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"WWIII 1985: Strategic Scenario" Topic

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©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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lincolnlog27 Dec 2017 1:25 a.m. PST

The two main strategic scenarios in Central Europe revolved around X amount of warning for NATO forces.

Scenario 1: US and NATO Allies Intelligence apparatus detect large scale mobilization of Soviet Reserve Forces, rail shipments of military parts and ordnance, and heightened maintenance on forward deployed force equipment. Naval, Air and Strategic Forces are on high alert.

By the 1980's we were able to see things like this above, but other warning factors would be not releasing the oldest draft on schedule. You always want to go into combat with seasoned troops. Soviet units would initially deploy to field assembly areas.

NATO response: NATO level alert moving all forces to GDP Assembly Area positions. Evacuations of foreign military dependents. Activation of the Reforger plan, flying units to Europe and then to POMCUS sites, and on to assembly areas. Units would receive full loads of ammunition and fuel in the AA's before moving to their GDP's. Our unit had a SOP to deploy field wire, set out our chemical alarm, get into MOPP 2, dig fighting positions with range cards and sector sketches, coordinate with the Division Cav Squadron, and BN Scout Platoon, refine the artillery TRP and call for fire plan. And Maintenance always, clean weapons, PMCS on vehicles, change filters on protective masks. VII Corps would have moved to the GDP blocking the HOF Gap with 3 Divisions+ (3rd Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division, 12th Panzer Division, the forward Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, and the Canadian Brigade. V Corps would have deployed with a similar set up (8th Infantry Division, 2nd or 3rd Armor Division, and forward Brigade from the 4th Infantry Division, plus 2 German Divisions.

In the north, the BAOR, the NATO multination Corps, and the West German Northern Corps would have deployed. The US III Corps Reforger Units plus the forward Brigade or Either the 2nd or 3rd Armor (can't remember which was III Corps and which was V Corps, veterans of V corps?). The US would also have immediately deployed the RDF XVIII Airborne Corps which believe it or not had a Mech Infantry Division the 24th at For Stewart. The West German Army would have activated it's National Guard (Heimatschutzbrigades HSB).

The US and France would have fought this war with older equipment. Many units and most of the POMCUS equipment was still M60's and M113s. When you look at production numbers on the M1 and M1IP (which IIRC 85 was the last production year, the M1A1 started production in 85), would have equipped many divisions but much of these vehicles were stateside.

The Soviets would have also had a mix of older and newer equipment. T62, T64, BMP-1, BTR60, BTR70 etc.

I could go on but I would like to get others thoughts on expansion of this scenario?

paulgenna27 Dec 2017 12:17 p.m. PST

I would like to hear more

Tgunner27 Dec 2017 2:16 p.m. PST

Sounds about right from what I remember. I was on one of the two 1st ID brigades (the First!!) what would have arrived as REFORGER. We would have flown out with our personal gear and weapons and would have been rushed off to the POMCUS sites where we would have drawn tanks. However I was in a few years later (1990) so we would have drawn M1A1s! Stateside we had IPs. Saddam made us upgrade to the M1A1.

I seem to remember the old guys saying that we probably would have drawn M60A3s when we got to Germany. IIRC, they said that the M1s were going to units already in Germany and that they were passing down their M60s to the POMCUS sites. I guess by the late 1980's that had changed with new production M1s going to Germany to replace older equipment at the POMCUS sites. Be aware though, that is all hearsay. REFORGER was becoming a distant memory when I left Riley and joined the BRO during December of 1990. But there were a lot of old hands here and that is what I remember them saying.

I remember that the M1A1 I was assigned to was practically brand new. I wish I had bothered to remember the number of hours the engine had. I seem to recall that it wasn't many!

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member27 Dec 2017 6:20 p.m. PST

My first tour in Europe (Ferris Kaserne, Erlangen Germany, 3/34 AR, 2nd BDE 1st AD), I was TC of an M60A3, (1984-1986). The first M1's that we knew of that came over to Germany went to 11th ACR and 2nd ACR, and Berlin Bde got some also.
My unit didn't start drawing M1's until after I left in Mid 86.
Our battle position, (if we were lucky enough to make it there for the big show), was a treeline on a ridge overlooking a long open valley whence one could spy another ridge-line on the horizon, which concealed 2 Czech Motor Rifle Divisions.
In the cold December of 1985, my platoon (in civilian clothes, and POV's) sneakily crossed the 1K zone warning signs and looked at our BP's I was able to get photos of mine and my roomates BP's and was lucky to get a picture of the engagement area to my front and the terrain I would be looking at that would be filled with all sorts of Eastern Block crap moving westward. Initial orders were to observe and report until allowed to fire. Then I was to take out anything that looked like a command track or lead recon element…then drop back to my secondary BP.
By the end of the 1st Day if I was alive and my tank was still combat worthy, I would be moving westward in a haphazard motion with the gun tube over the back deck and just ahead of the commies by about a klick. My gunner from Alabama would be scanning with the TTS, my loader from Hawaii, would have SABOT rounds ready and my driver from Oregon would be trying to get us to friendlies.

