Hostilities between NATO and the Warsaw Pact began at 0103 hours Local Time (Zulu +1) on 9 July, 1987. For a war that would spread across the globe in a matter of days and involve millions, the opening clashes between combatants were modest The first shots were exchanged just outside of the NATO airbase at Gielenkirchen by KGB-trained saboteurs attempting to gain entry to the base, and NATO security forces. The effort was unsuccessful and all seven saboteurs were killed. After the war, it would be learned that this particular group began its attack twenty-seven minutes ahead of schedule. The initial wave of Soviet Spetznaz, airmobile, and saboteur attacks behind the lines was not supposed to commence until 0030 Zulu.
As it was, however, the premature attack gave NATO valuable time to get the warning out and bring its installations and security forces to a higher state of readiness before the initial wave of attacks began a short time later. Some sites which may not have been ready, were. The extent of the attacks and the results will be explored and discussed at a later time. Suffice to say, the opening hours of hostilities were defined by explosions, helicopter landings, and small unit actions across West Germany, Denmark, the Low Countries, and even the United Kingdom and Norway to an extent. Before the first Soviet tanks crossed the border, the war was already underway in many locations.
At sea, the first contact between NATO and Warsaw Pact forces took place in the Barents Sea at 0219 hours local time. Soviet and Norwegian fast attack craft clashed in the North Cape area. The first casualties of the war at sea were the Norwegian Storm-class patrol boat Brask and a Soviet Nanuchka class patrol boat. Fighting in the North Cape continued through the early morning hours as a running battle between units of the Royal Norwegian Navy and Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet materialized.
In the North Atlantic, Soviet submarines drew first blood, sinking a pair of merchant ships northwest of the Azores. A Foxtrot class diesel submarine that was responsible for one of the attacks escaped the area only to be discovered and sunk by US Navy P-3 Orions operating from Lajes Airfield later that day.
The Mediterranean and Black Sea remained quiet until around dawn when fast attack craft of the Soviet navy made contact with elements of the Greek and Turkish navies in the Black Sea. Not long afterward, Soviet and Syrian naval forces struck Turkish and other NATO warships operating in the Eastern Med. The rest of NATO’s Southern Flank remained precariously quiet in those first two hours.
The storm would soon break across Europe and the Med.