Memories Of World War III: The Road To War Part II

The Road to War 1 May-6 July, 1987

Brigadier General Jack Ryder, US Army (Ret.)- “With Gorbachev gone, everyone started to get nervous again. The future was unpredictable now that there was a hardliner in power over there again. But Romanov was hardline enough to make Andropov and Chernenko appear tame in comparison. April became May and as the weeks passed by, things only became worse. The Iraqis attacked the Stark in the Persian Gulf. Although the attack was allegedly an accident and had nothing to do with the Russians, it did nothing to assuage concerns. Later in May a Russian bomber bumped one of our fighters in the Pacific and a few days later that West German kid tried to fly his Cessna into the Soviet Union. In between all of these incidents the language coming from the Kremlin was becoming more belligerent. Romanov conveniently…and predictably blamed us for his country’s problems and warned the West not to test him.

“For those of us at Fort Riley, world events weighed considerably in our thoughts and our activities. In May, 1987 I was the operations officer for 1/34 Armor, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. As S-3, I was also in charge of training for the battalion. Beginning about mid-month I was squeezing in as much training and field time for our companies as possible. It wasn’t terribly difficult since 1/34 was slated to conduct a full battalion-level field exercise in August. So, the Brigade staff was very helpful in getting our battalion priority in the training areas and ranges at first. By late June it was a different story. The writing was on the wall and training was a priority for every battalion in 1st Brigade. Brigade staff couldn’t play favorites with the calendar.

“In early June, battalion and brigade staffs started receiving enhanced briefings on operational changes to Group Soviet Forces in Germany, Russian tactics, and equipment. These were not run-of-the-mill briefings, mind you. The amount of information handed down to us made it clear somebody at Division was thinking ahead. I took the cue from this and held briefings for the 1/34 commander, XO, and company commanders. Just like with the higher-level briefings I attended, serious attention was paid to the information passed along. The collective mindset was changing as Russia grew more aggressive. War was a realistic possibility at this point and the division’s soldiers, officers and NCOs responded impressively. In the barracks at night troops were holding informal study sessions on everything from enemy equipment to their own unit’s role in a hasty defense or movement to contact. I never saw this kind of preparation and dedication in younger soldiers in my early days. It was testament to this new generation of American soldiers, as well as a sign of the times. The level of competence and confidence was astounding. These young men understood the mission and their role in it. More importantly, they understood Russia was the enemy.

“Everything changed on 1 July with the start of Zapad-87, a large-scale Soviet military exercise in East Germany. I’d say this event marked the point of no return and led most career soldiers to conclude war was imminent. For myself, 1 July marked the kickoff of my own personal transition to war…”

Author’s Note: Only one interview entry for this post. I’m dealing with the flu today and it’s winning. I’ll post the second interview at some point during the ‘typing up loose ends’ period at the end of the month. Tuesday will be Southern Flank D+24 and with luck be caught up by the conclusion of the week. Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!

4 Replies to “Memories Of World War III: The Road To War Part II”

  1. Love the interviews Mike but please, please please !! include interviews from members of the MLM’s ( Military Liaison Missions ) in East & West Germany who ( I assume ) will be the first to see the unmistakable signs of a military buildup by the Group of Soviet Forces ( as well as the NVA ) in East Germany and therefore will be taking the temperature of the Cold War turning hot !! where it counts most ! – namely behind the Iron Curtain in the Warsaw Pacts marshalling grounds of the DDR. As I recall the MLM’s even prepared for such eventualities with special forces ( stay behind ) hidey holes ( in the DDR ) for groups like the US Special Forces, Berlin to use when activated.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mike,
    These interviews promise to be interesting and have started out well. Will you include some from the Soviet political side – you’ve already started to touch on their military side with respect to the final Backfire strike on our carriers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Evening. Yes, there will be some interviews and looks back from Soviet political figures who made it through those last days of the war. Definitely


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