Noi non ci saremo - An Italian spin-off of "Protect and Survive: A Timeline"

Disclaimer(s): this TL is set in the alternate world of Protect and Survive. I strongly suggest you to read at least the first four chapters of the aforementioned 2011 Turtledove Award winner for Best New Cold War in order to better contextualize my little & humble work. I ask you politely to forgive my stiffy and mediocre English because it isn't my native language; I also use a lot of Italian terms, don't have any fear to ask what they mean, I'll try my best to translate them. Comments, suggestions, constructive criticism are welcome and encouraged. So, here's the first installment.


WEST STAR - Mount Moscal (VR), Italy.

01:46 PM CET, 02/21/1984.

The darkness the cold the wind
Alfa Romeo and Carabinieri Campagnole and soldiers
Via Roma Tangenziale Ovest Autostrada del Brennero
The lights the beacons the sirens
full speed and radio crackles
the SP9 Affi the gates
appuntati and brigadieri
pale faces grippin' M12s hintin' shaky nods
Goin' underground, sheltered (and buried?) by the mountain

When hostilities broke out, COMLANDSOUTH together with COMFIVEATAF and their staff were quickly relocated to the designed war post, where they soon were joined by permanent delegations from NAVSOUTH, STRIKEFORSOUTH and US Marines Corps. The task was extremely simple, the task was extremely difficult:
to coordinate the defense of Italy against Warsaw Pact & Yugoslavian forces and to keep an eye on the Lybians. The available forces were neither so large nor so up-to-date. Generale Bonsignore knew it, mere awareness of it, reinforced by the allarming reports he had received hour after hour, didn't let him get more than a couple of hour of sleep a day. Red eyes and rings under them, he was now on the phone with the V° Corpo d'Armata commander, grudgingly planning a counter-offensive clamoured by Consiglio supremo di difesa, even before that against the enemy, against common sense. We suffered massive casualties, we are understreght, we're starting to lack supplies for everything. Only things we aren't running out are idiots. And now I have also to sell this suicidal move as something good; sheer madness, but that's probably what Rome wants from me.

<< Generale
De Robertis, I know exactly your frontline situation, I read every report you sent twice.>>

Just in case even I didn't already seemed idiot enough to you.

<< Now, listen to me. We have to cross Isonzo and then secure the flank just behind A4 highway in order to launch an assault and regain Ronchi dei Legionari airport, then move into Monfalcone.>>

You're right, Corrado, with the enemy in the outskirts of Remanzacco, bound to Udine, how can I order to you to release the Battaglioni Carri GALAS and CHIAMENTI to the south?

<< Meanwhile VITTORIO VENETO has to thrust up to north-west, all along the SR14.>>

I know too they're trapped into Trieste, only one third of their nominal strenght.

<< We gotta break the siege, before it's too late;
if the city fall, it will bring down with itself the country's morale, we already lost Gorizia.>>

The country's morale is all time-low since the Hamburg incident and Gorizia, Trieste, they were doomed from the start.

<< I am not blame the loss on you, Generale, your men fought valiantly against overwhelming enemies.>>

Good god, I'm talkin' like a LUCE newsreel in the times of Duce.

<< It's vital to start before the night. No, listen to me, I can't provide you full CAS after datk, Ginas and Yankees are blind nighttime. Generale, please, it's not time to discuss about modernization of air force...>>

If you knew how it's humiliating to lie to an honest man when he's sayin' the truth. Our Aeronautica's should be ranked as a 50s aviation museum, not as a modern air force.

<< Generale, you will receive suitable support, that's for sure. Now I have to confer with
COMFIVEATAF. I'll recall you within an hour and we will arrange the operation in detail. I know, I know. Have a nice day, De Robertis.>>

He put down the receiver and heaved a sigh
. He stood up. He was incubating a huge headache and in dire need of a good sleep. But there was no way: he had a crowded schedule, and the first meeting, toward which he was going, was a tough one. Bonsignore didn't like Generale di Squadra Aerea con incarichi speciali Castoldi and the feeling was mutual: different age, different roots, different characters, different ideas about cooperation between the two armed forces; moreover his contiguity to SISMI and his connection with certain political and business underworlds were open secrets, as the friendship with several Agency's men in Italy. He entered into COMFIVEATAF's office, findin' him sunk in the armchair, vaguely bored, surrounded by a swarm of subordinates busy with phones, maps and telex.

Even in a situation like this, he has managed to turn a military post in a sort of satrapia.

Suddendly Castoldi's eyes came alive with a strange twist, stand up, salute back. Something more reptile than human.

<< Ezio! I was waiting for you
! Please, take a seat.>>

False smiles, soapy manners.

<< I think you're here to talk about that...counter-offensive so much claimed by CSdD, isn'it?>>

<< Exactly, Generale Castoldi.>>

He emphasized to the maximum the rank. He wanted to keep the distance between them, they weren't friends, they weren't confederates in one of his beloved
secret masonic lodges. Castoldi faked to not catch on that, keepin' on beckon and gesturin' to his staff without sayin' anything.

<< I need a strong interdiction operation against X, XIII, XIV Yugoslavian Corps, 9th, 17th Hungarian Motorized Rifle Divisions and their assets around Trieste plus intense CAS during the VITTORIO VENETO movement in order to allow the linkage of the city's Comando Truppe to the main front. At the same time we have to assure air coverage to
Battaglioni Carri GALAS, CHIAMENTI, Brigata Corazzata POZZUOLO DEL FRIULI and Meccanizzata GORIZIA, the V° Corpo d'Armata attack force aimed at retaking Ronchi, Monfalcone and operating the link-up.>>

COMFIVEATAF stood up, walked around the desk and invited
COMLANDSOUTH to go with him outside the room, in the corridor. They were just after the door when Castoldi made a sly face and took a disgusted Bonsignore's arm

<< You don't believe in that plan, don't you? Trieste is fucked up, you know it as well as me. And I believe you also know that this "counter-offensive" is just a sop to some socialist, former partisan Savonese. Poor old man, he thinks we are still in WWII.>>

Bonsignore hold his tongue.

This little, intriguing bastard talks about the Presidente della Repubblica as one of his fellow rogue political friends; he's right about the plan's feasibility, and probably is right about the source of such naive strategy too. But I also know that Capo di Stato Maggiore della Difesa, another well-connected masonic idiot, instead of remember to Pertini the sorry state of the Armed Forces, probably had boasted some nonsense statement about our mythological military power.

<< However orders are orders and we got to set good example; I suggest you to not endanger much of your spare forces in a so foolish action, anyway. Send just a dozen of tanks, better if they are the more disposable, and a couple of BAR battalions, better if they are rookies. Personally I'll send in merely two old Starfighters and four, maybe five G.91R., no more than that. We will be able to say we fulfilled our orders, but our assets failed execution. Isn't it perfect?>>

Good god, he's worst than I've ever thought

Bonsignore was closing to the boiling point.

<< Generale Castoldi, I don't want even remember to you what expect to traitors and saboteurs during wartime.>>

A little bit closer.

