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Matt Wiser 01-16-2015 10:55 PM

Guys, how do you like things so far? More feedback, please!

Adm.Lee 01-17-2015 11:54 AM

I am still reading.

Maybe that the jerk major (name now forgotten) seemed a little too stereotypical? He really didn't make any shift to wartime mode at all? Even if several of his commanders and their commanders told him that things had changed?

From my first reading, I thought he was a non-flying officer, dunno how I gathered that-- did he have a callsign early on? Anyway, it seemed abrupt that he was on a mission in the first place, I didn't notice that he was flying at all. Also, it felt a little too neat that he would screw up by the numbers, committing the one sin that would get him grounded and shipped out and investigated and potentially prosecuted.

dragoon500ly 01-19-2015 09:36 AM

Matt, I'm loving these stories! By all means keep up this great work!!!

Matt Wiser 01-19-2015 08:08 PM

Here's one for a change of pace: A USN carrier vs. Badger Bombers...

Part I:

Kennedy vs. Badger

12 May, 1987: 1100 Hours Local Time: Cuban Air Force Operations Center, Havana, Cuba

Colonel Eduardo Toledo came into the operations center. A longtime MiG-21 and MiG-23 pilot, he was now deputy chief of operations for the entire Cuban Air Force, and right now, he was not a happy man. He had just come from a briefing at the Defense Ministry, and the news from the front in America was not looking good. The joint Soviet-Cuban offensive in Kansas, aimed at cutting off an American bulge in the lines near Wichita, was stalled, and was on the verge of failure. The Americans had been waiting for the Soviets and Cubans to attack, and had laid an appropriate welcome-and some were comparing the battle to Kursk, only this time, the Soviets were the ones doing the attacking, and the Americans had been the ones who'd had time to plan and prepare-and the Soviet and Cuban forces had suffered appallingly as a result. That didn't concern the Colonel, but what the Soviet military mission had proposed, and President Castro had agreed, did. A joint attack on the Port of Miami was being planned, and while the Soviets would handle the actual attack on the port with Su-24 Fencers, Cuba's only heavy strike regiment, the 38th Bomber Regiment, with Soviet-supplied Tu-16K Badger bombers, was also set to participate, using their KSR-2 (AS-5 Kelt) stand-off missiles to suppress the American defenses.

The rationale for the mission was obvious: the Port of Miami was where many of the weapons and equipment the Americans were getting from their overseas lackeys, such as Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa, was unloaded. Knocking out the port for a while would greatly assist the land campaign in North America, and send a strong signal to those who were supporting the Americans that there would be consequences for doing so, both now and in the future, after the inevitable triumph of the Socialist forces.

However, Toledo knew full well that things had changed: the Florida Peninsula was now heavily defended, with Key West, the Homestead-Miami area, Tampa Bay, Orlando, and the Cape Canaveral area were now guarded by HAWK and Patriot SAM batteries, many having been formerly deployed in West Germany, and that American fighters were a constant presence in Florida skies. Now, strikes into Florida required careful planning to avoid heavy losses, and even so, despite such planning, losses could-and often did-get high.

Now, he went to the situation board, and so far, all was quiet. Just the routine Cuban and Soviet fighter patrols over the island, and the Americans doing the same thing over the Florida Keys and South Florida. Occasionally, one side or the other would try a fighter sweep, hoping to draw their opponents' fighters into a free-for-all in the sky. Sometimes it worked, sometimes the would-be victim realized a sweep was on and would not give battle. More than once, American fighters had seemed to run from Soviet or Cuban fighters, only to draw the pursuers into SAM traps at either Key West or Homestead-Miami, and the Soviets and Cubans had fallen for it. And when the Cubans and Soviets tried the same trick, it rarely worked. And so far, there'd been few American strikes flown into Cuba: maybe the DMI and the GRU were right after all, and the Americans had pulled their strike-dedicated tactical fighters out of Florida and sent them to the front. What strikes had been flown, though, were apparently from carriers, and there wasn't much that could be done about that at the moment, for the carriers had one simple advantage: they could make runs into strike range of Cuba, launch their aircraft, wait for the strike to return, and after recovering their aircraft, head out into the Atlantic or the Caribbean. And so far, the Soviets and Cubans had been unsuccessful in countering the carriers, as strikes had been sent out to find the carriers, only to find empty ocean. Or the pathfinders-either Soviet Tu-95Rs or Cuban Tu-16Rs had either encountered American fighters, or had simply disappeared without getting a message out.

“Toledo, come into my office,” Major General Francsisco Estrada said from the open door of his office. Estrada was Air Force Operations Chief.

Toledo came into General Estrada's office. “Comrade General?”

Estrada was standing behind his desk. And he was clearly not in a good mood. “I've just gotten word from General Lorenzo.” General Antonio Lorenzo was the commanding general of the entire Cuban Air Force. “He's been ordered by the President to find an American carrier in the Atlantic or Caribbean and attack it.”

Toledo was stunned. “What? Excuse me, Comrade General, but did I hear correctly?”

“You did, Comrade Colonel.” Estrada spat. “Our President has decided to divert attention from what's happened in Kansas-and in case you haven't heard the latest, it's a bloody shambles. Both our forces and the Soviets tried to do to the Americans what the Germans tried in the Summer of 1943 at Kursk, and they failed. Now Wichita's the greatest tank battle ever, and the Americans have won. Now, the signs are there that the Americans have a major counteroffensive in the works.”

“Comrade General, if I may,” Toledo said. “That means an attack against Miami is all the more important. It requires the Americans to divert fighters and air-defense assets away from the front to reinforce Florida.”

“General Lorenzo said almost those exact words. And President Castro was very blunt: either carry out my orders to sink the carrier, or he would find someone who would.” Estrada said. “For now, the Miami strike is off. Order the 38th to start sending their Tu-16Rs into the Caribbean and into the Atlantic northeast of the Bahamas. Have their Tu-16Ks on alert, ready to go once a target is found.”

Toldeo sighed. “Comrade General, if I may?”

“By all means, Colonel.” Estrada said. “I've always valued your thoughts.”

“Thank you, Comrade General.” Toledo said. “Either this will be a wild-goose-chase, or it will be a tragedy.”

“I realize that, Colonel.” Estrada said. “But since the Soviets have pulled this off twice: America and Coral Sea, the President feels it should be our turn now.” He was referring to two American carriers that had been sunk by Soviet Backfire bomber strikes, and also to Castro's jealousy in that Cuba had not taken part.

“Understood, Comrade General,” Toledo said. “And if the strike aircraft cannot find a target?”

“There's always a target in Puerto Rico, if they have the fuel. Other than that, they're to come on home. Get the orders off at once.”

“Immediately, Comrade General.” replied Toledo.

38th Bomber Regiment, Holguin Air Base, Cuba: 1120 Hours, 12 May 1987:

The phone rang in Colonel Ricardo Duarte's office. He was the commanding officer of Cuba's only medium bomber regiment, and had been hand-picked for the job by General Lorenzo himself. A year in Russia, learning, along with his men, the Tu-16, before coming back to Cuba. The delivery flight had certainly been an unusual one: from the Soviet Far East to “liberated” Alaska, then to Calgary in occupied Canada, then a flight over the Great Plains under heavy fighter escort to a base in Oklahoma, then another trip to Houston, Texas, before the final run to Havana. There, they'd been greeted by President Castro himself, before they had gone into combat. His regiment had flown strikes with their KSR-2 missiles (AS-5a) against targets as far north as Charleston, South Carolina, up the Gulf Coast to New Orleans and Mobile, and throughout Florida as well, from Key West to Jacksonville and up to Pensacola. Not to mention going east to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on more then one occasion. However, the regiment had suffered losses, for the unit had once been forty strike aircraft strong, and was now down to 30, though they had received some replacements.. The regiment's reconnaissance squadron had once numbered ten Tu-16RM (Badger-D) aircraft, and was now down to four.

Now, his men were planning their part in a proposed mission to the Port of Miami, to hopefully shut down the port for a while, and reassert some form of control over the Straits of Florida. His bombers were to shoot their KSR-2 missiles at known American SAM sites in the Homestead-Miami area, as well as at Homestead AFB, while Soviet Su-24s actually attacked the port facilities and any ships at anchor. And given the American defenses that had been in place for over a year, he didn't envy the Soviets one bit: HAWK and Patriot missile batteries, many formerly deployed in West Germany, now protected not just the Homestead-Miami area, but many key installations in Florida proper: his men had found that out the hard way, when six of his aircraft had tried to attack Kennedy Space Center the previous fall, only to find out that not only had American fighters been stationed at nearby Patrick AFB, but a HAWK battery was also in place. None of the KSR-2s had found a target, and four of the six bombers were lost with their crews.

The phone kept ringing, and Colonel Duarte picked it up. “Duarte here.”

“Colonel? This is Colonel Toledo at Air Force Operations. I'll be blunt as well as brief. Your mission to Miami is on hold. There's a new mission coming down, and you'll receive teletype orders in a few minutes.”

“What's the new mission?” Duarte asked.

“Anti-carrier.” Toledo said. “Send two of your Tu-16RMs to the northeast, past the Bahamas, and direct the other two south of Jamaica, then send them east as far as fuel permits.”

“WHAT?” Duarte yelled. “No definite targeting information, so we just send my aircraft out in the general direction of a carrier-and we don't know if any are on station right now?”

“I'm afraid so, Colonel. This comes from the top echelon of command.” Toledo said. And Duarte knew full well who Toledo meant by that.

“I understand, Colonel. But the chances of finding a carrier are slim, at best, this way. And you know that.” Duarte shot back.

“Hold on,” Toledo said. “What's the saying, 'preaching to the converted'?” He went on, though. “But we've got no choice. If you can't find a carrier, come on home.”

“At least I can thank you for that,” Duarte said. He then hung up the phone and went into the operations office, where his senior staff and senior pilots were planning the Miami mission. “Put all of that on hold. We have a new mission.” And he outlined what Toledo had told him.

“Of all the....” his operations officer said. “This sounds like a good way to get a lot of us killed. If we run into American fighters, we're easy prey, no matter what.”

“I know, Luis.” Duarte said. “If it's any consolation, I will be in the lead strike aircraft.” He turned to the map. “Send Captains Infante and Torres to the northeast sector, and have Captain Delgado and Lieutenant Moreno take the southern flight.”

“And when do we know which way to go?” his Executive officer asked.

“We'll know in the air. The aircraft are already armed, correct?”

The Exec nodded. “Yes, Comrade Colonel.”

“Good. Get the aircraft fueled immediately. We'll brief the crews while that's going on, and chances are, we'll get word of a target in the air,” Duarte said. “Now get to it!”

His staff broke up to get things going, while Colonel Duarte went back into his office. He took out a pen and paper, and then wrote a brief note to his wife. He knew full well that if F-14s, F/A-18s, or even F-8s from a carrier found his bombers, it would be a massacre.

U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (CV-67), south of the Mona Passage, 1155 Hours local time.

The supercarrier John F. Kennedy and her battle group was south of the Mona Passage, between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, heading to a launch point south of Cuba. The station was well known to the carrier's crew, who called it “Buccaneer Station,” for the area had been an old haunt of the famous buccaneers back in the day of men like Sir Henry Morgan, or Sir Christopher Myngs, and the name had stuck. From that station, her embarked aircraft from CVW-3 could strike targets all over southeastern Cuba, and had done so often since the war began.

Rear Admiral James Mattingly, USN, commanded what was now Carrier Task Force 44. Once the carrier passed Roosevelt Roads in Puerto Rico, she was “chopped” to the Fourth Fleet, which had been established shortly after the outbreak of war, to direct naval operations in the Caribbean. Sometimes, there were two carriers, sometimes just one, on this station, but there had been always a carrier in the area. Strikes had been coordinated with the carriers on “Devil Station” east of the Bahamas, for that was in the area of the legendary “Devil's Triangle”, and for the most part, had gone off without incident, whether natural, Soviet- or Cuban-inspired, or supernatural. Though Admiral Mattingly had a good laugh once when he checked the chart showing the carrier's course from Norfolk to Puerto Rico, and someone had carefully drawn a triangle connecting Bermuda, Miami, and San Juan.

His orders were to strike targets in Eastern Cuba, as far up as Holguin, and to do so as long as fuel and ordnance permitted, but without incurring unnecessary losses to his aircraft. And CVW-3's squadrons had gotten very familiar with Cuba over the course of the war, and many of the aviators knew the landscape like the backs of their hands as a result.

Now, he sat in his chair on the flag bridge, watching the carrier conduct flight operations. A CAP of two to four F-14s was always in the air, along with S-3 Vikings for ASW, and SH-3H helicopters for close-in ASW protection. Not only that, but SH-2 and SH-60 helicopters from the other ships in the battle group provided additional ASW protection, along with P-3C Orions based at NAS Roosevelt Roads.

Besides the carrier, Task Force 44 consisted of the AEGIS cruiser Valley Forge, completed after the war began, and having already acquitted herself well during combat in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits. TF-44 also had the services of the nuclear-powered cruiser South Carolina, along with the destroyers Semmes and Dewey for additional anti-air warfare (AAW) and the Spruance-class destroyer Briscoe as the lead ASW escort. Two Perry-class frigates, Boone and Halyburton, added to the ASW screen, and there was at least one SSN in direct support. Given the Soviet sub base at Cienfeugos, the Admiral felt that one could never have too much ASW.

And there was also ample land-based support available. E-2B+ Hawkeyes from Roosevelt Roads handled AWACS responsibilities for Puerto Rico, and VAW-77's operators had done a magnificent job in detecting aircraft inbound, and vectoring fighters onto the bandits. The Air Force had sent the PR ANG's 156th TFG to the mainland, and had been searching for a replacement to handle the island's air defense, when the loss of the carrier America had enabled the Navy to fill the role. VF-33 had survived the loss of its home carrier, and after a period of reconstitution at NAS Oceana, had deployed to NAS Roosevelt Roads to handle the air defense of Puerto Rico. And the Starfighters had been joined by their sister squadron, VF-102, once they had been reformed, deploying to the former Ramey AFB near Borinquen, which had become a Coast Guard base after the departure of the Air Force, and was now designated as NAS Borinquen. In addition, a VQ-2 detachment with both EA-3B Skywarriors and EP-3 Orions for SIGINT and other electronic intelligence activities now based there often provided raid warning by listening in on Soviet and Cuban radio traffic.

The only two neutrals in the area, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, lacked any real air power, and both sides routinely violated neutral airspace, sometimes en route to a target, or in hot pursuit. The Jamaicans, being Commonwealth members, and having had to deal with a pro-Cuban uprising in the war's early days, also lacked an air force, but Jamaican air-traffic control radars often tracked outbound Cuban or Soviet aircraft, and broadcast raid warnings-in the clear-over the two main international emergency channels.

“Admiral?” A staff officer said, interrupting his thoughts.


“Surface radar contact, bearing three-five-eight relative, range two hundred. And closing,”

“Notify CAG, and have him get a couple of A-7s out to ID. There's no friendlies ahead of us, so it's either neutral or enemy.” Mattingly said.

“Right away, Admiral.” the staffer said.

Five minutes later, two A-7s from VA-46 launched and headed out after the contact. They were armed, of course, with two Sidewinders and six five-hundred-pound bombs apiece, typical for a Surface Combat Air Patrol.

After he watched the launch, he turned to his Chief of Staff. “Anything on sub activity?”

“No, Admiral, none at all since the last update.”

“What have we got?” Mattingly wanted to know.

The chief of staff went to a map showing the Caribbean. “Right now, there's at least one Echo-II in the Windward Passage, along with a Victor-II; and in the Mona Passage there's at least one Foxtrot, maybe two. Satellite imagery of Cienfeugos shows two cruise-missile boats, one a Charlie-II, and an Oscar, both tied up at pierside.”

“Awful nice of them. If they're still in port when we get there, we can take them out easily enough. Better to kill them at pierside than hunting them at sea.” Mattingly said.

“Yes, Sir.” the chief replied.

The phone buzzed, and the chief picked it up. “Flag Mission.” He listened for a minute, then relayed the message to the Admiral. “Admiral, this just in from the Ravens:” Ravens was the usual code for the ELINT aircraft. “They're reporting four Badgers outbound from Holguin. Two headed northeast, two headed south.”

Mattingly turned to his intelligence officer. “Thoughts?”

The intelligence officer looked at the map, then she replied. “Four Badgers sounds like a reconnaissance flight. Two headed northeast to look at Devil Station, and two coming this way. They'll strike whoever they locate first. Either Bon Homme Richard, or us.”

Admiral Mattingly looked at his chief of staff, who nodded in agreement. “Very well.” He picked up the phone to the bridge. “Bridge, this is Flag. Notify the battle group. Go to Battle Stations.”

As the General Quarters alarm sounded, he turned to his staff. “Let's get to CIC.”

Cuban Foxtrot-class submarine 914, south of Mona Passage, 1220 Hours:

Captain Joaquin Torres looked over his chart. So far, no viable targets had been found, and though his wretched Feniks sonar was puny compared to what was installed on Soviet boats like the 641B (Tango) or the new 877 (Kilo) subs, his crew was one of the best in the Navy. He'd sunk several ships in the Florida Straits in the early days of the war, and had gone as far north as Jacksonville and laid some mines, which may have accounted for a few more ships. Now, though, the ASW environment off the American East Coast was now very hazardous to an old boat like his, and with the Americans now mounting carrier strikes against Cuba on a routine basis, Naval Operations had sent his boat-and Cuba's one other 641 (Foxtrot) class boat-into the Caribbean, where the threat level was decreased, though the opportunities for other targets were lacking. The Americans and their lackeys were running convoys from the Panama Canal up past Puerto Rico, and avoiding the Windward Passage altogether. And those convoys were well guarded by destroyers, frigates, and land-based patrol aircraft from either Panama or Puerto Rico.

Now, he decided to come to periscope depth. A routine sweep, perhaps get his ESM mast up to listen for any radar signals, and maybe, just maybe, find a target. He turned to his First Officer. “Periscope depth.”

“Periscope depth, aye,” the first officer responded, and the boat came slowly to twenty meters. “At periscope depth, Comrade Captain.”

Torres nodded. “Up scope.”

As the periscope came up, he began his sweep. “Nothing here...”

Up above, an SH-3H Sea King from HS-7 was on ASW patrol, out looking for hostile submarines. The pilot was brand-new to the left seat, having been in SH-3s for a year now. And she had never stopped wondering how something could be exciting yet boring at the same time. Once, when she'd asked that out loud to her copilot, he'd replied that ASW guys had been asking the same thing since World War I. She'd never dropped on a contact, but had seen the aftermath of sub attacks more than once, going out on search-and-rescue for survivors of ships that had fallen prey to Soviet subs. Seeing that had only made her determined to find a contact-and kill it.

She was searching visually, while her copilot was actually flying the helo. The two sonar operators were listening to several sonobuoys that had been laid earlier, and so far, nothing had been found. Then she saw it at her eleven o'clock.. “Holy gawd! That's a freakin' periscope!”

The copilot noticed it too. “Got it. You want an active buoy?”

“Hell, no! Arm a fish, left search pattern.”

The copilot set it up. “Ready.”

When the pilot pushed her pickle button, a Mark-46 torpedo fell from the helo, a parachute streamed to slow the torpedo down, then after it entered the water, began searching for its prey. It soon found it.

The Mark-46 tore into the submarine amidships, just below the conning tower. And right into the central command post. Captain Torres and his crew died without knowing they were even under attack.

“A hit!” the pilot yelled. A gout of water spouted up, and soon, there was oil, wreckage, and even a body coming to the surface.

The copilot nodded, while one of the systems operators tuned things in. They heard the breakup noises, then the CRUNCH as the boat plunged below crush depth. “Well, Joanie, looks like you got yourself a sub.”

She looked at the copilot, then back in the cabin, where the two operators were looking back, grinning. “No. We all got him.”

Kennedy CIC, 1225 Hours.

“Admiral, Dipper 613 reports dropping on a periscope nine-zero miles ahead of us. No friendlies in the area.” the group's ASW officer reported from Briscoe.

“Where's that position?” Mattingly wanted to know.

“Just south of the passage itself. And if the helo hadn't dropped on it, we would've met it in three hours or so.” the TAO said.

“ID on the boat?” Mattingly asked.

“No, sir. Just wreckage and oil, plus a body.” the ASW officer responded.

The Admiral turned to his chief of staff. “Was this one of the boats in the ASW Sitrep?”

“Possible, sir. The known boat in Mona Passage was last reported at the northern end of the passage. They did have a report on a second, but it was unconfirmed,” the chief replied.

Admiral Mattingly nodded. “Get another helo out there ASAP. Find out who it was; get some wreckage, and recover that body if at all possible.”

“Aye, aye, Sir.” the chief replied.

Matt Wiser 01-19-2015 08:12 PM

Part II:

1245 Hours: 38th Bomber Regiment, Holguin Air Base, Cuba:

Colonel Duarte strapped himself into the pilot's seat of his Tu-16 and began the preflight checklist with his copilot. So far, there'd been no word from the reconnaissance flights, but Duarte had ordered his crews to their planes, and the regiment would get word as to a target location while in the air. Each Tu-16K carried two KSR-2 missiles, plus a full load of 23-mm for the defensive guns. Lot of good that did, Duarte thought. None of his bombers-that he knew of-had been able to make use of their defensive guns, since the Americans often stayed out of range and used either Sidewinders or Sparrows to kill the lumbering bombers. Today, though, he expected to face F-14s in force, and he'd be going up against AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, and from what the Soviets had passed along, those didn't miss much against bomber-sized targets. Even if the carrier was one of the old Essex-class ships that had been reactivated and only had F-8s, they still carried Sidewinders, and they were still deadly. Colonel Duarte put those thoughts aside as he prepared for taxi and takeoff. He called the tower, and received permission to taxi and prepare for takeoff. And the whole regiment-other than one aircraft down for serious maintenance-would be right behind him.

“Tower, this is Broadsword Leader, requesting clearance for takeoff.”

“Broadsword Leader, Tower. You are cleared for takeoff. Winds are zero-eight-five for ten.”

“Roger, Tower. Broadsword Leader rolling.”

