When it comes to creating a ‘Cold War Turned Hot’ gaming or writing project most writers and gamers instinctively turn to a hypothetical NATO-Warsaw Pact clash in Europe during the 1980s. The decade is ripe with incidents that held the potential of transforming the Cold War into a hot war practically overnight. It is safe to say that this particular genre of World War III fiction and games will continue to rank high for years to come. As much fun and excitement as writing about or gaming a clash between NATO and Pact armies on the North German Plain is, we need to remember there are other potential flashpoints from the Cold War years that can provide valuable fodder for a novella or scenario.
Before I embarked upon the path-turned-expressway that is WWIII 1987, I spent a good deal of free time experimenting with various flashpoints from different eras of the Cold War. One such example is a short story I built around a hypothetical clash between heavy forces and elements of the US Rapid Deployment Forces (precursor to CENTCOM) in Iran circa 1982. During the research phase I learned much about the shortcomings RDF units had to contend with in those days. When I gamed out the conflict, I saw firsthand how the deficiencies would translate to real issues on the battlefield. To make a long story short, I opted not to expand the short story into a novella or beyond.
That is not to say exploring and using a non-Central Front flashpoint wouldn’t be worth the time and effort. Quite the contrary in my opinion. The history of the Cold War is filled with a great number of flashpoints and crises for writers and gamers to tackle. The three below are some of the better known historical and hypothetical examples floating around out there. I hope one or more of them will turn out to spark some interest among some of you. 😊
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962– Aside from a NATO-WP clash in Central Europe, the Cuban Missile Crisis is probably the most familiar ‘Cold War Turned Hot’ subject for writing projects and games. A great number of novels and games have been created with the dark days of October, 1962 as their centerpiece. Some have been better than others, but the common link between nearly every game and writing title is that their plots are more concerned with the aftermath of a Cuban Missile Crisis gone hot rather then the actual conflict itself. I’ve always wanted to see a novel, or even a PC game for that matter, focused on the operational and political sides of a US invasion/air campaign against Cuba in October, 1962. I’ve toyed around with creating a few scenarios showing what US air strikes to neutralize the Soviet MRBMs might look like (Thank you, Command!). I believe a Cuban Missile Crisis project would be worth the time and effort put into it.
Berlin Crisis, 1961– In my opinion this crisis was even more dangerous than the one above. When the Berlin Wall was erected in August, 1961 it threatened to unleash a series of miscalculations on both sides that had the potential to bring about a global war. The October, 1961 standoff between US and Soviet tanks in the divided city could very well have been the first shots of a new world war. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the focus of the Superpowers soon shifted from Europe to the Caribbean. I created a Command scenario simulating a Soviet bomber/submarine attack against the United States in response to the Berlin Crisis escalating wildly out of control. It’s still one of my favorite scenarios of all time. Mostly because I just love nuking Boston. 😊
Yom Kippur War, 1973– This is another crisis situation that almost turned hot. After Syria and Egypt attacked and caught Israel off guard, the US and Soviet Union began preparing to reinforce their forces in the region significantly, if the need arose. Troops, aircraft and ships from both sides were moving into position as the war went on with both Moscow and Washington threatening intervention if their respective client state appeared ready to go down the tubes. There are a number of possibilities for writing and gaming. A hypothetical clash between the US Sixth Fleet and Soviet 5th Eskadra in the Eastern Med at the height of the war is probably most worth exploring.