The Politics of Global War: Cause and Effect D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part I

22 July, 1987 (D+13) was a consequential day in multiple theaters. Battles had been won and lost, and dispositions clarified. By the end of the day it became clear which side was winning, and which was losing in most theaters. Generally speaking however, the outcome of the war itself hung in the balance. Events on the battlefield this day generated a substantial amount of political consequence that would itself affect the course of the conflict.

The initial report on the condition of Foch arrived in Paris less than fifteen minutes after the carrier-air battle in the northern Norwegian Sea had concluded. According to SACLANT, the French carrier was damaged, though it was unclear to what extent. Less than an hour later news arrived at French naval headquarters that Foch had sustained at least two missile hits and was burning. The prospects for her survival were uncertain, but in a private message SACLANT advised Admiral Bernard Louzeau, the French Navy’s chief of staff, to prepare his government to receive some very bad news at some point in the day.

French President Francois Mitterrand convened the upper echelons of government officials and military officers in an emergency meeting. There they were informed that Foch, France’s sole remaining aircraft carrier, was severely damaged and not expected to remain afloat for long. The effect of the news on these men was traumatic and at once the mood in the chamber grew somber. One unnamed minister later likened the atmosphere to that of family members receiving news that the head of the family was stricken by an inoperable type of cancer and now had days left to live.

Two weeks of global war had cost France both of its aircraft carriers. Although Foch had yet to slide beneath the waves it was simply a matter of time. The blow to French prestige, and national morale was going to be incalculable once the news became public. For Mitterrand, the critical concern was in determining the next step. Without carriers, the French Navy was crippled. As a result, so was the nation’s present military commitment to NATO which consisted primarily of naval assets.

France could maintain the current level of commitment, withdraw from the conflict, or send a large portion of its land and air forces to the fighting in Germany. The first two options were unrealistic. Moving forward in either of those directions would spell the end of Mitterrand’s government and he knew it. The national mood in France at the moment was decidedly anti-Soviet. During the lead up to war France’s population had been almost evenly split on the prospect of their nation entering a possible conflict. The loss of Clemenceau in the early hours of the war changed this. Opposition to the war evaporated practically overnight and the French populace came together in a fashion not seen since 1914.

Foch’s demise was going to enrage his people once again, Mitterrand knew. France would demand a pound of Soviet flesh and there was little he could do to prevent it. But the matter of expanding France’s commitment to include significant ground and air forces was not one the government could address so curtly. It was a major step that required hours of discussion, and debate among France’s political and military leaders.

In the late morning word arrived that Foch had finally gone down. An hour later this news was released to the public. France grieved, Mitterrand addressed the nation, and through it all the French government continued to discuss and debate. Some of the politicians failed to see that the decision had already been made for them.

As midnight approached, the French nation mourned as its leaders continued to deliberate.

19 Replies to “The Politics of Global War: Cause and Effect D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. Called this. To include the governmental dithering.

    The French will want its pound + of Soviet Flesh. The PEOPLE will demand it and well, the French Government knows what can happen when they ignore the people.

    By Middle D+14, French Air could be engaged as that it is the one element that can get involved quickly in either Europe or the Med. Ground forces, if committed, will get stuck in by D+16. But that is only if Paris says ”
    Libérez les chiens!!” And lets the military loose to get that flesh…

    side note- When I used to play Red Storm Rising with friends, we used to joke about the forces available to the NATO side. The French commitment in that game was only a handful of units (bn’s if I remember right) and we tended to call them the Fire Brigade.

    Every time they got stuck in during a game, either Nato was losing its shirt and they were desperately needed to slow down the juggernaut or it was towards the end-game with a Nato Win almost certain….they would get a chance to shoot once, maybe hurt something and proclaim “La victoire!!!”

    Either way… it always seemed one way or the other with them. Never a middle ground- at least I don’t remember one and I last played that board game in the mid 90’s.

    The other odd thing we noted from all those games played… was the Canadian Regiment. If it died, Nato lost… Every time. Weird as hell…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I know this is unrelated, but did you ever end up covering what may be going on in Northern Ireland? Have the Soviets been reaching out to the IRA, perhaps looking to have them be a thorn in the side of the British?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi James. It’s related, believe me. And I do plan to get to the IRA eventually. Since you’ve brought it up I’ll try to put up a post about it by the end of the month. That whole KGB-IRA connection is causing some issues for the Brits 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Actually France would be bonded by the NATO treaty from the start and would have been unable to extricate it’s forces in Germany (Berlin brigade for starters) . COTAC should be flying missions already and the Jaguar wing tasked with nuclear attack put on alert. Of course air defense assets were coordinated within NADGE. The French Rapid Reaction Force would be available for deployment to Turkey or the Gulf. Because Mitterrand was socialist, people forget he fought a war with Lybia and threw Saddam under the bus

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, a part of the French Rapid Reaction Force is up in NORTHAG right now in the timeline serving as a reserve force. But yeah, if France jumps in with both feet they’ll start putting Jags on alert.
      Great point about Mitterrand. He was a left wing politician but he had no love for the Soviet Union, Libya, or Saddam.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The French Army is a formidable force and probably tips the balance, but it is different. It’s not organized like most NATO armies, the equipment and doctrine is quite different, some ways radically different, and it isn’t able to communicate well with NATO in a tactical sense (radios, cripto etc). All things that can be worked out but that takes time and trial/error… not a silver bullet by any means.

    Interesting stuff

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True enough, and thanks for contributing. 🙂 I wish the French would’ve had some LeClercs in ’87. I was talking to a friend about it earlier today and the AMX-30s were really outclassed by 1987.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, the AMX-30 is on par with the early Leopard 1 versions in the three areas of tank design- firepower, mobility, protection. Adequate for the threat of Soviet MBTs designed when it was in the 60’s, but outclassed by the T-64/T-72/T-80 MBTs. But then again, at the casualty rates that the WP has been taking up to this point, the newer MBTs are being heavily attrited, and the older types as well as earlier less well armored T-64/T-72s will be making up more and more of the replacements in the battle area.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Frankly if France gets involved in ww3 it isn’t going to be sitting on the sidelines like this. And frankly France seemed pretty ok with rejoing nati the moment the big one came. Hell in nato planing they were natos reserve until America full reforged!

    Liked by 1 person

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