The big Tu-16 began its takeoff roll, and was soon in the air, its two engines leaving a pair of smoky trails in its wake. One by one, the other bombers rumbled down the runway and into the air, forming up into squadron formations, then they headed southeast, towards the Windward Passage.

1300 Hours: Camp 32, near Holguin, Cuba.

First Lieutenant Kelly Franklin, United States Air Force, watched the bombers take off from her compound with some interest. She had been an F-16 pilot with the 307th Tactical Fighter Squadron, before being shot down the previous January, in a raid on the port of Matanzas, and after a spell of brutal interrogation in Havana, had been sent to Camp 32. In this particular compound in the camp, were female officers-mostly air crews, but some were from the destroyer tender Prairie, sunk at Guantanamo, others were actual base personnel from Gitmo, and some had even been captured on the mainland and shipped to Cuba. Another compound held male officers, and still another housed enlisted prisoners used by the Cubans on forced labor details. Most of the officer prisoners were not used on the outside work details, but those that the Cubans wanted to work were put into such things as sweeping cell blocks or courtyards, working in the camp gardens-or the dishwashing detail.

Lieutenant Franklin was sweeping the courtyard for her cell block-most of the officer prisoners spent most of the day in their cells, with only ten or fifteen minutes outside for exercise. The routine was harsh, guards were a constant presence to prevent prisoner communications, and punishment was often severe, as she had found out firsthand. But, as she swept the courtyard, she did so in code, passing messages along, and giving encouragement to the other prisoners, especially those in solitary.

It had been the rumble of jet engines that caught her attention, and though she was not diverted from her detail-hard to be diverted with a guard following her-she did notice the bombers climbing out and away from the air base, and she counted them as they left. Thirty bombers-most of a regiment, she knew. And they were headed southeast. With that direction-southeast, she knew they likely weren't headed for Puerto Rico, but Panama, perhaps? Maybe the Navy's got somebody nearby that can send you guys somewhere else-like into the Caribbean, and you can feed the fish, she thought as she went about her chores. The thought warmed her heart as the bombers disappeared to the southeast.

1310 Hours: Kennedy CIC:

Admiral Mattingly's chief of staff came up to him. “Admiral, we have a raid warning.”

“What have we got, Commander?”

“Two sources, Admiral. First, from Kingston. Jamaican air-traffic-control radar picked up a large formation of aircraft headed southeast from Cuba. Second, Ravens came through again. Right now, it's a regiment-sized force, headed southeast. They should be passing over the western tip of Haiti anytime now.” the chief replied.

“Too bad Baby Doc doesn't have a real air force, otherwise he'd have his people splash a few,” the Admiral observed.

The chief paused. “Uh, yes, sir.”

“All right.” Mattingly turned to his air wing commander. “CAG?”

“Admiral, with your permission, I'll shoot off the Alert Fives, put four more on Alert Five, and have everybody else at Alert Fifteen. In a half-hour, the Alert Fives go, and then the rest. Assuming Badgers, we have an hour at least.” CAG responded. By training he was an attack pilot, but knew full well that defending the battle group came first. “Except for the ASR alert birds, all the A-6s and A-7s have buddy stores and tanks. We can keep the Tomcats up all day if necessary.”

Mattingly nodded. “Do it.”

CAG picked up the phone and relayed the orders. Four F-14s from VF-32 shot off the catapults and into the air. Four more, these from VF-14, taxied into position, ready to launch. “Admiral, we have now eight Toms on CAP, and four more on the cats, ready to go. Everybody else is in the ready rooms.”

“Very well, CAG.” Mattingly responded. He knew that CAG would be mounting an Alert Fifteen Tomcat himself, leading his people into combat as a CAG should.

1315 Hours: Clansman 304, South of the Dominican Republic:

Lieutenant Commander Kevin “Popeye” Doyle brought his A-7E Corsair down towards the surface contact. He was the Operations Officer for VA-46, and he'd seen combat in the Caribbean before. He'd flown strikes in support of the Grenada operation back in '83, and in addition, that cruise had also seen the ill-fated Lebanon strike, and he'd also gotten some combat there-combat time in two locations on the same cruise? The last time that had happened was World War II! Then once the big war had gotten started, he'd been flying combat missions in the Med, Iceland, and now, back to the Caribbean. Some war, the thought.

His wingmate was Lieutenant (j.g.) Shannon “Buns” Weaver, a “nugget” on her first cruise. This was her first combat deployment since graduating from VA-174, the A-7 RAG, at NAS Cecil Field. Apart from walking around with NBC gear wherever she went, and making sure she knew where air raid shelters were on base, it had just been like peacetime, or some old hands in the RAG had said. She had been graduated early from Annapolis, and sent to Pensacola for flight training. Once she'd gotten her wings, the ban on women flying combat had been lifted, and she'd asked for either A-6s or A-7s. They'd sent her to Corsairs, and she fell in love with the SLUF. Once the war was over, the Corsairs were likely to be replaced by F/A-18s, but until then....

“Buns, Popeye,” Doyle called. “Contact at eleven o'clock. Low.”

“I see it, Popeye.”

“Buns, time for some OJT. I'll cover you. Fly down and make the ID.”

“Copy that.” And Buns rolled in and flew down to check out the contact. She could see it was a medium-sized freighter, headed east. And it looked like it was flying a Swedish flag. Buns rolled right and came around for another pass. Yes, there it was, a Swedish ensign from the stern, and another ran up from the superstructure. She pulled up and back to altitude.

“Popeye, Buns. It's a Swedish freighter. Headed east.”

“Copy. Form up on me, and I'll call it in. Starbase, this is Clansman 304. Surface contact is a neutral freighter flying Swedish flag.”

“Roger that, 304. You are to RTB. Repeat, RTB. Buster.”

Down below, the crew of the freighter Gotland watched the American plane fly around their ship, then pulled up and away. It was nothing new: they'd been buzzed by American, Cuban, and even Soviet aircraft every time the ship came into the war zone. But the Swedish government insisted on right of passage for neutral ships, even though there were hardly any neutrals that dared enter Caribbean waters-not unless they joined a convoy headed to or from the Panama Canal-because sometimes, Soviet subs had been known to attack neutral shipping. The Americans had gotten used to the neutrals tagging along, but when the ships arrived at the Canal, those ships were given a very through inspection-not by Panamanian authorities, but by the U.S. Navy-which still guarded the Canal. The rules were simple: either submit to the inspection, or turn back. Nobody fooled around with the safety of the Canal at risk, and the neutral captains were told by their home governments to go along. This trip, though, they hadn't had that problem. First, a stop in Bluefields, Nicaragua, to load coffee, and then a stop in Honduras to load Bananas. With luck, they'd be out of the war zone in two or three days, and headed across the Atlantic.

1325 Hours: South of Hispaniola:

The two Tu-16Rs flew to the southeast, about forty miles apart. Both were using their ELINT gear and, on occasion, their radars, to look for any ships. A single track would mean a freighter, and since most freighters-or tankers-in these waters belonged to the local neutrals, they were usually left alone. But several ships either meant a convoy, or an American battle group, and that meant combat. And a half-hour behind the pathfinders was the strike group, waiting on targeting information. So far, apart from a couple of surface contacts that were almost certainly freighters, there was nothing yet.

Unknown to the Cubans, their position and status reports-radioed back not only to the strike force, but to Eastern Air Command at Camaguey, were being picked up by the EA-3s and EP-3s orbiting over Mona Passage and south of Puerto Rico. That information was relayed to Kennedy CIC, and a rough plot of the Cuban reconnaissance aircraft was able to be worked out.

Captain Simon Delgado sat back in the pilot's seat of his Tu-16, letting the copilot fly the plane. So far, this mission had been boring, and there'd been no sign of the Americans. Maybe Colonel Duarte was right after all, and this would be a wasted effort. But still....maybe there was something out there. He asked his senior ELINT operator. “Anything?”

“No, Comrade Captain. Nothing at all.”

He turned to his copilot. “Jose, this might just be another wasted effort. Just like last week. Remember? Someone reported a carrier east of the Bahamas, and all we found was empty ocean.”

The copilot let out a laugh. “Maybe some fishermen saw a tanker and thought it was a carrier? Who knows?”

As the Badger flew on, an E-2C Hawkeye from VAW-126 picked up the incoming aircraft. First one, then two tracks came on the scope. The information was relayed to Kennedy CIC, where the entire battle group-other than the single Hawkeye- was still under full EMCON (Emissions Control: no radar or radio signals of any kind unless absolutely necessary).

“Admiral, looks like the Badger-Ds are coming in.” Mattingly's intelligence officer reported.

“What have we got?” asked the Admiral.

“Two tracks. One's about eighty miles south of Santo Domingo, with the other forty miles south of the first.”

“That's it. Flush the remaining Tomcats, get some A-6s and A-7s up with buddy stores. And kill the Badger-Ds.”

1327 Hours: Gypsy 202.

Lieutenant Phil Copely and his RIO, Lieutenant Commander Joe Parsons got the message from the Hawkeye: Kill the Badgers. “Gypsy 202 copies.”

As the Tomcat broke orbit, its wingmate turned to follow. Gypsy 207, with Lieutenants Mark Richard and Jeri Hansen, pulled in alongside 202. Both Tomcats scanned the sky with their TCS camera systems, while their AWG-9 radars remained off. Sure enough, about seventy miles away, the head-on outline of a Tu-16, with a huge amount of smoke behind it, appeared on the TCS in both aircraft. It was 207 that had acquired a target first, and thus they would take the lead. “Jeri, light 'em up, and lock 'em up,”

“Gotcha.” Hansen said. She powered up the powerful AWG-9 radar and had the Tu-16 squarely in her radar picture. “There's two of them.”

“We'll take one. Phil and Joe get the other one.” Richard said.

“Copy. We've got lock! Range sixty miles.”

“Fox Three!” Richard called on the radio as he fired, and a Phoenix missile dropped from the Tomcat's belly and ignited. Then he did it again, “Second Fox Three,” releasing a second missile.

In Delgado's Tu-16, an electronic-warfare operator was checking his screen. Then what he saw made him turn pale. “F-14 radar!”

“What?” Delgado asked.

“We have a fighter radar locked on us.” the operator responded, his voice now calm and cool. “Jamming pods are activated.”

“Get a warning out!”Delgado screamed at his radio operator.

There wasn't time. Flight time for the Phoenix missiles was a mere sixty-five seconds. The first missile blew the tail off the Badger, while the second exploded in the former bomb bay, and hot fragments from the missile sliced into the aircraft's fuel tanks, turning the Tu-16 into a ball of fire.

“Splash!” Hansen called. Not only had she seen it on radar, but she'd also seen it on the TCS camera.

“That's a kill,” Richard confirmed.

Just as he made that call, Gypsy 202 locked up the southernmost Badger and fired. This time, the missiles needed only fifty-six seconds to track the Tu-16 and explode it.

“Starbase, Gypsy 202. Splash two Badgers. Returning to station.”

1330 Hours: Kennedy CIC:

“That's the reconnaissance flight, Admiral.” the intelligence officer said.

“No arguing with that. Now, will the main strike abort, or keep going?” Mattingly asked.

“Depends, Admiral. If the Air Force is calling this one, they'll abort. If it's somebody higher up....”

“They'll press on,” Mattingly finished. He turned to his Chief of Staff, who nodded.

“I don't think they'll abort, Sir.. These are Castro's boys, and they'll keep coming in.”

“Agreed,” the intelligence officer said. “Admiral, we can expect the raid in a half-hour.”

Mattingly nodded. He looked at the plot, and saw the Tomcats taking their CAP positions. Twenty-four F-14s, along with a dozen A-6s and A-7s rigged as buddy tankers, were now airborne. And an EA-6B from VAQ-140 was also in the air, to jam missile-guidance radars. “Any word from Bon Homme Richard?”

“No, sir.” the chief replied.

That carrier group had also received the warning of the Badger reconnaissance flight, and had simply moved to the east, while leaving a couple of F-8s to deal with the Badgers, if they were encountered. As it turned out, one of the Tu-16s was found by the Crusaders, who shot him down. The second Badger, unaware of the fate meted out to their squadron mates, flew on, completed its planned search sweep, and turned for home.

Matt Wiser 01-19-2015 08:15 PM

Part III:

1355 Hours: Broadsword Leader, south of Hispaniola:

Colonel Duarte led his regiment on its southeasterly track, and occasionally turning on their missile radars to search for any targets. So far, nothing yet, and no word from the pathfinders since their last check-in, when they cleared the Haitian shoreline. Where are they? Duarte asked himself. He began to wonder if this was another wasted effort, when his copilot said, “Time to climb, Comrade Colonel.”

He meant climbing to 10,000 meters. Or 33,000 feet. Duarte nodded, and began to climb. As the Badgers did so, they also switched on their radars to search for targets.

1400 Hours: Kennedy CIC:

“Starbase, Seahawk 601,” the Hawkeye controller called. “Multiple bandits, bearing Three-four-zero relative, angels thirty and climbing.”

Mattingly nodded at that. “Here they come.”

The group's AAW officer on Valley Forge called it. “Multiple contacts bearing Zero-Zero three relative. Bandit count is estimated at thirty-plus. Picking up Short Horn radars. Designate Raid-One.”

“Admiral?” the chief of staff asked.

“That's it. Light everybody up. And sic the Tomcats on the bombers.” Mattingly ordered.

The carrier and her escorts lit up all of their radars, and the Hawkeyes began to vector the Tomcats onto the approaching bombers. “All Camelot and Gypsy elements, this is Seahawk 601. Your vector is two-seven-zero to two-seven three, for ninety-five. Kill. Repeat: KILL.”

CAG acknowledged the call, “Gypsy 200 copies. Let's go get 'em.”

Tomcats acknowledged the calls, and began lighting up the Badgers with their AWG-9 radars. Some of the fighters closed into get visual ID with their TCS systems before shooting, while others simply let loose with their Phoenix missiles. And within a minute, Badgers began to explode and drop out of the sky.

Broadsword Leader:

“What the...” Duarte yelled as the first two Tu-16s exploded. The bombers lacked the RWR gear the pathfinders carried, and thus the first hint they were under attack was when the first two bombers exploded. He yelled into the radio, “Scatter!”

Then his weapons officer shouted. “Target to the east! Single ship, bearing zero-zero-two relative.”

“It must be a picket ship! Target him and fire!” Duarte yelled.

Before his weapons officer could do just that, a Phoenix missile tracked down Duarte's bomber and blew the cockpit off, and the headless bomber tumbled out of the sky, trailing fire.

More and more bombers took Phoenix hits and either fell out of the sky, or simply exploded. Three bombers, though, managed to find the single contact and launch their missiles, before turning away. Four others kept on coming, despite the sight of their comrades dropping out of the sky, and closed the carrier group. One of the four Badgers got a radar contact on one of the escorts and fired, and the other three followed suit, before Tomcats closed in with Sparrows and Sidewinders, killing all four Badgers.

Kennedy CIC:

“Vampire! Vampire! We have inbound missiles!” the AAW officer called.

“Here we go,” Mattingly said.

The Aegis cruiser began shooting SM-2 missiles at the inbounds, and thanks to data links, South Carolina began doing so as well. Very quickly, a dozen SM-2s smothered the eight incoming AS-5s, and soon there were no more inbounds. But there were six others targeted on the surface contact to the west, the ship ID'd as a neutral. Two late-launching Tomcats were vectored onto the missiles, and they launched four Phoenixes, killing three missiles. Three others closed the contact. And the various CIC crews watched as the missile symbols closed onto the ship, and two merged with it.

Not far from the Swedish freighter, the two A-7 pilots who'd ID'd the ship watched in horror as two Kelt missiles slammed into the Swede. . One missile landed in the ship's stern, while a second slammed into the freighter's midships section, just aft of the funnel. Both one-ton warheads simply ripped the hapless freighter apart, but she didn't sink. Not immediately, anyway.

Commander Doyle watched from above. “Buns, follow me in. Call out if you see anything in the water, like a boat or raft.” When the raid warning had gone out, they had been told to orbit and wait for the all-clear. Both pilots had a ringside seat to the freighter's demise, as well as seeing aircraft fall out of the sky to the west.

“Roger that.” And the two A-7s went down onto the burning, drifting freighter.

“Good lord....” Doyle said as he made his pass. The stern of the Swede had been blown off, and the midships section looked like somebody had taken a meat cleaver to it and simply gouged a huge portion out of it. And the whole ship from the bridge aft was afire.

“Starbase, Clansman 304. That Swedish ship took two hits. She's still afloat, but barely. No sign of any...wait. One raft in the water.” Doyle called in.

“Clansman 307 confirms. And there's a second raft now, and two survivors just went over the side.” Buns called.

“Starbase copies. Clansman 304, orbit and assume on-scene command. We'll get some help out there real quick.”

“Roger. Have fuel for nine-zero minutes.” Doyle replied.

“Admiral, we'd best get a couple of helos out there ASAP.” the chief of staff said.

“Do it. Notify sick bay to stand by to receive survivors.” Mattingly ordered.

The AAW officer then called in. “Three bombers off scope to the west. Tomcats unable to pursue. Vampires all accounted for. Raid-One is now history.”

“All right,” Mattingly said. “Have four Tomcats top off from tankers, and keep them airborne. Bring everybody else home and get them turned around ASAP.”

On deck, flight ops resumed, as two SH-3Hs lifted off on the search-and-rescue, while Tomcats and tankers whose jobs were now done, began to form up in the pattern for landing. Within minutes, those aircraft due for recovery had trapped, and the carrier resumed normal flight operations.

“Admiral, recommend securing from General Quarters.” the chief of staff said.

“Make it so,” Mattingly said.

1445 Hours, Clansman 304:

Commander Doyle watched as the two SH-3s came in for the rescue. Both helos hovered, and their rescue swimmers went into the water to recover survivors. The swimmers worked quickly but cautiously, not knowing if any of the survivors were injured, and indeed, one of the survivors had to be lifted into a helo with a rescue litter. Once the survivors were aboard, the helos turned for the carrier. And as the two Corsairs turned to follow, the freighter did a heave, a final gout of smoke and flame erupted, and she plunged into the deep, stern first.

“Starbase, Clansman 304. The freighter has gone down. Helos are inbound with survivors, and we are RTB at this time.”

“Copy that, 304. Come on home.”

The two A-7s peeled away and headed east, back to the ship. They beat the helos back to the carrier, and both Popeye and Buns watched from Vulture's Row as the two helos arrived with their human cargo. Sure enough, one was a definite stretcher case, two others needed assistance, but four were able to walk off the helos unassisted. Popeye turned to Buns and commented, “Wrong place, wrong time.”

“This war doesn't play favorites,” Buns noted.

Matt Wiser 01-19-2015 08:24 PM

Part IV:

1610 Hours: Camp 32, Holguin, Cuba.

The rumble of jet engines got Lieutenant Kelly Franklin's attention again. This time, she was in the cell she shared with Navy Lieutenant Tyler Brookes, who'd been an A-7 pilot from the carrier Oriskany, until she'd been shot down in November, during a raid on Santiago de Cuba. Both had spent the better part of the day in their cell, despite having had work details-for Franklin, it had been sweeping the courtyard, while Brookes had been on the dishwashing detail. Now, the rumble of engines got their attention, and Franklin went to the cell window and peered through the bars.

“Bombers. And they're coming back.”

“Any underwing cargo?” Brookes asked.

“Nope. But thirty went out. And here's three coming back.” Franklin said. “They must've run into a buzz saw.”

“Want to bet those were Tomcats?” Brookes wondered.

“No takers.” Franklin said. She got down from the window and went to the wall. “Clear me.”

Brookes nodded and went down to the floor and peered through the crack between the cell door and the floor. “Clear.”

And Franklin began to tap to the next cell, and then went to the other wall and repeated the tap. Soon, the word would go from their cell block to the next one, and eventually, even if it took a week, all over the camp. And finding out that the Cubans had gotten a bloody nose in the air was a definite boost to everyone's spirits.

1625 Hours: 38th Bomber Regiment Operations Room, Holguin AB, Cuba.

Captain Manuel Ochoa stormed into the operations room in a rage. He was the senior ranking pilot to survive the mission, and to say that he was highly displeased was an understatement. That anger was also tempered with the fact that he was now the senior ranking pilot in the 38th-or more correctly-what had been the 38th Bomber Regiment, now only five strike aircraft and one reconnaissance aircraft strong. The first man he saw was the regiment's intelligence officer. “WHAT DID YOU SEND US INTO?” he screamed.

“Comrade Captain,” the intelligence officer-a Major-replied, “What are you talking about?”

“It was a massacre! There's no other way to describe it. Aircraft falling right and left, missile trails all over the place, and all we have to show for it is an attack on a possible picket ship. Twenty-six aircraft and crews lost! And for what?” Ochoa yelled, not caring in the slightest if he was insubordinate.

“Mother of...” the major replied. He went to the phone and got on the line to Air Force Headquarters and relayed the mission results. The major nodded, and held the phone for Ochoa. “Havana wants a word with you, Captain.”

Ochoa took the phone and said, “This is Captain Ochoa. Who am I speaking to?”

“Comrade Captain, this is General Estrada at Air Force Operations.” the voice on the other end replied.

“Comrade General...” Ochoa said.

“I'll be blunt, Captain. What happened out there?” Estrada asked.

“Comrade General.....there is no more 38th. Thirty aircraft-all of our serviceable bombers-went out. And only four returned. The reconnaissance flight was also hard hit: only one has returned.” Ochoa said.

“I see.....” the voice on the other end trailed off. “And mission results?”

“Comrade General, we found a ship that may have been a picket ship, and several aircraft did launch missiles against it. Several did hit, and we're claiming a kill. Four more aircraft closed with the carrier group, and they did launch, but none of those aircraft have returned.” Ochoa concluded.

“So, one ship sunk, and unknown results in the actual strike on the carrier?” Estrada asked.

“That's correct, Comrade General.”

“All right, Captain. You're now acting commander of the 38th, despite your rank. I'll see about getting you the rank that goes with the job, and work on getting some replacement aircraft.” Estrada said. “Right now, just be glad you're alive.”

“Yes, Comrade General.”

With that, General Estrada hung up, leaving Ochoa holding the receiver. He then hung up and turned to the intelligence officer. “I don't think we'll ever go up against a carrier again. Not after today.”

