The North Atlantic D+22 (31 July 1987) Part III (Charlie)

NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) was escorted into the Situation Room on the basement level of the White House at 0930 EDT. Upon entering the wood-paneled conference room, Admiral Lee Baggett, US Navy noted more officials, civilian and military, than normal. One of the men seated against the wall in a chair was John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy. Lehman’s presence, while not a complete surprise, reinforced to Baggett the importance of this meeting. Lehman was a major proponent of naval power. Specifically, offensive naval power as outlined in the US Navy’s Maritime Strategy doctrine, the strategy guiding Baggett’s prosecution of the war at sea in the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea.

The coup in Moscow back in April came at the right time for the secretary, who was under fire over allegations of inappropriate behavior at the 1986 Tailhook convention. As is the case in Washington, when the story broke it unleashed a deluge of accusations and claims about Lehman’s conduct professionally and personally. In late April he was close to tendering his resignation, but the change of management in the Kremlin and rise in global tensions forced Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and President Reagan to table the resignation until the crisis subsided. Of course, the opposite happened and instead of departing from government service in disgrace, John Lehman was one of the President Reagan’s most important wartime advisors.

Baggett was briefed in by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William Crowe earlier in the morning. As a result, SACLANT had a fair idea of what to expect from the meeting. Crowe had explained that the purpose of the meeting was to decide what shape the final stage of the war would take. The naval forces under Baggett’s command were quite possibly poised to play a major role in the coming days. In the days before the nuclear destruction of Madrid and Gorki, the war plan for SACLANT had been to launch an air campaign against the Kola Peninsula starting on D+19. This would set the stage for US Marine landings west of Murmansk, and in concert with NATO ground forces in Northern Norway, a land attack into Soviet territory would start. This attack was to be coordinated with a possible attack against the Soviet SSBN bastions in the Barents Sea and Artic Ocean. The White House and Pentagon supported implementing the plan fully until D+18. Crossing the nuclear threshold had changed the dynamic of the war in an instant. Reagan and his advisors took a step back to reconsider the next move. Consequently, these plans for offensive action were placed on the shelf.

The fate of said offensive was to be decided today.

SACLANT’s arrival in the Situation Room brought an end to the discussion that had been taking place. President Reagan greeted him and took the opportunity to congratulate Baggett on the performance of his command in the war so far. Next, he asked the admiral to explain the air/land variant of the Kola Peninsula Offensive plan. Baggett laid out a timeline and summary of the variant, superimposing this information onto the present date and conditions in theater and across the world. The carriers and II MEF’s amphibious force were already moving farther north. The aircraft carriers of Strike Fleet Atlantic were expected to begin air operations against the Kola in a matter of hours. The miniature air campaign would last 36 hours, ending early on D+24. Around that same time, II MEF would begin its first set of landings west of Murmansk, followed by other NATO ground forces crossing the frontier into Soviet territory eight hours later.

Next, Baggett handled questions from the gathered NSC members. For the most part the questions were centered on details of the plan but a couple were entirely political in nature. The Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic reminded his audience that he was not a politician. Answering political questions was far outside of his purview. Reagan accepted this without question, but a handful of his advisors and cabinet secretaries were visibly annoyed with Baggett over his evasion.

By 1100 SACLANT’s task was complete and he was on board a VH-60 helicopter heading back to Andrews AFB and his waiting aircraft. Before leaving the White House, President Reagan had ordered Baggett to make the final preparations for an air/land offensive against the Kola. The Marines would begin their landings in approximately forty-eight hours.

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22 Replies to “The North Atlantic D+22 (31 July 1987) Part III (Charlie)”

  1. Its a damn big gamble, that landing… as the Radioactive Genie has been unleashed so far.

    A landing force would be a damn huge juicy target for a nuclear response… but it would mean the Soviets nuking their OWN territory. Unless I am way off, this is a non-starter of an idea for the Kremlin. Desperate men do desperate acts… and I’m not sure the Premier is quite ready to make his own land glow.

    Its one thing for the West to do it. Quite another for the Soviets to egg themselves… Someone will pitch the idea as a response but I don’t think it would tread water much. Its bad enough NATO would be invading the Rodina (“Preposterous!!”) but using a nuke to stop it? I dunno… Just my thought.