<< Come on, Ezio. We are a secondary front, NATO will win or lose in Germany or in the Atlantic Ocean. We only have to hold on without too much bloodshed and wait for reinforcements; there's no place for a silly "counter-offensive".>>

He loosed his arm and shouted, disregarding of the thunderstruck looks by VAM guards in the tunnels.

<< No, no, you're a silly, a silly bastard: You don't like the orders? Fine with that, resign, go home, get stuffed. But if you accept them you have also to execute them, and with the full spectrum of your crappy aviation not with a token representation of it! You're a useless piece of shit in a uniform you never deserved! You and your friends should be...>>

<< G-G-Generale...>>

The couple look up at a podgy, spectacled Tenente, stuck in a salute and with a sheet in the other hand.

Castoldi replied the salute then left alone Bonsignore to grab what seemed to be a telex.

He read it impassively.

Without a word, he gave it to COMLANDSOUTH.


Subject: Update to Sitrep 02/21/84.

'Nuclear blast reported west of Kassel, BDR, @ 1204 Zulu.
'Yield still unknown but rated inside tactical range.
'Early reports suggest
US Army unauthorized use of a battlefield nuclear device.
'Investigations are ongoing.
'Further communications will follow ASAP.


<< It looks like we have to find a modus vivendi, my dear Ezio.>>



Great work, Mario!

A bunch of interesting stuff going on here, especially with regards to the pretty shocking divisions within the Italian military; given how hard they're finding it to co-operate now, during the conventional phase, I dread to think how they're going to sort stuff out after all the really bad stuff happens.

Similarly, I didn't realise the Italian forces - especially the air force - were in such a bad way; this is clear both from what our characters are telling it us and from how much territory the Italians have lost in a relatiely short space of time.

Castoldi seems like someone I'd keep an eye on; given how happily he'll throw his men's lives away now, he's likely to become even more 'pragmatic' when all the rules go out the window. I suppose I can sympathise with his fears that the whole Italian front is a sideshow though, although of course it won't particularly matter very soon.


Just for reference for those of you not caught up on your '80s Italian Air Force (I certainly had to look it up) , here's the G.91R that Castoldi was talking about - basically a forty year old training aircraft.

Looking forward to the next part, Mario - it seems things are about to get very interesting over there...
Nice bit of work this.

A bit more on the G.91. It was a winner of a 1953 NATO competition for a standard light tactical support aircraft. However it was only ever used by the Italian, German and Portuguese air forces. It was considered by the Austrians, Swiss and Norwegians and even evaluated for the FAC role by the US Army.

The French chose to develop the Etendard, while we continued to develop the Hunter for the role. In fact thinking of it as being a contemporary of the Hunter will give a good idea of the vintage of the aircraft.
Chilling Mario, really chilling. Unfortunely you are totally spot on about the situation of our armed forces in the first half of the 80's and the general feeling (military and political alike) that after all why bother, Italy (but in the end all the south theatre) it's not so important probably a distraction...and probably we are all gonna die by nuclear fire (this is just my interpration of the mood of the period... at least was of the one i know). Always a good work, just a think, i've only read the first chapter of the principal timeline so i don't know all the background, but Yugoslavia is back on the fold? IRC in OTL they were trained and equiped for a defensive war with limited capacity of a sustained offensive and like us they were in the beginning of a period of modernization of the armed forces so military they are not in a situation so different from Italy, just a though.

Ciao Mario continua così
Great start Mario, looking forward to more!

Interesting to see that Yugoslavia is siding with the Warsaw Pact however, I would have expected them to stay neutral in the conflict, likely to end up attacked by both sides.
Thank you all for good reviews and fosterings, I'm glad to see interest for my sideshow :)

Great work, Mario!

A bunch of interesting stuff going on here, especially with regards to the pretty shocking divisions within the Italian military; given how hard they're finding it to co-operate now, during the conventional phase, I dread to think how they're going to sort stuff out after all the really bad stuff happens.

Similarly, I didn't realise the Italian forces - especially the air force - were in such a bad way; this is clear both from what our characters are telling it us and from how much territory the Italians have lost in a relatiely short space of time.

Castoldi seems like someone I'd keep an eye on; given how happily he'll throw his men's lives away now, he's likely to become even more 'pragmatic' when all the rules go out the window. I suppose I can sympathise with his fears that the whole Italian front is a sideshow though, although of course it won't particularly matter very soon.

Just for reference for those of you not caught up on your '80s Italian Air Force (I certainly had to look it up) , here's the G.91R that Castoldi was talking about - basically a forty year old training aircraft.

Looking forward to the next part, Mario - it seems things are about to get very interesting over there...

Nice bit of work this.

A bit more on the G.91. It was a winner of a 1953 NATO competition for a standard light tactical support aircraft. However it was only ever used by the Italian, German and Portuguese air forces. It was considered by the Austrians, Swiss and Norwegians and even evaluated for the FAC role by the US Army.

The French chose to develop the Etendard, while we continued to develop the Hunter for the role. In fact thinking of it as being a contemporary of the Hunter will give a good idea of the vintage of the aircraft.

Divisions and trends among Italian military probably are common from the very start of the nation; they mirror, somehow, the divisions inside the country. As you have suggested, worst is yet to come about this issue.

Italian army basically are suffering a downsizing process started in the 1975 with good theoretic principles (i.e. instead of havin' a lot of understrenght, obsolete-equipped divisions have a more efficient and well-furnished brigade based system) but poor execution, because new units received (and if they ever...) modern stuff maddeningly slow. So you have key forces still using a never updated M60 and reserve or Carabinieri units older M47; there were naturally also a good number of Leopard 1, but they weren't enough to equip the whole V° Corpo d'Armata and they had still to front an over overwhelming number of enemy MBTs. Other issues you should consider are the lack of a self-propelled AA tank or the worrisome use of the Garand as standard infantry individual weapon for way too many units.

Italian air force in 1984 was even worse: combat forces' backbone was the couple F-104G/S/S CB-G.91R/Y.

The first one entered in service in 1962 (G), but it was more a 50s mach 2 interceptor than a "modern" fighter and it was armed with just Vulcan and Sidewinders. The Italian built S version, operative since 1969, lost fixed gun but gained Sparrow/Aspide AAM while the S CB version (CacciaBombardiere, Fighter-Bomber) retained Vulcan and was mainly thought to strike missions, in which it could count on an increased payload (it could use 500/750 lb. gravity bombs, rocket pods, napalm tanks, Kormoran anti-ship missiles or B61 nuclear bombs). Using Orpheus pod it could be also deployed in fast reconnaisance operations. It had maintenance and reliability issues, often reduceing the available number of 'planes; it was also a difficult aircraft to pilot, not forgivin' any mistake by the crew. While on paper superior training and pure performances were on Italian side, quantity, dogfighting aircraft skills and Soviet huge support would have quickly tip the scales in favour of WP air forces.

Some additions to Jan's notes on G91. Several R version (since 1958) were intended for reconnaissance/light attack/CAS; they usually used the "classic" gravity bombs and rocket pods. There were also the trainers, the Ts. An updated version called G.91Y (since 1972) with increased payload and twin-engine saw limited service. Main problems, as stressed on the prologue, were the night/bad weather blindness together with low efficiency of his weaponry against armoured vehicles, its main target.

