Edifice: A History of the National Redoubt

Chapter 1

Edifice: A History of the National Redoubt​

By JessAH​

The concept of the national redoubt was formulated long before the advent of nuclear weapons, but it has only become relevant since the widespread proliferation and escalating use of weapons of mass destruction. To understand the national redoubt, one must also understand the Cold War, and the cultural and psychological impacts it had on the world.


This text is not focused on the Sino-Soviet split, but it would be foolish to ignore it. The causes of the dispute were manyfold and included both abstract concerns such as Khrushchev’s policy of de-Stalinization and concrete issues such as border disputes between China and the Soviet Union. In any case, the formerly cozy relations between the world’s two most significant communist powers were strained by the 1960s.

At the same time, China pursued a nuclear arsenal. This policy began in the late 50s, originally with Soviet consent, but became an independent program by 1960, when Khrushchev began seeking détente with the West. At this point, Mao felt a need to step out from the shadow of the Soviets and establish China’s independence.

Concerned about a new nuclear power entering the stage, the United States approached the Soviet Union, and requested assistance in strangling the Chinese bomb project in its crib. The US laid out a program of joint American-Soviet strikes on Chinese nuclear facilities, but the offer was rejected by Khrushchev, a decision which he would later describe as “the greatest mistake of [his] life”. On October 16, 1964, China ascended to the ranks of the nuclear powers with the detonation of a 22-kiloton implosion-type device.

At the same time as China acquired nuclear capabilities, Chinese revanchism was ascendant in Mao’s regime. Ever since the humiliations of the 19th and 20th Centuries, China had felt a need to reassert itself on the world stage and regain its past borders and glories. Once, China was the world’s greatest power, but with the rise of European colonialism, the state had found itself divided, humiliated, and left by the wayside. By 1964, Mao was drawing near to a renegotiation of the Sino-Soviet border, which would allow China to (re-)gain territories that were held by the Soviet Union.

One notable such territory, known today for its geopolitical significance, but of no inherent value, is Damansky Island (sometimes known as Zhenbao Island in Chinese). This tiny, uninhabited island was a piece of wetland with no major strategic or mineral value. Its name came from its most significant historical event, as of the early 1960s, which was the death of the railroad engineer Stanislav Damansky during the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

Both China and the Soviet Union asserted ownership of the island, and in 1964, the Soviet Union was close to giving it to China. The territory was not valuable to them, and it was an easy concession to give to placate the ever-aggressive and now nuclear-armed Mao. A draft treaty had been drawn up, but in July Mao made many hostile comments against the Soviet Union, saying that the Union had illegitimately claimed territories in the East. This diplomatic gaffe permanently sunk the treaty, and damaged relations even further.

The situation simmered at this level for several years. Khrushchev was ousted in October of 1964, and the period of relatively good Amero-Soviet relations ended with his rule. This change also marked the beginning of a period of power sharing between various leaders high in the Soviet power structure, especially Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin. Between 1964 and 1968, Brezhnev would increase his power over the Soviet government, the United States would see Lyndon B. Johnson re-elected after taking power with the death of Kennedy, and the Chinese nuclear arsenal would increase to dozens of warheads.

In 1968, the situation would change once again. In August of 1968, Czechoslovakia attempted to reform its communist system, and was brutally crushed by Brezhnev, a move that was criticized by Mao. Ironically, Mao had condemned the reforms that prompted the invasion, but took the opportunity to levy criticism at the Soviet Union when it presented itself.

Tensions were also brewing between Albania, a hardline communist state that was drawing closer to China, and Yugoslavia, a more reformist (but still authoritarian) government that was aligned with the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia was designed as a multi-ethnic republic and had a significant Albanian ethnic minority that was seen as oppressed by the Albanian government, and which were seen as a threat to stability by leaders of Yugoslav republics. Attempts to resolve this issue by expanding rights for Albanians living in Kosovo, a territory claimed by Serbia but with a large Albanian population, created fears for Serbians that they were being replaced. Finally, during the Khrushchev era, Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha objected strongly to the policy of de-Stalinization and maintained a Stalinist government in Albania. The invasion of Czechoslovakia was the last straw, and Albania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact entirely, preferring to associate with China. Romania would follow Albania into the Chinese sphere.

This provided China with a major opportunity, and on August 23, 1968, Zhou Enlai would speak at a meeting at the Romanian embassy in Beijing. Zhou Enlai was one of the three most powerful men in China, along with Marshal Lin Biao and Mao Zedong himself. Today, he is remembered as a warhawk and hardliner, but many historians have contested this view, and see him as a dedicated political pragmatist. His life would ultimately be defined by this speech. Zhou condemned the invasion of Czechoslovakia and compared the Soviet Union to Nazi Germany and the “imperialist West”. He called for the people of Czechoslovakia to resist the Soviets. This speech was not particularly notable, as many other similarly aggressive speeches were given over the years, and Mao never hesitated to saber-rattle when given an opportunity.

Unfortunately for the world, Zhou Enlai died almost immediately after giving this speech, while being driven back from the embassy. The circumstances of his death are the subject of intense speculation and accusation. China maintained that Zhou was killed as a part of an assassination, carried out by the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has always denied involvement. Modern historians are still divided on this issue, and it is likely that the world will never know for certain what really happened.

In any case, Zhou Enlai was dead, and apparently for the crime of speaking against the Soviet Union. The world watched with bated breath as the doomsday clock ticked inexorably towards midnight.

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Hello everyone! I've been a long time lurker and reader on AlternateHistory.com and this is my first attempt at a timeline. I wrote this story two years ago, and it is my first completed novel length project. The story is already finished and edited, and I plan on releasing one chapter each week.

I will warn that this timeline is a bit inconsistent in quality and now that I've matured as a writer and learned more about history, I feel like I made some errors in the story. I will be trying to correct these errors as I go along, but I'm sure some of them will sneak by me. Feedback is appreciated, especially on my writing!
Is this a butterfly? Because IOTL I wouldn't say that Yugoslavia was aligned with the USSR. They did their own thing.
I used overly strong language, here. It would be more accurate to say that Yugoslavia and Albania were compared by the USSR and China to try and prove the relative merits of their systems and received some support from each, but this language will make a bit more sense when future chapters come out.
Chapter 2

Richard Nixon assumed office in January 1969, and his presidential crisis began almost immediately. In March of that same year, Chinese troops attacked Soviet forces on Damansky Island, in a pre-planned ambush. This fight was short and bloody, beginning and ending on March 2nd, 1969. The Red War had begun.


Zhi Yong’s breath rose in the air before him as he crouched in the knee-deep snow. His Type-56 rifle was cold in his hands, even though the strips of cloth he had wrapped to protect them. He shivered slightly. He didn’t look, but he knew that the soldiers to his sides were shivering, too.

He could see the Soviets ahead of him. The PLA ambush was crouched beneath fir trees, the evergreens blending in with their olive-drab uniforms. Zhenbao Island- Damansky, to the Russians they watched- was a worthless spit of soil on a river in a godforsaken territory. Zhi knew that it was symbolic, that China needed to show its strength against the revisionists. Still, it might not be worth it.

The officer behind him muttered. “Hold your fire. We want them to get closer.”

Zhi nodded silently. It was always a good idea to show your loyalty, even in the PLA. He didn’t want to be left to the Red Guards. He watched the little figures move back and forth in the distance, inching closer to the ambush site. He couldn’t make them out in the thick trees, but he knew that other soldiers were waiting, their own guns ready. He didn’t know who would start the fighting. Without ranks, the commanders of each squad were equal, in theory, but some were no doubt in better favor or positions of more influence. All that, of course, was too lofty for Zhi, who considered himself too proletarian for officer business. Instead, he concerned himself with wishing for a cigarette, trying to keep anxiety away.

The shooting started just as the soldiers got within one hundred meters of Zhi’s position, and he didn’t wait for his commander’s order to begin firing.

“Cut down the Soviet dogs!” screamed the commander, who was barely audible over the roar of gunfire.

Zhi felt his rifle buck against his soldier as he pinched off short bursts of fire towards the Soviets. The border troops reacted sluggishly, and he watched them turn in confusion. He aimed and fired mechanically. They were like shadows dancing at the edge of his gunsight.

A few started to return fire. Their AK-47 rifles were practically identical to the Chinese Type 56es, and the sound made Zhi think of an echo. The Soviet fire was disorganized, but he still saw puffs of snow fly up into the air as bullets whizzed towards him. A loud thump and the smell of pine signaled a bullet hitting the tree behind him.

