Just reading through this excellent timeline again, fantastic work @Garrison

Has anyone considered AI generating a post-Hendon rendition of Chamberlain, complete with scars?
Oddly I was thinking of an AI image of Chamberlain with an dispatch just last night. Not a fan of AI art in general but this might be case where it would be the best solution.

Postscript USA – The Exceptional Nation 1950 - 1979​

The period in US history between 1950 and 1970 is frequently described as ‘the long 1950s’ or the ‘Gilded Generation’. These glib soundbites act as a shorthand for whether people view this period with nostalgia or cynicism. The idea of a Gilded Generation comes from the belief that this period represented the zenith of US power and prosperity, and after this it went into a political, economic and even moral, decline from which it never recovered. Reversing this downward trend in American power has been the rallying cry of US politicians, especially on the right of the spectrum, since the 1980s, though many of these same politicians claim to have been warning about it years earlier. While the scale of the decline in the USA is disputed, and when one looks at the living standards of the average US citizen it isn’t clear that there has in fact been a meaningful decline. On the other hand, it is true that in terms of global political power and influence the USA peaked during the 1950s and remained there for a remarkably long time. It was using this power to reshape large parts of the world into capitalist western oriented states that ultimately made the rise of competitors inevitable.

It was industrial might and economics that made this pre-eminence possible. American wealth helped pay for the reconstruction of post war Europe and Asia and as the world rebuilt US businesses exported their goods to every corner of the globe as they converted back to a peace time footing, while at the same time its potential competitors were laid low by the destruction the war had wrought on their infrastructure. This economic boom also generated the tax revenues needed for major infrastructure programs and helped GIs returning from the war to find jobs and homes, which further fed into economic growth. US taxation in the 1950s and early 60s stood at record high levels, and yet this did nothing to restrain rising profits for corporations and rising living standards for their workers. Not every industry turned back to civilian markets, the US retained a powerful military that needed to be supplied with weapons and equipment. This created long standing ties between politicians, military officer and major corporations that became known as the ‘Military-Industrial Cartel’.

emanating from Moscow could portray them as equals with the USA. In the west, and the USA in particular, the Soviet Union was seen as a continental power rather than a global one. Efforts to export the Communist revolution elsewhere in the world had proven erratic at best. Even countries that might have appeared to be natural Soviet allies such as Socialist Italy, Yugoslavia, and Iran all kept themselves at arm’s length throughout this period, keen to follow their own independent path and not be dictated by Moscow. US Politicians such as Senator Joseph McCarthy railed against the threat to the USA from godless communism regardless, going as far as to insist there was a communist fifth column inside the USA and demanding a full congressional investigation into this imaginary problem in the aftermath of the Red Skies crisis. There were certainly Soviet spies working inside the USA and most of them were natural born citizens of the country, but these American agents of the Soviets were largely motivated by money not ideology. McCarthy’s demands to root out anyone who had dabbled in socialism or displayed sympathy towards the USSR, even during that period when the Soviet Union had been a US ally, would have done nothing to curtail Soviet intelligence gathering. McCarthy problem in trying to stoke panic over the Berlin crisis was that while it certainly generated some concern among the US public this was mingled with surprise and annoyance that something so obvious as transport arrangements into East Germany had not already been arranged. Likewise, the detonation of the first Soviet atomic bomb provoked little reaction, as nuclear weapons were still largely regarded as just very big bombs by most people, a view that lingered on even after the Dulu'er bombing.

From the perspective of the historian and politicians who accepted the Gilded Generation concept uncritically this then was an unparalleled era of peace, prosperity and contentment for the USA, with the occasional conflict in other corners of the world barely creating a ripple to disturb the American people. The Long 1950s interpretation does not dispute the prosperity of this period, instead it points out that this peace and plenty led to cultural stagnation and economic complacency, and that this golden era was heavily tarnished by its failure to reach all Americans.

Japanese Americans had lost homes and businesses during the war, with many spending years in detention camps. In the aftermath of the war there was no contrition from the US government and certainly no compensation, despite the number of Japanese Americans who served in the US armed forces and returned home as highly decorated veterans. In the postwar era the Japanese American community in the USA began to emigrate as they continued to face serious discrimination, often excused by the ongoing belligerence of Japan towards the USA and the nations refusal to accept responsibility for the war crimes committed In China and across Asia. The Japanese American emigres found themselves no more welcome in Japan than they were in the USA, and many found Korea to be far more welcoming, especially of those who brought valuable skills and capital to their burgeoning economy.