Counter to this grim scenario, Italian navy was in pretty good shape; It had some recent new entries especially in destroyer, frigate and corvette classes with still appropriate major ships.

However, by a mere "grounding" point of view, frontline situation is not so tragic; the main issue are growing disparity of forces and shortage of supplies. Forces from others Comandi Militari Territoriali and III° Corpo d'Armata are already moving up to reinforce Italian Army in northeastern part of the country, but these movements are delayed by events in the rest of the Peninsula that we will see in next installments.

Castoldi has plenty of tricks, wait and see :D.


Chilling Mario, really chilling. Unfortunely you are totally spot on about the situation of our armed forces in the first half of the 80's and the general feeling (military and political alike) that after all why bother, Italy (but in the end all the south theatre) it's not so important probably a distraction...and probably we are all gonna die by nuclear fire (this is just my interpration of the mood of the period... at least was of the one i know). Always a good work, just a think, i've only read the first chapter of the principal timeline so i don't know all the background, but Yugoslavia is back on the fold? IRC in OTL they were trained and equiped for a defensive war with limited capacity of a sustained offensive and like us they were in the beginning of a period of modernization of the armed forces so military they are not in a situation so different from Italy, just a though.

Ciao Mario continua così

Great start Mario, looking forward to more!

Interesting to see that Yugoslavia is siding with the Warsaw Pact however, I would have expected them to stay neutral in the conflict, likely to end up attacked by both sides.

First thing I have to say, Yugoslavia sided with WP is merit/fault of Jack! :D


Vienna assumed hit. Bad fallout from Germany (COULD THE MOUNTAINS HAVE SHIELDED THEM?). Tactical devices and gas utilised in support of Jugoslavian forces prior to the exchange. No overflights - risk of Jugo/Czecho etc interception.

So I assumed they chose to attack Italy and Austria (Greece too?).

A similar choice initially seemed to me...strange; I say it because Tito (dead in 1980) was rumored to have signed secret protocols with NATO about siding with "us" in event of a Soviet invasion or general WWIII and because, as both of you have already said, Yugoslavian armed forces were in a reorganization phase still ongoing at the time of OTL breakup (1991).

However, I ask you to follow my modest thoughts:

WP could use your country and your airspace as shortcut to Italy. NATO could use realistically only your airspace as shortcut to WP, the only exception being Italian "defensive" moves longtime planned and known (i.e. in event of a Yugoslavia invaded and outrunned by WP forces, Italians would have occupied some border mountains and valleys in order to put up a "forward defense" against incoming enemies) but rather unlikely given their not-so-good military readiness.

If you side with NATO, WP will try to crush you; you could hold on strongly enough to be a pain in the ass for WP, but in the process they'll destroy your country and the West could do very little in your defense. Beside that, Serbs could select to join Soviet invaders as allies, tearing apart a country already suffering from ethnic tension.

If you side with WP, you will not have to fear any ground invasion; for sure NATO air forces will try to bomb you, but equally for sure they will have more urgent priority than conduct something reminding OTL 1999 bombing campaign. Moreover movin' toward Gorizia or Trieste could unite all the peoples in a struggle against an outside enemy.

If you stay neutral, sooner or later you will down the wrong airplane or hit the wrong boat and you will became enemy of one side; I don't see both the Superpowers too prone to "accept" neutrals on their way in a WWIII.

Let me know any other question about my spin-off you may have, I'll be happy to answer you.

In the next installment we will move to Rome.
One country which is unlikely to have taken part in the war is Romania.Ostensibly a Warsaw Pact member it had the most difficult relation with the soviets and it acted without taking into account the general situation.Ceaușescu was suspicious of anyone capitalist communist and whatever.Its unlikely he would have decided to make his country part of the Warsaw Pact push in fact he would have viewed it as an attempt to subjugate the country under soviet rule.Of course once the nuclear phase was reached he would have been bombed regardless neutral or not the fact that they where Warsaw Pact members pretty much sealed their fate.Somewhat sad since the average romanian during the Cold War could not even comprehend the idea of being nuked since there where other problems on their mind.To end up nuked by the americans for a war started by the russians would have been unfathomable.:confused:
Huzzah! I was thinking Mcgraggle, Chip, and I were the only one out there. Good to hear more from the Italian front.
Errata Corrige: in order to harmonize the events of the Prologue of NNCS with the P&S canon please substitute in it

01:46 PM CET, 02/21/1984.

12:36 AM CET, 02/21/1984.


'Nuclear blast reported west of Kassel, BDR, @ 1204 Zulu.

'Nuclear blast reported west of Kassel, FRG, @ 1155 Zulu.


Chapter I: Centrifugal forces

"Quando un paese vede allentarsi giorno per giorno il suo tessuto connettivo, il valore delle sue istituzioni, la forza del suo ordinamento statale, la conclusione non può essere che una: quel paese cessa di essere una Nazione, per diventare un "mucchio" di dimostranti, un "mucchio" di politicanti, un "mucchio" di egoisti, ecc. È chiaro che in questa situazione le reazioni del paese non saranno più nazionali ma solo "cellulari": reagirà soltanto il "mucchio" colpito, tra l'indifferenza degli altri "mucchi" destinati presto o tardi ad essere colpiti a loro volta, e così via. Un paese di questo tipo è destinato a sfasciarsi al primo soffio di temporale, impreparato come è a qualsiasi situazione di emergenza."

Le ultime 100 ore di libertà in Italia, 1970.

In spite of almost forty years of Republican history, in spite of "the looming spectre of a conflagration" (as the Corriere della Sera, quoting BBC, had written just a month ago during the last Berlin crisis) who would have been actually in charge of Italy, or more precisely in charge its armed forces in case of war, had been left unclear by the Italian Constitution and none of the following governments had cared too much about it.

In just one night a question until then restricted only to some conscious officers and over-zealous law students became literally a matter of life or death for many more people.

The Presidente della Repubblica Pertini and the Presidente del Consiglio Craxi had started arguing as soon as orders to armed forces were to be given on Day One. Both the men had do it with the best intentions, for the love of the country, for the good of the people; but even so, even if they had different but not irreconciliable views on Socialism and even if they agreed that a quick solution was needed, their staunch characters and belief to be right in their own respective interpretations of the Constitution were preventing them to reach an agreement on the issue. After at least one hour of dispute, the Ministro di Grazia e Giustizia Mino Martinazzoli, not scheduled to be in the COmitato Politico Strategico but invited by suggestion of the other Ministri Giulio Andreotti ( Affari Esteri) and Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (Interno), had proposed to settle the dangerous controversy by accepting the opinion of a panel of Corte Costituzionale's members to be quickly summoned there. Assent had been given without esitation.

