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I read those papers years ago. I think I was still at the Battle Command Training Program/National Simulation Center when I did so. Still had all the ETO maps and Red Army resources from gaming the Central Front 15+ years prior on some of the walls.

 

What I found most wild about those studies is how you can see the lessons learned being applied in the Real World a year or three after the respective game.

 

My biggest takeaway was the lesson that once Nukes came into things, it became a game of escalation control and nothing else really mattered.

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That sounds like it was interesting work.

 

Ive a book written about 25 years ago on the gaming community in the US, specifically the military industrial one, and it actually touched on the Global wargame before it was officially declassified. Supposedly it was NOFORN, mainly because I guess they didnt want to signal they might trade X country in a Third World War. Considering some of the results seem to have been incredibly unlikely, I can hardly blame them.

 

I read somewhere that they took two valuable lessons from these games. That it was very difficult to get a Third World War started. But that when it was, it was nearly impossible to turn it off again.

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Well, the earliest games were Navy only, and OPFOR was played by USN folks who attacked BLUEFOR at most fears. They expanded and drew in Intel people to play OPFOR leadership, and started bringing in Army and Air force to play instead of running a scripted central front. They very quickly learned than keeping the Carrier Task Forces out of danger wasn't possible, and wasted their resources - so they started pushing them forward aggressively to make their inevitable loss at least be paid for in the toll they extracted from OPFOR. As the complexity grew, and they started to involve actual representatives from BLUE National Command Authorities (IIRC the 83 one they WERE going to have POTUS actually participate, coincident with Able Archer and Reforger - which was just playing into the real RED paranoia that BLUE was going for it for real), and as they brought in more experts in the actual RED decision makers, they realized that it wasn't valid that on D-Day RED would drive hell-bent for leather for the Rhein river with no other cause forcing them to. The shenanigans the planners had to do to entice RED to actually start WWIII was significant. The OTHER lesson was that the standard BLUE position of a return to "status quo ante bellum" positions prior to negotiations was untenable - if the war could have been averted via negotiations under the status quo, they wouldn't have had the bellum.

 

At the start of the land scenarios BLUE expected a short fight that they would lose. By the last one described they had started shifting to playing for the Long Game. Rather than expecting a fight of less than a week, they jumped into a scenario lasting *MUCH* longer, and they saw that BLUE could begin actually productive counterattacks that led to the very open question of stopping after reaching the Oder. Not to say the reality would have played out that way, but considering the early ones basically had the Red Army halfway to Paris, it shows an attitude and confidence shift. The last several scenarios that they cooked up to bring RED into hostilities eerily mirrored what actually happened in 1989. The 1989 game was, in fact, canceled as reality was playing out too fast for them to keep up, and the lessons learned during the preceding decade of games was clearly leveraged in the actual event to help bring about a peaceful end to the Cold War. Amazing to me to read, because I was front-row center as a dependent at US EUCOM and USAEUR 83-90. Reading this I understood the stress my father was under, and understand he was involved in some of those exercises in J-2.

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Well, the earliest games were Navy only, and OPFOR was played by USN folks who attacked BLUEFOR at most fears. They expanded and drew in Intel people to play OPFOR leadership, and started bringing in Army and Air force to play instead of running a scripted central front. They very quickly learned than keeping the Carrier Task Forces out of danger wasn't possible, and wasted their resources - so they started pushing them forward aggressively to make their inevitable loss at least be paid for in the toll they extracted from OPFOR. As the complexity grew, and they started to involve actual representatives from BLUE National Command Authorities (IIRC the 83 one they WERE going to have POTUS actually participate, coincident with Able Archer and Reforger - which was just playing into the real RED paranoia that BLUE was going for it for real), and as they brought in more experts in the actual RED decision makers, they realized that it wasn't valid that on D-Day RED would drive hell-bent for leather for the Rhein river with no other cause forcing them to. The shenanigans the planners had to do to entice RED to actually start WWIII was significant. The OTHER lesson was that the standard BLUE position of a return to "status quo ante bellum" positions prior to negotiations was untenable - if the war could have been averted via negotiations under the status quo, they wouldn't have had the bellum.

