Part VI – Red dawn One Hundred & Twenty–Two A Japanese-built motorcycle raced across eastern Nebraska after coming out of the small city of Omaha. Its driver, Ivan Nikolayevich, came off Highway-75 at the Fort Crook interchange to make a gentle left turn and then a sharp turn to the right moments later. The motorcycle went south again, whizzing past a long stretch of guard fence towards where the side road he followed rose in height up an artificial hill to reach a bridge over the little river ahead. Ivan Nikolayevich stopped the motorcycle right there at the top and jumped off. There were some trees and bushes which he stepped into. He swung the heavy satchel he carried on his back towards the ground below in one swift, practised move. There was a handle on the top which he turned. That was an anti-tamper device but he had no control over the armament of the weapon inside the satchel as it was already activated and impossible to stop. Local time was a quarter to nine in the morning. Back on the motorcycle he went as Ivan Nikolayevich revved the engine and pulled away. He caught sight of a woman civilian in a passing car who was looking at him in his helmet & leathers and had seen what he had done but there was no time to do anything about that. It wouldn’t matter anyway. The highway was re-joined just over the bridge. Ivan Nikolayevich broke the speed limit again and he darted in and out of passing traffic. Cars and trucks honked their horns at him as he shot towards southern Nebraska. He covered two miles every minute once he was going at full speed. When the time reached 0900 (US Central Time), there was a nuclear detonation behind him. It was a ground burst and the weapon yield was that of sixteen kilotons. The target sufficiently destroyed behind the still speeding motorcycle with Ivan Nikolayevich getting away safely was Offutt Air Force Base. Another motorcyclist, Pavel Sergeyevich, was in neighbouring South Dakota. He placed his satchel on the very edges of Ellsworth Air Force Base and raced away while forgetting to activate that anti-tamper device: what would be an instant cloud of nerve gas if deployed. His motorcycle headed for Interstate-90 and Pavel Sergeyevich was intending to go eastwards at lightning speed. He wasn’t the most-confidant driver of the high-powered vehicle which he rode and nearly crashed getting through the interchange when a truck came very close to sideswiping his motorcycle. Inside the gloves he wore, the hands of Pavel Sergeyevich were still shaking like they had done all morning. It occurred to him once he picked up speed that he hadn’t completed that final task when delivering his weapon. The GRU officer muttered foul curses and tried to imagine the reaction of his controlling officer at that failing. He pondered over what would happen if someone moved the satchel with the bomb inside during that short time between placement and detonation. His eyes were open but he wasn’t using them properly. Pavel Sergeyevich didn’t see the piece of a broken rear bumper laying in the road ahead until the very last moment. He didn’t freeze in panic. Instead, he swerved to avoid it. The motorcycle had a mind of its own though and didn’t respond as its driver wanted. Control was lost, the motorcycle skidded and Pavel Sergeyevich came off. A trio of civilians and a highway patrol officer were fast with the injured motorcyclist. They tried to help him though one of the civilians recoiled in horror after taking in the sight of the left leg of the man on the tarmac: the blood and gore were a bit much for this time of the morning. The others, a truck driver and his hitchhiker plus the officer from the South Dakota Highway Patrol, tried to stop the motorcyclist crawling away despite his terrible injury. Their eyes caught sight of a flash on the distant sky away to the south though there was no time to recognise that for what it was. Pavel Sergeyevich shouted a warning in his native tongue at the same time. Then a thermonuclear blast occurred nearby. It was another ground burst with the same yield as at Offutt. The resulting fireball from the destruction of Ellsworth didn’t kill those beside the freeway but the flash radiation which they received fast would… if they survived the blast-wave that was. Offutt and Ellsworth were each hit by those blasts which occurred on the edges of their guard fences. There was no warning at all. Craters were dug in the ground and fireballs rose. Blast-waves raced outwards following that deployed lethal radiation. A lot of fallout was instantly created and in the case of the Offutt blast, that would rapidly descend upon Omaha as the local weather conditions were dominated by the blast-waves: a strong wind blew a lot of it there with haste. The nearest major town to Ellsworth was Rapid City though most of the fallout was blown away from there out into rural areas. The pair of airbases deep in the