The Central Front D+18 1830-2359 Zulu 27 July, 1987 Part I

The new commander-in-chief of the Western TVD, General Boris Snetkov, received official word of the nuclear exchange five minutes before the destruction of both Novaya Zemlya and Gorky. This was essentially the extent of the news from Moscow. The absence of information left Snetkov’s head filled with a hopelessly long list of questions. Foremost was the one paramount in the minds of millions around Europe and North America at that moment: Have they gone insane?

Almost as soon as the question bubbled to the surface it was drowned out by dozens of others that revolved around operational matters. Force posture was the most urgent. His first order to army group commanders around the theater would be to prepare their forces with maximum Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare protection measures. Along with every soldier donning protective gear, the distances between units was to be extended wherever possible to reduce the effectiveness of a low-yield nuclear detonation in the area. Snetkov had no idea what the situation was beyond his headquarters location. The chance of a battlefield-level exchange in the hours ahead was very real, forcing CINC-West to make certain his forces were ready for any eventuality.

A similar scene was playing out in Belgium around the same time. After the first flash message confirming that two Soviet ICBMs were heading west, SACEUR and his staff departed NATO headquarters in Brussels for the wartime command bunker near Mons, Belgium. Although a global war had been raging for weeks, General Galvin had opted to remain at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Now, with the nuclear genie seemingly unleashed from the bottle, SACEUR decided he would fight the rest of the war from the Mons bunker.

On the helicopter flight south, SACEUR wrote up a list of orders to be transmitted to NATO commands and army groups. Some orders were nearly identical to those being issued by his Soviet counterpart. Others were decidedly different, like the order to cease all ground and air operations for the time being. His greatest fear was that a simple, honest mistake might lead to a battlefield exchange. A misinterpreted radar signal, or forces gathering in an area that appears to make little sense. He spoke directly to COMAAFCE and made sure his air chief understood this meant an end to all offensive air operations from the FEBA through to the Polish-Soviet border. Again, the fear of an erroneous misinterpretation won out.

As the theater commanders on both sides of the FEBA grappled with concerns, real and potential, in the first hour following the Soviet attack and subsequent US retaliation, troops and officers in the field were gradually learning the news….

*Note: I’ll explore this more in Part II. Had to cut this one short, unfortunately. Dr appts ran way late today and cut into my writing time. Probably doesn’t help that this particular doc is in another state 😊*

10 Replies to “The Central Front D+18 1830-2359 Zulu 27 July, 1987 Part I”

  1. I’m surprised SACEUR didn’t put battle staff on Silk Purse and bush it out of Mildenhall. That said, I’ll bet both sides are taking steps to ensure force survival through dispersion, hardening, etc. Unfortunately both sides doctrine also emphasizes locating and targeting delivery systems. SACEUR has issued orders to step back from such attacks, but Western-TVD has not. There’s probably a field storage site or other element of NATO special weapons infrastructure out there that is located and vulnerable.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know how it goes. Each command has its own protocols and procedures. Some go airborne and others go underground.

      There’s always going to be at least one, and if the Russians find one they might bite

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Twenty years after these events I worked in the bunker outside Mons. Even in those ‘safer’ days the periodic drills were eerie, and stumbling across the mothballed dormitories and knowing what catering was like raised a lot of questions about how fun life was going to be like in there full time. Either way, lots of interesting strategic urban geography conclusions to be drawn about the locations around Mons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, I’ve always wanted to see that place. Even when I was in Europe for all of that time, I never had the chance. Mons always seemed like a peculiar place for a command bunker. I mean, with SHAPE right there it’s an obvious target and all. But like you said, there are some strategic and urban conclusions to draw there.


        1. I’m definitely up for a chat like that over a pint or two.
          Like I mentioned before, Mons is one town in Europe I never got to. One day, I’ll head back and visit all the places I missed out on back in the day


  3. Can’t sat how much the photo reminds me of a “hard” SP we had. He dummy corded his weapon to himself just like the photo. At some point he fell asleep in the truck with his M16 in the rack in the bunker. When his partner drove off to pick up midnight meal (SPs didn’t eat MREs) his weapon got drug down the perimeter road for a good 100 yards before the sparks tipped people off. Oddly enough, he was a stripe light next exercise and he never tied his weapon to himself again…

    Later on I went to a couple of schools where excessive dummy cording was rewarded. As far as I went was tying off to my gear and sleeping with that on. I never tied anything to my body because I couldn’t ditch it if I needed to. I also didn’t screw with people or their tie downs. But, I understand THE DIVISION has their ways…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What are these MREs you speak of? 😉

      I’ve heard horror stories about some sky cops. Banged heads with a couple of their officers once or twice. Never cared for their attitudes and always went to extremes to remind them that they weren’t rated.


  4. Most of the cops were pretty cool. I know I wouldn’t want to be on a perimeter post at Osan in the summer or checking line badges when it’s pelting down rain in an East Anglian winter. The cops who were a pain would have been a problem in any job. It wasn’t helped by some of their leadership- occasionally they sounded like they were interested in doing things the hard way just because they could.

    I liked working in a building. I had pretty chill bosses, predictable hours, and plenty of time for school, etc. Most of the time my boss was a civilian and as long as they were happy my supervisor was too. Plus, I met people from all ranks in their off duty time, which helped out a lot when I needed something. I did get tapped for augmentee duties a lot, but that just made me appreciate my gig more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Guys like you had your ear to the ground working in an office and usually knew what was coming ahead of everyone else. That’s one reason why a lot of different ranks hang around there. 🙂

      Rain in the wintertime in East Anglia? Why most of the winter days I spent there were bright and clear…..after passing 10,000 ft or so 🙂 Did a two week WestPac tour once. Osan was a base I’d hate to be at during the summer months. Kunsan, not much better. Kadena, on the other hand, anytime!


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