“Comrade Captain, I believe you're right.”

1700 Hours: Sick Bay, U.S.S. John F. Kennedy.

Admiral Mattingly came into Sick Bay with Captain Darrel Cramer, the carrier's captain. They found the head of the Medical Department, Commander Neal Walton. “Commander, how are the survivors?” asked the Admiral.

“One is critical. Two others are still in surgery, and the rest are recovering,” Walton said. “The one critical case ....his chances are no better than 50-50.”

“Can we talk to any of them?” Captain Cramer wanted to know.

“One who's doing fine is more than willing to talk: he's the ship's Fourth Officer.” Commander Walton said. “He's been demanding to speak with a senior officer, as a matter of fact.”

Both the Admiral and the Captain nodded. Mattingly said, “Let's see him.”

Commander Walton escorted the two senior officers to the room, which had a Marine guard. The guard nodded and opened the door. Inside, sitting on a bunk, was Sven Kossborg, the Gotland's Fourth Officer. He turned and saw the three officers come in. “Mr. Kossberg,” Walton said, “This is Admiral Mattingly, the battle group commander, and Captain Cramer, the JFK's captain.”

“Admiral, Captain...” Kossberg said. “Thank you for rescuing us.”

“No thanks necessary, Mr. Kossberg. Even in wartime, the rule of the sea still applies.” Mattingly said. “Do you know what happened?”

“No,” Kossberg shook his head. “The aft lookout said he saw aircraft in the distance, and that one or two were falling in flames. Then he shouted that there were smoke trails closing in on us. The Captain ordered a message sent that we were under attack, but I have no idea if it went out. The next thing I know, two explosions, and I am in the water.”

“You're lucky,” Walton said. “First-degree burns, and a broken ankle.”

Kossberg looked at the cast on his ankle. Yes, it could be a lot worse. “How many?”

“Only seven,” Walton said. “And one is in very critical condition.”

“Who attacked us?” Kossberg asked.

“Cuban Tu-16 Badger bombers.” Mattingly said. “They probably thought your ship was a radar or ASW picket, and since they were under attack from our fighters, you were first in line.”

“Of all the....” Kossberg said. “How soon can we go ashore?”

“You'll have to stay aboard ship for the time being. None of your crew are in any shape to travel, I'm afraid.” Commander Walton said. He looked at the Admiral. “However...”

“However,” Admiral Mattingly said, “I'll notify my superiors, and they'll pass on your names to the Swedish Ambassador in Philadelphia. Your families, at least, will be notified.”

“Thank you, Admiral.” Kossberg said. “And all this for a mixed cargo of coffee and bananas.”

The door opened and a Navy Nurse-one of those newly assigned to the carrier, asked for Commander Walton. He listened to her, looked at Mr. Kossberg, then came back. “Mr. Kossberg, I've got some bad news. The one crewman in critical condition?”

Kossberg had an idea of what was coming. “Yes?”

“I'm afraid he's dead. There was only so much we could do for him. Even if we'd gotten him flown to a base in Puerto Rico, even they might not have saved him.” Walton said.

“I see...I am sure you did all that was possible. If it's possible, his body should be sent home to his family.” Kossberg said.

“Again, I'll inform my superiors, and those arrangements will be made,” Admiral Mattingly said.

The next day, the Kennedy/CVW-3 team moved into position and launched strikes into Southeastern Cuba, while the Bon Homme Richard/CVW-21 team did the same. A five-day series of strikes against targets deeper into Cuba went on, with Cienfeugos, Banes, and other targets being hit, before the carriers broke off to replenish. Each carrier air wing lost several aircraft, with Kennedy losing two A-6s and four A-7s, and Bon Homme Richard losing an F-8, an RF-8, and three A-7s.

Fallout from the failed strike reached into the corridors of power in Havana, when General Lorenzo reported the failed strike to Fidel Castro. That failure, plus the bad news coming from the front in North America, led to Lorenzo's dismissal. Furthermore, the Swedes were not pleased that one of their ships had been sunk by Cuban aircraft, with Fidel's refusal to apologize for the sinking led the Swedes to recall their ambassador “for consultations”, and was one of several factors leading to the fall of the Palme government in Stockholm. After Palme lost a no-confidence vote in the Swedish parliament, his successor apologized to the U.S. Ambassador for the downturn in U.S-Swedish relations that had occurred under the Palme government, and that if the U.S.-and by extension, its allies, wished to purchase NATO-standard small-arms, tank, and artillery ammunition from Swedish firms, the new government would have no objections to such purchases, and if additional systems, such as the RBS-70 SAM, were on the Allied shopping list, any objections in parliament to the new policy would be easily overcome.

Matt Wiser 01-23-2015 10:43 PM

This one's set in the final week of the war in the Lower 48, and the 335th's crews find out that not all MiG drivers really belong in the cockpit....

Part I

Nearing the End: Burnout

Laredo AFB, Texas: 1 October, 1989, 0620 Hours Central War Time

Major Matt Wiser, the CO of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was doing something that the 335th had hardly ever done since the war began: holding a mass briefing. There had been one on the first day, four years earlier, and one or two since. Mainly at the start of PRAIRIE FIRE and LONG RIFLE, but apart from that, he didn't recall any. No matter. The 335th had taken over some offices that prewar, had been used by an air charter company, the base having been closed a number of years prior to the war. The Soviets and Cubans had made use of the facilities since, both here and at Laredo International Airport, and now, the USAF, along with the Marines, had returned.

Crammed inside a meeting room was every crew in the 335th: he had eighteen flyable aircraft and thirty-two crews. Two aircraft were down for maintenance, and he was expecting four more to come, either from deep overhaul at McClellan AFB, or newly built from the Mitsubishi line in Japan. Well, when we go south into Mexico-and as far as Mexico City, we'll need those new birds and some new crews. But that was in the future-he hoped, but today's business-and those in the days ahead, came first.

“All right. You've probably noticed something. There's no preplanned targets for today. Everybody that can fly in MAG-11, along with the entire Tenth Air Force, is going south. Other than the Monterrey Air Defense Zone, anyplace in Northern Mexico from Amistad Reservoir down to Roma is fair game.”

His Exec, Captain Don Van Loan, asked, “So what are we doing, hitting opportunity targets?”

“That, and armed reconnaissance,” Major Wiser, call sign Guru, said.

Pilots and WSOs looked at each other. Then Capt. Valerie Blanchard, or Sweaty as she was known on the radio, said, “Southeast Asia all over again?”

“No. The reason Monterrey's a no-go area is because of the air defense threat. The only restriction, other than that, is no southbound traffic. Intel says the ComBloc are shipping POWs south in trucks headed deeper into Mexico, so no hitting southbound vehicles. Other than that, any military traffic on any road, whether the Mexican Federal roads, or the local ones, is a target,” Guru said.

“This all prep for the invasion?” Capt. Kara Thrace, or Starbuck, asked. She was the Operations Officer for the 335th, and had submitted a strike plan for Mexico City. One that Guru had reluctantly turned down.

“They wouldn't say, but even money says it is,” the CO replied. “At least, it forces the ComBloc to realize there's more than just Brownsville.”

Heads nodded. Anything that made the bad guys remember there was more than that pocket on this front was a good thing. “Opportunity targets?” Capt. Lisa Eichhorn asked. Goalie was her call sign, and she was Major Wiser's WSO.

“Anything military or military related. This includes bridges, power substations, airstrips, you name it. If it's defended, it's a target.” the CO told everyone.

Then Capt. Bryan Simmonds, Sweaty Blanchard's backseater, asked, “Ordnance loads?”

“Good question, Preacher.” Major Wiser said. “Right now, you're going out with either dumb bombs, CBUs, or a mix. But when you come back from the first hop, the ordnance guys will have whatever they've got ready. You might get napalm, or all dumb bombs, all CBUs, Mavericks, rocket pods, whatever. But you still get at least two AIM-7s, two wing tanks, and a full load of 20-mike-mike. And Sidewinders. Flight leads get an ECM pod as well.”

“And MiGs?” Hoser, or Capt. Nathan West, asked.

“OK, here's what the deal is. If the MiG or Sukhoi has a good driver, or if it's got a Red Star or Cuban insignia on it, go ahead. Kill it and claim the kill. If it's flown by some Mexican who's flying like he expects to be shot down, different story,” Guru said.

“What does that mean?” Sweaty asked.

“I haven't been claiming those kills. I've got five of those, and so does Kara. You've got four, Don has three, and several of you also have at least two. These have been too easy,” Major Wiser said.

“Like those Syrians in the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot back in '82, Boss.” Van Loan said. “Lot of those guys acted as if they knew they'd be shot down, but took off anyhow.”

“Yeah,” Guru responded. “Here's what I've been doing. When I've killed these guys, I say that I've fired an AIM-9 or AIM-7, depending on what I did use, but the missile missed, prematured, failed to guide, or whatever. And the target got away,” the CO said. He knew that several of those he'd mentioned had done the same. “If you want to claim the kill, go ahead. It's up to you.”

Heads nodded. And Major Wiser noticed one thing. The old hands in the squadron were those not likely to file these claims, even if it kept somebody from a better score. The new people-and the 335th had several new crews-were more likely to do otherwise. To them, killing some guy fresh out of flight training was no different than killing a high-time flier. He knew the saying, “A kill's a kill.” Normally, he'd agree. But with these greenhorns they'd been splashing, it was all too easy. He'd rather get into the transport stream from Mexico City to Brownsville instead and be like a shark in a school of fish.
“Any other questions?”

“What's the weather, Major?” asked one of the new guys.

“CAVU all day.” the Major said. That meant clear skies and visibility unlimited. A fighter-attack pilot's dream. “As for bailout areas south of the river: anyplace away from the roads. If you can, stay with the bird as long as you can and get your asses north. The closer to the Rio Grande, the easier time that the Jolly Greens have to get you. And if you can get across the river, best of all.”

Heads nodded again. Major Wiser looked around the room. “Anything else?”

Then one of the sergeants came into the room. “Major, this should've been handed out yesterday. It's from Major Ellis,” the sergeant said, handing the CO a letter.

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Major Wiser said. “Before we go, anyone want to hear from Mark?”

Multiple heads nodded. “Come on, Major,” Kara said, “Read it.” Sweaty Blanchard said the same thing, as did Goalie.

“OK, hold your horses,” Guru said as he opened the letter. “He's home-back in Ohio. 'I'm at Rickenbacker's base hospital,' he says. 'I'll be back in the cockpit, but the docs say it's at least a year. More likely eighteen months. That's what happens when you break one leg in two places, along with the other leg, and your shoulder, too. I saw you guys on CNN a couple of times, and it looks like you're all doing OK. Drop me a line, and if I don't see you guys before the war's over, I'll be there at the reunion. Check Six, and kick those bastards back to Mexico City.' There's more, but that's about it. Oh, he's getting married once he can walk down the aisle.”

Clapping and cheering followed. Mark Ellis had been a well respected pilot and Exec. He and Guru had run the 335th the best way they could, even if they had to fold, spindle, bend, or mutilate a few regs to get things done, so be it-as long as it got results. And having both MAG-11's commander and General Tanner at Tenth Air Force have the same attitude helped a lot. Then he'd been shot down during that Midland-Odessa offensive, what some had called Ivan's last roll of the dice, which had drawn parallels with the Battle of the Bulge, and had been rescued by the Jolly Greens. But his war was over. Major Wiser gave the letter to one of his ground officers. “Put that on the bulletin board, so everybody can read it.”

“Glad to, Major,” the man said.

“Okay. Anything else?” Major Wiser asked. There wasn't.

“Good. Let's hit it.” Wiser said, grabbing his flight helmet.

With that, the room emptied as those crews assigned to fly the first sorties of the day went to their aircraft. And soon after that, the runways were filled with aircraft as F-4s (both AF and Marine), Marine A-4s, A-6s, F/A-18s, and some A-7s from a shore-based Navy squadron, began taxiing for takeoff. It was going to be a very busy day.

1430 Hours Central War Time: Over Northern Mexico.

Guru was on his fifth flight that day; he and Goalie had flown four before noon, and they'd finally had a break. Lunch, taking care of squadron paperwork, and then back in the saddle. He was in his usual mount, 512, and he had eleven Red Stars painted on the side. So what if the bad guys saw that in combat? At least they'd know they were up against a proven MiG-killer.

They were flying with their usual wingmates, 1st Lt. Kevin McAllen and his WSO, 1st Lt. Toni Grey. Since Kara had graduated to flight lead, a year earlier, these two had been their wingmates. And had made ace in the process. But kills had been few-other than these rookies, and neither Kevin or Toni (Cowboy and Nooner as they went in the squadron) had claimed any of those, either. Then they heard Sweaty call on the radio “Any Chiefs north of Sabinas Hidalgo?” Chiefs was their squadron's nickname.

“Sweaty, Guru,” Wiser called. “What's up?”

“Big convoy at the junction of Highway 85 and Route 22: somebody dropped the bridge north of that on 85, and they're all backed up,” Sweaty called.

“Copy. Cowboy, you hear that?”

“Roger, Lead,” Cowboy said.

“Sweaty, Guru. We're on our way.” Wiser said.

“Roger, Boss.” Sweaty called. “We're Winchester right now and are RTB.” That meant she was out of ordnance and had to return to base.

“Roger that. Any other Chiefs working 85, head to Sweaty's target location.” Guru said, not waiting for any acknowledgments. And he took his element to that location. Sure enough, there was military traffic backed up on the highway, and the bridge was down over the Rio Salado. His two Phantoms had six Mark-82 500-pound bombs and six CBU-58/B cluster bombs. These had one advantage over Rockeyes, his favorite CBUs: they had incendiary submunitions mixed in with the antivehicle and antipersonnel ones. And ripping up a truck convoy like this one was one thing CBUs could handle.

The two Phantoms came in on the target. “Anything on the threat receivers?” Guru asked Goalie.

“Not a peep. They must not have any radars down there.” Goalie responded.

“Two, this is Lead. First pass Mark-82s. Second pass CBUs. Then we RTB. Both runs south to north.” Guru called.

“Copy, Lead,” Cowboy responded.

With that, Guru rolled in on his first pass. He picked out some trucks and unloaded his six centerline Mark-82s from low level. The six bombs ripped into the convoy, blasting some trucks, and tossing others aside as if they were toys. Cowboy followed his leader, and his bombs, too, had the same effect. The two Phantoms then came around for another run.

As the two Phantoms came in, the crews noticed small-arms fire and even some 23-mm coming up. It looked like to the crews that somebody-Russians, Cubans, or Mexicans, had put 23-mm guns on either trucks or BTR-152s as improvised antiaircraft vehicles. No matter, they were coming in too fast. And both F-4s laid down their CBUs on the vehicles cramming the northbound lanes of Highway 85. Both crews were rewarded with multiple secondary explosions, as trucks, BTRs, and armored vehicles exploded. As they pulled up, two more elements from the 335th, Don Van Loan's and Hoser's, came in.

Guru called Van Loan. “Pouncer, Guru. Who's that with you?”

“Hoser, Boss.” Van Loan called back.

“Copy that, these guys are all yours. I'm Winchester, and RTB. Watch out for 23-mm and possible SA-7s.”

“Roger that, Boss. I'll be taking Rifle shots,” Pouncer said. Rifle meant Maverick missiles.

“Copy that, Pouncer. Go get 'em.” Guru called as he headed north. Just then, AWACS called.

“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Bandits, Bandits. Threat bearing two-four-zero for fifty-five.”

Uh-oh, Guru thought. “Roger, Crystal Palace. Say Bogey Dope?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. No Joy,” the AWACS controller called.

Lovely, Guru thought out loud. And Goalie felt the same way. But it was showtime. “Cowboy, Guru. Bandits inbound. Drop tanks and fight's on.”

“Copy, Lead. Drop tanks and fight's on.” Cowboy responded.

Both F-4s dropped their wing tanks and turned into the incoming bandits. As they did so, the WSOs had their radars on, trying to pick up the bandits. And Crystal Palace kept giving range and bearing.
“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Bandits on your nose, seventeen miles.”

Then Goalie called Guru on the intercom. “Two hits at twelve o'clock.”

“Got it. Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One. Judy.” That meant the F-4s were taking over the interception. “Say Bogey Dope?”

“Mustang, Crystal Palace. Bogeys are Fitters.” That meant anything from Su-7s from the mid '60s to the latest Su-22M4s. And those Fitters were very effective attack aircraft.

“Roger that,” Guru called. “Goalie, anything?”

“I've got a lock!”

“Copy that. Fox One!” he called out, signaling a Sparrow missile launch as he squeezed the trigger on the stick. Then he fired his second Sparrow. “Fox One again!”

Two AIM-7E Sparrow missiles streaked towards their target. Then the enemy aircraft became visible. These were swing-wing Fitters: Su-17s at least. As Guru's missiles streaked towards their target, Cowboy called, “Fox One!” as he ripple-fired two Sparrows.

Guru's two missiles missed. Cowboy's first one burned out short of the target, while his second flew right past the Fitter and exploded well behind the aircraft. As the Fitters broke, they jettisoned their external ordnance and fuel tanks, and tried to break away. And when they did that, their insignia became clear. Red stars on the tail. That meant Russians. “Two, Lead. I've got the leader.”

“Roger, Lead. I've got the other one.” Cowboy called.

Guru got in behind the Fitter. This one might have been an Su-22M version, but it was impossible to tell visually. And he could see the Fitter had two AA-8 Aphid missiles for self-defense. He grinned underneath his oxygen mask. No way, Ivan, he thought as he turned his missile selector to HEAT. His AIM-9L missiles were now armed. And the seeker was tracking. The growl went loud in his headset: missile lock. “Fox Two!”

Guru's first AIM-9 shot off the rail, corkscrewed right, then left, and then smashed into the Fitter's tail. The explosion blew the tail off the aircraft, and as it spun down to the left, the canopy came off, the ejection seat fired, and the pilot was in his chute. “Splash one Fitter!” Guru called.

Just as Guru made that call, Cowboy got in behind the wingman. He, too, got Sidewinder lock, and fired. Once again, an AIM-9 went off the rail, and flew up the Fitter's tailpipe. This time, when it exploded, the plane blew in half. The rear half fell away and broke apart, while the cockpit and wings tumbled end over end, before smashing into the desert floor. This one didn't have a chute. Cowboy gave the call, “Splash two!”

“Copy that, Two. Any chutes?” Guru asked.

“Negative, Lead.”

“Roger that. Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One.” Guru called to the AWACS.

“Mustang One-One, Crystal Palace. Go.”

“Splash two Fitters-Su-17s or -22s. One chute. We are RTB at this time.” Guru said.

“Roger that. Do you need a vector?” the AWACS controller asked.

In 512, Goalie shook her head. “Do those guys think we're lost?”

“You know the AWACS guys, they're like the backseat driver from hell-no offense intended.” Guru said.. “Crystal Palace, Mustang One-One. Negative.”

Goalie smiled underneath her oxygen mask. “None taken, my dear Major,” and she laughed.

Mustang Flight soon was short of the Rio Grande, and the crews looked down. Neuevo Laredo looked like Berlin in 1945, and inbound aircraft gave the place a wide berth: all the artillery fire being poured into the city meant that the sky over Neuevo Laredo was a dangerous place-and a 155 shell didn't care if you were friendly or not. Then Guru heard Starbuck on the radio. “Guru, Starbuck. Got something here.”

“Go, Starbuck,” Guru called back.

“We've got a MiG-21MF here, no gun pack, two Atolls, and he's got a centerline tank, but he's flying really weird. Straight and level at times, then he's all over the sky,” Starbuck called.

Guru frowned underneath his mask. “What's he got on the side?” He was asking about insignia.

“FARM,” was Starbuck's response. That meant the Revolutionary Air Force of Mexico.

“Starbuck, he trying to signal or anything?”

“He did wave,” Kara said. “This guy might be a defector.”

“ETA home base?”

“Fifteen mikes,” Kara said.

“Starbuck, fly alongside and see if you can get him to follow you. Have your wingie right behind him in the kill slot. He does anything funny, just roll out and away, and have Grumpy take the shot,” Guru ordered.

“Roger that.” Kara replied. “See you on the ground.”

“Copy.” Major Wiser then called Laredo operations and advised them of what was coming in. Then his flight came into the pattern, with each doing a victory roll, before landing. After taxiing in, his crew chief was waiting. “Major, what's up?”

“Sergeant, your guess is as good as mine,” the CO said. “Get the strike camera film unloaded, and what have you got for the next hop?”

“Shake'n bake, Major.” the crew chief replied. “Six Mark-82s centerline, and two napalm tanks each wing. And we'll get you two new wing tanks. Be ready in thirty minutes.”

Nodding, Guru and Goalie headed to squadron ops. They ran into Capt. Darren Licon, the squadron's intelligence officer. “Sir, Starbuck's inbound. ETA seven minutes.”

“Anything new?” Goalie asked.

“No, other than Starbuck said the guy looked like he could barely see out of the cockpit,” Licon said.

Major Wiser's flight looked at each other. This was strange. They went into ops, and quickly reviewed their flight. AWACS had confirmation of the Fitter kills, so those claims were valid. Then Major Wiser went into his office, grabbed a pair of binoculars, and went back outside. He turned to Licon. “Get a Humvee or a truck. When Kara lands, I want to be there.”

“Right, Major.” Licon said as he raced to grab a Humvee. When he came back, it wasn't just Major Wiser's flight, but a number of other aircrews, who were gathered there. Word was going around. Then Licon, who had his own set of binoculars, said, “There they are,” pointing to the southeast.

The three-ship made a pass over the base, then flew around for landing. Kara put her Phantom down first, and taxied away as fast as she could. Then the MiG-21 came in, and several pilots watched in shock as the pilot nearly ground-looped the MiG, but managed to get the plane down in one piece. Grumpy, Kara's wingmate, pulled up and did another flyaround, before coming in himself.

Then a dozen aircrew jumped into the Humvee, or so it seemed. Goalie drove, while Major Wiser and several others were wondering what kind of pilot they had on their hands. They drove past Kara's plane, which had taxied into its revetment, and the crew was quickly getting out. The MiG taxied to the edge of the ramp area, before it shut down. And armed Combat Security Police and Marines converged on the scene. Then the pilot got out. And it was Sweaty who spoke first. “My God! He looks like an Eighth-Grader in a flight suit!”