He fired without thinking, relying on his training. The Soviet border patrol, caught out in the open, finally broke. The remaining few soldiers turned to run. Now that the fighting was over, Zhi realized that the patrol had been small, only a couple dozen guards. In the distance, he heard more gunfire.

He took the opportunity to reload and waited for instructions. Initiative was not a trait rewarded in the People’s Liberation Army. He turned to the officer behind him, who still had his Type-54 in hand.

“Keep fighting! We have those sons of bitches on the run!” The officer was practically frothing at the mouth. To demonstrate his instructions to the men, he began firing his pistol into the now-empty killing field. Zhi fired as well, taking potshots at the fleeing soldiers, but none of the figures fell to the ground.

Now that he was done fighting, Zhi felt a little queasy. Maybe it was the adrenaline wearing off. Maybe it was the killing. He didn’t know if he’d hit anyone. Maybe he didn’t- twenty casualties, between thirty ambushers? The odds weren’t great, but they were plausible. He tried to push it down, and he started fishing in his jacket for a pack of cigarettes.

Over in the field, some of the wounded soldiers started groaning, screaming, wailing. Zhi was glad he didn’t know Russian, and he did his best not to imagine what the almost-dead soldiers might be speaking about. It was them or me, he told himself. Zhi finally retrieved a cigarette and raised it to his mouth.

“No smoking. This isn’t over yet.” The officer, again.

Zhi scowled and put his hands back on the gun. They were shaking, slightly. The officer was right, the smoke from a cigarette would give them away, but Zhi didn’t think that it would do much more to give them away than the pitched gunfight he’d just gotten out of. He leaned down in the snow, watching the clearing ahead. He tried not to look at the bodies.

As he waited, the smell of gunpowder drifted across the clearing, tinged with blood. He heard shouting in the distance- Russian. He tensed up behind his rifle. He saw a rustle in the trees, and then a blast rang out. One of the ambush sites emitted a puff of black smoke, and he saw motion in the trees. Zhi started firing again, but this time, the answer was swift and determined. He heard a bullet whiz over his head. He fired back where he saw the flashes.

“Bastards! I’m hit!” The officer screamed, and Zhi jerked towards the man, before focusing on the battle again. He couldn’t save the officer, but he could save himself. The attackers on the edge of the clearing were more determined than the ambushed border guards, and Zhi no longer had the advantage of surprise. Still, he was dug in, and already firing. He couldn’t see the enemy except for flashes, but he didn’t think they could see him any better.

As the pace of the battle slowed, and the Chinese forces began to retreat, wounded officer in tow, he started to think about the future. It looked like it would be a violent one. He never wanted to fight again. But even with how sickening the rifle felt in his hands, he was glad to have it.


This short battle would be followed by others, and the results would ultimately be inconclusive, but it was of little military significance. Soviet counterattacks gradually expanded the conflict, and Chinese units began to advance in earnest. The real battles were taking place elsewhere along the border.

Across the region, Chinese forces began to advance into the Khabarovsk oblast in Russia’s far east and on the edges of China’s Xinjiang Province, in the west. Mongolia, in the center, acted to limit the breadth of the advance. These movements were delayed, but not halted, by the major rivers that needed to be crossed, which hurt the Chinese offensive. On the other hand, these territories were very distant from the Soviet Union’s strongest concentrations of military power, which were primed for use against an invasion from NATO.

The Chinese forces also had numbers on their side, especially in the early days of the conflict. While the Soviet Army was likely larger overall, at around four million soldiers, the People’s Liberation Army had significantly greater forces in the region. As the aggressor, they were more prepared for conflict, and were able to move into the area faster. The Soviets overall had an advantage in military technology, but most of their advanced equipment was based in the west, while China was using its best equipped forces on the frontlines.

Despite all these advantages, the People’s Liberation Army made some serious errors. The Chinese invasion was, in general, poorly timed. Conditions were still below freezing when the invasion began, but occasional thaws began to stymie advances. The famous “rasputitsa” season began to take a toll on the PLA, but their grinding advance continued. To the west, where conditions were more arid, Chinese forces moved easier, advancing into the Kazakh steppes.

By May of 1969, Soviet defenses had hardened, and the invasion was slowing, but the Soviet high command was nervous. Brezhnev reached out to Nixon. Soviet military doctrine included the use of tactical nuclear weapons to deal with large numbers of enemies, and the infantry-heavy composition of the People’s Liberation Army meant that nuclear weapons would be especially effective. After the Cuban Missile crisis and other close calls, the Soviet commanders were reluctant to employ nuclear weapons in any capacity, at least not without talking to the Americans first. The Soviets were confident that the Chinese, who only possessed a handful of missiles with the range and payload to destroy cities in the core, western regions of the Union, could not launch an effective nuclear counterattack after a first strike by Soviet weapons. But the Americans might, especially if they mistook a Soviet strike on the Chinese for the beginnings of a global thermonuclear war.

The famous Brezhnev-Nixon call (which almost certainly was not an actual phone call), dramatized in the popular but ahistorical 1996 film Red Telephone, lasted for over two hours and took place between the two leaders alone. It is notable that Alexei Kosygin, who was at that point theoretically responsible for Soviet diplomacy, was not involved, and it is believed that this event was a major milestone in his sidelining as a force in the Soviet government. An agreement, secret even today, was reached. Most commentators believe that the US assented to a Soviet first-strike and counterattack, if the counterattack was proportional to a Chinese attack, but the details are unknown. It is possible that the agreement forbade the use of nuclear weapons, but it seems unlikely that this would have been agreed to without some additional concession from the Americans.

Nixon’s motives are unclear. Some speculate that the president was concerned about the possibility of a wider nuclear conflict if China was allowed to advance further. Nixon may also have, more cynically, seen the conflict as an opportunity to weaken both the Soviet Union and China at once, while keeping the United States safe and uninvolved. The ongoing Cultural Revolution in China, which had by this point claimed an estimated 1.2 million lives and showed no signs of stopping, may have also played a role in the decision.

At the same time, Mao rejected all attempts at communication from the Soviets and Americans. Brezhnev and Kosygin are believed to have reached an agreement, that Kosygin would negotiate with the Chinese and Brezhnev would negotiate with the Americans. Kosygin is known to have tried to call Mao, but telephone operators did not put him through (and in one incident were said to have demanded Kosygin’s surrender). When Mao heard of this, he commended them. Nixon also made several attempts to contact Mao, unsuccessfully. It is believed that the Chinese intelligence apparatus may have found evidence of an agreement between the US and USSR, although it is unlikely that Mao was aware of the exact content of the Nixon-Brezhnev Agreement.

In the throes of the Cultural Revolution, cooler heads would not prevail in China.

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Second chapter! The idea of the "Nixon-Brezhnev agreement" is kind of silly, in my opinion, but it can make sense from some perspectives. I think that it fits better in a modern, popular understanding of Mutually Assured Destruction than in the type of understanding of the Cold War, but I digress. I hope everybody enjoys this chapter.
Chapter 3

The initial Soviet strike was carried out exclusively against Chinese nuclear facilities, including reactors, enrichment facilities, and missile sites. The strike was coordinated and relied mostly on medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, along with a handful of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Poor logistics prevented plane-dropped nuclear bombs from being used. Soviet ballistic missile submarines were held in reserve, for a second strike. Not all the attacked locations were certain to be nuclear sites, but suspicions existed for each, and the Soviets would publish detailed reports to justify their actions in the years after.

The attack began on July 3rd, 1969. Large nuclear weapons were used to destroy suspected materials facilities in Baotou, Lanzhou, Jiuquan, Heping, Yibin, Guangyuan, Wuhai, and other cities across the country, ranging from uranium mines to assembly plants. In the process, these cities were heavily damaged, and millions of Chinese died in the days immediately following this first strike. Attacks on missiles and missile sites claimed fewer lives because these locations were more remotely situated, but vast stretches of natural and agricultural land were contaminated in these strikes. Estimates of the total casualty count in this initial attack range from around one million to the tens of millions and remain a subject of debate. Given the current situation in China, it is unlikely that the world will ever know.

