D+18 0401-0800 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 Part III

Offutt AFB, Omaha, Nebraska 0745 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 (0245 Local Time)

SAC’s command post was located two hundred feet underneath the headquarters building of the Strategic Air Command. The facility was manned 24 hours a day. At the start of hostilities eighteen days earlier, the SAC command post schedules and shifts were modified to pace Zulu Time. The change was a nod to the time zone differences between the continental United States, Central Europe and Moscow. When CINC-SAC, General Jack Chain, USAF arrived this morning it was 0245 hours in Omaha but approaching 1000 in Germany and 1100 in Moscow. The four-star general’s first task of the day was to receive a briefing from his operations officer, bringing him up to speed on war-related events that had occurred while he was asleep, along with the current readiness level of SAC forces.

The atmosphere in the command post remained calm and business-like. Unusual, given the fact a global war was raging across large portions of the planet, yet an encouraging sign. In the waning hours of peacetime, US and Soviet officials worked to carve out an agreement of understanding on the dispositions of their respective strategic forces. The alert levels of US and Soviet nuclear forces were not to be altered under any circumstances. Any increase in readiness would be regarded as escalatory at once by the other side. Aware of the direction a sudden escalation could move the war in, both Washington and Moscow considered the agreement to be in their best interests.

So far, it was holding. Chain knew there had been modified changes to the readiness of US SSBNs in the Atlantic and Soviet missile submarines assigned to their Northern Fleet over the last week, but the reasons for modifications had been explained to the satisfaction of both sides. Right now, the US missile subs in the Atlantic were in their assigned patrol sectors and their Soviet counterparts had reached their bastions in the northern Barents Sea. US and Allied naval forces operating in the northern Norwegian Sea were keeping their distance from the enemy SSBNs. Moscow had made it clear that a move against its sea-based deterrent would bring on an immediate nuclear retaliation.

On land, the dispositions of US and Soviet strategic bombers and ICBM forces remained unchanged. Silos in the Midwest and across the Soviet Union showed no signs of alarming activity. Bombers were at their parent bases, displaying no indications of dispersal preparations. Chain was satisfied with the arrangement. He did not expect a massive Soviet first strike to materialize out of nowhere at some point in the coming hours. The first exchange between NATO and Pact forces would be tactical in nature and occur in Europe, giving Chain and his Soviet counterpart a few hours at the very least to prepare their intercontinental forces for the next round.  

If the worst did come to pass and he was vaporized right where he sat at present without warning, SAC was prepared, and the command would push on without missing a beat. Right now the deputy CINC-SAC was airborne on the Looking Glass aircraft flying somewhere over southern Manitoba, far enough away from any missile fields, bomber bases or other primary targets. He was fully prepared to take over Chain’s duties if necessary. That was the entire purpose behind Looking Glass; having a general officer and staff airborne in a command plane 24 hours a day and ready to pick up the ball should SAC headquarters be incinerated. Before this airborne command plane landed, another would already be in the air.

The chances of this being the day where a general officer on Looking Glass would be forced to assume his duties appeared low, Chain reflected. But not entirely outside the realm of possibility. And with that grim reminder, CINC-SAC officially began his workday.

Author’s Note: Evening, everyone. I’m not satisfied with the pace of the D+18 entries thus far. To try and speed it up, I’m revising the layout in order for each entry to cover more hours in the day. Trial and error and all of that. Some ideas seem good until you try them out. 😊 – Mike

32 Replies to “D+18 0401-0800 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 Part III”

    1. I thought about starting off the scene at Minot AFB and making the first line “FOR THE ALERT FORCE! FOR THE ALERT FORCE….”

      But that would’ve been too cruel

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  1. “Panic bells, it’s red alert, there’s something here from somewhere else/the war machine springs to life/opens up one eager eye/focusing it on the sky/as ninety-nine red balloons go by…”

    GodDAMN Mike don’t start posts off with “SAC’s command post was”, that’s just cruel! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Alconbury had a USAFE A-10 wing, a USAFE GLCM wing (at Molesworth), and a SAC TR-1 wing. The TR-1s had their own area on the “far side” of the base, complete with a buried hardened CP (Magic Mountain) and U-2 size tabvees. SAC didn’t play USAFE games- no taceval, no ori, no abgd augmentee exercises. They did, however, launch a TR-1 every six hours or so, rain or shine (mainly rain in the uk!) to look at things like Kola and Kaliningrad.
    Plus, knowing someone in the SAC wing was the key to a Burger King meal when you were stuck on an isolated guardpoint as an SP augmentee during an ORI!

