Dealer’s Choice D+24 (2 August, 1987) 0330-0400 Zulu

0335 Zulu– The 30 kiloton warhead from the Soviet SS-21 exploded 2000 meters over a nature preserve 5 kilometers west of the municipality of Schwienau. The impact point was slightly to the north of the rear area of the Dutch 5th Division. The blast caused horrifically heavy casualties as well as losses of equipment and material to the division’s reserve regiment and support units.  Within the space of three minutes post-detonation, most of the 5th Division was rendered combat ineffective because of damage, casualties, and the cloud of confusion which was by then descending upon the unaffected elements. Relief and rescue operations were getting underway though, albeit in piecemeal fashion. The communications damage caused by the EMP compounded matters even more. The status of some units and commanders remains unknown. The most concerning issue is the status of  I NL Corps’ forward command post. It was in the process of relocating closer to the 5th Division when the attack came. There has been no word from either the command post or the corps commander.

0349 Zulu– Naturally the first instinct of senior NATO commanders is to hit the 20th Guards Army in response. SACEUR isn’t sold on this though, considering 20th GA is already a severely weakened army group now of questionable value. 7th Guards Tank Army, on the other hand, is a considerably more attractive target. Of course, unleashing tactical nuclear weapons on that army group runs the risk of being viewed by the Soviets as major escalation. The debate in Belgium goes on as SACEUR and his deputies attempt to decide upon a potential target worthy of a counterstrike.

0352 Zulu– President Reagan’s hotline message arrives in at the Kremlin and is translated. “GENERAL SECRETARY ROMANOV, THE ATTACK UPON WUNSDORF WAS NOT EXECUTED BY NATO FORCES. EACH ALLIANCE MEMBER’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS HAVE BEEN ACCOUNTED FOR. THE ATTACK COULD HAVE BEEN THE RESULT OF A POSSIBLE ACCIDENT BY WARSAW PACT FORCES. OR PERHAPS THERE IS A THIRD PARTY AT WORK WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE.

“THE TACTICAL NUCLEAR STRIKE ON NATO FORCES IN NORTHERN GERMANY WAS UNJUSTIFIED AND WILL BE ANSWERED. ONCE THAT HAS BEEN EXECUTED SUCCESSFULLY, THE UNITED STATES WILL BE OPEN TO DISCUSSIONS ON A CEASEFIRE AND SUBSEQUENT NEGOTIATIONS.”

Romanov carelessly and boisterously reads the message aloud while in the conference room with the Politburo. The line about responsibility for the attack on Wunsdorf immediately spurs a heated argument. Romanov, rocked back on heels struggles to recover and react to the demands and questions being lobbed his way.  Viktor Chebrikov watches the scene develop quietly. The wheels are already turning in his head. The general secretary certainly could’ve manipulated the situation to heavily favor not only the Soviet Union but himself as well. But it was highly unlikely that Grigory Vasilyevich was able to pull this off on his own. He had to have capable helpers guiding him. On that thought, Chebrikov wonders where his deputy has been through all of this. Vladimir Kryuchkov definitely had the knowledge and contacts needed to put together a deceptive operation to frame NATO for a nuclear strike against a Soviet headquarters. Most curious that he is now nowhere to be seen, Chebrikov decided dreadfully.

0357 Zulu– Aboard NEACP, President Reagan and his advisers discuss the latest developments and options available. The Soviet attack on I NL Corps needed to be answered. To not do so, especially in the face of continued Soviet threats, might permanently rupture NATO. Reagan’s initial conversations with various NATO leaders made that perfectly clear.

The Germans were incensed that their country was fast being transformed into a nuclear battlefield. Not surprisingly, France was less worried about the fate of West German land. However, the French president informed Reagan that any nuclear, chemical or biological strike against French forces will bring about a response by France’s nuclear forces. Great Britain hinted at similar thinking taking place at 10 Downing Street and in Whitehall. The Dutch were simply caught in a state of shock. The writing on the wall was clear. A misstep by the United States now at this critical moment could lead to disaster.

Reagan was obligated to retaliate and there was no way to ignore the consequences. If he authorized SACEUR to initiate a tactical nuclear attack on a Soviet army group in response for the attack on the Dutch it could result in Moscow using nuclear weapons on US forces outside Europe. This threat was assumed to be centered directly against Strike Fleet Atlantic. Admiral Crowe laid out how the Soviets could get at the fleet: Backfires, submarine launched cruise missile, or even torpedoes.

There was no good option available, but the president needed to choose one in minutes and remain committed to it, for better or worse.

8 Replies to “Dealer’s Choice D+24 (2 August, 1987) 0330-0400 Zulu”

    1. yeah, the Pacific has been too quiet and Lehman’s doctrine is sound. Send the Marines ashore at Vladivostok! 🙂

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  1. This is an excellent example of what I tell my kids: “taking on leadership will mean you get to choose between a bunch of bad options. Outside of the movies, the chance to pick a good option is rare”. I would trust Reagan to pick the best of a bad lot in this situation. Glad I never had to choose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would trust him too. Although I wouldn’t envy him having to make the choice. Not a single good option in the bunch

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  2. Too bad the B-2 isn’t flying yet, because my response would be centered at the Kremlin, and the F-117 just doesn’t have the range. Maybe if they tanked over eastern Sweden,….

    In any case, the response should once again be inside the borders of the Soviet Union, even if it takes a few hours to set up, as the Soviets once again wouldn’t mind one of their “allies” getting hit as part of a “tactical” response. After all, it wasn’t the East Germans, or the Poles, or the Czechs, or the Slovaks, who used nukes this round.

    Liked by 1 person

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