The POW story...and it's gritty as I could get without being graphic.
1000 Hours Eastern War Time, 5 May 1986; 31st Tactical Fighter Wing, Homestead AFB, Florida:
First Lieutenant Kelly Ann Ray taxied her F-4D onto the runway at Homestead. She had been in the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron for all of a month, and was one of the first two female pilots assigned to the squadron. Despite that, she was a combat veteran, with strikes into Cuba and air defense sorties over South Florida in her log book, along with three MiGs: a MiG-21R that she had nailed attempting an overflight of the Homestead-Turkey Point area, a MiG-23 that had been trying to chase down an HH-3 rescue helicopter, and a Soviet MiG-23 that had overshot her after pulling off a bomb run, and had run afoul of an AIM-9. Now, the mission of the day was a major strike into the Mariel area, with F-4s, F-16s, F-105Gs, and Navy F-14s, all going against two targets: a major Cuban supply facility, and a staging area for Soviet and Cuban troops leaving Cuba for the ports in occupied Texas.
The defenses, as the squadron's intelligence officer had said, were extensive. Not just the SAMs, mind you, with SA-2 and SA-3s around, but also whatever SAMs the Soviets had in the area that belonged to the divisions passing through. Then the guns: she'd seen pictures showing not just 14.5-mm machine guns, but medium- and heavy-caliber guns: from 23-mm all the way up to 100-mm, could be expected. Not to mention MiGs: there were Soviet MiG-23s and possible MiG-29s, and Cuban MiG-21s and -23s also expected in the area. But it was said that “If Mariel's bad, Havana's worse”, and several familiar faces in the ready room now missing due to strikes into Havana bore that out.
Before mounting her plane, Ray had gotten together with her flight, led by Lt. Col. Bob Cramer, the squadron commander and a veteran of the LINEBACKER campaign in 1972. Incidentally, she was his wingman. Her WSO was Capt. Pat Arwood, who had been in the squadron for two years, and had been without a pilot when she arrived: his former pilot had been injured in one of the few air strikes the Cubans had flown against the base, and and he was still on the shelf. Cramer's WSO was Capt. Jim Brunson, a former enlisted mechanic who'd gone to OTS and then navigator training, and was one of the most valued members of the squadron. The other element lead was Capt. Shaun Driscoll, with his backseater 1st Lt. Debra Clarkson, one of the first female F-4 WSOs; their wingman was Ray's best friend, 1st Lt. Erin Weaver, with her backseater Capt. Larry Cobb. They had gone over their procedures-including MiG and SAM evasion, rescue protocols, and so on, before gathering in a circle and putting their hands out and pumping in a preflight ritual. Now it was showtime.
As she pulled alongside the CO's bird, the control tower flashed a green light. All strike and CAP takeoffs were under radio silence. Cramer released his brakes and she followed suit, and they were soon in the air. The strike package formed up over Florida Bay, with sixteen F-4s from her squadron going after the troop staging area, while sixteen other F-4s from the 308th TFS were tasked with the supply depot. F-16s from the 307th TFS (the only squadron in the 31st TFW that had successfully transitioned to the F-16 prewar) would fly close escort and MiGCAP, while F-105Gs, flown by crews from the Georgia ANG who'd just sent their planes to AMARC prior to the war, handled SAM suppression. Backing up the F-16s were four Navy F-14s from VF-11 at NAS Boca Chica in Key West, and the Homestead-based 304th Rescue Squadron would pick up anyone who went down at sea. All of the crews were advised to try and stick with their aircraft as long as possible, because if someone went down in Cuba, it was just too dangerous-and the loss of an HH-3 from the 304th near Matanzas bore that out.
1015 Hours: Over the Straits of Florida
The strike package was coming in at low level, at about 450 feet above the water. Heads turned in cockpits, watching for threats, and making sure no one misjudged altitude. Ray watched her EW repeater.
“All clear so far.”
“Copy,” Arwood said. He looked up and saw the F-105s beginning to climb. “Weasels going in.”
The Thuds were going in on their SAM-suppression runs. Each carried two AGM-78 Standard-ARM antiradar missiles and two Shrike antiradar missiles. And as the Cuban and Soviet radars came up, the Weasels went to work to shut them down-or at least keep them occupied while the strike birds did their thing. And sure enough, “Magnum” calls came over the radio.
Then the CO came up. “Switches on. Stand by to pull.” It was time. In the back seats, the WSOs set up the armament switches, and it was read to pull up for the run to the target. Up ahead, the pilots could see the landscape: Cuba dead ahead.
“Ready, Ready, Pull!”
The lead flight pulled up to 5,000 feet and rolled right, and there it was: Mariel. The staging area was clearly visible, with troop tents, parked vehicles, and all the other paraphernalia of a division-sized force passing through. Then the threat receivers lit up, as did the flak batteries.
The CO's plane rolled in on the target, and he unloaded his bombs and shot straight north. Then Ray rolled in. “Cadillac One-two in hot, she called on the radio, then asked Pat , All set?”
“Switches set. We're hot.” Arwood said as she rolled in on the bomb run.
“Roger that. Flak coming up,” Ray called as she lined up on some parked vehicles. “And HACK!” She yelled as she pressed the pickle button and twelve five-hundred pound bombs came off the Phantom. She began to pull up when a shrill tone came over the headset, flak began to bracket the aircraft, then a both crewers felt a thud, and then another one, and the Phantom began to go out of control.
“Fire warning light! Hydraulic warning light! Right engine light!” Arwood shouted from the back seat.
“Eject! Eject! Eject!” Ray called as she grabbed the ejection handle and pulled. The canopy flew off, and she went out, followed by Arwood.
In Three and Four, Driscoll and Weaver, and their WSOs, watched as Ray's Phantom rolled right, trailing fire from the right wing and the right engine. Both canopies flew off, then the two crew members punched out. Horrified, Driscoll called it in. “Cadillac Lead, Cadillac One-three, One-two is down, just north of the target area. Two good chutes.”
“Roger that.” Cramer called. A pit in his stomach began to form. I've done it for people's sons, now I have to tell Kelly's parents their daughter's not coming back.
In her chute, Ray watched as the other planes rolled in on their targets and pulled out. To her horror, she saw another F-4 falling in flames, as well as her plane plunging into the ground, fireballing on impact. She looked around and to the north, about four miles away, was the ocean. If only....she thought. But when the fire and hydraulic warnings came, and she lost control, there was no choice. She looked above and saw Pat's chute coming down, and then she heard shouting. As she came closer to the ground, a crowd of soldiers and civilians was converging on her chute. And Ray knew right away that she would be captured. She took out her survival radio and zeroed the radio frequencies, broke the antenna, then just threw it away. Then she prepared to land as the ground came up at her.
“AAH!” she grunted as she landed and rolled away, just as she'd been taught in SERE school. As she stood up to get out of her chute, Ray saw a number of Cuban civilians and soldiers coming towards her, and then she felt a blow to her back, then tumbled back down. A Cuban had come up behind her and planted his rifle butt between her shoulder blades. Several civilians began kicking and punching her, shouting at her in Spanish, while she was still in her chute, then a shot rang out. A Cuban officer had fired a shot from his service pistol, and the civilians backed off. Two Cuban soldiers came and pulled Ray to her feet, and they got her out of the chute, took off her helmet, and relieved her of her survival gear, and watch-as well as her S&W .38 pistol (which she never really had a chance to use). When her helmet came off, and her hair tumbled out of its bun, there was silence. None of these Cubans had seen a female pilot before, and now one had tumbled out of the sky.
Recovering from their shock, the two soldiers tied her hands behind her back, and they dragged her to the officer. Several more soldiers came, and they marched Ray to a waiting truck. She was blindfolded, and thrown in the back of the truck. A few minutes passed, and some more shouting erupted. The rear flap opened, and another body was thrown into the truck, four soldiers got inside, and the truck drove off.
“Who's that?” a voice came.
“SILENCIO!” a guard shouted, kicking the other body, and then there was silence.
Kelly, under the blindfold, thought it was Pat, but she wasn't sure. The drive seemed like it went forever, but the truck stopped, and the two prisoners were dragged out of the truck. Blindfolds were taken off, and sure enough, it was Pat. The two Americans were taken inside what appeared to be a headquarters, and were sat down inside an office. A Cuban flag, and a 1970s-era portrait of Fidel hung from the wall. Just like SERE, she thought to herself. Then a Cuban officer came in, with two guards with what appeared to be long broom handles. This is not good, she thought.
“Which of you is the pilot?” asked the Cuban.
Pat looked at Kelly. She looked back, and said nothing.
“I will say it again. Who is the pilot?!” the Cuban shouted.
She nodded and looked at the Cuban, who seemed surprised. A female pilot might be a first for him.
The Cuban nodded to a guard, who then dragged Pat outside. “So. You are the pilot. You will tell me what kind of plane you were flying, your target was, what base you were from, squadron, and so forth. You will also tell me what kinds of bombs you were carrying.”
“Ray, Kelly Ann. First Lieutenant, United States Air Force, 599-01-3449, 14 May, 1962...”
SMACK! A flat palm hit her in the face. “That will not do. I will ask you again. What kind of plane were you flying? Your target? Base, squadron,?”
“Under the Geneva Convention...”
SMACK! “The Geneva Convention does not apply here. You will either tell me what I wish, or you can go somewhere else, where there are those whose task it is to make you learn to cooperate. I will say it again. What plane were you flying? Your target?”
Kelly said nothing. Then a blow came to her back, and she fell out of the chair. The guard pulled her up by her tied arms, and sat her back down.
“Obviously, you have a bad attitude,” the Cuban said. He motioned to the guards. They took her by her shoulders and dragged Kelly out of the office, and she shook her head at Pat as they dragged her past him. She was blindfolded again and thrown back into the truck.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Afternoon, Near Mariel, Cuba:
Lieutenant Ray lay on the bed of the truck, trying to make some sense of what had happened. The shock of capture was wearing off, and now she realized that some kind of strategy to resist her captors was needed. She would have to hold out until whatever information her captors wanted was likely out of date, though she knew from a SERE briefing a week earlier that the Cubans likely did know what squadrons were flying out of Homestead, so there was no way she'd be able to keep from telling that, but the Cubans-and Soviets-would want her to confirm what they already knew. And no doubt, they'd want some kind of propaganda statement, but she vowed then and there to make the Cubans work for it. She wouldn't be signing anything unless forced to do so.
Her thoughts were interrupted by more shouting. Ray managed to peep under her blindfold, and saw two more prisoners arriving. Both looked to be male, but she wasn't sure-some of the women who'd gone through the RTU with her had cropped hair, but obviously, she was in no position to ask. Then there was more shouting, and the guards threw someone into the back of the truck. But the guards didn't climb into the truck; instead, they went back inside. And a weak voice asked, “Kelly?”
“Pat,” she replied, her voice nearly a whisper. “You okay?”
“They beat the crap out of me. Didn't tell him what he wanted, though.” Arwood responded.
One of the guards knocked the side of the truck with his rifle butt. “QUIET!” he shouted.
Both prisoners obeyed. After some time, the shouting picked up, and two more bodies were unceremoniously thrown into the back of the truck. Kelly manged to whisper, “Who's there?”
“Wells; who u?”
“Nathan?” Kelly replied. First Lieutenant Nathan Wells was one of her RTU classmates. He'd come to the 31st with her, but was in the 308th TFS. “Who's with you? Pat Arwood's with me.”
“Kelly? Oh, my god... Haley Clark,” Wells said. First Lieutenant Haley Clark was his back-seater-another one of the first women to be qualified as F-4 WSOs.
“SILENCEO!” A guard shouted, then he climbed into the truck and kicked everyone at least twice.
A few minutes passed, then several guards climbed into the truck, the engine started, and the truck drove off with its human cargo. The road was bumpy at first, whether from lack of repair, or just plain a poor job in the first place, and everyone was decidedly uncomfortable. The prisoners could tell when the truck got onto a smooth road when the bumps stopped and the truck picked up speed.
It was a fast drive, relatively speaking, but soon, the truck left the highway and was obviously in a city or town, given how slow the truck was now going. None of the prisoners knew where they were, until one guard mentioned to another “Havana.” That made all four nervous. Havana? Uh-oh..., they all thought. Then the truck pulled off the street, a gate opened, and the truck drove into a walled compound.
When the truck stopped, the guards dropped the gate and dragged the Americans out. First Wells, then Clark, Arwood, then Ray. All four were soon kneeling on the ground, blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs, with the afternoon sun beating down on them. The new guards made sure no one talked, nor tried to look up and peep under a blindfold. They've got some experience, Ray thought, as the guards circled the four. Then, one at a time, they were taken inside. This time, the two men, Arwood and Wells, were taken first, then the two women.
The guards took Ray into a room, closed the door behind them, and then sat her down on a chair. One of them took off her flight boots, then tied her ankles to the chair. When that was done, the two guards left, turning off the light and leaving Ray to her thoughts. Okay....it's been rough, but it could be worse, she thought. Who's first, though? That thought went through her mind as she dozed off.
Evening, Ministry of Defense Interrogation Center, Havana, Cuba.
Kelly was suddenly jolted awake when the light came on in the room. Though still blindfolded, she was able to see a pair of boots striding to a desk-which she hadn't noticed earlier. Suddenly, the blindfold came off, and she saw a tall, well built Cuban officer. Though he had no epaulets or insignia on his uniform, it was obvious he was an officer. And he glared at her with unconcealed hostility and contempt. With that kind of look, that meant trouble, and there was no way around it, except to take whatever came her way. He took out a folder and read silently, then he closed it and glared at her again.
“So. Lieutenant Ray, will you answer my questions?”
“Under the Geneva Convention...” Ray started to say, but she never got to finish, for he got up from behind the desk, came over, and kicked her to the floor, still tied to the chair. One of the guards pulled her back up.
“The Geneva Convention means nothing here. You will answer all of the questions put to you. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?” the Cuban shouted.
“I'm a Prisoner of War, and under the Geneva Convention..”
SMACK! The Cuban slapped her in the face. “I have done this before. In Hanoi. There were thirty Americans that the Vietnamese allowed me to handle. All of them submitted to me. ALL OF THEM.” He yelled at her. “And the same with a number of those from Guantanamo. Everyone submitted. Including several women!”
When he said that, something she'd read about a number of POWs in Hanoi came back. Thirty American POWs at a camp near Hanoi had been tormented for nearly a year by two suspected Cubans, and all had been broken-some repeatedly-with one being tortured to insanity and ultimately dying in Hanoi. Now she was in the clutches of this same animal. And she braced herself for what was sure to come. If this is the guy that tormented guys like Jim Kasler, then I'd better do as good as they did, she thought.
“WILL YOU ANSWER?” He yelled again. “ANSWER, BITCH!”
Kelly just looked straight ahead at him. “I have nothing to say.”
“YOU WILL!” he roared as he kicked the chair, knocking her to the ground. A guard pulled her up, and he kicked her back down again. Then he nodded to a guard and stormed out of the room.
The guard untied her from the chair, and stood her up. Two other guards came in and she noticed they all had lengths of rope in their hands. This is not a good day, she said to herself, as the guards forced her out of her flight suit, until she was stripped completely. A few minutes later, she was trussed up in the ropes, screaming.
Several Hours later:
Lieutenant Ray lay on the floor of the interrogation room, covered with sweat and bruises, her hands still tied behind her back, and she was again blindfolded. She'd been through a session in the ropes, and a beating at the hands of the interrogator. She was now certain this was the guy the POWs in Hanoi called “Fidel”, and the fact that he bragged about being there several times made that all the more certain. Other than a guard giving her a sip of water every now and then, she'd had nothing to eat or drink since her shootdown, and it got to the point where she'd lick her lips with her tongue, trying to moisten them. They said it would be like this, the SERE instructors, and everyone there was saying “It can't happen to me.” And she'd been one of them. Now it was, and she had to ride it out.
The guards had left the light on the whole time, and she didn't know if it was day or night outside. The only other thing she knew was that the others were going through a similar ordeal, as she'd been able to hear their screams. She had heard what she thought was Pat's voice, saying “Hang in there, guys,” only to hear the guards fall upon him and beat him once again. After they'd finished, she had been able to close her eyes underneath the blindfold, and doze off.
Kelly was awakened all of a sudden by a swift kick to her buttocks. “GET UP!” the voice shouted. It was the same interrogator. “ON YOUR KNEES!” he shouted, as she struggled to do so. And for a few minutes, nothing happened. The anticipation was intense. Whatever you're going to do, she thought, get it over with. This time, she didn't raise her head and peer from underneath the blindfold, for the last time she'd tried that, a rubber hose had landed between her shoulder blades knocking her down. Then he spoke again.
“Now, will you answer the questions?”
Kelly kept her head down, saying nothing.
SMACK! He slapped her in the face, very, very, hard. “WELL?”
“Ray, Kelly Ann; First Lieutenant, United States Air Force...”
The guards then fell upon her with their hoses and sticks, beating her all over. They even pulled her up, raising her tied arms, so that they could beat on her back and buttocks. After a few minutes, the interrogator asked again. “Will you answer?”
Kelly said nothing. When she didn't say anything, the guards threw her to the floor, and rolled her onto her belly. Two guards grabbed her ankles and spread her legs apart, and then she heard an ominous sound: the interrogator unzipping his pants.....When she heard that, she knew what was coming, and decided that she wouldn't scream if she could avoid it. She heard him walk behind her, get on his knees and he grabbed her buttocks and pulled her close.......
Wailing sirens woke Kelly up. Then came the sounds of antiaircraft fire, missiles being launched, and bombs exploding. Then came the sound of jets overhead. Somebody was paying Havana a visit, and maybe, just maybe, it was the guys in the 31st. I'll take the Navy in a pinch, but hey, if it's Americans overhead, whoever's doing it is fine with me.
After “Fidel” had had his turn with her, the other two guards took theirs, before they left her alone again. This time, they had put torture cuffs on her wrists, below where they were tied. And these were ratcheted down tight. She had heard from one former POW that fighting the cuffs wasn't a good idea, as some of them tore the skin if you did fight the cuffs. Only after her tormentors had left did she do what she hadn't done since being shot down: cry. Another thing that had been common in Hanoi, but don't let the bad guys see you cry, because you're vulnerable.
Suddenly, the all clear sounded, and the door to the room burst open. Two guards came to Kelly and dragged her to a stool that they had brought with them, and very roughly sat her down on the stool, and then tied her ankles to the stool legs. Then they untied her wrists, took off the cuffs, and then retied her hands in front of her. Then they threw a rope through one of the rafters, and one end was tied to her wrists, then they pulled on the other end of the rope, putting her tied arms over her head. The guards then tied off that end of the rope, and then left, leaving her tied to the stool, with her arms tied over her head. And she was still blindfolded.
Then she heard the interrogator shouting at someone. And a response-a loud one. “Arwood, Patrick, Captain,”
“SUBMIT!” she heard next, and Pat kept repeating his name, rank, and number. Then several screams followed-louder than she'd ever heard. She peeped under the blindfold, and turned her head. The door was closed, but she heard someone being dragged out. Pat? Oh, God....
The door opened. This time, it wasn't the interrogator, but a guard. He had a pail of water, and a dipper. And something happened that hadn't happened yet since her capture. This Cuban was actually polite. “Aqua?” he asked.
“Please,” she said weakly.
The guard came and helped her drink. Several dippers of water, and she felt better-only a little, but better. He then took a cloth from his pocket, dipped it in the water, and wiped her face. If this guy's doing it on his own....be glad for small favors. When he was finished, he asked, “Good, yes?” And she nodded. Then he got up and left, closing the door behind him.
Well...that was a surprise. Like they said, be glad for any small favors, because they'll be few and far between. And I got through these two rounds. What's next, she thought. But she wouldn't find out for a while, as her captors had the others to work on.
The door to the interrogation room opened, and that got Kelly awake. She was still blindfolded, and couldn't tell who was there, only that whoever it was was circling her. Then her blindfold came off. It was the same interrogator. He glared at her, noting with approval the bruises, lacerations and such on her chest and abdomen. And this time, she noticed, he had a wooden stick in his hand-about the size of a broom handle. She knew now that he would not have any qualms about using it on her. But, she said to herself, I'm not ready to give in just yet.
Then some screams got her attention. The sicko had left the door to the interrogation room open, and she could hear the screams of at least two others-Nathan and Haley, she realized. But not Pat. Where is he? Was he the one I heard being dragged away?
Then the interrogator shouted at her, “WILL YOU ANSWER?”
Kelly looked at him. That brief respite had recharged her batteries, so to speak. “I'm a Prisoner of War, and I've already told you everything the Geneva Convention..”
SMACK! He hit her across the shoulder blades with the broom handle. Then he did it again to her chest-twice. “The Geneva Convention doesn't apply here.” He shouted again. “WILL YOU SUBMIT?”
She took a couple of deep breaths, and looked at him. “No.”
This time, she got a dozen, along her upper and lower back. And the screams were loud. “BITCH! You'll submit. Just like all the others!” he shouted as he beat her. When he was done, he blindfolded Kelly again, and stormed out of the room. But this time, he left the door open, so that she could hear the screaming coming from the other rooms.
It could've been worse, she thought. This time, though, hearing the screams, she did cry underneath the blindfold. And she knew that it wasn't over yet. Not by a long shot.
Some time later, two guards came into the room, and they brought someone with them. She wasn't sure who, but she knew something was up when the rope holding her arms above her head went slack, and her tied hands fell into her lap. Then a guard came and removed the blindfold.
Kelly was now faced by a Caucasian woman with blond hair, done up in 60's style, wearing a Cuban officer's uniform with no insignia. But this woman glared at her with the same contempt that the interrogator had. Kelly felt that this woman was looking her over, and didn't care a whit about what had been done to her. The woman spoke.
“You just have to be brave, just have to? Why do you resist? Socialism is coming to America, and it's futile to stop it from coming about.”
“Who are you?” Kelly asked.
“I killed a racist cop who pulled me over for speeding. He was from a police department that beat up blacks protesting the imperialist war in Vietnam, so I have no regrets.” the woman said.
Uh-oh....Kelly thought. A story she'd read in the newspaper before the war came back. Didn't the FBI think a few of those '60s radicals had made it to Cuba? Well, it looked like one of them had. She stared at the woman in front of her. “So now you're helping the Cubans-and the Russians. How's it feel to be a traitor?.”
SMACK! The woman slapped her hard. “I'm not a traitor if I'm helping bring about a better world. It's useless to stop the march of Socialism. You will not go home until the flag of Socialism flies over every city and town in America!” she yelled.
“Who are you?” Kelly asked, not caring if she paid the price.
The woman stared at her. “I'm on the Criminal FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. You've never heard of Michelle Bateman?”
“Too young.” Kelly quipped, again, not caring if she regretted it later.
“How about the Weathermen? We were trying to stop the illegal and immoral war in Vietnam! Or were you more concerned with what you were wearing, or which rock group was the most popular?” the woman shreiked.
Kelly shook her head. “I was in grade school when you were doing that stuff,” she said. “But putting bombs in the Capitol doesn't help your cause any.”
“There's not much of the Capitol left,” the woman sneered.
“The point's still the same.”
“That's because the people are deluded. They believe whatever the media tells them, and what the capitalist politicians say. I had hoped Socialism could come to America peacefully, but if it takes a war, and the gutting of the heart of Capitalism-New York? So be it!”
And that justifies killing three million people there alone? Kelly thought. Fortunately, she didn't say it out loud. “So what? The Russians started this war. They won't finish it.”
That set the woman off. “I was hoping you'd have a different attitude than the other woman. Obviously, I was mistaken.” She nodded to a guard, who untied Kelly's ankles and dragged her back to the center of the room. Her hands were untied, then retied behind her back, and the torture cuffs put on-and ratcheted tight. Very tight. And once again, she was trussed up in the ropes, and screaming almost immediately.
After the session in the ropes, the woman left the room, and Kelly was thrown into a corner and left there, her hands still tied behind her back, and the torture cuffs on as well. How long had it been? The interrogation room was windowless, so she had no idea if it was day or night outside, let alone how many days she had been in the room. She was tired, hurt, and hungry, but was still in no mood to cooperate. And to think that another American was actually helping the Cubans? That made her blood boil, and want to resist just a little bit more. When this war's over, she promised, that....bitch is going to pay-and if that means strapping her into Old Sparky someplace, so much the better. And that interrogator....not just what he did to me, but if he killed Pat, I'll gladly testify wherever they want me to. And if that straps him into the Chair? Good.
Though her ankles were also tied, she managed to curl up in a little ball in the corner. Kelly closed her eyes, and by thinking happy thoughts-though that was a little hard at first, she managed to doze off. And for the first time since she'd arrived in Havana, she wasn't blindfolded when she went to sleep.
Kelly awoke with a start: the door to the interrogation room flew open, and two guards came in and dragged her in front of the interrogator's desk. Then the interrogator, who she was dead certain was the sicko the Hanoi POWs called “Fidel”, strode in. He glared at her with a contemptuous look on his face, then came up in front of her. He stared down at her face, as Kelly looked up. And he said, in a charming tone of voice, “Will you answer the questions?”
She looked right at him. “No.”
His eyes widened, and his face got red. Then he punched her in the stomach, not once, but twice, forcing her to double over, and the guards pulled her back up. “YOU ARE GOING TO SUBMIT, BITCH!” he shouted.
“Ray, Kelly Ann. First Lieutenant...”
SMACK! His palm slammed into her cheek. “SUBMIT!” he shreiked.
Kelly said nothing. I'm not ready just yet, she thought. Then she shook her head no.
The interrogator nodded, and the two guards simply let go, and Kelly fell to the floor. Then one of the guards went out of the room, and brought back a set of leg irons. Horseshoe-shaped clamps with eyelets for a metal bar. The clamps were put around her ankles, and the bar inserted through the eyelets, behind her ankles, and secured with a padlock. Just like the display in SERE, she knew. Same thing. After that, the guards lowered the rope from the ceiling, and tied the near end around the bar, between her feet. Then the guards pulled on the other end of the rope, and very quickly, Kelly was hanging upside down, by her heels. When she was three or four feet off the ground, the guards tied off the rope, and she was left hanging, with her tied and cuffed hands dangling behind her shoulder blades.
When she was secured in that, the interrogator and one of the guards picked up their broom handles and while the guard beat her back and buttocks, the interrogator focused on her breasts and abdomen. After they'd each given her a dozen, the interrogator stopped. “Will you answer the questions?”
He was glaring into her face. She looked him straight in the eye, and gave a firm “No.”
“BITCH!” he shouted. He walked behind her, shoved the guard out of the way, and worked over her back and buttocks again. Then he stormed out of the room, and the two guards followed, turning out the light and slamming the door shut, leaving Kelly hanging there in the darkness.
As Kelly hung there, sweat began dripping off her bare body and onto the floor. She couldn't see it, but some of it got in her eyes and stung. I'm not giving up just yet, she thought. And I don't want him to think every American woman he's tortured is weak. He's going to have to work for what he wants. And she remembered one guy from SERE: he'd been shot down four days before Christmas, 1966. He spent most of Christmas day hanging upside down, almost like this. I wonder if I'll beat his record?
Some time later, the door opened, and a guard turned on the light. Kelly blinked her eyes, as the bright bulb was practically next to her, and she focused her eyes on the doorway. The interrogator was back, and he came over to her, pulled up his chair from behind the desk, and sat down. He said nothing at first, but simply watched as she hung by her heels. Then he asked, “Had enough? Will you answer the questions?”
Kelly shook her head. “No.”
The interrogator nodded to a guard, who lowered her down to the floor, where another guard removed the ropes from the leg irons. Then he roughly put her on her knees, and then he got some more rope. He used that to tie her tied wrists to the leg irons, and then he turned to the interrogator and nodded.
“ANSWER THE QUESTIONS!” he shouted.
Kelly looked him straight in the eye again. “No.”
“Fidel” came over and kicked her, knocking her over, and a guard pulled Kelly up by her hair. “I will say it again. ANSWER!”
She shook her head no.
He kicked her over again, and once again, the guard pulled her up by the hair. “All right, Bitch! You can stay on your knees all night for all I care.”
Night? Kelly wondered. How many so far?
Before he left, “Fidel” blindfolded her again, and as the guards left, they turned off the light, leaving her in darkness once again. She ached all over, her arms were getting numb, and her bare body was drenched in sweat. She wondered if she was suffering in silence, but the occasional screams and shouting from the other rooms actually reassured her. Nathan and Haley were still holding out, but Pat....if he's dead...what do I tell his Mom when I get home? Thoughts of home, and life before the war, helped her doze off again.
Wailing sirens woke her up. Then came the sounds of antiaircraft fire and of missiles being launched, and of aircraft overhead. But this time, there were no sounds of bombs going off. A recon run? The wing had the Mississippi Guard RF-4s attached; maybe it was a couple of their birds making a photo pass. And it had to be daytime outside: those RF-4Cs needed daylight for their cameras. A faint smile came to her: just hearing the planes overhead gave Kelly a little bit more fuel to keep holding on as the all-clear sounded.
The door to the room opened again, and this time, she didn't peep under the blindfold. There were three or four this time, but she really couldn't tell without raising her head, and if one of them was “Fidel”, that really wasn't a good idea. So she just kept her head low-literally-and waited. Then someone-a guard most likely-came behind her and began untying the leg irons from her wrists. After that, she was lifted up-still on her knees, so that the leg irons could come off. Then off came the torture cuffs. But her hands were still tied behind her, and the blindfold stayed on. She then heard another, familiar voice.
“You just have to be brave, don't you?” It was the radical who'd had her trussed up in the ropes earlier.
Kelly said nothing.
“Maybe this will get you to change your mind?” the woman said, cracking a whip.
Uh-oh...Kelly thought, as a guard pulled her head back-by her hair, and the whip came down on her breasts and belly. Again and again, a dozen times. Then she circled around to Kelly's back, and a guard raised Kelly's tied arms, forcing her head nearly to the floor, as it was the turn of Kelly's buttocks and back. After a dozen lashes, it stopped.
“Now, will you answer? Will you show your good attitude?”
Kelly shook her head no.
The guards then threw her to the floor, rolling her onto her back, and then two of them spread Kelly's legs. Then the whip lashed her breasts and belly again, and also lashed her pubic region. Then the voice asked, “Will you answer the questions?”