 

At the start of the land scenarios BLUE expected a short fight that they would lose. By the last one described they had started shifting to playing for the Long Game. Rather than expecting a fight of less than a week, they jumped into a scenario lasting *MUCH* longer, and they saw that BLUE could begin actually productive counterattacks that led to the very open question of stopping after reaching the Oder. Not to say the reality would have played out that way, but considering the early ones basically had the Red Army halfway to Paris, it shows an attitude and confidence shift. The last several scenarios that they cooked up to bring RED into hostilities eerily mirrored what actually happened in 1989. The 1989 game was, in fact, canceled as reality was playing out too fast for them to keep up, and the lessons learned during the preceding decade of games was clearly leveraged in the actual event to help bring about a peaceful end to the Cold War. Amazing to me to read, because I was front-row center as a dependent at US EUCOM and USAEUR 83-90. Reading this I understood the stress my father was under, and understand he was involved in some of those exercises in J-2.

Any authentic information from the real "Red" higher ups? One of the great things about this Grate Site, is that it has taught me its not the individual hardware or hardware systems, but the brains, especially higher grade officer brains, that really decide the outcomes. And the more respectful I am of the Red Army, not so much their Air Force and especially their Navy.

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Thanks for that CT96, thats really very interesting indeed.

 

The thing I find most interesting reading of these wargames is the difficulty the players had in getting people to think Red. By which I mean, dont think like honest Americans, but think like honest Communists instead. This was a large part of the reason for mirror imaging the Soviets, and why we embarked on such things as flexible response, when the Soviets didnt really think in such terms. Its a problem we still appear to have.

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The Soviets had pretty much the same problems. You can read in the parallel history porject on NATO and the WP how NATO starts the war nuking Poland and East Germany with abandon right before the Red Storm unleashes and overruns Bad Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, etc. Which is exactly the same mindset displayed by Roman around here.

 

The Newport papers have an interesting one in which the Central front doesn't happen but there's plenty of action in the flanks, which would have been the most likely outcome. I have a book around here (Wargames by Thomas B Allen) that cronicles those year within the Pentagon, the amateur and what little was known of the Red gaming comunities. He notes wargames pretty much predicted Vietnam and that computers had to be brought in to go beyond the nuclear threshold because humans wouldn't do it if they could find a way to negotiate an alternative.

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The Soviets had pretty much the same problems. You can read in the parallel history porject on NATO and the WP how NATO starts the war nuking Poland and East Germany with abandon right before the Red Storm unleashes and overruns Bad Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, etc. Which is exactly the same mindset displayed by Roman around here.

 

The Newport papers have an interesting one in which the Central front doesn't happen but there's plenty of action in the flanks, which would have been the most likely outcome. I have a book around here (Wargames by Thomas B Allen) that cronicles those year within the Pentagon, the amateur and what little was known of the Red gaming comunities. He notes wargames pretty much predicted Vietnam and that computers had to be brought in to go beyond the nuclear threshold because humans wouldn't do it if they could find a way to negotiate an alternative.

 

Yes, I remember reading of a Polish wargame where NATO attacks first, and they go on the glorious counteroffensive. Which of course seems to be the basis for what was being considered in 1983.

 

I might have that Thomas Allen book. There was another, much earlier, book on a similar subject called 'Wargaming' by Andrew Wilson. He relates wargaming efforts during the vietnam war to wargame COIN and even an effort in 1972 to wargame a conflict in Thailand which seems to have been a sponsored effort to convince the DOD to buy more C-5's. I imagine a lot of that goes on.

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One on Runway airstrips here.

 

 

 

Incidentally, the Exercise Lionheart videos above are excellent, there are about 10 of them. Its too bad its so damn difficult to record from Youtube or Id have burned this years ago.