Goalie drove as close as she could. As the aircrews got out of the Humvee, Kara came running up. She hadn't bothered to get out of her G-Suit and harness, and she ran up to the MiG pilot and slammed him against the side of the aircraft. Guru and the others came rushing up, as Kara was yelling, “What in the hell were you doing?” She asked the Mexican, who looked quite terrified.

“Whoa, Kara!” Guru said, separating the pair. “Take it easy!” He turned to the Mexican pilot. He looked like he was way too young to be flying fighters. “Do you speak English?”

“Y. Y. Yes, I do Senor.” the Mexican said.

“How old are you?” Major Wiser asked.

The Mexican paused, as if he was choosing his words carefully. “In two months, I'll be Seventeen.”

Jaws dropped, as both Air Force and Marine aviators, digested what they'd just heard. Colonel Brady, the MAG-11 commander came up. “Major, did we hear right?” He asked.

Guru looked at the Mexican. “Did you say 'seventeen'?”


“Guru, I think I'm gonna be sick,” Goalie said.

Major Wiser knew it right then. He got the same sick feeling. “My God. That explains it.” The Major turned to his squadron mates. “We've been killing kids in those MiGs!”

Kara exploded. She cursed out anyone who would even consider such a thing, and those who actually trained these kids to fly. They barely belonged in Piper Cubs, and had no place being in a fighter. She stormed off, still yelling, and headed straight for the Officer's Club tent.

Colonel Brady came up to the Mexican. “How much flight time do you have, son?” He asked.

“Two days of taxi training. Then two days of takeoffs and landings, with three days of formation flying,” the boy said.

Not just Guru, but everyone else there from the 335th, as well as the Marines there, realized it then and there. They'd been killing kids who were being sent out with a week's training in MiGs, and who were expected to fight the Americans. Most of the fighter pilots-whether Air Force or Marine, had at least one of these in their kill sheet, even if the kills hadn't been claimed. Then Licon spoke up. “Like the Kamikazes: those guys were sent out with a week's training.”

Sweaty swore. “Yeah, but they weren't expected to fight. These kids, though...Major, what have we been doing?”

“I know. This isn't what we all signed up for.” Major Wiser said, looking at the Mexican, then Colonel Brady, who nodded. He knew what everyone was thinking. What kind of people would put teenage boys in fighter cockpits?

“What now?” Goalie asked.

Colonel Brady responded. “We get on with the job at hand. I know you're not in the mood, but we've still got a job to do.” He turned to a Marine sergeant. “Take this boy to Intel and have the intel shop have a long talk with him. And pass them this: ask the kid if he's got family in the States. If he does, get one of those 1140 forms for him.”

The Marine nodded. “Aye, Aye, Sir.” And several Marines took the Mexican away. A 335th line crew brought up a truck with a tow bar to pull the MiG out of the way. Brady turned to the aircrews. “We've got three hours or so of daylight left. If you're angry about this, make some Mexicans-or Soviets-or Cubans, feel that anger.”

The crowd broke up, as aircrews and ground personnel headed back to their jobs. Back at 335th Ops, Major Wiser found 1st Lt. Keith Crandall, the Deputy Ops Officer. He talked to Crandall, who was grounded with a cold. “Keith, pull Kara and Grumpy off today's schedule, and tomorrow's as well.”

“Right, Major.” Crandall nodded. “Going back out, sir?”

Guru looked at Goalie. And the rest of his flight. Though angry, they knew they still had a job to do. “Yeah. But this is our last one for the day. Tell Don when he lands: no more flying today. Those being turned around, and are ready, go. Anyone airborne doesn't go back out. Even if there's daylight left.”

“Yes, sir.”

Guru corralled his flight. “I know what you guys are thinking. We're going to make somebody-Russians, Cubans, Mexicans-pay. They'll burn, bleed, and blow up for sending that kid out in a MiG. Get back into Game Mode.”

Heads nodded. “Then what?” Goalie asked.

“Kara's probably getting sloppy drunk. And she's not going to be alone. Got that?”

And with that, Mustang flight went to their aircraft, mounted up, and went back out. And they did make someone pay-dearly-for what they'd seen earlier. When they got back, and checked in with ops, Don Van Loan was there.

“Major, what happened? I heard about a defector, but why's everybody so pissed off?”

“That defector was a sixteen-year-old. A kid. And they gave him a week's training before sending him into combat. Those MiGs we thought were flown by greenhorns? We've been killing kids.” Wiser told his Exec. And Van Loan turned pale.

“Major...what kind of people do that?” he asked.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I'm headed over to the O-Club and drown my anger in a couple of beers. And I bet everybody on this base who could is gonna be there.” Major Wiser said. “You did get what I told Keith?”

“Yeah. No more flying today. We've still got an hour of daylight left, though.” Van Loan reminded his CO.

“I know. But the Marine ramp is almost full: they saw the same thing-and they've got some of those MiG kills in their log books,” Wiser said. “Nobody's in a flying mood after hearing that.”

Matt Wiser 01-23-2015 10:56 PM

Part II:

1815 Hours Central War Time: Officer's Club Tent, Laredo AFB

Major Wiser and Captain Eichhorn went into the Officer's Club. Normally, a juke box would be playing, some poker games might be going on, and generally, people would be trying to blow off steam. Not today. The mood was very subdued, as the grim realization of who had been in the cockpits of the Mexican MiGs they'd killed sat in. Major Wiser went up to the bar, and ordered two Foster's-one for Goalie, and one for himself. Then he asked the bartender. “Where's Captain Thrace?”

The bartender pointed to a corner. Four empty bottles were on a table, and Kara was working on a fifth. Nodding, Guru and Goalie went over to Kara's table. “Want to talk about it, Captain?” Guru asked as he and Goalie pulled up chairs.

“No, Major, but if you insist,” Kara said, taking a pull on her bottle.

“Look. This sure isn't what we all signed up for. We can't change the past, Captain, no matter what.”

“I know, Major. But you and I...Hell, most of the squadron's got these guys in our log books, even if we didn't officially claim the kills! We've been killing kids who should still be in high school, not in MiG cockpits!” Kara yelled.

“You're drunk, now sit down.” said Guru.

“Major, I had to get that out of my system.”

“You're not the only one,” Goalie said, pulling on her beer. “I'd like to find out who stuck those boys in those cockpits and make him pay.”

“Join the club,” a voice said. It was Colonel Brady. “Mind if I join you?”

Kara nodded. “Might as well, Colonel.”

“I've been looking for you guys. Intel's got some news.” Brady said.

“What is it?” Guru asked.

“For starters, that kid is in their equivalent of the Air Force Academy. About six months ago, the word went out for volunteers, he said, for what they called 'advanced fighter school.' He volunteered, and went through what should be, in our military, a year's worth of ground school in three months. Then he had some primary flight, then some backseat rides in a MiG-21U trainer, and they pronounced him qualified,” Brady said.

“What the hell?” Kara said.

“Yeah,” Brady said, pulling on his own beer. “Then he had his training in the MiG-21, and what tactical training they gave him was all models and chalk talks. They sent him to a unit at Monterrey IAP, and other than a couple of patrols, this was his first real combat flight.”
“Of all the....Even we wouldn't have been that desperate!” Goalie yelled.

“Be glad we never had the chance to find out,” Wiser said. “What else, Sir?”

“They've all been heavily indoctrinated. The Mexicans have convinced a lot of their people that if they don't stop us at the Rio Grande, we're going to keep on pushing south to Mexico City.” Brady said.

“So?” Kara asked. “That's what we should do. Make them pay for hosting the Russians and Cubans.”

“You get no argument from me on that, Captain.” Brady said. “But they've taken it to extreme.”

“Huh?” Goalie asked.

“They've told their people that when we do come south, we'll steal more of Mexico. A repeat of 1846-48, basically, and not only slice off more of Mexico, but turn it into a depopulated wasteland.”

“Oh, boy....” Guru said. “They're that convinced?”

“Correct, Major.” Brady said. “They're convinced that we'll do to them what the ComBloc did to us.”

“They've got their own Goebbels down in Mexico City, looks like,” Goalie observed.

“Yeah,” Kara said, motioning to the bartender for another beer. He looked at Guru and Colonel Brady, who nodded.

“This is your last one, Captain. You're not on the schedule tomorrow, so sleep it off,” Major Wiser said. “Look at the entrance. Doc Waters is there.” Waters was the 335th's flight surgeon. “He's got two CSPs with him, and when I signal him, they are going to take you to your quarters, and they'll watch you overnight. Tomorrow morning, sleep in as long as you want. When you do wake up, eat, take care of your squadron paperwork-believe me, we've all got some of that-and just blow off steam. Go to the Marines' shooting range-use that SiG-Sauer of yours, and your M-16, and burn off as much ammo as you can. Go to bed early, because I want you up and ready, 0600, day after tomorrow. Do I make myself clear, Captain?”

Kara glared at him. She knew he was very serious. Then she nodded. “Yes, Sir,” in a subdued voice.

“Good, because you are the best I've got. Finish that beer, Captain. That's an order, then Doc Waters will take it from there.” Major Wiser said. He then turned to Colonel Brady. “Sir, we need to talk. Privately.”

The two officers left the tent and went outside. It was a clear night, and though most flying had ceased, there were Marine Hornets going up on Combat Air Patrol. “What is it, Major?” Brady asked.

“Sir, this squadron's getting at the end of the rope. We've seen and done too much. Once this Brownsville business gets wrapped up, I'd like a stand-down.” Wiser said.

“Chances are, we'll all get a stand-down, Major,” Brady said.

“I realize that, sir. But we need two weeks. Just like before PRAIRIE FIRE, LONG RIFLE, and this one.” Wiser said.

Colonel Brady nodded. “Can't promise you that much, Major. But you'll get a few days off. Once Brownsville's finished up.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Wiser said. “And what about the kid?”

“He's got family here. Someplace in Northern California. Oroville, Yuba City, someplace near there. They'll contact his relatives-a cousin if I heard right-and if he's got an 1140, they'll take him in. He doesn't see the inside of an EPW Camp.” Brady said.

Guru nodded. “That's good to hear.”

“Yeah. Hell of a war, isn't it? Just when you've thought you've seen everything, something new bites you.” Brady commented.

“Ain't that the truth, Sir.”

3 October, 1989: 0545 Hours Central War Time, Laredo AFB.

The 335th's aircrews were all gathered in the briefing room, before the day's flying. Major Wiser looked at the assembled faces. They'd had a day to soak in what had happened two days before. The previous day, they'd gone out and made the ComBloc pay for that-and everything that had happened since the war began. And this time, though several of the Mexican MiGs had come up, the 335th, along with the Marines, had declined combat. Nobody wanted to add another cheap scalp to one's score, not after what had transpired.

As he looked around, he saw all the familiar faces he expected. He noticed Starbuck, and said, “Glad to have you back, Captain. Got everything out of your system?”

“That I did, Major. Refreshed, recharged, and ready to go back to work,” Kara said.

“Glad to hear it, Captain,” Major Wiser said. “Same drill the last couple of days: Armed Reconnaissance and Opportunity Targets. Weather is CAVU, and stay away from 9th Air Force's AO, and the Monterrey area. Other than that, it's a wide open hunting ground. And there's no bag limit.”

Heads nodded. Then Sweaty raised her hand. “Major, what about MiGs?”

“Good question. After what happened on the First, nobody wants to take a chance on killing a kid. Gain Visual ID before shooting. If it's Soviet, Cuban, East German-why they're still fighting I don't know-or any non-Mexican ComBloc, kill.” Major Wiser said.

“And if it's Mexican?” Starbuck asked, with grim seriousness.

“Avoid combat for the most part. If it's a honcho-somebody who knows what he's doing-and he's serious about it, is the fight still on. Other than that, we can outfly, outrun, and outmaneuver them. Nobody's killing anymore kids. This comes from Tenth Air Force, guys, so word's gotten around.”

Everybody understood this one. This was ROE that they could live with-and no one, not even the new guys in the squadron, wanted to kill anymore kids. “Major, what about the kid?” Goalie asked.

“Colonel Brady told me. He's got family in Northern California: a cousin in Yuba City or Oroville, someplace north of Sacramento. They'll take him in. He gets an 1140 form, and doesn't see an EPW Camp.” Wiser said.

“What about Mexico City?” Starbuck asked.

“I thought it over, Starbuck,” Major Wiser said. “I sent your strike proposal to Colonel Brady. He'll send it to Tenth Air Force with his endorsement. No guarantee when we'll fly it right now, but you can bet, when we do go south, that's one mission I'll look forward to flying.”

Starbuck grinned. And so did most everyone there. Even the CO was relishing the prospect of going to Mexico City-and putting some bombs on those who not only had enabled the invasion and everything that followed, but had put sixteen- and seventeen-year olds into fighter cockpits. Major Wiser looked around. Then he noticed a Marine MP. The Sergeant was beckoning him to come over. “Sergeant?”

“Sir, before he left, Ricardo wanted to see you all.” the MP said.

This was weird, but why not? “Okay, bring him in,” Major Wiser said.

The boy came into the briefing room. At first, there was silence. Then applause. This kid was getting a second chance, and in a few years, he'd be an American himself. He politely nodded. And Major Wiser offered his hand, and the boy shook it. “Calm down, people!”

“Thank you, Major,” Ricardo said, with tears in his eyes.

“Going to be with your relatives?”

“Yes, Senor. I can go to school, work in their restaurant, and maybe go to university.” Ricardo said.

“Just remember this: America's the land of opportunity. Even after all that's happened here, you've got a second chance. If I were you, I'd think of October 1 as my second birthday.” Major Wiser told the young man.

“I already do.”

Then something happened that surprised everyone. Kara came up, and not only shook the boy's hand, but hugged him. “Just stay out of airplanes for a while, Okay?” she said.

“Oh, not for a long time. I have all the flying I want for a while.” Ricardo said.

The Marine Sergeant came in, “Sir, it's time for him to go.”

“You take care of yourself. And here's a promise. When we have our squadron reunions, you're invited. Anybody have a problem with that?” Major Wiser asked.

There was a chorus of “NO, SIR!” from the aircrews.

“Thank you, Major.” Ricardo said, and as he turned to leave, he did one thing for the last time. He stood to attention, like he was on the parade ground, and snapped a perfect salute. And the Major returned it. And Ricardo waved goodbye as the Marine sergeant took him on the first leg of his new journey in life.

Major Wiser turned to the squadron. “All right. Brownsville's going to be done in a week. Maybe less, if we keep it up. Let's see if we can't do that.”

“You got it, Major!” Sweaty said, and heads nodded.

“Okay, let's hit it.” And the room emptied as the 335th went out and on with their jobs. And forty-eight hours later, it was over in Brownsville.

BillyS 01-25-2015 03:52 PM

This is a great storie, I spent my service time in the army, your storie gives me many ideas for my RPG. Thanks, keep up the great work.;)

Matt Wiser 01-28-2015 05:40 PM

Thanks very much! The more feedback, the better. And there will be more to come.

Matt Wiser 02-01-2015 06:43 PM

Here's the next one:

An Interesting Divert

2 May, 1987: Williams AFB, AZ: 1245 Hours Mountain War Time

In what had been a classroom used prewar by a T-37 squadron, Captain Matt “Guru” Wiser, the Executive Officer of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron was having lunch, along with his WSO, his wingman, and her WSO. First Lieutenant Lisa “Goalie” Eichhorn was Guru's WSO, and she handed him a chicken sandwich. “Want another one?”

“No. I've had enough roadkill sandwiches from the Jarheads' mess people for one day.” Guru replied. The Marine air group to which the 335th had been attached since the war's early days had a reputation for good chow at breakfast and dinner. Lunch, though....a different story.

“Too bad they can't steal the chef from the Sheraton and at least give those guys some lessons,” Second Lieutenant Bryan “Preacher” Simmonds, said. He was WSO for Guru's wingman, First Lieutenant Valerie “Sweaty” Blanchard.

Sweaty grinned at her WSO, who'd been studying for the priesthood when the war began. “Ready to violate one of the Ten Commandments?”

“In this case, I think the Good Lord would forgive,” Preacher said. He'd been having doubts about going on with his studies after the war, if he lived, and was thinking about making the Air Force a career-as a WSO, not as a Chaplain.

Then Captain Mark Ellis, the Operations Officer for the 335th, came in. “Guru, got a mission brief for you guys.”

“When, Mark?” Guru asked, taking a swig of lemonade.

“Ten minutes, so finish up,” Ellis said. Then he went to talk to the next flight.

The crews finished lunch, then First Lieutenant Darren Licon, the Squadron Intelligence Officer, came in. “Captain, here's your mission.”

“What's up for us?” Guru asked.

“Denver Siege Perimeter,” Licon said. “They need some more air today, and you guys are it. It's essentially on-call CAS. When you get there, talk to ABCCC will get you in touch with a FAC.” The ABCCC was an EC-130E airborne command post, and one of them was controlling the air activity in support of the defenders of Denver, which had been under siege since September, 1985. Though the noose around the city had been loosened considerably, the southern and eastern siege lines were still in place.

“So this could be anything,” Goalie said. “Troops, artillery, supply dumps.”

“That's about it,” Licon replied. “The air threat is mixed. Mostly it's MiG-21s and some -23s for air-to-air, but there's Su-17s or -22s, and Su-25s. And they're mixed: Soviet, Cuban, Nicaraguan, Libyan, Czechs, Poles, even some Angolans, of all people. Ground threats vary: there are SA-2s, SA-3s, plus the usual stuff at unit level-regiment to Army.”

“Okay, Darren,” Guru said. “Weather?”

“Partly Sunny, in the upper 60s, and winds variable.”

“Okay,” Sweaty nodded. “Bailout areas?”

“Anyplace in the Front Range, and anywhere away from the roads,” Licon said. “If you get into the mountains, that's Resistance territory, and they'll help you out.”

“I know from experience, Darren,” Guru replied. He remembered his five months with the Resistance down in Southern Colorado.

“Yes, sir,” Licon said. Guru had briefed the squadron on his experience, and everyone knew that was something he didn't want to repeat. “Other than that, Jolly Greens are active at night, and they'll come for you. As long as you're away from major enemy concentrations.”

“Divert fields?” Guru asked.

“Stay away from Stapleton International and Lowry AFB,” Licon replied. “Both are airlift-only at the moment.” The airlift in support of the besieged city had lightened up since the Army had partially lifted the siege the previous fall, but the three main airports in the Denver area were still dedicated to the airlift, which brought in food and medicine, and flew people out. “And Buckley ANG Base is still too exposed to enemy artillery fire.”

“So where do we divert if we have to?”

“Cheyenne Municipal, if you can. Otherwise, the only two fields that can take an F-4 that are open to you are either Aspen-Pitkin County or Walker Field in Grand Junction,” Licon said. “Eagle County Airport is open only to Army Aviation, Special Ops, or C-130s.”

“Okay, Darren. Ordnance loads?” Sweaty asked.

“Captain Wiser gets dumb bombs: six M-117s and six Mark-82s.” Licon said, glancing at the Frag order. That meant six 750-pound bombs and six five-hundred pound bombs.

“And what do I get?”

“Twelve Rockeye CBUs. Four AIM-9s and two AIM-7s, each airplane, with an ALQ-101 pod and full 20-mm.”

Guru and Sweaty looked at each other. “Looks good, Darren,” Guru said, and Sweaty nodded. “When do we launch?”

“Whenever you're ready, sir,” Licon said. “Your birds should be armed and fueled by now.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Let's gear up, people. Meet me at 512.”

After the crews geared up, they met at the XO's plane for his final instructions. As promised, both aircraft were armed and ready to go. “Anything else, XO?” Preacher asked.

“Just that we go by call sign, not mission code, unless we're talking to AWACS or anyone else,” Guru said. “Anything else?” Heads shook no He grabbed his helmet, “Okay, let's hit it.”

The crews did their walk-arounds, then mounted their aircraft. After the preflights in the cockpit, the pilots started their engines, and after warm-up, were cleared to taxi. After taxiing to the end of the runway, they held short of the runway so that the armorers could remove the weapon safety pins. After that, they were cleared to taxi for takeoff.

“Williams Tower, Camaro One-one with two, request clearance for takeoff.” Guru called.

“Camaro One-one, Tower. Cleared for takeoff. Winds are two-six-five at five.”

“Copy, Tower,” Guru replied. He released his brakes and applied throttle, and Sweaty did the same. Both F-4s rolled down the runway, then lifted into the air.

Over West Central Colorado, 1330 Hours Mountain War Time:

Camaro Flight was orbiting over Leadville, Colorado, one of the big Old West mining towns, and had topped up from a KC-10 further to the west, and were now waiting for AWACS in this area to tell them their services were needed. It didn't take long.

“Camaro One-one, Bandsaw,” the AWACS controller called.

“Bandsaw, Camaro One-one. Go,” Guru replied.

“Camaro One-one, contact Hillsboro Seven-one for tasking.”

“Copy that, Bandsaw, Hillsboro Seven-one, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro One-one, Hillsboro, We have tasking for you. Vector is Zero-six-zero. Contact Nail Six-two for further instructions.”

Guru nodded. “Copy that, Hillsboro.” He led Sweaty on the new course, and as they crossed the Front Range, a sense of deja vu came over him. It happened every time he and Goalie flew a strike into Colorado, and it brought back memories of his shootdown, and the time he and Tony Carpenter spent with the Resistance. And there were things he saw that, though he'd told the debriefer after a trek over the Rockies, he didn't talk about to anyone else. Not even Goalie.

The two F-4Es came down from the mountains and as they got into the Colorado prairie, their EW gear lit up. “Guru, Sweaty. Picking up search radars,” Sweaty called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. It was time to call Nail Six-two. “Nail Six-two, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Nail Six-two. Say aircraft and ordnance please.”

“Nail, Camaro has two Foxtrot Four Echoes. One with Snakeye iron bombs and one with Rockeyes. Full load twenty-mike-mike,” Guru radioed back.

“Copy that and wait one,” the FAC told him.