In less than two hours, a pool of Carabinieri, SISMI, SISDE men had took sometimes cold sweating sometimes dismayed judges from their Roman houses to convey them in Forte Braschi. Given their fears of being arrested or worst (even the supreme court's members had suspected of the "necessary powers" obtained by the government after the tumultuous declaration of war in the morning), they felt relieved hearing that they had been gather just to formulate an opinion. Informed about seriousness of the situation and conducted in a separate room, the judge smoothed the thing over declaring that the command of the armed forces attributed to the Presidente della Repubblica had to be intended simply as expression within the military sphere of his general function of Constitution's guarantor while the effective direction and decision power should have stayed to the government. Craxi stood even more than his 6'3''. The Consiglio Supremo di Difesa's officers muttered something unintellegible. Together with Andreotti and Scalfaro, Pertini kept a straight face. He said just "Grazie, signori giudici. Let's go to fight together".

But right now things were starting to looking black in the capital.

Abroad, very few good news. Iceland was receiving daily visits by enemy bombers but USAF had managed to make these visits very expensive ones. WP's thrust in northern Norway seemed to blunting and February appeared to be a wrong month to mount an offensive around the Arctic Circle even for the Soviets. RAF was keeping up his reputation, Nazis or Reds, it seemed to make no difference. Down in Turkey both the landings and the mountain warfare in the east were still meeting stiff opposition. Then a whole lotta of bad news: the siege of Copenhagen was in the sloppery slope to become the fall of Copenhagen. In West Germany things were getting uglier hour after hour, latest NATO defensive line ran almost straight from east of Bremen in the north to the Lake Constance in the South with a sizeable US Army pocket encircled in Kassel and the French 5e Division Blindée around Stuttgart again under massive attack. Reconnaissance satellites suggested that West Berlin was going to be literally flooded by Nationale Volksarmee units. Austria had lost already Linz, Graz and Klagenfurt; Vienna was next in line. Contradictory reports from the Yugoslav-Albanian border. Greece under pressure, worring voices of unrest and gunfiring in Athens.

The homefront was a mess, it had been a mess from the start.

On February 10th, while news of a bombing in the Munich Airport had been spread worldwide, the Consiglio dei Ministri had decided to order an immediate and full mobilization of the Italian armed forces. Contextually the Commissioni Interministeriali Tecniche (Difesa Civile, CITDC; Telecomunicazioni, CITLC; Evacuati e Rifugiati, CIER; Rifornimenti, CIR; Mobilitazione Industriale, CIMI; Coordinamento dei Trasporti Nazionali, CITN; Carburanti, CCC; Riparazioni d'Emergenza, CIRE; Destinazione Naviglio Mercantile, SDN; Protezione Beni Culturali, PBC) to interface with their NATO counterparts and the Dipartimento della Protezione Civile hastily assembled a Comitato operativo per le emergenze (EMERCOM) together with its subordinate Centri (Situazioni, CESI; Operativo Aereo, COAU; Emergenze in Mare, PROCIVILMARE; Applicazioni e Studi Informativi, CASI) had been activated or (more often) re-activated .

Responses from the ruling Pentapartito itself had not been so warm as inwardly Craxi had hoped: notwithstanding a vigorous speech recalling the deeds of Garibaldi and Mazzini, the Risorgimento epic, the sacrifice of millions of Italians during both World Wars, majority's general mood in the Parliament had ranged from deep concern to open bafflement. Enrico Berlinguer, national secretary of the main opposition party, the Partito Comunista Italiano, while blaming new Soviet Union's leaders for "an ominous progression into irresponsible, aggressive policies even against its allies in the Eastern Europe", had expressed doubts about the advisability of these measures and instead had proposed that Italian government should have made every effort to defuse the crisis calling "immediately" for new disarmament talks. Many of the presents and nearly everyone in the press caught the purpose of such address: he didn't want to appear sided with the "war party" (as Il Manifesto newspaper had nicknamed the government) in order to avoid discontent from the mainly pacifist grassroots and he didn't want to appear sided against NATO in order to avoid making the wrong and dangerous impression to be the Warsaw Pact fifth column. But another thing had became crystal clear, this time to anyone in the country: time was running out for similar salomonic (or pilatesque) stances.

Berlinguer and the PCI leadership, now assembled in a friend's country house just outside Rome, had been discussing the content of a joint announcement regarding their official position about mobilization, a document to be released in the late evening in response to nationwide pressing, when Armando Cossutta, the most known exponent of the small pro-USSR wing, appeared in the TV screen lying next the fireplace. He had been invited to partecipate in the redaction but he had regretted it, slightly annoying the secretary of the party; he was instead holding a press conference, unscheduled. Cossutta's words were heavy hitters: "In 1915 Italian Socialism, despite claiming to be against the war, chose to cowardly betray his ideals under the hypocritical slogan Non aderire, non sabotare; we all know what we were given as reward by the liberals and reactionary forces: dictature and war. And after that war, after our blood was spent to free the country from nazifascists oppression, we were treated as murderers, as enemies[...] We must not repeat mistakes of the past, we must not allow that another war, planned by imperialists and oppressors against world peoples' will, endanger the social achievements of the workers[...] We have to energetically repeal any involvement in this collective madness, we have to make all we can to avoid that Italian workers will be partners in crime of the destruction of mankind". A now enraged Berlinguer tried immediately to get in touch with his fellow Onorevole to no avail; meanwhile the biggest political storm of the Republic exploded. Among hails of criticism when not insults, from the far-right to the PCI itself, the speech was condemned as an incitement to treachery just when the first five classes of recruits were receiving the notorious cartolina that commanded them to appear in front of the assigned Distretto Militare. At least twelve judges across Italy had called for proceed against Cossutta, asking the necessary Parliament consent; Giorgio Almirante, leader of the Movimento Sociale Italiano, went further demanding immediate arrest and shooting of "communist subversives" and "dissolution of the Partito di Unità Proletaria, if necessary also of PCI".

In the night turmoil ensued: in several cities more or less improvised small extra-parliamentary communist groups had started protests outside Questure, Prefetture, police stations, military barracks, town halls or any other place housing representative of local or national authorities, at this time still engulfed in discussions and planning. Response by the Powers That Be were rather convulsive and differed. In Turin demonstrators had been arrested after some quick scuffles with police while in Milan and Genoa confrontations had lasted almost until the sunrise with hundreds wounded and severe damage to properties. In Bologna a considerable amount of PCI members had joined a self-established "security" to protect people from "provocations" and the major Renzo Imbeni had offered to them his "full collaboration". In Pisa and Livorno disorder had bordered on riot, with alarming news of beatings against policemen or military personnel and a nearly successful occupation of the Ufficio Territoriale del Governo; in Rome itself disturbances had taken the form of a three way clash between forze dell'ordine and far-right and far-left activists that had left six victims on the ground. Gunfights had been reported also in Naples, Lecce and Catanzaro coupled with unconfirmed instances of lynchings on supposed "communists" in Reggio Calabria and Catania.

So many incidents were occurring that no one, even though the conflict had not taken the twist that followed instead, could have kept track of them all: however it was indisputable that the worst had started only after the mysterious ambush in which Armando Cossutta had been killed around 6:00 AM on February 13th. He and his four bodyguards (Carabinieri from the LEGIONE LAZIO) had been murdered in front of a supposed Ministero della Giustizia's safe house by a team of twelve men "wearing balaclavas and unmarked black military uniforms" which "bore assault rifles and submachine guns". (Few) Witnesses, (little) evidences, (disorganized) investigations struggled in helping to reconstruct a coherent crime scene and subsequent events would have made impossible any further examination of the case.