Personally…I'm damn glad it never happened because A LOT of us wouldn't be here today….

lincolnlog28 Dec 2017 2:34 a.m. PST

1st Bde 3rd ID got the first M1's in Europe. 2/64th AR and 3/64th AR in early '82. These were early production models not the IP.

lincolnlog28 Dec 2017 3:00 a.m. PST

Scenario 2: The Soviets, in order to maintain some element of surprise, order an alert and movement orders directly to the border.

This scenario to me, is not as plausible. It would theoretically, still allow units in Germany to get to their GDPs, but would not allow the required logistical and manpower surge to reinforce Soviet formations.

This scenario would allow for disruption of NATO command, communications and logistics sites by Spetznaz, Airborne and other Warsaw Pact special operations units. The NATO allies would also be in a more relaxed posture overall. The mobilization of the US and allies would be delayed.

If the US were to use TAC Nukes, this seems like the time and place.

Legion 428 Dec 2017 1:49 p.m. PST

A lot posted here sounds pretty good as well as very familiar.

The US would also have immediately deployed the RDF XVIII Airborne Corps which believe it or not had a Mech Infantry Division the 24th at For Stewart.
The Mech Bde at Benning, the 197th was part of the XVIII ABN XXX, and would deploy with the 101 and/or 82d. Or even be attached to the 24ID. I was with the 197th '86-'90 …

We even ran scenarios with being in support of 10th MTN Div.

Personal logo Murphy Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member28 Dec 2017 2:46 p.m. PST

1st Bde 3rd ID got the first M1's in Europe. 2/64th AR and 3/64th AR in early '82. These were early production models not the IP.

Uh…no…not according to references…

"The first active unit receiving the M1 Abrams (at that time the first serie was still called "XM-1") was the 1st armoured division in 1980."….

ScoutJock28 Dec 2017 7:05 p.m. PST

The forward deployed III Corps brigade was from 2AD, based in Garlstedt, just north of Bremen.

I was in the forward deployed element of the Div Cav Squadron, D Troop 2/1 Cav, which was the only Air Cav troop in USAREUR which went west when the proverbial balloon went up.

Securing and prepping the POMCUS sites to receive the rest of the Corps was the Brigade's initial wartime mission.

We figured we would be lucky to send one NBC -1 report before we expired of radiation poisoning or died with our legs in the air like cockroaches.

lincolnlog28 Dec 2017 10:54 p.m. PST


"Uh…no…not according to references…

"The first active unit receiving the M1 Abrams (at that time the first serie was still called "XM-1") was the 1st armoured division in 1980."

Interesting, because sources I've read indicate that units at Ft. Hood were the first in the Army to receive M1s as test units. 2nd AD I believe. Many sources including histories of the 2/64th and 3/64th Armor, and books on the M1 indicate these were the first units in Europe to be fully equipped with M1's. I remember when these units got 2 M1's a piece at Conn Barracks so they could start training on them. But, look I could be wrong, certainly not willing get in a watering match over it. Also funny cause the training photos on the XM-1 show crew with 3rd ID patch on.

lincolnlog28 Dec 2017 10:55 p.m. PST


Thanks, couldn't remember, too long ago.

Legion 429 Dec 2017 8:03 a.m. PST

Tell me about it … old fart

seneffe29 Dec 2017 11:36 a.m. PST

Some thoughts on the strategic side of the OP- which is very interesting. Further thoughts on equipment etc in another post- or this will get too long.

Quick thought about what might have triggered a Soviet/Warsaw pact conventional offensive into western Europe in the mid-1980s-

1- Favorable change in the political/military balance.
Political/economic developments in the West (eg success for unilateral disarmament movements, widespread economic/social disturbances) could have persuaded the Soviets that they could attack with strong prospect of success. However, the Soviets were cautious and if they thought they could achieve political domination of Europe gradually without war- they might have preferred that.