“Don't have the gas to wait all day, fella,” Guru muttered over the intercom.

“You want to get out of here fast,” Goalie observed from the back seat. “Too many memories?”

“You could say that,” Guru said.

“Camaro, Nail. You have the Aurora Reservoir on your maps?” Nail called.

“That's affirm, Nail.” Guru replied.

“Copy. There's long-range artillery one mile north of the reservoir, firing on Buckley. Will mark target area with Willie Pete,” Nail said.

Guru and Sweaty looked up in their respective cockpits and saw an A-7 loitering overhead. With all the radars working, why hadn't he been shot at or splashed? Then they recalled previous strikes: this area was held by Category III Soviet and Soviet-allied forces, and their antiaircraft defenses near the front lines weren't as nasty as Cat I or II. But they could still be deadly under the right circumstances. “Roger that,” Guru replied.

The A-7K orbiting overhead dove, then fired two WP rockets to mark the target area. “That's your target area, Camaro.”

“Roger. Can give you one pass only,” Guru replied. “North to South.”

“Your call, Camaro,” Nail replied.

Guru led Sweaty around, then oriented them on the target. “Switches set?' He asked Goalie.

“Switches set. All in one pass,” she replied. “All set back here.”

“Copy,” Guru said. “Sweaty, on me. Camaro One-one in hot.” Guru then rolled in onto the target, which looked like dug-in artillery pieces. Your bad day, Ivan or Fidel, or whoever.

Down below, the gunners of the Libyan Army's 1457th Artillery Battalion were serving their M-46 130-mm guns, firing another series of concentrations against the Americans. This portion of the siege perimeter was in the hands of the Cuban, Mexican, Libyan, Angolan, and Czech forces, and some were more enthusiastic about their role in the war than others. Their battalion was supporting not only Libyans, but also Mexicans, and even if their shells didn't land on the intended target, they were making the lives of those in the American perimeter miserable. And to them, that counted as a victory.

The Libyan Captain in command of the battalion had a look around as his men served their guns. While they had stacked sandbags around the guns and set up camouflage netting, there were hardly any slit trenches nor personnel shelters. The defenders didn't have the guns to go around, and those they did have weren't used on counter-battery fire. Not that they could reach their position, anyway. Though there was a risk of air attack, his unit hadn't been attacked from the air, so why bother? Besides, he'd been told by his superiors that the Soviets and Cubans had air superiority in the area. Just as his deputy, a lieutenant, came in, there was a shout. “Aircraft alarm!”

As he rolled in, Guru spotted the guns. “Steady, steady....HACK!” he called as six Mark-82s and six M-117Rs came off the racks. He pulled up and called. “Lead's off safe.”

The Libyan Captain watched in horror as an F-4 came in from the north and released its bombs as it came overhead. While some of his men tried to take whatever cover they could, he just stood there. “Allah Akbar-” Then a five-hundred pound bomb exploded barely twenty feet from him....

“Good hits!” Goalie shouted. Though they'd have to look at the strike camera footage, it looked like their bombs had ripped apart several guns, and had also it some kind of command area. And a couple of ammo trucks had been blown apart for good measure.

“Two's in hot!” Sweaty called. She rolled in, and decided the ammo trucks were a good enough target. She laid her Rockeyes on the trucks, and as she pulled away, the CBU bomblets covered most of the battalion's ammo trucks and prime movers. And there were quite a few secondaries. “Two's off safe.”

“Copy, Two,” Guru said. “Nail, Camaro. We are Winchester.”

“Roger that, Camaro. I give you one hundred percent bombs on target. Thanks a lot, guys and gals, and have a nice day.'

“Will do, Nail,” Guru replied. He took his F-4 back down low and headed southwest, and Sweaty was right in trail behind him.

About a minute had passed when Sweaty called, “Guru, Break left!”

Guru responded instantly, and broke to the left, and rolled away. As he did, Goalie was looking around. “What?”

Sweaty lined it up in the pipper. “FOX TWO!” She called. And an AIM-9P came off one of the port missile rails, and tracked towards a helicopter. The Sidewinder flew straight and true, and smashed into a Libyan Air Force Mi-8 Hip. The Sidewinder's warhead tore off several rotor blades, and shrapnel flew into the two saddle fuel tanks, exploding the helo. Sweaty pulled up slightly and rolled to avoid the fireball and debris, and shouted“Splash!”

“Good kill, Sweaty,” Guru called.

“Better be,” she replied. “That's number three.”

Just as she rolled back, and came in to rejoin Guru, both F-4s were, unknown to them, approaching a sector manned by Mexicans. And the first hint of that was several vehicles on State Route 83, south of Parker. And they were BTR-152s escorting a supply convoy, and those BTRs had ZU-23s mounted on top. The crews saw the F-4s, and promptly opened fire, spraying 23-mm fire at the two aircraft.

“Flak coming up,” Goalie saw from the back seat.

“I see it,” Guru said. “Break!” And both F-4s broke away, Guru to the left, and Sweaty to the right. They avoided most of the tracer fire, but not all, for both Guru and Goalie felt two small thumps.
“Sweaty, we've been hit.”

“How bad, Lead?” Sweaty responded. “Coming back in.” She rolled her F-4 back in. “Can't see any smoke.”

“Everything seems okay,” Guru replied. “No warning lights, no nothing.”

“Hey,” Goalie called from the back seat. “Look at the TIESO mount.” The TIESO mount on the left side of the aircraft was a EO sensor used in conjunction with the Maverick missile. Now, a jagged hole was in the mount. “If that's all that was hit....”

Guru nodded, then checked his control panel. Everything looked normal, then he saw it. “Engine temp on Number one's a little too high. Not bad enough, but enough to worry.”

“Divert?” Goalie asked.

“Yeah. Bandsaw, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Bandsaw, go,” the controller replied.

“Bandsaw, we need to divert. Can you give us a vector to the nearest divert field?” Guru said. “And make it fast, fella.”

“Copy. Stand by.”

Guru frowned underneath his oxygen mask. “Can't wait all day.”

“Camaro,” the controller called after what seemed like forever, but was only about thirty seconds. “Your vector across the mountains is two-six-five. Nearest open divert field is Grand Junction.”

“Bandsaw, what about Aspen?” Guru replied.

“Camaro, they're cleaning up after an air strike. Grand Junction is your best bet.”

“Roger that,” Guru said. “Sweaty, on me.”

“Right on you, Lead.” his wingman said. And the two F-4s crossed the Rockies.

In his cockpit, Guru was checking the engine dials every few seconds, it seemed. The engine temp on the port engine had climbed some, but it wasn't high enough to shut down. Yet. After clearing the mountains, the two F-4s climbed to altitude and Guru had Sweaty come in beneath him to have a look.

“No fluid, no nothing coming out,” Sweaty replied. “But there's a hole right beneath the port engine.”

In 512's back seat, Goalie grumbled. “Somebody got dammed lucky back there.”

“No skydiving into bad-guy land, this time,” Guru replied. “If we have to bail...”

“Beats the alternative,” Goalie said.

The two F-4s kept on heading west, and soon it was time to talk to Grand Junction. “Bandsaw, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Bandsaw, go.”

“Bandsaw, can you notify Grand Junction they have an F-4 coming in with battle damage?”

“Camaro, that's affirm. Do you need the equipment?” The controller asked. The “equipment” meant fire and rescue services.

“Negative, Bandsaw.”

“Copy that, and good luck, buddy.”

“Thanks, Bandsaw,” Guru replied. Then he called the Grand Junction tower. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one.”

“Camaro, Grand Junction. We've been notified. Do you need the fire trucks?” Asked a tower operator.

“Negative, unless I declare an emergency,” Guru said. “Clear the field, fella. I'm coming in.”

“Roger, Camaro. Winds are two-seven three at five. Clear for landing on Runway two-nine. Field elevation four-nine-five-eight.”

Both Guru and Goalie got ready to put down, while Sweaty flew alongside. Guru put the gear down, and things looked okay. “Sweaty?”

“Both gears down,” she called. “Still no smoke.”

“Copy.” Guru said as he lined up on final. As he came in, he saw the fire trucks waiting, on the north end of Runway 22. Somebody thought “better safe than sorry,” he said to himself as he put the F-4 down. As he did, he hit the brakes and popped the drag chute. Sweaty saw him land, then she gunned her engines and pulled up. But instead of heading for a tanker and then back to Williams, she got into the traffic pattern.

The F-4 taxied off the runway, the fire trucks following, then Guru was met by a “Follow Me” truck, and he followed the truck until he got to an open area of the ramp, then he stopped and shut down. After popping the canopy, he and Goalie stood up as the fire crews arrived. He gave them a thumbs-up, but they still approached the aircraft with caution. Only when they saw no signs of fire did they begin to relax. As they did, Sweaty brought her plane in. After the firemen brought a crew ladder, Guru and Goalie got out and had a look at the aircraft.

“You guys okay?” One of the firemen asked.

“We're fine,” Goalie replied. “Need to see how the plane is, though.”

Guru got down and crawled underneath the aircraft. Sure enough, there was a small hole beneath the port J-79 engine. “One lucky shot.”

“Enough to hurt the engine?” Goalie asked.

“Enough to make me want to divert,” Guru said. “But I'm not flying back to Williams on that engine.”

Just then, Sweaty and Preacher forced their way through the firemen. “Comin' through,” she yelled.

Goalie had crept down to have a look for herself. “One round did that?”

“If it's still in the engine, yeah,” Guru said, getting back out from underneath the Phantom, and he found Sweaty and Preacher there. “You were right. One nice hole.”

“What now?” Sweaty asked. “Or let me guess: we need a Combat Repair Team.”

“And a new engine. I'm not flying back on that one,” Guru said.

Then a deuce-and-a-half pulled up, and an AF officer in a flight suit came over. “Who's the pilot?”

“Right here,” Guru said.

“Lee Kirby,” the officer said. He was a Captain, like Guru. “What happened?”

“Flak,” Guru replied. “One shot wrecked our TISEO, and the other? Put the hurt on my port J-79 engine. Can I make a phone call? I need to notify my base, and get a Combat Repair Team up here. With a new engine.”

“No problem, Captain Kirby said. “Get in.”

The four F-4 crewers got into the truck, and Kirby took them over to Base Operations. On the ride over, they noticed the place was busy, with Counter-SOF ops flying A-37s, OV-10s, even a couple of ex-warbird Skyraiders. That reminded them of a guy who'd flown a Warbird A-1E to Williams the second week of the war, to offer his services. Someway, somehow, they found some 20-mm guns that used to be on Skyraiders, got the weapons control to work again, and put on a desert camouflage paint job. The pilot, who'd flown A-1s in Vietnam before flying for the airlines, was reactivated as a Major, and was now flying his warbird in the Counter-SOF role. In addition to those folks, C-130s and even C-123s were on the ramp, along with a couple of HH-3 rescue choppers. Just another field supporting the war.

The deuce-and-a-half pulled up to base operations. “Captain, just go in there, and I'll be right outside,” Kirby said.

Guru nodded, and the four F-4 crewers went in. After he asked a sergeant, Guru led them to the main ops office, and asked another Captain for a phone. “Need to call Williams AFB.”

“No problem, Captain,” the officer, Captain Toby Wright, said. He made the call, and asked, “Which unit?”

“The 335th TFS,” Guru replied.

After telling the operator, Wright handed the receiver to Guru. “Here you go.”

After two rings, there was a pickup. “Captain Ellis, 335th TFS.”

“Mark, it's Guru. Put Colonel Rivers on,” Guru told the 335's Ops Officer.

“What? And where are you, man?”

“Grand Junction, Colorado, with an F-4 with a sick engine. And it happens to be mine. Sweaty's here with me as well. Before you ask, her bird's okay. But she put down anyway. Get Colonel Rivers.”

“Got you,” Ellis said.

While Guru was waiting for Rivers to come on the line, he saw Preacher striking up a conversation with a female First Lieutenant, while a Sergeant got coffee for Goalie and Sweaty. The sergeant then offered him a cup, and he gratefully accepted. “Thanks, Sergeant.”

Then a familiar voice came over the line. It was Lt. Col. Dean Rivers, the CO of the 335th. “XO, what's going on, and where are you?”

“Boss, I'm in Grand Junction, Colorado, and my bird has a sick J-79 engine, thanks to some flak damage. I need a Combat Repair Team up here, and they need to bring a new engine.”

“Okay, XO. Just stay calm. I'll put you on hold, while I get things rolling on that.” And Guru was then on hold. And while he was waiting, Goalie tapped him on the shoulder. “What?”

She pointed to an officer who looked like an AF version of Lt. Fuzz from the Beetle Bailey comic strip. “That.”

“Who are these officers out of uniform?' A pipsqueak-looking First Lieutenant said.

“Who's asking?” Guru said, seeing the pipsqueak and tapping his Captain's bars. “I've got two bars. You've got one. Beat it.”

The lieutenant looked at him. “I'm getting the CO,” he said. Then he left the room.

Goalie came over. “A junior version of Carson?” Major Frank Carson, or “The 335th's Frank Burns” as he was called, was the most despised officer in the squadron, infamous for blindly going by the book, even when wartime circumstances meant dropping parts of the book.

“Sure hope not,” Guru said, while Sweaty shook her head.

Then Colonel Rivers got back on the line. “XO, found a CRT, a new engine, and a C-130. Wheels up in a half-hour, and they should be there in two and a half hours. Best we can do.”
“Thanks, Colonel,” Guru said.

“I'll find you thorough Base Ops up there,” Rivers said. “Let me know when you're getting ready to leave.”

“Will do, Boss,” Guru said just as a slightly grey-haired AF Lieutenant Colonel came into the room. As everyone came to attention, and someone shouted “Ten-hut!”, Guru said, “Boss, I gotta go. I'll let you know when we're coming back.”

“I heard,” Riverrs said. “Stay cool, XO.”

“Will do,” Guru replied. Then he handed the phone to one of the sergeants.

“Sir,” the pipsqueak-looking lieutenant said, coming out from behind the colonel. “This is what I've been trying to tell you. Transiting aircrew out of uniform!”

“I'll handle this.” the colonel said. “Captain,” he said to Guru. “That your sick F-4 out on the ramp?

“Yes, sir,” said Guru. “Took some flak south of Denver. Put a hole in one of my engines, and I didn't want to chance it getting back home.”

The colonel looked Guru and Goalie over. “You two crew?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “Lieutenant Eichhorn's my GIB.”

“MiG kills?”

“Yes, sir. Five, including a MiG-29. But she was with me for only two.”

“Don't worry, Lieutenant. Your time will come,” the colonel said to Goalie.

“If you say so, sir,” she replied.

“And the other two are your wingmates? Asked the colonel.

“Yes, sir,” Guru nodded. “Lieutenant Blanchard is my wingie, and Lieutenant Simmonds is her GIB.”

“Any MiG kills?” The colonel wanted to know. He was looking Sweaty over.

“Sir, two. Including a MiG-29 with the Captain,” Sweaty said. “And a Hip just this afternoon.”

The Colonel nodded, then shot an icy look at the pipsqueak. “Lieutenant, I strongly suggest that you have a look at someone's rank insignia, or if they've got wings of any sort before you call them out-on anything! In my office, in five. Understood?”

The lieutenant wilted under the withering glare of his superior, said, “Yes, sir,” in a weak voice, then left the room.

“As you were, people,” the colonel said. He put out his hand to Guru. “Jim Osborne, Captain. F-100s out of Tuy Hoa in 1967-68, and F-4s for LINEBACKER I and II.”

“Captain Matt Wiser, sir. 335th TFS,” Guru said, shaking Osborne's hand. “Always a pleasure to meet a Vietnam vet.”

“The Air Force's Bastard Orphans, I see. Word's gotten around about you guys,” Osborne said. “I'd be back in the saddle myself, but a heart murmur....comes from dodging too many flying telephone poles in Pack Six.”

Guru nodded, while Sweaty said. “Sir, speaking from experience....”

Colonel Osborne nodded. “And you all have quite a bit of experience.” He looked the four F-4 crewers over. “I'd like to apologize for my subordinate's actions. He's been like this ever since he showed up here.”

Preacher nodded. “Sir, I was studying for the priesthood when the war began, and I can tell when someone's got something in their craw. What's with this fellow?”

Osborne looked at Preacher. “He washed out of basic flight, and he's been like this ever since.”

“Sir, that would do it to anyone,” Sweaty said.

“Colonel, if I may?” Guru asked.

“Captain?” Osborne asked.

“Sir, perhaps a transfer to a place where the climate might induce a change of attitude? Someplace like Loring, Goose Bay, or Gander?” Guru suggested.

“That's certainly possible,” Colonel Osborne noted. “Any other suggestions?”

“Sir,” Goalie spoke up. “We've got a few GIBs in the 335th who washed out of flight, but did pretty good at nav school. One's even the GIB for our CO. He may not have cut it as a pilot, but...”

Colonel Osborne looked at Goalie, then at Preacher, who nodded in the affirmative. “That's also a possibility....but his attitude when I see him back in my office will determine which one I take up.” Then Captain Kirby came in.”Captain, take these four officers over to the terminal. The cafe there is open, and the food's pretty good. If they need anything while they're here, give it to them, within reason. And Captain? If Kirby can't get what you need, call or ask to see me. I'll see what I can do.” Then Colonel Osborne left to return to his office.

“Just like our CO down at Williams,” Goalie said. “He's the kind of guy who takes care of his people, and you'd fly with him anywhere.”

Kirby smiled. “That he is, and word has it he wanted to retake a flight physical and get back in, but his wife said no.”

“And she who must be obeyed....” Preacher said.

“That's about it.” Kirby said. “Come on, I'll take you guys over to the terminal.”

As they left the ops office, they could hear shouting from Colonel Osborne's office. “Sounds like someone's getting torn a new hole,” Goalie said.

“He deserves it,” Kirby admitted. “He's been like this to everyone, base personnel, the counter-SOF guys, Special Ops aviation-AF or Army, transiting aircrew, C-130 guys flying into Denver, you name it.”

The F-4 crewers nodded, and as they got into the Deuce-and-a-half, Guru asked, “How's the food?”

“Not bad,” Kirby said. “Beef, not so much, but Deer, Elk, Chicken, Pork? They've got it.”

“Fair enough,” Guru said. “Let's go.”

Airways Cafe, Grand Junction Regional Airport, CO: 1540 Hours Mountain War Time:

The four F-4 crewers were sitting around a table, and at this time of the day, they were the only ones in the cafe. So they were just sitting there, having either coffee or lemonade, and yapping. Anything to pass the time.

“So, when does that CRT get here?” Goalie asked.

“About another hour and a half,” Guru said. “Then at least an hour for the engine change, then fifteen minutes for the check flight, then another hour and a half back home.”

Sweaty looked at her flight leader. “That means we eat here.”

“That's a given,” Guru said.

Preacher nodded. “Swell. Oh, well, there's probably worse places we could divert to.”

“You're probably right about that. Or worse, we could've gone skydiving.”

“Not your cup of tea,” Goalie said. “Stuff you still don't want to talk about?” She was referring to Guru's E&E and his time with the Resistance.

“Yeah. I told the debriefer when I got to 7th ID, and I told a SERE Psychologist when I was at Kingsley Field, getting ready to requalify, but other than that...” Guru nodded.

Sweaty looked at him. “They have SERE shrinks?”

“Yep. If you're on the ground behind the lines for more than twenty-four hours? You have to see one before they'll let you back in the cockpit,” Guru replied. “Why, I have no idea.”

Preacher nodded. “Lot different from Vietnam. They say if you got rescued after a day or two on the ground? It was 'Welcome back, take a day off, then you're back on the flight schedule.' Lot simpler then.”

The others nodded. “It was, but then again, you didn't have to worry about bailing out and finding out that the folks who helped you got tortured and killed, and their ranch burned down,” Guru said. “That happened to Lori's parents and siblings.”

“That explains why she's so brutal in a fight. No prisoners, as I remember you saying,” Goalie nodded.

“You're dead on,” Guru replied. “We never took prisoners unless it was for interrogation, and after that? They were killed. Period. Couldn't keep them and couldn't release them-for obvious reasons.”

“Don't blame them,” Preacher said. “After all I've seen and done? I'll tell you guys right now: when this war's over? I'm staying in the Air Force.”

Preacher's flight mates looked at him. “What made you do that?” Goalie asked.

“Where has God been when I've been killing people three or four times a day? Or where has he been when Guru there has seen things no one should ever see? Going back to the seminary? No thanks.”

“Don't blame you,” Guru said. “Plenty of people have asked the same thing, I'll bet.”

“And every one of those guerrillas you were with has a horror story?” Sweaty asked.

“Almost,” Guru nodded. “A few were caught in the back country when it all started, and some ran to the hills on Invasion Day, but most of 'em went after seeing bad things happen-either to relatives or friends, or just plain seeing one of Ivan's reprisals against people they didn't know. 'I'd better make myself scarce before that happens to me.' if you get the idea.”

Heads nodded at that. “I'd do the same,” Sweaty said.

“Think we all would,” Preacher added, while Goalie just nodded.

Then the waitress came over. “Care to order, or just refills?” She looked liked she'd been waiting on tables well before any of the fighter crews had been born.

“Nothing against eating dessert before dinner,” Guru noted. “I'll have a banana split. All chocolate ice cream, and all chocolate syrup.”

“Okay, and you?” She asked Goalie.

“Well...if my pilot's having one, then I will. All vanilla ice cream, though, and half chocolate syrup, half butterscotch, if you have it.”

“We'll find some,” the waitress said. “How about you?” She nodded at Sweaty.

“I'll have a slice of three-layer chocolate cake,” Sweaty decided. “With a side scoop of vanilla ice cream.”

Goalie muttered to her pilot, “That's the Sweaty we know.”

“Okay...and last but not least..” The waitress nodded at Preacher.

He looked at the menu. “I'll have the hot fudge cake sundae.” That was a three-layer slice of chocolate cake, with a large scoop of ice cream, and covered in hot fudge,

“All right, and refills on your drinks?” The crews nodded. “Okay, back with the refills, and we'll get this going.” The waitress then went off to fill the order.

