The 50 Minute War
By Reason McLucus
Physicists talk about the possibility of alternate or parallel
universes. In such universes one or more events that happen on
our earth might happen differently in another universe. For
example, on another earth Richard Nixon might have been elected
president in 1960 or Al Gore might have moved into the White House in
January, 2001. On one earth a man named George Bailey might have been
born in the town of Bedford Falls. On another earth no such
person would be born in the town in the same location named
On the earth in the following story, President George H. W. Bush was
reelected in 1992 with Ross Perot taking enough votes from Democrat
Bill Clinton to prevent him from getting more than 35% of the popular
vote. In 1996, Senator Bob Dole had locked up the Republican
nomination, but was injured in a fall and felt he could not continue
running. Party leaders convinced his wife Elizabeth to run
instead. She was elected in 1996 and reelected in 2000. The
Democratic Party ceased being a major party in presidential elections
after the 1996 election. Many members of Congress stayed in the
Democratic Party, but new members were mostly either Republicans or
Reform Party members.
Some other events also occurred differently and some countries have
different leaders. One important minor difference is that all
Christian groups observe Easter at the same time as the Jewish
Passover. Readers should be alert to other differences mentioned
in the story.
This narrative is being published on the 30th anniversary of what the
media dubbed the “50 Minute War”. I have been granted
unprecedented access to many of the archives containing documents about
the war. However, access to most was granted under the condition
that I not attribute any information to a specific document or archive,
even if that particular archive had no objections to such attribution.
1 - President
President Willard Xavier (Brew) Brewster kept hoping someone would wake
him up from his nightmare. But, he was reasonably certain he
hadn’t been dreaming. World War III, or at least a regional
version of it, had just occurred.
Brew had never wanted to be president. In high school he had
planned to enter the “family business”, as they called the steel
industry, after graduation. The Brewsters didn’t actually own any steel
mills, but they had been making steel essentially since there had been
a steel industry. Brew’s great-great grandfather and great
grandfather had made steel for Andrew Carnegie himself.
Brew’s entry into the steel business had to wait for his military
obligation to be fulfilled. Military service was another Brewster
tradition. His great-great grandfather had helped stop the
“Johnny Reb’s” at Gettysberg. Brew volunteered for airborne
training, a more recent tradition. Brew’s father parachuted into
France on D-Day with the 101st Airborne.
Brew was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam just in time
to participate in a combat jump during Operation Junction City.
He later participated in major battles like Dak To and Tet. As a
newly promoted buck sergeant Brew earned a silver star and a field
commission as a 2nd lieutenant. .
His platoon, which was participating in a battalion sized operation,
encountered a larger than expected enemy force. Brew,
although slightly wounded himself, risked enemy fire to pull the
lieutenant and platoon sergeant to safety. He then took charge of
the platoon because he was the highest ranking member in the field who
was still able to lead. His first priority was to evacuate the wounded,
but the nearest clearing where a helicopter could land was a mile
away. Part of the lieutenant’s map had been damaged when he was
wounded, so Brew initially had to rely on his memory of the area they
had already passed through.
As he was retreating to the clearing, some men who had been cut
off from other units joined them. Brew was concerned about staying
ahead of the VC because movement was slowed by having to carry the
wounded. Brew remembered a position the platoon sergeant
had remarked earlier would be a good place for an ambush. The
location was on a mound in the jungle next to a slight clearing (too
small for a helicopter to land). Two trails entered the clearing
from the other side. A single wider trail left the area
running below the heavily vegetated mound.
They reached the location far enough ahead of Charlie to set up a
successful ambush. He sent a small group of men ahead with the
wounded. The last men in his column then followed the trail making
sufficient noise to convince Charlie that all of his men were still
moving. Brew and the others stayed behind to delay
By this time there were about 35 men all together with 4 M-60 machine
guns and a mortar. Brew was surprised at the number of VC.
They were still coming from the other two trails when the beginning of
the column reached the end of the area covered by his men. The
ambush with the machine gun fire directed into the clearing and the two
trails convinced the remaining VC to break contact and
withdraw. Brew and his men quickly checked the 53 dead VC for
documents, weapons and ammunition. Subsequent analysis of the
documents indicated one of the dead was the VC equivalent of an
After the wounded were evacuated Brew and his men approached the edge
of an old rubber plantation. They noticed VC moving through
the tall grass on the other side of the stream that separated the
trees from what looked like an area that had previously been
farmed. Brew had his men spread out at 10-15 foot intervals
along the high bank of the stream. He told them to fire short bursts
and then roll over a few times to the right or left before firing again
to convince Charlie they were a larger force. Part of the lieutenant’s
map had been damaged when he was hit. The portion of the map
showing this area was undamaged so Brew was able to call in an
artillery strike to further disrupt the enemy attack and convince them
Brew’s performance in the field and the shortage of officers convinced
the general to give Brew a field promotion to second lieutenant
in addition to the silver star. The idea of a full time military
career didn’t really appeal to him because of the spit and polish world
of military bases outside Vietnam. In fact he extended his tour
in Vietnam until his three year enlistment was over to
avoid such service. He left Vietnam a captain and continued to
serve in the National Guard eventually rising to the rank of Colonel
before retiring in 1990.
