These, in turn, are responded to by nuclear-tipped Corporal rockets launched by US Army forces nearby. In total, the series of stroke-counterstroke-counter-counterstroke and so forth will encompass 17 warheads in the span of 42 minutes. These all fall within 15 miles of the front.
2:17 AM – After several hours of fighting, embattled Soviet forces reach the Bin-Charlottenburg U-Bahn station in the heart of West Berlin, cutting the combined American, British, and French contingent in two. For the time being, the Soviet strategy will consist of reducing the southern, largely American half of West Berlin, while lighter forces hold the British and French brigades in place. Multiple armored columns attempt to move from the Zossen area into the central portion of the city in an effort to quarter West Berlin, but are stopped near the Papester U-Bahn station by hastily-placed mines and ferocious antitank fire.
2:34 AM – President Kennedy is once again contacted by Prime Minister McMillan, who informs him that if the situation continues to deteriorate, he will order a first-strike nuclear attack on Soviet-captured airfields in Norway and bomber bases in the Kola Peninsula. Kennedy attempts to talk McMillan out of the approach, calling it “insanely dangerous,” but is interrupted by a string of messages about the nuclear fighting in Germany. As he reads through the messages, Bobby Kennedy, who has remained with JFK in Washington, remarks, “Well, there’s only one thing left to do now, John.”
No sooner has he uttered the words when another officer enters, bringing word that a large number of Soviet bombers have been detected by radar at Thule Air Force Base in Greenland and by radar stations in Alaska. Though the aircraft have not yet crossed into Canadian or American airspace, they have continued on their headings for several minutes, and given the large number of aircraft, the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe this to be a major Soviet attack.
Silence falls in the White House’s situation room. After several moments, Kennedy orders fighters to intercept any bombers that cross the border. When clarification is requested, Kennedy furiously responds, “That means shoot the damn things down – I don’t care what you use, but those aircraft are not to reach the United States!” When asked by Gen. LeMay, Commander in Chief of the Strategic Air Command, if this means he is free to execute SIOP-63, the nuclear plan for action against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Kennedy hesitates. Not yet, he declares softly, clearly unsure. “I want to see what they do next,” he says over the crackling line to Omaha, where LeMay is guiding his bombers to their Fail-Safe positions.
LeMay responds heatedly, demanding that they not wait until the bombs are falling on the United States, and Kennedy fires back with harsh words of his own, saying that he will not risk nuclear war. LeMay fires back with a barb of his own – “Mister President, in case you haven’t noticed, the people of Eufala and Key West might argue differently!” The truth of the words take Kennedy aback – has he been looking so intently at the big picture that he might have been willing to sacrifice the country one small piece at a time? Quietly, he agrees to LeMay’s suggestion that should a nuclear attack take place anywhere in North America, he will be free to release the bombers to their missions.
With the issue settled, Kennedy hangs up the phone, and begins to address the next crisis in a long list of them. In Omaha, LeMay is handed an extensive list of bomber dispositions and fuel states, and with a sinking feeling, realizes that if he does not issue a go order in the next 15 minutes, nearly 20% of his bomber force will need to turn back for refueling. Many bombers have been holding at Fail-Safe for far longer than was planned, and many are now on the edge of being able to perform their missions and return to North America, let alone their staging airfields.
While one-way missions are only to be expected, 20 percent is a large proportion of the force in the air, and that will be on top of a large number of bombers that have already cycled back from Fail-Safe or are only now returning to it. Those bombers will be needed for follow-up strikes, and they cannot be thrown away, LeMay believes. Quietly, he hopes that the issue will be decided soon.
2:48 AM – A battery of Soviet surface-to-surface missiles launches an attack on a suspected NATO special weapons depot in central Germany. Six Soviet nuclear weapons devastate the area, destroying a stockpile of Corporal missile reloads. Over 60 NATO nuclear warheads are destroyed. Unfortunately for the Soviet Union, there are over 5,000 NATO-controlled nuclear warheads still in Western Europe.
The attack creates a crisis in the NATO command. British, Belgian, and Dutch commanders, with Prime Minister McMillan chiming in from an underground bunker in Wales, demand immediate action against Soviet airfields and known fixed missile positions in Eastern Europe. The threat is clear, they declare to Gen. Norstad – the Soviet Union is clearly on course to escalate the conflict, and the more nuclear weapons NATO destroys, the fewer that can be launched against Western Europe. When Norstad counters that he does not have the freedom to launch nuclear weapons without the authorization of the President, McMillan replies that Kennedy’s orders of “forward defense” cover this situation, and that by not attacking, Norstad is violating Kennedy’s orders, not following them.
Norstad attempts to find a compromise solution, but there is none. McMillan announces his intention to use Britain’s nuclear capability, with or without Norstad’s assistance – but without Norstad’s help, the effectiveness of the attack will be greatly lessened. Norstad is torn – on one hand, Kennedy’s instructions to him were to avoid widening the war whenever possible, but on the other, nuclear war has clearly broken out. He cannot risk splitting NATO in wartime. If he didn’t go along with McMillan, and the war ended tomorrow, could NATO survive America throwing England to the Soviets in its darkest hour? No, he decided. It couldn’t. Reluctantly, he agrees to McMillan’s plan, but requests some time to coordinate his forces. Communications are growing more and more difficult, thanks to Soviet attacks, telephone lines being cut, and the increased radio interference caused by the nuclear detonations. “Time,” McMillan replies, “is something we do not have much of at the moment.”
2:50 AM – In Omaha, SAC commander Gen. Curtis LeMay is facing a similar conundrum. If he does not issue the go order immediately, his bomber force will lose a substantial portion of its strength for at least three hours. On the other hand, if he does issue the go-order, it might trigger a full-scale nuclear war, not just the little one in Cuba and Germany.
After a conference call to NORAD headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain, he issues the order. The Soviet aircraft approaching Canada and Alaska have not turned back, so his decision is the obvious one. Unless a full recall is issued, his aircraft are to continue on to Russia and destroy their targets. Though they’ve used up all their loiter time, the bombers on the edge should still have enough fuel in their tanks to hit their targets and crash-land somewhere in North America – barring battle damage. And of course, if the Soviet bombers turn back, they can always be recalled. But as LeMay looks at the situation board, deep underground, that doesn’t seem likely.
2:53 AM – As the Moscow Plotters settle into bunkers across the Soviet Union, the final order is given – perhaps by all, perhaps by only some. Transmitted by landline, the men of the Strategic Rocket Force receive their final orders and prepare to launch. Due to the patchwork nature of the coup, the precise coordination of the Strategic Rocket Force is not fully imitated among Red Army-controlled launch facilities in Eastern Europe. Approximately 40 percent of the Red Army’s IRBM and MRBM facilities fail to acknowledge the initial order. Many will eventually launch at targets in Western Europe, but many more will be destroyed by the NATO counter-stroke.
2:55 AM – At missile sites in Central Asia, missile erectors raise themselves to an upright position and fire. Similarly, eight concrete missile silos blow their rocket-propelled hatches clear and fire their missiles. In total, 20 of the Soviet Union’s October 1962 total of 26 ICBMs will reach their targets. Two explode either during launch or shortly after. Three break up on reentry, due to manufacturing defects or navigation malfunctions. One will suffer a gyroscope error and will impact in north-central Montana, incinerating the village of Hays, Montana (population 486 in 1962). The other twenty will proceed to their targets, unnoticed for the first ten minutes of a scheduled 33-minute flight time.
Eight of the missiles will be SS-6 Sapwood missiles (two of the ten in service are down for maintenance and will not be available at the time of launch) launched from Baikonur and Plesetsk. Plesetsk will launch seven, and Baikonur only one, with three of the failed missiles coming from Plesetsk. Ironically, these missiles are the same ones that launched Sputnik into space.
The other twenty missiles launched will be SS-7 Saddler missiles, launched from soft (non-silo) positions. Due to the newer nature of the missiles, only three of the twenty will fail in flight, a far lower percentage than the primitive SS-6s. As they launch, curving northward from their launchers in Central Asia, they will proceed undetected, below the horizon, for nearly a third of their flight.
At T+11 minutes, they will be picked up by the Ballistic Missile Early Warning radar station at Clear, Alaska. That station will likely also be dealing with several IRBMs inbound to points in Alaska, possibly even at the station itself. A full regiment of IRBMs will launch from bases near Anadyr, in the Soviet Far East, with the goal of knocking out Alaskan air defenses and opening a hole through which Soviet bombers can pass. Despite that distraction, standing orders dictate that missiles higher above the horizon (likely to be targeted on the United States proper) have priority. A warning will be flashed to NORAD and Washington.
