The commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army was confident, he had 5 divisions under his command facing 3 Danish Brigades and the Dutch Corps. Late intelligence had identified that the West German 6th Panzer-Grenadier Division had been added to the Dutch order of battle, and even this late news did no dampen his spirits.
His task was simple, break the NATO lines and capture Kiel and Hamburg. Once these objectives were met, he would move to occupy Denmark, and advance to the Elbe River.
The occupation of Denmark would allow the Soviet Air Force new airbases from which they could influence the naval battle of the Atlantic, and hopefully prevent NATO men and material from reaching the battlefield in Europe.
Spearheading the assault would be the 16th Guards tank division, equipped with T72 main battle tanks. He had reinforced this unit with an extra battalion of T72's, and artillery. It was his most potent unit.
To the south, he linked with the 20th Guards Army who were going to push toward, and capture Hannover. They faced the formidable British I Corps and the West German III corps.
The one key area to the initial assault was the airforce. It needed to secure air superiority to allow the ground attack aircraft to influence the land battle across the front.
The commander took his binoculars out of their case and scanned the horizon, it would begin soon.
The counter that represents the 16th Guards. Note the markers for the additional tanks and artillery support. This takes the already impressive attack factor of 5 to a mighty 7 in any attack. With added operational support, it would make a very formidable assault on any position, let alone some Danish Brigades.
Above him, two squadrons of highly classified aircraft raced toward the Soviet Mainstay AWAC's aircraft. They were undetected by the Warsaw Pact fighters. This was part of Operation Dreamland, a pre-emotive attack to weaken the command aircraft on the northern and southern sectors of the Soviet airforces over the battlefield. These aircraft were colloquially known as 'Frisbees', or F19's to the senior USAAF brass.
The northern mission was a success, the southern failed, but suddenly, at the beginning of the air battle, the Soviet forces had lost fifty percent of their AWACS coverage. In effect, blind in one eye over the northern sector.
The token for the F19 ' Frisbee ' stealth fighter - this is a fictional aircraft mentioned in the Tom Clancy book called Red Storm Rising.
Two days prior to the attack, the East German Government had raised serious concerns about the plans for the attack to include the use of battlefield chemical weapons. In fact, they were so concerned about the implications for Germany, as a whole, they threatened to withdraw their participation in the coming battle. This would entail the Warsaw Pact forces being denied, immediately five divisions, and any subsequent reinforcements from the East Germans.
The last thing the Soviet leadership need was needless infighting at this late stage, and an excuse for other Pact members to withdraw from the engagement.
The politburo gave into the demands, and the use of chemical weapons was prohibited to the front commander.
The first week of the battle for the air was vicious and intensive. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact wanted to gain air superiority. The USAAF, although had suffered losses, had faired better than the air groups in the northern sector. The British alone had lost two squadrons of F4 phantoms, along with a two each of Dutch and Belgian F 16's. Roughly six squadrons were decimated above the NORTHAG air sector.
It was just as costly for the Soviet Air Force, 8 squadrons worth of SU27's and the vaunted MIG 29's went down in flames. Despite all the heroism and bravery of the pilots, neither side could claim air superiority, and this had a significant impact on the ground attack squadrons.
The Warsaw Pact ground forces smashed into the NATO lines in the first week, momentum was slow, but initial gains were made in both the 2nd Guards Tank Army area of operations and the assault against the U.S. VII corps in the CENTAG area.
Two Danish, infantry Brigades, the 1st and 2nd effectively ceased as fighting units in their effort to prevent the capture of Keil. Meanwhile the 90th Guards tank division smashed through the Dutch Corps and reached Hamburg, capturing the city and forcing the Dutch corps back toward the Elbe.
Meanwhile in a daring operation, and despite the ongoing battle for air supremacy, the Northern Front parachute regiment landed and took Kiel.
It was little better for NATO in the U.S VII corps area. The Soviet assault intersected with the boundary of US V corps and in the resulting confusion, both the 2nd and 11th Armoured Brigades were destroyed. VII corps was pushed back toward the Danube and a dangerous gap appeared between the two U.S. Corps which was exploited during a breakthrough by the 9th Tank Divison of the 1st Guards Tank army.
In the centre ground, the Soviet forces found themselves up against the stiff resistance of West German units.