American heartland were operating stations of Strategic Air Command (SAC). SAC had a command bunker beneath Offutt which was sealed as standard and was undamaged from the explosion aboveground. The rest of that airbase and the other one was open and exposed to the nuclear attack unleashed upon them. Neither that bunker nor the wing of B-1A Raider strategic bombers which flew from Ellsworth were the direct targets of the motorcycle attacks: those bombers in South Dakota, oft referred to as ‘Rumsfeld’s Folly’, were a secondary target. Instead, it was other aircraft which flew from them both in the form of the aircraft assigned to the Looking Glass mission at Offutt and the Airborne Launch Control Centre tasking from Ellsworth. These were EC-135s (different, mission-specific variants), big aircraft either inside hangars or out on the flight ramp. They were what the nuclear blasts sought to destroy, along with associated flight crews not inside protected shelters on a sunny September morning when the airbases weren’t on full wartime alert. One of the Looking Glass aircraft was airborne and far away from Offutt though. That was always the case as the SAC mission demanded one of them to be in the sky twenty-four hours a day. The Soviets knew that and also knew it was invulnerable to attack. No others were going to be joining it though, not today nor in the future. One Hundred & Twenty–Three There were simultaneous nuclear detonations in the shallow harbour waters at Bangor, Charleston and Groton. In Washington state, South Carolina and Connecticut, the outer defences of the naval bases on the two opposite coasts of the United States were penetrated by commandos riding outside submersible vehicles while they themselves wore scuba gear. Waterproof and pressure-resistance charges were laid in the inland waterways with timers already set before those who laid them had left their mother-ships which were disguised civilian vessels some distance away. Those who placed the bombs got away clean – they had an hour to escape – and were witness to the extraordinary sights that came with fifty kiloton thermonuclear blasts occurring in shallow water. The vapour clouds which followed the flashes and then the huge giant bubbles were rather alarming to them and those aboard the small mother-ships despite all of them being inside sealed compartments when the distant explosions happened. Their concern was for their own safety: they thought nothing of what happened to those present when the blasts occurred. There were US Navy strategic missile submarines at the trio of naval bases. Polaris- & Trident-armed vessels used the naval stations on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts as their homeports where crews were changed, routine maintenance was carried out and those submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) which they carried were loaded & unloaded between patrols. Many submarines were in port when the detonations happened yet, of course, there were others out on patrol and escaped the blast effects. Outright destruction of the submarines which were at Bangor, Charleston and Groton was a difficult thing to do with the bombs planted. The naval commandoes got close, very close, but they couldn’t get all the way up to the quaysides where the missile boats were docked. There was security netting and sensors on the bottom. The special charges were large and heavy to move about. In addition, the submersible vehicles which transported personnel and cargo had to be carefully manoeuvred. It was left to the water to do most of the work, that water violently disturbed as it was by the nuclear explosions. Partially submerged submarines were thrown about where they lay tied up to the quayside. Internal damage was done and leaks were sprung. Some submarines had crews aboard, others didn’t. If the submarines weren’t outright destroyed or sunk at their moorings, then they weren’t going to be putting to sea for some time to come. The bombs had used a specially-designed enhanced radiation casing. Far more radiation was released than would have been the case had they been ordinary bombs. That radiation mixed with the water through about on the surface and up into the air: steam radiation followed the bombings. Damaging or destroying submarines was the primary but not the only purpose of the attacks. The intention was to kill those working at the naval bases and make the whole area hazardous to use afterwards in the short- & long-term. The submarines wouldn’t be able to be immediately repaired nor could others use the extensive facilities at these sites to load SLBMs. There should have been a fourth blast. A bomb was placed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as well, where more strategic missile submarines were based. This was the other Pacific station along with Bangor. The commandos put the bomb where it was meant to be, made