This initial Soviet strike is believed, based on modern-day analysis, to have destroyed about 20 of China’s stockpile of 30-40 nuclear weapons, and most Chinese ballistic missiles. Less than five DF-2 (“East Wind 2”) nuclear-equipped missiles remained operable in sites in the northern and northwestern parts of China, and a similar number of Chinese-made Tu-16 bombers equipped with larger, thermonuclear bombs survived in underground or seemingly unimportant hangars. At least one nuclear production facility was missed, which contained nearly complete or just-completed nuclear weapons. The only known example of this was in Chongqing (which was operational but still under construction, and escaped notice). Finally, another two nuclear weapons survived due to being in transit, with one fission warhead being in the process of transport to a missile site in Xinjiang and another thermonuclear warhead being moved through Hebei to an unknown destination.

When the Soviet surprise attack hit, Mao was in Beijing with the rest of the Chinese government. He immediately relocated, along with an unknown group of generals, advisors, and staff, to the “Maobunker” somewhere in the region. Less than an hour later, he issued an order to launch a counterattack with all available nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union. He also ordered that all nuclear weapons in surviving production facilities be completed and moved to secure locations. Mao broadcasted a speech, and released official statements both domestically and abroad, condemning the Soviets for “unprovoked acts of imperialist aggression” and vowing “immediate revenge”. These speeches were neither filmed nor televised, and no accounts exist of the circumstances under which they were given, but they appear to be a product of Mao’s deep anger.

Fortunately for the people of the Soviet Union, and in particular the people of Moscow, China had no weapons capable of striking western Russia directly. Still, the large cities of Omsk, Novosibirsk, Tashkent, and Alma-Ata were all within striking distance. Vladivostok, Magadan, and Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East, were much smaller, but were important locations for the Soviet Navy’s Pacific Fleet, which had significant advantages over the People’s Liberation Army Navy. That same day, July 3rd, short range ballistic missiles were launched from locations across northern China, sometimes from sites that had just barely survived nuclear strikes themselves. 40 kiloton nuclear warheads detonated in the centers of Kamchatka, Omsk, and Novosibirsk, reducing the cities to ruins. Another missile, aimed at Magadan, went off course and detonated in the city’s major harbor, destroying nearly every ship there but not the city itself. At least one more nuclear missile was launched but, either due to flaws in design or damage from the day’s events, exploded almost immediately, showering the area in radioactive debris.

Meanwhile, strategic bombers, accompanied by fighters, began to take off from airbases in Northern China. Not all these bombers carried atomic bombs, as some were “distractions” carrying conventional payloads. In the Far East, a nuclear bomber dropped a 2.6 megaton warhead on Vladivostok, where it detonated at ground height, destroying the city and massively contaminating the area with fallout. Similar sorties were performed in Alma-Ata and Tashkent, although with “airburst” detonations, and another bomb was detonated at ground level in Krasnoyarsk, destroying the city and a significant portion of the trans-Siberian railroad and heavily contaminating both. Other bombing runs were carried out, but with non-nuclear payloads, either as a diversion from the main nuclear attacks or because the nuclear bombs carried did not detonate. One nuclear bomber’s wreckage was conclusively identified, with the weapon still aboard. With their missions completed, most of these strike forces would be shot down on the way back towards China.

There were two main objectives of these strikes. The first was the stated goal of revenge. Over a million Chinese citizens had been killed, and the retaliatory strikes killed two or three million Soviet citizens. The second was to cripple the logistics of the Soviet Military. By massively contaminating the Trans-Siberian Railroad with radiation and destroying major cities in the region, Mao predicted that the Soviets would be unable to support major military actions in the region. The strikes on ports in the Far East would cut off the Soviet Pacific Fleet from resupply and destroy dozens of ships in the process.

The Soviets wasted no time beginning their atomic counterattack. The Chinese strike had done negligible damage to the Soviet nuclear arsenal, which was much more modern and included ICBMs, allowing Brezhnev to choose targets in China at will, unrestricted by range. While only giving a “proportional response”, the Soviets could make seven nuclear strikes on targets of their choosing, one for each Chinese attack in the USSR. The Soviets chose carefully, but quickly. It is likely that a list had already been drawn up, before even the Soviet surprise attack, as the response was immediate. Soviet nuclear missiles leveled the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Nanjing, Harbin, and Chengdu. It appears that the Soviets chose to attack cities dispersed across the country, to frighten the Chinese public. Estimates of direct casualties vary wildly but range from 10 million to 30 million.

Many of China’s most important cultural and economic sites were wiped off the map. Beijing’s Forbidden City was utterly obliterated. The 4-megaton thermonuclear warhead crushed every building in the palace complex and set what remained on fire. The missile had landed somewhere in or very near to Tiananmen Square, and the blast had left a crater of more than a kilometer in diameter. Symbolically, the nuclear strike was yet another ground detonation, with a less powerful explosion, but significantly more radioactive fallout. The Soviets had salted the earth.

Each of Mao’s Ten Great Buildings was destroyed, with those nearest to the detonation being completely vaporized in the atomic fireball, and with those farther away being knocked down by the powerful blast wave that followed. Even the parts of the city outside the blast zone were lit ablaze by the searing light of the blast, which killed some lucky souls instantaneously. The survivors would be horribly burned and disfigured and left to wander the radioactive hellscape left by the detonation.

The scenes of Beijing were repeated in every city visited by the Cherenkov-blue and nitrogen-purple specter of atomic death, except for what transpired in the underground city beneath Beijing.


When Ming heard the siren’s alternating tones, she dropped her groceries and ran.

She was young- too young to remember the war- but she was old enough to know what to do, and she remembered her parents’ stories about bombings.

The rest of the marketplace was divided. Some began to panic blindly. Others did nothing at all. She saw a man simply lay down on the street, with no expression on his face. Most just ran.

It wasn’t far to the nearest entrance to the underground city. She’d heard about it from a friend, and knew that it was her best hope, especially if the Russians were going to bomb Beijing. Her mind was racing as she moved as fast as she could, pushing against the people around her. She was just one in a crowd of people with the same idea. She saw the wooden doors of the facility, and the crowd flowing in, thundering into the arched, winding corridors. She followed, swept along in the human river. The walls and ceiling were hospital-white, and she could smell recently poured concrete.

Then, the crowd stopped. Shouts broke out. She heard a man’s voice.

“Why aren’t we going deeper?”

Then, from deeper within the tunnel, a reply.

“There’s no space left!”

Still, people were trying to get in. A murmur ran through the crowd. Pushing and shoving began. Ming heard a baby crying, somewhere, and shouting from outside. Everybody was packed in, pushing and shoving to get into the tunnel. Over the shouting, Ming could hear the sirens.

Then, Ming heard a distant scream, and a roar. The whole world was shaking, and the ceiling began to crack. The fluorescent lights flickered. Ming started to fight through the crowd, trying to get back to the entrance. The tunnel was caving in, and all she could think about was a ton of bricks and concrete falling on her. A gust of hot air buffeted her face, and the crowd around her began to move, a churning mass of humanity. The lights went out, and she fought to stay afloat in a sea of arms and legs and faces.

She thought she was drowning in people, as she felt dust fall in her hair. She couldn’t smell anything but sweat and concrete and something burning. She used her arms, trying to climb up on top of the others, trying to make her way out. She didn’t notice it, but she was screaming.

The sea parted, she was free of the crowd, and she looked up. She had made it to the entrance. The sky was black and licked by tongues of gold and red. Fire was all around, unbearably hot, and roaring at her. The streets were aflame, and the heat grew with every second. She edged back, as the heat grew. Ming screamed more, but her voice was drowned out by the roaring flames.


Although the facility was designed to survive nuclear attacks, the thermonuclear blast was still powerful enough to collapse many of the uncompleted structure’s tunnels. Because these tunnels were not yet fully constructed, they were structurally unsound, and even then, the facility was not designed to survive such an enormous explosion. The situation was worsened by tens of thousands of people, who fled into the underground city when air raid sirens went off, leading to deaths by trampling, crushing, and asphyxiation. Most of those that made it underground would be killed by smoke inhalation, heat, or tunnel collapses.

Excavations in the area continue to uncover tunnels and rooms, sealed off from the outside world by tunnel collapses or due to entrances being buried by rubble. The people in these rooms slowly perished from suffocation, radiation poisoning, or thirst. In some other cases, survivors of the initial explosion sought shelter from firestorms underground and were killed from additional structural failures brought on by the intense heat and force of collapsing buildings, even after the explosion. It is impossible to estimate how many died in those shelters, but less than one thousand survivors were recorded.