“NO.” Kelly said. That SOB may wind up breaking me, but not this, this....bitch. And one day, she vowed, I'm going to watch when they put you into the Chair.
“Your choice.” the voice replied. And Kelly was able to peep under the blindfold again. The woman had taken off her Cuban Army fatigue top, but still had her bra on. She then knelt close to Kelly's spread legs. And again, Kelly knew what was coming. You call me 'bitch'? Well, look in the mirror, she thought. And no, I'm not giving you any satisfaction. She gritted her teeth and turned her head away as the woman knelt closer.....
After the woman had had her turn, the three guards each had theirs. When they were finished, the guards then put the leg irons back on, and this time, it was different. Kelly was sat down, legs in front of her, and a rope tied from the leg irons to her neck. Then the rope that had been tied to the leg irons when she was hanging upside down was tied to her wrists, and the guards gave it a pull. It was another version of the ropes, but this one was less painful. This time, she knew, they left off the elbow ropes. Maybe they just want to make sure I'm not going anywhere, because if they were serious, they would've tied my elbows together, she thought as her tied wrists were lifted up, forcing her to hunch over. After it was tied off, her back was fully exposed to that whip-and the woman lashed Kelly's back repeatedly. When she was finished, the woman and the three guards left, leaving Kelly to her thoughts-and pain-once again.
She knew that sooner or later, she'd have to give in. But not this time, Kelly thought. I'm not giving in because of her and what she did. She began to drift off again, only to be interrupted by a loud boom. It didn't sound like an explosion, so what was it? Then came the sound of antiaircraft fire. Somebody had gone supersonic, right over Havana. Whether it was somebody from Homestead, an SR-71, or the Navy, she didn't care right now. Whoever you are, thanks. You just gave me some more fire in the belly, and I'm got some more fight left. It's not quite the bottom of the ninth, but more like the Seventh-Inning Stretch. Her arms and shoulders ached, as did her whole body, she was drenched in sweat, and she hadn't eaten anything since before takeoff from Homestead. But she wasn't ready to give up.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
The next part...
Kelly had dozed off for a while, how long, she had no idea, but a renewed series of screams woke her up with a start. At first, she didn't realize where she was, but the neck rope, and her arms trussed behind her, brought her back to reality. She had no idea who it was that was screaming, but knew that Nathan and Haley were still there, somewhere. And Pat? Was he still alive? She had no idea, and wasn't about to ask.
When the guards had left her the last time, they had turned off the light, so Kelly was left in the dark. Then the door opened, and someone turned the light switch. A guard with a bucket of water came to her, and asked, “Aqua?”
She nodded, “Please...”
The guard helped her drink, with a dipper. Was this the same one who'd helped her drink how long ago? Since she had been blindfolded at the time, she had no way to tell. She took several swallows, and actually felt a little refreshed. Then the guard dipped a cloth rag in the water, and wiped her face. She nodded her thanks, and the guard actually smiled. Since she didn't know if this guy was doing this on his own, or it was just his job, Kelly knew best not to ask, and be grateful for the favor. And to her surprise, he wiped her breasts and belly with the cloth, but always looked furtively towards the door. And she simply nodded. When he was finished, he let her drink some more, then got up and left, closing the door behind him.
Later on, the door just plain flew open, and the interrogator was back, with two guards. He strode over to her, grabbed her hair and pulled her head back. “Are you going to submit?”
Kelly was panting hard, but she took a couple of deep breaths, then glared at him. “NO.”
SMACK! He slapped her again, open palm, back of the hand. “YANKEE BITCH! YOU WILL SUBMIT!”
Kelly thought about spitting in his face, but thought that wasn't a good idea right then...after all, she was sitting on the floor, her legs in irons and a rope around her neck tied to the leg irons; her hands bound behind her, and pulled up, leaving her hunched over. Not a good idea to do something like that. So she just sat there and said nothing.
He leered at her. “One of the others did submit. Follow that person's example.”
Kelly just shook her head no.
The interrogator grabbed a broom handle and used it on her back again, twelve times. Though she screamed, one thing went through her mind: don't let him see you cry. When he was finished, he went over and released the rope holding her tied arms behind her.
When that happened, the pain that had been going through her shoulders stopped. But then, she felt rope around her elbows. Here we go again with the ropes, she knew. Then he retied the rope that had held the tied arms, and pulled again, hoisting her arms up, almost completely horizontal, and she was once again hunched over. And the pain...it felt like they were tearing her arms off. It didn't take long for her to start screaming.
While it seemed like forever, it only lasted maybe a half hour, before he removed the rope holding her arms, and they fell back down. Then he came over and stared down at Kelly, his face full of contempt. “Submit, Bitch,” he said in a calm voice.
Though she was panting heavily, Kelly looked up at him. “No..”
SMACK! He slapped her again, and then said something in Spanish to a guard. To her surprise, the guard removed the neck rope, but then two guards took her out of the room, half dragging and half carrying her, to a walled courtyard. As they were dragging her, she managed to glance at a guard's watch. It said 10:30. When the third guard opened the door, bright sunshine came in. How many days had she been in the interrogation room?
They took Kelly into the courtyard, forced her onto her knees, and then blindfolded her. Then they left. The sun treatment-almost like in a World War II movie, she thought. As it turned out, she spent the whole rest of the day there, kneeling in the hot sun. When they dragged her back at sunset, Kelly was sunburned all over. And the interrogator was waiting again, sitting at the desk, she saw, peering from under the blindfold.
“WILL YOU SUBMIT?” He yelled.
I've got enough for one more round with this guy, she thought. Though weak, she still had some fire in her. First she shook her head, then Kelly said it, as loud as she could. “NO.”
“BITCH! YOU WILL!” He then kicked her down to the floor, and had the guards sit her back up, and once again, trussed her into the ropes-hoisting her tied arms behind her. After the rope was tied off, and she was hunched over, he began beating her sunburned back and buttocks. Under the blindfold, she started crying. This time, she knew, it was just about over.
Kelly stopped crying once the beating stopped. Her whole back felt like it was on fire. That, and the pain in her arms and shoulders, made her decide that it was time. But she made a silent vow right then and there, on the floor of the torture room. One day, I'm going to watch as they strap you into the Electric Chair, or put a noose around your neck. And before they put that hood over your head, my face is going to be the last thing you ever see. She took a couple of deep breaths, then just shreiked, “ALL RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! I'll do what you want.”
The interrogator pulled off the blindfold. “So, you will submit?”
Kelly simply nodded, yes.
“SAY IT!” he screamed in her face.
“I....I...submit,” she said, weakly.
The ropes were swiftly untied, and the leg irons came off. Kelly was very weak, and a guard simply shoved her onto the stool in front of the desk. The interrogator opened his folder.
“What base were you flying from?”
Kelly remembered her briefing: the Cubans likely knew which squadrons were flying from Homestead, but she could lie about being in which squadron. “Homestead.”
“Your Wing and squadron?”
Here, she could lie. “308th TFS, 31st TFW,” she said.
“What type of aircraft were you flying?”
“F-4D.” No sense in lying about that: the Cubans no doubt had the wrecked airplane.
He leered at her. “So, they put the women in Phantoms? Not in the F-16?”
She could still be defiant, though she knew not to press her luck. “I volunteered for F-4s.”
“And your target?”
“Troop staging area near Mariel.” No sense lying about this one.
“What kind of bombs were you carrying?” He demanded.
Fortunately, she wasn't carrying CBUs on this strike, and the Communists had hollered bloody murder about CBU use in Vietnam, as well as earlier in this war. “Mark-82 five-hundred-pound bombs.”
“How were you shot down?”
“No idea.” Another lie. She didn't want to admit that AAA had shot down her Phantom.
The interrogator then opened a desk drawer and brought out a sheet of paper. “Sign at the bottom,” he said, handing her a pen.
Kelly looked at the paper. It was an appeal to the U.S. Government to accept the “generous” peace terms the Soviets were offering. She already knew that the President and the Congressional leadership had already rejected them out of hand, thanks to CNN. Kelly picked up the pen and scrawled her signature, but it was barely legible. Her hands were still very numb from the long periods in the ropes.
“That won't do.” the interrogator said. He said something in Spanish to the guards, and both of them picked her up and dragged Kelly to another part of the facility, where they threw her into a holding cell.
Weak from the torture, Kelly climbed onto the wooden bunk. Again, it was just out of the diorama in SERE that depicted a prison cell in North Vietnam, with a wooden pallet on a pair of sawhorses for the bunk. With no blanket or mat, she simply lay on the bunk and closed her eyes. Mercifully, she quickly fell into a deep sleep.
9 May 1986, Ministry of Defense Interrogation Center, Havana, Cuba.
The cell door opened, accompanied by shouting in Spanish. Kelly opened her eyes, and was confronted by two guards, who grabbed her by the arms and dragged her out of the cell. Both took her to a shower, where another guard threw her a bar of soap. “Wash,” he ordered.
Kelly took the soap and for the first time was able to see what her arms looked like. Both arms had rope burns on the wrists and elbows, and she could also see where the torture cuffs had been on-and those marks went down deep. Kelly washed herself off the best she could, and when she was finished, the guard handed her a towel. Had he been there the whole time, watching? I wouldn't doubt it for a minute, she thought. After she dried herself off, he just grabbed the towel, and the same two guards who'd brought her to the shower came and dragged her to the interrogation room. As they did so, she saw other guards leering at her and laughing. The guards hadn't brought her any clothes at all, and Kelly thought, was it deliberate? More humiliation? The instructors in SERE hinted that the women could expect more humiliation, more degradation, than the men, and this seemed to bear that out.
The door to the interrogation room opened, and the interrogator was there, waiting. On the desk was a folded pair of prison pajamas, and in front of the desk, sat the familiar stool. After the guards sat her down, he leered at her. “No modesty?”
Kelly said nothing. She was still weak from the torture, and wasn't in much of a mood to do anything.
He held out a pen. “Sign the paper,” he ordered.
She was in no shape to resist again. So she took the pen and signed the paper where he wanted her to. After she did so, he shoved the set of prison pajamas at her. “Get dressed,” he ordered.
Kelly put the pajamas on and then stood in front of the desk. The interrogator took out an English-language edition of a Cuban state newspaper and shoved it into her hands. Though the cover story mentioned the failure of the initial American counterattack, she was more interested in the date. May 9? Three and a half days I held out. I'll do better next time, if there is a next time, she promised.
“You see? That counterattack of yours failed. That means that final victory is only a matter of time,” the interrogator gloated.
No, it doesn't, she thought. But she knew the penalty of saying that out loud. Instead, she said nothing.
The interrogator motioned to the guards, and they took her out of the room and back to the holding cell. When she got back into the cell, on the bunk was another pair of pajamas, a blanket, sleeping mat, cup, and mosquito net. Obviously, her prison gear. Then she heard tapping on the wall.
Kelly went to the wall, and recognized the sound right away. It was the tap code. And she tapped her initials, and got HC back. Haley!
They tapped messages of encouragement back and forth, until they heard footsteps. A guard remained in the corridor for a while, and the two prisoners knew not to make any noise. When he left, they tried talking under their cell doors. Both shared what had happened, and Haley was actually relieved. Just talking about the ordeal made her feel better. When Kelly mentioned that she had been assaulted, Haley began to cry, though. She'd never felt so humiliated in her life. But Kelly asked if that had made her break, and Haley replied, “No.”
“Good. Don't let them break you with that.” Kelly said.
“What about that...that.”
“That collaborator? When we get out of here, that's another offense they can nail her on. And one day, you and me are going to be there when she's being strapped into the Chair.” Kelly promised.
“The only thing I'll be asking is 'regular or extra crispy?'” Haley said. “And that goes for that interrogator, too.”
“The guy who bragged about being in Hanoi?” Kelly asked.
“That's him.” Haley said, fire coming into her voice. “I want him dead.”
“Join the club. But there's thirty or so guys in line ahead of us at least. We'll have to take a number.”
In her cell, Haley nodded. Then she asked, “What now?”
“Take it one day at a time. And just remember that they messed with the wrong country. Just hang in there, and someday, the Marines are going to take Havana, and we'll be here when they come.” Kelly said. “And one other thing.”
“What?” Haley asked.
“Bounce back. As soon as you can. Make them break you again. Remember that in SERE?”
“Yeah. Right now, though....if they asked me to do whatever they want, I'm in no shape to say no.”
“So am I,” Kelly said. “Just pull yourself together, and bounce back.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And an epilogue: it takes place after an uprising in Cuba that ends the Communist Regime....and sharp-eyed readers may recognize a board member as a character at NAS Key West. Anyone recognize him?
Epilogue: 1400 Hours Eastern Daylight Time, NAS Boca Chica, Key West, Florida, 23 July 2009:
Major Kelly Ann Ray taxied her F-15E Strike Eagle onto the transit ramp at NAS Boca Chica. She was the operations officer for the 419th Tactical Fighter Wing in the USAF Reserve, and had a nice civilian job as a Deputy Sheriff in Pocatello, Idaho. Now, after the intervention in Cuba (though many called it the long-overdue invasion), she had been asked, along with a number of other former POWs who'd been held in Cuba during the war, to identify high-value Cuban detainees for war-crimes prosecutors.
Normally, she wouldn't have been allowed to take her fighter-and her WSO, Capt. Jody Tucker, but the war-crimes people wanted her in Key West as fast as possible, and so the order went to the 419th: “Fastest Available Transportation” to NAS Boca Chica. And if that meant taking her fighter, so be it. Her CO, Colonel Matt Wiser, a triple ace in F-4s during the war, had simply shrugged, told the duty officer to sign her and Tucker out, and be done with it.
After she shut down the engines, she popped the F-15E's canopy. Then she noticed a small welcoming committee. She and Jody finished the post-flight checklist, then got out of the plane. One of the investigators, a bespectacled Army intelligence NCO, came up to her and saluted. “Major Ray?”
She returned the salute. “That's right.”
“Ma'am, I'm Sergeant First Class Weiser, the NCOIC for the investigations. We're glad you're here, because there's some folks here who've come up in POW debriefings-including yours-and we're planning to put these guys on trial,” said the NCO.
“I'll do whatever I can, Sergeant. When do we get started?” Major Ray asked.
“We're planning on starting tonight, and going all day tomorrow,” the NCO said. “Before we get started, we've got rooms for both you and your WSO in the Navy Lodge here: it's what they use in place of a VOQ.”
She looked at Jody, who shrugged his shoulders. Normally, he helped run his dad's air charter company, but now...if it meant a free trip to Florida, and give his pilot whatever help she needed, well and good.
“All right, Sergeant. Our stuff's in the travel pods.” Ray said, pointing to the travel pods hung under two of the F-15E's conformal weapons pylons.
The NCO pointed to the Navy ground crew, who brought their bags. Not knowing how long this would last, both Ray and Tucker had packed for a few days. “Thanks. How many former POWs are here?” she asked.
“About a couple dozen,” the NCO replied. “Some are here already, others won't be here until tomorrow,” he said as a Hummer pulled up. The party got in, and the enlisted driver pulled away.
“Sergeant, there's two specific individuals I'm looking for,” Major Ray said. “The bastard known as 'Fidel' to the guys in Hanoi, and one of the leftie collaborators, Michelle Bateman. Then there's some guards from Mariel, Isle of Pines, and Holguin. But those two first of all.”
“We've got him, Major,” Sergeant Weiser said as the Hummer left the ramp. “He was living in Varadero Beach, and the Marines found him-phony ID, bags packed, and several false passports-and not Cuban, mind you. He had an exit planned. Trouble was, he didn't count on the Cuban Military Intelligence Directorate's files being captured intact, and the highest priority were those who'd been in charge of POWs.”
“Let me guess: you got him first?” Tucker asked. He'd heard his pilot's story several times.
“Almost: a couple others got picked up earlier, but we got his ass in a sling before he knew what hit him.” replied the NCO.
Major Ray nodded at that. So Fidel was trying to sneak out, disguised as a third-country national? He knew that the U.S. had a price on his head, and he wanted to keep his head right where it was. Lot of good that did him. “And Bateman?”
“That was an alias. Real name was Jeannie Chrisman. Wanted not only for several Weathermen-related bombings, but murder of a New Jersey state trooper in 1972. The FBI did have her on the Ten Most-Wanted list for years,” Sergeant Weiser noted. “And it wasn't just your debriefing: Haley Clark's mentioned her, as did Blanchard Ryan's, and several others as well.”
“So...is this bitch here?” Major Ray asked.
“In a body bag, Major.” Sergeant Weiser said. “Marines went to her villa. There, she pulled out an AK-47 and opened fire. They returned it, and two Marines wound up shooting her full of holes. They just saved the JAGs-of all three services- a ton of work,” quipped the NCO.
Major Ray thought about that. Not what she wanted all these years, but if that bitch paid at the hands of a couple of Marines, instead of sitting down in the Electric Chair or with a noose around her neck....oh, well. “Tell them, 'good shooting,'” Major Ray said.
“I'll pass that along, Major,” the NCO said as the Hummer pulled up to the Navy Lodge. “Here you go, Major, Captain. Just mention who you are at the front desk, and they've got rooms for you. I'll pick you up at 1900 and we'll get started.”
The two AF officers nodded, got out and went inside. After checking in, they found their rooms. In her room, Kelly simply put her bag down, kicked off her flight boots, and just lay on the bed. It had been a long flight, and she was simply beat. She looked at the clock next to the bed, and simply closed her eyes and went to sleep, still wearing her flight suit.
The room phone rang. Kelly woke up with a start, then remembered where she was. The clock said 6:50 PM. The phone rang again, and she picked it up. “Major Ray.”
“Major, this is Sergeant Weiser. I'm down in the lobby, and we'd like to get started.”
“Be right there.” Kelly put on her flight boots and headed down. Jody was already down there, waiting along with the Sergeant. And there were two surprises-one in an AF flight suit and another in a Marine one. .
“Nice to see you, Kelly,” Lt. Col. Haley Clark-Flynn said. She was now the Executive Officer of the 142nd Tactical Fighter Group in the Oregon ANG at Portland, Oregon. There, she flew F-15Cs. “Too bad you're a Beagle driver, but I won't hold that against you.”
Kelly shook her head. “And you fly Albino Eagles, and I won't hold that against you.” The two longtime friends hugged.
“Got room for someone else?”
Kelly turned and saw another familiar face. Marine Lt. Col. Blanchard Ryan came over. “Not bad for a blue-suiter, writing a best-seller, and getting a movie deal,” she said. Ryan was now CO of VMA(AW)-332 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina.
Kelly embraced her former cellmate at Holguin. They had suffered together, laughed together, and come home together. “Glad to see you, too.”
“How come you're not a light colonel yet?” Ryan asked.
“You guys stayed in after coming home. I got out for a while,” Ray said. “I'm up for it, and when the next list of light and full colonels comes out, I should be on it.”
“That's good,” Ryan said. “So, they activated both of you for this?”
“That's right,” Ray said. “They let me fly my Beagle down here, even.”
“Same here,” Clark-Flynn said, looking at Kelly. “And my Albino Eagle is next to hers.”
The NCO came in. “Colonels, Major. There's going to be plenty of time to get caught up. The investigators-NCIS, OSI, etc., want to get started as soon as possible.”
They nodded, and the party went and got into the Hummer parked outside. The NCO drove, and they soon got to a high-security area of the base, with armed Marines guarding the perimeter. After showing their IDs, they were allowed in, and drove to a building that had portable fencing outside, and more armed Marines on guard. No surprise here about the security: it was as tight as possible without interfering with the base's operations. As it turned out, this was the NCIS office on the base.
The Hummer pulled up to the entrance. “So what's the deal here?” Ryan asked.
“The FBI's in charge of collecting and processing evidence-including witness statements. Now, you won't have to give a statement other than saying 'That's him,' but the Bureau handles all war-crimes evidence. The services don't like it at all, but Congress did that when the War Crimes Act was passed.” Sergeant Weiser said as they got out.
“Let me guess,” Captain Tucker said. “They don't want the military to be judge, jury, and executioner. Especially when military personnel are the victims.”
“That's right, sir. Nothing to give the appearance of a kangaroo court.” the NCO said as the party went in. “Now, Captain Tucker, since you're not involved, they'll want you to wait in the foyer, but the rest of you, please follow me.”
Tucker found a seat and grabbed an old issue of Sports Illustrated, while the rest of the group went in. The group noticed several older gentlemen waiting as well. “Who are they?” Haley Clark asked.
“They were all POWs in Hanoi: the camp known as the Zoo to be precise,” the NCO said. “They're here to ID 'Fidel.' Once they're finished, it's your turn. He'll be in a room, with a two-way mirror.”
The three female ex-POWs nodded. Nothing that they'd seen before in too many police shows. They watched as one-by-one, the Vietnam POWs went in, then came out. Several of them gave the thumbs-up sign: they were certain that someone in custody was the Cuban who'd tortured them in Hanoi. Then it was their turn.
“Colonel Ryan, since you're senior of the trio, you can go in first.” Sergeant Weiser said.
Ryan nodded and went into the room. The other two waited outside for several minutes, then she came back out. She went and sat down, obviously shaken. “Colonel Clark-Flynn, you're next,”
Haley went into the room, while Kelly waited outside. She came back out, and sat down next to Ryan. Clearly, some old memories had come to the surface, and she was shaken up. “Major?”
Kelly took a deep breath and went into the room. Two FBI agents were there, and there was a window covered with blinds. “Major,” the senior agent said, “Take all the time you want. There's no rush.”
She nodded, and the blinds were pulled. And there he was. His hair had a touch of gray in it, and he was obviously an older man than when she last saw him, in that interrogation room in Havana, but there was no doubt. The same man sitting at the table in the interrogation room was the one who'd been her torturer back in '86. How's it feel, now, to be the one in the room? If she could, that was what she'd ask him. Kelly nodded again. “That's him.”
The senior FBI agent asked, “You're sure, Major?”
“He may be twenty years older, but there's no doubt. It's him.” Major Ray said. Old memories began to resurface, and she began to shake. “It's him. I'm done.”
The agents closed the blinds and opened the door. When she walked out, her two friends were there, waiting. “Well?” Haley asked.
“We got him.” Kelly replied. She turned to Sergeant Weiser. “Just tell me where and when I have to go for the Military Tribunal, and I'll be there.” The NCO nodded, but she wasn't finished yet. “And when they execute him, I want to be there as well: I promised that my face would be the last thing he saw when they put the hood over his head..”
“No promises on that, Major,” the NCO said. “But they'll notify you through channels, as to where and when for the trial.” He turned to the other two. “The same goes for you two as well.”
Both Clark-Flynn and Ryan nodded. “Who else do you have?”
“That's the other reason you're all here-and the two Open Water escapees are due in later, among others: there's guards and interrogators from a dozen camps. Speaking of which, there's people from Mariel, Holguin, and the Isle of Pines.”
“Who?” Both Kelly and Ryan asked almost simultaneously.
“That's what the investigators want to know. You'll be here most of the evening,” Sergeant Weiser said. “There's one other thing, Major. After the invasion, Marines found a warehouse on the outskirts of Havana. Inside were several hundred coffins. All containing remains of POWs who had died in captivity.”
“Pat?” That was the one thing most of all that haunted Kelly about coming home: she hadn't brought Pat home with her.
The NCO nodded. “They found a list. He's on it. Now, all the bodies have to go to Dover for formal identification, so it'll be a month or so before...” His voice trailed off.
“Understood, Sergeant,” Kelly said. “Let's get this over with. Who else do we need to see?”
2215 Hours: NCIS Offices, NAS Boca Chica/Key West:
Captain Tucker had never been so bored. But given the security around the place, if he'd wanted to head to the Officer's Club for dinner, they likely wouldn't have let him back in. So he'd spent several dollars in the vending machines on snacks and drinks, and spent some time on his cell phone, talking with his dad. No, he couldn't say how long he'd be gone. Yeah, Dad, it's that important. Then he'd called the CO, and let Colonel Wiser know how things were going. Then the door opened, and the Major came out, with her two fellow ex-POWs and the Army Sergeant. He could tell that all three were visibly shaken up, as if old memories that were very painful had resurfaced. Then the Sergeant tossed him the keys to the Hummer. “What's up, Sergeant?”
“Captain, all three of 'em are pretty shaken up. Old memories came back, and there's some pretty nasty people in there that they all want dead. These three, and several others, have to blow off some steam. A block from the beach, near the Mel Fisher Museum, is a watering hole that's pretty popular around here-especially among the spring break crowd. My advice, Captain? Take them there and just let them run with it. Just bring 'em back in early morning and leave the Hummer keys at the Navy Lodge: I'll get the vehicle in the morning.”
“Sounds like good advice, Sergeant.” Tucker said as the trio of ex-POWs climbed into the Hummer. He took the keys, started the Hummer up, and headed off base into Key West. They located said watering hole, and after some..hesitation, and when a number of other ex-POWs and some of the investigators arrived, turned it into a party. But nobody knew who had the camcorder.....It was 0230 when they finally arrived back at the Navy Lodge, found their rooms, then they all staggered into bed.
1100 Hours: Navy Lodge, NAS Boca Chica/Key West, Florida
The phone buzzed by her bed. And Kelly was slow to open her eyes. What a night...whoever had the idea to blow off steam, she had no idea, but despite reliving some of the horrors she'd endured earlier, that person had had a good idea. She had some memory of a wet T-Shirt contest, helping some of her fellow ex-POWs have a good time-something they all deserved, and then the vague memory of Jody helping her to her room. She'd just peeled off her clothes and plain gotten into bed. Finally approaching some state of consciousness, she picked up the phone. “Ray.”
“Major, this is Sergeant Weiser. Thanks for your help, Ma'am, and they tell me they've gotten all they need from you. You can fly back to Utah whenever you're ready.” the NCO said.
“Thank you, Sergeant,” Major Ray said, some strength coming back to her after the previous night's events. “Not just for that, but for last night. Jody Tucker said it was some investigator's idea.”
The NCO laughed. “You're welcome, Major. I know, things got crazy during that Wet T-Shirt contest, but you all needed to blow off steam. Just hope nobody had a camcorder.”
Kelly sat up. “There is that, Sergeant. How do we check out? The FBI guys have some form or something?”
“They left something at the front desk. Just sign it, and they'll send it over. Again, Major, thanks for your help, and rest assured, we'll nail these bastards when the trials start.” Sergeant Weiser said.
“You're welcome, Sergeant. Thanks again,” and she hung up. Kelly got up and went straight to the shower. A nice hot shower, and clean clothes was just what the doctor ordered. And since they were in Key West, why not take two or three hours and play tourist? So she and her friends did just that, visiting the Mel Fisher Museum, the Hemingway house, and just walking along the beach.
When they got back to the base to fly out, all three shook hands. The next time they'd see each other, the next ex-POWs' association reunion notwithstanding, was going to be at the trial of “Fidel.” And all three wanted to see him go to the gallows. They said goodbye for now, then all mounted their aircraft and flew out.
Major Ray and Captain Tucker said very little about the previous night on their trip back to Utah. Clearly, Jody thought, there were some things bothering his pilot. He'd read her book, and knew that her captivity had been very rough, even by WW III standards, and she hinted in talking to him that there was something that happened to her that she didn't put in the book. They'd stopped at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth for fuel, and she became more animated as they got closer to home. But at least, after the legal stuff was out of the way, they'd had a good time the rest of the evening. He'd driven them all back to the base, and he'd been surprised at the Wet T-Shirt Contest. Then again, he was a fighter crewman, and things had a habit of getting wild whenever fighter pilots were involved.
When they got back to Hill, they went to Wing HQ to check in. Colonel Wiser was there, getting ready to go out on a night low-level, but he did ask her how things went. “Tomorrow, Colonel, if you don't mind?” He nodded, collected his WSO and headed on out. Kelly found a room at the VOQ, while Jody, his two day stint done, went on home.
The next morning, she woke up-despite having a mostly sleepless night, and decided to have a talk with Colonel Wiser, the CO. He had gone out again, just after dawn-she had found out from calling the duty officer, but would be back in a couple of hours. Kelly decided that she had to have a one-on-one with the Colonel, and get things out of her system. So she had a shower, put on her flight suit, went off to breakfast, and then went to Wing HQ. As she drove past the 419th's ramp area, she noticed the Wing King bird now parked. Yes, he was back, and she did want to see him. She pulled into Wing HQ, and saw the CO's '69 Mercury Cougar convertible parked in the CO's space. She found her spot, got out of her Olds 442, and went in. Capt. Troy McCord, the active-duty AF officer who was usually in charge while the reservists were at their civilian jobs, saw her. “Major?”
“Troy,” she replied. “The boss in?”
“Yeah. He just came back. You want to see him?”
“I do.” Kelly said as she headed to the CO's office. She knocked on the door. “Come on in and show yourself,” a familiar voice said. And she opened the door to have her long talk with the CO.......
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Thoughts on the POW story gents?
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Guys, ready to see a big story? The final battle in the Lower 48 in the Rio Grande Valley. Almost entirely from the Soviet perspective. Quite a few familiar characters from RSR, Red Army, and T2K.....with a couple from Harold Coyle thrown in.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
As promised: the big one....the final battle in the Lower 48, from the Soviet POV:
Finis: The End at Brownsville
Prologue: 2 May, 1989; Soviet Headquarters, University of South Texas, Brownsville, Texas
Colonel-General Pavel Alekseyev was not a happy man at the moment. His superior, and commander of the American TVD, Marshal Vassily Kribov, had gone forward on an inspection of the front, just as the Americans had launched their anticipated Spring Offensive. All over Texas, along the Interstate 10-Interstate 37 line, the Soviet front had buckled in a number of places, forcing the Soviets and their “fraternal socialist allies” back all along the front. And now he was in command, not knowing where his Theater Commander was. He turned to Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Sergetov, his aide.
“Get General Chibisov,” Alekseyev said.
“Right away, Comrade General,” Sergetov replied. He left Alekseyev's office for a few minutes, and then brought back the Theater's Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Pavel Chibisov.
“Any news of Marshal Kribov?” asked Alekseyev.
“No, Comrade General. Not since yesterday,” Chibisov replied. “The Marshal had left the Gulf Front Headquarters, and was going forward to visit the Eighth Guards Army. However, according to General Trimenko, the Army Commander, he never arrived.”