Just as a signal had been given, in the next five days the incidents escalated in seriousness and death toll. Italians' nightmare of terrorist bombings was revived by a string of quasi-simultaneous attacks in the train stations of Milano Rogoredo, Pavia, Bologna Centrale (already theater of the 1980 Strage di Bologna), Firenze Santa Maria Novella and Roma Ostiense claiming 147 lives and bringing a railway traffic system already strained by the mobilization effort to the brink of collapse; car bombs detonated from Belluno to Trapani; declining Brigate Rosse suddendly had percolated, managing to kill the Tuscan Presidente della Regione Mario Leone and a Piacentino judge Vincenzo Santopezzullo, before the corpses of their whole leadership were found blindfolded, gagged and abandoned in a dumping ground near Viterbo only few hours before the war broke out. Public opinion was angered and shocked and put the blame over a wide variety of domestic or foreign entities: Loggia P2, SISMI, SISDE, NAR, BR, Pentapartito, PCI, MSI, NATO, Warsaw Pact, United States, USSR, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Libya, Israeli Mossad, Palestinian PLO, Iran, sometimes also Vatican City, were alone or combined accused of masterminding the attacks.

Italian armed forces build up occurred in such worn atmosphere and result was predictable.

Even if their nominal capacity strenght had allowed to hope in a positive outcome in the incoming WWIII, just the effective figures would have dashed that prospect: beside Carabinieri corps, only some units (3a Brigata Meccanizzata GOITO, almost the whole IV° Corpo d'Armata Alpino, Comando Truppe Trieste, 3a Brigata Missili AQUILEIA, Divisione Meccanizzata MANTOVA, the Lagunari of Comando Truppe Anfibie, Brigata Corazzata VITTORIO VENETO, Brigata Meccanizzata GORIZIA in the North; Brigata Paracadutisti FOLGORE and Brigata Meccanizzata GRANATIERI DI SARDEGNA in the Central Italy; Brigata Motorizzata AOSTA in Sicily and 1° Reggimento Fanteria Corazzato TEULADA in Sardinia) of the Army had been fully manned and equipped; the rest of Esercito Italiano war-readiness swung dramatically even in the same Brigata due to a number of factors. Unrest and international situation indeed had made difficult to have all the expected personnel, especially conscripted: some well-in-cahoots-people had obtained questionable service exemptions, some people had simply deserted (and there had been quite a few problems in organizing effective anti-draft dodgers operations), some people had got stuck en route to their assigned posts in protests, sabotages or simply in traffic jams. Logistic, haunted by the chronic lacking of required stocks and the likewise chronic inadequacy of Italian transport infrastructures, was still in dire straits: priority had been given to units operating in Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia but in order to fulfill it, supplies had to be diverted from the nearest depots in Lombardy or Emilia Romagna and sometimes from Piedmont and Marche, irking commandants of other parties (Tenente Colonnello Enrico Ricci in charge of the 84° Battaglione Fanteria VENEZIA wrote to the VII Comando Militare Territoriale's Generale di Corpo d'Armata Umberto Giuseppe Gallo "It is hard to drill and to motivate men saying them that there are not enough hand grenades to guarantee everyone a launch"); delivery of military hardware by factories had been also affected and the ongoing reorganization of the higher commands left more than one unit in a transition period with obvious.effect on the general capability.

Aeronautica Militare Italiana had experienced noticeably less problems in gathering ranks and files but nevertheless several issues afflicted it. The combat fleet was old: despite introduction of improved versions, F-104 and G-91 had been conceived in the 50s and by the end of the 60s they had been already considered outdated; and also outdated had become their armaments. Sparrow and Kormoran for the Starfighter excepted, they relied on early Cold War Sidewinders, general purpose free-fall bombs and rocket pods. A Gina or a Yankee pilot would have been forced to trust only the good aircraft's agility and his (generally good, if not excellent) skills flying right over a Warsaw Pact armored column to deliver weapons of doubtful effectiveness; a Spillone (local F-104 nickname ) pilot would have been compelled to engage more maneuverable/more armed MiGs or to go tree-top with a high altitude interceptor to attack enemy behind the front line. The all-new Tornado was avalaible only to the 6º Stormo “Alfredo Fusco”; attempts to rush 156º Gruppo's switchover from Starfighter to the Panavia's aircraft had obtained limited success so the squadron arrayed a mix of the two models, 155º Gruppo's conversion was postponed sine die. Effective defense of air space was a crucial matter. Italian radar and communication sites, integrated in the Distant Early Warning Line of NATO's project ACE HIGH, would have offered first-rate reports of the movements of WP air forces and crews from 1a Aerobrigata Intercettori Teleguidati were certain to inflict substantial losses with their Nike Hercules. There were hardly further bright spots: the SAMs themself were concentrated in the northeastern part of the country and were bound to fixed sites; air bases lacked any form of AA protection beyond WWII era machine guns or (in the case of some equally northern airports) the Army's Breda Bofors 40mm/L70 and Maxon Mount quadrinate systems, so, to the aim of not leaving them completelly undefended, decision was taken to allocate a number of Starfighters to Stormi without a fighter component. This choice perplexed many Tenenti Colonnelli and Colonnelli commanding interceptor units: the aircraft assigned to protect those bases were not enough to counter any real attack but in return were enough to lame readiness of original Gruppi (due to reliability and maintenance issues, fighter squadrons had been often troubled in lining up the estimated 12+3 airplanes). Hence, the "American question" was raised and among the AMI a split emerged: one side pushed to ask COMFIVEATAF to urge an USAF or some ANG concrete committment in defending Italy (in addition to the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, kept in Aviano AB after Greece government had repulsed it in September 30th 1983); the others opposed the proposal stating that make a similar plea would have conveyed in the Americans the idea that they were incompetent idiots, moreover there wasn't too much to bargain given what was happening in the rest of the world. In the end Castoldi himself persuded almost all of them to not worry about a thing: NATO support would have been "here if needed" but for the moment they would have to "await the final Alliance deployments in Europe".