At T+12 minutes, they will be picked up by the third and final BMEWS at Thule, Greenland, which should detect the missiles as they cross the horizon and arc over the North Pole. Further warnings will be issued, but NORAD will already be well aware of the situation.
At T+14 minutes, they will be detected by the RAF’s Ballistic Missile Early Warning radar at Flylingdales, in the UK. That station, monitoring several hundred IRBMs in flight over Europe, may easily miss the ICBM tracks inbound to the United States and Canada. If not, they will immediately pass a warning on to NORAD, which will further the information to Washington, D.C.
President Kennedy, upon hearing the news, will want to issue a full-scale civil defense alert, but the highest level of alert – that of a Civil Defense Air Emergency – has already been issued 24 hours earlier. The attacks from Cuba have already put Americans at a higher state of alert than any government warning could provide, but the last-minute alert, issued at T+17 minutes, causes many in urban centers to begin fleeing in their automobiles at high speed towards the countryside. Kennedy himself will refuse evacuation, instead ordering that his brother be pushed onto the helicopter and escorted to Mount Weather. JFK has no desire to see what tomorrow will bring, or to live with the knowledge that he helped cause a nuclear war. Either way – a postwar impeachment, trial, and execution, or a nuclear detonation – would no doubt kill him just as dead.
At T+22, the missiles will disappear from the radar screens at the BMEWS facilities. Their radars only point in one direction, and cannot track the missiles to their ultimate targets, nor do they have the processing power to analyze where the missiles might hit. They only serve to warn, and with their jobs done, they wait to be annihilated themselves. They won’t have long to wait.
At T+29, the missiles may begin to become visible to Canadians and Americans looking skyward. The night sky will provide a brilliant backdrop to the fiery streaks of the reentry vehicles, which should shoot across the stars like meteors.
Between T+30 and T+35, all 20 will impact within the United States and Canada. It is unlikely that any will be targeted on sites in Western Europe, as these are well within the range of IRBM and MRBM launched from Eastern Europe and western Russia. Nor is it likely that the missiles will be fired at American missile silos, since these early Soviet missiles lack the accuracy to reliably knock out hardened targets. Exceptions will likely be made in the cases of Cheyenne Mountain and Offut AFB in Omaha, the headquarters of SAC, but these will likely be the only exceptions. The missiles will also not be targeted at early-warning radars or interceptor bases – no one in the world had the capability to shoot down an ICBM at the time, and the most the United States can do is watch as the missiles streak in. Theoretically, a nuclear-tipped BOMARC or Nike Zeus missile could destroy an incoming ICBM, but that would require a level of coordination with radar and computer-aided guidance not available in 1962.
In the end, likely targets include soft military bases, command posts, and major population centers. These Soviet missiles lack the accuracy for anything else. This is somewhat countered by a 3.5Mt warhead, but even a near miss will leave buried targets intact.
As Soviet targeting data is not yet available – nor will it likely ever be – I can only guess at what twenty targets will be destroyed. Still, here is a list of what I think will be targeted, how many missiles will be used on the target (where necessary) and a justification of why. Note that a tally of the missiles will reach 26. This is intentional. Six of the targets listed below will survive or receive one fewer missile.
• Washington, D.C. (3 missiles)
This is the most critical target in the United States, beyond even Cheyenne Mountain. It’s the peacetime center of the government, and the immense blow to American pride and prestige, as well as the confusion and chaos its destruction will create is immense, and will not be overlooked. One missile for the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and the White House. It’s overkill, but the target is of great enough importance that given the inaccuracy of the Soviet missiles, three will be needed to ensure completion. End result: Lake Washington.
• Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado (2 missiles)
Wartime headquarters of NORAD, this bunker is entombed within the mountain. While it’s not likely to be destroyed, given the inaccuracy of the weapons used against it, it will likely be knocked off line by detonations close by that will rupture cables and communications, disconnecting it for some time from the defense of North America. Suspended within the mountain on enormous springs and shock absorbers, the bunker will be tossed around, and injuries and possible deaths will result. Imagine being inside an earthquake, underground. Even ground-bursting weapons – these will likely not detonate until they hit the ground, unlike weapons used against soft targets, which explode at 5,000-10,000 feet to ensure maximum destruction – should not destroy the base, as a direct hit is not likely. End result: Broken bones for those inside, massive wildfires, NORAD HQ knocked offline for several hours to several weeks.
• Offut AFB, Omaha, Nebraska (2 missiles)
This is the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command, and where Gen. Curtis LeMay, CINC-SAC, will be located during the fighting. The base and city nearby will be utterly destroyed, and the bunker below has a good chance of being knocked out as well, but little is known about it, due to the fact that it is an active command, not retired like Cheyenne Mountain. End result: Omaha and Offut destroyed, SAC HQ knocked offline for several hours to several weeks.
• Syracuse, New York
One of the three centers for the SAGE (Semi Automatic Ground Environment) system, the SAGE system is what makes NORAD work. State-of-the-art computer systems, tied in to the three early-warning radar lines and interceptor bases across Canada, as well as links to ships at sea and aircraft in the air, enable the SAGE system to vector individual fighters to individual bombers as they are detected in flight. This is a massively complicated system of coordination, roughly similar to the British sector stations during the Blitz, but far more advanced. Syracuse’s SAGE Combat Center is located above-ground, in a giant facility with a four-story video screen and half an acre of computers. End result: Syracuse destroyed, Syracuse SAGE Combat Center offline.
• North Bay, Ontario
This is the third of the three (the first being Cheyenne Mountain) main SAGE Combat Centers in North America. Located 700 feet underground, it can survive a nearby hit. However, due to the fragility of computers at the time, and the need to have near-instantaneous communication with fighter bases and radar stations across Canada, even a near-miss will be disastrous. With all three main SAGE Combat Centers destroyed or knocked off line, the backup BUIC (Back Up Interceptor Control) units will take over, but at a reduced rate of effectiveness. End result: North Bay destroyed, SAGE center crippled.
• Groton/New London, Connecticut
Groton is the headquarters of the United States’ submarine fleet, and is of critical importance in that it is a soft target that houses nuclear weapons – ballistic missile submarines. While all of these will be at sea, the destruction of the Groton/New London submarine base will destroy a large number of warheads waiting to be transferred onto submarines, will destroy the large submarine construction facility located there, the training facility located there, and possibly any submarines unable to sail away, due to drydocking or other problems. End result: New London and Groton destroyed, several submarines sunk, submarine yards destroyed, SSBN (Strategic Submarine, Ballistic, Nuclear) reloading capability reduced.
• Charleston, South Carolina
In addition to being the largest city in the state of South Carolina, Charleston was at the time home to the Charleston Navy Yard, one of the largest ports of the United States Navy, and a major home port for several ballistic missile submarines. Though all are at sea at this point in the hostilities, the destruction of Charleston will greatly reduce the effectiveness of the Atlantic Fleet and hurt the resupply efforts of any ballistic missile submarines that survive their initial attacks. In addition, Charleston has great historical value and a medium-sized shipbuilding industry. End result: Charleston destroyed, economy of South Carolina crippled, loss of Charleston Naval Base, several ships sunk.
• Norfolk, Virginia (2 missiles)
Norfolk is the largest American naval base on the East Coast. It is the home port to the vast majority of the United States’ Atlantic Fleet, and is the site of a very large shipbuilding industry located in Norfolk and nearby Newport News. At least one aircraft carrier will be in drydock at the time, and a large stockpile of naval nuclear weapons is at the base. In addition, Naval Air Station Oceana is close by, as is the Marine Amphibious base at Little Creek, Langley Air Force Base, and Yorktown Weapons Depot. End result: With one detonation on the north side of Hampton Roads, and another on the south side, both Newport News and Norfolk will be completely obliterated, as will all the naval, marine, and Air Force bases in the area. NAS Oceana, furthest to the east, will suffer heavy damage, but may not be totally destroyed, due to its distance from Norfolk. Virginia Beach will suffer light damage.
• San Diego, California
San Diego is one of the largest cities in California, and is also the home of one of the largest naval bases on the West Coast. It is the home to Miramar, training facility for pilots of the US Marine Corps, and Coronado is home to one of the two training facilities of the US Navy Seals. In addition, North Island Naval Air Station has a large contingent of aircraft. End result: A blast over the harbor will obliterate Coronado, North Island, and anything in port, as well as damaging Mischer Field at Miramar and destroying the city. Nearby Camp Pendleton is out of the blast zone, but may suffer broken windows, depending on atmospheric conditions at the time of the blast.