“Speaking of the Gulf Front, how is Malinsky doing so far?” Alekseyev asked.
“Right now, they are holding, but only just. It is the First Central Front, along and to the west of Interstate 35, that I am most concerned about,” Chibisov said.
Alekseyev looked at his map. First Central Front had been there from the beginning of the war, and had gone from the Rio Grande all the way to nearly cutting the Interstate 80 at Lincoln, only to literally run out of gas short of its objective. The Front had fought the Battle of Wichita, only to find themselves in the role of Manstein's Army at Kursk, and had been mauled. Then the Americans had gone over to the offensive, and over the next two years, had pushed the Front, along with the remaining Soviet bloc forces in America, nearly back to the river. But it was a shadow of its former self, with units so badly depleted that they could no longer hold a proper front, and there was a serious shortage of reserves. Just like the rest of the Army, Alekseyev thought.
“I know, Pavel Pavlovitch. The American Sixth Army is going to take the Front apart. And General Powell's Third Army will do the same thing to Malinsky's Gulf Front.
Then the phone rang. Sergetov answered, then called to Alekseyev, “Comrade General, General Malinsky's on the line.”
Alekseyev picked up his phone. “Yes, Malinsky?”
“Comrade General, I regret to report the death of Marshal Kribov.”
“What happened?” Alekseyev wanted to know.
“Comrade General, his convoy was found in the rear area of Eighth Guards Army,” Malinsky said. “It appears he was the victim of an air attack. A-10s have been prowling our rear areas, and I assume his convoy attracted the attention of some,” he added.
“No survivors, then?” Alekseyev said.
“That is so, Comrade General,” Malinsky said. “We have the Marshal's body,and those of several of his staff, but a few appear to have gone off the road on foot. Perhaps they were seeking help after the attack, but they have not been found.”
“Chances are, they won't be,” Alekseyev observed. “If American Special Forces haven't taken them, the desert here will. The guerrilla threat here is not as serious as it was elsewhere.”
“Quite so, Comrade General,” said Malinsky. That was obvious. Though there was Resistance activity in South Texas, the KGB reported it had been largely suppressed. The GRU, though, disagreed. The underground was mainly lying low, limiting its activities to intelligence-gathering, recovering downed pilots, and aiding American Special Forces on their missions. There was very little armed guerrilla activity, though with the Americans pushing south, that could change at any moment. Though South Texas was not a guerrilla paradise as it had been, say, in the Ozarks, or in the Piny Woods of East Texas and in Louisiana, there were resistance groups in the area, and they had made pests of themselves in the past.
“All right, Malinsky,” Alekseyev said. “Send the Marshal's body back to Brownsville, and be prepared to withdraw to a more defensible line.”
“I was wondering when you would say that, Comrade General.” Malinsky said. “It's either that, or stand here and be destroyed.”
“Last stands are for the movies, Malinsky,” Alekseyev said.
“Yes, Comrade General,” Malinsky agreed.
“All right, then. Good luck, and let me know when you'll be ready to pull back.”
“Understood, Comrade General,” And with that, the phone went dead. Alekseyev turned to look at his operations map. “Have Malinsky pull back to a line running from Baffin Bay in the east, just north of Falfurrias, straight north of Hebbronville, to Laredo,” he told Chibisov.
“Yes, Comrade General,” Chibisov said. “And First Central Front?”
“Withdraw to the river. And I mean the Rio Grande. I'd rather save the forces than hold a line and see them destroyed. The same goes for the Second Central Front. But they are to hold the border crossings at Eagle Pass, Del Rio, and the dam at Amistad Reservoir as long as possible,” Alekseyev said.
“Right away, Comrade General. But what about Moscow?” Chibisov asked.
“I'll inform Moscow that these were Kribov's orders and I'm carrying them out. Then I'll let them know he's dead,” Alekseyev told his Chief of Staff.
“I'll get right on it, Comrade General,” Chibisov said, leaving the office to issue the orders.
“You know, Sergetov, this is only the beginning.” Alekseyev told his aide.
“The Americans won't stop at the river this time. This isn't Vietnam, where they would go to the borders of Laos or Cambodia and stop. They'll push us back across the Rio Grande, and all the way back to Mexico City,” Alekseyev observed.
Sergetov looked at the map. Though young for a Lieutenant Colonel, he was a Freunze graduate, and had done a tour in Afghanistan in 1981-2, before going to the Freunze Academy. He had graduated just in time to take part in the invasion, and the campaigns that followed, of 28th Army, until being wounded leading a tank battalion in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the winter of 1987-88. After his recovery, Alekseyev had wanted a combat officer to become his aide, and Sergetov had been shortlisted. After a pleasant interview, Alekseyev had his man. Now, he looked at the map, turned to his superior officer, and said, “Comrade General, I'm afraid you're right.”
28 September, 1989: Brownsville, Texas. 0830 Hours Central Time (1830 Moscow Time).
General Alekseyev was on the line with Moscow. He was having a conference call with not just the Defense Council, but the whole Politburo. Most of the old men who started this war are going to be able to see it end, he thought to himself, but it's not going to be the “Triumph of Socialism” they wanted. How will they feel when they see the Army in America destroyed, and nothing to stop the Americans from going to Mexico City? He put those thoughts aside, as General Secretary Chibrikov came on the line.
“Comrade General, how long can you hold out?” the General Secretary wanted to know.
“With proper support, Comrade General Secretary, I can remain here through the winter. However, for my immediate needs, I need at least one convoy to make it here from Cuba, preferably two,” Alekseyev said into the speaker phone.
“What do you need, exactly?” The Minister of Defense, Marshal Sergei Ahkromeyev, asked.
“Comrade Marshal, I need everything. Most important of all, I need ammunition, fuel, food, and medical supplies, and for the ships to take my wounded out and back to Cuba. I can't even evacuate my casualties, and they're heavy,” Alekseyev said.
“Comrade General, the KGB Chairman asked. “If things do not go so well, how soon can you evacuate those who have assisted us in our effort? Castro has offered Comrade Hall and his government the opportunity to set up a government-in-exile in Havana, and there are others as well, whose fate can easily be imagined, should things not go as expected.”
“Comrade Chairman, there has already been a low-level evacuation of such people. However, not all of the aircraft are arriving in Cuba, my air force people tell me. There are three American Carrier Battle Groups in the Gulf of Mexico, and their fighters are getting at the evacuation aircraft.”
“Can you answer the question, Comrade General?” the Chairman persisted.
“Yes, Comrade Chairman, we can step up the airlift,” Alekseyev said.
“Excellent,” Chibrikov replied. “As for the convoys, the Navy tells me that two convoys are forming up in Cuban waters, And several of our submarines will attack the American ships, forcing them away from the convoys.”
Alekseyev paused. He turned and looked not only at Chibisov, but Rear Admrial Valery Gordikov, his Naval liasion, and who shook his head no. “I understand, Comrade General Secretary, but you must impress upon the Navy: getting this material to Brownsville is a matter of life and death. I cannot express this strongly enough.”
Admiral Dimitry Novikov, the new CINC-Soviet Navy, said, “The Navy will not fail you, General.”
“Thank you, Comrade Admiral,” Alekseyev said.
“General, you will hold out. The Party, the Central Committee, and the Politburo are behind you,” Chibrikov said. “And over the winter, you will be adequately reinforced, and with a smashing new offensive, bring about the final victory of socialism.”
“I serve the Soviet Union, Comrade General Secretary,” said Alekseyev.
“I expect nothing less, Comrade General. The best of luck to you, and those who serve alongside you,” Chibrikov said as he broke the connection.
Alekseyev turned to see his staff, and there was not a single happy face among them. It was General Chibisov who spoke first. “More empty promises, Comrade General.”
“So it appears, Pavel Pavlovich,” Alekseyev replied. “And did you notice what they missed? They didn't say 'the people.” He motioned to Admiral Gordikov.
Gordikov moved to a map on the wall: it showed the Gulf of Mexico, and the suspected locations of the American carriers. “Those two convoys will have to get past three carriers, not to mention there's a surface group believed to be off of Tampico, and considerable submarine activity.”
“In short, Comrade Admiral,” Chibisov said, “We'll be lucky if a handful of ships get here.”
“That is putting it politely,” the Admiral said.
Alekseyev looked at the map showing the battle line: His forces held a line from Roma northeast to Falfurrias, then east to Baffin Bay. Actually, it was the survivors of 1st Central Front, which had been split, along with Malinsky's Gulf Front, that was holding that line. And opposite them was General Colin Powell's U.S. Third Army. He then looked over to the west: the U.S. Sixth Army was holding the line from Laredo all the way north to Amistad Reservoir, and then all the way to El Paso. But one American force was conspicuous by its absence: General Norman Schwartzkopf's U.S. Fifth Army, which had fought the Battle of Wichita, and had led every major U.S. offensive south since. Alekseyev turned to his intelligence officer. “And where is General Schwartzkopf?”
“Our information is sketchy at best, Comrade General,” the man replied. “What little information we have suggests his army is in reserve, around San Antonio.”
“So what's he doing there?” Chibisov asked.
“We're not sure, Comrade General. He may be resting and refitting his forces, before coming to join Powell's forces. Or...”
“Or what?” Alseksyev demanded.
“Or, he may pass through the Sixth Army and attack south,” the intelligence officer replied.
Both Alekseyev and Chibisov looked at the map. Either Schwartzkopf would spearhead an invasion of Mexico, and both knew that from the GRU's monitoring of the CNN news channel, there was considerable discussion in the American media about such an operation “to settle scores with the Mexicans and send the Russians back where they came from.” Or, as Chibisov said, “He may do that, and seal our fate at the same time.”
“All right, Chibisov, how would you do it?” Alekseyev asked.
“I would send the Fifth Army south, via Laredo, and first, make a demonstration move on Monterrey: it is a key supply center, and is the largest city in Northern Mexico. Then I'd turn east, and not go south. My next stop, barring terrain and whatever defenders are in the way, is the shoreline. He doesn't need to take cities like Reynosa or Matamoros: just cut them off, and that cuts our supply lines to the south. That, and the American naval blockade, seals our fate.”
“Just like Paulus,” Alekseyev's operations officer said.
Alekseyev looked at the man, intending at first to reprimand him. But then he realized the man was right. He turned to Chibisov. “How long can we hold, if those convoys don't arrive?”
“About a week to ten days, Comrade General. Maybe less.”
Alekseyev digested the news. “Comrades, thank you. Chibisov, a moment, please.”
Chibisov waited as the staff filed out. “Comrade General?”
“I'd like to speak to our commanders: get them here. Malinsky, his army commanders, and who's running the right flank of 1st Central Front, now that they've been split in two?”
“That would be Lieutenant General Starukhin, Comrade General,” Chibisov said, his voice not hiding his disgust for the man. The two had a long history, Alekseyev knew, and both heartily despised the other. Chibisov was a very secular Jew, while Starukhin was known as a brutish thug, even among his own men. He had commanded 3rd Shock Army from the beginning of the war, having brought it over from GSFG, and had been impaled at Wichita. He'd blamed Chibisov for that. A second mauling at Midland-Odessa only made things worse between the two, and it had been so bad that both wanted to settle things with a duel, and only Marshal Kribov's intervention had prevented it.
“As much as I can't stand him myself, get him here. What's left of 3rd Shock Army and the Cuban 2nd Army can do without him for a few hours,” Alekseyev said.
“Yes, Comrade General.”
A few hours later, the senior Soviet and Soviet-Bloc commanders arrived at Alekseyev's headquarters. The assembled generals filed into a lecture hall, which Kribov and his predecessor had used for briefings. From a side entrance, Alekseyev looked at the officers. Tired Soviets, nervous Cubans, frightened Nicaraguans, pale East Germans; if the Politburo could see this, instead of what they want to see, they'd cut a deal with the Americans and their allies. But he would do his duty until he could do no more, and so would those under him. Before he went in, Admiral Gordikov had a message from Havana for him. The first convoy had left Havana, and was waiting until nightfall to leave Cuban waters.
“Good, Gordikov,” Alekseyev said. “The big question is: How many of those sixteen ships will make it?”
“We'll know in forty-eight to seventy-two hours, Comrade General.”
“Thank you, Admiral.” Alekseyev said. Gordikov nodded. He noticed that Alekseyev hadn't said “Comrade Admiral” and to him, that signaled just how Alekseyev felt about this business. And in a way, it mirrored his own feelings. And then Alekseyev entered the hall, followed by his staff, and everyone came to attention.
“Please sit down, Comrades,” Alekseyev said. “You all know why you're here. We are living on borrowed time, and that time is running out. Unless the Navy is successful in one final effort to supply us, things here will be over in the space of a week.”
There was a lot of murmuring among the officers. Malinsky, though, was silent. He already knew, as did his own Chief of Staff. “Comrade General, it's that bad?” asked Major General Yuri Petrov, who commanded what remained of the Soviet Air Force in Texas.
“Yes, Petrov, it's that bad,” Alekseyev said. “Now, Comrades, the war in this part of North America is going to be over in a matter of days, unless those convoys arrive. If they don't....I'd like your opinions. And feel free to speak your minds on the matter. General Malinsky?”
Malinsky stood. He'd been a divisional commander in the initial invasion, and then had been promoted to run 11th Guards Army in Arkansas and Missouri during the Spring-Summer 1986 Offensive. After Wichita, and the American counteroffensive, he'd fought well during the retreat into Texas. After Gulf Front had been taken apart during the 1988 American offensive, Marshal Kribov had put him in command to rebuild the Front. He was now in command of the only major Soviet combat force left in the Continental United States, and he knew what he could do. He also knew what he could not do.
“Comrade General, this war has gone on long enough. Enough good Russian boys have died here, far from home. And our own forces have not conducted themselves in a manner that would win any kind of award for humanitarian behavior. If, and I do mean if, we can no longer be supplied or reinforced, then we must end this. I am responsible for my men, and I want to see them get home. And get home alive.”
Lieutenant General Starukhin stood up “What you are saying, Malinsky, is defeatist!”
“Calm down, General,” Chibisov said. “You will be heard.” He looked at Malinsky. “Please continue, Comrade Front Commander.”
“I believe I have made my point, General Chibisov,” Malinsky said as he sat down, staring at Starukunin.
“Very well, Malinsky,” Alekseyev said. “General Starukhin, you have the floor.”
“Thank you, Comrade General,” Starukhin said. “I have led Third Shock Army from the beginning. From crossing the Rio Grande, to rolling through the prairie of Texas and Oklahoma, into the plains of Kansas. I saw my army cut to pieces at Wichita, a battle that was the Americans' Kursk. And the result was a disaster for us. My army made it back to Texas a shadow of its former self, and only after a painstaking rebuilding process, went into action again. Only to see it shattered again at Midland-Odessa!” He said, glaring at Chibisov. “If we are to die here, then let us die fighting, as Soviet soldiers should!” Starukhin shouted.
There were murmurs again in the hall. “Calm down, Comrades!” Chibisov said. He looked at Alekseyev, who nodded. “General Trimenko?”
Major General Gennady Trimenko commanded the 8th Guards Army, or what was left of it. He was in a vulnerable position, because on his right flank was the Nicaraguan II Corps, and he knew that they were in no shape to hold off a determined attack. And he also knew that the Americans knew it as well.
“Comrade General,” he said, pausing briefly. “I agree with General Malinsky. Though I am proud of my uniform, and my service, there comes a time when things become pointless. I, too, am loyal to my men. And I want to get them home. And if that means a stay in a comfortable American POW Camp, so be it. At least we'll all be alive.”
Starukhin glared at him. He began to rise, but seeing Alekseyev and Chibisov staring at him, thought better of it. Alekseyev spoke next. “Your thoughts are noted, General. General Sanchez?”
General Juan Sanchez commanded the II Nicaraguan Corps, the last major Sandinista force left in the field. “Comrade General, my corps is in very bad shape. Supplies are running low, as I believe they are everywhere,” Sanchez said, pausing to see the nods. “And desertion is becoming a major problem. Not deserting behind the lines, but deserting to the enemy. It's no longer a question of a few weak individuals: it's groups of ten, twenty, or more. My men are tired. They're exhausted, and clearly have no more stomach for this. All they want now is to go home. It is time. As our opponents say, 'cut a deal.'”
“I see.” Alekseyev said. “General Rybikov?”
Major General Yuri Rybikov commanded the 28th Army: he'd had the job since his predecessor had simply given up and shot himself. He'd also survived the resulting purge of the Army's command structure, and had no love for the KGB as a result of that-and that his brother, a divisional commander in Alberta, had been “retired” by the KGB a year earlier for supposed “counterrevolutionary tendencies.” He stood. “Comrade General, I imagine my brother was shot for saying just those words. It pleases me that he was right, and if he was here with us, he would be honored to be in the company of men such as this. General Sanchez is right. We must cut our losses and end this madness. Before any more lives-on both sides-are lost. This mad business has gone on long enough!”
“I agree, General Rybikov,” Trimenko said. “There must come a time to end this.”
Starukhin stood up again. “It will end, over our dead bodies! What you propose is defeatist treachery!”
“Sit down, General.” Alekseyev said coldly, and Starukhin did so. “General Metzler?”
Major General Gerhard Metzler commanded the East German “Kampfgruppe Rosa Luxembourg.” the remnants of two East German divisions and the 40th Air Assault Regiment-which was only two weak battalions of weary men. “Comrade General,” Metzler said in flawless Russian. “I am loyal to my soldiers. We will do our duty until we can do it no longer. And then we will end this madness. While I do agree with General Starukhin in some respects, I also agree with Generals Rybikov and Trimenko: there will come a time when we can do nothing more. Fight until our ammunition is exhausted, and only then seek a cease-fire.”
“That may come sooner than you think, Metzler,” Trimenko said.
“I realize that, General. But there are other considerations. Such as one's family back home.”
Everyone knew what Metzler was talking about. The KGB would easily arrest the families of any senior officer who even suggested an end to the war. And word had come back from Moscow that a number of generals' families had been arrested for the sins of the general himself. Though Metzler was East German, the Stasi would do the same to his family, and they would do so without regret or remorse.
“General Metzler makes a valid point, Comrades,” Alekseyev said. He nodded to a Cuban general. “And General Vega?”
General Carlos Vega commanded the Cuban 1st Army. They had been the first Soviet-bloc forces into Mexico, and had spearheaded the invasion in this part of Texas. Vega's army had fought from the Rio Grande to the bayou of Louisiana, and had been mauled in the Americans' Summer Offensive in 1988 along the Gulf Coast. His men, though weary, still had some fight in them. Though there was a major concern, as he was about to say. “Comrades, as much as it pains me to say this, I agree with Generals Rybikov and Trimenko. I am concerned about Cuba. My homeland is also threatened with invasion. If the Mexicans quit the war, as is very possible, my men will have no way to return home. If we are to die, we would rather die in the defense of our homeland, not in a foreign land, where we are all despised-and not just here in Texas: the problems with counterrevolutionary elements in Mexico interfering with our supply lines are proof of that.”
“So what would you do, General Vega?” Chibisov asked.
“Withdraw south of the Rio Grande. Give up this adventure in America, and perhaps I can find a way to transport my army to our homeland, where we can prepare for the final battle.”
“A valid point, General,” Chibisov noted. He turned to General Alekseyev “Perhaps that is a viable alternative, Comrade General?”
“Perhaps, Chibisov,” Alekseyev said. He motioned to his airborne and air-assault commander. “Let's hear from General Andreyev next.”
Lieutenant General Georgi Andreyev commanded the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, and was the senior VDV officer in the pocket. Not only was he responsible for his division, and the battered 105th Guards Air Assault Division, but he also commanded an ad hoc grouping of army-level air assault battalions that had been mauled in the retreat south. And his own division was at only 50% strength, and the 105th Guards less than that. But they were the toughest and most determined troops available to Alekseyev.
“Comrades, I have led my men from the front since the beginning, with the drop into Colorado. My troops have fought in every major campaign since. We have done everything asked of us, and more. Now, I am faced with a choice: continue a losing war, or save the lives of my men. Comrade General, this must end. The sooner the better. Unlike my comrades in the Tank or Motor-Rifle troops, I know many of my soldiers, and I have written all too many 'sad duty to inform you' letters to wives and parents. The slaughter has gone on far enough. That should explain my views sufficiently.” He looked at Trimenko and Rybikov. Both nodded, as did the Nicaraguan and the General Metzler. And Starukhin glared at him.
“Thank you, General. Last, General Suraykin,” Alekseyev said.
Lieutenant General Piotyr Suraykin commanded the 4th Guards Tank Army, or what remained of it. It had been four tank divisions and a Motor-Rifle division. Now, there were two tank divisions left, battered remnants of two others, and a Motor-rifle division that was more the size of a regiment. His Army was Alekseyev's reserve, and Alekseyev, as did Kribov before him, trusted Suraykin's judgment. “Comrades, I agree with the majority here. My men have done all that has been asked of them, and for what? All too many of them lie buried on foreign soil, never to see Russia again, and many others have been maimed-too many for life. Pretty speeches in Moscow hide the reality: this war has been lost for some time. And our soldiers have paid the price for this folly. It is time to end this. And if that means going into American captivity, better that than a grave far from home.”
“Your position is noted, General,” said Alekseyev. “Now, Comrades, whether the views expressed by the majority, or those of General Starukhin, prevail depend on the Navy. Our Comrades in blue are making one final effort to supply us. If the two convoys get through, we may be able to hold out a while longer. If not...I will consider what options are available. Thank you for your views, Comrades, and good luck in the struggle ahead.”
The generals got up to leave. But Alekseyev wasn't finished with one of them. “General Starukhin, a moment, please.”
The other generals left the hall. “Comrade General?” Third Shock's commander asked.
“General, I know your record. You're a hard charging, aggressive commander. And I have a mission for one of your qualities. A mission that calls for determination, aggressive conduct, and ruthlessness.” Alekseyev said.
“How may I serve the General?” Starukhin asked.
“Your new assignment is to secure our supply lines to the south. As was mentioned by General Vega, the counterrevolutionary elements in Mexico are making our supply efforts difficult, at best. And the Americans' special operations effort is only adding to the problem. You may use whatever methods necessary to keep the roads open, and you will answer only to me. Is that clear?”
“Comrade General, I would rather make one final attack, instead of this...” Starukhin replied.
“I understand, General. However, whether this army lives or dies may depend on your efforts. I need an officer of your qualities for the assignment, and no others are available,” Alekseyev said.
“What forces are available?”
“You'll have three motor-rifle brigades, all units with good records in Afghanistan, and a pair of Cuban brigades. How you use them to keep the supply lines to Tampico and Vera Cruz open is up to you,” Alekseyev told Starakunin.
“I will not disappoint you, Comrade General.”
“Good. And the best of luck to you in your new command. Turn your grouping over to your deputy commander, and proceed to our rear-area headquarters in Monterrey. Transport will be available there to get you to Tampico.” Alekseyev said.
“I serve the Soviet Union!”
“Good. I expect nothing less from you. And good luck.” Alekseyev said.
Starukhin saluted and left the hall, leaving Alekseyev, Chibisov, and Colonel Sergetov. It was Sergetov who spoke first. “Comrade General, knowing his temper, I expected him to shoot someone.”
“I know, Ivan Mikhailovich,” Alekseyev said. “But at least he's out of our hair, and is now the Mexicans' problem.”
“Well, that's over, Comrade General,” Chibisov said. “Now it's up to the Navy.”
“We'll know soon enough, Pavel Pavlovich,” Alekseyev said.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And the next part...anyone recognize the CO of 4th Guards Tank Army?
30 September, 1989: 0345 Hours Central Time
General Chibisov was hurrying to General Alekseyev's office. He'd been awakened himself a few minutes earlier, and now he knew he had to wake the General up. This was bound to happen sooner or later, he knew, only he wished that the Americans had waited a few more days. He knocked on the door of Alekseyev's office, and then opened the door. “Comrade General.”
Alekseyev opened his eyes. He had had a cot moved into his office, and he had been sleeping there ever since the Americans' offensive in May. “It's you, Pavel Pavolvitch. What is it?”
“Comrade General, it's happened. The Americans have decided not to wait on General Schwartzkopf, and have unleashed General Powell.”
“Let me guess: a general offensive, all along the front?” Alekseyev asked.
“That is correct, Comrade General. And they surprised us: no major artillery barrage or air strikes. They were in our forward positions before anyone had a chance to react. And then they unleashed their firepower,” Chibisov reported.
Alekseyev grunted and got up. Shaking the fatigue from his eyes, he looked at his Chief of Staff. “Any details, other than that?”
“Not at present, Comrade General.”
“All right. I'll be in the operations room momentarily. Get General Malinsky on the line, Pavel Pavlovitch,” Alekseyev said.
“Right away, Comrade General. Do you wish to take the call here, or...”
“I'll take it there, in the operations room,” Alekseyev told his Chief of Staff.
A few minutes later, Alekseyev was studying the map, while the call to Malinsky's headquarters went through. He had already found out that the underground, thought by the KGB to have been suppressed, had reared its head. Oh, there'd been no major guerrilla attacks, but plenty of small things, like roadside bombs, phone lines cut, increased sniper activity, and so on. His GRU security officer was actually sneering at the KGB liaison for having gotten that wrong, and that was just one more item the KGB had miscalculated since the war's beginning. Then Colonel Sergetov handed Alekseyev the phone. “General Malinsky on the line, Comrade General.”
“Malinsky, what's the situation?” Alekseyev wanted to know.
“Comrade General, it's a mess. The Nicaraguan II Corps has collapsed. The Americans' II Marine Amphibious Force made some kind of assault behind their lines. They've taken Port Mansfield, on the Intracoastal Waterway, and two Marine divisions have pushed forward very aggressively. I've got an independent tank regiment moving to delay them, but it's only a matter of time,” Malinsky reported.
“How'd they manage that?” Alekseyev asked.
“It's sketchy at best, Comrade General, but the survivors say that the Marines landed via small rubber boats. At least a battalion, maybe more, and the garrison in the town was caught in their beds. Most of those who tried to run were shot down, but some managed to escape. And their ground attack simply went right through the Nicaraguan positions,” said Malinsky.
“Comrade General, the 28th Army is under heavy pressure from what appears to be XVIII Airborne Corps: we've tentatively identified the 24th and 83rd Mechanized Divisions, and the 12th Light Armored Cavalry Regiment. Along with some elements from the 101st Air Assault Division,” reported Malinsky.
“I see, and the gap in your lines is going to force a withdrawal, no matter what you try.” Alekseyev pointed out.
“No doubt about that, Comrade General. And there's more: We've lost contact with the East Germans, except for their 40th Air Assault Regiment at the Edinburg International Airport. And the Cuban 2nd Army, on 3rd Shock's left flank, is coming apart. And 3rd Shock Army's hard pressed to hold what it's got already. If we don't start some kind of withdrawal....” Malinsky's voice trailed off.
“Try and delay them as long as you can. We'll get some of Andreyev's air assault troops, and some of 4th Guards Tank Army to reinforce you. But be prepared to pull back to the second line of defense.”
“We'll do our best. Excuse me, Comrade General, but I'm about to be very busy,” Malinsky said.
“Good luck, Malinsky.” And with that, Alekseyev hung up. He looked at the map again. The East Germans were now shown as being cut into two pockets, with the American XII Corps pushing hard past them. Then the 28th Army was also under heavy pressure, now that their left flank was in the air. And 3rd Shock was in danger of being cut off, with the East Germans and the Cuban 2nd Army having been split from them. It was obvious the line couldn't be held. Turning to Chibisov, he said, “Give the word to Malinsky. Pull back to the second line. That's Mission-Edinburg-Rio Hondo-the Gulf.”
“Right away, Comrade General.”
But before Chibisov could relay the order, Alekseyev had one more for him. “And get the word to the GRU Cryptographic Section, their KGB counterparts, and the signals intelligence units: Destroy all secret documents, equipment, and so forth. Be prepared for evacuation to either Mexico or Cuba anytime past 1000 today.”
Chibisov looked at his superior. He knew this would be coming, but not this soon. “Yes, Comrade General.”
General Boris Voltov, his missile force commander, came in, a pale look on his face. “Comrade General, there is a serious problem.”
“Today's the day for it, Voltov.” Alekseyev said. “What is it?”
“Comrade General, one of our remaining OTR-23 rocket launchers is missing. The crew has been found, dead. With their throats cut. And this isn't the usual guerrilla attack.”
“Mother of God. Voltov, If you're right, someone wants that missile. What about the warheads?”
“Under KGB control, as per procedures, Comrade General.”
“Knowing the KGB, they may want to give the Americans a going-away present. A high-kiloton one, apparently,” Alekseyev said.
“That's very possible, Comrade General,” Voltov said gravely.
“All right. Destroy your remaining rockets, launchers, and all secret documents and equipment. And prepare the missile crews for evacuation.” Alekseyev told his missile commander.
“Immediately, Comrade General.”
Alekseyev looked at the map. “And where was the rocket stolen from, exactly?”
Voltov showed him. He pointed to the town of La Paloma-more a collection of ruins than a town. “Right here, Comrade General.”
“Thank you, Voltov. Let me worry about the rocket. And get your men ready to get themselves out of here. And you, too. You would be a valuable prize to the Americans.” Alekseyev said.
“Yes, Comrade General. And let me say, it has been an honor to serve under your command,” Voltov said, saluting his superior for the last time.
Alekseyev returned the salute, and Voltov left to carry out his orders. Looking at the map, he wondered where he'd take a stolen battlefield missile. He turned to Colonel Sergetov. “I need General Andreyev here, right now. And then get me General Suraykin.”
“Yes, Comrade General.”
A few minutes later, General Andreyev came into the operations room. With the 105th Guards Airborne Division now sent to the front line, he only had the 76th Guards, along with an ad hoc group of army-level air assault battalions-or more correctly, their remnants, left under him. Andreyev knew that this was likely going to be the last battle, and he wanted to be with his men at the end. Alekseyev took him into his office, passing his secretary, who, along with the other female clerks and typists, was gathering up classified materials for destruction. Closing the door, he explained to Andreyev what had happened to the missile, and where the crew had been found.