 

Recording from Youtube is a breeze, really, with just one browser add-on. I use it all the time! Flash Video Downloader is the plugin I use.

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Thanks for posting that, Stuart. I didn't hear anything new, except that the Soviets "had a plan to attack the West in the guise of military exercises" (±18:20), something that I would like to see some evidence for. Also remarkable: the author was apparently present to see Soviet fingers "hovering over the nuclear button" (±26:30). There's a whiff of sensationalism here — but I'm curious enough to have ordered the book.

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Yeah, I think its almost certainly sensationalism. Still, he did write the accompanying book to the CNN 'Cold War' series, and that was pretty good, so Ill certainly get it. I have to admit Id be surprised if he has found anything that hasnt already been flagged up here.

 

https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/project/able-archer-83-sourcebook

 

Do lets us know what you make of it, id be interested to find out.

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Well, I've finally read Taylor Downing's "1983". It took me a while as I didn't find it to be the page-turner I had hoped for. The book is clearly intended for a general audience and as such it is a good introduction; the only one at present if I'm not mistaken (but another one is on its way). Unfortunately the author is not always razor sharp in his phrasing (about Hiroshima, 1945: "No one near the centre of the city survived to give an account" — those in the centre apparently did [p.1]; or "To Gorbachev, agreeing to abolish the SS-20s was final acceptance of the flawed policy that had brought about their deployment" [p.321] — I assume the author means that Gorbachov accepted that the policy was flawed.) On the other hand the Prologue gives an overview of the nuclear arms race in the 1950s and 60s that is almost hilarious. It also promises an "accessible" narrative, and on this promise the book delivers. More or less between the lines the author argues that the 1983 War Scare was a key factor in bringing Gorbachev to seek negotiations with the West, and he appears to have a strong case there.

 

The claim that Soviet fingers were "hovering over the nuclear button" is not substantiated, or not enough to my taste. The other thing that interested me, about the Soviets having "plans to attack the West under the guise of military exercises" [p.251] is source-referenced to Andrew/Gordievsky's "KGB: The Inside Story", p.502. Perhaps anyone here has this book and can provide a quote? If indeed such plans existed this sheds a somewhat different light on the common opinion that the strategic intentions of the Soviet Union during the Cold War were purely defensive — with the caveat that they would attack with all they got if they believed that war was inevitable. Attacking under the guise of exercises seems an overly elaborate course of action if one believes that war has become unavoidable.

 

The book also claims that the Andrew/Gordievsky book (1990) provided "the first limited revelations in public about the Soviet war scare of 1983" (p.338). Recently however I was surprised to see what the Washington Post was able to piece together as early as August 1986: "Defector Told of Soviet Alert".

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Thanks for that Hans. Yeah, since I wrote that ive also got a copy of it, and its interesting in setting the scene as far as it goes. I have to admit I would like a few citations for his sources for the events of the highpoint of the crisis, because im not convinced there is any evidence for the events portrayed in the institute Andropov was staying. I wouldnt accuse him of lying, but he perhaps is gilding the lily a bit.

 

He DID cite some interesting bits about Tu22M's visiting East Germany, and this seemingly being borne out in his sources. Id never heard that before, not even in the USMLM report for 1983.

 

I think there is a case for saying the Soviet Union was strategically defensive in the 1980's. But that did not mean war, if it came to it, it would be fought defensively. Its pretty clear under Gorbachev that he envisaged a purely defensive Warsaw Pact, but the Soviet General staff was not exactly cooperative on that point.

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It's a bit problematic that part of the source material (interviews) was only used in a television production ("1983: The Brink of Apocalypse"): a Discovery channel-style documentary in which it is sometimes hard to discern videoclip and reenactment from factual account. But it'll be no punishment to watch it again, to scout for witness accounts to the synthy beats of the '80s...

