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  • World War 3 happens...

    Starting a gratuitous political slam... Unlike the morons at The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists', who thoroughly missed the seriousness of this situation...

    It's 27 October 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis is at its height. The USN has found a Soviet Foxtrot submarine near Cuba (B-36, B-4, B-130, or (historically) B-59). The USN is dropping practice depth charges near it to try and force it to the surface.

    The Russian sub Captain is staying down and out of communications with anyone. The sub is running out of air and battery power. The Captain doesn't know the depth charges are just practice ones. He thinks the USN is trying to really sink his boat and that there's a war already on.
    Desperate, he follows his orders to use his nuclear T-5 torpedo as a last resort to sink his antagonizer(s). He orders the crew to ready the weapon and to get a firing solution on the US ship.

    SAC has bombers on the go line and in the air. The US military is beginning preparations for a war.

    The Russian Captain makes a desperate high speed run towards the USS Randolph (CVS 15) and fires his torpedo. The Randolph and one of her escorting destroyers are gone. Several other DD are badly damaged or crippled. The surviving US DD sink the Foxtrot.

    What would the next move by both sides in this be? Escalation, or attempts at diplomacy to defuse a massively bad situation?

  • #2
    Le May was inclined to go for it, so I think the question would be, could JFK keep him under control.
    Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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    • #3
      October 27 is the same day McNamara was saying stuff like "...invasion of Cuba is inevitable." Or, "we must be ready to attack Cuba (and the Soviet Union presumably)."

      I really think that JFK, having lost a carrier and destroyer with about 2,000 dead US sailors now, would have launched SAC and gone to war. Once it started to escalate, they're be no going back.

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      • #4
        With the intelligence from Hero that the Soviet had a lot less nukes than had been thought Kennedy may have been tempted to go for a first strike.
        "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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        • #5
          Once that sub nuked a carrier it would be so on. Historically, we're very, very lucky that saner minds were aboard the original sub, the B-59 and overrode the Captain wanting to nuke a US ship. If that hadn't really happened, we'd have had lots of mushrooms sprouting up all over the planet.

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          • #6
            I'm skeptical of JFK being that trigger-happy, or unable to contain the JCS. USSR would be paying some very heavy reparations, or might find one of it's naval ports nuked in quid-pro-quo.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by G David Bock View Post
              I'm skeptical of JFK being that trigger-happy, or unable to contain the JCS. USSR would be paying some very heavy reparations, or might find one of it's naval ports nuked in quid-pro-quo.
              I might buy that if the sub torpedoed a destroyer or carrier with a conventional torpedo. There was precedent like the USS Greer incident or the bombing of the USS Panay. Nuking a carrier and its escorts would likely have been seen as a high seas "Pearl Harbor." That would have forced a much stronger response.

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              • #8
                The problem is that once one side uses a nuke the other side has to assume they are going all out. I'm assuming there is some sort of lag time between unleashing SAC & bombs dropping, so that might create an opportunity. What was the situation with missiles? What does the US have available? I assume anything fixed will be launched very rapidly.

                Cooler heads might prevail, but the 'nuke or be nuked' dynamic is truly scary.
                Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by BF69 View Post
                  The problem is that once one side uses a nuke the other side has to assume they are going all out. I'm assuming there is some sort of lag time between unleashing SAC & bombs dropping, so that might create an opportunity. What was the situation with missiles? What does the US have available? I assume anything fixed will be launched very rapidly.

                  Cooler heads might prevail, but the 'nuke or be nuked' dynamic is truly scary.
                  On 27 October, SAC was in the air on the go line to launch a nuclear strike on Russia. The USAF was dispersing planes to remote locations like auxiliary fields to avoid destruction. The US Army and Marines were mobilizing for combat, particularly an invasion of Cuba.

                  The US also had IRBM in Britain, Italy, and Turkey. There were about 400 Davy Crockett "nuclear hand grenades" in Berlin under US control.

                  So, if the situation goes "hot" it is likely the US would have launched a nuclear strike on Russia within hours, if they were going to do it. The question is, would the loss of about 3,000 US sailors, an aircraft carrier, and several other surface ships in what amounts to a "high seas Pearl Harbor" be enough to cause that?
                  I think at the time it would have been.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                    On 27 October, SAC was in the air on the go line to launch a nuclear strike on Russia. The USAF was dispersing planes to remote locations like auxiliary fields to avoid destruction. The US Army and Marines were mobilizing for combat, particularly an invasion of Cuba.

                    The US also had IRBM in Britain, Italy, and Turkey. There were about 400 Davy Crockett "nuclear hand grenades" in Berlin under US control.