• Tucson, Arizona
In 1962, Tucson was still a small town, but also home to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, site of the Air Force’s “boneyard,” a storage facility for unused aircraft and a major repair facility. In addition, Tucson was also home to the 12th Strategic Aerospace Division, a combined force of missiles and bombers. Today, it’s home of the only preserved Titan Missile silo. End result: Tucson, Davis-Monthan completely destroyed. Surrounding missile silos remain intact, however, as these are scattered in the hills south of the town.
• Barksdale AFB, Bossier City, Louisiana
Bossier City is located in northwestern Louisiana, near the Texas and Arkansas borders. A suburb of Shreveport, Louisiana, it is also home to the Louisiana Army Ammunition plant. Barksdale AFB in 1962 is home to the headquarters of the Second Air Force, a major component of SAC. End result: Barksdale AFB destroyed, Shreveport in flames, 75% of the city leveled instantly, heavy primary damage to the western portions of the Louisiana Army Ammunition plant. Secondary explosions may further damage or destroy the plant.
• Ellsworth AFB, Rapid City, South Dakota
Home to the 821st Air Division, Ellsworth is today home to the B-1 bomber. In 1962, it was a major B-52 bomber base, and the Air Division included a large missile component as well. End result: Ellsworth AFB and Rapid City destroyed, missile silos intact, as these are hardened targets and are far from the base.
• Grand Forks AFB, Grand Forks, North Dakota
Home to the 319th Bomb Wing, 449th Bombardment Group, and 4133rd Strategic Wing in 1962, Grand Forks is a major bomber base. End result: Grand Forks AFB destroyed, broken windows and light damage in the town itself.
• Forbes AFB, Topeka, Kansas
Home to the 21st Air Division, Forbes AFB controls a large number of ICBMs as well as a substantial number of bombers. Topeka is also the capital of the state of Kansas, and thus center to a state government. End result: Forbes AFB destroyed, massive damage to the City of Topeka, but no damage to the missile fields to the west of the city, or to the town of Lawrence to the east.
• Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington
In 1962, Fairchild was the home of the 18th Strategic Aerospace Division, an umbrella organization that combined the B-52 bombers and KC-135 Stratotankers of the 92nd Bomb Wing with squadrons of Atlas ICBMs located nearby. Today, Fairchild helps Washington State achieve the distinction of having more nuclear weapons than four countries combined, thanks to the location of a nuclear reserve depot on the base. End result: Fairchild AFB destroyed, possible damage to unstable Atlas missiles, (the missiles must be kept pressurized at all times in order to provide support for the missile, or destruction of the missile will result – this caused problems when a dropped tool could rupture a fuel line and cause an explosion, due to the weak fuel tanks and lines.) Spokane west of the river destroyed, damage to the city’s eastern portion.
• Lockbourne AFB, Columbus, Ohio
Home to the 801st Air Division, Columbus is also the capital of the state of Ohio, and a large city in its own right. End result: Lockbourne AFB destroyed, southern half of Columbus in flames. Central and northern portions of the city damaged.
• New York City, New York
You shouldn’t need to ask why New York would be hit. Ideally, due to its size, it would be hit by several nuclear weapons, but I imagine that only one missile would be targeted there, simply because of its proximity to the Canadian border and thus availability to bomber attack. For the sake of argument, I’ll target the missile at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which in 1962 was still very much in operation. End result: Brooklyn, lower Manhattan destroyed, 50% of the city in flames, massive panic, damage to eastern portions of Staten Island and New Jersey. Broken windows as far north as Yonkers. Newark damaged, Statue of Liberty knocked over, Empire State Building and Chrysler Building obliterated.
• Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, in addition to being one of the most populous cities in the United States, also has great historical meaning and is home to the Philadelphia Naval Yard, again one of the largest naval bases on the East Coast of the United States in 1962. End result: Philadelphia virtually destroyed. Broken windows as far as the Delaware border, with fires raging unchecked for miles.
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
Colorado Springs is the peacetime home of NORAD, one of the major centers of the US Air Force, and is home to the US Air Force Academy. In 1962, Ent Air Force Base would likely be the primary target, as it is the center of peacetime Air Force activities. The northern portions of Fort Carson also adjoin Colorado Springs. Today, the Air Force’s Space Command is located in Colorado Springs, as is the current primary base of NORAD. End result: City of Colorado Springs destroyed, Air Force academy destroyed, Ent Air Force Base destroyed, northern portions of Fort Carson destroyed, but most portions escape damage, including the training ranges.
• Detroit, Michigan
In 1962, the American automobile industry had not yet been overtaken by foreign imports, and so Detroit was as crucial to America’s economy as any other city in the country. Nearly 90 percent of the automobiles in the United States were American-built, providing jobs for millions of people, not just in Detroit, but also in factories across the country. End result: Downtown Detroit and neighboring Windsor are destroyed. Heavy damage as far as Dearborn Heights. Dozens of factories destroyed. Production outside Detroit suffers for lack of Detroit-built parts, fueling national economic depression.
• San Francisco, California
This one isn’t so much San Francisco as it is Alameda and Oakland, but a hit on either of those two places will affect San Francisco as well. Alameda is home of the third-largest naval base on the West Coast. In addition, the Oakland Army Base and Alameda Naval Air Station are also within range of a single hit. End result: A hit on Alameda will vaporize the Oakland Army Base, Treasure Island Naval Station, Alameda supply depot, NAS Alameda, and most of downtown Alameda. The Oakland Bay Bridge will be completely destroyed, and Oakland itself will suffer major damage, as will the eastern shore of San Francisco, including the Naval Station. Damage will extend across the city. The Golden Gate Bridge will suffer moderate to light damage, but should survive with scorching. Berekley will be destroyed.
Those are the targets I feel most likely to be hit in a 26-ICBM attack. They provide a mix of Air Force and Navy targets, as well as civilian targets. Targets have been chosen to maximize the number of American nuclear weapons destroyed, as would likely be the case in a real Soviet attack. Some notable cities and targets not on the list:
• Bangor, Washington – Not a sub base until the advent of Trident submarines.
• Kings Bay, Georgia – See above.
• Boston, Mass. – Likely bomber target.
• Ottawa, Canada – Likely bomber target.
• Seattle, Washington – Likely bomber target
• Los Angeles, California – Not as big a city in 1962, lacks major military bases.
• Honolulu, Hawaii – Likely submarine target
• Chicago, Ill. – Likely bomber target
• Minot, North Dakota – Likely bomber target
• Wright-Patterson AFB – Testing facility, no combat aircraft present
• Cape Canaveral – Testing facility, no military missiles present
2:57 AM – BMEWS Flylingdales picks up a large number of missiles launched from Eastern Europe, heading west. In a panic, the Prime Minister is notified.
2:58 AM – In an instant, Prime Minister McMillan knows all is lost. Though he will likely survive from his bunker deep in the Welsh mountains, the vast majority of Britain – hell, Europe – will not. “We won’t have to fight them on the beaches this time. The war’s already over.” McMillan orders an immediate retaliatory strike against Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union with every available weapon. Across Britain, air-raid sirens blare and telephones ring as the four-minute warning is put into effect. The name will be somewhat of a misnomer – it won’t take four minutes for the Soviet missiles to reach their targets. It will take nine.
3:00 AM – Flylingdales, having calculated the trajectories of many of the missiles inbound to Britain, passes word to the Prime Minister’s bunker that the apparent targets seem to be limited to military bases only – the fact that many of these bases are near major cities is a fact known by everyone. McMillan, after a moment of hesitation, does nothing. The attack will continue as planned. V-Bombers to targets in Soviet-occupied Norway and the Kola Peninsula, and No. 77 squadron’s Thor missiles will be targeted at sites across Eastern Europe. As planned.
3:01 AM – At airfields across the United Kingdom, Valiant, Victor, and Vulcan bombers armed with American-built W-38 gravity bombs lumber down the runway and into the air. Many pilots anxiously turn their eyes skyward, half expecting to see the contrails of incoming missiles. In peacetime, the pilots took pride in their ability to reach the Soviet Union before even the bombers of the Strategic Air Command. Now, in the face of an unknown number of Soviet fighters and SAMs, that pride turns to a growing fear.
In Lincolnshire, at five RAF bases, missile launchers are thrown upright by giant hydraulic rams, and toxic rocket fuel is pumped into fifteen separate American-built Thor missiles. At the launch site, crewmen work in frenzied panic, one eye on their work, and another on the sky. By the book, it takes fifteen minutes to fire the Thor from its horizontal storage position. Driven by fear for Britain and more importantly, themselves – it will only take six. For those that make it, that is.