July 3rd, 1969 would go down in infamy as the second use of nuclear weapons in war, and the first use of thermonuclear weapons. It was the deadliest day in human history, and no tragedy can compare.
Chapter 4

At this point, it is time to discuss the first generation of bunkers and national redoubts, from before the Sino-Soviet war. The most expansive set of these was in Switzerland, where defensive projects had been initiated in the late 19th Century, as a part of the new Swiss policy of neutrality. These bunker systems had seen their greatest expansion up to this point during World War II, where the Swiss planned to fight a war on all sides against the surrounding Axis powers.

The Swiss Alps were extensively tunneled and built upon, producing networks of gun emplacements and infantry fighting positions, as well as concealed supply depots, field hospitals, and barracks. By the late 1960s, many of these fortifications had been somewhat stagnant, as Switzerland no longer feared invasion, but the militarization and bunkerization of Swiss society continued, and even accelerated, in this time. The original mountain holdouts were intended for infantry units to use, and in 1963 this policy would be expanded to the general population, with a requirement that all newly constructed residences must include a bomb shelter, with protection against nuclear fallout. By 1969, this system was just beginning to take shape, but it was unequaled anywhere in the world. Most of these domestic bunkers were rudimentary but complete, with blast doors, air filtration systems, and emergency supplies.

The Swiss government also began to construct public fallout shelters of varying sizes. Large government buildings and public areas were equipped with bunkers, and plans were drawn up to convert major pieces of infrastructure into shelters. Similar programs also started in Sweden and Norway in the 1960s, but these paled in comparison to the Swiss system, which set the world standard.

Albania had a similarly broad system of bunkers, although its general bunkerization only began in 1967, four years after the Swiss program. In contrast to the Swiss objective of protecting the general population from invasion or nuclear war, the Albanian bunker network was designed to help mobilize the population and defend territory. This was driven by Hoxha’s paranoia, especially about the neighboring Yugoslavia, and the bunkers were designed to be mostly manned by militia members and other irregulars.

The most common types of Albanian bunker at this time, the QZ (“firing position”) series bunkers, were something like large, reinforced concrete igloos, with a slot in the side to fire out of. Their dome shape was designed to deflect artillery shells, bombs, and gunfire. These bunkers were prefabricated and shipped out to their installation locations, where they would be partly buried. These were accompanied by the larger, also dome shaped, PZ (“firing point”) bunkers, which were assembled on-site from prefabricated segments. These bunkers were staffed by regular military and acted as command positions. These field bunkers had no air filtration or provision against airborne weapons, but they were truly durable. Hoxha’s government also worked on more secretive projects, producing the more familiar underground tunnel fortifications. Because of the extreme secrecy of Hoxha’s government (including rotating out engineers and workers and the later destruction or loss of nearly all records) it is impossible to determine how many of these bunkers were constructed by the year 1969.


Esad’s head ached. The air in the mineshaft was warm and stale, and he could feel the pressure in his ears and face. The rough rock walls and ceiling were not too close, and he could walk upright without trouble. The lighting was dim, but present, and the incandescent lamps colored the walls with a golden glow as they reflected off droplets of water.

His job was to push loads of rock, blasted and carved from the walls of the tunnel, along long rails to the surface. Esad didn’t mind the work, but he hated going in and out of the mountain. When he pushed the cart to the surface, he got a few minutes of glorious sunlight, until he was given a fresh cart and herded back inside.

He strained against the minecart, pushing the heavy bin of rocks on rusted tracks. His whole body was sore everywhere, and his joints ached from the moment he woke up to the moment he fell asleep. But he could still move, and he didn’t need to be coordinated to push a cart. He just needed to keep moving, until they let him go home.

He knew that it could be dangerous, so he never asked a soul, but Esad wondered what the mountain was being dug out for. They had taken him in the back of a sealed truck, with no windows. The other laborers had been confused, but nobody had spoken. They had all heard that some people were taken away for work assignments. Most people came home after a month or two. Some never reappeared. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together, and to see that a temporary assignment might become all too permanent if they asked too many questions.

The actual mineshaft was rammed right into the side of the mountain, sloping only slightly down. And Esad couldn’t figure out what they were mining. He carried rock out, but he never saw any ore or coal or anything special. After months of work, he started to wonder if the mine was its own purpose, digging just to have an underground space to work with. Or to punish those sent there.

He reached the surface, blinking in the sunlight. A guard carrying a rifle gestured to him to let go of his first cart, and to grab another, and he obeyed. No words were spoken, and none were needed.

Esad meandered slightly on the way back down, savoring the fresh air even as the light caused his eyes to ache. But he didn’t wait too long. He knew that the guard might shoot him, or never let him go home. He kept moving.

Going down the slight slope while pushing a cart was, in some ways, a slower and more difficult process than pushing a full one uphill. If he got distracted or slipped, the cart could roll away from him. The guards wouldn’t care, but one of the other workers might get hurt.

Esad wasn’t the only person pushing carts, either. He passed an old, impossibly thin man, pushing a cart up to the surface. He averted his eyes. That might be his future, forced to push rocks back and forth, forever.

The working day was long, but he had some understanding of time’s progression from going to the surface across the day. When the guards called everyone to the surface, some of the workers seemed dazed. They were probably the miners, who would spend countless hours swinging picks under the watchful eyes of the guards. Now, the workers were being counted, and their tools were being catalogued. Esad had been present, when a worker had killed himself in some side tunnel, and the entire camp had been searched top to bottom even after his corpse turned up.

After count, they went to dinner, filing into a long wooden shelter. Esad shuffled through the line, and was handed a bowl full of truly abominable, flavorless gruel. Still, Esad ate greedily, and he was provided with plenty. The temporary laborers ate first, and the true prisoners were held separately. They were given less. The two groups ate at long tables, under the watchful eye of the Sigurimi. Then, after eating, the bowls were counted, and they were sent to their bunks. Another shabby wooden building, piles of hay on wood frames. Esad had once heard from a prisoner, out of earshot of the guards, who had told him that this wooden building had been built by the prisoners, who were moved from mine to mine. Esad had listened but said nothing. It was always safer to say nothing.

He fell asleep as soon as he laid down. The next morning, he was awoken by the sound of a guard shouting, and he shook himself upright. The workers were herded towards a latrine pit, and then to morning count, then breakfast. Even shivering in the morning, he tried to savor the sunlight and the morning air, and the smell of the woods.

After breakfast, nearly identical to dinner the night before, the workers were sent back into the mine. Esad had been there for almost two months, and he expected to be sent home before too long. This had happened to other people from his town, and they’d always come back before the two-month mark if they came back at all. And like them, he knew that he wouldn’t tell a soul about what he’d seen.

Days of back-breaking labor passed slowly but quickly. Esad took it one day at a time, focusing only on what he was doing, and ignoring what he had done. Each day, in the morning count, some names were called, and those workers were led away. No explanation was provided, but Esad had paid close attention. Prisoners were never called. The laborers that were brought in after Esad had not been called.

One morning, he was one of the laborers called away. He was loaded onto a truck, and a guard walked up, rattling off lines that he had clearly said dozens, if not hundreds, of times before.

“Your service to the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania is appreciated. Your time will be fittingly compensated. The work you have done is vital to the security of the Albanian people and should be kept in the tightest secrecy.”

The soldier raised a fist to his chest in salute, and then closed the back of the truck. The ride back was long and bumpy, but unlike on the way out, the laborers started talking. There were no guards in the back of the truck, but Esad still felt like it was risky, so he kept quiet.

One young man, who Esad remembered being another cart-hauler, started speaking. His words echoed in the dimly lit truck, ventilated only by small holes high in the walls.

“I’ve worked in mines before, and I don’t think that we were hauling any real ore.”

An old man, sitting across from him, nodded. “I agree. All that was worthless rock, just tailings that any mine would throw away. If there is any mineral vein down there, that mine is a long way from reaching it. I think that they were having us dig a bunker, probably for the military. They are always building bunkers.”

Esad decided to speak up. “I am sure it will help keep us safe.” Saying how loyal you were was usually a good move, and he got a round of increasingly enthusiastic agreements from around the truck.

The young man nodded. “Comrade Hoxha does put a lot of focus on security!”

The conversation died down after that, and they rode most of the way in silence. Esad drifted in and out of consciousness, before sleeping heavier than he ever had before coming to that godforsaken mine.


