The Pentagon, Washington DC 27 July,1987 0000 Zulu (2000 local time, 26 July, 1987)
It was still the previous evening on the east coast of the United States. In the nation’s capital, an amended sense of normalcy had returned. Nearly three weeks of global conflict had passed by. The prospect of the war turning nuclear at any given moment had dimmed in the minds of some Americans as time went on. It seemed more certain by this time that the war would remain conventional. As a result, a surprisingly large number of people were out and about in DC this evening. A number of restaurants, while not booked solid, were enjoying their largest crowds in weeks. Flags flew from nearly every storefront, the patriotism that had gripped the nation since the start of the war had yet to fade. Families walked the National Mall confidently, no longer subconsciously awaiting the wail of air raid sirens that would announce the beginning of the end for millions of people.
In the Pentagon, however, it was business as usual. The headquarters of the United States military in a time of war can best be described by an outsider as tumultuous. Insiders, on the other hand, would revise that description to controlled tumult. There was a purpose behind everything that went on, regardless of how reckless and disorganized it might seem. The Pentagon was a massive ship sailing rough seas at present, yet she had a master who was in full control.
That master was Caspar Weinberger, the Secretary of Defense. Right now, Weinberger was in one of the conference rooms next to the National Military Command Center reviewing the latest batch of reports from Germany and other theaters. Sitting next to him was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral William Crowe, who waited patiently until Weinberger finished. This was how the process worked. At least three times daily, the two men would convene in one of these conference rooms and review the latest news on the situations in theaters around the world. The Secretary would read the reports, which Crowe had usually already seen before hand, make mental notes and once finished, Weinberger would pose his questions to the Chairman. This evening was no different.
“Alright,” Weinberger sighed as he set the last document back on the pile and looked across the table at Crowe. “I’m finished. Let’s go over Germany first, as usual. It certainly appears that we have the initiative at the moment. But how long will it last?”
“Depends on what happens there in the next eighteen hours,” Crowe responded truthfully. “I spoke to John Galvin before I came in. He seems to think if the 1st Cavalry can hold the bridges on the Leine through dusk and get the majority of the division across by then, III Corps will be in position to envelop 3rd Shock Army and begin probing eastward.”
The Secretary of Defense pondered that silently for about a minute before speaking again. “What SACEUR says seems to make sense. I know I’m not going to second guess him. He’s the guy on the spot. What do you think, Bill?”
“I’m in agreement. John is the commander in Europe and he’s proven himself to be quite capable. The same is true for his corps and division commanders. For the most part,” Crowe allowed, with a smirk. “He’s done a fantastic job so far. I suggest we continue giving him as much breathing room as we can.”
“Yeah, I’m with you there,” Weinberger nodded. “But we have to be ready for questions about a possible counteroffensive tomorrow when we go to the White House. Some people there seem to think we’re ready to start pushing back in a big way.”
“I’m aware of that, Mr.Secretary.” Crowe shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Before we discuss that more or move on, there’s a matter I’d like to discuss with you briefly.”
Weinberger spread his hands apart. “Of course.”
“Carl Trost has been bombarding me with memos and phone calls all day.” Trost was the Chief of Naval Operations. “To make a long story short, he’s getting annoyed with having three carrier groups doing donuts in the Soviet backyard and accomplishing nothing. He’s aware of the political situation and so am I. But we both feel it’s time to seriously consider putting those carrier air wings back to work over the Kola.”
Moscow, USSR 0115 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 (0415 local time)
General Snetkov’s arrival in Moscow came later than expected. As his aircraft had taxied out to the runway at an airbase not far from his headquarters in the GDR, NATO attack planes appeared in the vicinity, striking a pair of communications facilities nearby. It was another hour before Snetkov’s plane was cleared to depart.
Marshal Akhromeyev was waiting on the apron for the general. Snetkov disembarked from the converted airliner and was directed to a waiting car which drove off at once the moment both general officers were situated. On the drive over to the General Staff building near Arbat Square, Snetkov explained the situation on the ground in the Federal Republic in great detail. He neither exaggerated or left out any pertinent specifics. When he finished, Akhromeyev then briefed Snetkov on events in other areas, including those in Moscow.
The marshal then explained that Akhromeyev’s time in the capital would be short. After a brief period at the General Staff building to rest and refresh, he would be attending a meeting of the Defense Council in the Kremlin at 0600. Following that would be a Politburo meeting at 0800. At the conclusion of that, Snetkov would be taken to the airport and be flown back to East Germany without delay.
Akhromeyev mentioned in conclusion that Snetkov would likely be returning to his headquarters with a new set of orders but did not elaborate. The matter was dropped and then the conversation turned to a new topic entirely.