3:03 AM – Gen. Norstad authorizes a full NATO nuclear response to the ongoing attack and orders a full nuclear defensive posture. For many locations in West Germany, the warnings will come too late. Many units have dispersed, particularly the nuclear and chemical units, but those in close contact have not. Moreover, the sheer number of incoming warheads will negate much of both sides’ dispersal strategy.
In Italy, two squadrons of nuclear-armed Jupiter IRBMs are readied on the launchpad. From their locations north of Taranto, they can reach deep into Eastern Europe. If, of course, they can be launched in time.
3:05 AM – President Kennedy is informed of the massive European missile launch. He immediately sends authorization for Gen. Norstad to use any means necessary to ensure the security of Europe – an order more redundant than anything a President had ever given. In addition, he authorizes the execution of SIOP-63, Option B, with a hold against China – the targeting of Soviet and Warsaw Pact military and communications installations. As with the Soviet strike, the fact that many of these targets are in or near major population centers is conveniently overlooked.
In Omaha, Gen. Thomas S. Power is far too involved with the immediate actions of his SAC bombers to be worried about the targeting restrictions placed on him by Kennedy. With scarcely a word, he acknowledges Kennedy’s operations order, gives several targeting orders of his own, and orders SAC’s nuclear missiles to launch. President Kennedy’s authority is no longer needed. With the order given, Power’s main concern shifts to ensuring that none of his bombers will be shot down by NORAD’s fighters over the Arctic Ocean.
In the air, every SAC bomber not previously en route to the Soviet Union begins to wing its way towards that country. Even those that had been turned back for refueling now make 180-degree turns back towards Russia. Fuel to return to America is a luxury some of Power’s bombers cannot afford. All that matters now are the bombs dropped on target. Over 1,300 American bombers are now winging their way north, across Canada and the Arctic Ocean.
3:06 AM – Two dozen IRBM launches are detected by BMEWS at Clear Air Force Base in Alaska. Launched from far eastern Siberia, they are clearly inbound to targets in Alaska. Word is passed to NORAD and Washington, which can only stand by and wait. The dispersal of fighters has already taken place, and those not already in the air probably never will. SAC’s bombers are airborne, and it’s all over but the waiting. The only variable is how many missiles and bombers will reach their targets.
3:07 AM – BMEWS Thule detects 23 inbound Soviet ICBMs. Three will break up on reentry, but twenty will reach and destroy their targets. News of the incomings adds to the air of fatalism among the few people who remain in the White House. Despite efforts by the Secret Service to physically manhandle President Kennedy to a waiting helicopter, Kennedy refuses evacuation. He even refuses evacuation to the White House bomb shelter, instead choosing to wait out the missiles on the roof of the White House. From his viewpoint, he savors the night despite the cold temperature and the pain in his back. The streets are empty, and the only sound is the discordant wail of the air-raid sirens. Kennedy looks skyward and waits.
In Lincolnshire, the first Thor missiles begin to take fight, soaring upward on a pillar of fire. Before the last of them leave the launch rails, an enormous roar in the air signifies the arrival of several Soviet missiles. RAF Helmswell, Feltwell, and dozens of other airfields in Britain are annihilated. The scene is repeated in Western Europe and North Africa, from SAC bases in Morocco to Italy and Turkey and northward, to the unoccupied portions of Norway, as Soviet ICBMs and IRBMs reach their targets.
The attacks devastate NATO airfields and naval bases, but civilian targets – excepting those near major communications, command, and military centers – are not hit. Though the Soviet missiles have a failure rate approaching 23 percent, the sheer number of missiles ensures that every major target, including every SAC base, is hit at least once. BMEWS Flylingdales is hit by no fewer than five nuclear weapons, completely vaporizing the facility, and eliminating any chance to observe future attacks.
In West Germany, tactical nuclear weapons and chemical warheads fly with abandon, devastating both sides equally. Dispersal is little help, due to the immense number of warheads. In Berlin, fighting slows as the night sky is lit with dozens of mushroom-cloud explosions at all points of the compass. No weapons fall in Berlin itself – it appears no one was willing to risk hitting their own side.
North of Taranto, Soviet IRBMs destroy virtually all of the American and Italian Jupiter IRBMs on the launch rails. Only two of the 30 missiles manage to escape the first strike, and one will be driven off course by a detonation, landing harmlessly in Hungary. In Turkey, the third squadron of American Jupiters, the centerpiece of Kennedy’s missiles-for-missiles proposal that would have brought an end to the Cuban crisis, has long since been destroyed by conventional Soviet bombing.
3:15 AM – The first Soviet IRBMs begin to fall on Alaskan military bases. Elmendorf, Eielson, and Clear Air Force Bases are among the first targets hit, but over a dozen other targets are hit as well, victims of the 21 IRBMs that survived from the initial 24-missile launch. In the air, fighting rages as Soviet fighters and bombers clash with American fighters of the 343rd Fighter Wing.
Dozens of short-range bombers fall prey to the AIR-2 Genie nuclear rockets of the American fighters, which rack up an impressive kill total. In the end, the simple realities of fuel and ammunition bring down the Delta Darts defending Alaska. For every bomber they bring down, there are two more, launched from bases in nearby Siberia. And with their bases destroyed by Soviet IRBMs, there is no way to refuel and rearm. The vast majority of the fighters launched from Elmendorf and other airfields eventually run out of fuel and have their pilots bail out. A handful manage to reach Juneau or a Canadian airfield, but almost none are refueled in time to defend again.
Across the Bering Strait, a mirror of the Alaskan battle is being played out over Siberia as Soviet fighters clash with Alaska-based bombers. Thanks to the virtue of being based a thousand miles closer to their targets, the Alaskan bombers find themselves engaging an alerted and able Soviet defense. With no American IRBMs to soften the Soviet defenses, they go down in gruesome numbers, but not without landing a few hits of their own. Few survive to return to Alaska, and only a handful limp back to friendly bases.
3:20 AM – At missile silos across the United States, rockets blast off silo covers as SAC ICBMs take to the skies. At many silos, however, all is quiet. They represent something the Soviet Union does not have – a reserve.
It will take only 25 minutes for the first missiles to reach their targets, long before SAC bombers – which passed the fail-safe line over nearly 40 minutes previously – reach their targets.
3:22 AM – Britain’s revenge begins hitting Eastern Europe as the survivors of Britain’s 15 Thor IRBMs begin to land in the Warsaw Pact. Those that fall in East Germany are lost in the frenzy of tactical and short-range nuclear destruction. Outside of East Germany, the capitals of several Eastern European nations join the nuclear bonfire. Inside of East Germany, there is already very little left. In Berlin, scattered fighting continues, but with fewer and fewer orders coming from higher authorities on either side, and the obviousness of what has happened, no one seems willing to press home the attack.
3:25 AM – Soviet ICBMs begin to land in the United States and Canada. From New York to Washington to the West Coast, millions of people die. In the space of five minutes, more Americans die than in every American war combined. In Washington, Kennedy watches the meteor-like trails of the incoming warheads from the roof of the White House. A few streaks rise to meet them – Nike-Zeus antiaircraft missiles – before the sky brightens with one final sunrise. It’s the last thing President Kennedy will ever see.
3:29 AM – At Mount Weather, Virginia, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson and other members of the Executive Branch are read the list of targets in a sense of gloom. When the list reaches Washington, there is a pause. “I guess that makes me next,” says the new President in his Texas drawl. Five hundred feet below the mountains of western Virginia, LBJ takes the oath of office surrounded by other members of the executive branch in the crowded confines of a rocky tunnel. He’d rather be anywhere else.
3:34 AM – Above the dark, frozen wastes of Greenland, American fighters clash with Soviet bombers intent on the destruction of Thule Air Force Base, the northernmost outpost of the Distant Early Warning radar line as well as the northernmost American fighter and bomber base in the world.
A full squadron of specially-equipped Tu-95K bombers is tasked with the destruction of the base and the adjoining BMEWS radar station, roughly 18 miles northwest. The bombers are engaged several hundred miles north of the target, and several are shot down. Unfortunately for the defenders, this leaves five bombers, which continue onward, juking and weaving. Roughly 250 miles away from the airfield, the survivors release their underwing AS-2 Kangaroo cruise missiles before they are shot down in turn. No crewmen from the downed bombers will survive the icy, dark shores of Greenland, but their loss is not in vain. Five supersonic cruise missiles streak towards Thule.
Thanks to forewarning from the intercepting fighters, Thule is ready. A score of BOMARC missiles roar into the air from the darkened base, lancing forward at a closing speed well in excess of Mach 6. Small multi-kiloton warheads explode in front of the cruise missiles, knocking them from the air or destroying them outright. Only a single missile survives. But that’s all that’s needed. The 3 Megaton warhead explodes a bare thousand feet over the base’s runways, destroying the base instantly.