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    1. Similar situation when I was at Lakenheath and the heavies came to Fairford for rotations. Good food was pretty much guaranteed for the sky cops and handlers over there through the rotation

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  3. Indeed… SAC is a BIG deal for many reasons. I was in Highschool in this time frame… and very much remember the various tense times before this… and the subsequent fall of the Berlin Wall not long after.

    Scary stuff to contemplate for sure… especially knowing what I know now.

    BTW- for what its worth, I think the 4 hour blocks do work…. Good for detailing specific stuff but it does mean more writing and will serve to drag things out some. As ya stated early on, you said there was a TON of things going on and normal posts may not work right for the amount of activity going on.

    Do what you feel works- We will be here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Christian. I’m already familiar with it and seriously recommend it for anyone with even a casual interest in strategic forces and nuclear warplanning.

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  4. I think that it’s reading fine, albeit short. I was so used to binging a couple years of entries! 😀
    I am in agreement that anytime SAC is introduced, the hairs stand up, and interest turns up a few notches, just like in “Arc Light”, or even “Lucifer’s Hammer”.
    (Of course, I’m sure that you know that’s a photo of Gen. Chain onboard Looking Glass, not at HQ. I swear he must be the most famous officer that few people really know who he is, between “theDay After”, “First Strike”, and countless documentaries showng that clip!)
    cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Bill 🙂
      Oh yeah, i know that’s General Chain. I couldn’t find a pic of him at headquarters, so I used that one. I had the opportunity to meet him once at a lecture. Years before I started this blog but he impressed me

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  5. You guys have all these cool stories about standing the watch, I did not but my old man did and one he told me about being on the flight line at Torrejon one day still cracks me up.

    They were refueling B47’s “hot” on the flight line, this would’ve been 61 so…y’know…pretty tense. A fuel line misconnected on one of the ’47s and blew off a few dozen pounds before they got it under control, there was a flash fire on the ground that was out before the safety personnel even got there.

    One of the guards on the flight line sees this and just *books*. Drops his rifle, grabs an alert jeep and heads for the perimeter. They caught him at the outer gate (Torrejon at the time was located inside a Spanish National Air Force reservation), hauled him back and he’s going nuts, “Man I’m getting out of here, there’s H-Bombs on that plane!” Now setting aside that they’re not *armed* and considering that a fuel fire isn’t going to set them off, they said “How far away did you think you were going to get? There’s two two megaton bombs on that plane, son! If they went off you’d have to get halfway to Lisbon before they went off to be safe!”

    needless to say, he got his wish – he left on an administrative flight back to the states and probably straight to Leavenworth to finish his hitch staring at striped sunshine…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL Awesome story! I have to say, if I were in that guy’s shoes at the time, my ass would’ve responded the same way. Just out of pure instinct.
      On a side note, ramps are great places to see crazy, humorous or just different things take place. Personally, I miss Freestyle Fridays. Had some very talented crew chiefs when it came to dancing.

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      1. Dad had some great stories, I tell you. Remind me to tell you the story of why there was 24 hour hot chow available at Torrejon one of these days (hint: my pop was directly responsible).

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          1. OK so this is what dad told me.

            One day they were on the flight line and set to be relieved at a certain time; that time came and went and no replacements showed up. So what are they gonna do, walk off and leave the flight line? No, they stayed put, until the *next* shift shows up. By now they’re hungry, dirty, and exhausted.

            So they go to the mess hall, seeing it’s open. Mess Sgt. tells them that he’ll start getting ready for breakfast at 04:00, he’s not serving chow right then, and for them to get out. Dad tells him, look, we just pulled a double on the flight line, my men are hungry, let’s have some chow.

            Mess Sgt. isn’t having it. Tells them to get their filthy asses out of *his* mess.

            Okay.

            Dad grabs a phone, calls his CO. Tells him what happened. His CO has already dealt with the issue with the “Missing” crew, so he escalates it.

            About ten minutes later, dad’s CO, and a full colonel shows up, in uniform, with staff, and demands to know *why* one of his crews* is not being chow, after standing a sixteen hour watch on his flight line.

            Sgt. says Sir, I told these men that the chow hall hours were –

            Col. cuts him off. This base is on a standing 24 hour alert status, Sgt. That means my mess hall is open and serving food 24 hours, do you understand?