“So the Chekists want to go out with a bang, Comrade General?” Andreyev asked.
“It appears so, General, and we can't have that. Do you have men that you know and trust implicitly?”
“Comrade General, the entire 76th Guards would follow me to hell and back. They've done so several times already.”
Alekseyev smiled. At least there was some honor left in the Army after all that they'd done in America. And an officer who took care of his men was someone that even a private would follow into the gates of hell. “I don't need the entire division for this, but your job is to find the rocket, destroy it, and seize the remaining nuclear warheads. And bring them here, to this headquarters.”
Andreyev thought for a moment. “Then I'll take my old regiment. The 234th Guards was mine, once. I still know many of the officers and ensigns in the regiment.”
“Excellent, General. You have full discretion to use whatever it takes to destroy the rocket, and assume control of the warheads. If the Chekists won't give them up, take them. Leave no survivors, Andreyev.”
General Andreyev smiled. If this was to be his last mission in America, it would be getting a crack at what many in the Army viewed as one of their “other enemies.” “It will be a pleasure, Comrade General.”
“Go, then. And good luck.”
Andreyev saluted and left on his mission. Alekseyev went back to the Operations room, and found General Suraykin waiting for him. “Comrade General,” Suraykin said, saluting.
“Pytor Alexeyich,” Alekseyev said, “You have one final mission. Hold the area around the junction of Routes 77 and 83 in Harlingen. The enemy isn't there, yet, but they will be. In a best-case situation, how long can you hold?”
“Forty-eight hours, Comrade General. Worst case: maybe thirty-six.” Suraykin replied.
“I need those forty-eight hours, Pytor Alexeyich. Do whatever it takes, but give me those forty-eight hours. They won't be there this afternoon, so you have time to prepare. When you cannot hold any longer, send this message: in the clear,” Alekseyev said, handing Suraykin a slip of paper.
Suraykin looked at the paper. He nodded, and put it in his pocket. “I will, Comrade General.”
“Now, the convoys should arrive sometime today, If they do, we can hold out for a while longer. If not...” Alekseyev's voice trailed off.
“I understand, Comrade General. The 4th Guards Tank Army will do its duty.”
“Understood. If I hear that code phrase, then we know the end is near. May you and your men go with God,” Alekseyev said. Suraykin nodded, while heads poked up in the Operations Room. When was the last time anyone had said that in the Army?
“Thank you, Comrade General,” Suraykin said, saluting. And then he left. Chibisov came over to his commander. “Comrade General?”
“If he can't hold, it's over.” Alekseyev observed. He turned to his Chief of Staff. “Start accelerating the airlift. Priority goes to the wounded, and those people I mentioned earlier.”
“Yes, Comrade General.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Next part...and a note: the ALA is the American Liberation Army: a military force raised by a collaborationist government in the occupied zone, recruited from inmates of various prisons and jails, people who joined to get more food for their families, those who were press-ganged off the streets, and true believers. The PSD is the Political Security Department: an attempt at creating a KGB-type service by the collaborationists. Not only did is spend more time purging "counterrevolutionaries" from the government or the ALA than anything else, it also created more resistance activity than it managed to squelch.
0730 Hours Central Time:
General Alekseyev looked at the map once again. Contact with the East Germans had been reestablished, and they had fought their way out of an encirclement, but they had lost half of their remaining armor in the process. And some of the Cuban 2nd Army had also managed to escape east to rejoin the perimeter, but there was no denying the Nicaraguan Corps had totally collapsed. Though Malinsky had put in an independent tank regiment to shore them up, it was too late. Shaking his head, he turned to Chibisov. “Now the Nicaraguans are the Americans' problem, Pavel Pavlovitch,”
“Comrade General?” Chibisov asked.
“I remember the GRU showing some clips from CNN. One of their reporters was interviewing a captured Nicaraguan officer. The reporter asked the man why his whole battalion had surrendered without firing a shot, and he replied with sound civilian logic: 'We did not fire back because it would have been a mistake.'”
“Ah, yes, Comrade General. I believe that was in West Texas last year. But I do remember it,” Chibisov said.
Alekseyev looked at the map again. His eyes focused on the entrance to the shipping channel into Brownsville. “Any word from the Navy on the two convoys?”
“Not yet, Comrade General. The morning is still young, however.” Chibisov pointed out. “Would you like me to bring Admiral Gordikov?”
“Not yet, Pavel Pavlovitch,” Alekseyev said. “For those on the ships, it must be a trying experience. You and I have experience of air strikes, artillery fire, and so on. But imagine being on a freighter, and not knowing whether there's a missile or torpedo coming, until it hits. At least on a warship, you can fire back.”
“Exactly so, Comrade General.” Chibisov agreed. The phone rang, and Colonel Sergetov answered. “Comrade General, it's our Naval Infantry on South Padre Island. One of the freighters is moving through Brazos Santiago Pass. Another freighter has run aground on South Padre Island itself.”
“Only two? There's sixteen ships in the first convoy alone.” Alekseyev remarked.
Admiral Gordikov came into the Operations Room. “Comrade General, perhaps the convoys had to scatter. There may be additional arrivals later in the day,” he said.
“At least it's a start,” Alekseyev said, turning to Gordikov. “Have your Naval Infantry on the island get whatever they can out of the ship that's run aground.”
“I've already issued that order, Comrade General. We don't have any salvage tugs, and even if we did...” his voice trailed off.
“I know, Admiral,” Alekseyev said. “We'd never get her off before either American ships or aircraft arrived to finish the job.”
“That's correct, Comrade General.” Gordikov said.
Alekseyev turned to Colonel Sergetov. “Get to the Port of Brownsville, and find out what's on that ship. And get it unloaded as soon as possible.”
“Comrade General?” Sergetov asked.
“I need to know if the cargo on that ship is what we need, or is quite useless to us.”
“Yes, Comrade General.” Sergetov said, saluting as he left the room.
0900 Hours: Port of Brownsville, Texas.
The Soviet freighter Cherepovets came into the Port of Brownsville, and her captain felt, based on what he'd experienced the past two days, that he had brought his crew out of the frying pan into the fire. His ship had left Cuba in the lead convoy, and though they had six escorts, only two, an Udaloy-class destroyer, and a Krivak-class frigate (whose names he didn't know) could really protect the ships. The other four consisted of three old Koltin-class gun destroyers and a Riga-class gun frigate, and he well remembered his own naval service, and knew those ships had no chance against an American submarine- or air-launched missile attack, let alone a sub firing torpedoes. And he was right. Now, as he tied up, he wondered how long he'd be here, because he wanted to unload, and as his orders said, get as many wounded aboard, to make a run back to Mariel. And I might as well deliver the moon, the captain thought. He was interrupted as his second officer brought an Army Lieutenant Colonel to him.
“Captain, I am Lieutenant Colonel Sergetov, aide to General Alekseyev. What have you brought us?”
“All that I was told to load, Colonel, and I resent your tone of voice,” the Captain spat back.
Taken aback, Sergtov said, “Captain, you do realize that whether the Army here lives or dies depends on the cargo you have brought, and what the other ships are carrying, when they get here.”
“They won't be arriving-at least my convoy. Besides my ship, only the Minsk Komsomol survived. And she ran aground at South Padre Island,” the Captain said.
“The rest?” Sergetov asked.
“Sunk. Comrade Colonel, it was a massacre out there. When we left, it was at night, and all was well. However, the first morning, there was a submarine attack. Our only modern destroyer-an Udaloy class ship-and I don't know her name, was sunk by torpedoes, and our only antisubmarine frigate met a similar end. And then American carrier aircraft attacked: missiles, laser-guided bombs, rockets, they threw all they had at us.”
“The tankers?” Sergetov asked.
“Sunk, or left dead in the water and burning.” the captain said. They got half of the convoy, and sank all but one of the remaining escorts in the process. Only a gun-armed destroyer was left. And we thought we were safe as the second night fell, and then morning came with no attacks.”
“But you weren't,” Sergetov observed.
“Yes. We weren't. She came out of a squall line in the afternoon. The Americans have reactivated some of their old heavy cruisers: Des Moines, I think this one was. That cruiser came out, guns blazing. Ever see what twenty-centimeter shells do to unarmored freighters? She blew two of them to matchwood, Colonel! And her secondary guns: twelve point five centimeter at least. They set two more ships on fire, and then she turned those heavy guns on the destroyer,” the Captain said, shuddering at the memory.
“And the destroyer?” Sergetov asked.
“Blown to pieces, Colonel. She never had a chance. They tried a torpedo run, but those twenty-centimeter guns must have been radar-guided: they just zeroed in on the destroyer and opened rapid fire. The destroyer was just torn apart, she blazed briefly, then she just broke apart and sank. They then finished off the two burning freighters.”
“How many left after this?” Sergetov asked.
“Four. But there was another air strike, and one of the ships was hit: she was carrying munitions, I think, for she just exploded: one huge bang and there was just a cloud of smoke, fire, and pieces of the ship flying,” the Captain said. “And during the night, there must have been a submarine attack, for the Brest-Litvosk just blew in two with no warning.”
“So just you, and your comrades who've run aground, are all that's left.” Sergetov commented. It was not a question.
“That's right. As for my cargo, I was told to load a general cargo for Texas. That, Comrade Colonel, is all I know,” the Captain commented.
“Very well, have you started unloading?” Sergetov asked.
“Have a look for yourself,” the Captain said.
Sergetov did. He could see crates being unloaded and placed on the dock. “Thank you for your efforts, Comrade Captain. We'll make the best use of whatever you've brought us.”
1020 Hours: South Padre Island, Texas:
Major Andrei Lazarev of the Soviet Naval Infantry had a job on his hands. Nothing in his officer training days had prepared him to unload a freighter that had run aground, but his men were doing the best they could, with the assistance of the cranes on the freighter and the ship's crew. He looked around the beach, and noted the PT-76 light tanks dug in there: with little fuel available, his 175th Naval Infantry Brigade-which had come originally from the Northern Fleet-had dug them in as pillboxes to guard against an American amphibious assault, and he had seen American ships come in close on occasion. Oh, not enough to draw fire, but they had made run-ins to within their gun range, before pulling away.
“Comrade Major, you're not going to believe what's been unloaded.” his brigade's supply officer, who'd been put in charge of the unloading, told him.
“Humor me, Comrade Captain,” Lazarev said.
“We've found a crate filled with two tons of pepper, several cases of preprinted propaganda leaflets, and several crates filled with Cuban rum.” the man told his commanding officer.
“What? What asshole prepared this load?” Lazarev roared.
“The freighter's crew doesn't know, Comrade Major,” the supply officer said. “All they were told was to load a general cargo.”
“'General cargo' my ass,” Lazarev said. “Most of this is garbage we can't use.”
“Well, the medical officer says we can use the rum as an anesthetic, and we've just found some crates filled with RPG rockets.”
“That we can use, Captain.” Lazarev said. “All right, sort it out, and separate what we can use from what's quite useless.”
“I've already started, Comrade Major.”
Lazarev swore. He wondered if those in Cuba knew what they really needed, or if they were hoarding supplies: it didn't take a fool to guess that once the war here in Texas was done, the Americans might decide to settle accounts with the Cubans. “Do the best you can, Comrade Captain. Take as many men off the beach defenses as you need.”
“Yes, Comrade Major.”
1050 Hours: Soviet Headquarters
“Comrade General, Colonel Sergetov is on the phone,” Alekseyev's operations officer called to him.
“I'll take it here,” Alekseyev said as he picked up his phone. “Yes, Comrade Colonel?”
“Comrade General, the cargo is a mixed one. Half of it is quite useless, but so far, what we can use includes 500 RPG rockets, filled magazines for AK-74s: total of 25,000 rounds, and 50,000 rounds of 12.7 ammunition, belted.”
“Of all the....How much have you unloaded so far?” Alekseyev asked.
“We've gotten started, but it's going to be an all-day job, Comrade General,” Sergetov said.
“All right. Let our people there do their jobs. Bring the freighter's captain here. I'd like a report from him.”
“As you wish, Comrade General.”
Alekseyev hung up the phone and swore. He turned to his supply officer. “I take it you informed Moscow of our exact needs?”
“Absolutely, Comrade General.” the man replied.
“Go supervise the unloading. And what we can use, see that it's distributed fairly. Any hoarders will be shot,” Alekseyev said.
“Yes, Comrade General.”
General Chibisov came into the Operations Room. He'd just talked to General Malinsky. His forces would be on the second line of defense by noon. And so far, the Americans were content with pushing them there. Though they'd tried to exploit the gaps in the line, the Soviets and their Cuban and East German allies had managed to hold things together. But, as Chibisov knew, it couldn't last. He came up to General Alekseyev. “Comrade General, Malinsky reports his forces will be on the second line of defense by noon.”
Alekseyev turned to his Chief of Staff. “Good, Pavel Pavlovitch. Some good news from this morning. I take it you've heard about the ships?”
“Yes, Comrade General, Admiral Gordikov has informed me. He's just as angry with our people in Cuba as we are with him-and those same people in Cuba.” Chibisov said.
“I'm not blaming him, if that's what he's afraid of. Like us, he's been given an impossible job,” Alekseyev said, seeing Chibisov nod. “What's the status of the airlift?”
“Edinburg International Airport was overrun, General Pavlov says, and both Miller Airport in McAllen and Rio Grande Valley International in Harlingen are both under artillery fire. The Air Force is still able to operate from both, however, but they'll have to mount the whole airlift out of Brownsville-South Padre International before too long,” Chibisov reported.
“And priority to the wounded and the certain....specialists, Pavel Pavlovitch?” Alekseyev asked.
“As you ordered, Comrade General.”
“And air cover?” Alekseyev wanted to know.
“That's out of Brownsville International, Comrade General. However, the number of serviceable fighters is dwindling with each passing hour,” Chibisov said. “And the heavy transports can only come into Brownsville International, Pavlov says.”
“I imagine it was like this in Saigon, Pavel Pavlovitch,” Alekseyev said. “Now, in a way, the roles are reversed for the Americans,” he observed.
“There's one other thing at the moment, Comrade General,” Chibisov reported.
“There's some ALA officers and members of their Political Security Department here, They're demanding seats on the airlift.” Chibisov said, his voice not hiding his disgust for the whole bunch.
“Ah.....them.” Alekseyev said. “Of all the mistakes we've made here, that's near the top of the list. I'd like to find who came up with that idea and have him shot. And do the Americans a favor.”
“Shall I have them turned away?” Chibisov asked.
“No. I'll speak with their senior officers. And have the headquarters guard on standby. These...creatures may not like what I have to say. Bring them to my office.”
A few minutes later, two ALA officers were escorted into Alekseyev's office. The PSD officer, Alekseyev knew from the GRU, was high on one of the “Most Wanted” lists the Americans put out. The man was responsible for several massacres in Texas and Oklahoma, and he'd been denounced by his own wife, no less-probably to save her own skin, Alekseyev thought. The ALA man had been an aggressive “recruiter”, either press-ganging people who'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time, or recruiting criminal elements from local jails and several Texas and Arkansas prisons. He, too, was high on the list, and had the words “dead or alive” next to his name-as did the PSD man, along with $250,000 on their heads. I might be able to save the Americans the trouble, if they give me any sort of problem, Alekseyev thought, as the two men arrived.
Commissar Robert Porter had been a professor at some small college in Illinois, and had been on a research sabbatical in Texas when the war began. He'd made no secret of his leftist views, and joined the PSD-much to his wife's horror. He'd told her that he was trying to “Save America from itself”, and had eagerly carried out his work. When the counteroffensives began, she had left him, and gone over to the reactionaries' side, and had denounced him as a traitor-on CNN and over Radio Free America no less. He came into Alekseyev's office, though, with a calm outlook.
“Comrade General,” Porter said. “I've come on behalf of the Political Security Directorate. I'm wondering if there's going to be seats for some of us on the evacuation aircraft.”
“There may be, Comrade Porter,” Alekseyev said, his voice not hiding his contempt for the man. “Perhaps you should tell me why you deserve a space on a plane that should be taken by a wounded Soviet or Cuban soldier.”
“Comrade General, you know as well as I do,” Porter said. “My pacification efforts have made the Imperialists put a price on my head. I have made every effort to assist the Socialist Forces here in America, and....”
“Carrying out massacres of your own people, I should point out,” Alekseyev said coldly.
“Only those who were counterrevolutionary elements, or those criminals who committed offenses against public order,” Porter said.
“A pathetic excuse for mass murder.” Alekseyev pointed out. He turned to the ALA officer. Colonel Michael Flounders. “And you?”
“Comrade General, as you know, I am also a wanted man, and would prefer to go anywhere, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Korea, the Soviet Union, even Sweden, to avoid the FBI and CIA,” Flounders said.
“Yes, and for 'recruiting'. Press-ganging unfortunates off the streets, or giving convicted criminals a choice between staying in prison-and either execution or being worked to death-or joining your force. Murderers, rapists, armed robbers, and such.” Alekseyev reminded the colonel.
Both ALA men looked at each other. This was the first time they'd had the truth from a senior Soviet officer told to their faces. The KGB had assured them that the Army and the GRU would approve the ALA's creation and its' activities. Oh, there'd been talk of the GRU questioning the wisdom of that, but the leadership felt that when the ALA proved itself, the Soviet Army would come around. Not this day, it appeared.
“Comrade General,” Porter said, “We have done whatever was asked of us. We have never heard talk of this sort from any senior Soviet officer.”
“That's because those you associated yourselves with were KGB. Not to mention your ties to the Cuban DGI and the Germans' Stasi.” Alekseyev reminded the pair.
“Comrade General, all we ask is that we have a chance to escape,” Porter said. “We...”
He was interrupted by Alekseyev standing up in a rage. The General grabbed Porter by the collar and shoved him against the wall. “Both of you....perfect examples of those who would sell out their own people. The Soviet side has made a number of mistakes and miscalculations in this war, and you two are living proof of one of them! Why we allowed Hall to form his own army and security service is beyond me. And when the end comes, people like you want to run away, while executing those who are caught doing what you're doing now. Lying hypocrites! Well, there's something that can be done about that.”
“General...” Flounders pleaded, “We just don't want to be here when the Fascists arrive.”
Alekseyev turned and glared at him. The unspoken word was “You just made a big mistake.” He let go of Porter and went to his phone. “General Chibisov, send Major Korenko to my office. He's to take care of these two ALA officers.” Alekseyev then hung up.
Major Korenko and several of his men arrived a few minutes later. He was in command of the headquarters guard company. “Comrade General?”
“One moment, Major.” Alekseyev turned to Porter. “How many are with you?”
“With the two of us? About twenty or so. Why do you ask?” Porter replied.
“Major,” Alekseyev said, pointing at the two ALA men, “Arrest these two. Take them, and select four others with their group at random.”
“For what purpose, Comrade General?” Korenko replied.
Alekseyev glared at Flounders and Porter. Without taking his eyes off them, he said, “They are cowards and deserters. Have them shot.”
“NO! You can't do this!” Porter wailed as Korenko's men grabbed them.
“I imagine your victims said the same thing, Porter,” Alekseyev sneered. “And Major, on your way out with these two...scum, you will relay an order to General Chibisov.”
“Of course, Comrade General,” Korenko replied. “And that order is?”
“The ALA and PSD are to be on the bottom of the evacuation list. Only those specifically requested by the KGB or GRU are to be allowed on the aircraft,” Alekseyev said.
“Yes, Comrade General,” And with that, Korenko's men dragged the two men, still screaming, out of Alekseyev's office. The General looked out the window as the two, and four others Korenko selected, were lined up against the ruins of one of the campus buildings and shot. After the job was done, Alekseyev went back to the Operations Room. Too bad we can't shoot the whole lot of them, he thought. He came up to General Chibisov. “Major Korenko did relay my orders?”
“Yes,Comrade General. I imagine you're not the first to have such feelings about those....people.” Chibisov said. “And that was an order I was glad to carry out.”
“Not just the GRU, but the General Staff was against the idea, Pavel Pavlovitch. Now, in some small way, I've made amends for that.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
1230 Hours: South Padre Island, Texas
Major Lazarev and his Naval Infantrymen had managed to unload about a couple hundred tons of supplies from the grounded Minsk Komosomol, but there was a lot more in the holds, the ship's captain had told him. Knowing that American reconnaissance aircraft would be overhead, he had lit a fire underneath his men, along with the crew of the freighter, and they had managed to make a sizable dent in the cargo in the ship's number one hold.
“So far, so good, Comrade Major,” his supply officer said.
“So far. And half of what we've got here is unusable. Whose idea was it to load cold-weather gear?” Lazarev fumed.
“Don't ask me, Comrade Major,” the Captain said as he came up. “Blame someone in Havana.”
“At least we've gotten some 125 ammunition, a few Strela-2M antiaircraft missiles, RPG rockets, and 50,000 rounds of 5.45 ammunition. That would keep my brigade in action for all of a day.” Lazarev said, still angry with whoever had not only loaded cold-weather gear, propaganda leaflets and posters, and not only two tons of pepper, but his medical officer had fumed at the lack of anesthetic, but 500 bottles of Cuban rum would have to do in that case. As for food, 50 cases of canned peaches, 80 cases of canned mixed vegetables, and 100 bags of beans had been unloaded and as per Admiral Gordikov's orders, the food had already been sent on to Brownsville for distribution. Still, it wasn't enough, and Lazarev knew it. Then his field phone rang.
“Comrade Major, This is 2nd Battalion. Three American ships are coming close to shore.”
Lazarev didn't bother responding, He grabbed his binoculars and scanned the sea. Sure enough, three American ships were closing in on the shore. “What are those?” he asked the freighter's captain.
The captain observed the ships. Head on, he couldn't tell. Then the ships turned broadside. “Get your men to cover, Major. Now.”
“What ships?” Lazarev demanded.
“Two are Forrest Sherman class destroyers. The third is a Brooke class guided missile frigate,” the Captain said, as the ships opened fire.
“Take cover!” Lazarev yelled as the first shells fell short of the freighter. It didn't take long for the American ships to find the range, and they poured shells into the helpless Minsk Komosomol. Shell splashes drenched the shoreline as five-inch shells landed on the freighter and set her ablaze. Lazarev turned to the Captain. “Besides the ammunition, is there anything else we should know about?”
“They loaded some drums in Havana. Fuel drums, I think,” replied the Captain.
The captain's guess was soon proved correct, for several shells from one of the destroyers landed forward of the stern, and into the number five hold. An oily fireball erupted as drummed gasoline went up in flame. Secondary explosions followed, as the small-arms ammunition and RPG rockets in another hold went off, and within an hour, the ship was a burning wreck. Satisfied with their work, the three American ships ceased fire and headed out to sea. The Soviets ashore picked themselves up and shook the sand off of their uniforms. Lazarev looked at the burning ship, and then turned to the Captain. “Nice of you to tell us in advance.”
1300 Hours: east of La Paloma, Texas
To General Georgi Andreyev, it felt like old times. He was leading his old regiment, the 234th Guards Air Assault Regiment, and like so many prewar exercises, they were looking for a nuclear missile. Only this time, it had been stolen by their own kind, and General Alekseyev's orders were precise: destroy the missile, regardless of whoever stole it, and seize the nuclear warheads remaining in the perimeter. The latter mission ensured a clash with the KGB custodial unit charged with nuclear-weapons security, but as far as Andreyev was concerned, they were still KGB. When he'd briefed the officers, the implications of such a course of action were made perfectly clear. But that hadn't deterred the desantniki, it only fueled their eagerness. As one of the company commanders had put it, “The Americans have been our adversaries. The KGB is an enemy: they led us into this mess, and it's only fair we settle scores with them before the end.” And the regiment's other officers agreed with that sentiment. Even the Zampolit-who had been a sincere, idealistic Communist, and had been sickened by what he'd seen during the war-agreed with the mission.
The regiment was moving down a local road, in a mix of BMDs and captured trucks, when the reconnaissance company commander signaled a halt.
Andreyev and Lt. Col. Yefrim Suslov, the regimental commander, went forward to see what was happening. The company commander showed him tire tracks moving off the road.
“The tracks look like a missile transporter, Comrade General,” the recon Captain said.
“That's got to be it,” Colonel Suslov agreed. “Comrade General?”
“Any signs of escort vehicles?” Andreyev asked.
“Yes, Comrade General, here. Two tracked vehicles, and one wheeled: that one looks like a BTR of some kind,” the company's senior ensign said.
Andreyev looked at the tracks. “How far ahead are they?”
“No way to tell, Comrade General, but they're not that old.” the ensign replied.
Colonel Suslov looked at the tracks himself. The recon boys were on the job, as usual. And the ensign had done a tour in Afghanistan before coming to the Regiment. “Your orders, Comrade General?”
“Spread the regiment out, two battalions on line. I'll be with First Battalion, Colonel. Have the third battalion act as our rearguard,” Andreyev said. “We'll find them soon enough. But do not attack until I give the order. I'd like these Chekists to get 'fat, dumb, and happy,' as our adversaries say.”
Suslov nodded. He'd been a distant relation to a Politburo member, and a former Party Ideologist. But he, like many officers, had a cynical approach to the Party. And he felt the KGB ought to pay for all that it had done-not just during the war, but before. “And the Americans?”
“With luck, the Americans will find the missile themselves: there's been plenty of reconnaissance aircraft overhead, not to mention attack aircraft. If they find the missile, well and good. Even a botched attack suits our purposes: the Chekists will be busy trying to sort themselves out after an attack, and that will work in our favor,” Andreyev said.
Nodding, Suslov asked, “Shall I move the regiment out?”
“By all means, Comrade Colonel.”
1340 Hours: 4th Guards Tank Army Headquarters, Harlingen, Texas.
Lieutenant General Piotyr Surakyin was actually pleased so far. He had moved the 4th GTA forward, and had little or no air attacks interfering with his movement. His quartering party had found some warehouses along U.S. Highways 77 and 83, near the southern edge of the city, and it had been easy to accommodate his command vehicles. The General had studied the map, and knew his orders: delay the Americans for as long as possible. He turned to his divisional commanders.
“So, Comrades, this is going to be our last battle, barring a miracle. We must hold the Americans for at least forty-eight hours, and the Route 77-83 junction must be held at all costs.” He turned to Maj. Gen. Valery Chesnikov, who commanded the 24th Tank Division. “You'll have the left flank of the junction, Chesnikov.”
Chesnikov, who'd come from the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, nodded. “Understood, Comrade General, and any stragglers coming south?”
“Incorporate them into your force, at gunpoint if necessary,” Suraykin said. “We need every man and every combat vehicle for this. That also goes for you, too, Markov.”
Colonel Gennady Markov commanded the 52nd Tank Division. He had taken command of the division after the previous commander had been killed in an air strike a few days earlier. And for a mobilization-only unit, it had done as well as one could expect.“Of course, Comrade General. I take it I'm on the right of 24th Tanks?”
“Correct. As for the 20th and 38th Tank Divisions, you'll be our counterattack force.” Suraykin said, seeing the two divisional commanders nod. Now, General Malinsky will no doubt pull back to our line, and we'll be under his command, but be prepared to fight it out by ourselves, if necessary.”
Colonel Maxim Golvoko, his Chief of Staff, asked, “Reserves, Comrade General?”
“What's left of 6th Guards Motor-Rifle Division, and the 41st Independent Tank Regiment. Our air assault battalion is under Andreyev's command, so that's it. When those units are committed, don't bother asking for help, because there will be none,” Suraykin reminded his commanders.
The commanders nodded. This time, there was no way out.
“Now,” Suraykin told everyone, “We've got enough fuel, ammunition, and other supplies to last for forty-eight hours. If you can stretch it, that's a big help, but once we're out, there may be nothing left. Unless the Navy comes through. Are there any questions?”
There were none. “All right, get set in your positions, and get your men ready. This time, we're not fighting for the glory of socialism, the destiny of the Motherland, or whatever the Party Bosses in Moscow spout this week. We're fighting for our comrades. And nothing else.”
1400 Hours: Soviet Headquarters, Brownsville, Texas:
General Alekseyev was in his office, going over some message traffic he'd just received. The Navy was reporting that another American naval force had entered the Gulf of Mexico, and it appeared to be an amphibious force. A Marine landing on South Padre Island now became possible. He had asked for a status update on the second convoy, but so far, there was no response. And there were a couple of notices from the KGB, notifying him of several commanders who were suspected of political unreliability. That's the last thing we need now: even when we're fighting for our lives, we're under suspicion, he thought. Then there was a knock on the door. It was Colonel Sergetov and the Captain of the Cherepovets.
“Comrade General?” Sergetov asked. “I have Captain Lazarovich of the Cherepovets.”
Alekesyev stood and came over to the Captain. Shaking his hand, he simply said, “Thank you, Captain. Please, sit down.”
Lazarovich did, “You're welcome, Comrade General. Though I fear my efforts may be for naught.”
“I realize that, Captain. Still, what did you bring us?”
“Comrade General, all I was told to do was load a general cargo for Texas. I was not told what the cargo was, and my Third Officer, who's in charge of cargo loading, was only allowed to make sure the load was balanced. No manifest, nothing.” Lazarovich said.
“I understand, and I'm not angry with you, Captain. What has been unloaded so far?” Alekseyev asked.
“So far, 50 cases of Cuban rum-which my ship's doctor tells me can be used as an anesthetic, some small-arms and machine-gun ammunition, along with a number of cases of RPG rockets,” Lazarovich said. “And that's what one can use: the rest...”
“What do you mean by 'the rest'?” asked General Alekseyev.
Sergetov spoke up, “Comrade General, I saw some of what was unloaded. While there is some food: cases of canned peaches, fruit cocktail, and mixed vegetables, there is quite a bit that's totally useless: 30 boxes of preprinted propaganda leaflets, two tons of jam and pepper, and 5,000 NBC suits, among other things.”
“WHAT?” The General roared. Looking at Lazarovich, he said, “I know you weren't told what you were carrying, but who gave you the 'general cargo' orders?”
“A Colonel in Cuba, Comrade General,” Lazarovich said. “He was a supply officer, but he refused to answer my questions about the type of cargo.”
Shaking his head, Alekseyev could only curse at those who were sitting safe in Havana, far from the front lines. There will come a time, he promised, when scores such as this would be settled. “And your voyage?”