their escape and cowered in their hide waiting for the big bang. It would have taken out of action many submarines as well as a significant portion of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet too: two for the price of one! There was no nuclear blast in Hawaii. The bomb didn’t go off for reasons unknown. That would have an unforeseen long-term affect through the conventional conflict which would soon follow across the Pacific Ocean. Pearl Harbor didn’t get Pearl Harbor-ed. One Hundred & Twenty–Four Two regiments of missiles serving with the Strategic Rocket Forces had been transferred from Eastern Europe to Cuba and then onto Mexico via Honduras in the past couple of months. The missiles, their launch vehicles, the whole mobile support network for them to operate plus all of the personnel involved had meant a major undertaking to move halfway across the globe. It had been a repeat of the 1962 Operation Anadyr though on a smaller but more difficult scale. Those missiles sent ultimately to Mexico were those which the Soviets called the RSD-10 Pioneer. NATO called them the SS-20 Saber. When such missiles had been introduced into service and placed in East Germany, Western Europe had collectively messed their underwear in fright. They’d planned to deploy similar missiles of their own, pointing back at the Soviet Union. However, in an apparent vindication of his success in dealing with the Soviets, President Kennedy had (unilaterally) cancelled the GLCM and Pershing-2 deployments before going to East Berlin – having a little fun when he was there – and getting General Secretary Andropov to agree to removing the SS-20s from East Germany. Those missiles had only gone to Poland. From there, the whole of Western Europe had still been in range. Such a small thing was beside the point though in terms of diplomacy and politics. The SS-20s had caused all of the terror which they did because they were something so new and revolutionary in capability for the Soviets. They were intermediate-range ballistic missiles which were fully mobile and contained solid fuel leading to a very quick firing on command from a cold start. Their accuracy and range were far beyond anything which had come before them. Early versions of the SS-20 had a massive one megaton warhead: a beast of a weapon. The latest versions carried a trio of warheads each with a blast yield far smaller, that being one hundred and seventy-five kilotons. However, accuracy was improved along with the ability to have those warheads independently targeted when deploying from the missile body up in space. The SS-20 was a weapon which there were improvements and modifications constantly ongoing. Camouflage was upgraded to disguise the launch vehicle with its payload on the back to make it took like something else and there was also work on ‘nose-caps’ for the warheads to make them able to penetrate through the ground and explode at depth. The SS-20 had before been a semi-strategic weapon but became fully strategic with the improvements made. The regiments which went to Mexico were those which fielded the most recent upgrades with those improved warheads. SS-20s were fired from Mexico northwards. Eighteen missiles were shot into the sky from isolated sites among the valleys hidden in the mountains of Durango. From there, the whole of the mainland United States was within range. There were American radars and satellites pointed towards the Soviet Union itself looking for a bolt from the blue (bolt from the red?) missile attack. More radars covered the seas off the coasts of the United States including most of the Caribbean to guard against a SLBM strike. An extension to the PAVE PAWS network was planned with a station in Texas which would give complete coverage over the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific coast of Central America too. But there was a gap in coverage over Mexico. There was nothing to spot the launch of those missiles during their boost period and before the re-entry vehicles started dispensing their carried warheads from in space high above the United States. Fifty-four warheads rained down on a cluster of sixteen targets across the northwestern part of North Dakota. The 91st Strategic Missile Wing had one hundred and fifty Minuteman missiles – the LGM-30G version, the most-advanced ICBM operated by SAC – in individual silos spread far away from the wing’s base of operations at Minot Air Force Base. Ten missiles were under the control of each of the deep-buried launch control centres (LCCs) from where they would be fired on orders from the national command authority. The warheads from the SS-20s were targeted in a manner which no more than two warheads from each missile, and in most cases just one, fell upon an individual target. The aim was to make sure that any failure with a particular missile wouldn’t leave a target un-attacked. The target plot was