Tuesday 23 September 2014

The War We Did Not Want (World War III 1952 to 1960)

I love alternate history invasion fiction, especially Victorian stories of French or German forces landing on Albion's fair shores and getting their come-uppance Le Queux style. It was, therefore, interesting to read an article on the io9 website about how US magazine Colliers devoted a whole issue in October 1951 to the story of the Great Soviet War 1952 to 1960 (aka WWIII). 

A fascinating piece, I have now managed to track down a PDF copy of the issue here. Unfortunately the colour artwork has not copied into black and white that well (the illustrations below are from other sources), but it is a fascinating read with lots of alt-history wargaming potential.

I have copied one of the articles from the issue which provides an overview of the war, which hopefully you will find interesting...

How The War Was Fought
by Hanson W.Baldwin (New York City, 1960)

The definitive history of the Great War with the Soviet Union cannot, even now, in 1960, be written; an army of historians will require many decades to collate, sort and interpret the voluminous records of the twentieth century's third, and largest. World War. Some important details will, indeed, be forever lost. The exact fate, for instance, of many of the men in "Task Force Victory" which air-landed in the heart of the Urals in 1953 in a heroic suicide attack against the Communist A-bomb storage depots is still veiled in mystery; the complete picture of the operation died with the leaders of the mission.

But the general outline of the war and the strategic concepts that governed it are long since clear. The United States and its Allies, including the overwhelming majority of the United Nations, due in large part to the strength and political and military wisdom of their leaders, chose deliberately to fight a limited war for limited objectives. Public opinion forced some deviations from this policy; sometimes - as in the bombing of Moscow - restraint was abandoned, but the fate of Napoleon and of Hitler and the lost peace of World War II were persuasive arguments for caution.

The atomic bomb was used extensively by both sides but our war was primarily against Communism and the Soviet rulers rather than the Russian people, and the unlimited atomic holocaust did not occur.

The Balkans once again were the tinderbox of war. The satellite Soviet attacks upon Yugoslavia in the spring of 1952 were the preface to far greater battles.

Red Army hordes drove westward in their principal offensive across the north German plain, assisted by secondary drives from Czechoslovakia and the Balkans toward south Germany and the French frontier, Trieste, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Communist airborne and ground troops moved toward the Persian Gulf, and in northern Europe, Red Army troops, despite strong guerrilla opposition, took over Finland, and other enemy forces in combined land-sea operations moved into extreme northern and southern Norway.

In the Far East, our occupation forces in Korea were forced out of Pusan under a hail of bombs, and the puppet "Japanese People's Army"- composed of thoroughly indoctrinated Japanese prisoners who had been held since World War II - backed by Red forces, ferried La Perouse Strait and invaded Hokkaido, northernmost of the Japanese Islands. Soviet submarines quickly appeared off our coasts and magnetic, pressure and acoustic mines sank many tons of shipping and closed some of our Eastern ports - until emergency countermeasures, woefully inadequate at the war's beginning, could be hastily devised.

The first year of war was a tragic period of defeat and retreat. Yet the fledgling "NATO" (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces did better than anticipated in stemming the tide of aggression; in the Far East, the "Junipers" (Japanese National Police Reserve, established by General MacArthur in 1950), quickly provided the framework for a strong Japanese army.

The U.S.S.R. suffered heavily under attack by A-bombs and conventional bombs, and some of her A-bomb works, many of the bases for her long-range air forces, and transportation and oil targets were destroyed or badly damaged. Yet the enemy was able to A-bomb London and other Allied targets, and atomic bombs dropped on our atomic energy plant at Hanford, Washington, and on Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York and Washington, D.C.

Despite our defeats and heavy losses in this first phase of the war, our strategic objective was accomplished. The Allies managed: to contain the enemy attack; to hold absolutely vital air bases in Eurasia, North Africa and the Middle East; to halt the enemy in western Europe and northern Japan; to stopper up many of the Soviet submarines by extensive aerial mine laying of the narrow seas and by carrier-based A-bomb attacks on submarine pens and base facilities; and to hurt severely the Reds' offensive capabilities and warmaking potential by exacting high casualties on the surface and by heavy attacks upon the "heartland" from the air.