A concerted effort by NATO Ground attack aircraft effectively neutralised the Soviet Paras in Kiel, and the city was recaptured by the 3rd Danish Brigade, which looked dangerously isolated as the NORTHAG units were pushed back over the Elbe.
Meanwhile, the British 3rd and 4th armoured divisions were forced to fall back after a concerted Soviet assault, they did enough to cover the move of the British 1st Armoured Division into Hannover.
During the battle along the Elbe the Belgian 1st Infantry Division was reduced to a handful of men and disintegrated.
Further bad news followed, the Warsaw Pact had destroyed the U.S. 1st Armoured Division and had crossed the Danube, driving for Munich, NATO scampered to protect the city, aided by the timely arrive of the French II and III corps.
Overhead in the skies, the U.S. Airforce losses were the equivalent of four squadrons, a mixed bag of F15's and F16's.
The Soviets were not having it all their own way though. The 3rd armoured regiment ceased to exist after an assault to open the way to Kassel, and the equivalent of six MIG 23 squadrons were downed during the ongoing battle for air superiority.
The war moved into it's third week, and the Soviets had only stockpiled enough ammunition, fuel and supply's for a four week campaign. The 2nd Guards Regt retook Kiel from the Danish troops who stood to the last man. Denmark was subsequently occupied by Warsaw Pact forces.
The 2nd Guards Tank Army had met its initial objectives, and paused on the eastern side of the Elbe, the Dutch corps was still intact and anchoring its defence on the city of Bremen. The British still held Hannover, and VII corps had rallied, with the assistance of the French, to form a defensive line at Munich.
Little ground had been made by the 8th Guards Army against the two West German corps in the centre.
In the air, NATO lost another 30 F16's, to the Warsaw Pact 60 or so MIG23's. The air superiority still contested and having a significant impact on both sides ground attack, and interdiction sorties.
It was at the end of the third week, and with the knowledge that they had failed in their attempts to bring NATO to its knees, a coup began in Moscow.............
The final positions in the North
The final positions in the south.
I enjoyed the game, it is simple and elegant and feels 'right'. I think both of the players learned some valuable lessons which will no doubt be put into place the next time we play.
An after action report of a game of Red Storm Rising, published by TSR in 1989.
This book is my number one favourite. It has been since I first read it in the late 1980's (I mislaid the original I think it had a red cover - the one above is a modern replacement) It resonated with me, and was a riveting read and exploration of the Cold War gone hot. I re-read it every 3 or so years and still thoroughly enjoy the rollercoaster ride. I have not done this with any other book.
I bought the early Harpoon game for my Amiga 500 and played out the various scenarios, always with Clancy's (and Larry Bond's) take on WW3 very much in my mind. I could never find a book to match its attraction, including the ones written by Bond - although I have fond memories reading them with a cold beer in a summer holiday caravan in Cornwall when my kids were small and asleep.
I also loved the classic Microprose submarine game - Red Storm Rising.....you could even command a Sturgeon class submarine in that game. I remember playing a game called Red Lightening too, but never finished it.
I have recently started reading it again, and was browsing the Internet for a strategic game of the conflict, and came across two board games brought out in 1989 and 1990:
You can link the two games together and fight the complete conflict, with the convoys on the Red October game responsible for the reinforcements on the land game (Red Storm Rising) and moving air squadrons from the land theatre to the sea theatre etc.
So I bought them.........and was like a kid at Christmas waiting for them to arrive....
I now have them.
I will, at last, be able to game something I have wanted to do since 1989........
We parked up in view of the first road barricade at Staunton and switched the engine off. It was still too early to put the radio call into the detective, and the battery was low so we needed to conserve it.
All were asleep, no doubt brought on by the drop in adrenaline after the battle to get the car, apart from The Sarge and PC Leèt.
They spoke in hushed conversation, both scanning the horizon for threats as they did so.
" My retractable bubble pool was due to be fitted the day this madness started " said PC Leet, out of the blue.
The Sarge was perplexed, he had never heard of such a thing. " Was it? " He said, not wishing to appear rude or foolish, and confused by the concept.
PC Leet looked at him as though he had curled one down in the car.." You sit in one in your bathing suit and drink alcohol, and the bubbles relax you! " he added, not sure if the sarge was joshing with him.
