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Operation Anadyr (Timeline 10/27/62)

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Operation Anadyr (Timeline 10/27/62)

  Operation Anadyr

  By James Philip

  Copyright © James P. Coldham writing as James Philip 2014. All rights reserved.

  Author’s Note

  ‘Operation Anadyr’ is Book 1 of the alternative history series Timeline 10/27/62.

  Why Timeline 10/27/62? Because that date is a very significant date in my life and in the lives of everybody else in the world alive today because on Saturday 27th October 1962 World War III almost started. World War III probably wouldn’t have lasted very long because one side would have been swiftly obliterated in the first 24 hours of a cataclysm that would have left vast tracts of the Northern Hemisphere uninhabited and uninhabitable for decades to come. Perhaps, a quarter of the world’s population would have died in the firestorm or in the starvation and the plagues that would have ensued in the following weeks and months.

  In the October War of 1962 the hammer of the gods would have fallen upon the territories of the Soviet Union, central and Western Europe, and to a lesser extent, upon the extremities of continental North America. In the Soviet Union and in Europe from Paris to Warsaw, from Prague to Berlin, from the Alps to the Baltic, across the Low Countries and parts of the United Kingdom the thermonuclear fire would have burned with a merciless flame. Scandinavia might have escaped relatively untouched, likewise southern France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, Ireland and possibly parts of England, Wales and Scotland.

  The ‘Cuban Missiles’ War would have been a Man made global catastrophe like no other in human history. In the aftermath, the USA, mourning the dead in half-a-dozen wrecked cities would have been the last major industrial and military power left standing. That world could never, ever be the world we know today.

  How close did we actually come to the edge of the abyss? Much closer than most people like to contemplate. On Saturday 27th October 1962, north east of Cuba, the commander of Soviet submarine B-59 had to be talked out of firing a nuclear-tipped torpedo at the American destroyer USS Beale. That’s how close we came to World War III!

  The Captain of the B-59 was a man called Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky. He was exhausted, the air in his vessel was virtually unbreathable and he was at the end of his tether. He may have believed that war had already broken out between the USSR and America. In any event he gave the order for a nuclear warhead to be fitted to a torpedo.

  Allegedly he said: “We’re going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all! We will not disgrace our Navy!” From which we may infer that he was in earnest.

  In that era Soviet naval doctrine governing the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons onboard a warship at sea required the authorisation of three officers: the captain, the executive officer, and the vessel’s political officer. B-59’s political officer, Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov signed off on starting World War III but fortunately for us all, the submarine’s second-in-command, Captain 2nd Rank Vasili Arkhipov, dissented and Armageddon was narrowly averted.

  Timeline 10/27/62 is an alternative history of the modern world in which nobody ever got to know the name of Vasili Arkhipov because he died in the first act of the most terrible war in history.

  Operation Anadyr is the first verse in the story of what happened after Vasili Arkhipov failed to prevail upon Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky to see reason.

  Welcome to the Timeline 10/27/62 Series.

  Other books in the series:

  Book 2: Love is Strange

  Book 3: The Pillars of Hercules (Available 31st January 2015)

  Book 4: Red Dawn (Available 1st May 2015)

  Book 5: The Burning Time (Available later in 2015)

  * * *

  To the reader: firstly, thank you for reading this book; and secondly, please remember that this is a work of fiction. I made it up in my own head. None of the characters in ‘Operation Anadyr – Book 1 of the ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ - are based on real people I know of, or have ever met. Nor do the specific events described in ‘Operation Anadyr’ - Book 1 of the ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ - have, to my knowledge, any basis in real events I know to have taken place. Any resemblance to real life people or events is, therefore, unintended and entirely coincidental.

  The ‘Timeline 10/27/62 Series’ is an alternative history of the modern world and because of this real historical characters are referenced and in some cases their words and actions form significant parts of the narrative. I have no way of knowing for sure if these real, historical figures, would have spoken thus, or acted in the ways I depict them acting. Any word I place in the mouth of a real historical figure, and any action which I attribute to them after 27th October 1962 never actually happened. As I always say in my Author’s Notes to my readers, I made it up in my own head.

  Finally, a note on ships and ship names

  HMS Talavera (Yard no. 617) was a later Battle Class destroyer laid down at John Brown and Company’s Yard on the Clyde on 29th August 1944 and launched, on 27th August 1945 to clear the slip. The hull was sold to the West of Scotland Shipbreaking Company Limited of Troon, in South Ayrshire, where it was beached on 26th January 1946. Breaking up commenced on 5th February 1946 and was completed on 27th March 1946.

  Four of HMS Talavera’s younger sisters - Agincourt, Aisne, Barossa and Corunna – were converted to Fast Air Detection Escorts and all served, at one time or another, with the Mediterranean Fleet and were once based at Malta. Their conversions were interim, stop gap measures which were overtaken by events. First, Harold Wilson’s Labour Government cancelled the new big fleet carriers they were supposed to be escorting; and secondly, new technology and new ships soon rendered them obsolete. All four Fast Air Detection Battles were decommissioned before the end of the 1960s in a universe in which HMS Talavera never steamed.