The radar operators at the BMEWS radar station eighteen miles away are spared immediate death from the nuclear detonation, only to suffer a prolonged death from starvation and freezing, as the site is completely isolated from a United States with far greater problems on its hands. They will be joined by a few homeless pilots who bail out of their fuel-starved aircraft.
For the Soviet Union, it’s a costly, if successful operation. And it’s one that can’t be repeated. The 12 specially-modified bombers represent almost the entire AS-2 capable force, barring two aircraft down for maintenance. And the extraordinarily unwieldy missiles require over 20 hours to be attached, armed, fueled, and readied for launch. Soviet planners anticipate using the remaining stock as second-strike weapons for targets that escape the initial attack. Unfortunately for those involved, they will not get that chance.
3:45 AM – The first American ICBMs begin to strike targets in the Soviet Union. From Anadyr in the east to Murmansk in the west, from Moscow to Baku, Baikonur to Chelyabinsk, the Soviet Union is hit by approximately 140 warheads. Hardest hit were airfields, communications systems, command and control systems, and military bases. As with the Soviet attack, where possible, cities were avoided – where possible. Cities like Moscow, Vladivostok, Murmansk, Archangel, that housed large military bases or command facilities, were hit regardless of their civilian population. The Soviet Union had done the same.
The door is now open for the bombers of the Strategic Air Command, which have received new orders from the new President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson. Johnson also sends orders, via radio, to the American ballistic missile submarine fleet, instructing it to engage the Soviet Union where possible. The submarines’ Polaris missiles lack the accuracy to hit military targets, but Johnson does not care. What matters now is hitting back, and hitting as hard as possible.
3:47 AM – Canadian-based interceptors begin to engage Soviet bombers above the Canadian Far North. As the bombers come in at low level, the radars of the Distant Early Warning Line have difficulty locating many of the Soviet aircraft. This is further compounded by the loss of the SAGE combat centers to Soviet ICBMs. Due to that loss, fighters must be guided to their targets by the less-efficient BUIC (Back-Up Interceptor Control).
For every Tu-95 that is intercepted, another breaks through to hit the DEW radars and continue south. For every radar that is destroyed, more bombers remain undiscovered, hitting the line and winging their way south. The BUIC operators do their utmost, but as the radars go down, one by one, enormous gaps are torn in the DEW line, allowing more and more bombers through. But the damage to the Soviet bomber force was immense. Of the approximately 120 bombers sent across the Arctic Ocean, fewer than 40 survived to continue south, through Canada, where two more radar lines still lay.
4:12 AM – Nuclear fighting in Europe continues as British V-Bombers strike at Soviet-held airfields in Norway, relieving pressure on Britain from the north. Several bombers continue onward to strike targets in the Kola Peninsula, but many find that their targets are already burning, victims of American ICBMs. All eventually find some target worthy of an atomic bomb, or are shot down. The survivors turn westward, with many bomber crews bailing out over Britain, unable to find a usable airstrip on which to land. Several others land in neutral Sweden, which has fared fairly well in the fighting, and are interned.
4:20 AM – Sunrise does not come for the survivors of Berlin, nor for much of Europe. Dark clouds of ash blot out the sky over Germany, and dark rain begins to fall as water vapor coalesces around ash from hundreds of nuclear detonations. Survivors remember it as heavy, heavier than anything they can remember. Throughout the growing storms, NATO and Warsaw Pact bombers and fighters continue to clash.
With an enormous gash ripped in the front line, the aircraft can engage in combat without a fear of ground fire, and can penetrate deep into the opposition’s territory before facing enemy fire. From Germany, bomber strikes move east and west. The gap in defenses allows NATO bombers to hit Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia with ease, just as Warsaw Pact bombers can hit targets in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Britain.
In many cases, communications have broken down between what remains of higher authority and the bases launching attacks. As more and more weapons fall, the situation continues to grow worse, with greater and greater civilian casualties. Only the accelerating rate of attrition and the destruction of the remaining stockpiles of weapons and operational aircraft might provide an end to the fighting.
4:32 AM – A regiment of Soviet IRBMs near Vladivostok launch an attack against American bases in Japan and South Korea. 11 warheads will impact across the two countries, grievously wounding South Korea, which feels the impact of six weapons. American bombers based in Guam will avenge the hits by completely leveling the area around Vladivostok, which has itself already been hit by two ICBMs.
5:36 AM – The USS Sam Houston, an Ethan Allen-class ballistic missile submarine, launches its load of 16 Polaris missiles from a location in the southern Kara Sea, south of the islands of Novaya Zemlya. After firing from a depth of 10m, the submarine slips away undetected as scattered Soviet aircraft respond to the radar contacts.
The scene will be repeated five more times over the next 48 hours, as various Polaris missile submarines contribute their missiles to the firestorm engulfing the Soviet Union. Of the 80 missiles fired, 67 will successfully hit their targets. Two additional submarines will remain silent, a floating reserve to complement the missiles sitting in SAC silos. Two more commissioned ballistic missile submarines lack missiles, and one – the USS Thomas A. Edison is destroyed in the destruction of Charleston. Two uncommissioned submarines at sea survive the war, but three others still fitting out or under construction are destroyed.
Not everything goes the way of the American submarine force. The USS Abraham Lincoln is lost with all hands in an encounter with a Soviet hunter-killer submarine after firing its missiles. Additionally, the Regulus Missile-carrying submarines fail to mirror the success of their Polaris counterparts. Due to their weapons’ minimal range, their success is no greater than that of the Soviet missile submarines to which they compare. All are sunk before launching their targets, killing several hundred American sailors in the process.
6:13 AM – B-52 bombers of the Strategic Air Command, based in Spain and Morocco begin attacks on the southern flank of the Warsaw Pact. Bulgaria and Romania, as well as select targets in the Ukraine and the Caucuses. The bombers take some casualties from fighter aircraft, but none from ground fire. Because their bases have been destroyed by Soviet IRBM and bomber attacks, the crewmen of the bombers are forced to divert to remote airfields in Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. None will make a second mission, due to a lack of weapons.
7:04 AM – The Soviet bombers that survived the DEW line begin to encounter the radars of the Mid-Canada and Pinetree defensive lines. Coming in low over the empty forests, the scattered bombers manage to evade most contact. However, once in range of the radars of the two southernmost lines – which happen to overlap – interceptors can be efficiently vectored to the incoming bombers. Of the forty survivors, twenty-five are downed by fighters guided by the radars of the Pinetree and Mid-Canada lines.
Most of the survivors manage to avoid the radars, either by using the Rocky Mountains to shield themselves, or by flying low across Baffin Bay to avoid contact. Though the immense spaces involved and the confusion caused by Soviet ICBMs hamper interception efforts, the fact that Soviet bombers have been detected by the Mid-Canada line cause interceptors to be scrambled from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
7:29 AM – The first large wave of American bombers cross the north coast of the Soviet Union. Over two hundred have been shot down over the Arctic Ocean by Soviet interceptors, but over a thousand are still in the air, storming southward towards targets scattered from one end of the Soviet Union to the other. Soviet air defense has been shattered by ICBM and submarine-launched missiles, but the surviving fragments, unguided by higher command, are still deadly.
Only the sheer number of American bombers, ironically, prevent the Soviet defenses from having greater effect. Without a central system to coordinate interception, Soviet fighters must be guided by their onboard radar or the facilities from their basing airfields. With over a thousand aircraft heading south, the otherwise strong effort of the surviving Soviet defenders is split too thin. Strikes on defending airbases further reduce the effectiveness of the Soviet defenses.
7:57 AM – Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is hit by a Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile, which impacts in the southwestern portion of the harbor, wrecking the city of Honolulu and many of the ships still in harbor. The brand-new USS Arizona memorial, dedicated five months previously, is completely destroyed, as is the airfield on Ford Island. The Hotel-class submarine that fired the missile would escape in the confusion.
9:19 AM – The final Soviet fighter base covering the north coast of the Soviet Union is destroyed by a bomb dropped by a B-52. In total, almost 400 American bombers have been shot down by Soviet fighters. Unfortunately for surviving citizens of the Soviet Union, this still leaves over 800 nuclear-armed bombers to range over the wide-open spaces of the country. What little opposition remains is limited to SA-2 sites near primary targets, most of which have already been destroyed by ICBM warheads.
10:33 AM – The city of Vancouver, British Columbia, is destroyed by a 5 Megaton nuclear bomb dropped by a bomber of the Long-Range Aviation Division of the Soviet Air Force. The attack is somewhat of an accident – Seattle was the primary target for the bomber, but due to repeated momentary contacts with Canadian and American fighters, the crew spends more time evading than navigating towards its target.