complicated but doable: it was a complicated bit of mathematics including (the horror!) trigonometry. The fifteen LCCs and the airbase itself where the 91st Wing headquarters organisation was, plus a whole wing of B-52H Stratofortress’ too, were those targets. The Minuteman silos themselves were left alone. Sirens wailed across Minot minutes before the attack by the SS-20s reached fruition. There was a race to get B-52s which were on peacetime ground alert into the sky. Other personnel raced for shelters yet many did silently believe this was one of the regular test drills ran at Minot. Those in the LCCs got the same warning that NORAD was calling out inbound warheads falling towards North Dakota. Procedures to prepare the missiles for launch were undertaken: there was yet to come the order to fire the Minutemen ICBMs. They were still waiting for that when the nuclear explosions occurred above them. That attack warning had come from the US Navy. They had a system of radars based on land called the Space Surveillance System (SPASUR) which wasn’t in-place to detect missile launches but rather to monitor space itself on guard for warning of a previously-undetected attack as well as other tasks such as monitoring satellites. The SPASUR site at Laredo in Texas made the emergency call. A series of flash messages were sent to NORAD who passed them on to Minot and other places. The warning had come very late though. Straight afterwards, nuclear fire rained down on the United States with the explosions in North Dakota making a mockery of those which had occurred elsewhere in the scale and intensity of the blasts which occurred… plus the amount of fallout created. One Hundred & Twenty–Five Commando teams raided selected airbases home to aircraft operated by SAC at the same time as the nuclear strikes took place. Eight actions were planned though only six of these saw any measure of success. In Texas, Carswell and Dyess Air Force Bases (AFBs) were attacked. Spetsnaz detachments joined with larger Cubans strike teams to make multiple silent penetrations of the guard fences and then pour forward into the facilities. There were B-52s at each airbase, aircraft which had the task of flying towards the Soviet Union or Cuba and blasting them with nuclear weapons which the Stratofortress’ carried. Eaker AFB in Arkansas was home to more B-52s while there were KC-135 Stratotankers airborne refuelling aircraft stationed at McConnell AFB in Kansas. Further B-52s were at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, at Grand Forks AFB in North Dakota (not that far from the destroyed Minot AFB) and across Michigan at both Sawyer and Wurtsmith AFBs. It was Cubans who again formed the bulk of the attack forces at these sites too though there were again some Soviet commandos with them. Some of those Spetsnaz had to wonder how soon nuclear warheads would fall down atop of them as they went into action… The strike teams blasted their way into action using assault rifles, grenade-launchers and satchel charges. Much training had been given to the Cubans chosen for this task though there was far too much eagerness in them for the Soviet’s liking. Most of their ammunition was fired off first, allowing the men to move quicker, but in the wrong fashion. Targeted aircraft were hit once then twice and even three times when just the once would have done the job of knocking them out of action. As they went forwards with the (conventional) back-pack charges to blow up more aircraft, they often couldn’t defend themselves enough against a fast-recovering enemy. The firepower unleashed upon the B-52s and KC-135s damaged and destroyed plenty of aircraft. Some blew up, others burnt while more were riddled with bullet-holes. Aircrews and ground personnel joined the effort in fighting back led by Air Force Security Police units yet the attackers were running around everywhere. There were many instances of friendly fire on both sides. The Cubans were worn down soon enough and not many were able to join the Soviets who had fast began to depart each attacked site. There were distant rally points to reach and the Spetsnaz led the way towards them. If the Cubans couldn’t keep up, that was too bad. Airbases were littered with dead men – Americans, Cubans and some Soviets – and a lot of aircraft were out of action. There was chaos and confusion when the attacks came to an end with efforts made to chase after those fleeing. There were also fast moves made to get what undamaged aircraft there were ready to fly. What bombers and tankers could get up in the sky would do so, then they would find out what was going on. Carswell, Dyess, Grand Forks, McConnell, Sawyer and Wurtsmith were where the Cubans had their successes. Nearly fifty B-52s were in temporary or permanent non-flying condition along with more than a dozen tankers. The strike force for the Eaker mission was cut to ribbons by