            Yessir. Sgt. goes and brings out trays of cold cuts and bread. Col. stops him again. Nuh-uh, Sgt. *Hot* food. A full meal.

            Well sir we’ll serve breakfast at 05:30 and –

            I *said* you are serving *hot food twenty-four hours a day*, you will serve this crew DINNER. Not breakfast, not cold sandwiches and milk. Dinner.

            Watches as the guy starts preparing a full dinner service for (I think) eight guys.

            Col. stops by the table my dad and his crew are waiting at on his way out. Col. stops by my dad’s CO and says “Don’t ever call me for this nonsense again.”

            From that day forward, and there were times when things went awry on schedule again, didn’t matter what time of day or night, but at the USAF Torrejon base you could guarantee to get a hot meal. And it was probably still that way for many years after.

            *Nota bene: Dad wasn’t a pilot so when I say “crew” I mean himself and other security personnel.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. What a fantastic story! Your dad seems like he was a great guy and probably a fantastic sky cop. Kudos to that colonel too. He had his shit together, even if he feigned annoyance.
              Thanks so much for sharing, Bill!

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Dad was pretty all right. There was one night when a guy walked out on the flight line, fatigue pants and a pajama shirt, you could smell the booze coming off the guy. He approached their perimeter and said “Airmen step aside, I’m going to inspect my planes.” The guy is obviously as drunk as a skunk, so dad says “Sir identify yourself immediately, do not proceed any further.”

                Guy gets belligerent and says “I am a general and you will step aside!” weaves out of the way. Pop butt-strokes the guy with his carbine, knocks him down. Of course he’s yelling now trying to get up and saying shit like he’ll have my dad’s stripes, etc., to which my dad says “Sir, lie face down and do not move or I will blow your goddamned head off.”

                Now, this is during the CMC, and like I alluded in the chow hall story, the whole base is a NATO facility, hot planes, ready to roll B47s on a one-way to Kiev and points east if the balloon goes up and they have *shoot to kill* orders on anyone who tries to cross the perimeter. These are armed planes, on standby alert.

                So dad tells one of the men to call it in. An officer and a couple of other air cops show up, dad’s got his gun on the guy still (remember: this “general” could be a saboteur, with plastique or a firearm or something else on his person, right?)

                Senior officer checks dad down, the “general” is whining and complaining, I’ll have all your stripes, etc. Pop said it was the craziest thing he ever saw; the officer grabs the guy by the shirt collar and by *the balls* and throws him in the back of the truck, tells the other two air cops to secure the guys hands to the cover, (just make him hold it, not tie him or cuff him there); he’s going mildly verbally berserk at this point, to which the officer says “Sir, shut up. If you let go of that bar I will order this man to shoot you.”

                Gets an incident report from dad and the rest of the men, drives off into the night.

                Next morning dad goes to his CO, asks him if he knew who the guy was, dad’s CO says “Silvey, you don’t need to know.” Pop says, was he really a general? “Airman Silvey I said you don’t need to know.”

                And that was the end of that!

                Liked by 1 person

              2. Wow, a drunk general staggering around on a ramp filled with war-loaded B-47s. Like a scene out of Dr Strangelove, just real. And I’ve heard similar stories and seen some crazy things like this myself. Air Force life is fun if anything, isn’t it? 🙂

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              3. Great story, except for the one way part. Likely, but not necessarily. Depends on escalation and a whole lot more. Not being optimistic, but let’s be serious. There’s always a chance that there is a survival rather than a Kamikaze mission. I hate reading these parts of stories.

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              4. Hi Bill. Yeah, I agree. The notion of a kamikaze type escalation always rubbed me the wrong way too. It’s just not probable.

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  6. My day job around the time of this story was in an unhardened vintage 1950s temporary building that shook whenever the wind blew. There wasn’t much use for my job in wartime so I spent every exercise (in Korea and the UK) as an SP augmentee or on an NBC team. SP augmentee was pretty much pulling guard. NBC team was following a disaster preparedness guy around while he did his samples and marking.

    Part of this was establishing “collective shelters” by sticking signs stuck on the grass designating a building as “bunker x” or “shelter y”. During one exercise, when we had marked my rickety building as a shelter, I remarked that it barely stood up to the wind. The disaster preparedness guy looked back at me and proceeded to explain that I didn’t need to worry since a single SS20 would blanket most of the base in its fireballs!

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