The attack is the first of 11 successful bombings of major North American cities by Soviet long-range bombers. Seven of the attacks, due to faulty navigation, purposeful attack, or harassment by interceptors, take place against Canadian cities. Four bombers successfully destroy American cities: Seattle, Minneapolis, Bangor, Maine; and Portland, Oregon. Two separate attempts by Soviet bombers to penetrate Chicago’s defenses are defeated by nuclear-tipped BOMARC anti-bomber missiles, which knock the low-flying aircraft into Lake Michigan with their shock waves. Two more bombers are intercepted by Canadian fighters as they attempt to make attacks against the American Northeast.
By 4:00 PM, the last Soviet bomber has been destroyed. None, excepting those that turned back before the DEW line, return to the territory of the Soviet Union. The success of the Soviet Union’s medium bombers is not shared by its long-range cousins. Fewer than ten percent of the bombers successfully complete their missions. By the end of the day, the bomber threat to North America is over.
2:32 PM – The final aircraft of the first wave of SAC bombers cross out of Soviet airspace en route to safe airfields in Canada, waypoints on the way home. Already, SAC’s second wave of aircraft is nearing Soviet Airspace, bringing several hundred Megatons of further destruction to what is left of the Soviet Union. In the words of CINCSAC Gen. Power, “We’re going to keep it up until the rubble is rubble.”
By the early afternoon of November 1, no more American bombers are being shot down over the Soviet Union – there is no one left to shoot back. Remaining SA-2 sites are abandoned en masse by soldiers fearful for their lives. The remaining active sites are destroyed by nuclear bombardment. President Johnson orders a focus on the other nations of the Warsaw Pact, and a gradual stand-down of SAC operations. There simply aren’t enough weapons left to continue at the same tempo for much longer, and equipment and crewmen are beginning to break down under the strain.
On the evening of November 1, President Johnson makes a nation-wide radio and television address, giving the American and Canadian public an update on what has happened. For those Americans within range of a working radio, the news is a series of hammer blows. The new president confirms the list of destroyed cities, killing the hopes of millions of Americans who had family in or near the Soviet targets. He also states that President Kennedy is presumed killed in the destruction of Washington, something everyone had assumed, given the pre-attack reports of his refusal to evacuate. The news is still a shock, and although conspiracy theorists will continue to put forth the idea that Kennedy somehow survived the attacks, President Johnson declares that he is indeed in charge and has instituted martial law across the United States. Attacked areas will be evacuated, and the government is already stepping in to ensure the continued operation of critical aspects of life like electricity, water, and communications. Meanwhile, the war goes on.
By November 4, the fifth day of SAC’s nuclear campaign, the war had begun to wind down. In Europe, surviving elements of the NATO command had received radioed cease-fire requests from the surviving elements of the individual Warsaw Pact nations’ governments. In Berlin, a cautious calm prevailed as both Soviet and NATO survivors realize that they’ve survived in the middle of an immense dead zone. Under Mount Weather, President Johnson declares an immediate break in the Strategic Air Command’s bombing campaign.
The order stems from three primary reasons. The first and most obvious is the request by the Warsaw Pact nations for a cease-fire. In many cases, the request is coupled with a declaration that the surviving members of the government are willing to surrender unconditionally if the bombing stops. Only Albania and the Soviet Union fail to make some sort of contact, and both are due to the simple fact that no one is left to make a decision.
The second reason is for the simple reason that SAC has virtually run out of targets. Nearly 2000 Megatons of nuclear firepower have been leveled against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, wiping out any vestiges of government or a will to fight in the Soviet Union or the now-disintegrated Warsaw Pact. Time is needed to gather intelligence and prepare strikes against surviving Soviet nuclear arms. Since the afternoon of October 31, the only nuclear attacks performed by the Soviet Union have been submarine-launched, low-yield tactical weapons, or mobile, short-range missiles. A new strategy is needed to address these last fragments of Soviet nuclear power.
The third reason is the one most pressing on CINCSAC Gen. Power. In the five days of full-scale nuclear war, SAC has lost nearly 40% of its bomber strength, and has employed over 2/3 of its ICBM capability. Crews and aircraft are running on the ragged edge, with many bombers still flying with heavy battle damage. Time is needed to rest and refit, bring weapons forward from surviving storage in the continental United States, and take care of all the other minor concerns that five days of all-out nuclear war let slip.
The Presidential cease-fire drags on for two solid weeks before a final treaty is signed with the last Warsaw Pact nation, Romania. No treaty will ever be signed with the Soviet Union, though several months later, an accommodation will be quietly reached with the highest-ranking Soviet official that can be found – Colonel-General Yakov Kreizer, Commander in Chief of the Far East Military District, who had survived in a bunker near the Chinese border.
The fighting around the world does not come to an end as easily as the signing of a treaty, however. Nuclear attacks will continue in Europe for over five months as fragmented Soviet and Warsaw Pact units refuse orders to surrender and launch hoarded missiles against presumed targets. Stockholm, Sweden, site of several of the negotiated surrender treaties is destroyed on December 21 as a result of a radio broadcast that declares it to be instrumental in the peace negotiations.
As the weeks wear on and surviving Warsaw Pact units join NATO forces in hunting for these rogue units, their numbers drop dramatically. Of the 56 attacks to take place after the Romanian Treaty, only 14 take place after the destruction of Stockholm, and only four in January 1963, with the last one taking place on January 17.
At sea, the hunt for rogue submarines takes place on similar grounds as the hunt for missiles in the territories of the former Soviet Union. The November 22 attack on Guam that results in a 5 Megaton detonation above Andersen Air Force Base spurs an international effort to hunt down the last Soviet ballistic missile submarines at sea. Due to the uncertainty of how many were destroyed in port, the hunt is a tense one, particularly given the ability of the submarines to hit virtually any location in the world. In the end, however, the hunt proves to be an immensely successful one. Only two submarines manage to make any sort of attempt on a target after the destruction of Guam, and both are sunk shortly after surfacing. The destruction of Guam is the last time an American base will be attacked by nuclear weapons in the war.
Europe is not so lucky. Germany, western Poland, and much of Bohemia form an immense dead zone where virtually nothing survives amidst a blackened, radioactive ruin. Most survivors come from the edges of the zone, as they are able to fleet to less-damaged areas. There are very few undamaged areas, however. From Narvik to Gibraltar, no corner of Europe escapes damage. The capitals of old Europe – Paris, London, Brussels, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and so on – are all destroyed. Only Berlin remains, a lucky victim of the ferocious fighting in its streets.
The old Warsaw Pact is horrifically damaged, and the former NATO countries not much better off. Southern France and Spain survive remarkably well, and outside of the NATO bases, Scotland does as well. Ireland is perhaps the most undamaged country in Europe, having only lost Belfast and Cork. Norway is ravaged by both NATO and Soviet weapons, and Sweden by Soviet ones searching for interned NATO bombers. As the winter snow begins to fall, Europe is in the midst of a refugee crisis as bad as anything following the Second World War. Unlike that war, there will be no help coming from North America, which has its own problems. What little aid arrives comes from Oceania, South Africa, and South America. The Middle East is embroiled in yet another of its perennial wars as several of the Arab states attempt to destroy Israel. They are no more successful in 1962 than they were in 1956 or 1948, and this time, there is no one to buy weapons from to replace those destroyed by the Israelis, who do not have their hands stayed by the United Nations. Refugee camps similar to those in western Europe sprinkle the Levant.
Worldwide, however, recovery is stifled by one of the coldest winters the world has seen in recent memory. Roughly 2200 Megatons of explosive force have driven millions of tons of dust into the upper atmosphere, blocking sunlight and turning a cold winter into a nightmare. In the Northern Hemisphere, global temperatures are 4C below average, and in the Southern Hemisphere, roughly half that. The following summer comes late, and is far cooler than normal, ravaging crops. For the few historians that remember such things, the weather is reminiscent to the summer of 1816, when an eruption of the Tambora volcano drove temperatures far below normal.
In Europe and much of northern Asia, the effects are more immediate and far more savage. Throughout much of Eurasia, massive plumes of ash from burning cities, forests, and people blot out the sun, driving temperatures as low as 10C below normal, killing many of the few Soviet survivors of the attacks. Effects are strongest in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey, and the Ukraine. Across much of the region, black rain (and in the mountains, snow) fall, the result of precipitation coalescing around fallout. The rain is also extremely radioactive in places. Much of the Black Sea, and thus the Eastern Mediterranean, is contaminated in this way.