the defenders with the Security Police alerted the very last minute by a mistake made during the infiltration. Those Cubans were bunched up and shot up at their main cut in the wire and while there were smaller infiltrations elsewhere, the attackers had none of their planned surprise. A trio of B-52s were hit regardless by RPGs which were fired from distance, but Eaker was a failure overall with immediate mass flight operations of the rest of the wing of bombers taking place. As to Barksdale, no attack was made. There was a detailed plan for the strike team to assault the facility and blow up the bombers there as well as killing whomever they could, but in the early hours of the morning, two of the safehouses being used by the Cubans in Bossier City were raided by the FBI. They were looking for armed robbers who surveillance on the Cubans had thought them to be. The Cubans fought back with deaths and injuries occurring among them along with the FBI and local police. There were a few live prisoners taken yet they weren’t revealed as being Cuban military personnel in the short time available. There were other Cubans not caught up in that and neither had been the Soviets, but with so many men (and so many weapons) lost, the Barksdale strike was called off. Those SAC aircraft which were knocked out of action from those airbases joined more from further sites across the nation in receiving emergency go-orders. There were plenty of undamaged elements of America’s airborne strike arm left after the commando attacks plus those lost at Ellsworth and Minot in the nuclear attacks there as SAC had a lot of operating stations. The B-1A Raiders were atomised but there were B-52s (the G & H versions) up along with the FB-111As as well. All had short-range nuclear missiles, long-range conventional-armed cruise missiles – what good were they? – and free-fall bombs. Holding stations were reached quickly when the aircraft were in the sky. They awaited attack orders. One Hundred & Twenty–Six President Ted Kennedy was in the White House and at work in the Oval Office on the behalf of the American people when the United States suffered the Soviet nuclear strike on September 17th, 1984. He died there, one of so many innocent victims of the deceitful, sneak attack unleashed on one country by another when neither were officially at war. That was the historically correct version and it was generally true. Kennedy was in his official residence and place of work when the nuclear attack was made against Washington. He was meeting with the leadership of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) at the time when the fall-out from the newspaper leaks several days before were being discussed rather than matters of state. The DNC was trying to talk through a solution to his woes in his election campaign as they pledged to support him: they hadn’t told him they expected to lose the White House to the Republicans and were so concerned about other Congressional races they were telling candidates to distance themselves from Kennedy or face a loss too. None of that mattered when the thermonuclear blasts occurred in and around Washington DC. There had been regular flights of Soviet military aircraft between Cuba and the Soviet Union which took place long before the build-up ready for the attack, going back decades in fact. Aircraft flew both ways from transports to maritime patrol aircraft to giant bombers. No regular pattern was followed in this. Quite often, those Soviet aircraft especially in the form of those which were warplanes, flew close to the United States when they didn’t have to either heading to Cuba or home. The Americans would watch them and on the majority of occasions send up fighters to give a friendly escort or run a mock attack. The Tupolev-95 Bear which had left Cuba earlier in the morning and headed north had been met in the sky by a pair of F-16s from Florida. The US Air Force came to say hello to the transiting aircraft. They flew close by and made a pleasant radio call which was strangely left unanswered. Eyes were all over the Bear and there was no sign of any weapons carried under the wings. The bomb-bay was closed though – as standard – and no look could be gained inside there. Shadowing continued for some time as the Bear then moved far out over the North Atlantic heading away from the United States. The F-16s made another unanswered radio call, just saying hello, before they turned back for Florida. Other radars continued to track the Bear. The world was still at peace at that point. Southeast of Bermuda, more than a thousand miles away from Washington, the bomb-bay opened up. This Bear was the new Tu-95MS6 version of the long-serving bomber and half a dozen cruise missiles were deployed from the internal rotary launcher, one after the other. Those six missiles were what the Soviets called the Kh-55: NATO knew such a weapon as the AS-15 