The main NATO and Warsaw Pact nations had large command-and-control bunkers for their government and military leaders. These bunkers were individually quite large but could hold only very small numbers of people overall. Records on these projects are spotty and unclear, and many of the bunker projects that are about to be mentioned may or may not be fabrications, rumors, or exaggerations of real projects, except where noted.

In the United States:

“Project Greek Island”/ “The White House Bunker”/ Federal Relocation Arc: It is almost certain that the US federal government operated a bunker (or several bunkers) somewhere in the region around Washington D.C., to ensure the survival of congress, the president, the Supreme Court, and other key figures. The location of this bunker is, however, still unknown. Leaked documents do show that at least one such bunker existed in 1969, and more dubious sources call the system “Project Greek Island”, but this name has never been confirmed. It is probable that the original bunkers still exist but have been integrated into later projects or decommissioned.

NYSE Nuclear Defense Facility: Very persistent rumors have existed, since around the 1960s, that the New York Stock Exchange operates a nuclear bunker (or series of nuclear bunkers) in New York City, to shelter financial records as well as wealthy individuals from a global thermonuclear war. These rumors have no substantiation from that time period, but bunkers with similar purposes were later confirmed to be real.

Cheyenne Mountain Complex: Cheyenne Mountain complex was one of the earliest acknowledged nuclear bunkers of the US government, hosting US Air Force and missile command operations. In 1969, the bunker consisted of a large facility inside of a reinforced cavern, deep within the mountain. This facility was designed with a special shock-isolation system to protect from nearby nuclear strikes and was equipped with multiple heavy blast doors and a “blast redirection tunnel”. The facility has evolved and grown significantly over the years since 1969, but it was still a very large facility then.

Site R: This bunker, like Cheyenne mountain, hosted military facilities in 1969, although information on them is far more limited. It is known that nuclear command-and-control systems were based out of the site, and that it was built deep underground in the 1950s. Like Cheyenne mountain, the facility would be expanded significantly in the years after 1969.

High Point Special Facility: It is unclear if this bunker existed in the year 1969, but it is known to have existed later. If it did exist in the 1960s, its mission was likely the same as it was later; to secure high-value equipment and important non-governmental personnel in the event of a nuclear attack.

Area 51 Secure Facility: Rumors have circulated since the 1950s about ‘Area 51’, a US government site near Groom Lake, Nevada. The area’s features and government installations are very secret, and so rumors are the main source of information. Aside from persistent stories of aliens, some believe that the US government has a secret facility deep underground in this area.

Bilderberg Bunker: It is rumored that the Bilderberg Group (along with most other groups of powerful people) has a secret bunker somewhere in the United States. This has never been confirmed, but the rumor has existed since the 1960s. It is known today that most billionaires and millionaires do have private bunker complexes, which merits this hypothesis’s inclusion on this list.

In the Soviet Union:

The Moscow Metro: The Moscow Metro was originally built with a secondary role as a bomb and fallout shelter for the public during World War II, with many stations deep underground and possessing blast doors. These bunkers were originally built under Stalin, who was worried about both conventional and nuclear attacks, and the system was expanded as the metro grew over time. This system is still in operation today.

Metro-2: It is generally believed by the US intelligence community and private researchers that a subsection of the Moscow Metro is dedicated to sheltering government officials, possibly including a secret, deeper metro line that connects different nuclear bunkers in the Moscow region. A few sites that were rumored to be connected to the Metro-2 have been confirmed to exist, but the system itself remains an unconfirmed rumor. Claims range from whole cities underground to handfuls of bunkers and a single rail line, which seems more plausible for the 1960s. It is believed that the Soviet government sheltered here during the Red War.

Underground Closed Cities: A persistent rumor, beginning in the 1940s in conspiratorial circles but reaching the mainstream in the 1970s, that the Soviet Union constructed large, underground closed cities in the Urals, to protect strategic personnel from spies and nuclear attack. No facilities of this type are known to have existed in the 1960s. This is another rumored Soviet government site during the Red War.

In China:

Beijing Underground City: The construction of a massive nuclear bunker and fallout shelter under Beijing was ordered by Mao at some point during the 1960s, but the date of completion for this bunker remains unclear. When completed, the bunker could hold more than a million people and included many amenities, as well as significant space for food storage.

Hubei Defense Complex: It is known that a large bunker was built, starting in the 1960s, in the Hubei region in central China. This bunker was constructed for military purposes, most likely including sheltering the leaders of the Chinese military in the event of a nuclear war. The exact details are unclear, but it is known that this facility was not completed in the year 1969.

“Maobunker”/CPC Bunker: Mao made use of a bunker somewhere near Beijing during the Red War. The exact location of this bunker is unknown, but based on Mao’s movements, it can be inferred that it was somewhere in the Hebei, Shandong, or Henan area, or possibly in Beijing itself. It is believed, but not confirmed, that other major figures in the Communist Party of China, including Lin Biao, sheltered there as well.

In addition to these major bunkers, most countries possessed small bunkers for the use of leaders in case of emergency by 1969. Many private citizens would also construct bunkers, especially after the 1961 release of Fallout Protection in the United States and the 1964 release of Civil Defence Information Bulletin in the United Kingdom. During the Red War itself, many people created hap-hazard, improvised shelters. Newspaper images showed collapsed shelters, which claimed the lives of 13 people in 1969. Around this time, companies cropped up around the world, offering their services in constructing bunkers. Some of these companies were highly reputable, and a few wealthy people constructed shelters rivaling those of world governments, but other companies sold snake oil and produced poorly made structures. Many fallout shelters would be destroyed without ever seeing use, by corrosion and weathering.

In 1969, a bunker for four people cost more than the median American’s salary, but many families splurged on bunkers or built their own, with an estimated 500,000 bunkers being constructed in the year 1969 in the United States. Other countries got in on the craze as well, with European countries other than Switzerland and Albania building around 500,000 bunkers in total, and Switzerland constructing around 300,000 bunkers that year. In total, these bunkers could theoretically provide shelter for a population of 5.2 million people, assuming they held an average of four people each, but this was still far too few to protect the public in the event of a nuclear attack. The seeds of the modern national redoubt were just then being sown.
Chapter 5

After the atomic bombings, neither China nor the Soviet Union were in a fit state to keep fighting, and a peace deal was reached. China would cede several relatively unimportant, outlying regions to the Soviet Union. Xinjiang, Heilongjiang, and parts of Jilin and Inner Mongolia were transferred as a part of this deal. In addition, Tibet was to be released as an “independent” (i.e., Soviet-controlled) state, and most of the remaining portion of Inner Mongolia was to be given to Mongolia. In exchange, the Soviets would provide support to reconstruction efforts in China, which was demanded by Mao and accepted by the Soviets to keep tabs on the Chinese military. This deal was uncharacteristically compromising of Mao, but many historians believe that his generals, cut off from supplies, were threatening to revolt. In any case, this loss was followed by an intense round of purges.

Xinjiang would become the “East Turkestan SSR” within the Soviet Union, forming a 16th republic. The regions in the East were integrated into the Russian SSR as ethnic republics, specifically the “Manchu Republic” and “Chinese Republic” (it should be noted that the so-called Manchu Republic was mostly Han Chinese). The status of Tibet did not change much, except for gaining some more nominal autonomy, and the prospect of future integration into the Soviet Union.

The Red War, however, wasn’t over. While the Soviet Union and China were the two main combatants, the conflict had other theaters. In the Balkans, conflict had been brewing between Albania and Yugoslavia, both countries with only loose connections to the USSR and China but significant ethnic and political tensions between them. When the Soviet Union and China went to war, Yugoslavia took the opportunity to declare war on Albania without Soviet interference.

The Kosovo region of Yugoslavia was one major source of this conflict. Once dominated by Serbs, the population was increasingly made up of ethnic Albanians. Albania, however, was an independent nation, apart from Yugoslavia, which presented serious challenges to the governance of the multi-ethnic republic. In addition, after the death of Stalin, Hoxha’s adherence to hardline, Stalinist-Maoist communism created an ideological tension. Yugoslavia reformed and became less repressive, Albania did not. Many non-Albanians living in Yugoslavia were afraid of an invasion or uprising, and as long as Albania existed both within and without Yugoslavia, that tension would exist. Tito saw an excellent opportunity- he could destroy a troublesome neighbor and help mend ethnic tensions in his own nation.