Further east, China, which was spared almost all attacks, suffers from drought caused by the shift in weather and the radioactive rain, which contaminates much of the Tarim Basin. Only a handful of nuclear weapons fall on Chinese soil, almost all from rogue Soviet commands (and in one case, an off-course American bomber, which is subsequently shot down). By 1965, as the world recovers from the jolt in global climate, China is poised for a great leap northward, into the vast empty expanses of Siberia. The few radioactive areas are no big deal for a nation with over a billion people to spend on cleanup and settlement.
And in 1965, those one billion people represent a substantial total of the world’s population. From a pre-war total of just under three billion people, in 1965, best estimates put the global population at or near 2.5 billion. More than 500 million people are estimated to have been killed in the six days of full-scale nuclear war and the famines and refugee crisis that followed. From a pre-war population of 210 million people, by 1965, the population of the former Soviet Union could be best estimated at no more than two million people. This death rate of 99% can partially be attributed to refugee flight, but Chinese numbers are somewhat inaccurate due to the chaos caused by the crop failures and riots of 1963. In Europe, roughly 400 million of the pre-war population of 600 million was killed during the war. If we include the fact that 150 million of these deaths were Soviet citizens, we come to the conclusion that nearly a half of the non-Soviet population of Europe perished in the fighting.
Naturally, most of these casualties came in Germany and the countries of the former Warsaw Pact, but Italy, Britain, and France also suffered gruesomely, each losing over half their pre-war population. The remaining 50 million casualties were suffered primarily by North America, but famines triggered by the change in climate also contributed to the enormous total.
Ironically, North America, which suffered second only to Europe and the Soviet Union in nuclear detonations, was largely spared the famines of 1963. The martial law imposed by President Johnson ensured a rapid, US Army-backed distribution of food, and although rationing remained in effect until 1965, few people starved to death outright, one of the few positive outcomes of the Johnson Presidency, one of the darkest in the history of the United States.
Following the conclusion of hostilities, the United States and Canada were left with the end result – the Soviet Union and Europe destroyed, nearly 50 major cities in North America destroyed, communications and transportation disrupted, and millions of people killed. Alaska and Canada’s far north suffered the heaviest nuclear bombardment outside Eurasia, and only the barren nature of the terrain spared heavy civilian casualties. Military casualties, however, were extreme, due to the remote nature of many of the targets and Johnson’s (correct) preoccupation with establishing order in the continental United States. The end result was that Alaska and remote bases around the world were left largely to fend for themselves for several months, in many instances causing long-lasting animosity as American forces were forced to survive by scavenging in the local countryside, or to try their luck at purchasing food with devalued dollars. Even today, the sight of an American flag in Japan or South Korea is enough to provoke thrown eggs and shouting.
In the continental United States, martial law and the already-mobilized National Guard served to restore order in areas not having been attacked. In cities like New York, massive chaos reigned, and thousands are reported to have been shot to restore order, or as punishment for looting. In addition, one of Johnson’s first actions as President was to order the suspension of the 1962 elections, which were to take place only a few days following the beginning of all-out nuclear war.
Though Johnson’s harsh actions and governing from Mount Weather as a de facto one-man government proved to generate immense success in quieting much of the disorder generated by the Soviet attacks, they proved to generate long-term resentment that would backfire on the President down the road. One of the most thorny issues was Johnson’s institution of quarantine zones around attacked cities. Ostensibly to protect Americans from radiation and disease generated by the masses of unburied bodies, the quarantine zones would prove to be a running sore as Americans were prevented from returning home or recovering items from their homes. US Army units detailed to maintain the quarantines were increasingly drawn into fighting bandits that made the zones their home, protected by regulations that forbade the soldiers from pursuing into the zones.
Further controversy was generated in the American South by Johnson’s unilateral dictate abolishing segregation and discrimination on the grounds of race. Though a common-sense measure in the months following the attacks, Johnson’s dictate would become a point of controversy as the 1964 elections approached. As a first step to those elections, Johnson proclaimed St. Louis, Missouri, the new capital of the United States, and convened the 88th Congress of the United States on January 1, 1964. Composed of members of Congress who had survived the Soviet attacks, and leavened by members appointed by state Governors, it was soon bogged down in restrictions from the Johnson government, which refused to lift the act of martial law.
The martial law regulations, which resulted in the shooting deaths of an estimated 50,000 Americans in the period between the attacks and November 1964 were the biggest point of contention between Americans and the president. In addition, many Canadians were also calling for the removal of American troops from that country, now that order had been largely restored and a government reconstituted for that hard-hit nation.
Events came to a head in June 1964, when a bomb exploded near President Johnson’s convertible while he toured the ruins of Detroit. Using the bomb as leverage, Johnson announced that the situation was still unstable, he would not lift the martial law regulations, and that he was seriously considering postponing the 1964 elections. For an American public trying to get back to ‘normal,’ the declaration caused immense consternation. Spontaneous marches broke out across the country, eventually becoming organized and resulting in an immense 100,000-person demonstration in front of the Blue House, Johnson’s residence in St. Louis. Johnson, fearing for his life after the incident in Detroit, ordered that the demonstration be broken up. Soldiers, employed in a role for which they were never intended, fired into the crowd, killing eleven Americans.
The incident sparked a wave of protests and demonstrations even fiercer than before, demanding a return to ‘normalcy’ and the institution of normal government. By early 1965, the Normal Movement had grown to encompass the vast majority of people in the United States. Efforts by Johnson to curtail the movement, such as the dismissal of Congress, which had been a hotbed of Normal activity, only made things worse. On June 12, 1965, Johnson again ordered soldiers to break up a demonstration in St. Louis. This time, however, the soldiers refused, and it was Johnson who was on the point of the bayonet.
From his Leavenworth, Kansas prison, Johnson would see the United States hold its first elections since the attack on November 4, 1965, with a string of Normal candidates being voted into office in an instant majority. The Normal Party won the presidency, with Jim Donahue from small Alexandria, Indiana being voted in as a representative of how much the United States wanted to get back to the way things were. With so many cities destroyed, rural areas had immense power in the new Congress, and Donahue promised a sweeping wave of changes to restore the United States to the way it was in 1962. The quarantine zones were abolished, civil order was restored, and a badly hurt United States began to look forward again, instead of backwards.
By 1977, 15 years after the attacks, the Earth was finally looking forward again. China had established dominance over Asia and established itself as the world’s sole superpower. Negotiations with the United States resulted in the destruction of the last openly-held nuclear weapons, though rumors persisted of a secret joint Israeli-South African nuclear program. In the United States, rebuilding continued, though things weren’t quite Normal yet. Ronald Reagan becomes the first non-Normal president since the October War.
In Europe, the surviving nations have managed to get themselves on their feet with help from the Americas. Many facist-like governments have come to power in the years since, taking advantage of survivors’ fears and weaknesses. Millions of refugees still live in barbed-wire camps, in many cases victims of hard-line government terror. New countries have come into being – Scotland – while others like Switzerland and Sweden take on new importance in the continent. The city-state of Berlin manages to eke out a living amidst the sprouting ruins of Germany. Chemical and radioactive damage notwithstanding, most places are safe to live in now, and the dead zone is beginning to blossom with new orchards and farms.
Africa remains as it always was, concerned with its own troubles, though South Africa is a rising power, hampered only by its internal race-based turmoil. South America, across the Atlantic, is rising quickly, and Brazil has become the first new nation to visit space, launch communication satellites greatly in demand. The United States has nothing to spare for a space program, but Brazil and China certainly do, and the world watches to see if a new space race will result. That, however, is still a long ways off. The stars may be the future, but here on Earth, there is still much rebuilding to be done.
Drew Curtis' Fark.com
The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.
Very, very good. Still re-reading it but I caught this bit about the B-59.
We now know that those Foxtrots (3?) sortied under the command of officers handpicked by Krushchev and well before the missiles arrived in Cuba. We also know that the subs were nuclear armed and that their captains had authorization to use those weapons without first contacting Moscow.
Savitsky can order a nuclear torpedo readied on his own and wouldn't need to try and radio Moscow first.
Oh crap. Thats...really...really good. And quite depressing.
I congradulate you, youve managed to destroy western civilization, in style.
Do you think russia would really have a 99% casulty rate?
Holy...VERY Good Work Amerigo!
I am anti-"txt tlk".
I support Good grammar.
For your sanity and mine...
TYPE OUT YOUR DAMN WORDS!!!!
As to Captain Savitsky, you're absolutely correct. They wouldn't need to get Moscow's permission to arm a nuclear torpedo, but it would certainly be a good idea. One of my underlying assumptions in this whole scenario is that no one wants to start nuclear war -- it simply happens as the result of miscommunication, failed connections, accidents, and other circumstances that no one intends to happen -- but just does. In this case, Savitsky thinks they're under attack, but he's not sure. Like any good Soviet commander, he's going to ask for permission first -- it's a trip to prison or worse if he's wrong, after all. But when he can't get that permission, he'll be able to act on his own.