In sharp contrast Italian Navy enjoyed a good shape. Despite the impossibility to use the just launched GIUSEPPE GARIBALDI (an Incrociatore portaeromobili, a strange classification chosen in view of future Harrier acquisition, to circumvent a 1931 law that assigned to Air Force an exclusive right to have fixed-wing aircrafts) still on sea trials and rerouted to Cagliari to prevent any risk, it could count on a rejuvenate and capable fleet: the flagship VITTORIO VENETO upgrades (including modern electronics, Mk.10 twin arm launcher updated to the SM-1ER SAM/RUR-5 ASROC capable Mod.9, addition of three CIWS Dardo for AA defense and four anti-ship OTOMAT Teseo systems), the new five Maestrale ASW frigates (MAESTRALE, GRECALE, LIBECCIO, SCIROCCO, ALISEO plus a sixth ship, the EURO, not fully tested but held in reserve), second batch Sauro class submarines (LEONARDO DA VINCI and GUGLIELMO MARCONI), the six expensive but promising Sparviero class patrol boat (SPARVIERO, NIBBIO, FALCONE, ASTORE, GRIFONE, GHEPPIO with another one, the TERMOLI incoming) and the seven minesweepers turned minehunters (MANDORLO, CASTAGNO, CEDRO, FRASSINO, GELSO, PLATANO, LOTO) proved a decisive improvement compared to the 70s situation. Less young but overall fair or more than fair ships like ANDREA DORIA cruiser, Lupo class frigates (LUPO, SAGITTARIO, PERSEO, ORSA), early Sauro (NAZARIO SAURO, CARLO FECIA DI COSSATO) and Toti (ATTILIO BAGNOLINI, ENRICO TOTI, ENRICO DANDOLO, LAZARO MOCENIGO) classes submarines were as well available; the other way round it was all off for a further Maestrale (ESPERO) and state-of-the-art Lerici minehunters (LERICI, SAPRI, MILAZZO, VIESTE), not yet ready to be folded in. The precipitately seized four Lupo intended for Iraqi were, in fact, not completed and Navy specialists were skeptical about possibility of re-fitting Italian standard command, control, communication, sensor and processing systems in a reasonable time. What concerned most NATO planners was the poor relationship between AMI and Marina Militare Italiana: during a buffet on the occasion of a reception at the American embassy, a US Navy Rear Admiral had been asked by Generale di Corpo d'Armata Filippo Ducali if he had liked Italian theater; the Rear Admiral had answered that while Goldoni plays had been very funny, his favorite Italian comedy had stayed the bickerings between the Navy and the Air Force Capi di Stato Maggiore. The joke, that of course had reached in a moment both the main characters, was not too far from reality. AMI complained of what they called other armed force's "expansionism", quoting the Atlantic story (31º and 41º Stormo's Breguet had mixed Air Force/Navy crews; even if trained by, supplied by, armed by and nominally integrated in the Aeronautica Militare Italiana, that paid a steep bill for them, they were under Marina Militare Italiana control) to say that having their ships, their "toy soldiers" (a shabby reference to the in fact top-notch Battaglione SAN MARCO marines) and also their aeroplane they were almost ready to have their own state. MMI countered maintaining that if the Arma Azzurra didn't like to be a "taxi driver" then they could have been less intransigent about their exclusive fixed-wing holding and that 36º Stormo's ability to attack successfully enemy ships was "maimed" by the priority given in Tornado's assignment to "special mission" Gruppo in Brescia-Ghedi.

World War Three began for Italy at 01:06 AM on 18th February and the first shot had came from the hunting rifle of Emanuele Zuppel, a retired architect living in the small località of Groppai, Gorizia. He had been awaken by a muffled thud outside his garden; so, suspecting an attempted burglary, had taken his old Beretta S2 and had opened the window. Under the feeble light of the moon he had glimpsed two men in camouflage fatigues erecting an antenna: taken by surpise, the JNA soldiers had tried to reach their Zastava M70 but Zuppel had fired first, hitting both of them in the head. When he had tried to phone 113 he had found out that telephone had became mute.

Meanwhile, indeed, Soviet, Bulgarian and Yugoslav special forces had started to attempt sabotages and seizing of key points all along the eastern border and in several Adriatic coast locations. Sometimes they succeeded in their task, as it had been for the occupation of Porto Potenza Picena's NATO NADGE station or the blowing out of 22° Deposito Territoriale in Sacile (PN), sometimes they had failed in them, like the inglorious howler of the fake Algerian airliner (containing a Vysotniki Spetsialnaya Razvedka unit ) forced by two 4º Stormo's Starfighters to attempt a botched landing on Bastia-Poretta airport where the aircraft had crashed and the French found later in the wreckage, along with weapons and dead Soviet soldiers, documents including detailed Rome maps, address books of Italian politicians, fake papers and Alitalia crew suits.

On the main front, after hours of frenzied activity in the sky of Central and Southeastern Europe countries and fights with persistent signal jamming, operators had detected what unambigously could be only a major enemy attack; according to the gathered data, this first wave should have been composed of Su-24s and Tu-22s, designated to knock out radar stations and SAM sites, followed by MiG-21s, MiG-23/27s, Su-17/22s and Soko J-22s for attack on other targets at lower altitude, scorted by other MiG-21s and 23s: still conceding a certain number of false contacts, they should have been enough to saturate Italian air defense. The answer was the only possible: throwing in any armed F-104 (including strike, reconnaissance and training versions), firing any Nike missile and any MG bullet available in the eastern part of Italy. It worked, but only partially and for a ruinous price. Nine Fencers, thirteen Blinders, two Backfires, twenty-one Fishbeds, eighteen Floggers, fourteen Fitters, and nine Orao had been downed by AMI; EI's Hawks SAM and AA guns had scored ten shooting down; MMI had claimed further twelve including helicopters: but the combined WP and Yugoslav Air Forces had destroyed in the air or on the ground fifty-three Starfighters, thirtyseven Ginas/Yankees, six Tornado, four MB-339s, three Hercules'. The installations of 56º, 58º, 67º and 81º Gruppo Intercettori Teleguidati had been swept away. 13º and 33º Gruppo Radar had lost operativeness. Rivolto and Treviso-Istrana air bases unserviceable. Then, after a solid artillery and rocket preparation, a juggernaut of armored and mechanized units rolled through the "Soglia di Gorizia" and all along the Trieste province; Ronchi dei Legionari airport wascaptured by Soviet airborne and quite promptly asserved to their CAS missions, something that had been made easier by the losses suffered by AMI. Italian Army reacted in compliance with the doctrine: survived batteries and AQUILEIA's conventional Lance SRBMs had targeted concentrations; extensive mine fields and TOW/MILAN anti-tank companies tried to slow down the enemy advance; the most forward Fanteria d'Arresto units, cased in fixed turrets and armed with vintage national or Sherman 90mm guns, had ought their best before they were run over. Leopard, M60 and M47 (together with M113 and VCC-1/2) engaged their counterparts in vicious clashes across the flat land of Friuli, inside towns and countryside, in city streets and dirty muddy fields.

On the seas, the principal menace was represented by Soviet/Yugoslav Navy subs, mine warfare and the AS weapons of Aviatsiya Voenno-Morskogo Flota; it had been reported that a group formed by MOSKVA helicopter carrier, MARSHAL VOROSHILOV and ADMIRAL OKTYABRSKY missile cruisers, SDERZHANNY, KRASNY KAVKAZ and STROGIY destroyers, plus supporting ships, after having headed full speed to the Ionian had stopped in the middle of it: intelligence had suggested that MOSKVA was probably experiencing turbines problems. CINCNAV dismissed request by junior officers to move the II Divisione Navale from the Adriatic (where it had been used as reinforcement to air defense and as warranty against landings in the Po river delta) to the South and attacking the troubled opponents calling it "a dangerous and useless move". Compared to other forces, the toll had been relatively light: first day of operations had taken away SAETTA Motor Gun Boat (RČ-301 Mitar Acev and JRZ Ka-28s attack), MANGO and BAMBÙ minesweepers (P822 Junak for the first, an AS-4 'Kitchen' for the second); offing Sardinia ATTILIO BAGNOLINI had been damaged by the B-41 Foxtrot class submarine but had been able to reach La Maddalena. The early overall modest effort profused by the Soviets against MMI units was explained by analyst, aside cases of technical issues, as due to the titanic effort required by operations in the Black Sea, the tough confrontation with NATO task force in eastern Mediterrean and the apparent preference accorded to hunting British and French vessels. They warned however to not underestimate what lyied under the water; to an extent undetected, in the Italian waters were lurking twelve USSR SS/SSK ( two Foxtrot class between Sardinia and the mainland, two in the Strait of Otranto, two in the Gulf of Genoa and three north of Reggio Calabria; two Tango class south of Garigliano del Capo and a solitary Romeo around Pantelleria),a SSGN Charlie I class and a SSN Victor II class (between Malta and Pachino).