                    So, if the situation goes "hot" it is likely the US would have launched a nuclear strike on Russia within hours, if they were going to do it. The question is, would the loss of about 3,000 US sailors, an aircraft carrier, and several other surface ships in what amounts to a "high seas Pearl Harbor" be enough to cause that?
                    I think at the time it would have been.
                    I think we can discount the 'Davey Crocketts' as a first strike option.

                    As for the rest, if it takes 'hours' to start launching nukes then there is still a chance it might not happen. If the Kremlin & the White House can talk before something is launched that can't be stopped then it might all be stopped.

                    Other than LeMay, who seems to have been borderline psychotic, the rest of the senior people involved clearly wanted to avoid war. That doesn't mean they can, but wanting to is a good start.

                    The Russians must have known how overmatched they were in terms of numbers. This might mean they are desperate to stop escalation or it might mean they rush to a first strike. Really not sure.

                    If, however, they are desperate to prevent a wider war & they can communicate it to the Americans there might be hope. Kennedy would have the whip hand as the wronged party & might well demand Russia step aside from protecting Cuba as the price of peace.

                    Really glad the world didn't have to find out.
                    Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one - Hunter S. Thompson

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BF69 View Post
                      I think we can discount the 'Davey Crocketts' as a first strike option.
                      They were there to basically turn taking Berlin into a nuclear holocaust. Once the Red Army started to move on the city it would be a nuclear free fire zone.

                      As for the rest, if it takes 'hours' to start launching nukes then there is still a chance it might not happen. If the Kremlin & the White House can talk before something is launched that can't be stopped then it might all be stopped.
                      The B-52's were already airborne. Yes, they'd take hours to arrive on target. The then Atlas D and Titan missiles could have been launched in under 30 minutes if the go was approved. It'd take several hours for IRBMs in Europe and Turkey to launch as they weren't readily deployed.
                      It might have been stopped, but for the Russians trying to get that after nuking a carrier would be a pretty big order.

                      Other than LeMay, who seems to have been borderline psychotic, the rest of the senior people involved clearly wanted to avoid war. That doesn't mean they can, but wanting to is a good start.
                      McNamara had some screws loose too. He was arguing that war was inevitable and we should go for it. At one point in the Cuban missile crisis, a U-2 had wandered over Soviet territory in Siberia. When informed, McNamara was shouting hysterically that we needed to launch right now before the Soviets did.
                      Calmer people prevailed, thankfully.

                      The Russians must have known how overmatched they were in terms of numbers. This might mean they are desperate to stop escalation or it might mean they rush to a first strike. Really not sure.
                      The Russians fully knew they'd take the brunt of the damage. They had few if any options other than the relative handful of ICBM in service to attack the US directly. Their IRBM's in Cuba weren't fully operational yet, and those wouldn't counterbalance the US ones in England, Italy, and Turkey in numbers.

                      If, however, they are desperate to prevent a wider war & they can communicate it to the Americans there might be hope. Kennedy would have the whip hand as the wronged party & might well demand Russia step aside from protecting Cuba as the price of peace.
                      I think they'd try. One problem is the US would know their carrier went down in a nuclear strike hours before the Soviets would. That information would have to come from the US. That too would create a major problem for them to react to.
                      The US calls and says, "One of your subs sank a carrier with a nuclear torpedo..." The Soviet leadership is "...Uh... WTF?!" Their subs had no contact with Moscow or their naval high command.

                      Really glad the world didn't have to find out.
                      Me too. This scenario was saved by a couple of Russian submarine officers who were less willing than the boat's captain to fire a nuclear torpedo.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                        Once that sub nuked a carrier it would be so on. Historically, we're very, very lucky that saner minds were aboard the original sub, the B-59 and overrode the Captain wanting to nuke a US ship. If that hadn't really happened, we'd have had lots of mushrooms sprouting up all over the planet.
                        Very lucky indeed. The senior mind was Vasili Arkhipov, who was the flotilla commander. Technically, he was junior to the captain as it relates to command decisions on the sub, but by dint of his reputation and power of persuasion he was able to convince the captain to calm down, surface the ship, and head home.

                        The evidence is scanty. Perhaps it didn't really happen. But the mere possibility that it could have is chilling indeed.

                        I'm a fan of Arkhipov's action, as can be seen by my avatar.

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                        • #13
                          Im a skeptic too as to JFK going all the way.

                          "We must re=examine our own attitudes...towards the Soviets........we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal
                          These are not the words of a trigger happy hawk.

                          they are the words of a thinking, feeling humanist with children to consider....

