The Northern Flank D+11 (20 July, 1987) Part I


Immediately following the Defense Council meeting that morning in Moscow, KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov handed Marshal Akhromeyev a list of NWTVD senior officers and their staffs. Notes were scribbled aside each name denoting certain officer’s reliability or lack thereof. In essence, the list told Akhromeyev who the chekists were in the Northwestern Theater of Military Operations. More importantly, some of Chebrikov’s scribblings let Akhromeyev know which officers the KGB was monitoring closely. The Chairman did not, of course, reveal the reasons why certain men were being watched and Akhromeyev was seasoned enough not to inquire.

At Northwestern TVD headquarters GRU officers arrived at 0500. They took the NWTVD commander, his deputy, and twelve other officers at or above the rank of colonel into custody. Over the next ninety minutes, other groups of GRU officers fanned out across the Kola Peninsula making more arrests and dismissals at other headquarters sites and military installations. The commander of the Red Banner Northern Fleet was spared but a handful of his senior commanders and staff officers were relieved of their duties. The general in charge of the 10th Independent Red Banner Air Defence Army was not as fortunate. He was sacked, and arrested along with the commanders of its subordinate air divisions.

The dismissals and arrests massacred the NWTVD’s chain of command and left many senior slots that needed to be filled as soon as possible. The man who would be charged with assuming command of the theater was on a plane headed to the Kola as the arrests were taking place. He was Colonel General Vladimir Arkhipov and until 0300 hours he had been the commander of the Moscow Military District. His next command would be significantly larger. Marshal Akhromeyev accompanied the general on the flight north and with the help of some senior officers from the general staff worked to prepare Arkhipov for the task awaiting him.

The Il-86 Camber landed at Olenya Airbase on the Kola Peninsula. Arkhipov and his party deplaned and headed to a waiting Mi-17 helicopter that flew them to NWTVD’s wartime headquarters. Twenty minutes later, they strode into the operations center of the underground complex and the new commander of the Northwestern Theater of Military Operations went to work. As he did, Akhromeyev took some time to be fully updated on the theater situation and then departed.


After receiving briefings on the flight up, and once he was on the ground, Arkhipov was unsure about the future of operations in Finland. A blitz across the Finnish wedge had been a plausible enough idea in theory. Reality, however, proved to be another story entirely. The 54th Motor Rifle Division (MRD) was bogged down halfway across the wedge with little prospect of reaching the Finnish-Norwegian border without significant support and reinforcement. One of the first questions Arkhipov had asked after arriving at the headquarters was why the 54th MRD had not been reinforced sooner. When no satisfactory answer was given, the general gave his first orders as theater commander. The 54th MRD was to adopt a defensive posture for the next 24 hours. During that time period, Arkhipov planned to determine what the next step would be in Finland and to get it moving. Air cover would be allocated to the division, and close air support assets were to be included as well.

In Norway all ground operations were also to be halted for a 24 hour period. As was the case with Finland, Arkhipov needed the time buffer to become current on events and then determine if the ground situation was salvageable. Soviet troops in Northern Norway were ordered to adopt a temporary defensive posture. This went for all units except for those at Andoya. His predecessor had written off the naval infantry dug in at the airbase. Communication with the remaining battalion was spotty at best. Arkhipov countermanded his predecessor’s decision and had new orders communicated south. The troops at Andoya were to hold out for as long as possible. Even though they were facing imminent defeat, those men could still be of service to their comrades in other areas of the theater.


7 Replies to “The Northern Flank D+11 (20 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. Stand to the Last Man, eh? Ouch. But if you are gonna die, sell yourself dearly. I get that.

    As for the sacking of almost an entire front’s command?

    How…. Stalinist. We saw how that worked out before…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m almost certain I mentioned this a while back on a different post, but there’s a scene in John Hackett’s excellent “World War 3: The Untold Story” where a Soviet artillery commander mentions in a meeting that to best saturate an area with his rocket artillery, he should shift his unit back 1km. The KGB officer (or maybe it was GRU, it’s been years since I read it) immediately says, “Right. That is desertion in the face of the enemy. Place Comrade commander under arrest.” and they drag the guy out.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The problem is, that’s completely unrealistic.
    1. GRU was 2nd main directorate of the General Staff, responsible ONLY for the intelligence gathering (via various methods/sources).
    2. Any counter-intelligence in the Armed Forces would be done by third directorate of the respective staff/General Staff; KGB’s Third Main Directorade was to protect the Armed Forces against NATO (and other)espionage activity.
    3. Such a “cleanup” was just unimaginable during THAT war, especially in the NW TVD. Okay, release the chiefs, but then their deputies take command – that was the lesson the Soviets learned from the WW2. Total destruction of the entire chain of command for at least 24 hours is a straight road to military disaster and destruction of the Northern Fleet – the core of Soviet strategic nuclear deterrence forces, which were to be kept intact as much as possible for any end-war negotiations.

    Aside from the whole war scenario being more and more unrealistic, improbable and completely contradictory to the Soviet doctrine, this “action” is a complete loss of mind… and would lead to a global nuclear war within 48 hours.

    Jeeeez… I thought that The Author has made his homework and learned a little about the Soviet command system, the policies and decisio-making, as well as about its armed and security services. It seems I was wrong – the scenario goes completely along the old “Hackettish/Clancyish” way, and shows the Soviets as stupid, unintelligent and NOT learning fro the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Its almost like the ussr was a dictatorship lead by a man who both lead them into a war and then needs the blame other people when said war gose poorly. After all “In this country, it is good to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others” and everything was more extreme with the ussr.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They went to extreme measures to remain in power and keep The State at the top of the food chain. So when things went bad, the general secretary blamed those around him. When it went well, he took the accolades.


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