Brew had been an above average student in high school, but not far
enough above to qualify for any kind of financial
assistance. Savings from his officer’s salary and GI Bill
money made a college education possible. He decided to study
metallurgy to find better ways of making and using steel.
The steel industry’s financial troubles late in the century caused Brew
to decide to run for Congress to try to help. Brew ran on Ross
Perot’s Reform Party ticket in 1992 because he didn’t care for
the Republicans and felt the Democrats had abandoned labor in favor of
other interest groups.
Brew had been a staunch Democrat in his younger days. He
supported President Lyndon Johnson even when his administration’s
handling of the Vietnam war had been criticized. Brew believed
LBJ was just getting bad advice from the generals at MACV in
Saigon who didn’t know what was happening in the real war out in the
boonies. However, by the 90's the Democrats had
started taking the same positions on the important [economic] issues as
His drawing power helped Perot carry his district with Democrat Bill
Clinton receiving only a handful of votes. Clinton’s poor showing
in Brew’s district helped President Bush carry Pennsylvania.
Brew won in spite of having to devote part of his time to heading a
task force set up after Hurricane Andrew. The National Guard
called Col. Brewster out of retirement and promoted him to brigadier
general to investigate the response to Hurricane Andrew and suggest
ways to improve the response to major hurricanes.
As a result of the Task Force’s recommendation, the National Guard took
over the function of the Federal Emergency Management Agency because
the National Guard reached disasters first and its personnel could be
expanded to cover any size disaster. Military officers had
experience in moving personnel, equipment and supplies over a
broad geographic areas. Military units were designed to be able to work
together. For major hurricanes or flooding, regular military
units could be assigned to the National Guard commander.
Brew suggested that the National Guard should treat “Mother Nature” as
the equivalent of a military adversary. The Guard couldn’t
prevent Mother Nature from attacking, but in many cases it could
anticipate attacks and be in position to respond. Moving
personnel into position to respond to a disaster was similar to
moving personnel into position to attack an enemy or prevent an attack.
A special National Guard hurricane command center was established at
Fort Benning, Georgia. When a hurricane threatened the U.S.
coast, officers would develop appropriate strategies for the areas
where it might make landfall and position troops, etc in the
appropriate locations. As in a possible combat situation, troops
could be repositioned as estimates of the site of landfall
changed. Marine and Coast Guard/Navy National Guard units were
established for hurricane prone states.
In tornado prone states, the National Guard replaced spring weekend
drills with storm mobilization exercises. When storms with the
potential to produce tornadoes developed nearby National Guard units
mobilized and moved into position following or paralleling the storm’s
path so they could move into an area hit by a tornado.
The California National Guard gained fire fighting equipment, including
more helicopters all capable of helping to fight fires. The
equipment including a special helicopter carried tank sprayer system
that Brew had invented. Groups of helicopters flying in a
“parade formation” would produce an artificial rain storm along a fire
As a member of Congress, Brew initially focused on helping the steel
industry. With the full support of both labor and management, he
persuaded Congress to enact legislation that would shift the financial
burden of supporting steel industry retirees from individual companies
to the industry as a whole. Congress enacted a tax on steel
products sold in the U.S., including products manufactured outside the
U.S. Exported goods were not taxed. Other manufacturing
industries eventually decided to switch to a similar approach.
He reluctantly agreed to run for vice president in 2004. Party leaders
felt he would attract labor and veteran support that would give the
party a chance to be the first new party to win a presidential election
since the Republicans accomplished that feat in 1860. Brew didn’t
really consider the possibility of succeeding to the presidency.
Presidential candidate Jackie William McKenzie was young and seemed to
be in very good health. Jackie was a political science professor
at UCLA when he wrote a novel about the first black president.
Some of his students, who were also studying film, persuaded him to let
them make the novel into a movie when him as the title character.
The movie was a surprising success and was even nominated for a couple
of Oscars, including the professor for best actor.