For black citizens of the USA the war had seen them experience a brief boost in opportunities for jobs and many in the armed forces were exposed to the culture of other countries where while there was certainly racism it was not of the systemic type so prevalent in the United States. After the war the Civil Rights movement grew in numbers and sophistication and in Martin Luther King Jnr it would find one of its most eloquent and effective leaders. During the 1950s the movement only made limited progress, President Kefauver and President Stassen were both seen as dithering on the subject, in the case of the latter his refusal to take decisive action was seen as green light for hardline segregationists in the southern states and led to the open attacks on peaceful protestor by police and vigilante groups. That these were reported by the national news networks forced Stassen to send in the National Guard to restore order in Georgia, alienating the segregationists for siding with the ‘uppity’ blacks and failing to win over progressives who were appalled he had waited so long.

With the arrival of Lyndon Johnson in the White House the Civil Rights movement finally found itself pushing against an open door. President Johnson was sympathetic to the movement and earnestly determined to pass a comprehensive Civil Rights Act during his time in office. He faced considerable resistance in Congress, but passing the act remained a central plank of his plans for his second term and with his victory in 1964 its passage some form was in inevitable, though had he lived it might have involved considerable compromises to do so. His assassination at the hands of a white supremacist led to now President Kennedy passing an act far more comprehensive than he was personally comfortable with, but fully in line with Johnson’s ambitions. It outraged segregationists in Congress, but with some of the most vocal opponents having to fend off stories in the press that tried to link them to the assassin or the organizations he had been affiliated with most decided it was better to keep their heads below the parapet, though they certainly weren’t about to embrace racial equality as an ideal. The assassination also ended the long career of FBI Director J Edgar Hoover. Accusations emerged from within the FBI that Hoover had repeatedly ignored intelligence pointing the danger posed by white supremacist organizations, while pouring massive resources into digging up dirt on black civil rights leaders.

The leaders of the civil rights movement were keenly aware that changing the law was at best a start, changing attitudes and beliefs would be a far more difficult proposition. There were significantly different positions on how such change should be achieved and there were radicals such as Malcolm X who believed that the different races could never achieve equality, because the white race was on fact the inferior one. The story of his change of heart has become the subject of much cynicism, however Malcolm X was a man of deep religious faith and his accounts claim that while undertaking the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims seek to complete, he saw people of many different races and nations coming together and he saw this as sign that different races living in harmony was possible if god willed it so. Whatever the full explanation Malcolm X did soften his attitude to equality between the races after his pilgrimage, which did not sit well with some members of his organization the Nation of Islam. Two young men attempted to gun him down while he was making a speech at a meeting of the Nation of Islam, and it was nothing more than luck that he survived. That the attack came from within the Nation of Islam was a shock and there were those who tried to claim it was a false flag operation perpetrated by the FBI, CIA, or some other shadowy government organization. While Malcolm X was recovering, he was frequently visited by Martin Luther King and while no one could claim they were now friends their relationship became much more co-operative when Malcolm X returned to public life. Playing off his own more conciliatory rhetoric against the still fiery Malcolm X allowed Martin Luther King to make more headway in achieving change than he might have alone, though using the analogy of ‘good cop, bad cop’ would have attracted the wrath of both men.

While there were certainly white Americans who actively supported the Civil Rights movement it was not their cause at the end of the day and middle-class white teenagers looking to rebel against the established norms embraced by their parents looked elsewhere for a cause to rally around. In the end those who didn’t just turn their attention to music and popular culture found it in the birth of the environmental movement. From the early 1960s many scientists began to issue warnings about the impact of industrialization on the natural environment, themes that were taken up in high profile books that were decidedly less academically rigorous and more histrionic than the scientific papers they were inspired by. That embracing the environment also allowed this nascent counterculture to attack the very corporations their parents seemed beholden to made it even more attractive. The movement was referred to dismissively as ‘flower power’, but to the surprise, and in some cases dismay, of its adherents it did steadily move into the mainstream of US culture and politics in the 1970s. This was facilitated by the fact that politicians who might have been expected to vehemently impose this drive were becoming concerned about the increasing US dependence on imported oil from the Middle East and the increasing power of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that sought to control the global price of oil, without much regard to the desires of the USA. This embrace of energy efficiency and the fight against pollution not only upset some of the more revolutionary elements in the movement, but also exasperated US business leaders who found themselves forced to deal with a slew of new regulations as well as increasingly militant union activity.

Pinning the end of this era to 1970 is a somewhat arbitrary choice, the expansion of economies in Asia and Europe, coupled with a failure by the US to modernize heavy industry, and for manufacturers of consumer goods to respond to changing market trends, led to increasing competition in international markets that user producers were slow to respond to. This spread to domestic markets throughout the 1970s and the somewhat panicked reaction of many US corporations saw wages squeezed and volatility on Wall Street whenever some major company posted results that fell short of the often-inflated expectations of the stock market. This upsurge in imports and decline in exports saw the US balance of trade began its inexorable slide into the red, to the consternation of many in Washington, though no one had any clear solutions to the problem.