In the meantime great fuss in the military hautes sphères had been caused by the so-called (and never revealed to the public) "Escape from Aviano": half an hour before "it" had happened, the USAF Phantom IIs had flown away, heading north. The astonished commander of the 3º Stormo phoned to COMFIVEATAF asking "where are the Americans going"; Castoldi, engrossed in his own moment of the truth, had replied sneering "Wherever they want to go, I think" and had closed communication. Colonnello Gori, pissed off for the answer and mindless of the circumstances, had spent the next two hours (i.e. the opening stages of WWIII) barking on the phone to any AMI officer (including retired) he had known that "those fucking assholes have abandoned us". The consequence were that, already during the final flares of the main WP air strike, a number of them demanded the immediate exit of Italy from NATO to their political referents, to the surprise of the Capo di Stato Maggiore dell'Aeronautica Militare who in turn immediately was compelled to call himself COMFIVEATAF. This time explanation by Castoldi was more articulated: given the "critical" situation in West Germany (where, especially in the south, the real deal was proving to be much worse than expected) COMAIRSOUTH had requested to let go those planes there; as bold as a brass he added that "I was and I am confident of our ability to repel them by ourselves, therefore I set the 35th TFW free to go where they are needed". A not convinced CSMA, who had received quasi-apocalyptic reports of situation, had chosen to sack him but when he hinted at it, the scheming Generale di Squadra Aerea con incarichi speciali just had to say "" to mute his interlocutor; the four digits had been his original affiliation # to P2 before Castoldi had made it disappear from the Gelli's "public" list. CSMA somehow was able to sell it to the "Gori's club" and no one outside the interested parties would have know anything.

Equally nothing would have been known about the growing amount of "missing" persons that have been suspected to be a bit too of "fellow travellers" kind; the phenomenon had been substantial in the areas near (when not exactly in) the combat zone, but stealthily had spreaded from Cuneo to Agrigento and had involved some distinguished intellectuals and local politicians. A brave, daring journalist wrote a quick, keen and well documented article in which some vanishing and accidental deaths had been linked to the activities of "NATO paramilitary commandos" acting "above the law" following "a renewed, bloodier Strategia della tensione" against "civil society and Constitution": but at the 06:26 AM Presidente Pertini, after an emergency session of Italian Parliament, had signed and announced the state of war against USSR, DDR, PR Poland, CSSR, PR Hungary, PR Bulgaria and SFR Yugoslavia (the risky neutrality of SR Romania and SPR Albania had been "rewarded"; article 5 of North Atlantic Treaty would have required also to extend it further to extra-european nations like DPRK or the Republic of Cuba, but it had been discarded as "unnecessary"). The government had so received extraordinary powers; this had been known in advance and, given the deteriorated state of the things, it was welcomed by many and thwarted by the rest.

Dissidence turned harsh, law enforcement harsher: La Repubblica front page of that day had offered, alongside news from the fronts, the explosive feature exposing "Super-SISMI" activities and a bitter criticism of Craxi's public order handling furnished with a caricature that mocked him using his name, look and strong man tendencies to compare him with Benito Mussolini; appealing to a string of Codice Penale articles, the infuriated Presidente del Consiglio asked and received green light to order the sequester of all the copies of the current issue, the closedown of the newspaper, the arrest of the authors. What followed when such orders were to be implemented was hardly a encouraging sign. A crowd of die anti-war protesters, ranging from radical catholic priests to die-hard members of PDUP, attempted to make things difficult for the police interposing themselves between the offices of the publication and the incoming agents; one of them was using a riot shield to make his way through the wall of demonstrators when he stumbled and fell, landing over a young student. Sheer weight of full geared policeman downed the teenager, bad luck made him hit his head on an electricity pole and faint. The Assistente Capo was surrounded, in the blink of an eye isolated and bashed up by a huddle calling him "assassin": his colleagues tried unsuccessfully to force the small human wall created between them, until a maddened Vice Ispettore drew on his Beretta and fired three shots in the cranium of a guy who was beating the moribund agent. Seven more joined him before it was all ended.

Nationwide disorder erupted, this time to an unprecedented level: entire quarters of Rome, Milan, Turin, Genoa, Bologna, Reggio Emilia, Florence, Perugia or Ancona in less than a day started to resemble Beirut. In more than an occasion, insurgents took the lead: FOLGORE had already been forward deployed in the NE when a horde of locals tried to invade Caserma Vannucci in Livorno requiring live mortars and MG 42s to prevent its fall (During the night was anyway agreed that the small contingent left should have been evacuated and the barracks mined because there was no way to fight back a second better organized aggression); in Savona and province, where the still not assembled Brigata Corazzata PUGLIE had been convened, Patton MBTs' main guns was used to relieve isolated an outgunned groups of soldiers; in Modena the remaining Cadets were under siege in their academy, protected only by Carabinieri themselves concentrated in the old town center. Serious disturbances had occured in front of known US forces or NATO bases too.

Next three days and an half had offered very small changes to these patterns. Libya had entered the conflict on D+2 firing salvoes of Scuds and sending strayed MiGs to strafe villages on Sicilian coastline: despite the close to nil accuracy of attacks, they obliged AMI to divert assets from 9º & 36º Stormo and US Navy Sixth Fleet to contribute detaching a compact F/A component; Soviet air incursions on zones far from the frontline grew slightly and their subs started to show some initiative; on the ground, more than the territorial losses and the refugees' odissey, a decisive matter was casting dark shadows even in short term perspective: attrition. Italian Army (but also Air Force) had burned in less than ninety hours stockpiles expected to last for two weeks and supply chain was often conditional on intermittent deliveries; units frequently denounced their difficulty in performing countermeasures to enemy actions because ammunitions or fuel shortages. Armed forces and police were doing their best to contain the pockets of insurgency.

Then there was Eschwege.

Centro Decisionale Nazionale, Forte Braschi - Rome (RM), Italy.
12:59 AM CET, 02/21/84.

<< "Unauthorized?" What the fuck does "unauthorized" mean? Shouldn't these things have a safety or something?>> growled Bettino Craxi to a SISMI officer.