  HMS Dreadnought was the United Kingdom’s first nuclear powered hunter killer submarine. On 27th October 1962, Dreadnought was fitting out at Barrow-in-Furness.

  As with real historical characters, real historical ships are treated in a documentary - where they were and as they were deployed - fashion up to and including 27th October 1962. Thereafter, all bets are off because in this post cataclysm timeline, everything changes.


  Author’s Note

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Author’s Endnote

  Other Books by James Philip

  Operation Anadyr

  [Book 1 of Timeline 10/27/62]

  “It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”

  John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the Unites States of America

  22nd October 1962

  “Should war indeed break out, it would not be in our power to contain or stop it, for such is the logic of war. I have taken part in two wars, and I know that war ends only when it has rolled through cities and villages, sowing death and destruction everywhere.”

  Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, Chairman of the Council of Ministers

  of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

  26th October 1962

  “We’re going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all! We will not disgrace our Navy!”

  Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, Captain of Project 641 Class Submarine B-59

  27th October 1962

  Chapter 1

  An extract from ‘The Anatomy of Armageddon: America, Cuba, the USSR and the Global Disaster of October 1962’ reproduced by the kind permission of the New Memorial University of California, Los Angeles Press published on 27th October 2012 in memoriam of the fallen.

  The B-59 was less than two years old when her commander, Captain Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, conned the diesel-electric submarine out into the cold waters of the Kola Inlet to depart from Murmansk the home port of Northern Fleet for the last time on the first day of October 1962.

  Sailing under sealed orders that were only to be opened after the B-59 reached the open sea neither Captain Savitsky nor his crew of seventy officers and men could have guessed that within days their vessel was destined to become the trip wire at the leading edge of the most reckless – and possibly the most ill-considered - act of international brinkmanship in history.

  The B-59 was the flagship of a flotilla of four Project 641 submarines – the others being B-4, B-36 and B-130 - dispatched from their icy Arctic bases on the Kola Peninsula to the warm waters of the Caribbean to participate in Operation Anadyr, the mission to deliver medium range ballistic missiles and to set up a permanent Soviet military presence on the island of Cuba. Each Project 641 (designated Foxtrot by NATO) Class vessel was equipped with ten torpedo tubes and armed with twenty-two torpedoes, of which one was nuclear-tipped with a warhead generating an explosive potential approximately equivalent to that of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

  Back in May 1962 the Soviet high command dreamed of establishing a major blue water naval base at Mariel, some forty kilometres west of Havana. The initial plan had been to station cruisers, destroyers, several support and repair tenders, and a large squadron of diesel-electric submarines – including seven Golf (Project 629) submarines armed with SSN4 medium range ballistic missiles – opposite the Gulf coast of the USA. However, by the time the B-59 nosed out into the White Sea at the beginning of October, the grand plans for Mariel had been quietly scaled down and only the four Foxtrot class boats were actually dispatched. However, even this reduced Soviet gesture – four newly built but old-fashioned, essentially updated versions of German U-boat designs captured in 1945 – set deafeningly loud alarm bells ringing across the other side of the Atlantic.

  In October 1962 the United States possessed the biggest navy in the world. Although many of its units were modernised World War II vintage hulls, the USN stood astride the oceans of the globe unchallenged in ways the British Royal Navy, even its halcyon years in the late 19th Century might have envied. Each of its big fleet carriers carried scores of strike aircraft and up to forty nuclear warheads in its magazines. The US submarine service had stolen a giant march on the rest of the world with its rapidly growing fleet of nuclear powered attack and Polaris armed ballistic missile boats. In comparison to the United States Navy the Soviet Fleet was obsolete, hardly more than a coastal defence force. Yet, like all great behemoths the USN was strangely insecure in its overwhelming power. While the Soviets gazed on the imperious grey wall of steel that contemptuously blocked their access to the world’s oceans, and yearned to get their hands on the glittering prizes of western technological advances that were routinely built into their enemy’s battle fleets, they failed to appreciate that their foe’s greatest maritime weakness – his Achilles heel - was his own fear and paranoia.

  In October 1962 the USN tracked the four Foxtrots from the moment they left port. When it became evident that they had been ordered to approach closer to the East Coast of the United States than any previous Soviet submarines this so alarmed CINCLANT – Commander-in-Chief of Atlantic Fleet – Admiral Robert L. Dennison, that he warned ‘it demonstrates a clear cut Soviet intent to position a major offensive threat off our shores.’