In terms of US politics 1972 marks a much clearer inflection point as this was the year when the Washington Post published the Cuba Papers, revealing the full sordid details of the US involvement in ‘stabilizing’ the island. Some sort of congressional investigation was inevitable but given that politicians on all sides had at least tacitly supported the US military presence in Cuba many pundits predicted that Washington would close ranks and seek to bury the matter as swiftly as possible. Some Republicans however could not ignore the fact there had been Democratic Presidents in the White House throughout the entire period and were determined to go on the attack. Lyndon Johnson was beyond the reach of any investigation, but the Republicans hoped that by attacking President Kennedy and other members of his administration they could wrest control of the Whitehouse and Congress away from the Democratic Party. This ambition was thwarted in 1972 for a variety of reasons, Kennedy’s plan for health care reform, the moon landing and the fact that the economy remained relatively buoyant. It also didn’t help the Republican cause that several of the most likely frontrunners for the Republican nomination were connected to the ‘Cuban Crisis’ by the media. This did not dismay those inside the party who weren’t just looking to oust the Democrats but what they saw people in their own party who had become far too comfortable with a status quo that was jeopardizing the economic security of the USA and by extension its paramount status in the world. The overall impact of this was that Walter Mondale won the 1972 Presidential election, narrowly, and continued the Democratic control of the White House for four more years. This failure led to yet more fierce arguments inside the Republican party and further polarization.

The Mondale Presidency opened with the US withdrawal from Cuba, and it was every bit the disaster that had been predicted by the Pentagon. The divisions between the communist insurgent groups prevented them mounting a coherent campaign to take over the island, while without US support the Cuban military began to disintegrate. The result was back and forth fighting that left large parts of the Cuban population displaced and desperately looking for escape. The US had retained their long-standing base at Guantanamo Bay despite the general withdrawal and it was soon swamped with refugees. Regrettably some extremists managed to infiltrate the hapless civilians and conducted an attack on the base that prompted a harsh response after sixteen US servicemen were killed. Guantanamo Bay was soon ringed with multiple layers of barbed wire fences and minefields and the refugees were forcibly relocated to camps further inland. Many displaced Cubans chose to make the crossing between Cuba and Florida, hoping to find shelter there and perhaps aid from the existing Cuban American community in the state. The refugees, representing the entire spectrum of Cuban society, politically left and right, honest citizens and criminals, received a frosty reception and plans to deport them back to Cuba provoked large scale unrest and large numbers escaped the overwhelmed detention facilities in Florida and fanned out across the southern states, surviving as best they could.

The refugee issue was as much of a political disaster as it was a humanitarian one. Congress passed the health care bill, but this was seen as the last act of the Kennedy presidency rather than as a success for Mondale and outside of support for the lunar exploration program Mondale struggled to advance his own agenda. The Republicans also faced issues as radical elements, led by recently elected Senator Ronald Reagan, pushed back against the passage of legislation that might have been expected to pass through ‘on the nod’ with bipartisan support. Many ordinary voters remained dubious about the radical prescription for the US economy being pushed by these radicals. What was pejoratively called ‘Reaganomics’ was not seen as a vote winner and explains why the far more conservative Nelson Rockefeller became the Republican nominee for the Presidency in 1976, where he won comfortably. The whole of President Rockefeller’s entire first term could be described as comfortable. He proved an adept horse trader, managing to assemble sufficient bipartisan support to pass the few major pieces of legislation he put forward. This created the superficial impression that it was back to business as usual for US politics.

The Soviet invasion of Iran in 1979 initially reinforced Rockefeller’s position, no one was interested gambling on any of the Democratic contenders for the Presidency in 1980 and there was broad approval for the administration’s approach to containing the conflict in Iran and pushing back against the Soviets. Within months of Rockefeller’s second inauguration the crisis in the Middle East would escalate massively and plunge the US into a dark decade where nostalgia for an idealized past that had never existed became a national obsession.
Excellent chapter, shouldn't it have a threadmark though?
Postscript Higher Faster Further – The Jet Age 1945-1975