On paper, Yugoslavia was a massive military overmatch for Albania. The Yugoslav army was larger and better trained. Yugoslavia was economically stronger than Albania, which was heavily reliant on resource extraction for its economy. Albania was a relatively isolated state, with only China as a friend, whereas Yugoslavia enjoyed cordial- but not friendly- relations with the countries around it.

When Tito declared war, however, he found Albania to be a tougher opponent than he had expected. The country had several surprises to offer. The first was that while Albania’s formal army was smaller, Albania was a highly militarized society, with a large militia and a “people’s war” doctrine that shined on the defense. Hoxha’s bunkers were also surprisingly effective at countering Yugoslav offenses, and a single, cheap QZ igloo, manned by a militia fighter could block the advance of a whole squad of professional soldiers for as long as it had ammunition, which Hoxha had stockpiled massive quantities of in his paranoia. Logistical problems plagued the PZ-QZ bunker system, but Albanian forces were still able to put up a serious fight.


The sun didn’t do the battlefield any favors. The muddy plains were pockmarked with artillery craters, churned to mud by boots and vehicles. Milosh watched a crow peck at the body of some soldier in the field ahead. Probably a Yugo. The smell of pine filled the air from some shattered trees, which he preferred to the taste of smoke.

If he concentrated and tuned out the world, he could remember what Kukës had been before the war. He could bring back the green fields and distant trees. From his bunker, he had a good view of a shattered farmhouse. If he tried, he could bring that back, too, even the farmers. But it was all gone now.

Milosh heard the distant thump of an artillery shell, and he leaned lower under the concrete dome. If a shell landed just outside, it would probably kill him. Otherwise, he would be fine. He remembered when the domes had first arrived. It felt like a lifetime ago. Domes kept springing up like acne on a teen’s face, or blisters on a burn. When he was a teenager, just a few years ago, he had complained about it to his friends, in private. But Milosh was thankful now.

He saw movement in the distance and raised his rifle. The AK-47 in his hands had a long history, first gifted to China by the Soviets, then gifted to Albania by the Chinese. When he saw the soldiers moving down the valley as a grouping of olive-drab specks, he didn’t fire immediately. Milosh hadn’t seen new supplies in more than a week, and he didn’t know when he would get more ammunition. As he waited, he idly thought. Maybe he’d pull it off and kill the soldiers he was watching. Maybe they’d shoot him dead. He hoped they wouldn’t.

The olive figures approached and began to resolve. Milosh squeezed off three rounds. He watched the men scatter, throwing themselves into craters, behind tree stumps, or into the ruins of the bombed-out farmhouse. A few returned fire but without even getting close enough to bounce off the dome-shaped bunker. Milosh still crouched, covering most of his body behind the concrete structure.

He hadn’t seen any living person but the enemy in days. Even then, all he usually saw was their influence, levelling trees and blasting the land. Every time he saw another person, it meant that death was close. The enemy fire was drawing closer to his position, and he heard a round ricochet off the top of his firing port. Milosh slid to the ground underneath the window.

Maybe he was going to die, he thought, as he popped up to return fire. The little concrete domes were supposed to deflect artillery shells, but sometimes it felt like even normal gunfire might go right through. Milosh was scared, and whenever he ducked down from his firing position, his hands shook. He wanted to cry. He wished he was back home, with his mother, far away from all of this.

But Kukës was his home, and his family had gone. So, he kept fighting.


The Albanians were also more unified than the Yugoslav forces. While Albania was hardly a harmonious society, and Hoxha was hardly a widely beloved leader, the Albanians were fighting to defend their homeland and against a traditional enemy. To contrast, the Yugoslav forces were disorganized and split into different ethnicities, none of which were very trusting of one another. Aside from the Serbs, many did not have strong feelings about Kosovo, and many others were distrustful of Serbs, who made up a plurality of the population. This distrust sometimes caused disobedience when orders were issued from one ethnicity to another, and lowered morale.

Both countries possessed chemical weapons but were reluctant to use them. As the aggressor, Yugoslavia felt the need to shape the narrative and avoid being seen as villainous or threatening to its other neighbors. Albania, on the other hand, had a much smaller stockpile of chemical weapons than Yugoslavia, and less protective equipment for its irregular forces, and so decided not to use chemical weapons in the early phases of the war, to prevent a response in kind.

On July 3rd, the Yugoslav-Albanian conflict took a turn, as China and the USSR made peace with one another. In the past, Yugoslavia and Albania had been representatives of the Khruschevite and Maoist systems, respectively, and now Mao came to aid Albania, mostly in a bid to get some vague revenge on the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia was not officially aligned with the USSR, but it was economically and politically affiliated, and an Albanian victory would bring Hoxha closer to China, which, aside from North Korea, had no significant allies. Because of this, large numbers of volunteers, weapons, and instructors were sent from China to Albania, traveling halfway across the world and through the Suez Canal. The Soviets, on the other hand, did not see much point in supporting the Yugoslavs, especially when they had newly captured territories to consolidate, and cities to rebuild.

China’s usual doctrine was comparable to Albania’s which made integrating the two forces easy. Unlike in the main conflict of the Red War, China was acting as a defender, which played to the PLA’s doctrinal strengths. Mao was desperate to claim victory somewhere, as the humiliated loser of a conflict he had started, and so he funneled enormous amounts of military resources into Albania, even to the detriment of stability at home. Several biographies of Mao have used this as early evidence of his future mental instability, and this book has no judgement to make on that subject, but Albania was nonetheless the recipient of truly massive support. While Hoxha and Mao era records are both spotty, it is believed that up to 50,000 soldiers and 300,000 pieces of materiel were sent to Albania by China, in comparison to a Yugoslav force of less than 150,000 soldiers.

In the meantime, Tito was very concerned about a possible Albanian uprising in Kosovo, and so he tasked the State Security Administration with intensive surveillance of Albanians in Kosovo and Macedonia, and instituted security measures such as curfews.

Albania was able to turn the tide, and by September 1969 was beginning to make grinding advances into Yugoslavia. Ironically, the repressions of the Tito administration likely encouraged a wide revolt, which broke out in Kosovo. In these riots, many ordinary Serbs living in Kosovo were forced out of their homes and businesses, harassed, or even killed by Albanian mobs, which would greet Hoxha’s incoming forces with open arms. Before the war, support for Hoxha in this community had been middling at most, but the conflict polarized Yugoslav society significantly. Smaller revolts in Macedonia helped Albanian forces capture territories there, as well.

In December of 1969, a truce was signed between Hoxha and Tito. Mao had his victory. Yugoslavia was forced to cede Kosovo and Albanian-majority border regions. Albania, already a major producer of metals like nickel, chromium, and iron, would gain significant deposits of copper, aluminum, zinc, lead, and gold, boosting its economy. This ended the Red War, after a mere nine months. Like most wars, it was a senseless waste of human lives.

- - - - -

I think that this chapter has some issues. Now that I've read a bit more, I think that it's unlikely that Mao would sign a peace treaty like this. It's also uncharacteristic for the Soviet Union to take territorial concessions, but maybe it could be explained as a "nuclear buffer zone". I think that this part is about the most implausible of any part of this story, but oh well!
Mao saw his capital and several megacities destroyed, he knew that the survival of China and the Chinese Communist Party hung by a thread. One more “unequal treaty” in the face of total annihilation, he chose....

Can he ask the Taiwan KMT for help in reconstruction?
So the red war had seen in a day almost as much death than WW1, if this don't will cause social ripple i don't know what will be plus Europe had seen the first war of conquest in 25 years breacking a big diplomatic taboo and again this will surely cause ripple as by now all the possible territorial dispute can be theoretically reopen.
The Vietnam war will have pretty much strong repercussion, as not only had gone from headline news and main cause celebre to little periferical scrape between unimportant people, but North Vietnam main supporters will need to scale down their support to Hanoi due to the rebuilding need; same for Egypt as i doubt that the URSS will have enough material to prop up them as OTL so the Yom Kippur war can be delayed.
The various european communist party will feel in a very akward position, due to the Red War following the invasion of cekoslovackia, meaning a probable earlier rise of eurocommunism.
ABM system projects will get a lot of funds and talk about nuclear weapon limits will get new life
Mao saw his capital and several megacities destroyed, he knew that the survival of China and the Chinese Communist Party hung by a thread. One more “unequal treaty” in the face of total annihilation, he chose....