The crews were eating when a pair of CSPs arrived, and behind them were two AF Intelligence Officers, bringing with them a real live Soviet pilot in a high-altitude pressure suit. One of the intel folks-a female Captain came over. “Mind if we sit close to you people?”

“What for?” Guru asked. “Not that we don't mind the company.”

“Major Belov there,” the Captain pointed to the Russian, “bailed out of a recon Foxbat from 65,000 feet....”

“Long way to skydive,” Goalie observed.

“It is that,” the intel officer said. “Anyway, a shore-based F-14 and a Phoenix missile did the deed. The Army found him, and turned him over to us. When Base Ops told us some fighter drivers were here for a while, we figured he'd talk more if he was near you guys.”

The F-4 crewers looked at each other. They nodded, while Guru shrugged. “Why not? Bring him on over.”

A minute later, the intel people brought the Russian over. The waitress was surprised, but still got coffee for them, the Russian included. Then Goalie broke the tension with the Russian. “He's lucky.”

“What do you mean?” Guru asked, playing along.

'You were with the Resistance, right?” She asked, and Guru nodded. “What would they do to a Russian or Cuban pilot?”

“Do you really want to know?” Guru asked, and the intel officers nodded politely. “Well, if they found him in his chute, snagged in a tree? Use him for target practice.”

“That bad?” The female intel Captain asked.

“Worse. If he was a chopper pilot, from a Hind or Hip? The group I was with lost a few people to gunships, so after they shot down a Hind with a captured SA-7? The pilot climbed out of the wreckage, only to get shot in the stomach. The guerrillas left him to bleed out,” Guru said, matter of fact.

“Ouch!” Sweaty said. They'd heard the story before, but best not to let the Russian know that.

Preacher nodded. “And the weapons officer?”

“He was trapped in the wreckage, and one of the guerrillas just went over and slit his throat,” Guru recalled.

“There you have it, Major,” the intel told the Russian. “Be glad you're with us.”

“Hey, you guys been in Arizona?” Goalie asked the intel folks.

“No, Lieutenant,” the female Captain asked. “Why do you ask?”

“If he'd gone down on, say, the San Carlos Apache Reservation? The Apaches would have gotten him. Then they would've scalped him, flayed him alive, and staked him out in the desert. No joke, it's happened several times.”

Hearing that, the Russian's eyes were as big as saucers. “The Wild Indians still do that?”

“They haven't changed,” Guru said.

“So, Major, want to have a nice talk?” The Intel Captain asked.

The Russian looked at the F-4 crewers. “So, you must be cargo plane crews.”

“What makes you say that?” Preacher asked.

“Women. You don't allow women to fly combat aircraft. Unless the Political Officer has been lying about it, as he does about many things.”

Goalie grinned. “Wrong, buster. One of those F-4s on the ramp? I fly back seat in it.”

“She's right,” Guru said. “I'm her pilot. We've got 225 combat missions together. I've got nearly 400 total.”

Major Belov looked at them, incredulous. “What? You mean you're really using women in combat?”

“Why not?” Sweaty asked. “You did it in WW II. Oh, I'm their wingmate. And it's 200 combat missions for me and my WSO, by the way.

“Interesting,” the intel Captain, who introduced herself as Jenny Brand, said. “How about MiGs?”

“Five for me,” Guru said. “Plus two or three probables. And my Girl in Back has two of them. One's a MiG-29.”

When Belov heard that, he was surprised. “An F-4 shooting down a MiG-29?

“Not just one F-4,” Sweaty said. “We got the other one.”

Belov just shook his head in disbelief.

“Well, Major?” Captain Brand asked. “You're in the presence of a fighter ace and a crew on their way to becoming aces. Ready to have a nice chat?”

“One more question, please,” Belov said, his voice shaking. “Did they assign you to Phantoms? Or did you...”

“Did we sleep around to get the slots?” Goalie asked. She was indignant at the suggestion. “If that's what you're suggesting, the answer is NO.”

“We volunteered,” Sweaty added. “Nobody made us.”

Belov shook his head again. “Now I have heard everything.” He turned to Captain Brand. “What is it you want to talk about?”

Captain Brand smiled as she took out a tape recorder and a notepad from a bag she had been carrying. “Let's go to another table. Then we'll talk.”

After the waitress brought their desserts, the F-4 crewers dug in. They noticed that the Intel people were listening intently to Major Belov's remarks, and not only did they have a tape recorder going, but they were taking copious notes. One other thing they noticed was that the Major's coffee cup was kept nearly full, though the Major was drinking cup after cup, savoring it like it was the finest brandy or vodka. They were still at it when the C-130 arrived from Williams, and Captain Kirby brought over the NCOIC of the Combat Repair Team, Tech Sergeant Phil Cutler. “Captain, here's the guy you've been waiting on.”

“Thanks,” Guru said. “Sergeant, have you looked over 512?”

“Yes, sir,” Cutler replied. “Just a straightforward engine change. Had a look at the hole, and it's no big deal. You'll be flying again in an hour and a half.” It was 1730.

“Let me guess,” Sweaty asked. “An hour for the engine change, and half an hour to patch the hole.”

Sergeant Cutler nodded. “Yes, Ma'am. But you can take that to the bank.”

Guru nodded, looked at Goalie, who smiled, then turned to Cutler. “Okay, Sergeant. Don't waste any more time talking to us. Let's get 512 back in the air.”

“Yes, sir,” the Sergeant replied, very eagerly, then headed out to get Guru's bird wheeled into a hangar so that they could do the work.

Kirby grinned. “You'll be out of here shortly. Anything you need..”

“We'll let you know,” Guru said. “Thanks, Captain.”

After Kirby left, Sweaty noted. “An hour and a half more here, then another hour and a half flying home. We better eat.”

“She's right,” Goalie said. “Eating here beats MREs when we get back.”

“It does, Guru admitted. He motioned to the waitress, and he asked, “Could you bring the menus back? We'll be here a while longer.”

“Sure thing, Captain,” she replied cheerfully, then she went and came back with them.

Scanning the menu, Guru said. “If have any more deer or elk, I'll start to grow antlers.”

Goalie laughed. “Can't have that in the cockpit,” and the others laughed as well.

“Had enough of that in the mountains?” Preacher asked.

“Too much,” Guru nodded. “Almost all the meat was what you shot. Deer and elk mostly. Unless you raided a supply convoy and got something out of that. Don't want to go through that again.”

“Don't blame you,” Sweaty said. “Let's see...fried chicken, roast chicken, turkey dinner.”

“That's mine,” Preacher said. “Where's the rule that says Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only times you can have that?”

“There isn't,” Goalie nodded. “Elk steak-and our dear friend Guru is staying away from that.”

“With a passion,” Guru added.

The waitress came over. “Ready?”

“Preacher, go. Junior member first this time,” Guru said.

“Thanks,” Preacher replied. “Turkey dinner for me.”

It was Sweaty's turn. “I'll have the grilled ham.”

The waitress nodded, then turned to Goalie. “Me? Fried chicken dinner for me”

“Same here,” Guru said.

The waitress smiled, and said, “Back with your salads.” Then she went off to fill the order.

After she brought the salads, Colonel Osborne came in. “Colonel?” Guru said.

“Just checking up on our visitors,” Osborne said. “I noticed your C-130 arrived.”

“Yes,sir,” Guru replied. “And the CRT got to work.”

Osborne looked at the four. “Don't worry. I'll make sure they get something to eat before they head back to Arizona.”

“Thank you, sir,” Guru said.

“Mind if I pull up a chair?”

Sweaty looked at Guru, who nodded. “As my flight lead said, always a pleasure to talk with a Vietnam vet.”

“Thank you,” Osborne said, sitting down. Like many a Vietnam vet, he was curious as to how this generation of fighter pilots was doing. Though he'd been initially skeptical of women in the cockpit, He'd been impressed with what he'd seen so far, and his mind was changing. “So...you all have had your share of combat, I gather.” It wasn't a question.

“Yes, sir,” Guru said. “I'm the only one here who was flying on Day One. Though Lieutenant Eichhorn, my GIB, was flying C-130s as a nav.”

“How bad was it that first day? Where were you?” Osborne asked as the waitress came over. “Decaf, and what's the junior member having?”

“Turkey dinner, sir,” Preacher said.

“No problem, Colonel,” the waitress said.

“Day one? We were at Nellis for a Red Flag. First thing we know is a couple explosions at the front gate, then small-arms fire, then the word we're at war. And tasking? Get to the Mexican border and kill anything painted green headed north.” Guru said, recalling that hectic first day.

“Losses?” Osborne asked.

“Two planes and crews. Three or four others came back with battle damage,” Guru said. “But we stopped the push up I-19, and with the Hogs and an Army Reserve Cobra unit, turned I-19 into a junkyard.”

“When did the women show up?” Osborne wanted to know.

“June, sir,” Goalie said. “Right after my pilot came back from an E&E with the Resistance.”

“July for me,” Sweaty said. “They put me as his wingmate,” She pointed to Guru, and we've been together ever since.”

“And you?” Osborne asked Preacher.

“Same time as Lieutenant Blanchard,” Preacher said. “We came out of the RTU together.”

Colonel Osborne thought for a minute. These people would've fit in with the old 31st back at Tuy Hoa, or in the 8th TFW out of Udorn in '72. “You did an E&E?” He asked Guru.

Guru nodded, just as the waitress brought their meals. “Yes, sir. Shot down in January, '86, ran with a Resistance group for five months, along with my then-GIB and several other downed aircrew from all services. Got over the mountains in May, and back with my squadron Then I found out Lieutenant Eichhorn was my new GIB, and we've been flying ever since.” Saw and did some things I'd rather not talk about.”

“You're not alone, Captain,” Osborne said. “I've run into other 'lost sheep' and they tell pretty much the same thing. You also mentioned MiGs?”

“Yes, sir,” Guru replied. “Five. Three before going down. Two more since. Last one was a MiG-29.”

“And you, Lieutenant?” Osborne gestured to Sweaty.

“Two, sir. Plus a Hip this afternoon,” Sweaty said.

“Well, we could've used you all in Pack Six back in the day. Ever hear of Steve Ritchie?” Osborne asked. Brig. Gen. Steve Ritchie was the AF's only pilot ace in Southeast Asia, with five MiG-21s to his credit.

The crewers smiled. “Yes, sir,” Goalie said. “He's come by a couple of times. And he's said the same thing about Pack Six. Even if most of our tasking is air-to-ground.”

Osborne nodded. These guys and girls were doing the job, just like he did back in Vietnam. They were younger than he'd been in his '72 tour, but all of them, women included, would've fit in with the Wolfpack. “Well, changing the subject. Lieutenant Eichhorn? I thought about your suggesting that eager-beaver get a second chance. We'll see if Mather can knock him into shape.” Mather AFB near Sacramento was home to not just a SAC B-52 wing, but the AF's navigator training unit in peacetime. Now, it was home to nav training for all services on the West Coast, while the Navy at Pensacola did the same on the East Coast.

“Good to hear, sir,” Preacher said. “Some people do deserve a second chance. But if he washes out...”

“He's shoveling snow,” Goalie finished.

“Chances are? Yes.” Osborne said.

They were still chatting when Captain Kirby came in. “Colonel, the CRT sent me over,” he said. “Captain, your bird's finished.”

“You're sure, Captain?” Osborne asked, while both Guru and Goalie were listening intently.

They ran up the new engine, and it's ready, they said. All it needs is the check flight.”

Everyone stood up, and Osborne nodded. “Captain, you and your GIB take care of business in the latrine,” he pointed to the restrooms. “Then get ready to fly. Lieutenant Blanhard? You and your GIB come with me to Base Ops. We'll watch the check flight from there while your bird's prepped. If everything checks out, you'll go up after him.”

Heads nodded. “Yes, sir!” Guru and Sweaty said at once.

“I'll take care of the bill. Get going!” Osborne said.

Guru and Goalie ran for the restrooms, did their business, then ran over to Base Ops. “Colonel, I need to make a phone call,” Guru said. “Need to tell my CO we're coming.”

“Not a problem, Captain,” Osborne said. He had the duty officer make the call, then the man handed the receiver to Guru.

“335th TFS, Captain Ellis,” the voice on the other end said.

“Mark? Guru. We're about to leave. Put the CO on.”

“Gotcha,” Ellis said. “There's quite a few people here, waiting. Hoping you're coming back and not having Carson as Exec.”

“Frank can shove it,” Guru replied.

Ellis laughed. “He can. Here's the boss,”

“XO?” Rivers asked. “You coming?”

“Check flight first, Boss. Then we're coming straight home. Not even landing back here,” Guru said.

“The CRT?”

“They're eating, then they're on the way.”

“Got you. We'll be waiting.”

“On the way, Boss.” Guru said. He handed the receiver to the NCO and turned to Goalie. “Let's go. Colonel? He said to Osborne. “Thanks for your hospitality.”

“Anytime, Captain. When you get back to Williams? Keep kicking some and taking some.”

“Will do, Colonel.”

They got ready to fly, then Captain Kirby drove them over to the hangar, where Sergeant Cutler was waiting. “Sir, Ma'am, the run-up went fine. She's ready to go.”

“Then let's go,” Guru said. He and Goalie did a very quick walk-around, then got into the cockpit. After an equally quick preflight, it was time to start engines. Guru watched as Sergeant Cutler gave the “Start Engines” signal, and ran up Number One. Everything was normal, then he started Two. Again, everything was normal. Then he contacted the Tower. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one requesting permission for taxi and takeoff.”

“Camaro One-one, Tower, clear to taxi to Runway Two-Niner. Hold short of the runway.”

“Roger that. Camaro One-one rolling.” Guru taxied the F-4 to the runway.

“Camaro One-one, watch for inbound traffic to your right,” the tower called.

“Roger that,” Guru replied. He and Goalie watched as a C-123, part of the Denver Airlift, came in to land. After the transport landed and taxied away, Guru called the Tower.”Camaro One-one requesting takeoff instructions.”

“Clear to taxi for takeoff.” Tower said.

Guru taxied the big Phantom onto the runway, held his brakes, and applied full power. “So far, so good,” he told Goalie on the intercom.

“Same here,” she called back. She was checking her own instruments. One thing about the F-4, it had a complete set of flight controls in the back seat, a holdover from the days when there were two rated pilots in the aircraft, before the AF put navigators in the back seats.

“Tower, Camaro One-one. Request clearance for takeoff.”

“Camaro One-one, clear for takeoff. Winds are calm,” the tower replied.

“Roger that.” Guru said. He released the brakes, went to full afterburner, and the big Phantom went down the runway. He pulled back on the stick, and the F-4 climbed into the air.

Sweaty and Preacher were watching from their plane, 519. They were already in the cockpit, waiting. “Fifteen minutes,” she said.

“Start engines when?”

“In ten.”

Colonel Osborne and Captain Kirby were next to 519, watching with binoculars. “Wish you were with them, sir?” Kirby asked.

“Just one more flight in a fighter, Captain. That's all I ask.” Osborne said wistfully.

Guru took 512 north of Grand Junction, and climbed to 30,000 feet. He then went down to 10,000, and put the tough warbird through its paces, and he wrung the plane out. All the time, he and Goalie were watching the port engine. And after ten minutes, he headed back to Grand Junction. “Grand Junction Tower, Camaro One-one.”

“Grand Junction Tower, Camaro, go.”

“Have Camaro One-two crank up. Tell 'em time to hit the sky and head home.”

“Will do, Camaro, and will notify AWACS. Safe trip home.”

“Thanks for your hospitality, Tower.”

Sweaty had started 519's engines at the ten-minute mark, and they were rolling to the runway when Guru called the Tower. There being no inbound traffic, she was cleared to taxi right for takeoff, and when she asked for clearance, it came. She firewalled the engines, and 519 rolled down the runway and into the air. They formed up at 24,000 feet.

“Let's go home,” Guru called. And he saw Sweaty blink her formation lights in response. And the Two-ship headed back to Williams.

Williams AFB, AZ, 2130 Hours Mountain War Time:

The two-ship got into the traffic pattern for Williams AFB, and there were Marine A-6s going in and out, so the two F-4s had to wait their turn. Then the tower cleared them to land, Guru and Sweaty brought their planes in, and after landing, they taxied to their revetments. It had been a long day, even with the divert, and they were tired.

“All that food we ate?” Goalie asked.

“Yeah, but it was worth it,” Guru said as he climbed down from the cockpit. Waiting for them was Staff Sergeant Mike Crowley, 512's Crew Chief. “Sergeant.”

“Welcome back, sir!” Crowley said. “They told me about the new engine and the battle damage repair. Don't worry, Captain. I'll make sure the patch is solid. Even if we have to do an all-nighter.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Then Sweaty and Preacher came over. “Long day.”

“Longer than usual, but it beats holing up somewhere, waiting for Jolly Green to come,” Sweaty nodded.

“Or having Kasha and Borscht,” Preacher added.

“It does,” Goalie said.

Then a pair of slitted headlights came over. They revealed a Dodge Crew-Cab pickup, and the squadron's senior NCO, Master Sergeant Michael Ross, was behind the wheel. “Captain, Lieutenants, Colonel Rivers sent me to pick you up.”

“We need to debrief, you know,” Goalie reminded her pilot.

Guru nodded. Right now, all he wanted to do was get back to the squadron's billets at the Sheraton and find his room, and get some sleep. “Forgot about that little detail. Let's get it over with.”

The four crewers climbed into the truck, and Ross drove them over to the squadron building. A few lights were burning, the night duty staff, they thought. When he pulled in front of the building and stopped, he said, “Here you go, sir.”

“Thanks, Sergeant,” Guru said, and the others nodded. They were all tired, and frankly, wanted the debriefing over and done, so they could get some sleep. He opened the door, and as the four officers went in, they found most of the squadron's aircrew waiting for them. What the...

“Looks like our lost sheep are back,” Colonel Rivers said, “You had us worried for a while.”

“Boss?” Guru asked.

“There was a rumor going around that both of your planes were down. Carson was drooling at the thought of his becoming Exec if something happened to you,” Rivers said.

“What?” Goalie asked.

“You got it, Lieutenant. Until the XO called, people were dreading the thought of Carson as Exec. But when you called, XO,” Rivers said, turning back to Guru. “I tore him a new hole, told him he wasn't going to be Exec today, and gave him a kick in the ass.”

“Did he-” Guru asked.

“He never touched your office, XO,” Rivers said.

“But he was getting ready to move in,” Mark Ellis said.

Guru shook his head.

“Guess we need to debrief,” Sweaty said after a minute.

“That you do,” Rivers said, He waved the SIO, Lieutenant Licon over. “So, what happened before the divert?”

“Made some artillery go away, Boss,” Guru said. “Big ones, either 122 or 130, looked like.”

“Hit the guns?” Licon asked.

“That, and some ammo trucks,” Goalie said.

“How about Sweaty?” Rivers wanted to know.

“Same thing,” Sweaty replied. “Got some secondaries with the CBUs.”

Rivers and Licon nodded. “Anything else of note?” Asked the SIO.

“Gave the XO a break call, and as he did the break, I shot a Sidewinder into a Hip. Blew him apart.”

“Did you see it, Captain?” Licon asked, and Guru nodded, as did Goalie.

Licon nodded, then turned to the CO. “Sir, that's three now for Lieutenant Blanchard. Two more and she's an ace.” And there was applause from their friends when they heard that.

Rivers shook hands with Sweaty. “Congratulations,” he said.

“Thanks, Boss,” she replied.

“Now, how'd you get to Grand Junction?” Rivers asked.

Guru shook his head. “Don't know if it was a flak trap or what, but we're egressing the area, and there's some vehicles on one of the north-south roads. They sprayed us with light flak-maybe 23-mm, and we took two hits. One wrecked the TIESO, the other hit the port engine. Wasn't going to risk coming home with a bum engine.”

“Good call, XO,” Rivers said. “Now, Sweaty, why'd divert with him instead of coming back?”

“Sir,” Sweaty said. “The Exec never told me to return to base, and lacking such orders, I did what any wingman would. I remained with my leader.”

Rivers laughed. “Well, no one can argue with that, Lieutenant.” He looked at the quartet. “You guys are off the flight schedule tomorrow. Catch up on sleep, take care of your paperwork, and we'll properly celebrate Sweaty's Hip kill tomorrow night. But for now..” He motioned to Sergeant Ross, who brought some paper cups, and several bottles of Seven-up. “This'll have to do.”

Sergeant Ross carefully measured a cup for everyone, then passed out the cups.

After everyone had a cup, Rivers asked, “What'll we drink to?”

Mark Ellis spoke up. “How about our lost friends? Especially those looking down on us.”

“Hear, hear,” Capt. Don Van Loan, the assistant Ops Officer, said, and several echoed that.

“To our lost friends,” Colonel Rivers said as he raised his cup.

RN7 02-02-2015 11:00 AM

Matt I really like the stories. One question AS you are the star of the show which movie star who acted as a pilot in a war movie should we imagine you look like? Powers Boothe, Clint Eastwood, Val Kilmer, Tom Cruise?

Matt Wiser 02-02-2015 05:05 PM

Mark Wahlberg.

Matt Wiser 02-04-2015 07:31 PM

I've got a couple of stories from the Soviet POV-one's pretty big, being over 2.8 MB, and several stories dealing with a former POW's experiences in Cuba (she was shot down there); shootdown, a move from one POW camp to another, release, and confronting demons in a return to Cuba after the fall of the Castro Regime, and at a war crimes trial, so stay tuned.

Matt Wiser 02-04-2015 08:18 PM

One of the Soviet-centric stories: How Marshal Sergei Akhromayev became the Defense Minister of the USSR (a job he didn't want)....

Congratulations, Comrade Marshal

Defense Minister's Office, Defense Ministry, Moscow, USSR, 1400 Hours Moscow Time, 16 May, 1987:

Marshal Sergei Sokolov, the Defense Minister of the USSR, sat at his desk. A career soldier, he had taken the job of Defense Minister after the death of Marshal Nikolai Rostov, who had succeeded Dimitry Ustinov. Rostov had been in the job when the war with America and her allies began, and at first, the Soviets and their fraternal socialist partners had experienced success, as well as neutralizing the Chinese threat for the foreseeable future. But, when the Spring-Summer Offensive in 1986 had failed to finish the war in North America, Rostov had been forced out and then liquidated. The General Secretary, Viktor Chebrikov, had then appointed him to the position of Defense Minister, and was tasked with planning “the final victory of Socialism.” However, after the American counterattack that summer, and the disasterous Vancouver campaign, it was his opinion that the best the Soviets could hope for was to bleed the Americans white, and force them to accept a negotiated settlement on Soviet terms. But the Chief of the General Staff, General Pavel Grachev, had reminded him the last time a general promised to bleed his enemy white. That general was the Chief of the German General Staff, General Erich von Falkenheyn, at a place called Verdun. And the man wound up resigning after the German failure.

Now, the promised Spring offensive in America had gone off, and to his horror, the Americans had been waiting for the Soviet forces. The attempt to seal off and eliminate the American salient around Wichita in an operation similar to Operation Uranus in 1942 had failed. According to the GRU, the American media was hailing it as the greatest tank battle in history, surpassing Kursk. And the Americans had won. And all that could be done now was to wait for the inevitable American counterattack. So far, there had been an American attack, but TVD Amerika was hopeful that this attack could be halted, and the situation restored.

Then his speaker buzzed. “Yes?”

“Comrade Minister,” his secretary said. “It's General Maslov, the chief of Operations. He says it's urgent.”

“Put him through,” Sokolov ordered. He picked up the receiver. “Yes, Maslov?”

“Comrade Minister, would you please come down to the Operations Room? We have a situation here.”

“I'll be there right away,” Sokolov said. He got up and left his office. In the outer office, he told his secretary, “Galina? No calls.”

“Yes, Comrade Minister,” his secretary, a very attractive female signals Captain, said.

Sokolov nodded at his ADC. “Mikhail Petrovich, let's go to the Operations Room.”

“Comrade Minister,” Major Mikhail Bosak, an airborne officer who had won the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union in 1985 for seizing the bridges over the Red River along Interstate 35, nodded. The Major rose and followed his Marshal out.

The two went to the secure elevator and went down several stories below street level. There, in a bunker hardened to withstand the effects of a nuclear blast, though Sokolov doubted that it would, in the event of a direct hit, After passing thorough two security checkpoints, the Marshal and his aide entered the Operations Area. There, he found Col. Gen. Nikolai Baranov, the deputy Chief of the General Staff, waiting. The Chief of the General Staff, General Grachev, was on an inspection of the Beylorussian Military District, and was thus unavailable. “Yes, Baranov?

“Comrade Minister, General Maslov sent me to receive you. I think you had better come this way,” he said, gesturing to the Operations Room.

“This had better be important,” Sokolov growled.

“It is, Comrade Minister,” Baranov nodded. It appeared to Major Bosak that the General had a very grave expression on his face. He conducted the two officers into the Operations Room, which had several maps of various regions of the world. On the map of Europe, Soviet air and naval action against the British was shown, along with the assembling forces in Baltic ports for the planned assault on the East Coast of Britain, while Allied air and naval action against Soviet convoys bound for Cuba and Mexico was also noted. In the Mediterranean, Allied convoys with war materiel from Egypt and Israel, as well as Middle East oil, were passing through without much interference, and the same was said for the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The map for the Far East had the nuclear strikes on China still pinpointed, as well as those PLA units still active in Manchuria. That was still causing the Soviets trouble, though the occasional theater missile strike was needed to keep those bastards quiet. It also showed, much to the Marshal's displeasure, targets in the Soviet Far East that had been hit by American and British bombers flying from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Okinawa, as well as the Soviet convoys going to and from occupied Alaska.

The next map showed the Northern Theater, from Alaska down thorough Canada, and that theater, since the disaster in Vancouver, was a stalemate. Though the key towns and the roads in Alaska were under Soviet control, the large areas of the state marked “Guerrilla” showed just how tenuous the Soviets' control was, and that the prewar plan to incorporate Alaska into the USSR after victory was likely to be grossly overoptimistic. The same was said for Canada from the Yukon into British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, where Soviet and North Korean control was also limited to the roads, and there were settlements that had never seen a Soviet or North Korean solider, and those areas were known to be under the control of the Canadian Western Partisan Command. The rest of the Canadian Front was, from east of Vancouver all the way to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, stalemate. The Soviets weren't getting enough supplies forward from Alaska to sustain offensive operations, while the Allies, mainly British and Canadian, with some Americans in British Columbia and Southern Alberta, were content to keep the Soviets entertained, with minor attacks, probes, and deep raids being the norm. But the main focus was on the Southern Theater, where the Soviets' main offensive had been launched.

“What is it? Sokolov growled as Gen. Andrei Maslov, the Chief of Operations, came into the room.

“Comrade Marshal, we're about to update the map. I suggest you have a careful look at what you see.”

Sokolov, Maslov, and the other staff officers now gathered watched as the map showing the American heartland, from Colorado and New Mexico in the West, to the Mississippi River in the East, showed the current battle lines. Though, given the time lag in updating the map was twelve hours, it was generally sufficient, given how things had gone since 1985. Now, though...

First, Sokolov watched as the last siege lines near Denver fell back, and several American formations pushed forward south from Interstate 70, the main east-west highway in this part of America, headed south and southeast, while another American force, this one pushing through Eastern New Mexico, was headed to meet them. It appeared to Sokolov that the U.S. Fourth and Sixth Armies were intent on creating a pocket similar to that the Soviets had created in Operation Uranus, back in 1942.

Then, to his horror, the forces that had launched the Wichita Offensive were being steadily pushed back, as the U.S. Fifth Army was now pushing not only into Western Kansas, but also down into Eastern Kansas and even the Northeastern tip of Oklahoma. And in Arkansas? Counters now showed the U.S. First Army pushing into Northern Arkansas, and across the Mississippi from Kentucky and Tennessee into the eastern part of the state. Several hundred kilometers of his front line, in fact, nearly all of it, had simply disintegrated.

And to the west...in New Mexico, the U.S. Sixth Army was carving through the state like a butcher carved meat. And it looked as if they wouldn't stop until they reached the border with Texas. About the only bright spot was Louisiana: the U.S. Third Army had limited itself to harassing attacks, but no full-scale offensive. Though that could change at any time. “My God...” Sokolov muttered. “Is this right?'

“Yes, Comrade Minister,” Maslov said. “The Americans have launched a general offensive, all along the front. And given that many of our tank reserves were sent to the Wichita offensive, we lack the armored strength to counter them.”

Sokolov looked at his Operations Chief as if the man had suddenly grown two heads. And yet, he knew that Maslov was right. Proud units like the First Guards Tank Army, the Seventh Guards Tank Army, and Third Shock Army, had been gutted, losing at least half their strength, and in one melee east of Wichita, the First Guards Tank Army had run into their old NATO adversaries, the Americans' V Corps, and had been shattered. The same had gone for Third Shock Army, encountering the U.S. VII Corps, which had last been known to have been in Southern Alberta and Northern Montana, and instead had run into a hornet's nest. Now, those tank armies, along with the rest of the Soviet and Fraternal Socialist forces, were pulling back as fast as they could. It was that, or stand fast and be destroyed. “Where is Marshal Kribov?”

“We do not know, Comrade Minister,” Maslov replied. “He went to a forward headquarters to observe, and if necessary, take control of the battle, but we have not heard from him in several hours.”

“Then find him. In the meantime, notify his deputy, General Alekseyev, and instruct him to take all necessary measures to restore the stability of the front.”

“Yes, Comrade Minister,” Maslov said. He nodded to his communications man, who went off to the communications center to send the message.

“In the meantime, we'll wait until this takes clearer shape. I'll be in my office. Thank you, Comrades.” Sokolov nodded, then he and his aide left the Operations Room, leaving Maslov and his deputy, Col. Gen. Piotyr Boldin, dumbfounded, along with General Branov, who was quite disgusted.

“What?” Boldin shouted. “We've just had a combination of Operation Uranus and Operation Kutuzov inflicted on us, and all he says is 'wait?'”
“I don't like it any more than you do,” Maslov replied calmly. The Operations Chief thought for a few moments, then nodded to his aide. “Where is General Grachev?”

“In Minsk,” the aide replied. “He's on an inspection trip to the Beylorussian Military District.”

Maslov looked at General Baranov. “We need him here.”

“I agree,” Baranov replied. He turned to his own aide. “Get to the communications center. Send a message to General Grachev in Minsk.” He thought for a moment, composing the message in his head. “Advise him that the situation at the front requires his presence in Moscow.” Baranov looked at the man. “Do it on my authority.”

“Yes, Comrade General,” The aide, a tank forces major with a burn scar on his neck, replied.

“Wait,” Maslov said. “Where is Marshal Akhromeyev?”

“In Omsk, inspecting the Ural Tank Works,” Baranov replied. “Why do you ask?” Then it occurred to him. When Chebrikov found out about the scale of the disaster now unfolding on the American prairie, Sokolov would be out. And then the deputy Defense Minister would take the job. “You want him back here?”

“We'd better,” Maslov said “Especially if the Minister is.....retired.”

Barnaov looked at General Boldin, who nodded. “I agree, Comrade General.”

“Well, Baranov?” Maslov asked. “Do you send that message, or do I?”

Baranov looked at the other two generals, then at the map. He then turned to his aide, who had waited patiently. “Send the same message to Marshal Akhromeyev.”

“Yes, Comrade General,” the aide replied, heading for the exit.

“And do it fast.”

Marshal Sokolov and his aide returned to the Minister's office. “That will be all for now, Bosak,” he said to his aide.

“Comrade Minister,” Major Bosak replied, heading for his desk.

“Any calls, Galina?”

“No calls, Comrade Minister,” his secretary replied.

“Thank you,” Sokolov nodded. He went into his office and sat at his desk. There, he thought for a few minutes. The General Secretary had insisted on this offensive, and Sokolov, knowing the consequences of not doing otherwise, had acceded. Now, not only had the Americans stopped the offensive in its tracks, but they had themselves gone over to the offensive. The map didn't lie. Most of his line in the American heartland was threatened with collapse, and there wasn't much anyone could do about it, except give Marshal Kribov, or Alekseyev, if Kribov had been killed, the freedom of action to stabilize the front. And the General Secretary would not be pleased when he was told of the disaster now unfolding, and that there would be an obvious target of his wrath. He took out a pen and paper, and composed a note for his wife. He then wrote another letter, meant for his successor, and a copy for General Grachev as well.

Marshal Sokolov then went to his liquor cabinet, poured himself a glass of vodka, and then sat back at his desk. He then took out his service pistol, put it to his temple, and fired.

His secretary and aide heard the shot. They came into the office to find the Marshal slumped over his desk, bleeding from a single bullet wound to the brain. “I'll get a doctor,” Galina, his secretary, said.

“Don't bother,” Major Bosak said. “Call Generals Maslov and Baranov. Ask them to please come to the Minister's office.”

“Yes, Comrade Major.”

Omsk-Sevrinny Air Base, Omsk, RSFSR: 1600 Hours Moscow Time:

Marshal Sergei Akhromayev left his staff car at the Base Headquarters, and went into the operations section. A phone call had come in on his staff car's telephone, saying that an urgent message had come in for him from Moscow. He was now wondering what the fuss was about. The Marshal found the base commander, a harried Voyska PVO Colonel, waiting for him. “Yes, Comrade Colonel?”

“Comrade Marshal,” the Colonel nodded. “This message is for you.”

“Thank you, Comrade,” Akhromayev replied. He read the message form, then turned to his ADC, a young airborne major who still had a slight limp. “Well, Arkady, the rest of the trip is off. Notify the advance party in Krasnyoarsk.”

Major Anatoly Sorokin, a holder of the Red Banner who had been wounded outside some town in Colorado on the first day, said, “Yes, Comrade Marshal. We are....?

“Returning to Moscow,” The Marshal replied. Have our aircraft readied for departure as soon as possible.”

“Right away, Comrade Marshal,” Major Sorokin replied. He first went to send the message to the advance party, then informed the commander of the Marshal's aircraft, an Il-62 fitted out as a command plane with the latest communications equipment the USSR could provide. A half-hour later, the aircraft was airborne, heading west.

“What's going on in Moscow?' Akhromayev asked his aide.

“Comrade Marshal, I haven't the faintest idea,” Sorokin replied. “It could be anything. Though news from the front would be my guess.”

“It would be mine as well,” the Marshal nodded. “It's a five-hour flight, Comrade Major. Wake me when we're getting ready to land.”

Sorokin nodded. “Comrade Marshal.” His Marshal nodded back, then closed his eyes and sat back in his seat. In minutes, he was fast asleep. The Major then went aft, to the aircraft's communications and staff area. “Anything new?” he asked the Communications Officer, an army signals Major.

“Nothing except the message asking him to return to Moscow,” the signals man replied.

Sorokin nodded. His brother was still serving in America, with the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, and he wondered how Arkady was doing. Hopefully, his unit hadn't seen service in this Wichita business, and from what they'd seen before leaving Moscow, that attack had been turned back, and the Americans were building up to something. Oh, there had been local counterattacks, but nothing major. Had that changed? Well, in five hours or so, he thought, they'd find out. Though the Major was outranked by several of the staff, his position as ADC to the Marshal meant he could give them orders. That was a unique feature of the Soviet system.....”Very well. Don't disturb the Marshal unless it's absolutely important. And I'll be the judge of that.”

The staffers looked at each other, then at Major Sorokin. “Understood, Comrade Major,” the signals man replied.

Five hours later, the Il-62 landed at Vunokuvo-2, the VIP only airport outside Moscow. The Marshal had awakened a half-hour before landing, and he actually felt refreshed. After the aircraft taxied to a stop outside the military terminal, and the mobile stairway put in place, the Marshal saw a pair of staff cars, and a familiar face; General Grachev, the Chief of the General Staff, waiting. Had he been recalled as well? Grachev was on an inspection tour of the Beylorussian Military District, and the two had left on the same day. Well, he'd soon find out.

Grachev was waiting for him at the foot of the stairs. “Comrade Marshal,” he said, saluting.

“General,” Akhromayev replied as he returned the salute. “What's this, bringing both of us back to Moscow?”

“They didn't tell you?” Grachev replied, puzzled.

“Tell me what?” The Marshal shot back.

“I just found out a half-hour ago. Defense Minister Sokolov took his own life in his office earlier today.”

“WHAT?” The Marshal shouted. “He killed himself?”

“That's all I know, Comrade Marshal,” Grachev replied. “Your presence is urgently needed in the Ministry.”

“Let's go, then,” Akhromayev replied. A staff car was waiting, and the Marshal, Grachev, and their respective aides got in. And the car then left the base and headed into Moscow.

The staff car raced through Moscow, in the special traffic lanes reserved for high party or military officials, and the Moscow Militia simply waved the car through. After a half-hour, the car pulled up to the Ministry, and pulled up to the entrance. General Maslov was waiting. “Comrade Marshal,” he saluted.

“Maslov,” replied the Marshal. “What happened?”

Maslov “Please, Comrade Marshal, inside.” He indicated the entrance. After Akhromayev and Grachev went in with Maslov, he turned to them. “The Minister went down to the Operations Room, where the map was updated. The picture isn't good, and he gave orders to relay to either Marshal Kribov or General Alekseyev to take whatever measures are needed to stabilize the front. He then went back to his office, and both his aide and secretary then heard a shot. They found him slumped on his desk, a bullet in his head, and his service pistol in his right hand.”

Akhromayev nodded.”All right, Maslov. Has the General Secretary and the rest of the Defense Council been informed?”

“They have, Comrade Minister-”

“Please, not that tile,” Akhromayev said sternly. “I know, I'm now Acting Defense Minster, but right now, it's the last thing I want right now.” He looked at the other officers. “I'd like to see the Operations Map.”

Maslov nodded. “Yes, Comrade Marshal.” He conducted Marshal Akhromayev and General Grachev to the elevator, and then down to the bunker. General Boldin was waiting for them when they arrived after passing through security.

“Boldin,” Akhromayev said. “Let's have a look at the map.”

Boldin looked at General Grachev, then General Maslov, who nodded gravely. “Yes, Comrade Marshal,” Boldin replied. “This way, please.” He conveyed his superior officers to the Operations map.
“This is what Minister Sokolov saw.”

Akhromayev and Grachev took a look for themselves. “Mother of God...” Grachev said. “Has this been updated since?”

“No, Comrade General, Maslov said. “When I saw it, I was wondering if it was like this in Hitler's Headquarters during the Kursk battle.”

Akhromayev nodded. “Worse. It's like it was during Operation Uranus and Little Saturn.” Not only did he see the blue arrows striking deep, but the blue pins sprouting up all over the Ozarks in Arkansas, the Quachita Mountains in Oklahoma and Western Arkansas, and the eastern Rocky Mountains in both Colorado and New Mexico. The American resistance had come out of their lairs, and would surely be a “force multiplier” as the Americans called it. “Are we in touch with Marshal Kribov?”

“Not exactly, but General Alekseyev reports that he has turned up at the airport in Ponca City, Oklahoma. He no longer has secured communications due to his forward headquarters being abandoned in the face of an American penetration,” Boldin said.

Akhromayev nodded. “All right: inform Kribov to pull back to the Red River line. Do it, and fast.”

General Grachev stared at the Marshal. “Comrade Marshal? If we do that...”

“I know, but right now, we need to stabilize the front. The Red River is the only real natural defense line available at the moment. Try and hold onto Northern Louisiana, and do what we can in West Texas, but that's all we can do. At least right now,” Akhromayev said. “If we can read a map, so can the Americans' Joint Chiefs. They will no doubt whip their commanders into more decisive action. And that, we can't allow. Do it, Grachev. Do it now.”

“Immediately, Comrade Marshal,” Grachev said. He nodded at his communications man, who went off to send the message.

“Comrade Marshal, a question. What about General Secretary Chebrikov?” Major Sorokin asked.

“I'll tell him these are Sokolov's orders. And that it's too late to countermand them.”

“Yes, Comrade Marshal.” Sorokin said. Though he wasn't too sure about that, it was likely that, when the rest of the Defense Council was informed, it would certainly be too late to countermand those orders.

“Now,” Akhromayev said. “That pocket that's forming in Colorado. I hate to tell Kribov what to do, but get those forces out of there. The Americans are about to form a pocket, and this is too much like the early days of the war with the Fascists in 1941. Remember Bialystok?”

Heads nodded at that. They remembered the first big German encirclement of the attack on the Soviet Union, where two Soviet Armies had been destroyed near that occupied Polish city. And the Commander of the Western Front, General D.G. Pavlov, his Chief of Staff, and several other officers were immediately summoned to Moscow on Stalin's orders-and shot. “Exactly so, Comrade Marshal,” Maslov nodded.

“So....A general breakout?” Grachev asked. That was the only solution that appeared to him as possible. While there were two Soviet Armies, the 14th and 22nd, there were East Germans,
Poles, Czechs, Nicaraguans, Libyans, an Angolan brigade, and Mexicans as well. Those forces had been deemed sufficient to maintain the Denver siege perimeter, and even though the siege had been partially lifted, the southern and eastern siege lines had been held. Not anymore, and some of the American spearheads had penetrated into undefended territory. No, those forces had to break out before it was too late.

“There's no choice,” Akhromayev said. “Issue the orders.”

Grachev nodded, a grave expression on his face. “Immediately, Comrade Marshal.”

Akromayev nodded, and kept looking at the map. “We've lost the initiative. And we're not likely to get it back.”

The Chief of the General Staff looked at the map. And as he turned to head to the Communications Center, he said, “Comrade Marshal, I'm afraid you're right. So what do we do now?”

“The best we can, General. Issue those orders.”

After Grachev left, General Vitaly Berkenev, the Director of the GRU, came in. “Comrade Marshal,”

“Berkenev,” Akhromayev nodded. “Have a look for yourself.” The Marshal indicated the operations map.

The GRU Director did so, and he wasn't surprised in the least. “What now, Comrade Marshal?”

“We do the best we can. It may not be enough, but we'll have to try anyway.”

“The Foreign Ministry has been trying to find a way out,” Berkenev said. “Their demands on the Americans and their Allies have been....unrealistic, to say the least.”

Akhromayev turned to his intelligence chief. “What went on at those meetings?”

“That, I do not know for certain, Comrade Marshal,” Berkenev nodded. “But I can find out.”

“Do it, and fast. Because any hope of a compromise peace is now gone,” replied the Marshal. “Right now, I recall the words of a Japanese Admiral, before they launched their own war with the Americans, also in 1941.”

“Yes, Admiral Yamamoto,” Berkenev said. “And his words?”

“I don't recall exactly what he said,” Akhromayev replied, waving at the map. “But, it went something like this: 'We have awakened a sleeping giant who will destroy us all.”

Matt Wiser 02-04-2015 08:21 PM

Part II:

Vladimirsky Hall, the Kremlin, 19 May, 1987; 1500 Hours Moscow Time:

Marshal Sokolov had received a full State Funeral, with interment in the Kremlin Wall, and now the funeral party was gathered in one of the Kremlin's grand halls for a reception. After the funeral procession from the Defense Ministry to the Kremlin, Marshal Sokolov's remains were interred in the Kremlin Wall, next to one of his predecessors, Dimitry Ustinov, who had died in 1984. Though many of those in attendance no doubt felt that Sokolov would now be kicking Ustinov in the rear, because he, along with many other officers, blamed Ustinov for laying the military groundwork for the war, a war that the Soviet Union was now losing.

After the funeral, there was a reception in Vladimirsky Hall, and many generals, admirals, Central Committee Members, and a number of both candidate and full members of the Politburo had gathered. Not only to pay their respects to Mrs. Sokolov, but also to talk business. And the current situation at the front was a major topic of discussion.

“How bad is it?' General Mikhail Mosiyev, the Commander of the Moscow Military District, asked General Grachev. Both men glanced over at Marshal Akhromayev, who was paying his respects to Mrs. Sokolov and her two sons, both of whom were generals themselves. One was the commander of a training tank division in the Ukraine, while the other son was on leave from a combat post. Not in America, mind, but as Chief of Staff of the 40th Army in Afghanistan. “Bad as they say?”

“Worse,” Grachev replied. “I've been wondering: was it like this in the OKW Operations Room during Kursk?”