                          Speeches like this one, and others from The New Frontier and Camelot, indicate nn America and a president whose policy was not a poor imitation of Joseph Conrad's "Mister Kurtz", telling Philip Marlowe as a last instruction to "Exterminate all the brutes"

                          No. JFK had played "tic-tac-toe' and had learnt that nukewaris not an option to be considered, but rather, is a permanent state of "sabre rattling" on a grand scale,

                          Like Bismarks "Iron Fist" diplomacy, which was meant to be conducted in a white glove, Nuke diplomay was 99.9999 recurring% rhetoric, with the other fraction of one percent just a contingency plan!

                          Drusus
                          My Articles, ALMOST LIVE, exclusive to The Armchair!

                          Soviet Submarines in WW2....The Mythology of Shiloh....(Edited) Both Sides of the Warsaw Ghetto
                          GULAG Glossary....Who Really Killed The Red Baron?....Pearl Harbor At 75
                          Lincoln-Douglas Debates

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                            McNamara had some screws loose too. He was arguing that war was inevitable and we should go for it. At one point in the Cuban missile crisis, a U-2 had wandered over Soviet territory in Siberia. When informed, McNamara was shouting hysterically that we needed to launch right now before the Soviets did. Calmer people prevailed, thankfully.
                            There were a lot of screws loose all around the table. Robert Kennedy is seen by history as the leader of the “doves”. But on the first day of the crisis, Oct 16, he favored an invasion of Cuba. It was McNamara who first introduced the idea of blockading the island. On the 19th Kennedy was recommending a blockade, but by the 21st qualifying this by saying an air strike should be ordered if, after a brief period following the establishment of the quarantine, the Soviets had not ceased work on the missile sites.

                            On the 26th, the US received a hopeful private message from Khrushchev, which formed the basis of the final settlement. But on the 27th they publicly received a set of "unacceptable" demands. These were the famous "two letters", which led to the famous decision to respond to the first and ignore the second and which eventually defused the crisis. October 27th is also the day Soviet submarine B-59 would have nuked a US carrier. It would have been very very hard to just ignore the second public letter, coming as it would have on the heels of a nuked carrier.

                            There was a concern in those days about the optics of a "sneak" or "unprovoked" attack. The memories of Pearl Harbor were still on people’s mind, and many in Kennedy's administration didn't want to be likened to Tojo. Nuking a carrier would have changed all that. Given the tensions at the time, it would have demanded some sort of military response. The most likely response would have been an invasion of Cuba.

                            What would have happened had we invaded Cuba? The Soviets had brought some 100 tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba — 80 nuclear-armed front cruise missiles (FKRs), 12 nuclear warheads for dual-use Luna short-range rockets, and 6 nuclear bombs for IL-28 bombers. Kennedy was briefed on their presence on Oct 27, but the scale of their deployment was largely unbeknownst to him or the JCS.

                            Would soviet ground forces have used their tactical nukes if Cuba was invaded? On 27 October Khrushchev sent an urgent telegram to Issa Pliev, Soviet commander in Cuba, “categorically confirming that you are prohibited to use [tactical] nuclear weapons.” While the order is clear, the actual response to an invasion is not. The cable was prompted by the shooting down of an American U-2 plane that day, an action Soviet commanders did not have the authority to do.

                            What would the American response be to a nuked carrier, followed by a nuked invasion force? During the Cuban missile crisis, the US had approximately 1500 B-47s and 500 B-52s, and had 182 operational ICBMs. This is in addition to SSBN's and medium range missiles in Europe and Turkey capable of reaching the USSR. The Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP-63) allowed launching an alert force of 1500 nuclear weapons in one hour, and could launch the entire nuclear force of 3400 weapons within 28 hours. In contrast, the Soviet strategic missile threat consisted of a few token ICBM deployments whose unreliability was so great that it was uncertain exactly whom they threatened. Soviet long range bomber forces consisted only of 100 Tu-Bears and 35 May Bison, whose range and flight characteristics forced them to fly at medium and high altitudes, and which made them extremely vulnerable to US fighters and surface-to-air missiles.

                            Historically, Kennedy resisted strong pressures to test this advantage in October of 1962 but that resistance had obvious limits. A nuked carrier, to say nothing of a nuked invasion force, would IMHO have left Kennedy no other option.

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                            • #15
                              Nuking a carrier would have demanded a response. That would have been seen as a "High seas Pearl Harbor." A second nuke against a Cuban invasion force, and I doubt the US would have stopped short of immolating the USSR in a massive nuclear strike. This was still a time where "collateral damage" and mass strategic bombing were considered acceptable means of war.

                              As you point out, I think at that time the USSR would have had a very hard time stopping a mass strike on their territory. That wouldn't have ended things however. I do think the USSR would have chosen to go down fighting as their last option, and a nuclear strike, however massive it might be, would not have ended their war fighting capacity, particularly with conventional forces in Europe.

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