The Southern Flank D+14 (23 July, 1987) Part III

The Sixth Fleet carriers continued flying combat sorites against targets in Bulgaria through the early morning hours of D+13. At 0400 the last aircraft trapped aboard Kennedy and a short time later the two-carrier task force was steaming west. Carrier Air Wing 3 had received its baptism of fire and acquitted itself well. Its two A-6 Intruder, and single A-7 Corsair squadron had struck two heavily defended fighter bases in central Bulgaria and returned home without loss. Post-strike BDA indicated that the Intruders and Corsairs had inflicted significant damage to all three bases. Not to be outdone by their mud moving counterparts, Kennedy’s two F-14 squadrons racked up eight MiG kills by dawn, Saratoga’s Tomcats, in comparison, scored only three kills in the same time period.

The carrier air wings would return to strike targets in Bulgaria once night fell. Until then their mission was to remain concealed. The Soviet were continued to search for the two carriers with reconnaissance aircraft and submarines. There were a respectable number of Backfires and Badgers at airbases on the Black Sea coast, and in Syria armed and waiting to be unleashed. However, after the events of the previous day in the skies above the Norwegian Sea the Soviets weren’t about to launch any more attacks on US aircraft carriers without accurate targeting information.

The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was living on borrowed time. Croatia’s breakaway was becoming the potential catalyst for the collapse of Yugoslavia as a nation-state. Pro-independence demonstrations were breaking out and spreading across Bosnia and Slovenia. Violent clashes between Muslims and Serb in Sarajevo served to underscore the delicate ethnic house of cards that Yugoslavia rested upon. The situation was growing increasingly volatile, and Slobodan Milosevich was coming to the realization that he was running out of time to save the republic before it broke apart permanently.

His options were limited. Croatia was becoming a warzone less than thirty-six hours after its declared independence. Serbs and Croats were openly fighting. The Yugoslavian Army column heading for Zagreb was enduring countless delays, and ambushes. Yugoslavian warships continued to shell Dubrovnik, while MiGs roared overhead. A swift crackdown now would probably deter the other republics from seeking independence. Unfortunately, as time went on Milosevic, his government and military seemed incapable of bringing that about. That left two unpalatable options to choose from: Request Soviet assistance, or turn the struggles for independence into full-blown ethnic conflagrations.

In the afternoon of D+14 Milosevic called upon the Soviet ambassador in Belgrade. In a passionate 45 minute meeting he made an official request for Soviet military assistance to ‘end the NATO-sponsored rebellion in Croatia.’  The ambassador listened patiently and then informed the Yugoslavian leader he would present the request to Moscow. At this point Milosevic saw the writing on the wall and realized the Soviet Union was not about to lift a finger to help him preserve Yugoslavia.

7 Replies to “The Southern Flank D+14 (23 July, 1987) Part III”

  1. It’s fascinating that the 7 year difference between this conflict and Northern Fury are set on such a different stage in some places. The Yugoslavian civil war about to erupt here has been fought by 94 and ends up being a local grudge match with NATO caught in a very bad place. Very different situations.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah the end of the Cold War is what allowed Yugoslavia to implode. It was bound to happen one way or anther. I think if a NATO-WP war had broken out anytime in the 8os it would’ve led to the breakup starting

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My knowledge of the Balkans is pretty limited. But, from what I recall from classes at the time and some prep work we did for a later trip over, the tension outside the country between East and West was the only thing really keeping the lid on after Tito.

    Both sides needed unaligned Yugoslavia as a kind of “pass through”, the Yugoslavs got rich selling soviet clone or domestically improved weapons to nonaligned states or ones the major powers wouldn’t sell to and selling western goods into the East. In addition, fear of Soviet intervention kept a civil war from breaking out, as all parties surmised the west would not risk a direct confrontation to intervene.

    When the Cold War ended, the money tap dried up (who wanted to buy Soviet when you could buy ex-NATO cheap) and the fear of intervention went away. With the controls gone, it was only a matter of time. Interviewing people on the ground there some years later, after the relative ease of Slovenia leaving there was no going back. And nobody in the country was really surprised.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry, Amir. This comment fell between the cracks on me.
      Sounds about right. After Tito died the Cold War is all that kept Yugoslavia intact. Once that ended the ethnic tension and nationalism came to the surface and overflowed.


    1. Not really. I mean if they crunched the numbers I’m sure they could find some spare units to send, but why buy trouble when every troop, tank, and gun is needed in Germany?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. the other item of note…

    The Soviets are stretched thinner than it was expected to be by D+14, with far more losses than expected. And several errors in deployment, to say the least. They have some B units and lots of C units available but are they sufficient to do the job they need to do.

    Cat C Units can be capable Pacification forces- doesn’t matter how old the gear is, as long as it works and what you are pacifying doesn’t have good gear to pop your armor… But their ability is in question, as I recall the classification system.

    Had the Soviets left the Finns alone, they might have some power to toss elsewhere.
    Had the Soviets supported the Poles dropping in, they might not have the problems they are with THEM. Might…
    Had the Soviets launched the Southern Front within the first 96 hours of the war, they *MIGHT* have a shot at knocking Greece out and crippling the Turks.
    Had the amphib assault happened within the first 72 hours on Jutland, it might have worked.

    So many “should have” and “could have” here….

    Soviets are desperate. Desperate people make mistakes- often deadly ones for someone. In this case, lots of their client state soldiers, their own and possibly the leadership of those client states might be dying due to these poor decisions.

    Its fiction. But it could have played out this way because…. well, culture. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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