Washington DC, 1600 Zulu (1200 Local Time)
Upon receipt of a hotline message at the National Military Command Center, the contents are translated into English. Both copies are then transmitted to the White House Situation Room for distribution. This was the standard protocol followed in normal circumstances.
In the case of this particular message, its importance triggered a different response entirely. The MOLINK (Moscow Link) team called the Situation Room duty officer first and summarized the message contents as the formal translation was still being readied. Once this concluded, the duty officer lifted another phone and calmly spoke a two-word phrase into the receiver.
A voice on the other end acknowledged curtly. Less than ten seconds later, phones buzzed and alarms went off at a dozen locations around the DC area.
At the White House, President Reagan was in the private residence when the first calls started coming in. As the duty officer in the Situation Room went over the message with his commander-in-chief, emergency action protocol and procedures were going into effect at the White House and Pentagon. Given that the United States and Soviet Union were engaged in a state of hostilities and the Soviet leader’s message confirmed an imminent nuclear attack against a target in North America, evacuation was automatic.
HMX-1, the US Marine Corps helicopter squadron responsible for transportation of the president and other senior officials of the US government jumped into action almost immediately. Its alert detachments at Anacostia Naval Air Station and Andrews Air Force Base were alerted at once and within three minutes the first VH-3D was airborne and heading towards the White House. Also at Andrews, the flight crew and battle staff of the E-4B National Emergency Airborne Command Post were scrambling from the alert facility to their waiting converted 747 aircraft.
As all of this was going on, the Federal Aviation Administration issued orders to close the airspace in and around the capital city to civilian air traffic.
Author’s Note: Okay, this is a bit of a teaser post, I know. 😊 But I need some additional time to outline and lay out the coming posts in a manner that doesn’t bog down the flow of action with endless details, yet at the same time doesn’t skimp on necessary events or descriptions. I should have this finished by Sunday and will have the next D+18 post up Sunday night or Monday. I’d try to have it done by Saturday, but I think the links are calling my name for tomorrow! – Mike