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

Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Andrew Baker, USAF (Ret.)-  “When the coup went down in Moscow my squadron was out at Nellis and about to start the second half of a Red Flag rotation. The matter wasn’t talked about much since we had our hands full with the exercise. But in the last couple of days the topic crept into conversations. There was speculation about how the coup might change relations with the Russians for the worse. There was no real sense of alarm, only mild concern. More curiosity than anything else.

“The squadron finished up at Nellis and we flew back to Virginia. All of us were looking forward to a period of downtime. Preparations for Red Flag were long and arduous. Months of extra flight hours, briefings, enhanced training. We averaged fifteen-hour days at least three times a week for a couple of months. It became the norm. The 27th TFS made its presence felt at Red Flag and we were looking forward to a well-deserved period of calm and the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. But that’s not how things ended up working out.

“My wife Hope and I had planned a weeklong vacation to Disney in Florida for late May. Our two boys were reaching ages where they could really enjoy the park and what it had to offer. As an added bonus, my sister, her husband and their children would meet us in Orlando. We’d transform the trip into a mini-family reunion. Everyone was excited and looking forward to it. Only it never happened.

“By mid-May leaves were being postponed and the training schedule was being ramped up. The rumor mill had it going that TAC was getting nervous about the new Soviet leadership and their increasingly belligerent behavior around the world. TAC HQ was based at Langley along with the 1st TFW.  We all could see the spikes in activity at the headquarters building. Even more useful were the daily interactions between squadron and wing personnel and TAC staff officers. Over meals or drinks at the O-Club, information was shared, and in some cases traded. Higher-ups were taking the new East-West tensions very seriously and by this time, so were we by proxy.

“In the squadron, training stepped up dramatically. Since we’d just gone through Red Flag, our squadron was in heavy demand to share its experiences and knowledge with the rest of the wing and other active-duty fighter units up and down the East Coast. We were in especially high demand for ACM in the airspace out over the Virginia Capes operating area.  Every day we’d send out elements and flights to mix it up with Navy fighters out of Oceania and Cecil as well as Marine jets from Beauford.

“The squadron and wing also spent time on bigger training exercises. Counter-air mainly with a heavy emphasis on integrating the capabilities of AWACS aircraft with our F-15s. At the time we believed the combination would prove to be a rude surprise for the Russians. It was that, but I doubt anybody had a clue of just how effective the Eagle-AWACS team would turn out to be in the coming war.  

“In the third week of June the international situation was spiraling downhill fast. Wing staff officers conducted briefings in every squadron to familiarize us with our wartime beddown locations. Ours was Bitburg, home of the 36th TFW. Another Eagle wing. I’d never been, though I heard very good things about the base and its parent wing.

“By the first of July I was no longer kidding myself. War was coming. I convinced my reluctant wife to take the kids and head up to stay her mom and dad in Vermont for a couple of weeks. Hope fought me on it but caved in the end. My wife was living in denial for weeks about what was going on in the world and convinced herself that this crisis would eventually pass just like all the rest.

“Only it didn’t pass and within a matter of days, Hope and the kids were getting settled in New England while I was winging my way across the Atlantic towards Europe with the rest of my squadron and wing. Destination: Bitburg.

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

  1. Historians of recent decades love to dunk on the “Great Man” conceptualization of history, preferring instead the idea that the masses from below make the history, carrying along important individuals along with them.

    There is no reason to believe the Ukraine War would have began without Putin, nor WWIII 1987 sans Romanov.

    As always the truth lies somewhere in the middle: The masses AND Great Men together create history.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think there are some instances of that happening….masses carrying along important individuals, but it’s more the exception to the rule.

      I think contemporary historians are considerably more lazy when compared to their predecessors. Supporting the ‘masses from below make the history’ theory is popular but they never present and defend it properly.

      Or maybe I’m just getting old and see it that way 🙂 I think it’s somewhere in the middle at the very least

      Liked by 1 person

  2. made me think of the overall attitudes we had in summer of ’90….

    I remember the initial invasion of Kuwait by Saddam’s troops. Was just getting to Germany at the time and I remember some of the conversations we had about it….

    …. then some more serious ones by September. Come October, rumor and all that was rampant about us going…. then President Bush (the Elder) made his announcement and we in the field, were notified almost the same time. Happiness and sobering reality hit us the same time.

    Kinda wild to think on it now… but there is some similarity between this and my experience. Enough to make me think of those days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right. Especially for guys like yourself just getting into Europe. You guys had just a bit of time to get settled before Bush made the announcement in November that sent you guys across

      Liked by 1 person

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