Can he ask the Taiwan KMT for help in reconstruction?
He probably could! Taiwan will come up in a while...
With the demonstration in Albania, in addition to the Maginot line, certain bunkers of which were still used at this date as command posts and radar stations, I point out this line of light fortifications in the Netherlands built in the early 1950s and which was demolished in 1968. I think The Hague is going to modernize it here :)

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Chapter 6

In the United States, the Red War was not apocalyptic, like in China, or even destructive, like in the Soviet Union. The nuclear detonations of July 3rd did not kill any Americans, but it did shock the public. Many Americans were worried of escalation to a global thermonuclear war, and the event cast a significant pall over the July 4th celebrations a day later. Companies selling nuclear defense products and bomb shelters got significant boosts in sales in July 1969, and the idea of a “public nuclear defense infrastructure” began to circulate in the media. Several think tanks began to investigate the concept, but no politicians seriously advanced the idea. Racial unrest continued to simmer, as America was forced to confront the legacy of segregation, and the nuclear war did nothing to help.

The Apollo 11 mission was launched with a slight delay due to a need to inspect the rocket for radioactive contamination. While minimal nuclear fallout had been detected, NASA was concerned about the PR impact of astronauts catching radiation poisoning or radioactive contamination in the stratosphere damaging the mission. What was even more important, however, was to give the American public the sense that they were safe from fallout. Inspecting the Apollo 11 mission and declaring it clean helped reassure the general population, despite the blood red sunsets and grim news reports from overseas.

The reconstruction process in China began in August, although it started weakly. Mao announced a campaign against “fifth columnists”, “corruption”, and “counterrevolutionary activity”. Unlike past campaigns, nearly every person arrested or persecuted was sentenced to hard labor, with local administrations being ordered to use political prisoners to help clean up the aftermath of nuclear attacks. The Soviet authorities transferred many existing prisoners from their newly held territories in the north, at the request of Mao. The Soviets were glad to be rid of them, and Mao immediately put them to work on cleanup projects across the country.

The reconstruction of each destroyed city was a messy and dangerous process. Many of the attacks were ground-level detonations, especially in the city-destroying second wave. This meant that nearly everything in the area was contaminated, with the soil and water left highly radioactive. Radioactive particles were carried up on the wind and then fell to the ground as “black rain”, which added them to the water cycle. The atomic bombing of Chengdu, which was near to a tributary of the Yangtze River, and of Wuhan and Nanjing, which were downstream, caused the worst contamination of all. The massive river, which snakes its way from Tibet to the east coast of China, carried radioactive particulate into ecosystems across the country, and into the municipal water supplies of dozens of major cities. Mass die-offs of fish and other wildlife were noted, and many hungry people would contaminate themselves by eating the poisoned animals.

For the purposes of cleanup, each affected area was divided into “zones”, with “red”, “orange”, “yellow”, and “green” zones. This classification was intended to determine the order of cleanup and what measures should be taken in each. In the yellow and green zones, medical care was provided to survivors and cleanup mostly involved searching for debris thrown by the blast and other hotspots, which was done more thoroughly in the yellow zone. In the orange zone, medical treatment was provided after inspection for contamination and buildings were only declared “clean” after being hosed down and inspected. The red zones were cordoned off, and travel would be forbidden between the red zone and the other zones. No medical care would be provided inside the red zones. In the red and orange zones, prison work crews would be sent in to turn over soil and clear rubble. At least in theory.

In practice, the red zone was only established in a handful of cases, with most cities ending up with major leaks through the cordon, and a new cordon being established around the orange zone, where conditions quickly deteriorated. In Beijing and other cities, guards had to open fire on civilians attempting to leave the quarantine zones, and by the time that the cordons were established many contaminated and sick people had fled to the countryside, where most would die of radiation poisoning or exposure. Severely burned survivors- including the legendary “ant-walking alligators”, the most wretched victims of an atomic bombing, with destroyed limbs and burned flesh- were occasionally seen by the soldiers staffing the cordons, but numbers would drop off sharply over time as the severely injured died off.

Death rates among the work crews inside the red and orange zones were high. Suicide was common, as was fighting between members of the convict work crews. Members of the work crews also often died of sickness or starvation, from the radiation, poor work conditions, or from lack of shelter. Occasionally, survivors would attack the work crews, although these survivors were usually in worse shape than the prisoners they attacked. After the cleanup was over, reports surfaced of work crews killing their party supervisors and becoming like roving outlaw bands, or of their commissars dying of suicide or illness, leaving the prisoners to try and survive on their own. Overall, the work crew survival rate is estimated to be ten to twenty percent. Survival was generally determined by where the work crew was assigned, and the reliability of supplies, meaning that crews tended to die- or survive- as groups.

Nuclear fallout decays over time, and the more violently radioactive a piece of fallout is, the faster it decays. Because of this, survival rates increased quickly as radiation levels fell off, but this was mitigated by increasing logistical problems.

The economy of China was in freefall. Nearly every part of life was impacted. While Chinese industries were, to a large degree, dispersed, the nuclear attacks still had a disastrous effect. Transportation hubs were destroyed, as were many sites of heavy industry. This meant that even undamaged factories could not operate, because they couldn’t acquire materials or distribute products. Agriculture was greatly contaminated, and many farms were disrupted by the war as well. Weather patterns in the latter half of 1969 were unusually cold- whether due to nuclear blasts or simple weather variation- which further reduced yields. Many crops were sickly and stilted, and later analysis connected this to the nuclear fallout contamination.

Another problem was that inter-regional trade became almost impossible due to consumer fears. Many people refused to eat produce from regions afflicted by nuclear attack, although rising hunger quickly put an end to complaints. International trade was completely stopped. No foreign groups would buy anything from China, except for a few industries in North Korea and Albania. This meant that China could not afford to import replacement machinery and other goods, except for what they could buy with Soviet aid.

In the Soviet Union, the reconstruction process was not as painful, although it was still difficult. The priority was the reconstruction of the Trans-Siberian railroad, and then the rebuilding of critical ports in the Far East.

Like in China, convict labor was used to rebuild the railroad. These prisoners were used to turn over the soil, lay new tracks, and decontaminate the area. The death rate was much lower, and more deaths were due to adverse weather conditions than starvation or suicide. The Soviet economy took a serious hit but was able to keep functioning.

The specific details of the Red War, and associated reconstruction, are largely beyond the scope of this work. On the other hand, they were a clear wakeup call to the world.

While nuclear war had always seemed like a threat, nuclear weapons had never been used in conflict since World War II. Civil defense drills had certainly already made people paranoid, and instilled a bleak outlook on the future, but the Red War turned fears into reality. Who would be next to be attacked with nuclear weapons?
Question about the first post. Did the US actually offer the Soviets to come up with a joint plan to take out China's nuclear program in otl?
I lost my original Zotero file with sources for this project but this article talks about it. The Soviets did also ask the US for military intervention in OTL's Sino-Soviet Border Conflict and even asked the US to assent to a nuclear strike (news article talking about it, although maybe too dramatic).

I was under the impression that the plan involved nuclear weapons, but it appears that I was mistaken!
Chapter 7

China was the most recent power to develop nuclear weapons, but it had lost most of its nuclear arsenal and was in dire straits. Others, however, were working on their own programs. A summary of each is as follows:

India was frustrated with the state of things in the aftermath of the Red War. The country had previously fought with China in the Himalayas, escalating to a war in 1962. India was also host to the exiled Dalai Lama, who was seen as a threat to the Chinese administration in Tibet. The Red War began and ended too quickly- and with too quick a reversal- for India to make a move, and now Tibet was firmly in the Soviet sphere. Although the Soviets had less incentive to take hostile border actions like China had done in the past, it was still a dangerous situation, with a nuclear-armed alliance just across a disputed border. While India had a civilian nuclear program operating since 1944 and had stated a willingness to develop nuclear weapons shortly after, the project had only been seriously underway since the middle of the 1960s. With nuclear weapons going from a theoretical, geopolitical asset to a practical military one, Indira Gandhi approved additional funding for the nuclear program, targeting a working device by the end of 1971.

Pakistan, India’s rival and neighbor, had not previously put much work into nuclear weapon development, but would announce its own program in late 1969, hoping to demonstrate a working device by 1974. This timeline was overly ambitious. The Pakistani nuclear power sector was practically nonexistent, with a single reactor in construction. This meant that their nuclear material processing infrastructure would require more development and had to be built from the ground up, compared to India’s relatively mature nuclear power industry. Nevertheless, the country was determined to achieve nuclear status.

