D+23 (1 August, 1987) 0401-0615 Zulu

Wedrzyn, Poland

0405 Zulu (0605 Local)

Events were moving faster now. At the Western TVD wartime headquarters, the commanders of artillery and chemical troops arrived and were briefed on their new orders by Marshal Snetkov. After five minutes spent explaining the orders and timeline, as well as the quite lengthy restrictions attached to them, the theater commander ordered them to begin making the necessary preparations. This was no simple task. A fire plan had to be built, comprising the allocation, and targeting of chemical weapons. Once completed, this would be fed into the operational directives and orders put forth to the affected front and army group. Specifically, the chemical fire plan would include the targets to be hit and the number of chemical warheads to be expended on each target. Types of toxic agents and delivery systems was also laid out by the theater artillery and chemical troop commanders, though a certain degree of latitude would be afforded to the army group commander to make necessary revisions. Perhaps most important, the time to be prepared for the delivery of strikes would be handed down. This was the one part of the fire plan that the front or army commanders could not revise.

When the fire plan was completed to the satisfaction of the artillery and chemical commanders, it was presented to Marshal Snetkov for review. The theater commander asked a number of questions that were answered truthfully and without hesitation. Most of these had to do with delivery time. Snetkov had reservations about whether it could be met. His subordinates assured hi that it would be. This was enough for the marshal. Satisfied, he gave his approval to the fire plan and opened the door for the next step of the process to commence.

Schleswig, West Germany

0445 Zulu (0645 Local)

The Northern Group of Forces field headquarters, situated on the edge of Schleswig, was a hive of activity even before the orders and chemical fire plan arrived from Western TVD. NGF’s commanding general confirmed the validity of the orders, as wartime process for special weapons required. When this was finished, he brought his artillery and chemical officers in and together they pored over the documents.

The timeline could be met, it was decided. But just barely. This was all being laid on rather fast. Peacetime training and large exercises had revealed that a period of six hours minimum would be needed to prepare an army group to deliver chemical munitions and then fight in a contaminated environment. Even though Northern Group of Forces was not a traditional-sized army group, a similar amount of time was needed. Instead, Western TVD had given it half the amount.

The weather was not in their favor either. The meteorological officer arrived and laid out the forecast for the next twenty-four hours across Jutland and Schleswig-Holstein. 1 August was expected to be a windy, drizzly and overcast day. The winds would be coming out of the west at around 20 knots for most of the morning and afternoon. Wind speed, directions and a host of other factors had to be taken into consideration. Rain and strong wind could dilute the chemical agent’s concentration. Measures had to be taken to negate this, as well as to ensure the downwind areas near friendly forces remained uncontaminated. It would take some additional effort, but the chemical and artillery officers were confident the problems would be solved.

As they spoke, word was received from the GRU security contingent that the chemical rounds were arriving at the locations of the artillery batteries that were part of the fire plan. Air defense units in the area were now on high alert, although the weather would also help keep NATO warplanes away. Hopefully.

As the minutes went by, NGFs commander ordered 6th Guards MRD and 20th Tank Division to initiate chemical defense preparations. When this was complete, he issued similar orders to his headquarters company.

Drengsted, Denmark

0600 Zulu  (0800 Local)

The Danish Army captain looked up from the table map and directly at the middle-aged, stout officer who had just entered the TOC. “Colonel, White elements are approaching the border,” he reported in a business-like tone.

The colonel was commander of the 2nd Jutland Brigade. White was the brigade’s 1st Battalion, now about to cross into West Germany according to the staff officer. The colonel nodded and took in the symbols on the map, as well as their locations. Things had quieted down in the last ten hours or so. After his brigade had broken through Soviet lines the previous afternoon, the path into Schleswig-Holstein appeared wide open. A fierce Soviet counterattack blunted the breakthrough, however, and temporarily halted his brigade’s advance.

Now it was underway again, with 1st battalion in the lead and strangely not encountering significant resistance. In fact, the battalion’s recon elements had come across empty fighting positions which had been occupied by vehicles and men of the 6th Guards Motor Rifle Division before midnight. They were now gone. As the reconnaissance vehicles scouted ahead, now White’s first combat company was coming to the empty positions, with the battalion commander tagging along.

Other companies were approaching as well, and the plan was for the battalion cross the border in full. 2nd Brigade’s commander approved. He walked over to the radio set up and ordered the NCO there to contact1st Battalion’s CO. When the major was on the line his brigade commander ordered him to provide a report on the present situation.

“Reconnaissance platoons have crossed the frontier and are probing,” the officer spoke loudly over the bursts of static. “No indication of enemy forces yet. I’ve temporarily lost contact with them but they’ve reported moderate artillery falling to their west.” He paused for a long moment. “We are beginning to receive artillery fire here as well. Nothing too heavy, just harassment fire.”