I could almost see a Crimson Tide-like scenario developing onboard the B-59 in the sixteen minutes between Savitsky's declaration and the torpedo launch. (I did create that time gap for a reason.) Escalation takes time (yet another assumption I made in this TL), and in this case, I can only imagine the scene aboard the submarine -- shouting, chaos, explosions from the hand grenades, futile efforts to make contact with anyone higher up. The torpedo is armed, but maybe there's some last-minute hesitation -- the order is given to stand down -- but there's a miscommunication and the torpedoman hears the order to launch over the static-laden loudspeaker. Game over.
Drew Curtis' Fark.com
The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.
Last edited by Amerigo Vespucci; June 12th, 2007 at 12:16 PM..
Great stuff, Amerigo. This is probably one of the best Cuban Missile Crisis AH TLs on the boards.
Brilliant. Simply brilliant.
One of the best things I have read in A/H. Not just on the board, one of the best pieces of short A/H fiction I have ever read.
One quibble: Why did Johnson turn into a dictator? Doesn't seem like the man we saw IOTL.
Eddie would go!
Rule # 32: Gotta enjoy the little things!
In detail, the end result of the war is massive chaos in the United States. Martial law is declared, and it simply becomes habit by and large for people in the country. In the first months -- hell, the first year -- after the war, martial law is welcomed as a means to maintain order after the fighting. Police forces are overwhelmed, the crazy weather is wreaking havoc on the northeast and northern Great Plains, and the military is simply needed to maintain order.
Isolated in Mount Weather, Johnson can't readily see when martial law turns from a boon into a burden. Removed from the general opinion of the public, and with no elections to serve as a weather vane of public opinion, he doesn't have to listen to the growing complaints, and what reports reach him he simply shrugs off as sour grapes. By late 1963, isolated in the mountain, he's fed information through reports, rather than seeing it for himself. That's not to say he doesn't venture out at all -- he does make a few trips around the country -- but circumstances (the fear of further Soviet attack) dictate that he remain in the bunker.
In 1964, he's willing to relax martial law a bit. After all, he's no dictator, and things seem to be getting better. Civilian government is partially restored in St. Louis, and things are on the upswing. The bombing attack against Johnson changes that. He views it as a symptom of a larger problem, not as an isolated incident. The protests that result from his actions in the wake of the bombing are seen as even more symptoms. Isolated from the root of the problem, Johnson can't react correctly to the circumstances. He only sees reports of disorder, and reacts as he did before. With force.
He's not a bad guy, but as he grows more distant, the decisions he makes turn out to be bad. And in the chaos immediately following the war, the move to martial law is a good one. It's simply held on too long. And even that doesn't have all bad effects -- desegregation, for one. In the post-war America, there's no room for racism -- it distracts from the rebuilding and wastes effort, so Johnson will enforce desegregation at the point of a bayonet, if necessary. And it will be, in downstate Mississippi and Alabama, war or no war. That's going to add to the long-term resentment of martial law, ironically helping to bring down Johnson's presidency.
Drew Curtis' Fark.com
The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.
Last edited by Amerigo Vespucci; June 12th, 2007 at 03:57 PM..
That was amazing. I definitely recommend you post it in the TLs and Scenarios forum.
Few quibbles about Britain: It's spelled Macmillan, not McMillan, and it's Fylingdales, not Flylingdales. Also, the bunker that the government retires to in case of nuclear war is BURLINGTON (as it was called in 1962), in Wiltshire, not Wales.
Don't know if Scotland escaping damage is plausible. I'd expect the Soviets to target Faslane at least - this is before the UK had SLBMs but Faslane is still one of the biggest Royal Navy bases and you mentioned they were targeting military bases. I don't think an independent Scotland is that plausible at this stage - although there might be a period of anarchy and areas of the UK fending for themselves after the attacks, the British national identity was strong enough and would be used by the government as a rallying point. Interesting to speculate what politics might be like after the war, whether the Labour Party would be tarred with the brush of being associated with the Soviets or whether the Conservatives would be condemned as warmongers.
Also your comments on Ireland are a bit strange. Belfast might be destroyed as it is a major shipbuilding centre, but the ROI was neutral and so Dublin wouldn't be attacked. One possible outcome of the war is that the ROI, which had not reconciled itself to the present situation in 1962, might try to acquire Northern Ireland - though even with the attacks in Britain the ROI would unable to do so military, the UK government might agree to it in exchange for aid etc.
Minor quibble 1: Given the limited number of Soviet ICBMs it seems unlikely Moscow would prefer to target the HQ of a missle base which may well have already fired the ICBMs, as opposed to Chicago or Los Angeles.
Minor quibble 2: The effectiveness of Soviet bombers. Outnumbered nearly three to one by just the American and Canadian fighters dedicated to anti-bomber activity AND wasting much of their time and capacity on remote radar installations does not lead to a high degree of effectiveness.
Minor quibble 3: Given the sheer number of Soviet fighters in the Soviet heartland, training units, and so forth the loss rate of US bombers also appears to be rather lower than likely.
Minor quibble 4: The obsolete Jupiter missle was slated for removal by the Eisenhower administration. While the Soviets attempted to save face by claiming a trade had been arranged, the fact is that the removal of the remaining Jupiter missles had nothing to do with Cuba.
By the time of the Cuban Missle Crisis only 9 remained in Turkey out of an original figure of 72. Something about being less than ten minutes flight time from Soviet Migs worried people. The Jupiters in three other nations had already been scrapped.
P.J. O'Rourke: We also elected some amateur politicians. However, politics is like vivisection—disturbing as a career, alarming as a hobby.
Another important thing to keep in mind are the immense spaces involved. This isn't the Battle of Britain, when thousands of bombers are spaced out over a few dozen miles -- we're talking millions of cubic miles of airspace here, and it can't be completely covered, particularly not with the damage to SAGE and attacks on radar sites.
I may end up scaling back the successful bomber attacks, however. I happen to agree with you -- in this case, my natural pessimism about overly-complex systems won out, but I may be swayed back by more evidence. If you can furnish some sources, it'd help.
The last Turkish missiles went online on May 5, 1962, bringing the total compliment of Jupiters in Europe to 45 deployed missiles. At any given time, a few might be down for service (in particular the Italian missiles, which had a distressing tendency to be struck by lightning). Command was eventually intended to be run on a half Turkish/Italian and half USAF system, but this was eliminated by the withdrawal of the missiles. The announcement of withdrawal was made on January 17, 1963, and the first missile was taken off of alert in April, 1963. By July, none remained in Europe. If you can give me some sources that contradict mine, please let me know. Thanks!
Drew Curtis' Fark.com
The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.
Drew Curtis' Fark.com
The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky.
I think France should get a bit more mentioning in your TL - they don't have an effective nuclear arsenal yet but they're still the biggest continental power in the firing line so I would assume that de Gaulle's opinion would play an important part in what's happening in Europe.
I'm going to ask Kit what he thinks about the political situation in Britain as it's not my area of expertise.
Feel free to ask any further questions on the UK...
I should have labeled my observations as a quibble because that's all it was. Honest.
The order had been rescinded but had the Foxtrots recieved that order yet? Cold War submarine operations are still shrouded in great secrecy, even ops from over 40 years ago. ForEx: there's a new book out claiming that USS Scorpion was deliberately sunk by the USSR and presents what is supposedly photographic evidence of that claim. (I've yet to read the book and cannot even begin to judge it's veracity however. Knee jerking here; I think the claims are nonsense.)
Another [quibble with regards to Savitsky contacting Moscow, he would have had to raise a radio mast from periscope depth. They had no VLF capabilities at the time. With two destroyers 'trying to establish contact' via the dropping of hand grenades, coming to periscope depth doesn't seem like a very good idea.
No one wants to be the one to shoot first, but Savitsky and the other Foxtrot captains were hand-picked for this mission and extensively briefed. They sailed with greater local control over nuclear weapons than any other Soviet officer every had prior to that time and greater control than any other Soviet officer would ever have again. We now know that Krushchev's actions in this regard were a big part of the post-Crisis political fallout he suffered and that fallout eventually helped lead to his removal from power.
With regards to bomber losses and the rest, as an engineer I too share your pessimism about huge complex systems. We can run models all we want but non one knows just can or will go wring until a 'smoke test' occurs. Fortunately for our world, no smoke test every happened.
P.S. This really needs to be posted in the Timeline forum.