Israel’s nuclear history, revealed retroactively in the decades since the Red War, was rather shocking to many commentators. The country’s nuclear program had begun in secret, in 1948, with the recruitment of physicists and scouting for nuclear materials inside the country. It started with the objective of ensuring that Israel- and by extension, the Jewish people- would never be threatened again. In the 1950s, Israel would construct both civilian and military reactors for research and power purposes. They would also work with western countries, including the US and France, the latter of which shared significant nuclear test and weapon data with Israeli scientists. Israel supplemented this theoretical know-how with imported nuclear materials and reactors, and by January of 1967 had developed a working nuclear warhead. In late 1969, in the aftermath of the Red War, Israel declared its nuclear status to the world. This move was likely encouraged by a rash of nuclear programs announced by various other countries, which reduced the taboo associated with nuclear weapons.

South Africa had a variety of motives for producing nuclear weapons. The regime’s policy of apartheid and racial segregation had created increasing domestic and international strife. Both the British Commonwealth and the United Kingdom had condemned the policy, and the country by the early 1960s. This left South Africa with no allies, only black-ruled local trading partners. Fearing a mass uprising or foreign intervention, South Africa had begun a nuclear program in the middle of the 1960s (the exact year remains unclear), and this program was made public in 1969. The program was assisted by a newly operational civilian nuclear program and large uranium reserves.

Taiwan, the refuge of the military leaders of Republican China, had many reasons to develop a nuclear program. As a state in direct conflict with a nuclear power, nuclear weapons were the only way to level the playing field. The Taiwanese nuclear program is rather unique, and will be discussed later in this text, but it should be noted that Taiwan announced an ambition to develop nuclear weapons for itself before the ink even dried on the treaty which ended the Red War.


Bing leaned up against the hull of his boat and listened to gentle lapping of the waves. The docks in the pissant village where he waited weren’t much to look at, so he watched the night sky above. The stars were brighter than back in Taiping, shining like a thousand tiny diamonds on a velvet sheet. In the distance, he could smell a wood fire, and it mingled with the salt smell of the sea.

He heard a footstep on the dock and turned to look. He was careful to move sloppily. If it was a policeman, Bing would be a drunk fisherman, close to passing out in his trawler. It wasn’t.

The contact was an old man wearing an officer’s uniform- whatever that meant to these Communists. The man scowled, looking at the fishing trawler.

“What’s tonight’s haul looking like?” asked the contact.

“Deep and heavy.”

The contact nodded but didn’t stop scowling. “Is this fishing dinghy really your plan to get us out of here?”

Bing laughed. “Anything bigger than this would get sunk or commandeered. You’ll get there.”

The man shook his head. “Fine.” There was venom in the word.

He stalked back down the dock. Bing gestured to his crew, and they got ready to receive cargo, swinging a crane across the deck of the little boat. The crane creaked and groaned, and Bing felt the boat shift slightly beneath him.

The contact returned to the dock after a few minutes. He was accompanied by four soldiers, carrying rifles and pushing a cart with a wooden crate. As they moved onto the dock, the planks creaked and groaned, but Bing knew they would hold. Everything had been planned well ahead of time.

The crate pulled alongside the boat on squeaking wheels. One of the workers pulled a chain, and the hook slid along the crane. Bing watched as the soldiers connected the crate’s chains to the hook. The workers on the boat pulled at ropes, and the crate lifted. The ship listed under his feet, and he momentarily felt doubt. If the ship flipped, it would be over.

But it didn’t. The cargo moved smoothly onto the boat and was set in a cleared spot in the hold with a dull thump. Bing reached out a hand for the PLA officer, who stepped onto the boat.

“Welcome aboard.”

The officer nodded. “Don’t worry about my men, they can be trusted to keep a secret.”

Bing smirked. “I appreciate their discretion.”

They watched as the workers shoveled fish on top of the crate. Then, Bing gestured, and the engine was started. He reached into his coat and took out a submachine gun. Then, in one smooth motion, he turned towards the dock and opened fire, cutting down the soldiers waiting there. No loose ends.

The contact looked away, silently. The deal was for safe passage for one, no more.

The fishing boat pulled away from the nameless village, leaving the four dead soldiers behind it. They would be back in Taiwan in a few hours, and Taiwan would be the world’s sixth nuclear power. Bing looked at the crate. It didn’t seem like much, but it didn’t take a lot to change the world.


Yugoslavia announced a plan to develop nuclear weapons as soon as hostilities with Albania were concluded, and Albania announced the same soon after. Of the two, Yugoslavia’s larger industrial base made it much more likely that the country would succeed, or at least that it would be the first.

Sweden, wedged between the two major power blocs, felt under threat from the Warsaw Pact and could not rely on help from NATO. The program was announced in 1969, but it is believed that the original weapons project was in development for years before that. The country stated that it intended to detonate a warhead by 1971.

Switzerland announced a nuclear weapons program for the same reasons as Sweden and had likely been developing their nuclear program since as early as 1958, based on some declassified materials. The Swiss government announced that it expected to have a deployable nuclear warhead by the end of 1970, perhaps one of the most ambitious timelines for any nuclear program.

Finally, many other countries started nuclear programs along similar lines, and for similar reasons. The Ba’athist regimes in Iraq, Egypt, and Libya all declared their own nuclear intents, and Iran and Saudi Arabia declared nuclear programs in response. All these countries (except for Saudi Arabia, which was never a signatory) withdrew from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty in the process.

Brazil and Argentina both announced intents to develop nuclear weapons, in a form of rivalry. They were seen as middling players, which would likely complete their programs sometime in the 70s.

Various post-colonial states announced their intent to develop nuclear weapons but were generally not to be taken seriously. These countries lacked the financial, scientific, or military resources to develop nuclear weapons, and almost none of them had civilian nuclear programs. For more information on these states, one might consult “Nuclear Weapons in the Third World” or “Proliferation in Africa”, two excellent books that cover this subject in greater detail.

At this point, the cat was out of the bag, but it should not be assumed that every country was going all-in on nuclear weapons, or that everyone accepted them. Japan and West Germany both issued strong condemnations of the new era of nuclear proliferation, and many post-colonial states used an anti-nuclear stance to strengthen their diplomatic position against nuclear-armed neighbors.

Many members of the public were concerned about these developments as well. Protests broke out in several countries that announced their nuclear ambitions. News pundits in the US forecasted the end of the world. Intelligence agencies and high commands scrambled to evaluate potential danger and re-evaluate strategic positions. In existing nuclear powers, it was the consensus that more nuclear weapons would be needed. A lot more.

Missile defense was not a new concept, but it became much more popular in the postwar era. The Soviet Union had designed and was developing the A-35 system for the defense of Moscow, a project which was fast-tracked and slated for expansion. Missile defense systems were now slated for deployment in cities from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka, with larger cities and those deemed essential for military purposes given higher priority. Soviet engineers proposed a variety of systems, including space-based lasers and other science-fictional weapons, and a rash of design studies were commissioned. Nuclear scientists were dispatched to the destroyed cities in Siberia, looking for information on nuclear explosions and clues on how to defend against them.

In America, proposals included basing nuclear weapons on the moon for second-strike capability or developing advanced offensive or defensive platforms in orbit. The existing Safeguard program (renamed from the Sentinel program earlier that year) was expanded by the embattled Nixon administration, with the president hoping that expanding a defensive program could help recover popularity lost in the aftermath of the Red War. Many Americans felt that Nixon was complicit in the nuclear strikes during the war, although there was no official US involvement. Some Americans believed that Nixon’s inaction had led to the deaths of millions, and others believed that the new nuclear proliferation was Nixon’s fault. In later years, it would be assessed that Nixon’s actions may have prevented a wider nuclear war, but the subject remains controversial to this day. In any case, hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into studies and pilot projects on everything from public bunkers to nuclear-armed missile defense systems.

Other countries announced their own defenses. Mao informed the Chinese public of a plan to “expand upon the highly successful underground city in Beijing”. It is almost certain that he was aware of the failure of the underground city. Hoxha announced a plan to “create a shelter for every Albanian”, following up on the country’s existing policy of bunkerization. Switzerland and the Nordic countries both accelerated their civil defense plans already in motion. Most countries began working to expand military shelters and continuity-of-government systems, to ensure that they would not be crippled in case of a nuclear attack.