“All I can say, Comrade General, it was the trip from hell,” Lazarovich said. “Air and submarine attack, an American cruiser charging us like a scene from the Pacific War forty-five years ago, everything.”
“Very well, Comrade Captain, you're not the one I'm angry with right now. Please return to your ship, and get the cargo unloaded as soon as possible. I may have one final task for you, and it's not what your sailing orders said.”
“Yes, Comrade General. May I ask what that will be?” Lazarovich asked.
“Not yet. But you will be notified at the appropriate time.” Alekseyev told him.
“I understand, Comrade General.” Lazarovich said. And the Captain left to return to his ship.
Sergetov then said, “Comrade Captain, I'd like to skin alive whoever gave him his cargo.”
“You'd probably have to stand in line, Ivan Mikhailovich,” Alekseyev said. “But there's one use for all those propaganda leaflets.”
“In the latrines, Comrade General?” Sergetov asked.
“Precisely. Now...” Alekseyev's thoughts were interrupted by his phone ringing. “Alekseyev.”
It was Admiral Gordikov. “Comrade General, this is Admiral Gordikov. I have some bad news.”
“What is it?”
“The grounded freighter on South Padre Island has been shelled by three American ships. She's been reduced to a burning wreck.”
“I'm surprised it took them this long, Admiral.” Alekseyev said. “How much of the cargo was saved?”
“Not much, I'm afraid, Comrade General. The crew and the Naval Infantrymen on the beach managed to partially unload the number one hold, but that's all. The rest of the cargo burned with the ship,” Gordikov reported.
“All right. Send whatever they managed to salvage to the supply point, and remind your men about the penalty for hoarding,” Alekseyev said.
“Of course, Comrade General.”
“Gordikov, any word on the second convoy?”
“Not at present, Comrade General,” Gordikov said.
“Thank you, Admiral,” Alekseyev said, and then he hung up the phone. Turning to Sergetov, he said, “Let's get back to the Operations Room.” When they got there, Alekseyev looked at the map. Malinsky's forces were now established on the second defense line. The third line would incorporate Suraykin's army. There was no fourth line currently marked on the map. Alekseyev turned to General Chibisov. “Start thinking about a final line of defense. Right here: from Laguna Vieta west along Highway 100 to Routes 77-83, then to La Paloma and the Rio Grande. If the Americans breach that....”
Chibisov knew what would come next. The game would be over. “Right away, Comrade General.”
“And Chibisov, send this message to our supply people in Havana: 'Request food, ammunition, medical supplies sent in by airdrop if airfields are closed.'”
“Immediately, Comrade General. There's one other thing.”
“Yes, Pavel Pavlovitch?”
“Unlike the Americans, we don't have that many servicewomen in the Armed Forces. It may be time to think about getting ours out. Unlike ourselves, the Americans have largely upheld their obligations under international law regarding prisoners, but in the euphoria of victory, the Americans on an individual level may not be in such a chivalrous mood. Especially if they fall into the hands of those maniacs in the13th Armored Cavalry.” Chibisov said.
Alekseyev thought for a moment. Personally, he'd been disgusted with how the Soviets had treated prisoners, both POWs and civilians. The Soviets and their allies had provided the Americans with too many propaganda points when rescued or escaped prisoners were allowed to speak to the international news media, and when prisoners had been killed to prevent their liberation-as had happened several times, the Americans had promptly brought reporters, Red Cross officials, and even UN delegates from Geneva to the scene, and all too often, the Soviets' clumsy attempts to explain things away met with contempt and derision. “I see your point, Pavel Pavlovitch.”
“Shall I instruct those units with women to prepare them for evacuation?”
“Just issue a notice for the women to be prepared to leave. Moscow would take it as a sign of defeatism if we evacuated them too early. But we'll get them out,” Alekseyev said.
“And those prisoners we still have within the perimeter?” Chibisov asked.
“None are to be marched into Mexico. They will remain in their camps until the end. And they will be handed over to the Americans when the time comes. Inform the camp commanders.” Alekseyev told his Chief of Staff.
“Understood, Comrade General.”
Colonel Sergetov then came up with a message form. “Comrade General, this just came in from Moscow.”
Alekseyev scanned the form, then he rolled it up into a ball and threw it into the nearest wastebasket. “Are they serious?”
“Yes, Comrade General. As you know, Hall has an ambassador in Moscow, and Moscow wants to know how we'll enable Hall and his government, not to mention those in the ALA and PSD, to escape.” Sergetov said.
“Of all the.....There's been a number of mistakes made since 1985: first of which was starting this war in the first place. Right behind that, was our general behavior behind the front lines. We've outdone the Fascists in that dubious category. And third, was creating that 'liberation government' that Hall wanted. And giving him his own army and security service. What were we thinking?” Alekseyev thundered.
The room went quiet. Then Chibisov said quietly, “At the time, victory seemed a likely possibility, Comrade General, though the Army was against the idea.”
“I know, but we went along with it anyway, despite our reservations. And those reservations were perfectly justified, as we all know by now.” Alekseyev reminded everyone. He turned to Sergetov. “Send this to Moscow. 'Request specific individuals re: Hall government to be named for evacuation. Priority for our own specialists and wounded is needed at present.'”
Sergetov nodded. “Right away, Comrade General.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Matt, my apologies and regrets for not commenting on this story earlier. Outstanding work, you spent a lot of time and creativity on this and it shows. Nice job!
The POW segment was an ugly read, but that was obviously the point. One has to tread a fine line between being honest with the ugly, and exploitation, and I think you handled it just fine.
"The use of force is always an answer to problems. Whether or not it's a satisfactory answer depends on a number of things, not least the personality of the person making the determination. Force isn't an attractive answer, though. I would not be true to myself or to the people I served with in 1970 if I did not make that realization clear."
— David Drake
Thanks very much. After the current work is posted, there will be more of Lieutenant Ray's time in Cuba put up.
Has anyone recognized some of the Soviet officers so far? The commanding general of 4th GTA should be very familiar to those who have RDF Sourcebook....
And the next part:
1540 Hours: Port Of Brownsville:
Major General Andrei Petrov stood on the dockside. He was the supply officer for, in theory, the American TVD, but for all intents and purposes, the whole Brownsville Pocket. His men had been helping to unload the freighter Cherepovets, and so far, he'd been cursing whoever had put the convoy together. Cargo that was quite useless was mixed in with what the Soviets and their allies could use, and it was taking time to filter out what was usable from what should have been left behind in Cuba.
One of his junior officers, a major, came up to him.
“Comrade General, we've finished the first hold, and are starting on the second.”
“Good, Major. What do we have that we can use so far?” Petrov asked.
“There's some more small-arms ammunition, a dozen cases of hand grenades, and a few anti-tank missiles for T-80s. Along with more cases of canned foodstuffs, and several crates filled with bandages and other basic first-aid supplies.”
Petrov looked at him. “That's a start, Major. Now, what can't we use, or at least, use in its intended purpose?”
“Well, Comrade General, where do I begin?” the major asked.
“Start with the most ridiculous, Major.”
“Ah, yes. Besides the 5,000 NBC suits, there's two tons of pepper, four crates-so far, and there's probably more-filled with propaganda leaflets and posters, and several cases of molasses,” the Major said.
Petrov swore. “I take it that's just the start?”
“I'm afraid so, Comrade General.”
“All right. Do your best, Comrade Major, and maybe we can salvage something out of this mess.” Petrov said. “The propaganda leaflets? Put them in the latrines. Right now, that's probably the best use I can think of.”
The major nodded. “Comrade General.”
1610 Hours: 324th Field Hospital, Brownsville, Texas.
Lieutenant Colonel Vassily Dherkov, M.D., read the message. He swore, but then composed himself. Now that things have gone to hell, they finally get around to this? Cursing those above him, he left his office, and then told his clerk, “I need to speak to Captain Chernova. Have her come to my office.”
“Yes, Comrade Colonel,” the corporal said, getting up and leaving the building. The 324th had set up shop in a Brownsville elementary school, with the gym being used as an operating room, while the classrooms were used as wards. The hospital staff lived in tents, while the school offices were used by the staff for their own office work. Dherkov paced outside what had been the principal's office when the corporal came, bringing a female Soviet Army medical officer. She happened to be his best orthopedic surgeon. However, he didn't like the possibility of her falling into American hands-or any of his other female doctors and nurses, for that matter. She also happened to be the senior ranking female staff member. “Come in, Galina, and have a seat.”
“What is it, Comrade Colonel?” she asked.
He showed her the message he'd received. “We're to have you and the other women on standby to be evacuated. Orders from General Alekseyev.”
“Comrade Colonel, it's that bad?” Chernova asked.
“I'm afraid so. We've been so busy here at times, we've lost track of how bad it is at the front, but there it is.”
“Comrade Colonel, I understand, but our duty is to the wounded. How many times has a wounded boy smiled seeing a female face before he goes onto the table, or wakes up in a ward?” Chernova said.
“Too many times, Galina,” Dherkov said. “I know what you're thinking; that you and your fellow doctors and nurses will be deserting the wounded.”
“We would, Comrade Colonel. Someone has to stay with them. Until the end.” Chernova said, tears welling up in her eyes.
Colonel Dherkov paused. He knew full well what she meant. “You're willing to take the chances of falling into American hands, even after what we've done to American wounded, prisoners, and civilians? Especially the women?”
“Absolutely, Comrade Colonel. I'm willing to take the chance. If you asked the other women, they'd say the same thing.”
“The TVD command isn't willing to take the risk. Especially if you fall into the hands of those lunatics in the 13th Armored Cavalry: you know, that regiment recruited from members of a feared motorcycle gang.” Dherkov said.
“I understand, Comrade Colonel. But that doesn't change the way I feel, or the other women.”
“Noted, Galina. Just be prepared to leave. And you'll be headed to Mexico if the airlift doesn't work out,” Dherkov said. “Be ready to leave on an hour's notice.” Seeing her nod, he finished. “That's all. And Galina?”
“Yes, Comrade Colonel?”
“When the time comes, I'll be one of those sorry to see you leave.”
1700 Hours: Off Brazos Santiago Pass, Gulf of Mexico:
Captain 2nd Rank Vladim Romonov paced his bridge. He was captain of the missile destroyer Boiky, and had managed to bring his ship, along with two freighters and a Ropucha-class amphibious ship, closer to Brownsville than he had expected. His ship had been escorting the second convoy when the order to scatter had been issued, and mostly it had been everyone for himself. Off in the distance, on several occasions, he'd seen other ships come under attack, mostly from American carrier aircraft, but one time, he was certain it had been one of the American cruisers-one of the older gun cruisers, he thought, had taken a freighter under fire. He'd made it this far for one simple reason: strict radio and radar silence. And he intended to get these ships to their destination.
His ship, a Kanin-class guided missile destroyer, had been lucky to make it this far during the war, but with so many more modern ships sunk or severely damaged, the older vessels had to take up the slack. The Boiky had been stationed in Cuba since 1987, and she was sorely in need of dockyard overhaul, but in Cuba, that was impossible. So many of his classmates had been lost, and a number of others had been “disciplined” by the KGB for their attitudes towards the war, that he'd kept his mouth shut, except to his own Executive Officer, who'd been a year behind him at the Academy in Leningrad.
His Exec came onto the bridge with a mug of coffee: “Here, Comrade Captain, from our Cuban comrades.”
Taking the mug, Romonov said, “Thanks, Nikolay Borisovich. So far, so good.”
“Yes, Comrade Captain, but for how long? We'll need to power up the radars before we approach the pass. If it's all clear, well and good. If not....”
“If not, then we'll fight our way in. Those ships have what the Army needs to survive. If we don't deliver....you heard the Admiral. Those men will either die or be prisoners of the Americans,” Romonov said.
The Exec nodded. “Shall I power up the radar?”
“Yes, and get the men to battle stations.” They'd been on a second degree of readiness.
Before the Exec could give both orders, a lookout shouted, “Aircraft, low altitude, bearing 090 relative!”
Both Captain and Exec raced to their starboard bridge wing and saw the incoming plane. Romonov raised his binoculars. “Looks like a Crusader. Didn't think they had any still flying.”
“The Americans brought quite a few out of storage when the war began, Comrade Captain. And several of the old Essex class carriers as well,” the Exec replied.
The plane streaked overhead. It was low enough Romonov could see the pilot in the cockpit. “I think that was a photo plane, Nikolay.”
“I think you're right. And he's coming around again.”
The Crusader turned around for another run. Both Soviet officers, through their binoculars, could see it was a reconnaissance plane. After the plane went back over the northern horizon, Romonov turned to the Exec. “All right. We'll have to fight our way in. Use your Morse lamp, and notify the freighters: 'Have your Naval Armed Guards ready to repel air attack.'”
Up in the plane, the RF-8G's pilot looked at her chart. Sure enough, the Russian ships were where that P-3 had thought they were. She turned for the Oriskany, and in a while, she'd be trapping aboard. Soon, Ivan, you'll be feeding the fish, and those grunts in Brownsville are screwed, she thought, and a smile formed under her oxygen mask.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
1740 Hours: Soviet Headquarters, Brownsville
Admiral Gordikov came into the Operations Room. “Comrade General, I have news of the second convoy.”
“Let's have it, Admiral,” Alekseyev said.
“They were forced to scatter, Comrade General. There were eighteen ships-mostly ours, but three or four Cuban ships as well, along with an East German. And their escorts,” Admiral Gordikov reported.
“How many can we expect?” asked General Chibisov.
“Best case, maybe half. Worst case, none at all. Most are keeping radio silence: if they don't transmit..”
“The Americans have a hard time tracking them, but with radar, and probably patrol aircraft, it may not help.” Chibisov finished for Gordikov. He'd heard this before.
“That is correct, General.” Gordikov replied. “I do know that several have been sunk. Including most of the escorts.”
Alekseyev sighed. He knew the Navy was doing all it could, and it wasn't enough. And as Gordikov pointed out on many an occasion, the Soviet Navy, even after all the effort, time, and money poured into it, had never been structured to fight a naval war of the kind it had found itself in. Just as the Americans hadn't expected to fight off a Soviet-led invasion, the Soviet Navy hadn't expected a fight for the sea lanes and supplying the land campaign in North America at the same time. “Very well. Let me know when those ships arrive.”
“Right away, Comrade General,” Gordikov said.
Alekseyev turned to Chibisov. “Even if one or two arrive, that'd give us, what, maybe an extra two or three days?”
“I'll have to double-check the estimate, Comrade General, but I believe so.”
“It's out of our hands, Pavel Pavlovitch. It's up to our comrades in the Navy,” Alekseyev said.
1820 Hours: 20 Miles East of Brazos Santiago Pass, The Gulf of Mexico
Captain Romonov was waiting in his ship's Combat Control Center, and he was expecting an attack at any moment. His Executive Officer was on the Bridge, and though he felt that his place was on the Bridge in combat, he knew that he'd have to fight his ship from here. After turning his radars on, not only had the three ships under his protection been on the screens, but two other ships, on the same course as his, were picked up, slightly north of his position, but were also making a run for the Texas coast. Maybe, just maybe, some of us will get through, Romanov thought. Then his air-search radar operator sang out.
“Hostile aircraft. Bearing 095 relative, medium altitude. Range, thirty kilometers.”
Here we go, Romonov thought. “How many?”
“Just one so far, Comrade Captain. Wait, he's jamming us.”
To the north, an EA-6B Prowler from the carrier John F. Kennedy's Air Wing 3 was approaching the Soviet surface ships. The Prowler's electronic warfare system had picked up the radar from the Boiky,
and the pilot, who was the commander of VAQ-130, considered his options. Then he made his decision.
“How bad is the jamming?” Romonov asked.
“I'll have to trade range for visibility, Comrade Captain.” the operator said. He did so, and by doing so, “burned through” the jamming, and saw....nothing.
“What the...” Romonov said.
“Best I can do, Comrade Captain.” the operator said.
Romonov looked at the screen. It was blank. He turned to his air-defense officer. “Yuri, it looks like you'll have to use your optical backup. Don't let us down.”
The air-defense man nodded. Then a lookout sang out over the intercom. “Explosions bearing 090 relative. Multiple explosions on that bearing.”
As it turned out, two of the carriers had launched aircraft to go after the Soviet ships. The John F. Kennedy contributed four F-14s as strike escort, while a single EA-6B Prowler handled the Electronic Warfare element of the strike. The Oriskany, in her third war, contributed the A-4F Skyhawk and A-7E Corsair strike aircraft, and an RF-8G photo Crusader for the post-strike photography. And the A-7s had just struck the ships to the north, putting their bombs and rockets into a Cuban freighter and a Soviet tanker. The freighter would sink, while the tanker went dead in the water, and began to burn.
“Comrade Captain, they're coming!” Romonov's Exec said over the intercom. He had visual contact with the Skyhawks and Corsairs.
Romonov gave the order: “All air-defense weapons commence fire!” With that, his two forward quad 57-mm guns, the two twin 30-mm guns, and several hastily mounted DshK machine guns began to fire. The twin Neva-M missile launcher began tracking a target, and fired. The two missiles, guided by optical backup, tracked an A-4, missing with the first missile, but scoring with the second. The Skyhawk fireballed and plunged into the water. We might just get through this, Romonov thought.
However, the two freighters were not so fortunate. One pair of Skyhawks, ignoring the machine-gun and 23-mm fire sent up after them from the Soviet Naval Armed Guard from the first ship, sprayed it with Zuni rockets and 20-mm cannon fire. She was hit by several rockets and caught fire. Then another pair of Skyhawks came in, and each dropped four 500-pound bombs. Three of the bombs tore into the freighter, and she broke apart in flames. The second freighter was set upon by four more Skyhawks with bombs, rockets, and cannon fire, and she came to a stop, burning furiously.
“Comrade Captain,” the Exec said, “Both freighters have been hit!”
“How about the landing ship?” Romonov asked.
“Not yet, Comrade Captain...wait. Wait...The Skyhawks are going for her now!”
“Right Full Rudder! Give her as much cover fire as you can!”
The Boiky charged towards the landing ship, trying to shield her charge from the strike aircraft coming in. But it was for naught: An A-7 launched a Walleye guided bomb, and the weapon landed amidships, bringing the ship to a stop. Then the A-4s and more A-7s came in and unleashed their bombs and cannon fire, and she, too, was soon ablaze. Then the Boiky's turn came. A single Corsair came in, and flipped two 500-pound bombs towards the stern. Though the bombs missed, they did cripple her, for the shock wave from the detonations jammed the destroyer's rudder. Then two Skyhawks sprayed the destroyer with Zuni rockets, knocking out the SAM system and the helicopter pad. An A-7 then came in and dropped several bombs, and one of them wrecked the ship's main mast and knocked out the radars. That was followed by several Corsairs, their bombs expended, strafing the destroyer with their 20-mm cannon. Finally, the American planes reformed and headed north.
“Damage Report!” Romonov roared.
“Rudder jammed fifteen degrees to port, Comrade Captain.” the Exec replied. “We also have a fire aft, and the SAM magazine has to be flooded. Also, the mainmast has been wrecked.”
“And that means our radars are down as well. Engines?”
“They're intact, Comrade Captain. And we can try steering with the engines,” the Exec said.
“Get us to the coast. We'll have to run the ship aground. Best speed,” Romonov said.
“Comrade Captain?” the Exec asked.
“I'm responsible for the crew. Better we all make it to shore instead of taking our chances in the water. Are the radio antennae intact?
“They're down, Comrade Captain.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
The next part:
1900 Hours: Soviet Headquarters, Brownsville
Lieutenant General Yuri Dudorov came into the Operations Room. He was Alekseyev's Intelligence Officer, and he knew the General would not like what he had to report. And he also knew that what he had to say would mean the Soviet position in Texas was now a terminal one. “Comrade General, I've got some bad news.”
“What is it, Yuri Dimitrovich?” Alekseyev wanted to know.
“Comrade General, our coastwatchers on Brazos Island and South Padre Island report explosions and antiaircraft fire off to the east. There's also smoke clouds, though light's fading, and one can probably expect the glow of ships burning to take their place,” Dudorov reported.
Admiral Gordikov looked at him. Then he checked the map. “That may have been our last chance, Comrade General. Unless someone's coming in under cover of darkness....”
“And that may not be likely, Admiral. Again, I'm not blaming you. You've been given an impossible job, and under the circumstances, you did your best,” Alekseyev said. “If you wish, I can order you out.”
“Comrade General, there are still naval personnel here. Coastal-defense troops, Naval Infantry, some Naval Aviation-though they're down to a few helicopters, and a few patrol craft. I'd only be abandoning them. With your permission, I would prefer to remain until the end,” Gordikov said.
“Granted, Admiral.” Alekseyev said. Turning to Dudorov, he asked, “How long until Powell is ready to launch his next attack?”
“He is conservative with the lives of his soldiers, as you know, Comrade General,” Dudorov replied. “But I would expect sometime in the next twenty-four hours. He won't attack until he's ready.”
“That is the General Powell we've come to know,” Alekseyev said. “General Chibisov?”
“I would agree with General Dudorov, Comrade General.” Chibisov replied. Then the phone rang, and Colonel Sergetov answered.
“Comrade General, it's General Malinsky,” Sergetov said.
Alekseyev grabbed the phone. “Yes, General?
“Comrade General, Powell's renewed his attack. He's not stopping. We've got heavy fighting in McAllen and Edinburg, with the Cuban 2nd Army and 3rd Shock Army involved.”
Alekseyev swore. “Anything to the north?”
“Not yet, Comrade General, but that's XVIII Airborne Corps and II MAF facing us there,” Malinsky reported.
“All right, Malinsky. Do you need the 4th Guards Tank Army? They have their mission, you know.”
“No, Comrade General. I've got two independent tank regiments, though both are understrength, and the 105th Guards Air Assault Division. I know Suraykin's mission, and expect to be alongside him in a day or so,” Malinsky said.
“Understood, General. Keep me informed,” said Alekseyev, who then hung up. “Powell's not stopping. The 3rd Shock Army and Cuban 2nd Army are in a fight for McAllen and Edinburg.”
Both Chibisov and Dudorov looked at the map. “That's VIII Corps and XII Corps, Comrade General. VIII Corps was Powell's reserve, or so we thought,” Dudorov said.
Chibisov nodded. “Perhaps their respective commanders got drawn into fights they didn't expect?”
“Maybe, General,” Alekseyev said. “No activity from XVIII Airborne Corps and II MAF yet, so that lends credence to your theory.”
“That may be so, Comrade General,” Chibisov said. “Yuri, what's the worst case, apart from the 76th Guards and the handful of air-assault troops under Andreyev's command, all we have left is the 47th Tank Brigade.”
Dudorov looked at the map. “In that case, Comrades, if I was in General Powell's position, I'd try an amphibious landing. Not on South Padre Island: there's the bridge between Port Isabel and the Island, and it should be rigged for demolition by now. No, not there, Comrades. But here, at the terminus of Highway 4.”
“What kind of beach is it?” Alekseyev wanted to know.
“On the south, marshland, wetlands, that sort of thing. But at the end of the highway, there's a firm sandy beach for about two thousand meters or so. Enough to put forces ashore with landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles, Comrade General.” Dudorov said.
“Who's defending that beach?” Alekseyev asked.
His operations officer provided that information, “The 247th Independent Penal Battalion, Comrade General.”
Alekseyev paused. “They need to be stiffened. I know Andreyev has his own special mission, but he's got the remnants of several air-assault battalions under him, along with 76th Guards Airborne. Take the ad hoc grouping, and send them to reinforce that beach. Leave the rest of the 76th Guards where they are. And position the 47th Tank Brigade to either go north to reinforce Malinsky, or go east along Highway 4.”
“Yes, Comrade General,” the Operations Officer said.
2030 Hours: Off Brazos Santiago Pass
Captain Romonov's damage-control parties had been busy since the attack. The fires, one near the wrecked mainmast and one aft near the SAM magazine, were now out, while engineering staff were trying to free the jammed rudder. But the Boiky had made some progress towards the coast. His Exec came to him in the CCC.
“I have a casualty report, Comrade Captain.”
“All right, let's have it,” Romonov said.
“Twenty-four killed, with thirty-two wounded. And four missing, Comrade Captain,” The Exec said. “And one of the killed is the Zampolit.”
“Ah. So we won't have to put up with Comrade Loginov any more,” Romonov said. On the Boiky, the one officer that everyone-officers, petty officers, or enlisted sailors-couldn't stand had been the Zampolit. “Insufferable Party stooge.”
“Uh, yes, Comrade Captain,” the Exec replied.
The phone rang next to the Captain's chair. “Yes?” Romonov asked.
“Comrade Captain, we've freed the rudder!” It was the destroyer's Chief Engineer.
“Well done, Maxim Andreyich. Well done! How much speed can you give us?”
“Comrade Captain, I'd be against anything past fifteen knots. Some of those near-miss bombs sprang some seams, and until they're shored up....”
“Understood. Do the best you can.” Romonov told his Chief Engineer.
“That we will, Comrade Captain.”
Romonov hung up. He turned to the Exec. “How long to Brazos Santiago Pass?”
“About four hours, at this speed.” the man said. “We're at twelve knots as it is.”
“Make it so. When we get there, fire the recognition flare, and we'll await further orders. I imagine we'll be joining our Comrades ashore, one way or another.”
2140 Hours: The International Bridge, Hidalgo, Texas.
Major Luis Mendoza, Cuban Army, shook his head. Though the supply trucks had stopped coming across the border, the Mexican Army still insisted on sending troops into Texas. The troops, mounted in trucks, with a few BTR-40s and -152s, along with some old T-34s and SU-100 assault guns, crossed the bridge in a steady stream. Why the Americans hadn't used their air power to drop the bridge, he wondered. Then it occurred to him: they wanted to use the bridge for themselves, because rumors of an American invasion of Mexico were running wild in both the Cuban and Mexican armies.
His unit, what remained of the 53rd Motor Rifle Regiment, was dug in the city of Hidalgo. It had been one of the first cities in Texas to see the war, as Soviet and Cuban forces had crossed on the first day, back in 1985, and for the next two and a half years, it had been a backwater. Supply convoys crossed on a regular basis, as did reinforcements headed north, but other than that, the war had seemingly passed the town by. And there had been little underground activity, though the occasional graffiti being sprayed, phone lines cut, and occasional shots fired at the garrison showed that things were not as “pacified” as the Soviets and Cubans believed. But hardly anyone had been killed, and though the usual “enemies of the state” had been rounded up for “re-education”, the occupation here had been relatively mild, compared to other parts of what had been the “Liberated zone of America.” Now, that had all gone away, and the Americans were close: he could see the flashes on the horizon, and hear the rumble of artillery fire. Not to mention the occasional aircraft overhead. And one could tell that the citizenry were eager for their countrymen to return, and they didn't hide that at all.
The 53rd MRR had gone into the war with T-72 tanks and BTR-70 APCs. Now, after four years of war, and having been mauled several times, the regiment was lucky to have old T-55s and BTR-152s, and 122-mm artillery pieces from World War II. And the replacements! Boys fresh out of training, with no experience at all, and the officer replacements were hardly better. His deputy, a veteran since 1986, came up to him.
“Comrade Major, here's some coffee.”
“Thanks, Ricardo. I take it you've seen our Mexican comrades?” Mendoza asked.
“Yes, Comrade Major, I have.” Capt. Ricardo Gonzalez said. “If they run into any American force, I'd say even a company could deal with those Mexicans in short order. And where they're headed...” He motioned to the north, where the rumble of artillery fire, along with the other sights and sounds of battle, weren't that far away.
“And if the Americans come here, Ricardo? Because they will be, soon.”
“We can make it hot for them, Comrade Major, but not for long,” Gonzalez said.
“I know. And there's been no word from Army headquarters since the late afternoon. I know, our orders were to hold as long as possible,” Mendoza said, remembering his orders from 2nd Army HQ.
“And when we can't hold?” asked Gonzalez.
“We'll pull back across the river and blow the bridge. I don't have those orders, but that's what we'll do,” Mendoza told his deputy.
2300 Hours: Gulf Front Headquarters, Marine Military Academy, Harlingen, Texas
General Malinsky stood at the wall of his own operations room, and he didn't like what the map was telling him. Both the 3rd Shock Army and the Cuban 2nd Army were now in heavy contact with the Americans, and he fully expected the East Germans to have a similar problem before too long. He turned to Major General Alexi Isakov, his Chief of Staff. “Perhaps we've underestimated Powell, Alexi.”
“I would imagine so, Comrade General. But so far, there's no sign of an attack by either XVIII Airborne Corps or II MAF. Perhaps it's both VIII Corps and XII Corps getting into fights neither corps commander expected,” Isakov told his commander.
Malinsky looked at the map again. “Perhaps you're right. How are things on the Cuban 2nd Army's left? I'm referring to the bridge across the Rio Grande at Hidalgo.”
“We believe there's a Cuban Motor-Rifle Regiment there, but the Cuban 2nd Army's been in and out of communications since this morning,” Isakov responded.
“If I was in Powell's shoes,” Malinsky said, “I'd try this: Punch a hole in the Cubans' left flank. Take the bridge at Hidalgo, and get a bridgehead across the Rio Grande before Reynosa. While I'm doing that, get forces around the Cubans, and then roll them up. And that also endangers 3rd Shock Army, and probably the East Germans as well.”
“That's a bold plan, Comrade General,” Isakov said. “If that was the Powell we know, I'd say it was unlikely. Now, though, it's possible.”
“Try and notify the Cubans. Warn them of the possibility of such an attack. Who do we have facing II MAF?
“That's the Cuban 1st Army, Comrade General. And so far, they're holding,” said Isakov.
“Good. And what's this about additional Mexicans coming across the river?” Malinsky asked.
Isakov frowned. He didn't like that any more than Malinsky did. Or General Alekseyev, for that matter. “All we know, Comrade General, is that two brigades' worth of Mexican troops have joined the Cuban 2nd Army. No more information than that.”
“Mexicans....at least we won't have to be bothered with them for much longer.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And another: FYI when the war began, the Hell's Angels offered their services to the U.S. Army. After filtering out those who had no military experience, the rest formed the 13th Armored Cavalry Regiment, equipped with Cadillac-Gage Stingrays and LAV-25s, though also forming several motorcycle scout troops. They use less ammunition and produce more corpses than any other unit of comparable size.