<< Onorevole, honestly we have still not enough data to elaborate the exact dynam...>>

<< I don't want a lecture, Christ, I just want to know how it's possible for an atomic bomb, an American atomic bomb, to explode without their President's assent. I remember them sayin' that military needed a key, a combination, a...>>

<< Onorevole, you're right, all their tactical weapons feature a security device called Permissive Action Link that basically prevent them to work if the prescribed discret code is not correctly entered. However when they are on alert or, as they and we are now, outright in war, this system is unloc...>>

<< Ah! I knew it!I knew it!>>

<< No, wait, wait, please, let me finish; I was saying that the system is unlocked, but...>> He caught another telex from a NCO << Mmmh, now they say the weapon wasn't an Army but instead a USAF one, delivered blah blah blah, yield blah blah location...Maresciallo Fultz! Come here! Yes, you Fultz: you're half-German, no excuse me, half-Tyrolean, whatever. Listen to me, how do you pronounce mmmh...Erskveg, Esvekk...>>

Before the Bolzano-born Carabiniere could even read the name he was interrupted again, this time by an altered Pertini.

<< Generale Calboni, damn, tell us the deeds, who gives a damn about the name!>>

<< Ehhh, excuse me, Presidente, sometimes I am a bit pedant.>> said Calboni with false modesty.

You are an imbecile, and how! thought Craxi.

<<In short, on DEFCON 2 or 1 an aircraft like the one who has blown away that city, in order to have a functioning bomb, still needs a further authorization code that come, thru pecking order, from Reagan to the bomber crew.>>

<< Without authorization code, it cannot explode>> reflected pensive another guest Ministro (the without portfolio one for Coordinamento della Protezione Civile) Vincenzo Scotti.

<< So? If their President had not given that number, how they managed to do it anyway?>> pressed the Presidente del Consiglio.

<< Mmmh, well...We think that someone must have bypassed it somehow.>> said opening the arms the Generale.

<< A flawless reading, Generale, no doubt about it. We are lucky to have an intelligence staffed by so much analitycal minds>> commented wryly Andreotti.

<< Let's cut the crap, I want to talk with Da Rin in Brussels.>> thundered Craxi.

<< Brussels is sending an hold order to all forces in Europe; we believe that SHAPE is trying to...>> Calboni was looking at a newer communiqué when the SISDE chief entered in the room, approched him and whispered some words. The Generale changed immediately the subject.

<< Onorevoli, considered the current circumstances we, I and the Dottor De Angelis, agree that it should be...mmmh, preferable to move this body to a safer place.>>

The Vicepresidente del Consiglio Arnaldo Forlani asked explanations.

<< They are going to nuke us?>>

<< We don't know. Since they retired all their diplomatic representation, after Ogarkov had said to Reagan only God know what nonsense, we use the Swiss to send and receive messages to and from the Soviets; but it seems that they are leaving Switzerland too.>>

<< What are the Americans doing?>>

<< Their President should still be in Washington, but it isn't a touchstone because if they strike first the Americans will have a broader early warning time; it is more interesting for us to note that both the British Royals and Mitterand are no more in London and Paris.>>

After a pause, Calboni began to illustrate ESIGENZA S: he was explaining how coordination with the dispersing CIT could have worked when a hollow sound of rotor blades grew then faded without however disapperear, remaining in background. It was time to move on up.

The group (formed by the Presidente della Repubblica, the Comitato POlitico Strategico, the Nucleo Politico Militare, their "guests", officials and civil servants), guarded by more than two hundred Carabinieri reinforced also by four Leopard tanks and six VCC-1 IFVs courtesy of GRANATIERI DI SARDEGNA, left Forte Braschi to get into the cars. Maserati, Lancia, Alfa Romeo and their heavy escort reached, after about eight minutes, a great patch of grass, where that sound of rotor blades turned out to be caused by a small fleet of helicopters. The passengers got off their luxury vehicles and were conducted in by attentive soldiers. Other soldiers stared up at the lift off, until the AB 212s and the SH-3D/TSs vanished in the sky. Crews were quiet: they all knew what had happened, lived what was happening and foreshadowed what was going to happen. In another handful of minutes, the choppers delivered their special loads to Ciampino. Noi non ci saremo thought composed and unhopeful a pilot while approaching LZ. The airport was nearly desert. Commercial flight had been off since Day One; Alitalia airliners had been commandeered. They went on board of three DC-9; before them, took off four TF-104G from 4º Stormo. The flight was not supposed to be a long one, nevertheless, from their seats many were busy in doing concitated phone calls or reading bulky documents.

Craxi was trying to speak with NATO Deputy Secretary General but communication was unsteady: among static he was able to apprehend that Germans had got a raging argument with the Americans and Luns had been bound to physically interposing himself to prevent two diplomats from lay a hand on. Andreotti, inscrutable, listened to Spadolini: the Ministro della Difesa was displaying him a SISMI file that would have solved one of the hitherto most obscure part of the conflict, the Yugoslav siding with the Warsaw Pact after decades of flaunted non-alignment. The dossier explained in detail, attaching solid documentation, the reasons behind such a move. After the Tito's death, Admiral Branko Mamula, Federal Minister for People's Defense and former JNA Chief of General Staff, had received from UDBA (the SFRY secret service) reports suggesting that Italian leadership had been expecting a collapse of the federation and a WP invasion; in that event Italy would have seek a Soviet warranty to regain their rights on Trieste's "Zone B" ceded to Belgrade in 1975 Treaty of Osimo bartering them with a warranty of NATO non-intervention. Talks in this regard would have take place during a Gromyko's visit in Rome. So, when Mitja Ribičič had asked to Moscow for explanations (Spadolini commented dry "Obviously the Yugoslavs didn't mind to ask anything directly to us"), they had reassured him about having no will to invade but, seizing the opportunity, had "admitted" that Italy had made proposals to portion out SFRY between the two of them, Austria, Greece and Albania and added that they had refused, keeping it silent "only to not compromise peace in Europe". Finally they had offered "concrete help" to Yugoslavia, materializing it with the Red Army deployment in January. The PRI Ministro and Andreotti agreed to show the dossier to Craxi later in the afternoon.

They arrived over the Alghero-Fertilia Airport and the jets performed a perfect landing. To await them, on the ground, a small guard of Carabinieri with trucks and Campagnole. Behind them, about seven hundred armed men with unusual camouflage patterns. In front of them, wearing one of these strange uniforms and smiling, all the passengers recognized the Presidente del Senato, Francesco Cossiga.
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Incredible work here, Mario - you've achieved the difficult task of describing an incredibly chaotic scenario with complete clarity - I must say that, even knowing what was to come, I was rather on the edge of my seat; the level of detail down to Regimental names and equipment is fascinating - I also enjoyed the bit of trivia about Italy's first shots in the war coming from a hunting rifle!

The divisions in Italy are very worrying, and I can't imagine the addition of a few megatons into the equation will do anything to calm the tensions. Chilling, plausible, exciting. I can't wait for the next installment!
Good Job! Keep it up! I'm looking forward to see more.

Who are the unusually camouflaged troops? Italian Special Forces?
Could you explain where the italian continuity of government bunkers are?

That would make it easier to understand.
Neutrality won't save Romania. As a long-time member of the Warsaw Pact, its on NATO targetting list whether it follows the Soviets in or not.

Albania, on the other hand, might be able to get away with it...

Assuming, of course, the Yugoslavs didn't overrun it.