The second phase of the Great War with the Soviet Union lasted for about 15 months, and could be termed the "defensive-offensive" phase. During this phase we had achieved clear-cut air superiority; new weapons, including the atomic artillery shell, were used at the front, and we launched our first "holding offensives" and limited operations to cut down enemy strength and to improve our positions for the decisive offensive still to come. Soviet strength - and the strength of her satellites - was being reduced steadily by our strategic air campaign and by the reckless tactics of the Communist commanders, who hurled assault after assault against our forces in Europe only to have them repulsed with frightful slaughter.

Despite our defensive victories on the ground and the reduction of the Soviet submarine and mine menace at sea, vital enemy targets within the U.S.S.R. proved to be so well dispersed hidden or protected as to escape destruction. After a second series of enemy atomic attacks against the United States (included among the targets was Washington, D.C.), "Task Force Victory" carried out its desperate but successful assault against the enemy's underground Ural A-bomb pens.

The third and final phase of the war - the period of great Allied offensives and decisive victories - was tailored to the concept of peripheral attacks against the "heartland" by land air and sea (utilizing to the full the transport capacity and mobility of air and sea power) and heavy bombing attacks against the enemy's interior. No deep land penetration of Russia was ever attempted - or indeed, ever seriously contemplated - though there was early in 1954 a sizable group (chiefly among the older Army generals) that favored it. 

In Europe, the Baltic, the Mediterranean and Black Seas were used not only as flank protection for overland drives through the satellite states to the old Russian frontiers, but as highways across which amphibious "hops" aided the land operations. In the north, Allied armies moved through east Germany and Poland, halting their main drive at the Pripet Marshes with the disorganized remnants of what was once the powerful 8th Guards Army fleeing before them. 

Spearheads moved by sea and air into the Baltic States and Finland, and advanced air bases were established which dominated all of western Russia. 

A similar southern drive through the Mediterranean, Turkey and the Black Sea (with secondary land drives to clean up the Balkans) ended in a lodgment in the Crimea, where the last formal battles of the Great War were fought. 

In the meantime, as the Red Armies fell apart in the West, Siberia and Red China - their communications with European Russia cut in a thousand places - descended into chaos. Limited amphibious operations, many of them made against little opposition, put U.S. and Allied troops ashore in Korea, Manchuria and China, and from these points we controlled land and sea communications of the Orient. 

To World War III—the Great Soviet War —there was no formal end; indeed, there could not have been, under our concepts of strategy. For our basic aim of separating the rulers from the ruled, of encouraging the dissident and lowntrodden minorities of Russia to revolt, of "fissioning" the Red Army (psychologically as well as in battle), of freeing the satellite peoples and aligning them on our side against their oppressor had, with the aid of overwhelming military force, succeeded. The Red Army ended its 38 years of history and died as it was bom, in revolt and rapine, with brother fighting brother, in civil war and bloody feud, with the oppressed becoming the oppressors and, at long last, terrible justice done to those tyrants who had subverted justice.


  1. What an interesting article! I'm off to do some more reading now...

    Quite scary in its acceptance of limited nuclear war before the doctrine of deterrence and MAD.

  2. So Patton WAS right after all!

    Great read, would love to see the other articles in the series.
    Cold War Hot indeed

  3. Great find- really like the whole old future war genre too.

    Is there anywhere one can find the whole magazine as a single PDF?



  4. A great find indeed, this is very much one of my 'periods of history', so you've made me very happy turning this up. Incredibly confident tone given the North Koreans had just recently almost forced the U.S. and U.N. forces into the sea at Pusan lol.

  5. Love the glib reference to A-Bombing London.

  6. That was very interesting and entertaining. Many thanks!

    The good guys win (of couse).

    And everyone lived happily ever after... until they all died from radiation poisoning :P

  7. I found the magazine with color adverts and all that. Nice little bit of 1950s Americana and Atomic age scary what ifs.