2345 Hours: Soviet Headquarters, Brownsville.
General Alekseyev looked at his map, just as Malinsky was. “So far, Malinsky seems to be holding,” he said to General Chibisov.
“Yes, Comrade General, but when dawn comes, Powell will cut the leash of his other corps commanders, and Malinsky will have a major fight on his hands,” Chibisov said.
General Petrov, his Air Force commander, came into the Operations Room. “Comrade General, I've got some news, some good, some bad.”
“Let's have the bad news first, Petrov,” Alekseyev said.
“Any airdrops of supplies can't happen before tomorrow afternoon, Comrade General.”
“To be expected, I imagine,” Alekseyev said. “And the good news?”
“The runways at Brownsville/South Padre Island are still operational. That means the heavy transports can still come in,” Petrov said.
“Very good news, Petrov,” Alekseyev said. “How long can you keep them open?”
“That depends on how serious the Americans are about neutralizing them, Comrade General.”
“Of course. And how many fighters have we left in the perimeter? Not theater-wide, but here, in the perimeter. And I'm not asking about ground-attack aircraft,” Asked Alekseyev.
“Barely enough to contest the air above us, Comrade General,” Petrov replied. “And one can forget about any kind of offensive air operations, or escorting the evacuation aircraft.”
Colonel Sergetov came into the Operations Room. “Comrade General, this just arrived from Moscow.” He handed a message form to Alekseyev.
“Thank you, Colonel.” He read the message. “Of all the.....You're sure about this?”
“Yes, Comrade General. They want Hall, his cabinet, and a number of other top figures in the ALA and the PSD out. And those names will be sent to us tomorrow,” Sergetov said.
“Very well. Is there anything else, Comrades?” Alekseyev asked. Seeing his staff shake their heads no, he nodded. “I'm going to get some sleep. I suggest those not on duty do the same. It's likely sleep will be in short supply the next few days.”
0020 Hours, 1 October 1989: Texas Highway 336, North of Hidalgo, Texas.
Major Herndando Soto of the Mexican Army's 111th Brigade was lost. He was ordered to head to Cuban 2nd Army headquarters in Pharr, but his lead element had apparently taken a wrong turn. Seeing the flashes of gunfire in the distance, he remembered something from his officer training: when in doubt, march towards the sound of the guns.
His brigade was newly formed, and had not even been in combat before, even against the counterrevolutionaries infesting Northern Mexico. Soto had little confidence in his company grade officers, though his battalion commanders had had some experience, but none had served in America. He also had to put up with a political commissar who seemed to think Party dogma was a solution to each and every problem. Including the fact that his equipment was made up of thirty- and forty-year old Soviet castoffs. Though his men had plenty of small arms that were relatively new, his heavy equipment was from the 1950s at least, and some of his T-34s had been made back in 1946! And to top it off, he had no night-vision gear. Though the Army's performance in the invasion had been less than stellar, as the battle lines moved south, the Mexicans had fought hard. San Antonio, Victoria, and Uvalde had shown that.
Shrugging his shoulders, he trusted his lead battalion to at least find some of the Cubans they were supposed to link up with, and point them in the right direction. And when the time came, would his men emulate those who'd fought hard to prevent the Americans from stealing more of Mexico, or would they flee at the first sign of serious trouble, like in the early days?
About a thousand yards off to the west side of the road, a company team from the 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 49th Armored Division, was waiting. Their commander, a female captain two years out of West Point, sat in the commander's seat of her Bradley IFV and smiled. These Mexicans were coming along, fat, dumb, and happy, She had her Bradleys and M-60A4 tanks poised not only on the side of the road, but a platoon of tanks was waiting on the road itself. She smiled, and told her gunner. Time. With that, he raised the Bradley's twin TOW missile launcher and picked out a target.
Major Soto was jerked out of his reverie by the sight and sound of an ambush. “Deploy! Get off the road!” he yelled into his radio, as a T-34 exploded ahead of his BTR-152. But it was too late, as trucks, tanks, and APCs took fire and exploded. He watched as an Su-100 assault gun tried to move off the road to the right, and erupted in flame. Then an ISU-152 moved to his left, and it,too, exploded.
The Americans systematically destroyed each and every vehicle in the kill zone, and the ambushers then proceeded south, picking off vehicles as they went. Then they came across the brigade's command element.
“Get us support! We've been promised artillery support!” Soto screamed at his radioman.
“I can't, Major. The radios are jammed,” the man replied.
The American company commander led her own command element, with a tank platoon alongside them, against the clutch of BTRs and trucks. “Take'em!” She said over the radio.
“Tanks!” someone screamed at Soto. He turned, and saw the outlines of M-60A4 tanks-the beasts with the M-1 turret that ate T-72s like burritos, with their turrets pointed at his own vehicles. “Madre dios,” Soto said, not caring if the Commissar overheard him. They fired, and his vehicle, and everyone in it, erupted in a fireball.
“All Whiskey elements, this is Whiskey Six,” the company commander said into her radio. “Pursue by fire only. Repeat: pursue by fire only. We'll hold here for the moment.” And the company team did so, and methodically wiped out every vehicle belonging to the 111th Brigade in the process.
And in Hidalgo, Major Mendoza saw the battle. And was confronted with a stream of frightened Mexicans on foot, pushing south. Full of fight only an hour earlier, now he saw that the only thing that these Mexicans wanted was to get away. He turned to his regimental staff. “Our turn's coming, Comrades. Have the men stand to.”
0115 Hours: Kampfgruppe “Rosa Luxembourg” Headquarters, Elsa, Texas.
Major General Gerhard Metzler scowled as he looked at the map in what had been, prewar, a municipal courthouse. Now, he had the 9th Panzer Division and the 11th Motor-Rifle Division, or more correctly, what was left of them, along with the battered 40th Air Assault Regiment. Though still full of fight, and willing to do their duty, his soldiers were tired. There had been no news from home for several weeks, and though rumors of the wildest sort, something like the West Germans, French, and even the British joining forces to attack the GDR, had been going around, his political officers had made sure that rumor mongers in the ranks were dealt with harshly. And so his men were more than willing to carry on.
General Metzler knew his time was numbered. To his left, elements of XII Corps had gotten into a fight for Edinburg, and had overrun the Edinburg Airport, north of the city, driving his own forces back. The 9th Panzer Division had even been encircled at one point, but had managed to fight its way out, but had lost half of its armor in the process. That had changed his plan-since he had hoped that once the line was restored, the 9th Panzers could be his counterattack force, and now, he'd be lucky if the 9th could even fight a defensive battle. He turned to Colonel Johannes Adam, his Chief of Staff. “Comrade Colonel, we're between the proverbial rock and a hard place.”
“Quite so, Comrade General,” Adam said. His uncle had been in a similar position forty-four years earlier, at a place called Stalingrad.
“XII Corps can come in on us, they should have at least one division, maybe two, and if they do...” Metzler's voice trailed off.
“If they do, Comrade General, we're in for it,” Adam replied.
“Anything to the north?” Metzler asked.
“No, Comrade General. We're still in touch with Eighth Guards Army, and our liaison officer says that their front has been quiet since late afternoon,” Adam said, pointing at the map.
“That's XVIII Airborne Corps, or part of it, anyway.”
“Yes, Comrade General. The prewar elite of the American Army.” Adam said.
“At least we don't have to worry about those maniacs in the 13th Armored Cavalry. But I have to hand it to the Americans: when they formed that regiment, at first, only those with Vietnam experience were selected. Even if they were outlaws and gangsters,” Metzler said.
“Ah, yes, Comrade General. At least we won't have to worry about our nurses and other women being raped and then dragged behind their tanks,” Adam reminded his general.
“That's a bunch of nonsense and we both know it. But that unit has a well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness, no question. Who's facing us right now?”
“As best as we can tell, not having any prisoners, it's the 31st Mechanized Infantry Division-raised from Alabama, along with the 48th Mechanized Division from Georgia and South Carolina. And to our north, opposite our boundary with Eighth Guards, it's the 42nd Mechanized Division from New York, Comrade General.” Adam said.
Metzler checked the map again. Then he made his decision. “With no counterattack force, we'll wind up fighting another delaying action. And this time, we may need to sacrifice a unit. Have the 40th Air Assault Regiment dig in here. Their mission is to hold off the Americans as long as possible. I don't like it, but we've got no choice.”
“I understand, Comrade General.”
0200 Hours: Off Brazos Santiago Pass.
Captain Romonov brought the Boiky in, dead slow. He was sure that he was within sight of the shore, but he wanted to be sure. Both his Exec and his navigator were also certain, but with no night-vision gear available to his lookouts, let alone himself or any of the other officers, so he had to be careful. Then a lookout sang out. He'd seen breakers hitting the shoreline.
“All stop!” Romonov shouted.
“All stop, aye,” the helmsman said. “All engines answer stop, Comrade Captain.”
“Depth under the keel?” the Exec asked.
The sonar officer called back, “Twenty meters, according to the chart.”
“Your orders, Comrade Captain?” Asked the Exec.
“Come right. Bring us parallel to the shoreline. And dead slow.”
“Comrade Captain,” the Exec replied, relaying the helm and engine orders.
Romonov looked at the shoreline. He knew the Army was looking out at him. Or were there coastal-defense missiles ready to shoot? Those blockheads might shoot just on seeing the outline of his ship. “We're here, so fire the recognition flare.”
The Exec nodded. And the flare went up.
Then a blinker signal came from the shore. “What ship?”
Romonov let out a deep breath. He turned to his chief signalman. “Send the recognition letters, then 'Destroyer Boiky'. And request assistance in making port at first light.”
“Comrade Captain.” And the man sent the message. “Their response, Comrade Captain.”
Through his binoculars, Romonov saw the message. “Will relay your request to Naval Headquarters. Welcome to Texas.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Finally got to sit down and read your latest round of stories...excellent work! So looking forward to your next set!!!
The reason that the American Army does so well in wartime, is that war is chaos, and the American Army practices chaos on a daily basis.
My Twilight claim to fame: I ran "Allegheny Uprising" at Allegheny College, spring of 1988.
Thanks for the comment, and has anyone caught the other characters yet? A few more surprises await, and now for the next part...
0240 Hours: Federal Building, Brownsville, Texas.
Ambassador Yevgeni Makarev waited outside a meeting room. He was the Soviet Ambassador to the “Liberation Government of the United States” or so the Hall government was known to the Soviets and their allies. The Ambassador, a career diplomat, had known several members of the government before the war, during his time at the UN, and he had been appointed to his post after the government had been established in late 1985, when a Soviet victory appeared possible. Now, he knew, the dream of a Socialist America, living at peace with the world, was over. He didn't need the KGB to tell him that: the Foreign Ministry had its own intelligence operation, and they freely monitored the American and other western media. From that, the hostility towards those who had assisted the Socialist cause in America was well known, and already, there had been trials of those accused by the Americans of collaboration and treason-and a number had already been executed. Not just that, the Americans had placed everyone in the Hall government on their “Most Wanted” list, with Hall at the top. Not just that, but a price on his head-$10 million, so the story went, and corresponding bounties on those in his inner circle. Now, he'd had word from Moscow, and for once, he was eager to inform Hall and his cabinet of the news.
As he was ushered in, he saw President Hall, his Vice-President, Angela Davis, and several other members of his cabinet. Hall stood to welcome his guest. “Comrade Ambassador,”
“Comrade President,” Makarev replied. “I have some good news. Moscow has agreed to give you and your cabinet places on the evacuation aircraft.”
“To where? Moscow? Or to Cuba?” Vice-President Davis asked. She'd earned a reputation-even among the Soviets, as a cold, ruthless bitch, and from what Makarev's intelligence briefing said, the price on her head was the same as Hall's. Given the atrocities committed at her instigation, it should've surprised no one.
“Comrade Fidel, as you know, has offered you the chance to set up a government in exile in Havana.” Makarev said. “If you wish, you could set up there, or fly on to Moscow.”
Hall thought for a few moments. His dream, and the dreams of those around him, was coming to an end. It saddened him that his fellow Americans despised him as a traitor, and that they couldn't understand that his government had been trying to save America from itself. He'd seen the clips from CNN: members of Congress calling for his summary execution if caught, Fourth of July celebrations where the flag of “Liberated America” was burned on bonfires, dummies representing not only him, but others in his administration, being hung in effigy. Not to mention tape of members of the ALA, PSD, or simply those who'd cooperated with the attempt to bring Socialism to America, hanging from trees and power or telephone poles, or just being summarily shot. He looked at his cabinet. “Angela?”
“Go to Cuba. There, maybe we can continue the fight, especially with Operation Phoenix,” Davis said.
“Operation Phoenix has run its course,” Commissar Paul Franklin, the head of the PSD, said. “Apart from killing two reactionary mayors, and some intimidation, it has failed. Or haven't you noticed?”
“But the people!” Davis shouted.
“The people hate us, or does that escape you?” Franklin shot back. “Those assigned to Operation Phoenix have been either betrayed, or have turned themselves in-more likely to save their own skins. Our dream is over. It's time to save what's left of it, and get out of here.”
“Where to?” Hall asked.
“Moscow.” Franklin said. “They won't come for us there. If we go to Cuba, the Fascists will come for us-and settle scores with Castro at the same time.”
“They wouldn't dare.” This from Joel Paulson, Hall's Secretary of State.
Franklin shot back “Do you want to take that chance? If we went to Mexico, they'll come for us there no matter what. If we go to Cuba, how long would it take to prepare the invasion we know they've wanted to do since 1962, and this time, it won't be a Bay of Pigs! No! It will be all out, and they won't stop until Fidel is dug out of the Sierra Maestra, and us with him!”
“And when we get to either Havana or Moscow?” Hall asked.
Paulson replied, “We carry on the best we can. The Socialist world will deal with us, not the reactionary government in Philadelphia, and we will continue the struggle.”
“With what?” General Robert Andrews asked. He was the highest-ranking officer in the ALA. “The Soviet Army in Texas is done for. The same for the Cubans, and the Nicaraguans are finished-they surrendered en masse yesterday.”
“This isn't the only theater, General.” Davis responded. “The Soviets still have a powerful army in Canada and Alaska. They can push down into the Great Plains, and then we can join them.”
“In your dreams,” Andrews said. “I've been briefed by Alekseyev's Operations Officer. For some reason, Alekseyev won't deal with any high-ranking ALA officers himself-he's already had several shot, but I received a briefing on that front. The Soviets and our Korean allies are undersupplied, exhausted, and near the end of their strength. They may not last the winter. That front will be over by December, latest.”
The room fell silent on hearing that news. No one spoke for a few minutes. Hall broke the silence. “Comrades, I think we'll take up Fidel's offer. Not yet for a government in exile, but sanctuary. We can form such a government later, whether in Cuba, or in Moscow, if Cuba, for whatever reason, becomes inhospitable.” He looked at Paulson. “Our communications with our own mission in Havana, let alone Moscow, are unreliable at best, correct?”
“Yes, Comrade President.”
Hall then turned to the Ambassador. “Please inform Moscow of my decision.”
“Of course, Comrade President,” Ambassador Makarev said.
0310 Hours: 4th Guards Tank Army Headquarters, Harlingen, Texas.
General Suraykin looked at his situation map. All of his forces were in position, and preparing themselves for the fight ahead. Not only engineers, but his field security units had impressed every civilian who could carry a shovel, along with a number of prisoners from a nearby labor camp, and his defenses were taking shape. He knew using the civilians might count against him if he fell into American hands, but with the shortages of equipment and fuel, he had no choice. “Military Necessity” would be his defense, should the Americans capture him and put him in front of a tribunal. His Air Force liaison came to him. “Comrade General.”
“Yes, what is it, Comrade Colonel?”
“We can give you some air support. Not much, given how short of fuel we are, but we can give you some helicopter sorties, and maybe some ground-attack aircraft,” the SAF Colonel said.
“At least it's something. How about air cover itself?” Suraykin asked.
“I'm afraid that's not possible. General Petrov says we're hard pressed as it is, keeping the Americans away from the airlift. That has priority over everything else,” the air force officer said.
“How about aircraft from Mexico?”
“The Americans are mounting strikes into Mexico itself, not just here. They're very active over Northern Mexico, and we, along with the Cubans and the Mexicans themselves, are trying to hinder that, Comrade General.” the Colonel replied.
General Suraykin paused. “I see. Still, do what you can, and at least my men will see some of our aircraft overhead. Even if it's for the last time.”
“Comrade General,” the man said.
Suraykin dismissed him. Well, now. At least the Air Force will help us out one last time. Too bad it won't be enough, but maybe, just maybe, they'll give the Americans something to think about. Maybe not, but we'll have to try. He thought for a moment about his family. His wife had died when he was a Captain, attending the Freunze Academy-and had left him a daughter. She was now a student in Leningrad, attending university there. Word had come back that many officers and even some Party officials who had urged a settlement of the war were congregating there, because the climate in Moscow was becoming very unhealthful for those with such an attitude. At least my Natalya is safe, he thought. He'd written one final letter before moving into his current position, but given the airlift's problems, he had no idea if it would make it. Suraykin set that thought aside, and headed into his tent. A few hours' sleep, before things got interesting, was what he needed.
0345 Hours: Hidalgo, Texas.
Major Mendoza was with his First Battalion, which was dug in where Texas Route 336 entered the Hidalgo city limits. The glow of burning vehicles could still be seen to the north, where the Mexican 111th Brigade had been shot to pieces. And the occasional shot from a tank gun or a Bradley's 25-mm chain gun could be heard, as Mexican diehards were mopped up. Mendoza turned to Captain Bernardo Santos, who commanded First Battalion. “Why don't they come, Captain?”
“Perhaps they ran low on ammunition, Comrade Major, or had to refuel?” Santos replied. “In any event, we can make it hot for them, when they do come.”
“That's true, Captain,” Mendoza said. “You've deployed your force well.”
“Thank you, sir. We're as ready as we can be.”
The phone rang in the battalion command post. It was Captain Gonzales from Regimental HQ. Santos handed the phone to the Major. “Yes, Comrade Captain?”
“Comrade Major, there's a Mexican Captain here. He's rallied about three hundred or so men from the 111th Brigade, and they're willing to fight. What are your orders?”
Mendoza was surprised. “How many, Ricardo?”
“About three hundred. Along with four tanks, a couple of assault guns, and even a battery of 76-mm guns,” Gonzales reported.
“I'll be right there.” Mendoza hung up the phone and went to his UAZ jeep. A few minutes later, he was at the regimental HQ, in the Hidalgo City Hall. Captain Gonzales was waiting for him, with a Mexican Army officer alongside.
“Comrade Major, this is Captain Miguel Esteban, 3rd Battalion, 111th Brigade.”
Esteban smartly saluted, “Comrade Major,”
Mendoza returned the salute. “Your men are willing to fight?”
“Absolutely, Comrade Major. Most of my unit is gone, scattered to the winds, but I've managed to rally some survivors from the brigade. My company is here, and the others are a polyglot force. And we want to fight, Major,” Estaban said, with tears in his eyes.
“What happened to your brigade, or do you know?” Mendoza asked.
“My company was bringing up the rear, guarding the brigade's supply and maintenance echelon. A storm of fire blazed up ahead, and before we knew it, vehicles were exploding left and right. I've had no contact with anyone in brigade headquarters, the artillery battalion, nothing,” Esteban said.
“So what do you have, exactly?”
“I have my company of about 150 men, truck-mounted, with all of our heavy weapons-no antitank missiles, but we do have the B-11 recoilless rifles, and RPGs. I've managed to round up four T-34s, two Su-152s, two Su-100s, and a battery of ZIS-3s. It's not much, but it's something,” the Mexican officer said.
“All right,” Mendoza said. “My regiment is weak on the east. If you could take your force here, to the intersection of the Highway 281 spur route and this local road, FM 2061, and establish some position there, it would be a help. Be in position and ready by 0630.”
“Yes, Comrade Major! We'll be in position and prepared to fight,” Esteban said proudly.
“Go, then.” Mendoza said, and the Mexican officer saluted and went off to position his unit. “Well, Ricardo?”
“Comrade Major, why do I have the feeling that something bad is about to happen?”
“I know what you're feeling, Captain. Still, we have to do our duty. Are the engineers finished?” Asked Mendoza.
“The bridge is wired. The main firing point is on the south side of the river.”
“Good. If we're pressed, we'll fall back to the river, get across-by whatever means, and then blow the bridge in the Americans' faces. They won't get a bridgehead here if I can help it.” Mendoza said.
To the north, the company team that had inflicted such frightful destruction on the Mexicans was moving east. The rest of the battalion task force was preparing to attack Hidalgo from the north, but this particular company had found an unpatrolled gap in the Cuban defenses, and exploited it. Once they reached U.S. Highway 281, they would move south, to a junction where 281 turned south to follow the Rio Grande, while a spur route of 281 went into Hidalgo and the International Bridge. It was taking a little bit longer than expected, but the company commander reported to her battalion commander that she would be in position by 0530. And those Cubans are in for a shock, she thought. And we'll chase Fidel's boys across the Rio Grande, all the way to Monterrey.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And the next....anyone guess the female Company Commander in 49th AD?
0410 Hours, Off of Brazos Santiago Pass.
Captain Romonov had spent a restless night. He'd napped in his favorite bridge chair, knowing that he wouldn't have that luxury for very long. The Boiky had made her last voyage, he now knew, but at least he'd get his crew off, and maybe at least his wounded could be flown out. Right now, his chief worry was air attack: with no working air-search radar, their first indication of an incoming missile would be the weapon impact. He had his Exec double the lookouts, and had the crew sleep fully clothed, with life jackets close at hand, just in case. Then he'd dozed off, only to be awakened by his Exec.
“Some more coffee, Comrade Captain?”
“Thank you, Nikolay. Soon, we'll be in port, and at least, we can get our wounded ashore and maybe on a plane out of here.”
“Yes, Comrade Captain. There is that, at least. And if we can't get into port?” the Exec asked.
“We'll run her aground on South Padre Island, and become a coastal battery. The crew, other than those needed to man and service the guns, will go ashore and join the defense there,” Romonov said.
“That's the best one can expect, given what's happening ashore,” the Exec said. “We did the best we could, Comrade Captain, even if it wasn't enough.”
“True that, Nikolay. We did our duty, even if things didn't work out,” said Romonov.
The Watch Officer came up to Romonov. “Comrade Captain, there's a blinker message from shore.”
“What is it?” Romonov asked.
“'Expect patrol vessel with harbor pilot at Sunrise.'” the man said.
“Better that than the bottom,” Romonov said. He turned to his navigator. “How long until Sunrise?”
“Sunrise is at 0635, Comrade Captain.”
0450 Hours: Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport
Major General Vassily Lukin was the ranking VTA (Military Transport Aviation) officer in the pocket, and thus, the airlift was his responsibility. He'd received his orders from General Alekseyev via General Petrov, and he was determined to get as much as he could in, and as many wounded and specialists out. As the wounded went, if a plane was rigged for litter cases, as many as they could were loaded aboard, and then, as many ambulatory cases placed on board, before the plane took off. If the aircraft wasn't so rigged, as many ambulatory cases would go as they could get, and a few of the specialists would go as well. And whenever a passenger plane came in, that was the plane for the specialists to go. To guard against malingerers, a GRU Field Security Unit checked passes, and medical officers checked the wounded, making sure no one with self-inflicted wounds boarded a plane. Those who were caught were shot, regardless of rank. The same went for anyone trying to jump the line.
His office was in what had been the airport manager's before the war, and like his superiors, Lukin felt he'd been handed an impossible job. On some days, he was lucky to have one in three aircraft sent from Cuba arrive, on others, he'd been busy as aircraft came in, unloaded their supplies, took on their human cargo, and lifted off for Cuba or Mexico City. Those days were few and far between. And based on what Petrov had told him the previous afternoon, those days would get fewer.
General Lukin's other problem was the Americans. His runway repair crews had been busy, patching bomb craters in the runway, as well as the ramp area. Not to mention clearing debris to prevent FOD from wrecking jet engines. Several times, he'd had to suspend operations so that FOD could be cleared, and on more than one occasion, the FOD included the wrecks of aircraft caught on the ground.
At least I'm not directly responsible for defending the airport, he thought: that was a Voyska PVO responsibility. The PVO had SAM and antiaircraft gun batteries, but the SAM crews were running short of missiles, and the AA gunners were also short of ammunition. Things were such that when American reconnaissance aircraft came overhead, the air-defense crews had to hold fire: their remaining missiles and AA ammunition had to be saved for an actual attack. Was it like this for the Fascists in Stalingrad? He'd wondered about that. The Americans had pulled off an airlift to keep Denver alive during that siege, and the Party bosses in Moscow had similar ideas here. His thoughts were interrupted by his deputy.
“Comrade General, the weather report.”
Lukin took the report. Another bright and clear day in South Texas, though there was some thunderstorm activity expected over the Gulf of Mexico. They might interfere with some of the aircraft coming in, but at the same time, might help them get past the American patrols in the Gulf. And the expected sea state would not interfere with carrier operations. Too bad, he thought. We could use a hurricane right now. The Americans would have to stop their carrier and land-based patrols over the Gulf, while our planes could fly south to Cancun or Vera Cruz, refuel there, then make the run into our perimeter here. And do the reverse on the return trip. But such was not to be. Like those Germans in the Stalingrad airlift, he'd do his job, until no more could be done. And today promised to be (hopefully) a busy day.
0515 Hours: Soviet Headquarters, Brownsville.
General Alekseyev woke up on his own, for once. He checked his watch. Five hours' sleep. It had been his average for several weeks, and apart from a couple of times where Chbisov had ordered his orderly not to wake him up, he hadn't gotten very much otherwise. Still, he was glad. At least he'd be awake and ready when Powell resumed his attack. And that wouldn't be very long. After shaving, he found breakfast waiting for him, a boiled egg, some bread and jam, and coffee-the latter courtesy of the Cubans. Then he went into the Operations Room, where he found both General Chibisov and Colonel Sergetov already waiting for him. “Good morning, Comrades,” he said.
“Good morning, Comrade General,” Chibisov said. “For once, the night has been relatively quiet.”
“That won't last long,” Alekseyev observed. “When dawn comes, Powell will cut his other two Corps Commanders loose. Anything from Malinsky?”
“Nothing important, just that they are still in contact, and the fights for both McAllen and Edinburg are still going. There was one serious incident, though.” Chibisov reported.
“Comrade General, a Mexican brigade crossed here, at Hidalgo, and apparently got lost. They ran into some Americans-exact size unknown-and were shot to pieces,” said Chibisov.
“Mexicans....did they send those troops across the border on their own?” Alekseyev asked.
“Apparently so, Comrade General,” Sergetov reported.
“All right, inform our liaison officers with the Mexican Ministry of Defense. Request that no more Mexican combat units come north of the Rio Grande. Because, once the Americans are finished with us, they'll move south.” Alekseyev told his aide.
“Right away, Comrade General.”
“Anything else?” Alekseyev asked.
“Admiral Gordikov reports that a single destroyer has made it to Brazos Santiago Pass, Comrade General. It's the only survivor of the second convoy,” reported Chibisov.
“A destroyer?” Alekseyev asked, incredulous at the news.
“Yes, Comrade General, and it's damaged. Her radars and SAM launcher were knocked out, and the Captain wishes to make port. He has wounded who need medical attention ashore.” said Chibisov.
“Let the Admiral handle that. Anything from Moscow?”
“Just this, Comrade General. It just came in.” Sergetov said, handing the General a message form.
Alekseyev scanned the form. It was from the General Secretary himself. The message announced his promotion to full General, and a list of 180 of his officers who were to be promoted one grade was to follow. The same message also promoted Chibisov to Colonel-General. “May I be the first to offer my congratulations, Comrade Colonel-General,” said Alekseyev to Chibisov.
“And may I offer my own to you, Comrade General.”
0525 Hours: East of Hidalgo, Texas
The desert east of the city of Hidalgo was calm at the moment. At the intersection of Spur U.S. 281 and FM 2061, the Mexican survivors of the 111th Brigade were preparing their positions. Captain Esteban estimated that he'd be ready by 0630, as the Cuban commander had told him, and barring an attack by the Norteamericanos, he and his men could get something to eat. Esteban looked around, and saw his men setting up their machine guns and B-11 recoilless rifles, and just behind his company was a battery of World War II-era ZIS-3 76-mm guns: the same guns the Germans had called the “crash-boom”. All he wanted right now was for his men to finish, and then, later, for them to be able to prove themselves.
Just to the east of Captain Esteban's positions, a U.S. Army mechanized company combat team was watching his men digging in. The team commander looked through her binoculars, then through the thermal sight on her Bradley. Those Mexicans were digging in, but a lot of good it would do them. She called her FIST officer-an high-tech artillery spotter-over and asked for some artillery fire on the Mexicans. That was quickly arranged, and as the battalion's attack began, the initial artillery prep came down not on the Cubans, but Esteban's men.
“INCOMING! TAKE COVER!” Estaban shouted as the first 155-mm shells arrived. Shell after shell landed in his area, blasting fighting positions apart, and ripping apart the 76-mm guns. One lucky shot hit one of the ISU-152s, and blew it apart. Then the shelling stopped.
“What's going on? Major Mendoza asked in his command post.
“The Americans are coming, Comrade Major. But not against us, at least initially. There's an attack coming in from the east-right at the Mexicans,” his operations officer reported.
Esteban came out of his hole and looked around. Some of his men were in a daze, clearly in shock after the artillery fire, while others were moving to help the wounded, and get things in shape to fight. He saw the 76-mm gun positions, and knew he had no fire support of his own, other than a few mortars, now. Then the shout came: “TANKS!”
The two M-60A4 platoons led the attack. Turrets swung back and forth, searching out targets. The Bradleys came close behind, ready to protect the tanks from any infantrymen with RPGs. Then the commander gave the order to fire, and 105-mm guns roared.
