Death Knell Of The Pact D+24 (2 August, 1987) Part I

Wünsdorf was chosen as a target because of its military relevance. The East German town played host to the peacetime headquarters of Group Soviet Forces Germany and was positioned high on NATO’s target list. Many East German military officers and government officials were aware that Wünsdorf would be targeted in the event of a limited battlefield nuclear exchange. And so, it was. Not by NATO as it turned out, but by the Soviet government. A calculated move intended to frame NATO and justify a Soviet nuclear retaliation. When Wünsdorf disappeared in a blinding white flash, the militaries and governments of the Warsaw Pact member states assumed NATO was responsible. It would be another twenty-four to thirty-six hours before the truth came out. Nevertheless, the nuclear destruction of Wünsdorf marked the death knell of the Warsaw Pact.

Predictably, East Germany was first to feel the effects. The government in East Berlin was an ailing carcass that remained under the care of aging General Secretary Erich Honecker. However, just beneath the surface it was Minister of State Security Erich Mielke who held the real power and called the shots. Mielke had emerged from a bloody struggle with his counterpart in the East German Defense Ministry for political control of the German Democratic Republic. He’d won that battle, but the war continued on. Most of the nation’s military forces ignored orders coming from Mielke or the East Germany government. Instead, the GDR’s armed forces took their cues from Defense Minister Heinz Kessler, who now commanded the military and its allies from a fortified command bunker just outside of East Berlin. The Wünsdorf attack brought about a temporary cease-fire between Mielke and Kessler. The two men came together purely for the purpose of guiding their nation through the extremely uncertain and dangerous time in the aftermath of Wünsdorf. It would not be enough to ensure the survival of Marxist-Socialism in the GDR though.

In Prague the government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was already living on borrowed time by the morning of D+24. The civilian government was maintaining a peaceful but tense coexistence with the nation’s military leadership. Czech military forces were withdrawn from the conflict as much as possible. A select number of pro-Soviet Czech army units had proved to be troublesome in this regard though, actively engaging their countrymen who continued to follow the orders coming from Prague. Wünsdorf would prove to be a turning point for Czechoslovakia too. Urgent meetings were held between the civilian government and military generals throughout the early part of the morning. A decision was finally reached to officially withdraw the nation from the Warsaw Pact in the hope this would prevent the nuclear exchange from reaching Czech soil. The discussion on what shape the government would take in the post-war days was shelved until the survival of Czechoslovakia was assured.

Author’s Note: I decided to broach this subject at the last minute. Therefore, the first entry is somewhat light. Part II will include more detail. Death Knell of the Pact will cover D+24 exclusively and next month a second series of entries will handle D+25 and the ultimate dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. I realize I’m kind of flipping back and forth on subjects a bit, but this is something of an experimental cycle for me so please be patient. 😊 –Mike

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: