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"WWIII & Soviet Intentions" Topic

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04 Nov 2017 7:16 a.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian26 Jun 2012 10:30 a.m. PST

From the Force on Force supplement, Cold War Gone Hot: World War III 1986, published by Osprey/Ambush Alley Games…

NATO firmly believed the Soviets were ruthless enough to precede any large scale attack with the liberal use of chemical or biological agents…

If WWIII had come in 1986, do you think the Soviets would have preceded their attack in Europe with chemical or biological agents?

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian26 Jun 2012 10:34 a.m. PST

Against selected targets, yes. Wide spread, no. The threat is almost worse than the actual application

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2012 10:40 a.m. PST

Chemical? Sure. That can be localized damage, and chemically neutralized.
Biological? No one is that stupid. I hope.

GuyG1326 Jun 2012 10:41 a.m. PST

When I did my first tour in USAREUR we were told the opening shots would be persistant nerve agent at the POMCUS sites that I supported.

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 10:48 a.m. PST

As one who was there. Chemical, yes. Nuclear, Yes. Biological, I don't think so as it's not practicle even now.
But our trainig was such that we considered the Soviets as seeing what we called special weapons as just another tool in their box. We expected them to use all their tools.
By the way, yall know about the bowling alley defence? We were ready to use tactical nukes in Germany. No kidding!

GROSSMAN26 Jun 2012 10:58 a.m. PST

I think that may have been the only way to stop them would be to cook a few off on some follow on units and wipe them out before they got into battle.

skippy0001 Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2012 11:42 a.m. PST

Airfields, HQ's and POMCUS would get 'special' attention. Spetznatz strikes would be nasty.

28mm Fanatik26 Jun 2012 11:47 a.m. PST

My understanding was that the Soviets would not resort to the use of chemical weapons, at least not initially. They and their Warsaw Pact allies had a massive quantitative advantage over US and NATO forces in West Germany. However, if they attack and fail to overwhelm the qualitatively superior NATO forces, the war could have been escalated with the use of chemical and perhaps even tactical or theatre level nuclear weapons. Of course, all this was 'what if' hypothetical.

If you're interested in reading WWIII fictional scenarios I recommend Harold Coyle's "Team Yankee," "Sword Point" and "Bright Star," as well as Ralph Peters's excellent "Red Army."

SBminisguy26 Jun 2012 11:48 a.m. PST

There's no need to speculate. After the Warsaw Pact fell apart, their warplans became known to US/NATO, and we discovered that the entire doctrine of "controlled escalation" was based on the false premise that the Soviets would be restrained in their use of WMDs. What we discovered was that the Soviets planned to blitz across Europe to the Bay of Biscay (sorry, France, not being in NATO wouldn't have helped!) in just a few weeks -- with their assault preceded by a wave of Tac nukes and chemical weapons strikes against pre-positioned logistics sites, garrisons, airfields, ports and key transportation sectors.

Nukes and Chem weapons on day ONE, blitzing through disorganized defenders while threatening strategic retaliation against the UK and the US if we responded with WMDs. Evidently the UK would have been spared, but France's "Force du Frappe" was to be frapped.

I Never Touched It Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 12:01 p.m. PST

But the US and UK made it plain they would respond to such an attack in kind, and it would've been a matter of hours until the first nukes exploded over the US, UK or USSR, depending on who pulled first. Then we were all done for.

Yes, the Sovs were going to blast everything in their path, we know that now. But even if they hadn't, NATO would've been using tac nukes as soon as it became plain we couldn't stop the Pact.

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 12:20 p.m. PST

This stuff is why I thought I'd never live to see my 21st birthday. Here I am, 52. It's a funny old world. Kinda cool, though.

(Jake Collins of NZ 2) Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 12:30 p.m. PST

You need to be a bit careful with the sweeping statements regarding "Soviet" warplans. No actual "Soviet" warplans have ever been released – we have exercise records and the roles assigned to various Warsaw Pact allies.

You also need to be careful about what timeframe you're talking. The Warsaw Pact apparently intended for 'all-in' offensives into the 1970s with nukes just another round of ammunition. After that, though, it appears less likely that the plan was to use everything at the outset. Certainly the exercises and drills became conventional initially. Some evidence suggests a rethink in the 1970s about the utility and sense of launching nuclear strikes at the outset and as battlefield aids.

Martin Rapier26 Jun 2012 12:55 p.m. PST

As collins355 says, the 'all out attack behind a barrage of nukes' was more of a 70s concept. For the 80s they'd be a bit more selective, reserving nukes for serious centres of resistance which couldn't be bypassed.

Chem may well have been used from the outset for operational interdiction.

It is entirely conceiveable that NATO would have initiated nuclear warfare once the Soviet drive west proved unstoppable (highly unlikely by 86, much more likely in 79-82).

If only Allen was still here…

RJ Smith26 Jun 2012 1:53 p.m. PST

Rrobbyrobot you and me both.

I remember celebrating as buddy's 21st over there in 1980 and wondering if I'd see mine. The Iran-Iraq war kicked off after Reforger that year and prior we had Reagan's "we begin bombing" speech and the tension in Poland. A lot of us seemed to think it was going to go hot and yeah the first thing that would hit us was chem and tac nukes as we were tryign to get out the main gate to our FUPs

Mako11 Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 1:59 p.m. PST

I think chemicals would have been very likely, and as mentioned, possibly even nukes too, earlier in their plans, as revealed by military plans.

Bio, I doubt it, since that stuff is too dangerous to both sides.

Airbases, armored vehicle parks, short-range nuke weapons, artillery, and troops bases would have all been prime targets.

nickinsomerset26 Jun 2012 2:01 p.m. PST

A tactical nuke on Pops and Eddies or on the Marley club during one of the famous 48 hr disco/punch up weekends would have put BAOR out of the picture!

Most exercises would see limited use of non-persistent agent in support of river crossings etc,

Tally Ho!

RudyNelson26 Jun 2012 2:06 p.m. PST

I was in the miltiary in the 1970s and 1980s. From all of the OPFOR briefings that I attended, it was always emphasised that the USSR regards chemicals as just another artillery round. Just like we did not regard the white phosperous (WP) round as chemical even though it was.

My Advacned Officer course paper was on the Soviet penetration attacks into the NATO logistical sector/rear.

We were willing to respond to the use of chemical by the USSR with the use of small grade tactical nukes. Always a sore spot with the Germans. As was the French military position of they would use nukes on the Soviets before they reached the French border (in Germany).

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2012 2:06 p.m. PST

We were ready to use tactical nukes in Germany. No kidding!

I once had a German point out to me that they were "tactical" to us but "strategic" to the Germans as they would be on the receiving end from both sides.

Personal logo optional field Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2012 2:36 p.m. PST

RJ Smith and Rrobbrobot,
at about the same time I remember sitting in first grade, just across the Hudson from New York and wondering if my school would be destroyed when the Russians nuked New York, or if we were far enough away it would only damage us. I remember going to the beach and seeing contrails and wondering if those were the Russian bombers I'd heard about that flew up and down the East Coast from Cuba. Over the next few years I was variously excited and terrified of being in a tank when the war started, but always growing up and seeing it as inevitable.

Thankfully 1989 happened and things were never the same.

I do wonder how the war would have panned out though. Especially if, hypothetically, SDI had been a real workable project. All the more so if both sides had it.

Without ballistic missiles all sorts of scenarios become possible.

What about Cuba? Would an invasion of the Continental United States be possible? What about bombings? Would there be commandos conducting guerrilla warfare in the US?

What if the Sandinistas had been more successful and the Revolution spread to Mexico? Would we have seen hordes of T-55s on the US southern border?

What if the Polish had succeeded in breaking out of the Soviet's shadow? Would we see an fairly isolated NATO member in Eastern Europe? How would that influence Soviet planning?

Do the Japanese join the war? They had a massive industrial capacity in the 1980s and could have supplied a major part of the NATO war effort and been safe as a "neutral."

Do the Chinese join and if so who's side are they on? Do they take advantage of the distraction to invade Taiwan? Does Vietnam invade the Philippines? Do they try to take the oil fields in Indonesia?

A conventional war creates all sorts of possibilities.

Tac Error26 Jun 2012 4:07 p.m. PST

The idea of nuclear weapons having the main role in a future war with the ground forces mopping up was a 1960s doctrine under Minister of Defense Sokolovsky. After the ouster of Khrushchev and the Ogarkov reforms of the late 1970s-80s, the emphasis shifted to dual-role (nuke and conventional) and later to conventional war, abandoning Sokolovsky's nuke-first military doctrine. Chris Donnelly in his excellent book "Red Banner" wrote that the two reasons that the Soviets would employ nukes would be if NATO planned on using them first in mass, or if the USSR was under a direct conventional attack from NATO.

George Washington University has a series of unclassified interviews with Soviet officials on their site, with some interesting insights on the Soviet view of nukes by the 1980s:

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 4:21 p.m. PST

Dear Tac Error,
That's real comforting now. From 1979, to 1981, when I was with the 2nd ACR in the Hof gap, not so much.

Robert Johnston
Former Cavalry Scout

rictenner Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 4:35 p.m. PST

No one can predict the "post" possible outcome of a mid 1980's attack. As it is impossible to state the mind set of those in control of the USSR or NATO at the time – and this would have changed on a year-by-year basis if not day-by-day.

It was obvious that NATO (USA) were ahead in a technological war – but how far? and at what times?

Could soviet numbers outway NATO technology?

It is my own (completely uninformed) opinion that the initial strike would have been a purely standard attack of the 1940's – a massive and possibly overwhelming artillery barrage (as only the russians can) -this may have included a chemical attack in localised areas – followed by a massive tank spearhead followed by mass infantry.

The deciding and unknown (to both sides) factor would have been airpower. Mid 1980's NATO would have had a significant technological advantage – would this have held out to the numbers involved in the USSR airforce.

Pessimists believed that the USSR would trade aircraft on a 1-1 basis,the gulf war proved that better training and material could shift this to a 1-50+ ratio.

So, if the pessimists are correct – the USSR sweep away our air cover in 1-2 days – ground attacks sweep into germany and france. NATO goes nuclear to blunt the attacks (no political leader wants to be viewed as on the losing side) – USSR targets UK/France as points of re-supply for NATO forces in strategic nuclear attack – USA targets USSR production centres as retaliation – USSR responds – we all die.

Or, on the bright side, USSR airforce is quickly brushed aside by technologically advanced NATO airforce – USSR tank advances are blunted by NATO airforces – USSR go tactical nuclear/chemical attack to maintain advances and to protect motherland from counter-invasion from NATO forces (and to maintain politcal control – no leader wants to be viewed as on the losing side)- NATO responds to destroy attacking USSR forces in Europe or (more likely) reinforcement armies in USSR – USSR goes nuclear against USA mainland to prevent USA reinforcing Europe – USA respond – we all die.

I do love these (un)rational progressions.

Who ever came up with the M.A.D. system of defence – you put us through some scary times – but i LOVE you

wrgmr126 Jun 2012 6:49 p.m. PST

I remember in the sixties being taught in school to duck and cover under a desk, like that was really going to help.

I really didn't believe the Soviets would attack in the 80's even though there was a plethora of information, books wargames (SPI) and news reports on the possibilities.
Use of chemicals; I think not, even if there was an attack, fear of a double dose back stops the attacker.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2012 7:47 p.m. PST

There is a joke about the Russian generals drinking in a bar in Paris, and one asks "By the way, who won the air war?"

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2012 7:49 p.m. PST

I remember in the sixties being taught in school to duck and cover under a desk, like that was really going to help.

Not in MY school. We were too busy learning the largest cities and brincipal exports of Bolivia.

Ambush Alley Games Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 8:04 p.m. PST

I thought the brincipal was exported from Costa Rica. That's why I frequent this place – I'm always learning something new!



Barin126 Jun 2012 11:07 p.m. PST

Legends of several large-scale drills we took part in 1985-87 didn't include usage of chemical/biological weapons from our side or NATO. We didn't have chemical shells in our warehouse, they were stored centralized in the region just in case.However, tactical nukes were consdiered in one of the drills, and that caused us running in OZK suits at ca.+30C AND shooting with guns. Being the operator I hated aiming the howitzer in sweating gas mask…;)
At one particular drill we were assigned to guard an underground bunker with chief of stuff of "reds" defending against evil NATO attack through Finland and Norway. Officers moving paper tanks and squares across the map…may be my first introduction to wargaming, he-he…
We were outgunned and were retreating, until Leningrad became dangerously close. I saw our colonel running out of the room for a quick cigarette with a smile on his reddened face. Remember asking him: what have happened,comrade colonel?

"we have nuked those damned bastards, now we'll move forward in a day or two…so be ready to play the elephants"

Note: Playing the elephants – old army joke, referring to poor soldiers, running in gas masks and rad suits at the whim of their evil commander

Ambush Alley Games Inactive Member26 Jun 2012 11:26 p.m. PST

"Playing the elephants!" What a great saying! I'll have to file that away for a scenario title or something!

All the best,


Grishka Inactive Member27 Jun 2012 2:34 a.m. PST

True that soviet gazmask with the tubes on the front do kinda look like elephants ! I'll remember it :)

On the french side, estimates of a full soviet conventional / nuke "first strike" were that in 48 hours the soviets would reach french border (2 days to fight their way off germany an american armies there).

Thus the "lets delay them by nuking germany" strategy, as once the soviets would be on french border, another 24 hours of fight before the soviets would reach the atlantic.

BlackKnight Inactive Member27 Jun 2012 7:04 a.m. PST

I have a neighbor who grew up in the Soviet Union and has two PHDs in economics, one from USSR and another from here. He's not a military type but has an excellent grasp of history and is well-informed. He was born in 1960 so understands the Cold War very well. I told him that in the early 1980s we in the US were all convinced WWIII with us vs. them was around the corner.

He showed genuine surprise and said that in the USSR at the time there was no concern amongst the populace that there would be a war with the USA. He said the view was the West could be reasoned with. He did say they were worried about the Chinese as "They are crazy, you never know what they might do."

So, I really wonder if all this 80s war fever was one-sided, and from our side. Or did the Soviet leadership keep their people in the dark about the potential for conflict with the West? IF so it was a dangerous game as the populace would have been difficult to rouse for an offensive war without some preparatory psyops.

Personal logo Dasher Supporting Member of TMP27 Jun 2012 7:05 a.m. PST

Nuclear certainly, chemical very likely, biological, probably not.

ChicChocMtdRifles Inactive Member27 Jun 2012 9:00 a.m. PST

Probably both. We're paranoid about everything, and the Soviets didn't want their people to think.

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP27 Jun 2012 9:16 a.m. PST


Omemin Inactive Member27 Jun 2012 10:28 a.m. PST

The real problem with all of those weapons is the prevailing wind from west to east. Leaves the Warsaw Pact on the receiving end of their own stuff as well as NATO's.

I remember being told that the Soviets were VERY concerned that NATO would attack into East Germany, headed for Moscow.

I didn't buy that until we played a Desert Storm scenario prior to there actually being a Desert Storm. The US equipment cut through the Soviet stuff without even breaking a sweat. Then, the same sort of thing actually happened in the Gulf.

Maybe they WERE concerned….

Failure16 Inactive Member27 Jun 2012 10:41 a.m. PST

Well, there is indeed little to be cocnerned about if you are the potential aggressor…as the Soviet government surely was (from our perspective--and likely their own given their doctrine that stressed offensive operations). Perhaps the average Soviet citizen was not afraid of "NATO" or "America", but their government surely was. And if the populace was not, I suspect that was because they didn't have access to the information we did (inflated, correct, or not).

The Cold War was a real thing, not something trumped up solely in-and-by the Western media. Indeed, the Soviets bankrupted themselves in order to [pro]actively defend against an American-led attack, not so?

Lion in the Stars27 Jun 2012 11:11 a.m. PST

I would have expected either really-persistent chemical attacks (like VX or similar) or small nukes getting used against the US's pre-positioned equipment.

There was little chance the Soviet Northern Fleet could have stopped any convoys, or stopped the airliners full of troops on their way to start using all the pre-positioned equipment.

That means the only way to even buy a couple days time before lots and lots of reinforcements arrive is to destroy the prepositioned equipment utterly.

Milites Inactive Member27 Jun 2012 12:52 p.m. PST

Lion, can you qualify your statements about the inability of the Soviet Northern fleet to stop convoys and the airliners. I used to like playing VG's Second Fleet, although is was only a passible representation of naval warfare.

Regarding the air corridor, I believe during the 80's if war was deemed to be imminent all the US airbases in East Anglia would declare a 10-20 mile radius as under martial law and de facto US soil. Given bases like Lakenheath and Mildenhall are so close vast swathes of East Anglia would have been under martial law. One of the reasons given was that vulnerability of the air transport corridor to attack by special forces or fifth columnists.

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