The Southern Flank D+20 (29 July, 1987)

Rescue and recovery operations in Madrid and the surrounding affected areas increased in scope and size with every passing hour. The Spanish government was pulling itself together as expeditiously as conditions allowed. It was clear by this time what senior government positions were empty and needed to be filled in order to make certain there was no disruption or slowdown in the growing Madrid operations. Later in the day rumors that the medical condition of King Juan Carlos was rapidly deteriorating started making their way into media reports. The authenticity of these reports was not officially commented on. Yet a short time later, the Spanish government ordered a strict media blackout with regards to the medical conditions of government officials and royal family members injured in the attack.

Spain’s neighbors were contributing as much aid as possible to Madrid. However, by now there were indications of rising radiation numbers in southern France and the northern regions of Italy. That forced those two nations to hold back a large portion of its reserve troops, medical personnel and other emergency services workers in case they were needed at home. The larger cities in Western Europe had experienced flash evacuations that were more unorganized and frantic those in North America. As word spread of the expanding radiation levels, riots broke out along the evacuation routes outside of cities such as Marseille, Milan, Rome and Paris. The levels were not life threatening, but in the aftermath of Madrid’s destruction, rumor and fear took root, throwing the security and medical services of France, Italy and later Switzerland into chaos.

The fate of Nicolae Ceausescu remained unknown on D+20. According to State Media, the Romanian leader was safe in a secure location and coordinating the nation’s security services. Violent protests against Ceausescu and his regime have boiled over into a near nationwide uprising. It was unclear which side had the upper hand. Every major city was a battleground with opposition leaders claiming control of some, and government officials make constant promises that the uprising will be defeated soon. NATO’s attention is elsewhere and even the Soviet Union, responsible for instigating the failed coup attempt against Ceausescu that turned the country upside down, has made no mention of the Romanian situation. Its attention is focused elsewhere.

Egypt looked to be ready to take advantage of the preoccupation of the United States and Soviet Union. A military buildup was starting to take shape in the western region of the country, not far from its border with Libya. These two nations had fought a brief, yet violent war in 1977, stemming from Egypt’s decision to pursue peace with Israel following the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Following three days of raids, larger clashes on the ground and airstrikes, Egypt and Libya agreed to a ceasefire. Now it seemed that the Mubarak government in Cairo was considering military action to tie up some loose ends from that decade-old conflict.

In Naples, Allied Forces Southern Europe’s commander and his staff were considering how to best employ the command’s naval and amphibious assets in the coming days. It was no secret by now that NATO intended to go on the offensive in Central Europe. Common sense dictated that the offensive operations would not be limited to the Federal Republic of Germany. AFSOUTH wanted to be ready should SACEUR ask him for suggestions on how his command’s assets could best be employed to support the main effort. CINC-SOUTH placed a phone call to the Sixth Fleet commander and ordered him to start thinking hard about possible courses of action. This was an order COMSIXTHFLEET had been waiting for.

“We’ll get right on it,” he promised his superior and then paused for a moment. “But just to let you know, I have two carrier battlegroups and an MAB (Marine Amphibious Brigade) essentially sitting around and doing nothing right now. What are my parameters for planning with regard to utilizing them?”

AFSOUTH’s response was instant. “There are none whatsoever.”

8 Replies to “The Southern Flank D+20 (29 July, 1987)”

  1. There’s a lot of tanking involved, but you could strike the Crimea and Bulgarian coast from the eastern Med. Probably need to make sure the long range air threat was suppressed first and Latakia is neutralized. Safer than operating in the Black Sea since you’re behind the Turkish radar line. Pretty thorny problem to operate in the Black Sea, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right. So if they’re going to operate in the Black Sea there has to be an achievable objective in mind. Get in, hit it quick, possibly land troops, and get out. Hanging around that space of water for an extended time isn’t a great idea


  2. There is still a Soviet toehold in Syria that needs some attention. The carrier battle groups and Marine Amphibious Unit probably have some old hands aboard that remember Lebanon in ‘84/‘84 who have some old scores to settle with folks in that part of the world.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a viable target for two carrier groups and a bunch of Marines sitting around in Turkey. Question is: How would a jump into Syria help support operations on the Central Front?


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