Then Marshal Akhromayev came over. “This is Operation Bagration, only this time, we are the Fascisti. I imagine that Marshal Kribov is feeling like Model right now. Trying to put out the inferno that men like Zhukov, Rokossovosky, Bagramyan, and such set alight.”

“And who is our fireman this time?” Mosiyev asked. “If it's as bad as General Grachev has said-”

“It is, General,” Akhromayev said. “We'll be lucky if we keep the Red River line in Texas and Louisiana, and hang onto West Texas as best we can.”

Moisyev shook his head. “And whose genius was it to start this war?”

Just then, the members of the Defense Council arrived, led by General Secretary Viktor Chebrikov. KGB Chairman Boris Kosov, Interior Minister Boris Pugo, Ivan Volkov, the head of GOSPLAN; Feydor Alexandrov, the Chief Ideologist of the Party; and Foreign Minister Dimitry Tumansky. There was the ritual applause given the General Secretary, who gave a polite nod, then went over to where the widow, dressed in mourning black, sat, with her two sons and the rest of the family. Chebrikov spoke to the widow, and to those watching, something must have made Mrs. Sokolev very upset, for she stood up in a towering anger, and slapped the General Secretary on the face. There was a hush in the hall, and many expected Chairman Kosov to order his protective detail to arrest the widow on the spot. Instead, Chebrikov spoke further to the widow, and told Kosov not to get involved. Then he went to a microphone.

“Comrades, I am glad that all of you could come. First, we honor the late Marshal Sokolov, a man who gave his all to the Rodina, and to the inevitable triumph of our cause. Though we have had some setbacks-”

“That, Comrade General Secretary, is an understatement,” General Grachev muttered.

“Our cause is just, and victory is certain,” Chebrikov continued. “Though one can certainly understand why a grieving widow would react as she did, having lost a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. Still, Marshal Sokolov gave everything he had to achieving the final victory, and we will continue to march on until we have done so. And now, I have an announcement to make.”

“Now what?” General Moisyev said. “We've had enough blather for one day.”

“The full Politburo has met, and has decided on an new Defense Minister.”

“Let me guess: Yazov,” General Berkenev said to Akhromayev. Marshal Dimitry Yazov was CINC-FAR EAST, and was engaged in not only supporting the resupply effort to Alaska, but also conducting operations along the Soviet-Manchurian border, keeping the remnants of the Chinese Army on their side of the border, as well as conducting air attacks against targets in South Korea and Japan. However, the consensus in the General Staff was that the success that Yazov had was largely due to his staff, and that Yazov wasn't fit to command anything higher than a division.

“Would you rather have Marshal Orgakov?” Akhromayev asked. Marshal Nikolai Orgakov had been the Chief of the General Staff prewar, before being sent to become CINC-WEST in East Germany. Though NATO had been dissolved, there were still forces in East Germany and in Czechoslovakia, just in case. Though a number of GSFG's premier units had been sent to North America, they had been replaced with divisions brought forward from the Soviet Union. However, Orgakov was loathed in Moscow, for he had helped with the initial planning for the war, and he had been blamed for the plan's initial failure. CINC-WEST wasn't the post it had been earlier, but was a decent way to put a general out to pasture.

“Not particularly,” Berkenev said. “You, though, are the only other choice. Unless they want to bring Marshal Kribov back from his command.”

“The man has enough troubles at the moment,” General Grachev said.

“After considering a number of possible candidates for the position, the Poliburo has decided to appoint Marshal Sergei Akhromayev to the position of Defense Minister of the USSR,” General Secretary Chebrikov announced. And there was at first a hush among the crowd, then there was the ritual round of applause.

Several generals turned to Akhromayev, who simply nodded. “Well, I have been tried and condemned, and must go forward to execution.” He went up to the General Secretary, shook hands, and embraced. “I accept the post, Comrade General Secretary.”

“I realize that this is a difficult time,” Chebrikov said. “However, in spite of the untimely death of your predecessor, and the situation at the front, I know you will take things in hand, and get a firm grip on the situation. And lead our forces to final victory. You have the support of the Politburo, the Central Committee, the Party, and the People.”

“I serve the Soviet Union!” Akhromayev said.

“Good, Comrade Minister. You are not only Defense Minister, but are also a full member of the Politburo and the Defense Council,”

“Thank you, Comrade General Secretary,” Akhromayev nodded. Though silently, he was wishing that Chebrikov would be the next one to drop dead.

“Congratulations, Comrade Minister,” Chebrikov said, and there was another round of applause. Then Akhromayev went back to the generals.

“Congratulations, Comrade Minister,” General Grachev said. “Though I imagine you would rather have a field command.”

Akhromayev nodded. “You imagine correctly, Grachev,” he replied. “First, when you get back to the Ministry?”

“Comrade Minister?”

“I want a list of candidates for the position of Deputy Defense Minister. And please, leave Orgakov and Yazov off the list.”

“As you wish, Comrade Minister,” Grachev said.

Then the service chiefs came over to offer their congratulations. Though one, Admiral Vladimir Chernavin, lingered for a few minutes. “Comrade Minister, I need a one-on-one talk with you. In your office, as soon as possible.”

“Of course, Comrade Admiral,” Akhromayev said. “What can I do for you?”

“You know the naval situation?”

“Yes, and your predecessor, the great Admiral Gorshkov, built the Soviet Navy into a world-class fighting force. However...”

“However, it is not the Navy we need. And we've taken serious losses in this conflict. I need more materials for cruiser, destroyer, and submarine construction. If I'm to escort our convoys to Alaska, Cuba, and Mexico, I need cruisers and destroyers. And submarines to interdict the enemy sea lines of communication,” Chernavin pressed.

Akhromayev knew exactly what was needed. He had been regularly briefed on the war at sea. “Come by my office, tomorrow morning. I'll press the Defense Council to allocate more resources to new construction and for battle-damage repair in the shipyards.”

“Thank you, Comrade Minister, but it's not just that. My Naval Aviation force needs more long-range bombers. And we need to finish our carrier construction as soon as possible. If our convoys had their own air cover....”

Akhromayev knew what the Admrial meant. “You know the saying, you go to war with what you have, not with what you wish you had. But...bring that up as well. I'll see what can be done.”

Chernavin was relieved. “Thank you, Comrade Minister.”

Then Major Sorokin brought over a young Tank Forces Major. “Comrade Minister, may I present Major Nikolai Sokolov, from the 734th Independent Tank Regiment? He is the grandson of Marshal Sokolov.”

“Comrade Major,” Akhromayev nodded politely. “Please accept my condolences on the loss of your grandfather. He will be deeply missed.”

“Thank you, Comrade Marshal,” Major Sokolov replied. “I was able to get emergency leave from Cuba. Our regiment was supposed to be in Kansas for the offensive, but never got there. We were in Cuba, awaiting our T-80s. They never arrived. Some American or British submarine commander got lucky, they say, and sank the ship carrying my battalion's tanks.”

“How much of your regiment's equipment made it to Cuba?' Akhromayev asked.

“Barely half,” Major Sokolov replied. “Right now, we're not fit to deploy any further.”

“Your unit was a veteran one, correct?”

“Yes, Comrade Marshal. We deployed with T-64s and BMP-1s. And we were very good. In February, we turned over our equipment to another unit, and went to Cuba to await the T-80s. Only one battalion's worth of tanks arrived, though.”

“I see...” Akhromayev said. “When do you fly back to Cuba?”

“Day after tomorrow, Comrade Marshal,” Sokolov replied.

“Not anymore,” Akhromayev said. “Report to my office at 1200 tomorrow. New orders will await you. I want veteran officers on my staff, and we'll be cleaning out the useless ones. And it will look good on your record, should a regiment or brigade become available.”

“Comrade Marshal,” Sokolov gave a slight bow. “Thank you.”

“And the rest of your family?'

“My uncle only has daughters. However, my brother Vitaly is a fighter pilot in Alaska. He's been busy defending against American air strikes from carriers and their long-range bombers. He is a fighter pilot, and is doing what fighter pilots want to do.”

“I understand, Comrade Major,” Akhromayev said. “However.....your family has paid dearly for its service to the Rodina. If he is injured severely enough, he will be evacuated home. I promise it.”

“Thank you, Comrade Marshal.”

While Akhromayev was making his rounds, General Maslov was doing so as well. He met several candidate members of the Politburo, and found that they had only found out the day before the extent of the disaster, and were shaken. Minister of Petroleum Mikhail Sergetov was visibly upset. “How bad is it, really? My son is a tank officer, and has seen his share of combat.”

“It's worse than you think. We'll be back halfway to Mexico if we're lucky,” Maslov said.

Mikhail Gorbachev, a former full member who'd been demoted to candidate status after Andropov's death, asked. “Now what?”

“Comrade Minster,” Maslov said. “We'd better start thinking of a way out.”

Boris Yeltsin, the Party Boss of Moscow and also a candidate member of the Politburo, nodded. “This war has gone on long enough. And have you heard the latest?”

“What?” Maslov asked. What could this civilian have heard to interest him?

“At the last meeting before Marshal Sokolov's death, Interior Minister Pugo suggested releasing Gulag inmates, those sentenced for criminal offenses and are between the ages of eighteen and thirty, and drafting them into the military.”

Maslov was appalled. “What? Robbers, rapists, and murderers? In the Army? That's the last thing we need. We have enough trouble with the ALA having done the same thing.”

“Comrade General, given the need for military manpower...” Yeltsin said. “If you have another solution, you people in the ministry had better come up with one.”

“I'll inform the Marshal. He won't like this any more than you do.”

While Maslov had been talking with some of the civilian opposition, Akhromayev had been talking with General Berkenev and Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnkyh. The Deputy Minister had been talking with American and British negotiators in Geneva about a possible diplomatic solution to the war. And, like the generals, wanted a way out.

“I'll be returning to Geneva, but I doubt the Americans and British will even talk,” Bessmertnkyh was saying. “All of our offers, even the most recent one, have been turned down.”

“And what was that?” Akhromayev asked.

“We would give up our demand about annexing Alaska, and make it an independent state, along with British Columbia. As well as our intention to give California, Arizona, and New Mexico back to Mexico, and make Texas an independent Socialist state, under our tutelage and the Cubans,” the diplomat replied.

“And the Allies rejected those out of hand?” Berkenev asked.

“Totally,” Bessmertnkyh replied. “Our last offer eliminated all of that, except for Texas. An independent Texas would be a buffer between America and Mexico.”

“And after the failure of the Wichita offensive,” Akhromayev said. “They summarily dismissed that offer as well.”

“Totally,” the diplomat nodded. “They threw down a copy of Le Monde in front of me, With a headline about the American offensive. I was told, bluntly, that 'We'll see you on the Rio Grande.' Talk to us then.” And the American, British,and Canadian negotiators walked out.”

“They mean to settle this on the battlefield, “ Berkenev observed.

“Yes,” the Marshal confirmed. “They have the initiative now, and they won't let go.”

“I see...” the diplomat noted.

“What are the chances they'll return to the talks?” Akhromayev asked. “If we can hold them, and inflict a sharp reverse.”

“If you can do that, Comrade Marshal, it would give me some leverage. If they return, that is. Right now, I don't see that happening. I'll return to Geneva, but I'm not optimistic about my chances.”

“Better you stay there for a while,” Berkenev said. “It's more beneficial to your health.”

“I see no reason to argue with that, Comrade General.”

Minister's Office, Ministry of Defense, Moscow, RSFSR, 21 May, 1987, 0800 Hours Moscow Time:

Marshal Akhromayev sat behind his desk, and looked at his staff. After receiving the morning situation briefing, he had been appalled. The pocket in Colorado was being steadily ground down, and several attempts at a breakout, by Soviet, Cuban, and East German troops, had been a slaughter. Only a division's worth of Soviet troops had managed to get away, while the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians had fought for a few hours, then allowed themselves to be overrun by the Americans. General Berkenev had even shown the staff a clip from American television, with a reporter talking to a Nicaraguan lieutenant. The reporter had asked the Nicaraguan why his battalion had surrendered without a shot being fired, and the man had replied with sound civilian logic. “We didn't fire back because that would have been a mistake.” Already, there were rumblings from Managua that the Nicaraguans' enthusiasm for the war was cooling significantly. The same was true in Warsaw and Prague.

“The American pincers will close in a few hours, Comrade Marshal, if they haven't already. Every attempt at a breakout has ended in a massacre,” Grachev reported. “Once the forces inside the pocket have exhausted their ammunition, and they will within four or five days, they will surrender.”

“And Kribov can't relieve them,” Akhromayev noted. “If he had another tank army, he could try. Or if General Kozlov, the commander of 2nd Central Front, hadn't committed 3rd Shock Army...” Third Shock Army, one of the most powerful formations in GSFG, had been in America since the start. They had run wild in Texas and Oklahoma, and now...they had been gutted at a place in Kansas called Newton, north of Wichita, and found the U.S. VII Corps waiting for them. It had gone as expected-if one was an American, and Third Shock had been sent back reeling. Its commander, Starukhuin, had reformed and tried again, but had run into a buzz saw of tanks and anti-tank guided weapons. Now, the entire Soviet front line was being steadily pushed back into Eastern New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas, and only a fierce delaying action was preventing things from getting worse.

“Yes, Comrade Marshal,” Grachev replied, and the other officers nodded agreement.

“All right. Now that Kribov's back in full command, we may have a chance on the Red River line. Keep pressing the Navy to get more supplies and equipment into Cuba and Mexico, and see what we can do about getting those units that have been shot up refitted. We'll need them all in the weeks and months to come.”

“Comrade Marshal,” Baranov nodded.

“I'll be taking with Admiral Chernavin later today, and see what we can do to help the Navy. Now, I'm not in favor of this idea to draft inmates out of the Gulag into the Army. We've got reservists called to the colors in 1985 who were in either the Strategic Rocket Forces or the Voyska PVO, correct?”

“Yes, Comrade Marshal,” his chief of personnel, a full general, replied.

“Good. Get me CINC-SRF and CINC-PVO here, as soon as possible. I want to cut those reservists loose and get them into the Army. We need the manpower. PVO men can go into army air defense units, while the SRF personnel are mainly guards, correct?”

“That is so, Comrade Marshal.”

“Good. We can use those guards in motor-rifle units, while PVO men can also go into artillery fire-direction teams. It's better than using Gulag inmates.” Akhromayev said, relaying what he'd been told about drafting Gulag inmates into the Army to help with the manpower shortage.

“Yes, Comrade Marshal.”

“All right: Berkenev: try and get some back-channel contacts of your own with the Americans. I don't care if it's in West Berlin, Bangkok, or Hong Kong. Find out what their minimum conditions are for ending the war. I know, this is the Foreign Ministry's job, but with Tumansky, he's as hard-line as they come.”

“I will see to it, Comrade Marshal,” Berkenev replied.

“Now, talk with the candidate members of the Politburo, and see what they're up to. They aren't happy about being left in the dark, and only briefed when the Defense Council feels like it. Do you have anyone in mind?”

“General Maslov does, I believe, Comrade Marshal,” Berkenev said, gesturing to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff.

“Good. Talk to him, and start sounding those people out. Before you go: I want you to remember this. As of today, we are not fighting for the final victory of socialism. Anyone who still thinks we are needs to see the footage the Americans are beaming all over the world. Footage of burning tanks, wrecked APCs, corpses of Soviet soldiers, and shocked prisoners being sent to the American rear. We've lost the initiative, and right now, we're losing the war.”

“Comrade Marshal?” General Georgy Novikov, the Chief of the Red Army Political Directorate, asked.

“Party dogma is a poor substitute for battlefield reality,” Akhromayev said. “Right now, we're fighting for an honorable peace. A peace that enables us to withdraw from the war with our dignity and honor somewhat intact. If, that is,” the Marshal added, nodding at Berkenev, “the Americans and their allies will let us.”

His staff looked at each other, then at the Marshal.

“Right now, if we get out of this with a return to the prewar status quo, we'll be damned lucky. That's what we're fighting for, Comrades. Thank you, and I will see you tomorrow morning.”

After the staff had left, only Major Sorkin had remained. He knew that the consequences for his brother might be serious, but Arkady was airborne through and through. The Major saw as Akhormayev filled his tea cup, then went to his office window, and looked out over Moscow. “Comrade Marshal?”

“There's only one thing I'm wondering,” the Marshal said. “How many good Russian boys are going to die in a losing war before all is said and done?”

“Too many, I'm afraid, Comrade Marshal,” Sorokin replied. “But we can only do our duty.”

“Exactly so, Comrade Major,” Akhromayev said, finishing his tea. Then his speaker phone buzzed. “Yes?”

“Comrade Marshal,” his secretary's voice came over the speaker. “Admiral Chernavin is here.”

“Send him in, please.” Before the Admiral came in, Akhromayev turned to Sorokin. “Major, before today is over, arrange a visit for me to the Airborne Officers' College in Ryazan, and the Kharkov Guards Tank Training College. I want to get into the field as much as possible, even in this job.”

Sorokin smiled. “Yes, Comrade Marshal.”

“Good, off with you, then,” Akromayev said as Admiral Chernavin entered the office. This would be an earful, he knew. “And close the door after the Admiral enters.”

“Comrade Marshal,” Sorokin replied.

“Good morning, Admiral,” the Marshal said as the doors closed. This would be a long talk, he knew.....

Matt Wiser 02-12-2015 05:51 PM

Coming soon.....a POW's story in Cuba. Be warned, it goes into some detail about her experiences in Cuba, and is gritty as possible without being graphic. And you've already been introduced to her in a previous story.

RN7 02-12-2015 09:37 PM

Matt that was a great read. A few points

I may have missed something but do US nuclear forces not target Moscow in retaliation for Soviet nuclear strikes on the USA including Washington DC?

If the US Army is fielding huge numbers of tanks then much of America's industrial base must still be intact?

If US forces in the West coast are able to launch a major offensive on their own and also send forces across the Pacific, then the Mexicans must have been cleared out of California? Also there must be an established land link or a major air corridor with US forces east of the Mississippi? The reason I say this is because the US West Coast doesn't have the population and arms and heavy industry of the US eastern states, and unless the Soviet's largely bypassed the west coast it would need support from the east to both resist a major Soviet attack or launch a major offensive on its own.

If NATO has been dissolved then US Army forces in Europe were pulled back to CONUS or elsewhere? Also some USAF and air defence forces in Europe must have been transferred to Britain?

If Britain is directly involved in the war then the BAOR must have been withdrawn to the UK? If so then many British Army armoured and mechanised formations would be idle unless the UK has been invaded. So would some British Army divisions or brigades have been sent to North America to help out the US and Canada?

How badly was China damaged by Soviet nuclear strikes?

Is Australia, New Zealand and South Africa allied with the US?

Matt Wiser 02-13-2015 01:10 AM

Moscow was not targeted, but the Strategic Rocket Forces HQ bunker and the DA (Long-Range Aviation) Command Bunkers were struck by ALCMs fired from B-52s.

Most of America's industrial base is intact, yes.

The Mexicans (with some Soviet and Cuban assistance) tried pushing into California and Arizona. They were pushed back within 72 hours, hot having reached further north than the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley, and never even got to Downtown San Diego (National City is as far as they got-being more interested in looting than fighting). Arizona? I-19 and other roads north from the border were turned into junkyards of wrecked armor and dead and maimed men thanks to USAF and USMC tac air and some Army Reserve AH-1Fs...The Rio Grande is the western battle line from 1985-87.

The Soviets and their lackeys never cut I-90 or I-94 in Montana, Wyoming, or the Dakotas. And after Summer '86, I-80 was reopened with the recapture of Cheyenne. A bypass had to be built around what was left of Omaha, though.....

Most U.S. forces in Europe redeployed to CONUS. Those who didn't went to Britain. The Brits hang on, despite Colonel Tanner's prediction. One redeployed division plays a key role in the Southwest: 3rd Armored, based at Yuma Proving Ground, while 2nd ACR is based at Fort Huachucha (they mop up after the AF does its thing)

BAOR redeploys home, then most go to Canada.

China became an SS-20 and SS-18 live-fire range. Their nuclear forces, C3, and much of their industry were slagged. They fired a few MRBMs and IRBMs, though, tearing holes in Soviet air defenses, which SAC and the RAF exploit with B-52, B-1, and Vulcan strikes out of bases in the Far East. One Chinese IRBM landed on Tashkent (3 MT yield) and the Chinese received a second Soviet salvo....China falls apart as a country, pretty much. Warlord central.

The ANZACs are allies, and the U.S., Britain, and Canada made a deal with the devil, and dropped their anti-apartheid stances, in return for strategic minerals, NATO-standard tank, artillery, and small arms ammo, and keeping the SLOCs open around the Cape of Good Hope for supertankers from the Middle East.

Matt Wiser 02-13-2015 09:21 PM

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.

Matt Wiser 02-13-2015 09:24 PM

Part II:

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.


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.

Matt Wiser 02-13-2015 09:26 PM

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.”

Matt Wiser 02-13-2015 09:31 PM

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.......

Matt Wiser 02-15-2015 07:38 PM

Thoughts on the POW story gents?

Matt Wiser 02-22-2015 08:30 PM

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.

Matt Wiser 02-28-2015 06:08 PM

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.

“Comrade General?”

“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.

Matt Wiser 02-28-2015 06:12 PM

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.

“What else?”

“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.”

Matt Wiser 03-01-2015 07:49 PM

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.”

Matt Wiser 03-01-2015 07:52 PM

And another:

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.”

Schone23666 03-01-2015 08:24 PM

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.

Matt Wiser 03-02-2015 09:28 PM

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.

Matt Wiser 03-02-2015 09:30 PM

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.”

Matt Wiser 03-03-2015 08:38 PM

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.”

Matt Wiser 03-03-2015 08:43 PM

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.”

dragoon500ly 03-04-2015 04:26 AM

Finally got to sit down and read your latest round of stories...excellent work! So looking forward to your next set!!!

Adm.Lee 03-04-2015 07:32 PM


Originally Posted by Matt Wiser (Post 63382)
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....

I did catch General Suryakin when he first appeared.

Matt Wiser 03-04-2015 10:24 PM

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.

Matt Wiser 03-04-2015 10:47 PM

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.

Matt Wiser 03-04-2015 11:31 PM

1 Attachment(s)
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

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