World War III arrived in the Western Pacific with an anticlimactic whimper, not the violent crescendo that had been widely anticipated for days. It was 12:00 PM in Seoul and Tokyo when the first official reports began making their way to the region from Europe. Hostilities were breaking out from the northern reaches of Norway to the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile in the Western Pacific, national leaders hurriedly made speeches, armed forces continued to mobilize, and citizens continued to prepare for the worst. But war did not come immediately. Instead, an uneasy calm descended upon the region.
The bulk of the Red Banner Pacific Fleet’s surface ships, and submarines remained in port. Soviet air and sea patrols in the Far East TVD area avoided straying very far from territorial waters, and airspace for all of D+0. La Pérouse Strait was quiet for the day too. Neither the Soviet Union, or Japan was intent on instigating an encounter there as long as the other side behaved. An awkward ceasefire of sorts, yet it kept the maritime chokepoint peaceable for the first day of the war.
US forces based in Japan, as well as the Japanese Self Defense Forces maintained a low profile themselves. Mimicking the Soviet’s own actions, air and naval patrols were restricted to the territorial waters around northern Japan. US and Japanese ELINT stations, and listening posts in Japan, however, were under no such restrictions. With hostilities now underway, these stations shifted into overdrive to meet the demand for information.
Korea was the great unknown, specifically North Korea. Pyongyang’s intentions were unclear to friend and foe alike. During the buildup to war, Soviet diplomats and military officers had traveled to North Korea and met with the country’s aging leader Kim Il Sung. The purpose for the visits was to get an idea about what Kim might do when war came. Moscow was rightfully concerned about North Korea invading its southern neighbor, and in the process dragging the Soviet Union into a fight that it wanted no part of. Moscow’s position was conveyed. Behind the scenes promises were made, and a handful of well-timed threats were delivered. But even in the final hours of peace the Soviets remained clueless about what North Korea might do when war broke out in Europe.
In the Republic of Korea (South Korea) US and ROK forces went on full alert at 12:30 PM local time. North Korea’s armed forces responded in kind a short time later. Neither side undertook any actions that could’ve been perceived by the other as provocative. No reinforcements, or additional units moved towards the DMZ on either side of the line.
The Sino-Soviet frontier was quiet. The People’s Republic of China was not prepared to begin offensive military operations. Neither was the Soviet Union for that matter. Both sides were content with just maintaining the status quo.
That theme seemed to ring true across the Western Pacific on D+0. The first day concluded without a single shot being fired in anger. Whether or not the tense peace carried over through the next day remained to be seen.