D+18 1640-1700 Zulu 27 July, 1987

Aboard NEACP-Primary, 1636 Zulu (1236 Local Time)

“FLASH OPREP-3 PINNACLE—NUDET!” a USAF captain seated at a console in the battle staff area called out. “Coordinates: longitude 40 degrees—”

“Forget the lat/long,” the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff barked. “Just give us the altitude and map location.”

“Altitude 6,000 feet. Central district of Madrid, Spain.”

The battle staff area was quiet as a crypt. As the news was absorbed by those present, pairs of eyes glanced in the direction of the president and his advisers for the briefest of moments before the men and women went back to their jobs. The urgency and importance of the moment was eclipsed only by the realization that they were present at a significant moment in history. Human nature demanded they record a snapshot of the point in time for preservation and reflection later on. Provided they lived long enough, of course.

Reagan and his men stood statue-like and quiet. At that moment thousands of miles away, tens of thousands of people were dead or dying. In the coming hours and days thousands more would perish from radiation sickness. A major city and the capital of a US ally lay in ruin.

Sixty seconds later it was Alert’s turn. “FLASH OPREP-3 PINNACLE—NUDET. Ten thousand feet, northern reaches of Ellesmere Island, Northwest Territories, Canada.”

With the confirmed destruction of Madrid and Alert, the age of deterrence came to an abrupt end. What was to follow it would be determined here aboard the E-4B and at the Kremlin in the hours ahead.

The president and his advisers returned to the conference room. After everyone was seated, he initiated the phone call with Thatcher, Mitterrand, and Kohl. Reagan informed them the Soviet weapons had struck Madrid and Alert and that there would be a nuclear response on behalf of NATO. The United States would bear the burden. Thatcher and Mitterrand were understandably opposed to this plan. The leaders of France and Great Britain attempted to convince the president to hear them out and accept a counterargument. Reagan held firm. He understood why Thatcher and Mitterrand wanted their nations be part of the coming retaliatory action. However, neither France or Great Britain had been attacked with nuclear weapons. The US president did not want to present the Soviets with an excuse to attack either nation and potentially escalate the conflict beyond anyone’s control. Chancellor Kohl, who had been quiet until that point, interjected with support for Reagan’s position.

The European leaders accepted the US plan, albeit with great reluctance.

“Have you come up with comparable targets?” Thatcher inquired.

“I have.” Reagan confirmed. “I will reveal them to the three of you after our preparations are completed.”

“When do you intend to strike?” The French president wanted to know.

Reagan thought about that for a second. “Somewhere between forty-five minutes and an hour from now. My military will need time to retarget the missiles and then I have to go through the orders process.”

“Very good,” Mitterrand approved.

Thatcher was not yet completely satisfied. “Time is critical now, Ron. Remember our discussion from earlier. Do not allow too much time to pass before you respond. Every second counts at this point.”

“I’m well aware, Margaret,” Reagan assured his British counterpart in a confident, calm voice.

Author’s Note: After Friday’s incident I decided to split that day’s intended entry into two parts. I’ll put the second part up on Tuesday and then push ahead. I hope to end D+18 by next weekend, time permitting. As always 😊 – Mike


14 Replies to “D+18 1640-1700 Zulu 27 July, 1987”

  1. Are you sure Friday’s “incident” wasn’t just a means to keep us on the edge of our seats? I look forward to every update.

    A minor correction though. Alert was in the Northwest Territories in 1987. Nunavut wasn’t established until 1999. I used to work with a guy who did signals intelligence for the Canadian Armed Forces (He was Air Force). He was stationed at Alert in the mid to late 1980s. He said the food wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t much else to recommend it as a posting.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. LOL I swear, I wouldn’t purposely keep you guys on edge at this point, Mark. 🙂

      Thanks for the tip. As an ignorant Yank, I’m not as current on Canadian province changes as I should be. I heard some similar things about Alert. Food has to be good at such an isolated posting because, like you said, there’s not much else there

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There are good reasons why Reagan is committing the US to do the response – unless Britain/France wanted to compromise a significant portion of their ballistic submarine fleet, neither Britain nor France could actually do a proportional response, especially if an advance warning is to be given. Western SSBNs depend on hiding in the ocean for defense, and once the first SLBM breaks the surface, either the other 15-23 follow in short order or every Bear-F the Soviets can muster will be headed toward that datum point just as soon as they can take off.

    For the Brits, the 4 Resolution-class SSBNs were all the strategic nuclear weaponry they had. While the Polaris they carried was MIRVed, it was with only two 225-kiloton warheads plus penetration aids. The rest of the British non-battlefield nuclear weapons were free-fall bombs on tactical aircraft with insufficient range to reach the Soviet Union.

    For the French, they had 6 Redoubtable-class SSBNs as well as a good number of land-based S3 IRBMs, but depending on whether the Tonnant was back in service by July 1987 with the MIRVed M4 (with six 150-kiloton warheads), only it and the Inflexible carried the M4. The other 4 Redoubtables carried M20s, which had a single 1.2-megaton warhead, and the S3s also had that warhead. Given Madrid and Alert got hit with a total of *only* 800 kilotons each, a 1.2 megaton warhead going off would probably be seen as an escalation.

    While the French also had the ASMP carried by the Mirage IVP, the Mirages would have to fly through much of eastern Europe to get the ASMPs into range of targets in the western USSR. That is a dicey proposition without letting the Soviets know they’re coming, and I somehow doubt the Soviets would let the Mirages through if they knew they were coming.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the fact that my readers are so well-informed. Makes interaction with them so rewarding. All accurate and informative details, Steve. Thanks!


    1. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. Dumb answers on the other hand… 🙂

      Madrid was selected because Moscow wanted to send a stern message that they mean business. They couldn’t strike London or Paris since that would escalate things. Targets in Central Europe were out of the question because a single detonation there might inadvertently bring on a battlefield-level exchange.
      Madrid, on the other hand, was the capital of a NATO member-state. It was also a well-known city with a large population and rich culture. Taking it out would hopefully help convince NATO to enter into negotiations and not attempt to push east.


  3. My unit had a standing task of providing 2 ‘GD’ General Duties guys in rotation with other army units. Their most memorable job was hauling out the trash – one guy armed on Bear watch, and the other beating feet… depending on the time of year they had quite a run for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Part of the drop zone support package in Alaska includes armed security for bear watch. Not only do you get the excitement of exiting the aircraft in sub zero wind chill you get to worry about joining the food chain upon landing!

    Liked by 2 people

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