2- Unfavourable change in the political/military balance. In this scenario- growing Western prosperity/confidence allows a revitalisation of its conventional military power, and opens the prospect of a dwindling and eventually disappearing Soviet conventional superiority. This is sometimes referred to as the 'now or never' scenario. Moderately plausible.

3-Political miscalculation and a 'foldy arms' refusal to compromise by either/both sides over a second order dispute- either in Europe- eg politics in Yugoslavia or Poland, or something outside Europe completely. Moderately plausible, but if occurring simultaneously with 1 or 2 above- very plausible.

Whatever the background conditions, I think Lincolnolg's first scenario was more likely.

The two scenarios he posits would affect the Warsaw Pact allied/subject armies in different ways. Although they all had some high readiness combat units- none, even the E Germans were able to maintain a military logistics infrastructure in peacetime capable of supporting a crash out of barracks followed by an immediate major offensive. So scenario 2 would likely begin with Sovs only.

The willingness of the Warsaw Pact nations to fight an offensive war in the mid-1980s was declining rapidly. This was particularly the case with the Poles, who were very competent and assigned some quite key tasks, and I understand that the Soviets began to expect everything from passive non-compliance with attack orders at local or higher command level- to outright mutiny by the troops. Who knows on this score- but it worried the Soviets.

So in either scenario there is uncertainty about Warsaw Pact armies. At a political level the Warsaw governments were becoming more assertive even in the Brezhnev era and driving very hard political and economic bargains over major issues. The Soviet reluctance to crush the Solidarity movement in Poland and impose a hard line Government '56 or '68 style was a recognition it could not act with the same disdain as it had a couple of decades earlier. I'm sure that if the Soviets had demanded Warsaw Pact mobilisation for an offensive into the West, it would have taken place after a fashion, but whether those units could reliably have been used in an offensive is more open to question.

In a business context a couple of decades ago- I came across several former Soviet officers reinvented as businessmen, including a divisional staff officer and a combat officer (in an AA unit) from GSFG in the mid 1980s. In the Yeltsin era there was a lot of openness I think you wouldn't get now. We mostly chatted about the 18th century and Napoleonic periods (Russian military historical knowledge is amazing) but they told me lots of interesting anecdotes about their service and it was striking that both had strong doubts about the ability of the Soviet army to mount a successful conventional offensive into the West.

Finally (I'm getting boring now), academic work put together a few weeks ago with a retired US Army Brig-Gen. He had been a field grade officer in a combat unit in V Corps from 1985-88 and after the cold war had been involved in a voluntary debriefing programme of former Soviet officers who wanted to do business in the USA- so probably a bit like the conversations I had above- but much more focussed and professional.

He summed up his thoughts thus- "In Germany, we all thought we would inflict massive casualties of the Soviets but would ultimately be overwhelmed. With what we learned about the real state of the Soviet military at the time- in retrospect I think we would have handed them their asses".

seneffe29 Dec 2017 12:39 p.m. PST

Penultimate para should have said "put me together with…"!

Legion 429 Dec 2017 2:16 p.m. PST

You have some good options there lincoln …

capt jimmi31 Dec 2017 5:03 p.m. PST

love this !

Eumerin Inactive Member31 Dec 2017 9:48 p.m. PST

Someone (can't remember who) quipped on the Battlefront forum that the if World War 3 broke out, the Soviets hoped to win it before the Poles ran out of Germans to kill, and turned their sights on the Russians, instead.

nickinsomerset01 Jan 2018 1:12 a.m. PST

Eumerin, the Russians were most nervous of the Poles cutting the lines of communication, the Germans were considered most reliable but unlikely to be happy fighting other Germans. Much of what we assessed was borne out chatting to our "New friends" after the wall went down!

Tally Ho!

lincolnlog01 Jan 2018 6:39 a.m. PST


Yes the Red Army Bear was a propaganda success, but an operational nightmare. Great information provided!

Legion 401 Jan 2018 8:14 a.m. PST

Every Pole I have talked to had no love for the Russians and were very glad to join NATO. And to have US & UK troops in their country for FTXs, etc.

Tac Error01 Jan 2018 4:05 p.m. PST

Check out R.N. Armstrong's scenario in this thread over at Armchair General…


Legion 401 Jan 2018 6:26 p.m. PST

Armchair General was a great magazine ! Have not been to the website yet though … Still trying read all my old Armchair Generals !

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