Postscript Higher Faster Further – The Jet Age 1945-1975​

If one wanted to identify an event that was responsible for souring Anglo-American relations in the years after the end of the war a solid case can be made that the endless argument over who broke the sound barrier first is such an event. Even if one accepts that the distance that opened up between the British and Americans was driven larger geopolitical issues it is undeniable that the question of who went supersonic first did influence the shape of the aerospace industry in Britain, Europe and the USA for decades to come. In September 1942 the British engaged the Miles Aircraft company to begin development of an airframe capable of mounting a next generation jet engine and achieving transonic flight. Miles Aircraft was chosen in part because it was not heavily committed to other more critical programs. The design they settled on, the Miles M.52, had a straight wing with a thin cross-section and a large glass cockpit canopy. That it bore a considerable resemblance to the United States Bell X-1, or vice versa, only helped fuel future arguments over who developed what and when. The most significant difference between the two designs was that the X-1 was rocket powered rather than using a turbojet. The M.52’s development proceeded relatively smoothly until early 1945, when the Labour government began to review the future of a number of military projects. There were doubts as to whether there was any real value in developing transonic aircraft and whether it would be safe for a human being to break the sound barrier. A stern rearguard action against this luddite tendency, bolstered by intelligence that pointed to the Germans having been working on transonic aircraft and the suggestion some of the technology might have found its way to the Soviets, kept the program alive, though some scale and wind tunnel testing was required which slowed the progress, while the American X-1 program pushed ahead, though it suffered its own share of developmental issues.

During 1945 as the USA and Britain traded German scientists and technical data there was the inevitable suggestion that they should co-operate on transonic aircraft development. Given the wrangling over the German technology it was hardly surprising that this was greeted with some scepticism in Whitehall, though no was inclined to simply reject it outright. What the British proposed was that British engineers should visit the US program and gather insights into what the Americans were doing and after this the British would happily reciprocate. The reaction to this superficially reasonable offer was precisely what many in the British program had expected, with the Americans insisting that they should engage with the British program first and only then share their data. The idea of co-operation soon fizzled out, though it was not the last time the USA tried to ‘help’ the British aerospace industry.

Both the M.52 and the X-1 finally began full flight test programs in 1946, with the pilots assigned including the two men who would become household names in their respective countries, Major Charles ‘Chuck’ Yeager and Flight Lieutenant Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown. Testing of the two aircraft threw up the inevitable problems, without any of them proving insurmountable. By 1947 both nations were ready to start a fresh test series culminating in flying faster than Mach 1, the speed of sound. The projects were still shrouded in secrecy owing to the military potential of transonic flight as well as the fear that if the attempts to break the sound barrier were carried out in public and there was a catastrophic accident it could setback their programs and allow their rivals to steal a march.

In spite of this news leaked from someone involved with the X-1 program that Chuck Yeager had successfully taken the aircraft past Mach 1 on 11th of October 1947. Who was responsible for the leak was never conclusively established, probably because it would have led to some senior figures in the USAAF or Bell Aircraft. On the 13th of November the Air Ministry in Britain congratulated the Americans, while at the same time coolly announcing that Squadron leader Brown had also broken the sound barrier in the Miles M.52, some fifteen days before Yeager’s flight. The reaction in the American press to this bombshell ranged from a grudging acceptance of this revelation to outright accusations that the British were either lying or had stolen secret data from the American program to make this possible. Such complaints were not limited to newspaper editorials. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican noted for his rabid anti-communism, made a speech in which he claimed that the British government, dominated by Communist fellow travellers, had colluded with the USSR to steal American aerospace secrets, aided and abetted by Communists spies inside Bell and other major aircraft companies. McCarthy demanded that a committee be formed to thoroughly investigate the matter and root out these spies. Targeting powerful corporations, who could afford to deploy an army of lawyers and lobbyists to fight their corner, was a mistake on McCarthy’s part, as was the fact that he was implying that these spies had been operating successfully with a Republican president in the White House, one who was no more of a friend to communism than McCarthy was. The Senators career came to a shuddering halt as questions about his alcohol consumption, and some unfortunate incidents related to his drinking, found their way into the public domain and he left the Senate in 1952.

The British response to this American indignation was one of weary resignation, summed up by one minister at the Foreign Office who stated, ‘well they would say that wouldn’t they?’ This was not to say they were willing to allow the Americans to snatch away an achievement that rightly belonged to Miles Aircraft and Wing Commander Brown and they released a flurry of documents intended to prove that the flight had indeed taken place on the 28th of September 1947. If anyone expected this to settle the issue, they were badly mistaken. Privately some in Washington and the USAAF may have accepted the truth of the British claims, which would be independently verified over the years, publicly doing so remained beyond the pale. A report that President Stassen had conceded the point to British representatives during a diplomatic function in 1955 was enough to kick off a minor political storm in Washington and potentially damaged Stassen’s standing in military circles.

Given the acrimony around the first supersonic flight it is hardly surprising that others have attempted to claim the achievement for themselves. The Soviets sought to stake their claim, though as they didn’t do so publicly until 1949 their pronouncements were never taken seriously in the west and were finally discredited when the Kremlin archives were open in the 1990s. The claims that Nazi Germany had built a supersonic aircraft proved far more persistent, owing to the multiplicity of competing projects and the destruction of so many of them before the war ended. Finding factual flaws in the various stories only served to inspire fresh retellings that grew ever more convoluted. Regardless of all this the history books would all settle on the M.52 and Flight Lieutenant Brown as the ones to complete the first supersonic flight.

