Western Pacific D+20 (29 July, 1987)

The ballistic missile submarines belonging to the Red Banner Pacific Fleet were fully deployed in the Sea of Okhotsk by 0600 local time on D+20. With the Pacific Fleet’s SSBN bastion now established there, fortifying it became nothing less than a vital priority. A line of attack submarines was positioned in close proximity to the Kuril Gap, supported by ASW task groups and land-based aircraft. The main threat for the time being was US attack submarines attempting to penetrate into the Sea of Okhotsk and seek out the positions of Soviet SSBNs in advance of a concerted US effort against the bastion. Intelligence pointed to the United States Navy making preparations to launch a campaign against the Sea of Okhotsk bastion if the option became necessary. A task force centered on the USS Enterprise was in the Northern Pacific and there were indications a second carrier, possibly Independence was also steaming west.

The US carriers in the Sea of Japan remained off the eastern coast of South Korea and showed no signs of moving north to hit military targets around Vladivostok or challenge the two powerful surface groups covering the main Soviet port in this region. One group was centered on the Kiev class aircraft carrier Minsk and the other on the nuclear-powered battlecruiser Frunze. The Pacific Fleet’s commander, Admiral Gennadi Khvatov was toying with the idea of sending one of these groups north to support the bastion. The downside of this was obviously leaving Vladivostok open to attacks by US carrier-based aircraft in the hours and days ahead. Khvatov was aware of Moscow’s warning to the US about future attacks against Soviet territory, but the fleet admiral fully expected US aircraft to target his ports and airfields at some point in the near future.

Sending Minsk or Frunze north meant dealing with Japanese air and sea forces around Hokkaido and the Kurils. Following the clashes with Japanese forces over Sakhalin and around the Kurils on D+8 both sides had adopted a defensive posture. But Japanese efforts to mine La Perouse Strait had intensified, and in recent days, air patrols had picked up. Khvatov was concerned that Japan might join the US in a campaign against the bastion. He struggled without success to formulate a plan to move at least one of his task groups up north without sparking major confrontation with Japan. Instead, he ordered Soviet air and naval forces to avoid confrontations with their Japanese counterparts for as long as possible.

Fighting in North Korea continued through the day, mainly in Pyongyang and around Wonsan. It appeared the situation was reaching a stalemate even though it had seemed Kim Jong Il’s faction had been on the verge of victory just 24 hours earlier. Either way, North Korea’s government and military figures were rapidly losing interest in the conflict south of the DMZ. Fighting between North Korean units continued to flare occasionally, and a small number North Korean Army units had packed up and headed north in the afternoon. US and ROK forces were under strict rules of engagement through the day as Combined Forces Command struggled to build a picture of what was going on up North. CFC commander General Lou Menetrey, US Army did not want to expand the counterattacks against North Korean units for fear of inadvertently affecting the ongoing struggle for control in the DPRK. As far as Menetrey was concerned, the harder Kim and the military slugged it out for control, the less pressure they placed on his US and ROK divisions and brigades.

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