 

Regarding the switch to a defensive tactical doctrine by the Soviet Army, I remember reading that this happened in 1987 or 1988, when Gorbachev had solidified his position. Interestingly, Siegfried Lautsch, a former NVA staff officer, claims that the East Germans switched to defensive tactics as early as 1985. Which is remarkable, especially since the DDR leadership was less than enthusiastic about the reforms in the Soviet Union, to put it mildly (at some point certain Soviet publications were actually forbidden in the DDR). Lautsch' article appears to be a pre-publication from this book; perhaps that offers an explanation.

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It's a bit problematic that part of the source material (interviews) was only used in a television production ("1983: The Brink of Apocalypse"): a Discovery channel-style documentary in which it is sometimes hard to discern videoclip and reenactment from factual account. But it'll be no punishment to watch it again, to scout for witness accounts to the synthy beats of the '80s...

 

Regarding the switch to a defensive tactical doctrine by the Soviet Army, I remember reading that this happened in 1987 or 1988, when Gorbachev had solidified his position. Interestingly, Siegfried Lautsch, a former NVA staff officer, claims that the East Germans switched to defensive tactics as early as 1985. Which is remarkable, especially since the DDR leadership was less than enthusiastic about the reforms in the Soviet Union, to put it mildly (at some point certain Soviet publications were actually forbidden in the DDR). Lautsch' article appears to be a pre-publication from this book; perhaps that offers an explanation.

 

Yes, that would be right. William Odom in 'Collapse of the Soviet Military' relates that period. He claims that Gorbachev used the aftermath of the Mathias Rust flight to purge several uncooperative senior officers. It would also have been about the time the USSR moved from offensive to defensive operations in Afghanistan and started to think about withdrawing.

 

Thats interesting about the East German's. I shall have to have a look at 'A Cardboard Castle' and see if they note any changes in that period.

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Cardboard Castle: not as far as I can see.

 

Lautsch writes about "Defensive Operation 1985": "The changes in strategic and operational planning which started in 1985 were probably the result of deliberations of the political and military leadership in Moscow, aiming to reduce tensions and reduce the danger of a possible war. These [deliberations] became the basis for a new, primarily defensive military doctrine, which was subsequently accepted officially by the members of the Warsaw Pact in 1987" (quick translation by me). With Gorbachev entering the stage in March 1985 that is quick, very quick.

 

Update: know thou bookcase... In "NVA: Anspruch und Wirklichkeit "(1993!) the author Klaus Naumann writes that in "1985/1987" intensive deliberations about a defensive doctrine took place, which were a follow-up of Czechoslovakian considerations from as early as 1981/1982. In 1984 the Czechoslovakian Army apparently held the first truly defensive field exercise in WP ("Shield-84"). Within the Soviet military leadership this was all very controversial, and in 1987/1988 offensive operations were again exercised. [p. 209 and further].

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I seem to recall a book I have somewhere that lists pact exercises, and I think a good number of them in the late 70's at least started with defensive operations, at least in the scenario. I mean it kinda makes sense, we would try and start a war of capitalist enslavement, and they would launch the glorious liberation of the proletariat. I think there may even be a map in Carboard Castle (or at least, I seem to recall seeing somewhere) that showed the limits of the envisaged NATO offensive. I think that was from a Polish source, does that ring any bells, or am I mixing it up with a fallout map?

 

What I cant remember without going to look is how many actually went beyond the scenario, and actually practiced defensive operations only. And I suspect that may have been the key difference in the mid 1980's, it may have been the first time since the early 50s they practiced it. Im not sure the East German's (certainly not the Soviets) ever planned a defence only exercise before the dates described.

 

To be absolutely fair to the Soviets, I know by the late 1980's in NORTHAG, the British commander was practicing counter offensive operations. Which to Soviet eyes must have looked suspiciously like planning an invasion I guess. I dont believe we did it before that, but presumably the Americans did.