The divide between the British and the Americans resulted in the British developing their own series of supersonic combat aircraft, shunning the idea of depending on imported American aircraft. The most famous British combat aircraft of the 1960s and 70s was not a supersonic aircraft but the subsonic Kestrel Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing (VSTOL) fighter, commonly referred to as the Jump Jet. There had been many attempts to develop a vertical take-off aircraft in several countries but it was the British who developed the concept of thrust vectoring to produce an engine powerful enough to enable vertical take-off and still have sufficient performance to make for an effective combat aircraft.

The increasing expense of developing new generations of combat aircraft led to the British looking for partners in Europe to work with in the 1970s and ironically it would be the Luftwaffe with whom the RAF would find themselves working with in the development of a successor to the English Electric Lightning and the Kestrel for the British and the Stormbird tactical support aircraft for the Germans. These aircraft were still giving excellent service but there was a desire to standardise around a single multirole aircraft that could deliver transonic performance while retaining Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) capabilities, which explains the high price tag placed on the new design. The policy of self-sufficiency that the Americans had pressed throughout the 1960s was somewhat in abeyance and US aircraft manufacturers were eager to sell their latest models to both the British and Germans. Both countries were however keen to bolster their own aircraft industries and both governments were unhappy with the way Boeing and Douglas had been effectively subsidized with research programs that often seemed to be cancelled as soon as the money ran out, only for new projects with yet further injections of US taxpayers’ money to take their place. The British and Germans also tried to bring other nations into the program and managed to recruit both the Polish and, after some acrimonious debate, the French into what became the Tornado STOVL fighter-bomber. Unlike the Kestrel this would not see service with the US armed forces, much to the chagrin of the Americans it did however secure a contract to supply aircraft to the Republic of China’s Airforce. The Chinese were sufficiently happy with the aircraft that a further contract was signed to build a version of the Tornado under license. This decision was more expensive for the Chinese than simply purchasing the latest US designs, but with the ROC wanting to establish themselves as an equal rather than an American satellite it made political sense for them to do so.

The British weren’t only interested in the creation of military jets, jet aircraft offered the possibility of opening up global air travel to a far a larger group of people than had been the case before WW II. The development of what became the De Havilland Meteor airliner was fraught with problems, the inevitable consequence of the pioneering nature of the work. One major hold up was the identification of a potential issue with metal fatigue in the fuselage that was fortunately identified before the Meteor entered production, though it did delay the Meteor’s entry into service until October 1952. These technical issues and some less than ideal aspects of the design are often credited as the reasons why the Meteor ultimately lost out to the Boeing 707, which became the aircraft that truly opened air travel to the masses. The Meteor would almost certainly have lost out regardless of its technical qualities because Boeing had far greater production capacity and the US airline industry grew far faster than the European or Asian markets. British aircraft manufacturers did find markets for their later short and medium haul airliners in India and other parts of the former British Empire, but US manufacturers would dominate western markets until the 1980s.

The US dominance in long haul passenger aircraft was undermined by the same sort of European co-operation that spawned the Tornado program. Under the banner of Skytrain, formed in 1975, the British and Germans pursued a successful program for the development of a new generation of passenger jets, and there were plans being made for a supersonic passenger plane at the beginning of the 1980s, christened the Silverbird. The development of the aircraft had only just begun when the Oil Wars triggered massive rises in the price of aviation fuel. This delayed the Silverbird for years as efforts had to be made to develop a much more fuel-efficient engine, but the aircraft would survive this turbulent period to finally see service as the flagship aircraft for several major European airlines.
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Based on on some quick searches that seemed to fit his post war rank.
Yes Brown was one of ours - that is an officer of the senior service and retired a Captain - not a member of the enemy that being the the RAF ;)

His wartime rank of Lt was made permanent in 30th March 1949 - this was the RAF equivalent of Flight Lt
Regardless of all this the history books would all settle on the M.52 and Flight Lieutenant Brown as the ones to complete the first supersonic flight.