The brigade commander asked about the status of his companies and received short, brief replies. The battalion CO seemed to be distracted by something or someone. The colonel was just about to sign off and leave him to run his unit when the mike keyed. He could make out shouts in the distance, followed by the sound of a very distinct alarm blaring in the background. The next thing he heard was a high-pitched warning cry from the battalion commander.

“GAS! GAS! GAS!”

12 Replies to “D+23 (1 August, 1987) 0401-0615 Zulu”

  1. Yeesh: can’t leave any snarky comments for this one. The history of US Army’s CWS (Chemical Warfare Service) is long, fascinating and bit convoluted. I wonder when the last time was that US Army artillery units drilled in planning for or firing chemical rounds? 1960s?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. they managed this in less than two hours (really 75 minutes based on the times here) when doctrine says six and they were given three? Epic work there…

    And the weather is absolute crap for chemical attack… but when its all you have, you try and minimize damage to your troops. I have a few doubts it will be as effective as Western TVD/ Moscow hopes… I also remember Doctrine being gas would be met with something brutal as a response- and Moscow won’t like the response.
    Throwing Gas is dumb but desperate is desperate…

    (says the guy who gassed the 82nd in a geopolitical sim game in high school as the Iraqis. *whistles innocently*)

    I remember being in MOPP 2 for the entire desert war- considering the desert was kinda cold then, it was nice to be wearing warm stuff.. We went into MOPP 4 during the scud attacks early on in Saudi. Waking up to Patriots launching and tagging scuds was special… followed by the pucker factor of GAS GAS GAS just after the boom of the intercept.

    The absolutely most scared I have ever been was then And the fastest I ever went from MOPP 0 to 4. (less than two minutes, counting tying the boots)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One thing the Soviets were very good at was chemical weapons. So for them to get off to a quick start is pretty realistic, but yeah, our retaliation options won’t be child’s play.

      Still love how you gassed the 82nd. LOL

      MOPP sucks at every level but 4 is the absolute worst. As much as it sucks for infantry and tankers, flying with chem gear is an even worse nightmare.

      0-4 in less than two minutes has to be a brigade record. At least

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  3. As always, brilliant and exiting reading!
    One small note on the danish units: Battalions weren’t named 1st, 2nd and so fourth per brigade, but rather per regiment. Thus, 2. Jutland Brigade, had an armoured battalion, II/Jutland Dragoons (I/JDR), two armoured infantry battalions, I/ & II/Queens Life Regiment (I/ & II/DRLR) as pr 1989.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pete. You’re absolutely right about the Jutland Division. I decided to simplify it a bit to make it easier for some folks to follow. No offense was intended upon the Danish military, naturally 🙂

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  4. Based on the post and the comments, the advancing NATO troops aren’t in even a minimal protection posture against chemical attacks, is that correct? If so, the causalities are going to horrible in the units receiving the initial attacks. I got chills reading the report that the scouts are probing and finding nothing. I’m sure the headquarters was cogitating on that when the gas call was received.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Correct. They werent expecting chem agents to be used. Minimal protection at that point.

      Yep, the fact that scouts were finding no sign of the enemy was the first indication things were going downhill quick

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  5. MOPP 2 was the standard duty uniform for every heavy unit in the Army during the 80s. Going to MOPP4 was pretty fast; just a matter of donning mask and hood, zipping the jacket up and then donning gloves, In hotter weather, you usually just wore PT gear underneath instead of a normal uniform. Units were extremely proficient in going from MOPP 2 to 4, as well as individual and unit level detection and hasty decontamination. The collective tasks were considered critical skills that every soldier in a Corps or lower unit trained on repeatedly, and the individual tasks were “skill level 1” tasks that every soldier in the Army had to be proficient on. I doubt that there was a platoon sized Combat unit or Combat Support unit in Europe that didn’t have a couple of M8 Chemical Detectors, and every battalion had detailed decon teams, manned by soldiers from whatever MOS the unit could spare and overseen by the Chemical NCO and/or officer that every battalion-sized unit was required to have. Every vehicle had a hasty decon kit as well.

    There were lots of intel indicators that would show up if the Soviets were preparing to use chemical weapons. Certain radar types would light up (true for all surface to surface missiles, actually), specific radio prowords would come up, heretofore unseen units would appear, along with special security for those units, certain special procedures would be overheard or observed or even unit commanders sounding different on the radio because they were in protective gear. NATO tactical intel units would have had a clear picture that a chemical attack was coming at about the same time the major Soviet units would have known, and sending those warnings out was a very high priority, drilled routinely in training. Within a few minutes of the first indicator, most of the theater would have known unless the Soviet Radio Electronic Combat units were really on their game…and how may of those guys are left this far into the war?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the refresher on MOPP and some of the Soviet electronic combat units in wartime. Much appreciated . I think you’re definitely right about indicators showing up, but at this point in the war, I wonder if some indicators might’ve been overlooked. Speculative, I know,

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