March Madness WWIII: Championship

Well, here we are at the tournament championship. We started with 32 World War III novels and now just two remain: Red Storm Rising and Team Yankee. Not exactly a surprise, all things considered. These are the two most famous technothrillers of the Cold War era, responsible for setting the bar that practically all technothrillers have been measured against in the past 34 years. Now, RSR and TY square off against each other to determine the tournament winner. The battle was long and bloody, comparable to that Duke-Kentucky game in the ’92 Final Four. Sorry, had to include a college basketball comparison. After all, we’re deep into March Madness. 😊

Scoring for this matchup turned out to be a project in itself. Eventually, I ended up creating five categories, each one with a scoring scale of 1.0-5.0. Each novel’s respective category scores were added up and the sum of those was their final score. Below, I’ve listed each category, as well as a summary, and the scores for each novel.

Main Characters

Red Storm Rising and Team Yankee both brought memorable characters to life. The number of main characters in each novel was comparable to the scope of the stories being told. For RSR, each character served a purpose and helped move the story forward. Unfortunately, the size and scope of Red Storm meant the main characters could not be developed to the degree they are in most novels. Team Yankee’s characters, on the other hand, were fully developed. The fact that Coyle’s work was character-driven made the difference, but it was close.

Scores:    RSR- 4.8    TY-5.0

WWIII Aspect

Put simply, which title represented World War III the best? This is the point where these two novels diverge most. Red Storm Rising tells the story of the war in full. Lead up, conflict and the immediate aftermath. Air, land, and sea battles are described with brilliant detail and clarity. Team Yankee was different in that it told the story of a combat unit involved in World War III. A more specific vantage that offered just a handful of peeks at the big picture. The fact that Team Yankee’s battles covered a part of the war that turned out to be something of a secondary effort, and had no bearing on the war’s final outcome simply adds insult to injury.

Scores: RSR-5.0    TY-4.8


The amount of research poured into both novels is astounding. Especially given the fact that each one was written in the pre-internet days. Doctrines, weapons, weapon-effects, and strategies were all carefully researched and, in some cases, gamed out. The results are evident in each book. When it comes to geography, Red Storm was as close to perfect as possible. From the road network and obscure villages like Sack on the North German Plain to a place called Stykkishólmur on the western coast of Iceland, Clancy and Bond got it right. Team Yankee took another approach. The town names are fictitious and the same holds true for US and Soviet units included in the book. Coyle had his reasons for doing it this way, and I understand. But realism and accuracy matter, especially when we’re talking about world war-based novels.

Scores: RSR-5.0    TY-4.9

Novel Characteristics

There’s not many similarities between these novels in how they’re laid out and presented. Red Storm is a mammoth book that tells the big picture story. There is little window dressing found in the scenes and chapters. Countless pages are not wasted explaining character histories or describing the development of weapons and tactics from the Peloponnesian War through to modern times. Clancy and Bond provide enough detail to inform the reader and progress the story. Harold Coyle deviates somewhat and includes filler material that the reader can do without. But given that Coyle had more room to play with, it did not have a negative effect on the final product. This round is a straight up tie.

Scores : RSR- 5.0      TY- 5.0

Influence and Adaptation

Red Storm Rising is lauded as a Cold War classic. A novel that has been on the shelf of countless senior US government and military officials since 1986. Walk into a brick and mortar bookstore nowadays and chances are, you’ll find a copy. It has spawned PC and tabletop games, and captured the imagination of multiple generations of readers. Team Yankee is considered a Cold War classic too, and deservedly so. It has spawned PC games as well as an entire line of miniatures. Yet, it never received the accolades or pop culture attention Red Storm did. But what Team Yankee couldn’t achieve in the past, it has somewhat made up for in the present with the influence it has on contemporary wargaming. Oh, and Red Storm Rising doesn’t have its own comic book series. Team Yankee does. 😊

Scores: RSR- 4.7             TY- 4.7

Final Scoring: Red Storm Rising– 24.5                       Team Yankee– 24.4

2021 World War III Novel Tournament Winner: (By a short, curly) Red Storm Rising

18 Replies to “March Madness WWIII: Championship”

  1. I have to say I think Team Yankee is the better of the two, but they’re clearly different.

    I do believe that Team Yankee holds up better with time, because the sense of fighting in a tank is more timeless (Coyle’s said he based it off the story/memoir of a WWII company commander) while the “LOOK AT THESE ABRAMS AND CRUISE MISSILES” image of RSR is a lot less novel now than it was in 1987.

    Still, Red Storm Rising is a classic, and it has grown on me. I used to think it was a bad influence-now that I’ve seen just how few WW3s there are and how COMPARABLY accurate it is (whatever its issues) compared with other popular thriller fiction, I instead see it as a rare balancing act that handled juggling technical qualities and storytelling that could appeal to a wide audience about as well as it could.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Fair and pretty decent rebuttal. Overall, these are the two books I’d select to read for the rest of my life if I were only allowed two works of fiction. I’d love to see how Team Yankee would’ve turned out if the M-113s had Abrams turrets atop them 🙂

      Liked by 1 person



        I kid, I kid. Well, no, don’t pay him any attention but anyway, this was a hell of a March Madness. Honestly I thought at “last basket” TY would tip it in, but…gosh, you can’t deny any of your points. I posted in yesterday’s comments my “pre game thoughts” on how this might unfold, and I was right except I wasn’t (channeling my inner Yogi Berra, pardon me).

        Anyway this was a hell of a fun exercise.

        Who’s up for a WW3 cinema World Series run this summer 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks, Bill! 🙂

          For this summer I’m considering a similar tournament but with WWIII tabletop and PC games. 🙂


      2. Or if the 113’s had a 20mm cannon on it… there was an experiment with one at some point but I’m not sure if its before or after this timeframe.

        My points on RSR and TY were in the other post. Close battle indeed.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Having served in Iceland TC’s accuracy of the Icelandic theater was outstanding. I needed no map, I could follow the contour lines and the team’s progress from my memory.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, it was that good, almost as if he spent a month there walking the ground. Had the chance to explore a bit when I was over there for air policing. Clancy was right. Not a tree on the island lol

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful series of posts! I really enjoyed revisiting these classics and your take on them. Spot on and well done. I ordered Storming the Gap based on the mention here.
    Well done sir!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Chris. Good move ordering Storming the Gap. Brad Smith’s books are really good, and his wargaming blog is a treasure chest.


  4. I realize that I’m almost a year late to the party on the WWIII lit thread, but I’d like to see if anyone has tried out some of these titles that I don’t think have been mentioned:

    Kriegspiel – Todd Stone
    The Red/Black/Blue Effect – Harvey Black
    The Red Gambit Series – Colin Gee
    Armageddon’s Song Series – Andy Farman
    The Red Storm Series – James Rosone & Miranda Watson
    Timeline 10/27/62 Series – James Philip

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These are great titles to mention. They’re a little less well known than some of the other books I’ve talked about but are still worth checking out. Especially Harvey Black’s series. Thanks for mentioning these!


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