Captain Esteban hunkered down in his foxhole as the tanks fired. Explosions sounded behind him, and as he peeked out, he saw three of his T-34s, along with both Su-100s and the single remaining ISU-152, ablaze. The remaining T-34 tried to move out, but it, too fell victim to the American tanks, being ripped apart by a single 105-mm shell. And when his recoilless rifles opened fire, they, too, were swiftly destroyed by tank fire. Damn it, if they'd just waited, our positions would've been ready, he thought. His men tried to return fire with machine guns and RPGs, but were cut down. Seeing that, many broke and ran, while Esteban decided to end things. He grabbed his AKM rifle, kicked his radioman and one other solider, and ordered them to follow. It would be a short counterattack. And it was, for all three were cut down by a tank's .50 caliber machine gun.
“Don't stop! Keep going!” Captain Kozak radioed. Her platoon leaders acknowledged, and though Mexicans stood up to surrender, they were just told to start marching to the east, where other Americans would collect them.
In Hidalgo, Major Mendoza swore. The Americans had attacked before the Mexicans were ready. He looked at his map. His regimental reserve, a company from 3rd Battalion, along with a platoon of T-55s, was all that he had available. And his 1st and 2nd Battalions were now under attack themselves. He had no choice now. Mendoza moved his reserve, while ordering a gradual withdrawal towards the bridge. All he could do was delay the inevitable.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Guys, this is the M-60A4 in this timeline: an M-60 hull with the turret of the M-1. Versions ITTL exist with the 105-mm M68 gun as well as the 120-mm M256 gun
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And the next one:
0550 Hours: Gulf Front Headquarters:
General Malinsky was also awake. He'd arisen at 0530, and after a quick shave and breakfast, was in his own Operations Room. He knew that Powell would be coming, and coming soon. The only question was when. Malinsky turned to his own intelligence officer. “Any idea when he'll come, Vassily Abramovich?”
Major General Vassily Gurdonov looked at the map. He shook his head. “All I can say, Comrade General, with no prisoners to interrogate, is that he'll come soon. An hour, maybe two.”
“Agreed.” He turned to Isakov, his Chief of Staff. “Alert Eighth Guards and 28th Armies. Along with the East Germans.”
“Right away, Comrade General,” Isakov said.
“And the fights for McAllen and Edinburg?” Malinsky asked.
“Still ongoing, Comrade General. We've had no word from the Cuban 2nd Army headquarters, though the 24th and 27th Motor-Rifle Divisions have reported in.”
“Heavy fighting in McAllen,Comrade General. If they don't withdraw from the city, they'll likely get pocketed,” Isakov said.
“I'd rather lose a city than lose those divisions. Pull them back. Along with Third Shock Army. Have them break contact, and pull back. And see if you can reestablish contact with the other two divisions in 2nd Army.” Malinsky told his Chief of Staff.
“Immediately, Comrade General,” Isakov said. “We've also heard from the Cuban 53rd Motor-Rifle Regiment at Hidalgo: they're under attack from a brigade-sized force; they were asking about the International Bridge there, before they were cut off.”
“Phone lines cut?” Malinsky asked.
“Presumably, Comrade General. Do you have any orders to give them by radio?”
“Try and raise them. If they can't hold, they must deny the enemy a bridgehead on the Rio Grande: if they get one, we'll never eliminate it. Blow the bridge, at any cost,” Malinsky said.
0615 Hours: West of Russeltown, Texas.
Colonel Suslov was leading from the front, as an airborne officer should. His reconnaissance company had been following the missile vehicles, and he felt the regiment was getting close. Though the General had insisted at first that he accompany the Colonel, he had insisted on the General traveling with the main body of the Regiment, as a precaution. And if those Chekists get in our way, well...there's quite a few old scores with the KGB that need to be settled, he thought. Then his reconnaissance company commander called to him. “Comrade Colonel, I think we've found them.”
Suslov went forward to see for himself. Sure enough, there was an OTR-23 missile vehicle, with three APCs guarding it, along with a UAZ jeep. Through binoculars, he could tell the troops were KGB, even if he couldn't see their shoulder boards. “Any sign of a warhead van?” Suslov asked.
“Not yet, Comrade Colonel,” the lieutenant replied.
Suslov nodded. He turned to his radioman. “Get the General forward. Tell him we've found the missile.”
A few minutes later, General Andreyev arrived. Keeping low, he made his way to Suslov's position. “You have the missile, Comrade Colonel?”
“Have a look for yourself, Comrade General.” Suslov said.
Andreyev looked through his own binoculars. Sure enough it was there. Then something caught his attention. It was a small convoy, with a 6x6 truck in the middle, and a sealed compartment in place of the cargo bed. “That's our warhead, Suslov.”
“No doubt, Comrade General. Just like prewar exercises. Your orders?”
Andreyev turned to his aide. “Get the battalion commanders here, now.”
The two battalion commanders soon arrived. Andreyev quickly gave them their orders. “Right, then. First battalion makes the main assault. Second battalion,” he said, nodding to the commander of that battalion, “Work your way around the right. Keep them from escaping. Third battalion to the left. Same mission. But all of you, do not take out the warhead van under any circumstances.” Suslov and his battalion commanders nodded. “Any questions?”
“Only one, Comrade General,” the 2nd Battalion commander said. “What about prisoners?”
“If you can take one or two of these Chekists alive, good. We need a tongue to tell us where the warheads are. If not, well, they couldn't have been that far away,” Andreyev said, and he saw the other officers nod, including the regiment's own intelligence officer. “Anything else?”
There were no further questions. “All right. First Battalion opens the attack. The signal is a green flare. It's still dark enough that we can all see it. We go in fifteen minutes. Get your men in position, Comrades, and good luck,” Andreyev said.
0625 Hours: Hidalgo, Texas.
Major Mendoza was in the fight of his life. Two American forces, battalion strength at least each, were coming down from the north. And his depleted regiment clearly couldn't hold them. And he knew that he had to commit his reserve. Mendoza turned to his deputy, Captain Gonzalez “Send the reserve to the east. Back up what's left of Third Battalion, and follow up with this order: pull back to the center of town.”
“Right away, Comrade Major!” Gonzalez said, getting on the radio to pass on the order.
Mendoza then turned to his engineering officer. “The charges are in place and the circuit tested?”
“Yes, Comrade Major,” the engineer replied.
“Good,” Mendoza said. He turned to Gonzalez again. “Get our support elements across the river. What prisoners we have, just leave them where they are. Don't kill them, there's no time, and even if there was, we haven't the ammunition. And have the regimental surgeon get the wounded who can move out of here.”
“Yes, Comrade Major,” replied Gonzalez. “And those who cannot be moved?”
“They'll have to be left for the Americans. Issue the orders, Captain.”
Nodding, Gonzalez relayed the orders. “And now, Comrade Major?”
“Pull the regimental command group back to the bridge. And do it fast,” Mendoza said.
To the east of Mendoza's position, the company team coming in from the east was meeting scattered resistance. To the company commander, it appeared the Cubans-and any remaining Mexicans, were falling back. She'd ripped through those Mexicans like a hot knife through butter, and the Cubans seemed to have lost their normal determination. Maybe they're short of ammo, like the Battalion Commander said, she thought.
Her two infantry platoons were dismounted, the better to fight their way into town, while the tanks were in support, along with their Bradleys. Her company XO was dismounted, while she was in her Bradley, but up front. The radios in her command track worked better for some reason than the pack radio her radioman carried. While she worked the radio, keeping in touch with her platoon leaders, and reporting to the battalion commander, her gunner swung the turret from side to side. After she'd talked with her 2nd Platoon leader, she poked her head up out of the commander's hatch, and was confronted with a T-55 coming out of a side street. Grabbing the commander's override, she yelled into the intercom, “AP! TANK RIGHT!” Then she opened fire.
The Bradley's 25-mm chain gun spat armor-piercing shells into the left flank of the T-55, and smoke soon came out the hatches and the engine compartment. The hatches flew open, and the Cuban crew bailed out, only to be cut down by fire from the Bradley, and small-arms fire from the infantrymen of First Platoon. The company commander got on the radio, and asked for any available helicopters to check the side street. It wasn't still light enough for the AH-1s to work, so that was denied. But her Third Platoon, one of the two tank platoons, soon identified more T-55s and took them under fire. Five of the Cuban tanks were destroyed, with the other four pulling back. Then she got an order to halt for the moment: friendly artillery was hitting the area ahead, and her battalion commander didn't want any of his forces in the target zone. Glad for a momentary break, she took off her CVC helmet and grabbed a bottle of water. Her gunner said, “Captain, that was a close one.”
“Too close, if you think about it, Sergeant,” replied Captain Nancy Kozak.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
And the next:
0630 Hours: West of Russeltown, Texas:
General Andreyev watched as Colonel Suslov's desantniki deployed, quickly and quietly. Except for a company from 3rd Battalion posted as a rearguard, the entire 234th Guards Air Assault Regiment was going to mount this attack. He wanted to make sure none of the KGB troops managed to escape, and so his men went into position. Colonel Suslov would decide, though, when to attack: it was his regiment, after all. Then, the green flare shot into the air, and machine guns and SPG-9 recoilless rifles opened fire, along with the First Battalion's mortars. Then Colonel Suslov stood up, and shouted “URRAH!” and paratroopers charged the missile site. Metis (AT-7) missiles reached out to the APCs, killing the two BMP-2s and a BTR-70, while RPGs killed a BRDM. Then the desantniki were in the missile site itself, and a brief, but vicious, firefight ensued. A few minutes later, Colonel Suslov called the General. All clear.
General Andreyev went forward, with the Regimental command group, and found Colonel Suslov and the First Battalion's paratroopers checking the bodies of the KGB troops. “Well done, Comrade Colonel,” Andreyev said. “Any prisoners?”
“Not yet, but we're still checking. But the warhead van is intact, as ordered,” Suslov said.
“Excellent, Colonel,” Andreyev said.
Major Dimitry Polyakov, the Regiment's deputy commander, came up to his two superiors. “Comrade General, Colonel, First battalion has three killed and four wounded. No casualties from the other battalions.”
“Good, Major,” Andreyev replied. “How serious are the casualties?”
“No word yet from the Regimental Surgeon, but he's busy,” Polyakov said.
A shout came from the warhead van. Several paratroopers had found a KGB lieutenant alive, though shot through both legs, where he'd crawled underneath the van. They hauled him in front of the General. “Comrade General, your orders?” Asked Suslov.
Andreyev turned to the Regimental Intelligence Officer. “Find out where the rest of the warheads are. Do whatever it takes. And check the officer bodies: they may have a map or two somewhere.”
“Right away, Comrade General.” the intelligence officer replied. He had the paratroopers check the bodies, while he began questioning the KGB officer. A few screams later, and the man began talking. The Intelligence Officer came back to the General and Colonel Suslov. “Comrades, he talked. He says the warheads are in their storage vans.”
Andreyev and Suslov nodded. “Where are they right now?” Andreyev asked.
The intelligence officer opened his map. He pointed to the intersection of FM 2893 and FM 1575, north of Indian Lake. “There, Comrades.”
“Verify that,” Andreyev ordered.
The intelligence man went to the warhead van, and began rummaging through the cab. He came back with a map. And even though it was contrary to regulations, the KGB troops had marked their positions on the map. One of which showed the warhead storage. He took it to the KGB man, and it didn't take long to confirm the information. “I believe he's telling the truth, Comrades,” the intelligence officer reported.
“All right,” Andreyev said. “Colonel, get the regiment ready to move as soon as possible.” Seeing Suslov nod, he went on, “And put some of your best men on that van. We're bringing it with us.”
“Comrade General.” Suslov said. “And the prisoner?”
“Dispose of the Chekist. Do it quietly, though.”
The intelligence officer nodded, and drew his combat knife. He simply went over to the KGB man, and slit his throat.
Seeing that, Andreyev nodded. “Let's get moving, Colonel. We're only half finished.”
“The missile?” The OTR-23 was still intact.
“Use some of the KGB's own RPGs on it. Then let's go.” Andreyev said.
0655 Hours: Brazos Santiago Pass
Captain Romonov sat on the bridge of the Boiky, waiting for a pilot to take his ship into the Port of Brownsville. He did so with a heavy heart, knowing now that his ship would never sail again. And it was becoming likely that the Boiky would have to be scuttled. Still, the ship had one final part to fulfill: getting the wounded ashore. His Exec came up to him. “Comrade Captain, there's a corvette coming out from the pass. We've exchanged blinker signals, and it's got our pilot aboard.”
Romonov nodded. “Very well, Nikolay. Signal him to come alongside.”
“Comrade Captain,” the Exec said, “We...”
BOOM! An explosion sounded forward, and both Romonov and the Exec ran to the bridge wing. A fountain of water was coming back down, a kilometer away, and pieces of debris were also raining down. “Mother of...that was the corvette!” the Exec yelled.
“Not anymore,” Romonov observed. “Where's the minefield?”
Going back inside, both officers went into the chart room. They quickly found the minefields, and the safe-transit lane. “That Grisha was in the transit lane, Comrade Captain.”
“And you know full well what that means, Nikolay. The Americans have mined the transit lane,” Romonov pointed out.
“That could've been us, easily,” the Exec said.
“Very much so. Launch one of the ship's boats to check for survivors, though I doubt there are any,” Romonov said.
“Orders, Comrade Captain?”
“Blinker this to shore, and request relay to Naval Headquarters, Brownsville. 'Corvette carrying pilot sunk by suspected American mine. Unless further orders received, Boiky will run aground at South Padre Island to become a battery.'”
“Right away, Comrade Captain.” the Exec said.
0715 Hours: Gulf Front Headquarters
General Malinsky put the phone down. It had been General Trimenko. Powell had renewed his attack, only a few minutes earlier. He'd opened with a heavy artillery barrage, and American aircraft were roaming the sky overhead, seeking out targets. Just as expected, Malinsky thought. At least Anton is up north in Alberta, he thought, and isn't in this mess. Then General Isakov came to him. “Comrade General,”
“Ah, Isakov. Powell's coming, as expected.”
“Yes, Comrade General. At least Third Shock Army and the Cuban 2nd Army have completed their withdrawal from McAllen and Edinburg,” Isakov reported.
“And the East Germans?” Malinsky asked.
“Pulling back, and they're under heavy pressure, Comrade General.” Isakov said, pointing at the map. “General Metzler reports he's leaving the 40th Air Assault Regiment to fight a rearguard. Here, at the town of Elsa.”
Malinsky looked at the map. “That leaves him without a reserve, correct?”
“Except for an independent tank regiment that's at half strength, yes, Comrade General.” Isakov said.
Then there was the other issue. “And the Cubans?” Malinsky asked.
“The Cuban 2nd Army is back in contact, and all four of its divisions, along with its tank brigade, have moved to their new positions,” Isakov said. “Their phone lines were down-presumably by guerrilla action, and their radios were being jammed, but the message got through.”
“Good. And that Cuban regiment in Hidalgo?”
“Still fighting, Comrade General.”
0740 Hours: Hidalgo, Texas.
Major Mendoza was with his regiment's command group at the north side of the International Bridge. His regiment's support echelon, along with his wounded, had already crossed into Mexico, along with what remained of his artillery battalion. They would set up across the river and continue firing in support, but with only two guns left now, there wasn't much they could do, he knew. And American counter-battery fire or aircraft could deal with those two guns very quickly, once they found the new firing positions. Now, his Second Battalion, or what was left of it, was congregating just north of the bridge.
Captain Raul Gomez, the acting commander of 2nd Battalion, came to him. “Comrade Major, 2nd Battalion's here, or what's left of it.”
“How many left?” Mendoza wanted to know.
“About two companies' worth, Comrade Major, and no heavy weapons left.”
Mendoza knew that with no heavy weapons, the battalion didn't stand a chance. And he'd seen what the M-60A4 could take: with that M-1 turret, and side skirts with reactive armor, an RPG didn't do much. And the Bradleys also had some reactive armor installed on them, he knew. “All right, Captain. You've done all you can. Get your battalion across the river.”
Nodding his head yes, Gomez went back to his shattered battalion, while Major Mendoza turned to his deputy. “What's with Third Battalion, Gonzalez?”
“They're in worse shape, Comrade Major.” Responded Captain Gonzalez. “They're getting hammered. And American helicopter gunships are now in the air.”
“It's light enough,” Mendoza observed. “Pull them back, as best they can. And get First Battalion ready to fall back. Once they get here, we're crossing ourselves. And signal the engineers: if we're overrun, blow the bridge.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
This is a great story
Getting lots of Ideas
I like 13th Armored Cavalry Regiment, American Liberation Army and Political Security Department. I wonder if you see them in the Twlight World.
I am also thinking the Red Dawn as described here would make a great alternate opening and setting to Twlight 2000. Just change the place and Division. I think the would be the same.
The M-60A4 looks like a fun vehcile that maybe you see in post twilight america?
I will not hide. I will not be deterred nor will I be intimidated from my performing my duty, I am a Canadian Solider.
Anyone pick up some of the other characters yet?
GDLS has promoted the 120S to several real-world M-60 operators, but received no orders.
And on with the show....
0815 Hours: Soviet Headquarters, Brownsville
General Alekseyev knew it before he'd gotten the report. Powell was coming. Not just through McAllen and Edinburg, but also from the north as well. Malinsky had relayed General Trimenko's information, along with that coming from the Cuban 1st Army. They were facing II MAF, and two divisions of Marines were coming after them. And just as they'd done with the Nicaraguans, a Marine battalion had landed behind the Cuban lines in small rubber boats, prior to first light, and the Cubans had found out too late. Though the Marine landing had been contained, the pressure on the Cuban line from the north was building, and soon, they'd have to fall back.
“Comrade General,” Chibisov said, “We've gotten a message from General Andreyev.”
“What is it?” Alekseyev asked.
“It reads: 'Mission success One. Proceeding to second objective. Minimal casualties.'”
“Good, Chibisov. It's time I let you in on a secret. Come to my office.” Alekseyev then walked his Chief of Staff to his office, closing the door behind them. Then he went to his own map. “Pavel Pavlovitch, I've been keeping this secret. Not even Colonel Sergetov knows.” And Alekseyev briefed Chibisov on what General Voltov had told him, and his decision to send Andreyev after the culprits.
“Of all the.....Not only do we have a Chekist as General Secretary, just as we did with Andropov, but these....what are they thinking?” Chibisov asked.
“Who knows, Pavel Pavlovitch? Perhaps it's a desire to be remembered by the survivors of a nuclear holocaust as those that started it, or some other mad scheme. Still, sending Andreyev and his men was done on my authority. Not even Marshal Ahkromeyev in Moscow knows,” Alekseyev said.
“Prudent, Comrade General. Who knows if someone on his staff is in the KGB's pay?”
“Precisely. Now, once Andreyev has secured the warheads, he'll bring them here, to this headquarters. And we'll get rid of them. That freighter that arrived yesterday will do,” Alekseyev said.
“I see. Load the warheads on the freighter and then scuttle the ship.” Chibisov said.
“Yes. And we can say that the warheads were denied to the enemy when it's time for our final report to Moscow. And when the Americans arrive, we can point out the wreck, and their own salvage teams will recover the warheads.” Alekseyev told his Chief of Staff.
Then Alekseyev's phone rang. It was Colonel Sergetov. “Comrade General, your presence is needed in the Operations Room.”
“I'll be right there.” Alekseyev hung up the phone and both generals returned to the Operations Room. Admiral Gordikov was there. “Comrade General, I've got some really bad news.”
“We've already had some this morning, Admiral. What is it?” Alekseyev wanted to know.
“The Americans have mined the entrance to the shipping channel. Either by aircraft, or by a submarine. At any rate, a corvette was going out to bring a harbor pilot to the destroyer Boiky, and he set off a mine, most certainly a bottom mine. No survivors, Comrade General.” Gordikov reported.
“Last week, you were mentioning that as a possibility, Comrade Admiral,” Chibisov said.
“Yes, Comrades, I did,” Gordikov replied. “I'm surprised it took the Americans this long to do so.”
“Then how did the Cherepovets and the ship that ran aground on Padre Island get here?” Alekseyev asked.
“A bottom mine can be set to ignore, say, the first one or two ships, Comrade General. But the third....” Gordikov's voice trailed off.
“That's it for convoys, then?” Chbisov asked.
“I'm afraid so. I do have a couple of minesweepers, but they're short of fuel, just like the other ships.”
Alekseyev paused, digesting the information. He turned to Chibisov. “Notify Havana. No further convoys. All resupply in the future to be by air.”
0840 Hours: Hidalgo, Texas.
Major Mendoza looked around. The remnants of his First Battalion were now deployed just north of the International Bridge, but what was left of Third Battalion were nowhere to be seen. He ordered Captain Gonzalez to find them and get them into the perimeter. Nodding, the Captain put on his steel helmet and left the old U.S. Customs building at the bridge, and headed out to where Third Battalion was still fighting-he hoped. And there was something else to worry about: not just American helicopter gunships, but also American aircraft, for A-7s and A-10s were loitering overhead, searching for targets. And when they found a target, they rolled in with bombs, rockets, and cannon fire. Then his radioman came to him. “Comrade Major, there's a message from 2nd Army HQ.”
“About time,” Mendoza said. He went into the building, where his regiment's staff was working. “The message?” He asked his Chief of Staff, Captain Ernesto Lopes.
“They relayed a message from Front Headquarters, Comrade Major. Blow the bridge, at all costs.”
“That's good enough for me. Captain, get the command group across the bridge. Now,” Mendoza said.
“Immediately, Comrade Major,” Lopes said. And the staff gathered up their materials. They'd already destroyed their classified documents already, so it didn't take long. While that was going on, Mendoza went outside, and found the acting commander of First Battalion, Captain Bernado Soto. “Soto, cover us when we go across the bridge. And any word from Third Battalion?”
“No word, Comrade Major. I think they're done for. We'll cover you,” Soto assured the Major.
Nodding, Mendoza motioned the command group to get across. There was a lot of fire directed their way, from both American ground forces and from aircraft. Lopes asked, “You're coming, Comrade Major?”
“As soon as Captain Gonzalez returns, or it's obvious he won't. Get across, and set up on the other side. If I don't make it, tell the engineers to blow the bridge.”
“Right, Comrade Major!” And Lopes and the command group went across, on foot.
Captain Soto came back to Mendoza, “Major, I think I see Captain Gonzalez,” he said, pointing to the east, along Spur 281.
Mendoza looked through his own binoculars. Sure enough, it was Gonzalez, along with thirty or so soldiers, and even a T-55, which had its turret turned to the rear, and giving cover fire. Then, all of a sudden, the tank exploded. Gonzalez picked himself up, and the two dozen surviving riflemen, and began to run towards the bridge. Just before he and the men got to the shrinking perimeter, a storm of fire came from the east, both tanks and Bradleys, and all were cut down.
“Comrade Major, that's it. Get yourself across, now!” Soto yelled.
“What about you and your men?” Mendoza asked.
“We'll do our duty to the end. Remember us in Havana.” Soto said, snapping a perfect salute.
Mendoza returned it, then ran as Soto's men gave cover fire. And the Americans sprayed the bridge with small-arms, machine-gun, and 25-mm fire as he did. Just as he reached the Mexican side, he caught a round in his shoulder, but he staggered across. Lopes came to him with a medic. “Can you stand, Major?”
Nodding, Mendoza did so. As he did, he watched as First Battalion was overwhelmed. And then he saw American tanks and Bradleys heading for the bridge. Lopes knew the order, and signaled to the engineers. Now.
The Hidalgo International Bridge blew up in Kozak's face, just as the lead tank from Third Platoon reached the old Port of Entry. As the smoke cleared, she saw the two spans closest to the American side fall into the river. Cursing, she called the Battalion Commander. The bridge was down, and there was no chance of a bridgehead in Mexico. She was ordered to hold her position, and assist in mopping up. For now, the battle was over.
0920 Hours: South Padre Island, Texas.
Captain Romonov brought the Boiky up to the former resort town, and he wasn't looking for a mooring. This was his ship's last voyage under power, and he was looking for a spot to put him aground. His AA gunners were at their stations, but apart from his engineering staff, everyone was preparing to leave the ship. Romonov was looking for the perfect spot, and he soon found one. Right opposite from a prewar hotel, he turned his ship so that his guns could face the sea, with a full arc of fire. Then he backed his ship onto the beach. The ship lurched to a stop.
“All stop.” he told the quartermaster.
“All stop, Comrade Captain. Engines answer all stop.”
His Exec came onto the bridge. “Everything is ready, Comrade Captain. First the wounded, then the rest of the crew.”
“Very well, Nikolay.” He turned to the gunnery officer. “Vassily, Boiky is yours, now. Make it hot when the Americans come.”
“We will, Comrade Captain.”
Romonov turned to the Exec. “All right, let's get the wounded off. Then the nonessential members of the crew.”
The grounded destroyer soon became a focus of attention. The Naval Infantrymen from the 175th Brigade came to the aid of the crew, and soon the wounded were en route to a hospital in Brownsville itself. The crew, under the Exec, became a scratch company assigned to defend the area near their ship, while Romonov was ordered to report to Admiral Gordikov and report on what had happened to the convoy and his ship.
0950 Hours: Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport:
General Petrov watched as the transports came in. Some were coming in from Mexico, and they were mainly the An-24s and An-26s. Though limited in what they could bring in, at least for the most part they didn't have to run a gauntlet of American land- and carrier-based fighters to get to their destination. Most of the An-24s were rigged for passengers, and many of the specialists earmarked for evacuation got on those aircraft. The An-26s brought in supplies, mostly food and ammunition, and were quickly unloaded. They, too,mainly took passengers, either walking wounded or specialists, sitting on the folding paratrooper seats, while stretcher cases were loaded onto the cargo floor. The heavy transports mostly came in from Cuba, and the losses so far had been serious. On some days, only one in three aircraft sent made it from the island, but on others, when the weather had been rough, the inbound and outbound aircraft had an easier time of it. The first aircraft in from Cuba was a Cubana Airlines Il-62, and it, too would take specialists out. General Voltov came up to Petrov.
“I take it this is my plane. Thank you, Comrade General.”
“No thanks necessary, Voltov. General Alekseyev wanted you and your men out first today, so thank him,” Petrov replied.
“Let me guess: low-level all the way to Havana?” Voltov asked. He was no fool: he'd heard how rough things were.
“Hopefully, that won't be the case,” Petrov said. “Here, give this to my wife. She's in Minsk. Just in case I don't get out of here myself.”
“Of course, Comrade General.” Voltov said as he took the letter. Saluting, he went to the ramp, where his staff and some of his missile techs were waiting. They had a priority pass, and the wounded glared at them with open hostility. The mobile stairway arrived, and the plane was quickly loaded with its human cargo. The plane then taxied to the runway, the pilot gunned the engines, and the Il-62 climbed into the sky, headed for Havana.
Petrov had another problem manifest itself: many of those trying to get on a plane wanted to take their ill-gotten gains with them. One GRU officer drew suspicions due to a heavy briefcase. When it was searched, it was found to be full of looted jewelry. Such behavior had been tolerated, even encouraged, in the early days, and up until the Americans' final offensive, but now, it was different. Petrov ordered such material confiscated, and those trying to smuggle it out were given summary courts-martial, and shot by the GRU Field Security unit. But that didn't deter some from trying.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
The next one:
1030 Hours: Headquarters, 4th Guards Tank Army, Harlingen.
General Suraykin woke from his sleep. His Chief of Staff had decided to let him sleep in, as sleep would be in short supply for the next few days. After a brief update from newly promoted Major General Golvoko, he freshened up. If this was to be his last battle, he wanted to be perfectly groomed.
His divisional commanders were waiting for him when he was finished. When he saw them, he saw that one of them, too, had been promoted. Gennady Markov had been a Colonel the previous afternoon. Now he was a Major General. Moscow's promoting everyone, it seemed to Suraykin. “Congratulations, Markov.”
“Thank you, Comrade General. Though I do realize it's a double-edged honor.” Markov said.
“Moscow's playing the same game Hitler did with Paulus' Army,” Golvoko observed.
“Quite so,” Suraykin observed. “Now, Comrades, to business.” His commanders paid attention to the map. “We're likely to be under Malinsky's command before too long. But our orders remain unchanged. Hold the Highway 77-83 junction at all costs for forty-eight hours.”
Heads nodded. “Any changes?” Markov asked.
“Only this: We may have some air support. The Air Force says we'll have some helicopter sorties, and some ground-attack aircraft. Not many, but some,” Suraykin told the assembled officers.
General Chesnikov smiled. “So the Air Force is going out with us?”
“Apparently so, Comrades,” Suraykin replied.
“What about civilians, Comrade General?” the commander of 38th Tank Division asked.
“Once the defenses are ready, let them go. Malinsky's forces are still in front of us, and there's not much chance of someone getting to the Americans with his forces still there,” Suraykin said.
The generals nodded. They knew what had happened already to some captured Soviet officers who'd ordered massacres. The Americans had tried them for war crimes, convicted most of them, and though a number had already been condemned to death, were waiting on the end of the war before executing them. That didn't apply to collaborators, though, as their intelligence briefings said.
“There's still some of those who have assisted us, Comrade General,” Chesnikov said. “What about them?”
“If they want to help, let them,” Suraykin said. “With luck, they'll get killed by the Americans, and save both us and the U.S. Army the trouble of shooting them later. If I had my way, I'd shoot the whole lot of those PSD swine.”
“If only we had the ammunition, Comrade General,” his intelligence officer said.
“Indeed.” Suraykin observed. “If any of them give any trouble, hang them instead.”
1050 Hours: Reynosa, Mexico
Major Mendoza had refused to be medically evacuated: his regimental surgeon was insisting that he needed surgery on his shoulder, but Mendoza was insistent: he was waiting to see if any survivors of First Battalion had made it across the river. And so far, very few had. Most, it appeared, had either been captured or killed. He watched through an artillery spotter's scope, as it was too painful for him to lift his left arm to use his binoculars, as American troops moved through the riverfront, and methodically cleared out the remaining Cubans in Hidalgo. Some of his men, he saw, had had enough and were willing to surrender. Others, though, continued fighting until they were blasted out. As firing died away, he noticed an American company team move along the riverbank, and take up positions facing his side of the river. The last thing he wanted was an assault crossing: he couldn't resist one if it happened, and he strongly doubted the Mexicans would, either. Then he saw two Bradleys pull up to the American side of the dropped International Bridge, and their commanders left their vehicles. And they appeared to be talking. One of the Bradley commanders threw down the helmet, and appeared to be angry. The other commander was talking to the angry one, and after a few minutes, calmed down his counterpart, mounted his vehicle, and drove away.
