WWIII Pop Culture: World War III (1998) Part II

Afternoon, everyone! Happy belated Thanksgiving to everyone here in the US, and to everyone abroad….Happy Friday. 😊 Okay, let’s dive back into World War III (1998).

The Soviet announcement of the establishment of an exclusion zone in the North Atlantic shocks the world. Eleventh hour diplomatic efforts are launched in an attempt to deescalate the crisis, but to little avail. The Soviet blockade has forced NATO’s hand. Turning back the convoy and its escorting task force at this point. Doing so would give the Soviets an ultimate political victory and abandon Western Europe to the Soviet Union and its new leader General Vladimir Soshkin. The convoy reaches the exclusion zone and is immediately attacked by Red Banner Northern Fleet air, surface and submarine units. The third Battle for the North Atlantic is underway. According to the documentary the battle was over in under 24 hours. Despite losing 25% of the merchant ships and escorts, the convoy got through and the Red Banner Northern Fleet was destroyed. In an emergency session of the UN Security Council, neither the United States or Soviet Union shows any inclination of backing down.

Now it is the Soviets who begin mobilizing and reinforcing its units based in East Germany. A smart move given the failure of the Northern Fleet to close the Atlantic sea lanes. In a last ditch effort to prevent a world war from breaking out, President George H.W. Bush dispatches his National Security Advisor to Moscow with a generous proposal for Soshkin that includes an extended timetable for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Eastern Europe. The US belief is that Soshkin can clearly see his country is losing power in Eastern Europe and will find the plan appealing. Soshkin rejects the plan almost immediately.

On March 12, 1990 the Soviet offensive in Western Europe commences with amphibious landings near Kiel. On the next day, the invasion of interior West Germany. At this point we go into a textbook late-1980s NATO-Warsaw Pact battle scenario. As the Soviets move deeper into the GDR, NATO airpower gives the alliance forces the upper hand and bring the advance to a halt. Not long afterward, NATO establishes air superiority over East Germany and Poland as well. On March 23 NATO ground forces cross into East Germany as the Allied offensive takes form. West Berlin is liberated in days as Soviet forces withdraw into Poland, leaving its GDR allies to face the music. East Germany’s government falls and revolutions explode across other Warsaw Pact nations.

Soshkin realizes the war is lost and is convinced NATO will continue its offensive all the way through to Moscow even though there were no indications NATO intended to press the offensive beyond East Germany’s border with Poland. Soshkin orders a nuclear weapon to be exploded over the North Sea as a final warning to the United States and NATO that the Soviet Union is prepared to cross the nuclear threshold. The US reacts immediately by bringing its nuclear forces to high alert. As more reports of US nuclear readiness reach Moscow Sochkin panics. Then Soviet defense systems malfunction and start to indicate a US attack is underway. Sochkin orders a massive nuclear attack which the US responds to at once, triggering a full-scale nuclear exchange. The narrator then informs us, “There is no further historical record of what happens next.”  

Oh, and the film begins with the final moments after the first Soviet missiles are detected. NORAD reacts to the Missile Warning. B-52s are scrambled. The viewer is treated to scenes of news reporter Daniel Schorr reporting ‘live’ from the White House. As air raid sirens go off in the distance, President Bush is boarding Marine One in a rush. Then the sky behind Schorr goes white and stock footage of a nuclear explosion is shown next.

Overall, I really enjoyed World War III (1998). Real world footage and news clips were used to add a degree of high realism to the story and help the film flow effortlessly. Since the summary of the film took so much space, I’m going to keep this part short and come back to a more thorough review of the film’s military aspects at some point before the end of the year. The only drawback I see with World War III (1998) is in its ending. The final line of the narrator leads the viewer to assume that the war spiraled out of control and led to the end of life as we know it. If this is the case, then how did they do the interviews of so many political and military figures from the war? Were they all holed up in the same bunker with a documentary crew? 😊

In any case, final score for World War III (1998) is four mushroom clouds out of five.


5 Replies to “WWIII Pop Culture: World War III (1998) Part II”

  1. Apparently, there WAS a historical record since then since National Security Advisor Jacobs was apparently still working only a few years ago before he (Christopher Wynkoop) died in 2020! ;-).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought I had seen every “WW3” docudrama and missed this one. It’s excellent in comparison to the field, much of which is really awful. When 4/5 stars equates to “the plot was not completely absurd”, that tells you much about the state of alternate history. I have to say, I didn’t like “Threads” when it first came out (not US-centric enough) but it’s theme of chaotic decision-making by the poor civil defense bureaucrats leading up and through the nuclear exchange rings truer and truer the older I get. Still admire the attack sequences in “First Strike”, re-used in “The Day After”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mike – Not sure whether your already aware of Ian Sanders excellent, Cold War conversations podcast site but I’m sure there’s a wealth of first hand accounts, not to mention background material from Ian’s interviews from a wide range of people from both sides of the Iron Curtain although it tends to be largely from those who lived in the west during the Cold War, here’s the link. https://coldwarconversations.buzzsprout.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. I’m quite aware of Ian’s great podcasts. They’ve been very useful in some research. He does a great job! 🙂


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