The divide between the British and the Americans resulted in the British developing their own series of supersonic combat aircraft, shunning the idea of depending on imported American aircraft.
With the success of the Miles M.52, I wonder how this would affect the many wondrous 1950s design that the British had. Thin-wing and area ruled Gloster Javelin and Sea Vixen before a P.8/P.6 EE Lightning?
The British and Germans also tried to bring other nations into the program and managed to recruit both the Polish and, after some acrimonious debate, the French into what became the Tornado STOVL fighter-bomber.
Hawker P.1154?
The British weren’t only interested in the creation of military jets, jet aircraft offered the possibility of opening up global air travel to a far a larger group of people than had been the case before WW II. The development of what became the De Havilland Meteor airliner was fraught with problems, the inevitable consequence of the pioneering nature of the work. One major hold up was the identification of a potential issue with metal fatigue in the fuselage that was fortunately identified before the Meteor entered production, though it did delay the Meteor’s entry into service until October 1952. These technical issues and some less than ideal aspects of the design are often credited as the reasons why the Meteor ultimately lost out to the Boeing 707, which became the aircraft that truly opened air travel to the masses. The Meteor would almost certainly have lost out regardless of its technical qualities because Boeing had far greater production capacity and the US airline industry grew far faster than the European or Asian markets. British aircraft manufacturers did find markets for their later short and medium haul airliners in India and other parts of the former British Empire, but US manufacturers would dominate western markets until the 1980s.
I do wonder regarding the post war Britain's civil aviation, had the Brabazon Committee been done ITTL? If so I hope they didn't go through with some of the more ridiculous designs such as the Bristol Brabazon and SaRo Princess and prioritize both Bristol Britannia and Vickers Viscount while reworking planes such as the Ambassador to be a proto-Fokker F.27 Friendship. Would give them a very solid hold on the growing early civil aviation market while the Meteor was still in its development period and enough goodwill to have the plane be more of a success.

Having said that, what happened to the trio of Vickers VC10, H.S. Trident, and BAC One-Eleven? Did they suffer from IOTL issues or were there fixes right from the get go ala A series of assumptions: a Britwank on a budget?
Good post, but its unfortunate Britain is having to tie its aerospace industry to Germany. As we've seen irl with the eurofighter and will likely see with the FCAS (although thank god thats a problem for the french this time not us!) that probably wont end well
The Soviets sought to stake their claim, though as they didn’t do so publicly until 1949 their pronouncements were never taken seriously in the west and were finally discredited when the Kremlin archives were open in the 1990s
The Soviets have space program, but no supersonic jets, seriously?


The Soviets have space program, but no supersonic jets, seriously?
I think you've misunderstood, it was their claim to be first to go supersonic that was dismissed, they absolutely have supersonic jets, but without as much western technology it may take a bit longer.
This created long standing ties between politicians, military officer and major corporations that became known as the ‘Military-Industrial Cartel’.
emanating from Moscow could portray them as equals with the USA.

I believe that a few words might have been eaten between the two paragraphs.

As always, these are great chapters; I really enjoyed hearing about McCarthy's deserved (political) demise.

I can clearly see an unacceptable anti-French bias in the last chapter, though (what kind of name is Skytrain, anyway?). You’re on The List to be taken to the baguette gulag for next time there's a France-Britain rematch. 😡
Postscript The Soviet Invasion of Iran April 1979



Postscript The Soviet Invasion of Iran April 1979​

The death of Leonid Brezhnev in October 1978 came as little surprise to anyone, it was a common joke in the west that he had died somewhere around 1975 and his well-preserved corpses was wheeled out for state occasions, such was his lack of public speeches or meetings with the USSR’s remaining allies. There was a brief flurry of infighting inside the Politburo over the succession before Konstantin Chernenko was appointed. Given that Chernenko was 67 years old and also allegedly in poor health he hardly constituted fresh new leadership for the USSR, and he was seen in Western capitals as a placeholder while deeper disputes within the Communist Party over the future of the Soviet Union, in particular the thorny subject of economic reform, were resolved. Chernenko was determined to disprove this idea and he had ample support from hardliners inside the Politburo and the Red Army for his chosen plan to stamp his authority on the USSR and show the world that it was not a nation in retreat.

Soviet involvement in Iran had begun with the joint operation to occupy the country carried out with the British in 1941. At the end of the war both powers were expected to withdraw and the British duly did so since they had commitments elsewhere to concern themselves in the region, most notably in Palestine, where they would ultimately find themselves facing the daunting task of enforcing the UN resolution that partitioned the area between Palestine and the newly created state of Israel. With hindsight the British would conclude they would have been better off staying in Iran, even if that meant turning it into another frontline in the Cold War. Faced with the disappointment over what he saw as the meagre Soviet gains in eastern Europe Stalin tried to leverage the Soviet presence in Iran against concessions elsewhere in the world. This effort failed, but rather than admit defeat the Soviets insisted on retaining some basing rights in Iran, which in practice meant a couple of airbases from which the VVS could potentially target shipping moving through the Persian Gulf. Even before the death of Stalin the VVS presence at these airbases had been drastically reduced, representing little more than a token presence. It was only the increasing interest in the oil reserves of the Middle East that persuaded the Soviets not to abandon their foothold altogether.

In the 1953 Mohammad Mosaddegh was elected to power in what most historians accept was a free and fair election in Iran. He was popular with Iranians, far less so with the Americans who were also aware of the potential strategic value of Iran in the region. The USA was concerned that given the left leaning nature of the Mosaddegh government it would align itself with the USSR and allow them to increase both their military presence in Iran and their influence over the Middle East, and Iran was a producer of Uranium as well as oil. Presented with alarming, and it must be said self-serving, intelligence reports President Kefauver authorised the CIA to instigate a coup against Mosaddegh. Codenamed Operation Ajax it turned into a fiasco when details of the plan leaked to the Soviets, who in turn warned Mosaddegh. He moved swiftly to crush the plot, with senior army officers arrested, tried and executed. Their support had evaporated rapidly as they were seen as American puppets and whatever the CIA might have claimed their support had never been very deep to begin with. The CIA operatives involved were luckier as they were simply ordered out of the country as the US embassy was closed and it did not reopen until 1964. How the details leaked has been the subject of much argument over the years, with the CIA blaming officers involved in the coup selling information to the Soviets and Iranian participants in the coup who were forced to flee the country laying the blame on a CIA mole. The outcome of the abortive coup was the very thing the USA had sought to prevent, Mosaddegh strengthened ties with the USSR both economically and militarily to secure his government against further attacks. Arguably of greater concern in Washington was the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which threatened to inspire similar moves elsewhere in the Middle East. Far from being chastened by the experience in Iran the USA launched campaigns to ensure that the regimes in Iraq and Saudia Arabia remained firmly Western though decidedly not democratic.

One thing that Mosaddegh did not do was abandon democracy, Iran continued to hold elections, almost to spite the Americans. Unfortunately, there were others in his government who were less committed to democratic principles and after Mosaddegh stood down the country became increasingly authoritarian, with opposition politicians accused of being in the pay of the Americans and elections becoming increasingly manipulated to ensure the correct result was obtained. It wasn’t just potential secular opposition that was targeted. Religious leaders were also targets of smear campaigns and many were arrested on trumped up charges relating to sedition or financial misconduct. The highest profile victim of this religious oppression was Ayatollah Khomeini, a leading religious figure who was openly critical of the government. His death in detention in 1973 provoked public demonstrations on a large scale, which saw secular students take to the streets alongside their religious counterparts. This unusual coalition should have been a warning sign for the government in Tehran, but they chose to continue and even extend their repression of dissent.

By 1979 economic problems had been added to social issues to stir discontent. Iran’s oil revenues had dropped as the output of the country’s refineries had fallen. Years of mismanagement and problems obtaining modern equipment from the west had left the refining facilities in a poor state and a major fire at a refinery in Bander Abbas in November 1978 made matters much worse. At the same time inflation was running out of control and the value of the Iranian Rial had fallen dramatically on foreign exchanges, even their friends in the eastern bloc were heavily discounting the Iranian currency.

The popular uprising in Iran was triggered by the announcement of a series of austerity measures on February 22nd 1979. These sparked protests that rapidly spilled over into a more general expression of discontent with the government and demands for the Prime Minister and his government to resign. The leadership tried to respond as they had previously, but the salaries of the police and army had also failed to keep up with inflation and conditions for the army in particular had degenerated badly in the late 1970s. With so many conscripts who had families who were suffering as well, some of who were on the streets with the protestors. It was all but inevitable that large sections of the army refused to obey orders and some even joined the protestors. Government buildings were stormed, and the Prime Minister and his ministers were forced to flee, although several of the more junior ones saw the writing on the wall and defected to the revolutionaries. Rumours soon spread that the government was asking the Soviets to provide military assistance and it was this that provoked the occupation of the Soviet embassy on the 9th of March 1979.

Security at the embassy was not what might be expected from a Soviet facility. Tehran had been looked at as a soft posting and the Soviets had taken the Iranians at their word that they would be able to quell any unrest just as they had in the past. The attack on the embassy took the Soviets completely by surprise and there was no time to evacuate. 93 officials and security personnel were taken hostage, with demands that the Soviets get out of Iran being issued ‘in the name of the people’, a deliberately ironic choice. The leaders of the revolution were horrified and desperately tried to have the hostages released, but they were ignored by the extremists who had taken charge of the occupation, and instead a number of hostages were moved off site to prevent anyone trying to release them.