    Hardliners are hardliners… but war is still fought by humans. And unleashing nuclear horror on your own, even as a *defensive* measure, is… wow, I’m not sure I have an adequate word for it. Madness covers it but I’m pretty sure its not a strong enough word.

    “we had to kill it to save it…” I’ve always HATED that reasoning for anything. And still do. Had to kill /blow up the area(s) to stop the enemy? Sure…. but you ain’t saving shit in the area at that point.

    Nukes are NOT a tactical weapon, imo, by any stretch of the definition of Tactical. Y’all’s mileage will vary.

    The old saw of “first one to violence loses the argument” is generally valid… generally. In this case, first one to use the Nukes was obviously losing… and still is if the first batch didn’t do the damn job.

    They were losing and about to get shoved backwards hard… And when the West didn’t back down after the eggs got tossed (and hammered back in reply), that should have been the first clue it was a bad idea and maybe they need to start looking for an out.

    Pride goeth before the Fall and all that….

    I said it early on- Reagan’s image as a Cowboy is NOT wrong. Man knew how to play poker…. and as an actor, he can show a cool as a cucumber façade like nobody’s business.. No one is going to know his doubts other than Nancy… and maybe one or two others. Everyone else? Nope. No way.

    To use the Poker analogy from waaaay back, this game has gone through Calls and Raises…. and its the last bet. Everyone is pretty much all in…

    Ron knows he has a damn solid hand- even with the Soviets trying to change the rules of the “game”… and he’s going to ride it out. He hates to lose and unless something really shows up from left field….

    They are trying to get him to blink and he won’t. Pause maybe… but he won’t blink. Adjust a few things (as you have him doing) but he knows the hand he has is a winner. The only question is how much blood gets paid before the Soviets fold *their* hand.

    The ultimate game of Chicken… and The Cowboy don’t flinch. The only way the Russians “win” is if they flip the damn table in a fit of pique. Problem is, flipping *this* table takes everyone out… and what good is that? (really isn’t a win to anyone but a fatalist…)

    Observation On the hobbyist side- I’ve played more than a few games where an opponent rage quit – a table has actually been flipped one time in a game I played in and I’ve heard of a few other times from some other players who had it done to them.

    F-ing stupid to do… but it happens. And that’s in a game…

    In a theoretical modern war? Dude… that’s a level of stupid insane that I would hope someone is around whomever was gonna flip *this* table and can stop that act from happening.

    Enough text…. time to go make some popcorn.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I suggest beer with the popcorn. 🙂

      Every conflict gets to this point where the chips are all on the table and it takes just one foolish decision to send the war down a path nobody wants. Before this conflict started, NATO swore it would never set foot on Russian territory. But now, with the Soviets on their last leg, so to speak, the situation looks way different and maybe a few US Marine Brigades on the ground up north could convince Moscow to sue for peace. Despite Soviet warnings otherwise.

      People. Never. F**king. Learn, pal.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. “Unless I am way off, this is a non-starter of an idea for the Kremlin.”

      Disagree. The Soviets would sacrifice as many as possible for the War. They knew they were sentencing one to two million of their own to death the minute they sent that communique about targeting Spain. All to rattle their sabre and show a little of its blade. Unlike the US they’re not densely packed, so wherever the MEF lands is unlikely to be a major urban area anyway. Finally, they can simply tell their own citizens “We were driving the Americans back into the sea and in a fit of anger they used nuclear weapons, on their own troops, yet! This is how little they value human life!”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooohhhh …. seriously dangerous (read: provocative) move …. that’s the one thing the Soviets would have gone ballistic (excuse the pun) over. The whole raison d’etre of the Warsaw Pact, the stationing of over thirty Cat A divisions, thousands of tanks and aircraft, along with tens of thousands of troops (at serious expense) was to prevent large-scale conventional fighting on Soviet territory as per WW2. The fuse is definitely going to get lit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right. Foreign troops on homeland territory is historically the one thing that would send any Russian over the edge. Yet it has happened time and time again throughout history. Folks never learn

      Liked by 1 person

    1. After the Central Front I have to put up a new update. But right now, the novel is in a medically-induced coma, so to speak. Until the war in Ukraine sorts itself out, it’s on the shelf. As for writing, however, I’m working on the manuscript for Novel #2 which will be centered on a contemporary US-China conflict.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time out to catch up. I hope it was time well spent and I hope your wife or significant other isn’t too miffed. 🙂

      Like

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