In early 2000 some of his students persuaded him to run in a recall
election of the California governor. One of his former professors
who, as a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, had helped his
political science professor, David Boren, become governor of
Oklahoma, encouraged Jackie to run for California
governor. Jackie won easily. The Progressive
Party, formerly the Reform Party, decided he would be a good
choice for its presidential candidate in 2004. He was only
slightly older than Abraham Lincoln was when he was elected president.
Jackie had been with the party from the start and had helped Perot do
well in California in 1992 and 1996. He convinced California black
voters that the Democratic Party was taking them for granted and the
Republicans were ignoring them. They needed to vote for a third
party to convince both parties to notice them. 70% of them
responded by voting for Perot. Jackie also picked up
support for the Reform Party from California college students.
Jackie inadvertently helped President Bush win reelection in 1992
in a couple of other ways. In late April he had lunch with former
classmate Jules Anderson who worked for a firm that sometimes did
Jackie suggested that Democrat Bill Clinton’s different explanations
for how he avoided military service could be used in a comedy type
ad. A cartoon Clinton would use the old Maxwell Smart phrase
“would you believe” and then give the first explanation. Then he
would say “well, would you believe” and state the second reason and so
on depending on how many explanations Clinton had provided by the time
the ad aired.
Three months later a Political Action Committee supporting Bush hired
Jules’ firm and decided to use the ad. The ad began appearing in
late September and became popular. The PAC even used the concept
to mention other Clinton statements.
As a graduate student at the University of Texas, Jackie had answered a
question on a final exam by suggesting that an unpopular president
might be able to use a popular third party candidate, especially an
issue-oriented candidate, to improve his chances of
reelection. In speeches and campaign ads the
President would refer to how he agreed or disagreed with the third
party candidate and largely ignore the other major party
candidate. By 1992 the professor had become one of Bush’s
campaign advisors and he persuaded Bush to use the strategy. A
late poll indicated that 6% of voters thought that Ross Perot was the
Democrat and Bill Clinton the third party candidate.
Who knew that a month after taking office in 2005, Jackie
McKenzie would die of a previously undetected heart condition.
The autopsy indicated an aortic dissection resulting from Marfan’s
Syndrome. He lacked the obviously long slender arms and legs that
often characterizes Marfan’s Syndrome, a disorder some historians
believe Abraham Lincoln had.
2. - Have a Good Night’s Sleep
Brew as usual went to bed about 11:00. He had a meeting scheduled
for Good Friday morning, but then would be leaving to
celebrate his in-laws 65th wedding anniversary on Saturday. The
celebration would provide the first opportunity for Brew to see
his new granddaughter.
Brew was still adjusting to the presidency. He had served as a
volunteer firefighter for many years, much of the time as a fire
chief. In the 80's volunteer fire departments began having
trouble attracting volunteers. Brew developed a program for
Pennsylvania, later adopted in other states, to encourage Guard members
to serve as volunteer firefighters and rural EMTs.
Brew’s experience as a firefighter had helped him win
votes. He was driving to a campaign rally in his old Suburban
when one of the cars involved in a collision just ahead of him caught
fire. He used one of the big CO2 fire extinguishers he always
kept in his Suburban to put out the fire and then helped free the
occupants from the vehicle.
The police officer who arrived shortly after the accident radioed her
dispatcher to make sure the people who were waiting for Brew knew why
he was delayed. He got a standing ovation when he arrived.
As often happens in such situations, another motorist at the scene had
a camera and sold the video of Brew’s actions to CNN.
The man who had no trouble pulling up to a fire and issuing the
appropriate orders, was uncomfortable in staff meetings. He
understood military matters, but wasn’t sure about economic and social
Fortunately, the economy was going along well. The situation is
Iraq was still unclear, but it was virtually certain that Saddam
Hussein and his sons were dead. Examinations of photos and sound
recordings indicated the man who appeared in public as Hussein was one
of his many doubles. In fact, it wasn’t always the same double
who appeared as Hussein. Brew felt it was best not to make a
public issue of the situation. Knowledge of Hussein’s death could
cause Shiites and Kurds to revolt and start a civil war.
The Israeli peace process was on track. The governments of the
two states, Israel and Palestine, would move into their offices in
their shared capital of Jerusalem in October. Some of the other Muslim
states were not happy with the prospect of peace in Israel , but it
didn’t appear they were in a position to do anything about it.
[The Israelis had originally planned to have their capital in Jerusalem
after WWII, but decided to make Tel Aviv the “temporary” capital for
security reasons. An Arab blockade of Jerusalem shortly after
WWII indicated the city was too vulnerable to attack.