The Soviets were not aware of this latter fact and a rescue plan was put into action on the 27th of March. Operation Bear Claw called for a large group of Soviets special forces troops, Spetsnaz, to infiltrate Tehran after nightfall in civilian vehicles, retake the embassy and secure the hostages. The Soviets would then deploy heavy air cover and dispatch an armoured column to link up with the Spetsnaz and cover the evacuation of the hostages. Once they were out of Tehran, they would rendezvous with a group of transport helicopters which would ferry the hostages to a Soviet airbase in the north of the country. It was an ambitious plan, with multiple obvious points of failure and it went wrong from the get-go. The Spetsnaz entered Tehran and naturally attempted to take back streets as much as possible to get close to the embassy. A wrong turn was taken at some point and the convoy soon bogged down as it encountered a crowd of local protestors. Things got worse when the Spetsnaz were confronted by police trying to clear the street and restore order. A firefight broke out and the rescuers tried to make a run direct to the embassy. This also failed and the air cover intended to support the escape of the hostages was now deployed to prevent the troops getting captured themselves. Several hours of confused fighting ensued in which about a third of the Spetsnaz were killed or injured and at least one Soviet helicopter was lost, either to ground fire or mechanical failure and 14 other Spetsnaz were captured by the Iranians. Just after dawn a pair of Iranian jets struck the rally point outside the city, with three more helicopters destroyed on the ground and at least twenty more Soviet personnel killed.

This was a disaster for the Politburo in Moscow, who were also having to deal with simultaneous unrest in Europe. There was no question of letting the Iranians getting away with attacking Soviet forces and any new government in Tehran would be hostile to the Soviets Union even if it didn’t openly align itself with the West. Contingency plans had been put in place and transport planes were soon on their way to the VVS airbases in Iran while additional forces were deployed to the border and zero hour for a full invasion of Iran was set for the 11th of April. The Iranian armed forces were in disarray after the revolution and there was no clear chain of command, so when three Soviets divisions crossed the border, they brushed aside the defending forces and military resistance rapidly collapsed, assisted by the Soviet columns that advanced from the airbases cutting into the Iranian lines of communication and securing the routes down which the main force was advancing on Tehran. The Soviets swept through Iran, reaching Tehran on the 17th of April and theoretically completing the occupation of the country by the 23rd of April.

There had been near universal condemnation of the seizure of the Soviet embassy and the reaction to Bear Claw had been one of understanding if not approval, though inevitably some political pundits in the USA couldn’t help gloating about its failure. The Soviet invasion provoked an completely reversal of attitudes and overnight undid all the progress in détente with the USA in the aftermath of the withdrawal from Berlin. The hopes of the hardliners in the Politburo that this show of strength would quiet dissent in the Bratislava Pact were swiftly dashed. To make matters worse large part of the already crumbling Iranian petrochemical infrastructure were sabotaged before they could be seized and large quantities of arms and explosives vanished from Iranian army arsenals. Iranian oil production collapsed and efforts to restore it were crippled by ongoing resistance activities. Even if it had been possible to restore more than a trickle of oil passing through Iranian refineries it was embargoed from most international markets. Iran turned into a quagmire for the Soviets, it was sometimes called the ‘Soviet Cuba’, but the situation was far worse than that faced by the USA in Cuba as unlike the Cubans the Iranians received considerable outside support.

The one area where the condemnation of the invasion was less that wholehearted was in the Middle East itself, though the dissenting voices did not come from the sources political analysts had predicted. Iraq had been engaged in a long-term dispute over borders and control of Shatt Al Arab waterway with Iran and there were fears they would seek to take advantage of the chaos to press their claims. Instead, they became one of the strongest supporters of the Iranian resistance. This was inspired by the pragmatic realization that what the Soviets did to Iran today they might do to Iraq tomorrow. Iraq became the primary conduit for foreign aid to the Iranians and the invasion of Iran turned out to be a massive boost both politically and economically for Iraq. The counterpoint to this came from Saudi Arabia. Staunchly Muslim and a conservative monarchy the country might have been expected to bitterly impose the invasion, but its response was equivocal to say the least. Iran had long been a competitor for political influence in the region and the lukewarm condemnations of the oppression of the Islamic faith in Iran emanating from Riyadh had provoked an angry response from Iranian religious figures exiled to the west, with it being suggested on multiple occasions that the Saudi leadership was unworthy of its role as the keepers of Islam’s holiest sites. Saudia Arabia’s reaction might also have been influenced by the surge in oil prices in the aftermath of the invasion of Iran.

Saudia Arabia could hardly openly support the Soviet invasion, instead they took a very equivocal position by maintaining that Iranian provocations had escalated tensions with the Soviets and contributed to the invasion. This was not a popular with many of Saudi Arabia’s neighbours and it especially antagonised the Iraqis. The Saudis were soon suspected of acting as a middleman for the Soviet backed government in Tehran, purchasing equipment to help rebuild Iranian refineries and assisting in selling what oil Iran did produce, and being whispered to be a market for Iranian Uranium.

The hostility between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and the fact that the Iranians managed to spread their resistance activities into Soviet Central Asia and the rest of the Middle East, were key factors in precipitating the Oil Wars.
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