Kent. The Bear stayed on course. It didn’t need to make a turn on a dramatic attack mission. The missiles had gone low over the water once their rocket-motors kicked in with the AS-15s heading northwest, their destination being the Washington area. They arrived at 1000hrs local time, as the other strategic attacks took place elsewhere in the country in different time zones. One AS-15 with its two hundred kiloton warhead exploded directly above Andrews AFB in Maryland. Another blew up in the sky just short of Camp David also in Maryland: it too had streaked in low and under radar cover until the very last moment. The third cruise missile failed to detonate properly above Fort Meade with the warhead not arming and thus there was no nuclear explosion, sparing Maryland a third nuclear hit. Virginia was struck by a AS-15 when the CIA headquarters at Langley was blown to smithereens. Washington was targeted by two more missiles fired from that Bear which was long gone. Congress was one target in the city and the White House the other: one AS-15 with a warhead of the size used would have done the job alone but two made certain of the destruction wished for. Both exploded low over the city which was the United States’ capital with no warning preceding them in terms of sirens nor attempts at evacuation. Kennedy, much of the government and Congress (both houses were in session), plus all those civilians, were below the twin detonations above them. * The Soviets tried to get Lloyd Bentsen as well. The Vice President was in the Mid-West, visiting Kansas City in Missouri among other places. He was on the campaign trail with other cities to make stops in for speeches, fundraisers and other events. It just so happened that Kansas City is where he was at the time allotted for the attack: otherwise it could have been St. Louis, Cincinnati or Lexington which was destroyed. There was the use of a nuclear-armed man-portable weapon again and it blew up right in the heart of Kansas City. The GRU officer tasked with its detonation set his bomb to explode before fleeing and with the knowledge that there was another one put in-place by another GRU officer a few streets away. The first bomb eliminated the second one but the lone blast of sixteen kilotons was more than enough to turn much of Kansas City into a field of glass. However, the bomb missed Bentsen. The exact information on where the vice president was at the detonation time was incorrect. Bentsen was running late to get to a televised event that morning and was outside of the city. It was his advance team which was hit. The two undercover agents working inside the United States and shadowing their target had been given the run-around all morning by a Secret Service detachment with the vice president who disguised the movements of their principle. There years beforehand, Jerry Brown had been ‘lost’ by the Secret Service and they feared another gunman taking shots at Kennedy or Bentsen. In trying to confuse would-be domestic gunman, they unintentionally fooled a pair of Soviet nationals with their nuclear bombs. Those who lived in Kansas City paid the price for that though. Bentsen was whisked away from the edges of the destroyed city ahead of his small convoy of vehicles. There was a rapid return to Kansas City International Airport and a dash to where Air Force Two was located. That aircraft was sitting in an isolated part of the airport with the engines running as the vice president was helped aboard rather abruptly by the agents with him. He, like everyone else, couldn’t help but take a glance while doing so down towards where Kansas City had once been. There was a hurried call to get moving and a polite shove, but Bentsen saw where he should have been and what had happened to that place. In record time, Air Force Two – today a VC-140B, a converted Lockheed Jet Star used for the short hops in the Mid-West – was airborne. Onboard, the vice president who’d soon become the president instead, was told one piece of shocking news after another. Air Force Two had communications links but they weren’t the best. News came through in bits and the full weight of the world was soon on Bentsen’s shoulders. Once Washington was confirmed as being hit, meaning Kennedy was dead, there was even more urgency with the flight being made as Bentsen needed to change aircraft as the little biz-jet didn’t have the command-&-control facilities which others did. One of those horrific incoming pieces of news came from the Pentagon. It was still standing, left unmolested by nuclear attacks which had hit elsewhere. The Hot Line was active ten minutes after the first bombs had gone off. The Soviets weren’t trying to talk to Kennedy nor Bentsen, but ‘President O’Neill’. The Speaker of the House was dead though, killed in Washington. The Soviets would instead be dealing with Bentsen, a man who they’d just come very close to murdering.