Across the river, Captain Nancy Kozak was in a rage. She heard from some locals who'd come out of their basements that the Rio Grande was shallow, and that her tanks and Bradleys could easily cross it. It may not be like Remagen, she thought, but at least we'd have a bridgehead in Mexico. Then her Battalion Commander had arrived to give her the bad news. They were headed east, not south, following U.S. 281. There were a couple of bridges across the river, and they needed to be seized to keep the Soviets and Cubans on this side of the river. And nobody was to cross into Mexico, except on orders from Division or higher. Hearing that, she had not been happy at that news. At least her battalion CO had been understanding: from what he'd told her, the other company commanders were just as pissed off as she was. Now, Kozak went into her Bradley and first, gave her crew the bad news. Then she radioed her platoon leaders: after refueling and resupply, be ready to move east.
“Ma'am,” her gunner said, “It could be worse.”
“What do you mean, Sergeant?” she asked.
“What would they say if we'd gotten across, and not only had a bridge, but had Reynosa, too?
Kozak thought for a minute. “Take a city in Mexico and then what? Give it back?
“Yes, Ma'am.” the gunner said.
“You're right: if we did that, and got orders to pull back, we'd have everybody in Reynosa coming with us.” She plugged in her CVC helmet, “Terri, crank us up, we're going back to the city hall.”
1130 Hours: Soviet Headquarters, Brownsville
General Alekseyev was watching his map again. Powell's renewed attack was pushing Malinsky's forces south, a little faster than he'd thought. Given that the Americans had control of the air and sea, that was no surprise. And though the remaining Soviet fighters in the perimeter had shifted to the Brownsville International Airport, it was only a matter of time before they were either destroyed, or forced to fly south themselves. His thoughts were interrupted by Colonel Sergetov. “Comrade General, Admiral Gordikov is here, with the destroyer captain.”
“Show them in, Colonel.”
Sergetov nodded, then brought the two naval officers in. “Comrade General,” Admiral Gordikov said, “May I present Captain 2nd Rank Romonov, of the Boiky.”
Alekseyev came over and shook the destroyer captain's hand. “Comrade Captain, you've had an impossible job. I take it you've recounted your story to the Admiral?”
“Yes, Comrade General,” Romonov said.
“Very good, I'd like to hear it,” Alekseyev said.
And Romonov did so, recounting the first air strikes that forced his convoy to scatter, then seeing ships on the horizon succumb to either air or submarine attack, and even one ship take fire from an American cruiser. Then he told of his ship's final battle, trying to protect a group of stragglers, and having his destroyer seriously damaged in the process. And the final act, seeing a corvette blown sky-high by a mine, and then running his ship aground to become a shore battery. “Comrade General, all I ask now is that my wounded crew members get the attention they need, and maybe, just maybe, some can get flown out of here.”
“I can't promise the latter,” Alekseyev said, “But your wounded will get what attention we can provide.”
“Thank you, Comrade General.” Romonov said, bowing his head.
“There's one other thing. As Commander-in-Chief of the American TVD, I'm empowered to grant immediate awards in the field,” Alekseyev said. He picked up a small box on his desk in the Operations Room. “You deserve this, Comrade Captain.”
Romonov opened the box. Inside was the gold star of a Hero of the Soviet Union. “Comrade General.”
“You've done an impossible job, getting your ship to safety-a relative thing these days, but still...And you did your best to defend the ships under your protection,” said Alekseyev.
“My crew deserves this, Comrade General. I don't.” Romonov said, remembering those of his crew who had been killed in action.
“True, but you honor them with this award,” Alekseyev reminded the naval officer.
1200 Hours: Gulf Front Headquarters, Harlingen, Texas
General Malinsky knew the front was getting close. His headquarters was under American long-range artillery fire, and had been bombed three times since dawn broke. Malinsky knew that it was getting close to having to move his headquarters, but he hadn't expected it so soon. Then General Isakov came up.
“Comrade General, it's time to move the headquarters, before it's too late to move.”
“I know, Isakov,” Malinsky said. “Do you have anyplace specific in mind?”
“Here, Comrade General,” Isakov said, pointing at the map. “San Benito Community College.”
Malinksy studied the map. “All right, Isakov. Get the advance echelon ready to move. As soon as they're set up, I'll move there. You keep things running here, until I'm at the new location. Then get yourself and the remaining staff south.”
Isakov nodded. “Very well, Comrade General. At least it's got the room, and we can....” He was interrupted by a staff officer bringing a message form “Comrade General, the bridge at Hidalgo was blown. Before the Americans could take it.”
“Good, Isakov. At least that's not something we have to worry about. And how are the East Germans doing?”
“So far, they're holding, but barely. General Metzler will have to pull back within the hour, I would estimate.” Isakov said, pointing out Metzler's positions.
“I'm surprised they're still in the fight,” Malinsky said. “Knowing that the GDR no longer exists, but they're fighting anyway.”
Isakov nodded. “General Metzler's political department has been keeping a tight lid on that. Any rumor mongers in the ranks are shot. And he's got practically no cases of soldiers deserting to the enemy.”
“Compare that with the Nicaraguans. Now, guess who I'd want beside me in a fight.” Malinsky said.
“Yes, Comrade General. About the movement of the headquarters?” Isakov asked.
“Get that going at once.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
There is a lot of material here that could be incorporated into T2K, and in fact Matt's presentation of the Red Dawn storyline is more enjoyable and maybe a bit more realistic than T2K itself. I've never been all that comfortable with some aspects of T2K, particularly the nuclear overkill. I think the whole game would be a lot more enjoyable or even believable if there was only a limited nuclear exchange.
1220 Hours: East German 9th Panzer Division, La Bianca, Texas
Colonel Albert Schliecher stood outside his command post. What had been the little town's community center was now his headquarters, and the Colonel shook his head. So it has come to this, he thought. He'd taken command of the division after the General had gone forward to rally the 22nd Panzer Regiment, and the General's command vehicle had taken a missile from an American A-10. Now, his division was at barely 50% strength in armor, but a little more in terms of personnel. But it was obvious that he'd have to fight with what he had, and right now, another delaying action was needed. Two of the three Panzer regiments in the division were at half strength, and the 9th Motor-Rifle Regiment was in the same position, but the 23rd Panzer Regiment was in much worse shape. This time, he knew, he'd have to sacrifice a unit to ensure the survival of the rest of the division. Something like this, you didn't handle over the phone, so after talking with his chief of staff, Schleicher went to the 23rd's laager.
There, he found a reinforced panzer battalion, made up of survivors from all three battalions, with a motor-rifle company mounted in old BTR-60s. At least the tanks were still T-72s, the Colonel thought. A lieutenant conducted him to the regiment's command vehicle, where Major Hans-Georg Below was waiting. “Comrade Major,”
Below stood to attention, “Comrade Colonel, what brings you to the 23rd?”
“I have a mission for you, and it's likely going to be your last. I need the 23rd to become the divisional rearguard,” Schliecher said.
Below paused. This, he knew, meant that his regiment, or correctly, what remained of it, would be sacrificed. “Comrade Colonel, you do know what that means?”
“I do. But the battle group is falling back, and I need you to hold off the Americans for at least an hour. Maybe more, if you can.”
Major Below went to his map. “Comrade Colonel, I'd rather go out in one final attack, than this. You're asking me to hold off the American 31st Mechanized Division with just a single battalion's worth of men and equipment.”
“Are you questioning the order, Major?” Schleicher said, with an ominous tone of voice.
“No, Comrade Colonel. I'd rather make one final attack, than fight a rearguard,” Below said, pointing at the map.
“Just hold the town for an hour. No more. After that, you can withdraw,” the divisional commander said.
“Those of us who are still alive, that is.” Below said.
Schliecher knew it. It wasn't likely that there'd be anyone left to withdraw, but he had no choice, His orders from General Metzler were clear: the 9th Panzers had to withdraw, and if that meant sacrifice of a unit to preserve the bulk of the division, so be it. Still...”If it looks like you're going to be overrun, you have the authority to withdraw. I can't put that in writing, but..” He turned to the Regiment's Political Officer. “So that you both know. The Regiment's commander, or the senior surviving officer, has the authority to withdraw if the situation becomes untenable. Do I make myself clear?”
Both Below and his Political Officer understood. “You do, Comrade Colonel,” both of them said.
“All right, then. Good luck.” Schliecher said, with the rumble of artillery fire getting closer. That meant the other two panzer regiments, and the 9th MRR, were in trouble, and they'd be pulling back soon. Climbing back into his command vehicle, he wondered, are those leaflets the Americans have been dropping true? Did NATO really reform, and drive east? Can those photographs of West Germans and our own people shaking hands in Berlin be true, or are they faked somehow? Those thoughts filled his mind as he returned to divisional headquarters. Shaking them from his mind, Schleicher gave the orders for the rest of the division to fall back.
1300 Hours: San Benito Municipal Airport, San Benito, Texas
Captain Ivan Gorovets looked around the small office in the hangar. By the fact that he was the senior surviving pilot, he was in command of the 377th Ground Attack Regiment. Regiment, he snorted, what regiment? Eight surviving Su-25s, plus a half-dozen too badly shot up to fly again, and now being used as decoys. Lovely. Right now, he had more pilots than planes, and plenty of munitions, but fuel was a problem. And they want me to support the 4th GTA when the time comes? How, pray tell, is that possible? Right now, his pilots were in another office, trying to sleep. General Petrov himself had called, pulling the 377th out of combat to get ready for what was going to be their final battle. And what do we do when we're out of planes, Gorovets had asked the General. And Petrov had no answer.
He was interrupted by Senior Lieutenant Alexi Morzik. He'd been with the Regiment for over a year, and had the Gold Star for bringing an Su-25 back with major battle damage during the fighting in Corpus Christi. “Comrade Captain, There's an An-12 orbiting overhead.”
“What?” Gorovets asked. “This field's too small. What's he doing?”
“I'm not sure, Comrade Captain. You'd better come and see for yourself.”
The two officers, along with several of the other pilots, as well as ground staff, came out to watch. Sure enough, an An-12 transport was circling overhead, with two MiG-29s escorting it. Then the plane turned to the east, before making a run on the field from about five hundred meters' altitude. “If he's dropping reinforcements, they're jumping into a real fire,” one of the other pilots observed.
Gorovets thought about that, If that Party stooge was still around, that pilot would be in trouble. At least the Americans took care of that, for the Zampolit had been killed in an air attack a few days earlier. Then he saw it. “Parachutes. Large ones.”
It was obvious: this was a supply drop. Gorovets turned to the other officers, “Let's go see what we've got.”
They piled into two UAZ jeeps and drove to where some of the supplies had been dropped. Some was clearly food, packed into pallets. Others were medical supplies. And one was a rubberized fuel bladder, full of jet fuel. “All right, turn the food and medicine over to the supply point for distribution. But the jet fuel's for us. And call up the Air Force Liaison for 4th Guards Tank Army: we've got the fuel, and can give you a few more sorties.”
The supply drops were but a drop in the bucket. General Petrov reported as such to Alekseyev. Several of the supply planes had been shot down, while others had misdropped. But most of what was needed had landed in the right place, but like at Stalingrad, it wasn't enough. At least the supply aircraft, after making their runs, had come into Brownsville International to pick up wounded and others earmarked for evacuation. Only one incident marred things: a pair of F-14s had gotten into the transport stream and downed three An-26s and a pair of escorting MiGs. But, as Petrov had also warned Alekseyev, things like that were bound to increase.
1320 Hours: East German 23rd Panzer Regiment: La Bianca, Texas
Major Below climbed into his T-72, knowing full well it was for the last time. Though he would have preferred to mount one final attack, holding the Americans here meant that the bulk of the 9th Panzer Division would get away. He'd briefed his subordinates, and impressed on them the need to delay the Americans for as long as possible, but also emphasized what Colonel Schleicher had told him: if the position became untenable, they were authorized to withdraw. And that meant even if it was a platoon commander who made that decision, so be it.
Even the civilians knew something was happening. Though the East Germans had not gone out of their way to antagonize the locals, some had been forced to work on the defenses. But you didn't need any military experience to realize that the East Germans were expecting a fight, and those civilians who could took shelter in their basements and storm cellars. Those who didn't have such shelters of their own were taken in by their friends and neighbors. And so the town of La Bianca got ready for the fight that was coming.
Below had only a battalion-plus sized force of tanks, and a motor-rifle company in BTR-60Ps-the open-topped version of the venerable APC. His artillery was the dependable 2S1 152-mm, and at least he had two batteries. One battery, though, was set up to give direct fire, and the other battery was ready to give general support. Now, he thought as he surveyed the field, where are they?
The Americans had noticed his preparations and made some of their own. The 31st Mechanized Division's 2nd Brigade led the attack, and the brigade commander decided on forgoing the usual artillery preparation, and called in the Air Force to take out the East German guns, and as many tanks as possible. And the A-10s, which went by various nicknames in the Soviet Bloc forces, came down on the town.
Explosions sounded in the background, as Below soon heard. He got on the radio to his commanders, and was told A-10s were about. The 23rd had lost nearly all of its air defense vehicles, and only a pair of ZSU-23-4s were left. Those two vehicles didn't survive the first minute, as they were taken out, and the A-10s systematically destroyed Below's artillery. Then, Below saw a sight that chilled him: M-60A4 tanks and Bradley IFVs approaching his front. Then American artillery laid down a pattern of White Phosphorous in front of him, and the smoke blinded the East German tank crews and the infantry's Sagger missile teams. But it didn't blind the American tankers, who had thermal sights, and they began firing.
Tank after tank exploded, before Below could give the order to fire. Then his motor-rifle company commander called in, “Anna One, they're behind us!”
“Say again, Sara One. Say again?” Below responded.
“Anna One, they've come around the flanks. Armor and infantry vehicles are in the town itself. There's a tank not twenty meters....” A boom was heard, then silence. Below knew the motor-rifle company had been overrun. He knew it was over, but he wouldn't surrender, and retreat was out of the question. “All Anna elements, this is Anna One. Advance!”
The remnants of the 23rd Panzer Regiment moved out of their positions and went forward. There, they met a battalion task force from the 2nd Brigade, 31st Infantry Division (Mechanized). It was all over in less than two minutes. At the cost of two tanks disabled by T-72s, and one Bradley destroyed, the remaining tanks of the 23rd Panzer Regiment were destroyed. Instead of the hour Colonel Schleicher wanted, it had lasted fifteen minutes. And Major Below was not among the few East German survivors.
1355 Hours: South Padre Island, Texas.
On the Boiky, Captain Lieutenant Vassily Abramov surveyed his ship. He'd been left in command of the destroyer after he'd been run aground, and Captain Romonov had taken the bulk of the crew ashore. In normal times, he was the ship's gunnery officer, but now, he was technically the captain. The only remaining crew aboard, apart from the gunners on both the 57-mm quad mounts forward and the twin 30-mm mounts amidships, were some engineering staff to give power to the guns. They had plenty of ammunition for both, and as for food, they had enough to last a while. Some of the cooks had volunteered to stay aboard, and when they were not providing soup, tea, and bread to the gunners, were more than willing to hump ammunition if the magazine hoists lost power.
Senior Lieutenant Maxim Kurasov came to the new commanding officer, “Some tea, Comrade Captain?”
Abramov took the cup. “You know, Maxim, I wish you didn't have to call me that.”
“I know, but technically, you are the new captain.” Kurasov reminded his superior officer.
“Yes, but this isn't what I had in mind for my first command,” Abramov said. “How long do you think we'll last here?”
“Not that long, but look at the bright side, Comrade Captain,” said Kurasov.
“Oh, there is a bright side?”
“Yes, Comrade Captain. At least when the end comes, we don't have to swim very far.” Kurasov said.
Abramov looked at him as if he'd suddenly grown two heads and four arms. Then he realized the man was right. “Then we join the infantry,” Abramov said, nodding. “Happy thought.”
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Thanks for the feedback, gents. As for the ALA, every collaborationist government needs its own army, and the PSD? Someone has to watch the army as well as the rest of the government. The PSD spent most of its time purging the Hall government, and managed to incite more guerrilla activity than it managed to quell. The PSD was heavily influenced by the KGB, Cuban DGI, and the Stasi. The Soviet military and the GRU were opposed to the creation of the ALA and PSD, but were overruled.
1415 Hours: Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport:
General Petrov was actually pleased with how things had been going so far, up to a point. The airdrops had acutally made it in, and though the amount of supplies they delivered was but a drop in the bucket, compared to what the Soviet forces needed, at least it was something. And the general saw that the morale of his men, along with the wounded, had actually improved, seeing those supply parachutes open. And several of the big An-12s and Il-76s had made it in from Cuba, and not only had they unloaded their supplies, but wounded and others with priority had been flown out. Though one sight had been sad to see: one of the An-12s, fully loaded, could be seen as it climbed out. Then an American fighter, what kind he couldn't tell, got in and fired a missile at the transport. The big An-12 took the missile near the tail, and after the explosion, the whole tail unit fell off, and the plane spiraled in, exploding in a fireball. And Petrov knew such sights were going to be more common in the hours and days ahead.
Then a commotion near the ramp got very loud. He got up from his desk and went to see what was going on. Several Air Force guards had a Ural 375 truck surrounded. “What the hell's going on here?” Petrov demanded.
“Comrade General, this KGB officer had a pass, and then he tried to get his truck over to the loading area. He says he has 'important materials' that need to be evacuated.” one Sergeant said.
Petrov went to the driver's side. A KGB Colonel, and another Chekist, were in the cab. “Let's see your priority, Colonel.”
“General, I have a priority pass to load this material on the next available transport,” the KGB Colonel replied.
“What material? We don't have room for files or anything looted, if that's what you mean,” Petrov said.
While the KGB Colonel was arguing with General Petrov, one of the Air Force guards went around the side of the truck. He stopped for a minute. Those couldn't be. He thought he'd heard muffled voices coming from the back of the truck. He went to the rear gate and opened the flap. “Comrade General! I think you should see this!”
Petrov went to the Sergeant and looked inside the truck. There, hands bound in front of them, were twenty or so young girls. Teenagers, mostly, but some were older. All showed signs of abuse, and were clearly frightened. “Sergeant, get those women off this truck. NOW!”
Petrov went over to the KGB Colonel, who was now clearly agitated. “So, my Chekist friend, that's the 'important material' you were trying to evacuate?”
The KGB man started blabbing. None of it made any sense to the General. He called an officer of the Commandant's Service (Soviet Military Police) over. “Major! Take both of these two and give them to a penal battalion. Normally, I'd have them shot, but since we're tight on ammunition, it'd be a waste.”
“Yes, Comrade General!” the officer replied.
Petrov leered at the KGB Colonel, who was being disarmed. “Now, how does it feel to be headed to a penal unit, when you've likely sent people there yourself?” He turned to another officer. “Get those women out of here. There's a POW compound nearby. Take them there.”
“Yes, Comrade General.”
1430 Hours: Headquarters, 4th Guards Tank Army.
General Suraykin entered his HQ area. He'd been out and about, visiting his troops, and talking with the officers. He was a popular general with his men, and he'd taken care of them as best he could. Now, with their final battle approaching, it was almost time. An American phrase he'd heard often now came back to him. “Game Day” was approaching, and he knew it. His Chief of Staff was waiting. “Good afternoon, Comrade General.”
“Thank you, Golvoko,” Suraykin said. “Anything from either General Malinsky or General Alekseyev?”
“Nothing from General Alekseyev, Comrade General, though we have heard from General Malinsky.”
“And?” Suraykin asked.
“Just that Front Headquarters is moving to a new location. The Americans are closing in north of Harlingen, and General Malinsky decided to relocate his headquarters,” Golvoko responded.
“Hmm. An intelligence update?” asked Suraykin.
His intelligence officer came over. “Not much, Comrade General, since this morning.”
“What is new?”
“The East Germans have fallen back, and so has both Eighth Guards and 28th Armies. They're under heavy pressure,” the intelligence man said.
“When do you expect the Americans to get close to us?” Suraykin asked, gesturing to the situation map.
“Sometime tonight, Comrade General, or early next morning.” Golvoko said. “They're moving faster than we thought.”
General Suraykin looked at the map. “That's the price we've paid for underestimating Powell, it seems.”
“Evidently so, Comrade General,” Golvoko said. “He's moving much faster than we thought. Either he smells victory, or...”
“Or he's under political pressure from Philadelphia to finish us off,” the intelligence officer said.
“Either way, Comrades, Powell's coming for us.” Suraykin said. He turned to his Chief of Staff. “Contact all units. Order them to stand to.”
1510 Hours: Soviet Headquarters, Brownsville
General Alekseyev was focused on his operations map again. This time, he was looking at the remaining bridges across the Rio Grande. With the bridge at Hidalgo blown, there were only two bridges left over the river. With air evacuation becoming problematic with each passing hour, he knew that some of those he needed to get out would have to do so by road into Mexico. The bridge at Progresso Lakes, and the Gateway International Bridge here in Brownsville were the only two left. But, he realized, ribbon bridges could still be built. And there were still engineers available. Some had already displaced to Mexico, but others were still in the pocket. “General Chibisov!”
“Yes, Comrade General?”
“Get the chief of engineers going. He's to find suitable sites for constructing ribbon bridges over the Rio Grande. He doesn't need to clear them with me, let him pick crossing sites on his authority,” Alekseyev said.
“Comrade General, may I ask why?” Chibisov said.
“We're not likely to evacuate everyone who can get out by air. Even getting some to Mexico beats the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, Pavel Pavlovitch.”
Chibisov nodded. “I'll speak to General Blagin right away, Comrade General,”
“Excellent,” Alekseyev said. He changed the subject. “How soon until Malinsky's new headquarters becomes ready?”
“A few hours, Comrade General. Though his advance party has reached the new location, they're not quite ready. Malinsky should be en route, though.” Chibisov reported.
Alekseyev nodded. Then the phone rang. Colonel Sergetov answered. “Comrade General, it's General Petrov.”
Alekseyev took the phone. He listened to Petrov for a few minutes, and a scowl came over his face as he did so. “Very well, Petrov. The course you suggest is appropriate. We don't have the time, nor the ammunition to spare, for further cases.” Then the General hung up. “That was General Petrov. Some KGB Colonel was trying to load his private harem aboard one of the evacuation aircraft.”
Chibisov's and Sergetov's jaws dropped. “Mother of....After all that we've done here, the KGB still behaves like animals,” Chibisov said.
“Yes. Issue this order, Pavel Pavlovitch,” Alekseyev said.
“Anyone trying to smuggle anything, whether looted goods, or one's mistress-willing or otherwise-onto the evacuation aircraft is to be stripped of his rank, and placed in a penal battalion. Those who try to persist in such conduct will be executed by hanging.” Alekseyev said.
“This applies to all in the perimeter, Comrade General?” Chibisov asked.
“Everyone, General. Issue the order immediately.”
Chibisov nodded. “Comrade General.” And he left to issue the orders, while Colonel Sergetov came over to the General.
“Comrade General, nothing surprises me about what the Chekists have gotten away with-or tried to-since we've been here.” Sergetov said.
“Quite so, Ivan Mikhailovich. Quite so. Now, in some way, perhaps we can atone for that. One thing more: inform General Chibisov,” Alekseyev said.
“Yes, Comrade General?”
“Send the violators to that penal unit sitting on the beach at the end of Highway 4. The Americans are likely to land at that beach. Those involved in such misbehavior can atone for their crimes by facing the U.S. Marines in battle when they do land.”
1550 Hours: Elsa, Texas.
Lieutenant Colonel Gerhard Fiebig surveyed the small city. He shook his head: he'd need a division to defend the city properly, and all he had were two weak battalions from his 40th Air Assault Regiment, plus an antitank battalion and an weak tank battalion-from what had been an independent tank regiment mauled further north. General Metzler had given him the mission: hold the Americans off as long as possible, and as he saw the battered 9th Panzer and 11th Motor-Rifle Divisions pulling back, he knew it was time. He gathered his commanders in the city hall, and addressed them. “Comrades, this is it. Our time has come, and the Americans will be here soon.”
Major Franz Schenkel, who commanded the 1st Battalion, asked, “Is this a delaying action, or do we stand and fight, Comrade Colonel?”
“We make our stand here,” Fiebig said. “Orders from General Metzler.”
Captain Nicolaus Buehler, who was now in command of the tank battalion, asked, “For how long?”
“Until the last round, Comrades.”
Murmurs filled the room. They knew that the Americans had mauled the 9th Panzer Division, and the 11th Motor-Rifle Division hadn't been better off. Their own regiment had been shot up at San Antonio the year before, and at Alice in May. There hadn't been any replacements from home, and the word going around was that the West Germans had thrown off their neutrality stance, and were threatening to invade-in coordination with the British and Dutch. So they'd have to fight with what they had.
Fiebig went on, “We're prepared as best we can. Now, soon, it'll be up to our soldiers. Buehler, you're our counterattack force. How many tanks do you have?”
“Twenty-six, Comrade Colonel,” was the response.
“Very well,” Fiebig said. “One other thing. I know we're hated by the civilian population: obviously, their political development didn't entail their supporting socialism here. But I am a soldier first, and will not disgrace the uniform by massacre.”
“Comrade Colonel?” the Political Officer asked.
“In several instances, there's been massacres of civilians by Soviets or Cubans. I'm not going to stoop to that level. Tell the civilians to take shelter,” Fiebig said.
“Comrade Colonel, there's some who are best described as counterrevolutionaries. They should be disposed of,” the Political Officer replied.
“The whole town fits that category,” Buehler said. “And we can't spare the ammunition, even if we were so inclined.”
“Correct, Comrade Captain. And I'm no KGB or ALA barbarian. Let the ones in the jail go, and tell the civilians to take shelter,” Fiebig decided.
1615 Hours: Gulf Front Headquarters, San Benito Community College
General Malinsky was settling into this, his new headquarters. He knew that he'd likely displace one more time before the end, but this suited him just fine. Several large classrooms served as staff space, while another was perfect for the Operations Room. And General Isakov was on his way from the old headquarters, at what had been a military school prewar. He turned to the map. The Cuban 2nd Army was starting to come unglued: though three of its divisions had fallen back, the 27th Motor-Rifle Division had apparently not gotten the word, and it was in the process of being encircled. What was that old German saying? Kesselschlacht, or “Cauldron Battle,” he remembered. Well, that was becoming such a battle, as the American VIII Corps was in the process of enveloping and destroying the Cuban division.
He glanced at where Third Shock Army was located: They were just north of Weslasco, and had reported their last helicopters had been destroyed at the Mid-Valley Airport. Even without that thug Starukhin in command, Third Shock was hanging in there. A pity the East Germans were not so fortunate: their units were in such bad shape that General Metzler had decided to sacrifice his 40th Air Assault Regiment. But the Cuban 1st, and his own 8th Guards and 28th Armies, were still fighting, and fighting hard. And soon, before the evening was out, he'd have 4th Guards Tank under his command. Then Lieutenant General Valery Kisaylov came to him: he was his Operations Officer. “Comrade General,”
“Yes, Kisaylov?” Malinsky said.
“General Suraykin reports he's fully prepared, Comrade General. And the Air Force has some aircraft and fuel, to give him some support.”
“Good, Kisaylov. Very good indeed.” Malinsky said. “We'll soon be anchored on that line. And 4th Guards Tank will be the center.”
“Yes, Comrade General. A pity our only reserve is the 105th Guards Airborne, though. I've asked for the 76th Guards, along with 47th Tank Brigade, but those units were refused,” Kisaylov reported.
“I know. Isakov made the same request. But General Alekseyev himself denied the request. They're all we've got left,” Malinsky reminded his Operations Chief.
Chastened, Kisaylov replied, “I understand, Comrade General, but we may need them at some point.”
“True. But for the time being, they're under General Alekseyev's personal command.”
“Comrade General,” Kisaylov said, “I...” An aide passed him a message form. “Comrade General, the Cuban 24th Motor-Rifle Division has tried to relieve the 27th. They were mauled, and are falling back,”
“Let me guess: they tried that on orders from above. And I'm not referring to General Alekseyev,” Malinsky said.
“Apparently so. Our liaison officers report the Cubans do have communications with Havana.”
1645 Hours: Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport
General Petrov now had a serious headache. Just as it seemed the airlift might be working, four F-111s came in suddenly, at treetop level, and scattered cluster munitions all over the ramp area and one of the runways. Two Il-76s were caught in the rain of submunitions and exploded, while an An-12 had part of a wing blown off. To make matters worse, a few minutes after the F-111s left, four A-6s came in on their own strike. Each Intruder dumped sixteen 500-pound bombs onto the runways and taxiways, and not only holed the runways, but blew up a large An-22 transport that had just arrived. And now, what had been a promising day now turned into a very bad one. His engineer chief came up to him. “Comrade General, I've got my crews out, we'll have this runway working again by morning.”
“Good, Boris Petrovich, Good. Put every man you can onto the job,” Petrov said.
“Of course, Comrade General. I've had my men check the fields to the east. There's no cluster bomblets there, and that can serve as a dropping zone for supplies,” the engineering officer said.
Petrov looked at him. “Very good, Colonel. Any other locales you can find for supply drops, let me know at once.”
“Comrade General. If you'll excuse me....”
Petrov waved him off. He had to let General Alekseyev know the bad news. The evacuation was off until morning. He went into his office, picked up the phone, and gave Alekseyev the bad news.
Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.
Old USMC Adage
Putting the the real life character was a nice touch
Here a breakdown of so some up and coming Generals around the start Red Dawn
In 1986, Lieutenant General Colin Powell took command of V Corps in Frankfurt, Germany
In 1986, Lieutenant General, Norman Schwarzkopf took command of I Corps in Fort Lewis Washington
In 1986 is Colonel Tom Franks is the Assistant G3 of III Corps in Fort Hood, Texas
In 1986 Colonel Hugh Shelton is the Chief of Staff of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.
In 1987, John Shalikashvili is a Major General is the commander the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis. Washington
In 1986 Carl Stiner is a Major General and Commanding General of the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg NC
I will not hide. I will not be deterred nor will I be intimidated from my performing my duty, I am a Canadian Solider.
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