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The Lautsch article (see link above) contains such a map (p. 25) — here actually showing 4 (NL) Division advancing towards Berlin (Oranienburg)! Which is of course hard to take seriously from our side of the fence. The Naumann book has similar maps, but not in such detail. I've seen Polish maps too (with lots of mushrooms), but from the 1960s I think. Yes, as I understand it prior WP war scenarios all started with NATO aggression, but the WP preliminary defensive phase was never seriously exercised in the field — it was more or less a token item, for the record.

 

Counter offensive operations are a normal part of defence, but of course the scale matters. 1 (NL) Corps had a plan for a counter attack to restore the FEBA (± IGB), but in field exercises the emphasis was very much on defensive operations (a fighting retreat really). With a maldeployed conscription force and peacetime limitations this was challenging enough, never mind exercising an invasion of WP territory. I think the line between defensive and offensive plans became blurry, for the Soviets in any case, with the (US) AirLand Battle and the (NATO, but US-inspired) FOFA concepts of the 1980s.

 

Regarding the claim that the Soviets had plans to attack the West under the guise of field exercises, I gave this some more thought. I suppose it might fit in the Soviet "attacking is the best defence"-mindset and provide some tactical advantage in a scenario where NATO would be seen as building up to an attack.

Edited by HBoersma
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The Lautsch article (see link above) contains such a map (p. 25) — here actually showing 4 (NL) Division advancing towards Berlin (Oranienburg)! Which is of course hard to take seriously from our side of the fence. The Naumann book has similar maps, but not in such detail. I've seen Polish maps too (with lots of mushrooms), but from the 1960s I think. Yes, as I understand it prior WP war scenarios all started with NATO aggression, but the WP preliminary defensive phase was never seriously exercised in the field — it was more or less a token item, for the record.

 

Counter offensive operations are a normal part of defence, but of course the scale matters. 1 (NL) Corps had a plan for a counter attack to restore the FEBA (± IGB), but in field exercises the emphasis was very much on defensive operations (a fighting retreat really). With a maldeployed conscription force and peacetime limitations this was challenging enough, never mind exercising an invasion of WP territory. I think the line between defensive and offensive plans became blurry, for the Soviets in any case, with the (US) AirLand Battle and the (NATO, but US-inspired) FOFA concepts of the 1980s.

 

Regarding the claim that the Soviets had plans to attack the West under the guise of field exercises, I gave this some more thought. I suppose it might fit in the Soviet "attacking is the best defence"-mindset and provide some tactical advantage in a scenario where NATO would be seen as building up to an attack.

 

Yes, I think you are right. I might have read something somewhere about Bulgaria doing so, but I would have to check. No disrespect to them, but it was hardly a leading light among Pact nations.

 

Re Field Exercises, I remember reading in the Tony Gerraghty book on Brixmis, that whilst out on patrol they witnessed a major warsaw pact exercise. When they got back to Berlin after it was over and reported it in, GCHQ apparently had difficulty believing it. It was unaccompanied by any of the usual signal traffic they were expecting.....

 

Lets face it, in 1983 we would have lost. Though I dont think there would have been many people left to make a tally.

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Some notes:

 

The Shield '84 exercise has standard offensive scenario with only start of exercise included defence against hostile attack and even that was pretty simple. Interesting is that "the enemy" have waited with the attack as long as was necessary for Warsaw Pact mobilization and deployment.

 

Czechoslovak army have its own large staff exercise in 1982 which simulated true NATO invasion to Czechoslovakia. This exercise was without Soviet attendance and CGF was not calculated in it.

 

Czechoslovak 1986 plan literally speaks that there will be cover mobilization to bring forces to full strength and then attack. The army was training cover mobilization of its divisions. So the "plans to attack the West under the guise of military exercises" is what was planned and trained.

 

The big issue with researching this is that so far there are minimum information about what Soviets thought on strategic level. Czechoslovak and Polish plans were simply operational plans for their armies in case of war but only Russians know what would have to happen to activate these plans. The only thing which can these plans confirm on strategic level is that significant change from "attack West" to "defend what we have" at the end of 1980s.

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