  Given that the USN had based six George Washington and Ethan Allen Class Polaris-armed ballistic missile submarines at Holy Loch in Scotland – each with sixteen missiles capable of hitting Moscow from British or Norwegian waters – and was about to deploy a seventh vessel with a similar capability, Admiral Dennison’s risk assessment bordered on hysteria but such was the mood of the times. Lest it be forgotten, Soviet-US tensions had been ratcheting up, gear by gear for many years by late 1962. The Cuba Crisis was just the latest confrontation in a Cold War that in retrospect had begun with the fall of Berlin in May 1945. Seventeen years later Berlin remained a red hot potential flashpoint; first there had been a blockade of the city eventually broken by the great airlift of the late forties, now the Soviets had recently cut the city in half with a wall. Then there’d been the Korean War, which many in America regarded as a proxy war fought with Chinese blood and Soviet weapons; later the brutal crushing of the Hungarian revolution in 1956 left nobody in the West in any doubt as to the ruthlessness of their enemy. There had been the theft of American nuclear secrets and the Soviets’ desperate attempts to match US atomic weapons advances. Barely a year before the Cuban confrontation the Soviets had tested an air-dropped hydrogen super-bomb with an estimated explosive yield of between 50 and 58 megatons of TNT - the so-called Tsar Bomb - over the Novaya Zemlya archipelago at Sukhoy Nos. Coming so soon after the Soviets had beaten their American rivals into space it was explicable – for all that it was somewhat surprising – that successive American Presidents had allowed themselves to misinterpret their own strength for weakness.

  In the early 1960s paranoia was very much in vogue not just in Washington DC but in many if not all western capitals, including London, Paris, Bonn and Ottawa. That the paranoia was largely misplaced; that it was not generally appreciated that the Soviets were militarily outmatched in every respect barring the number of tanks and conscripts on the ground in Central Europe and knew it, was in retrospect the great tragedy of the age.

  Viewed through the long lens of history any balanced, rational, semi-informed assessment of the actual strategic balance of forces in late 1962 would have concluded that it was the Soviets alone who had firm grounds for their paranoia.

  American and British troops stood ready to meet a Soviet invasion on the northern plains of Germany, American B52s and Royal Air Force V-Bombers stood at the end of runways ready to strike. American Polaris submarines roamed the depths of the northern oceans, Thor ballistic missiles in the United Kingdom and Turkey circled the industrial vitals of western Russia, almost daily the Americans commissioned a new buried ICBM silo in the mid-west. The West’s response to the ‘scares’ of the late fifties and early sixties had been massive and overwhelming. Mounting Operation Anadyr and in so doing provoking the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis was the Kremlin’s disastrously miscalculated response to its intense feeling of, for want of a better word, helplessness, and in less fevered times, the Kennedy Administration might have understood as much.

  Unfortunately, the Kennedy White House was a particularly fertile medium upon which to sow the seeds of Armageddon. The Soviet Union’s attempt to place nuclear missiles on neighbouring Cuba came as a shock to a country scarred by previous ‘scares’. First there had been the ‘bomber scare’ of the Eisenhower years, then the ‘missile gap’, both the poisonous products of abysmal Western intelligence and the vociferous, money-grabbing lobbying of powerful defence contractors. There had never been a time when the USA and its allies had lagged behind the Soviets in either respect. Then the Soviets had put the first man into space. Was nothing sacred? Now there was another ‘scare’; the Russians were moving into Cuba. What next? A sudden rain of nuclear fire upon the heartland of the North American Continent? Or perhaps an invasion? In the febrile atmosphere of those times, brazenly sending submarines into waters that the United States Navy – and the entire American body politic - regarded as its own, private sea was in retrospect a provocation of monumentally inept proportions.

  Notwithstanding the US Navy’s loudly voiced and plaintively expressed concerns, the Kennedy Administration initially reacted with a moderation that infuriated CINCLANT, ordering that the four Soviet submarines were not to be attacked. However, the
USN was directed to intercept, signal and compel the Foxtrots to surface, if necessary, by harassing them with hand grenades and practice depth charges. Aware of the perils involved - even in this compromise with CINCLANT – to lessen the possibility of an incident the Pentagon sent Moscow a Submarine Surfacing and Identification Procedures message, so that the Soviets could inform the captains of the Foxtrots that they were not under attack.

  When he was interrogated several months later the Captain of the B-36 denied any knowledge of ever receiving this message. Most contemporary historians now assume that the contents of the USN’s communication – if it was ever transmitted, a moot point because the Pentagon has never claimed that the Kremlin formally acknowledged its receipt - was not passed on to the four Foxtrots by the Soviet High Command.

  That this critical message was apparently lost in translation is key to comprehending what followed because it transformed what might, in other circumstances have been a tense comedy of errors, into a hemisphere-wide catastrophe. This oversight, or perhaps, the Soviet High Command’s deliberate decision not to be intimidated by the US Navy, was further compounded and confounded on 23rd October. It was on this date that the merchant ships carrying the final consignment of missiles and weaponry to Cuba were turned around by Moscow.

  Logically, this implied that the four Foxtrots should have been recalled. However, if the evidence of the Captain of the B-36 is to be trusted, it seems that the four Foxtrots were not notified of this change of plan, nor was their mission in any way modified. One is tempted to suspect that the Soviet High Command in the heat of the moment, had forgotten – like a drunken chess player – that they’d already placed four hostages to fortune in desperately exposed and isolated positions on the global geopolitical board. In any event after 23rd October the four Foxtrots found themselves in a dire situation.

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