" You mean a jacuzzi " the sarge replied in a tired sounding voice
" Yeah, I couldn't think of the name " PC Leet replied, yawning
The sarge looked at his watch, and it was time to switch the radio on, he nodded in PC Leets direction and said " my chronometer indicates that we should activate the electronic switching device to enthuse the communications equipment and use the linguistic function to communicate directly "
PC Leet frowned and looked at him blankly " Eh? "
" Switch the radio on "
Staunton. You can see the bonnet of the police car on the left and the compound on the top right of the picture.
" Mable this is Crazy Horse over " PC Leet spoke into the radio
" Crazy Horse this is Mable, good to hear from you, all good here, over " replied the detective
The sarge took the radio from Leet and spoke into it " Mable this is Buzz, our battery is low, so I will say this only once....." a brief overview of a daring plan, so cunning that you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, was described to the detective.
Both Leet and the detective, eyes widening, thought the sarge had gone a bit ' Gung Ho ' and their implicit trust in his leadership was questioned for the first time.......
This is the story of what subsequently unfolded........
Staunton was a peaceful hamlet in the beautiful countryside of England.
That peace had been shattered by the virus that brought the dead to life
The plan was simple and aggressive, the little band of survivors were going to rid Staunton of zombies.
They would split into two teams of six and sweep through the hamlet dispatching any zombies encountered.
PC Leet and the detective could just about stomach that part, but questioned the decision to use the police car to ram an old fence to destroy the first group.
The Sarge simply replied " Trust me "
The comments by Leet, Graves and the detective were somewhat disparaging.......
The detective, despite his misgivings, lead his group out of the safety of the compound.
The boy and the girl with the hunting rifle stayed in the compound
It wasn't long before the undead wandered in their direction, the boy ran from the compound to his grandmother....
Meanwhile.... PC Leet reluctantly followed his instructions.....
He attempted to ram the police car through the fence to wipe out a group of zombies, but at the last moment bottled it and gently touched the fence with the bonnet rather than smashing it through the rotten wood and crushing the zombies behind it.
Insensed, the sarge jumped immediately out of the vehicle and charged toward the group of undead.
Leet was shocked by the sudden change in behaviour of his friend. Was the pressure finally beginning to tell.........
The others run after their leader as he engages the enemy......
Meanwhile, undead in the fields behind the compound are drawn towards the detectives band of survivors.
A vicious battle erupts at the junction leading to the compound
PC Graves helps the sarge clear the ' the Zeds ' as he calls them
The sarge dispatches the last one and the area is clear.
The others, breathing heavily, acknowledge the Sarges plan.....but they are surprised by his aggression.
Meanwhile, the detective's group are fighting hard against a large number of walking dead.
Still more appear, drawn to the noise of gunfire.
They are ever present........
Finally they clear the last of them at the junction.
The Sarge and some of the group move toward the village centre to start clearing them. Leet is in the police car.
PC Graves, safe behind the barricade, starts shooting.....
PC Graves gunfire attracts more 'Zeds'
Others are shuffling towards the detective's group - at the far end of this photo....
He leads the group into the centre and more desperate fighting takes place
The little boy is separated and the writing is on the wall...
But some amazing dice rolls result in the little lad turning the events to a remarkable outcome, he fights off and drives back three zombies.....
More undead move to the sound of battle...
The Sarge, PC Leet, and hockey girl try to fight their way through.....
They close to contact....and a desperate fight ensued, forcing them back toward the police car...
One of the group was rooted to the spot in terror....the last two days having overwhelmed him.
He would have got into the car had PC Leet not locked it.
The detective's team had cleared the centre of the hamlet of zombies, but the Sarges team were in difficulty. It was at this time he ordered his team back, PC Leet being carried kicking and screaming to the car, desperate not to leave the sarge alone, facing a wall of zombies.
Face them he did, and like a knife through butter he dispatched the last two nests of 'Zeds' single handedly.
The police car headed for the compound, as did the detective and his group. The Sarge was alone in his task, and despite the overwhelming odds finished the job.
Like a killing machine, The Sarge sliced through the zombie scourge......
He killed the final nest of Zeds on his way to the compound....
The group greet the returning hero " He will be unbearable now " said PC Leet to the detective, wiping his tear stained eyes.
" bloody right he will " said PC Graves before he stepped up and gave the Sarge a big manly hug................