The government subsequently decided to delay establishing a permanent
capital in Jerusalem to avoid international criticism.]
Potential problems involved apparent efforts by Iran and North Korea to
acquire nuclear weapons. Libya was still apparently working on building
nukes, but was rumored to be about to end the program. Iran
was a worry because it was unhappy with the Israeli peace
agreement. Most people were concerned about North Korea
using nukes to attack the U.S. or its allies. Brew was more
concerned about North Korea selling nukes to terrorists or other
Pakistan and India had had a confrontation, but were beginning to
withdraw their troops from Kashmir. There were still occasional
conflicts among ethnic groups in Africa and elsewhere, but they tended
to be local. Remnants of al Qaeda remained, but hadn’t done
anything significant recently other than fight allied troops in
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dwight Delano “Triple-D”
Duncan went to bed at about 11:00 in his apartment in the
Watergate. He had planned to spend the weekend at the ranch near
Vinita, Oklahoma, that he had recently purchased from his uncle and
fish from his dock on the Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees. However,
the forecast of severe weather for the weekend changed his plans.
He thought it might be better for him to stay in town anyway.
Nothing was likely to happen, but the Army Chief of Staff was at NATO
HQ., the Air Force Chief at the Air Force Academy for a speech and the
Marine Commandant was inspecting marines in San Diego. The Navy
Chief had been at Pearl Harbor, but had been expected to fly back
earlier that evening.
The death of President McKenzie had forced Triple-D to delay his
planned March retirement for six months. President Brewster had
asked him and other high ranking generals and admirals to delay
retirement to maintain continuity in the military in case someone
decided to try to take advantage of the unplanned change in presidents.
Triple-D and his second wife Ginger were leasing the Watergate
apartment so they would have a place to stay when they visited the
District. They had moved in shortly before President McKenzie
Triple-D had meet Ginger about a year after his first wife died.
She was a JAG major at the time. Fortunately, she wasn’t under
his command. As he moved up in rank, she decided it would be
better for her to retire before a conflict developed. Ironically,
Triple-D’s first wife had been named Mary Ann, so he could claim to
have married both Mary Ann and Ginger.
Ginger worked as a legal consultant and was making more than their
combined retirement checks would be when he retired. She couldn’t
participate directly in cases involving the military, but she did
provide technical information about procedures to civilian attorney’s
dealing with the military. She had gotten involved in the
Internet and could perform most of her work from Oklahoma just as
easily as in the District. Triple-D’s retirement would
allow her to participate in military cases.
Triple-D’s father had wanted a military career. He was a
paratrooper in the 101st Airborne in WWII and suffered wounds that
forced him to give up the idea. His father had been Brew’s
father’s commanding officer until the injuries. He didn’t try to
force his children to serve in the military, but did encourage
them. Triple-D’s sisters had had brief military careers.
Unlike many members of his generation, Triple-D had wanted to serve in
Vietnam. However, the war ended a few months before he graduated
from West Point. Triple-D missed out on Desert Storm because he
was part of a different command.
The closest he had come to a combat assignment was during the Kosovo
operation. He had helped persuade President Elizabeth Dole to
include an airborne assault in the effort to prevent genocide in
Kosovo. Three companies of infantry and an artillery battery from
the 82nd Airborne had jumped into Kosovo a few hours after the air
assault began. The paratroopers had taken control of an airstrip,
ambushed a couple of small tank convoys and started shelling Serbian
positions before dawn. Rumors released to the press convinced the
Serbs that the initial invasion force was much larger than was actually
He and then Rep. Brewster used the success of the operation to increase
funding for airlift capacity for airborne units and reactivate
Brew’s old unit the 173rd Airborne Brigade which had been deactivated
shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. The Brigade would be
based in Italy for quick response to conflicts in the region.
The team of Triple-D and Brew had persuaded President Dole and Congress
to transfer responsibility for dealing with foreign terrorists from the
FBI and CIA to the military after the two organizations failed to
prevent the 9/11 attack.
The Pentagon took over the entire military related intelligence
operations of the CIA. Part of their argument was that those who
might be called upon to conduct commando operations in foreign
countries would be better able to prevent such attacks in the
U.S. In the event an 9/11 attack was anticipated, the military
could place martial arts trained personnel on hundreds of planes and
wouldn’t have to correctly guess which planes might be used or who the
hijackers might be.
The military had a lot more “warm bodies” available for emergencies
then did either the CIA or FBI. As part of the transfer, a
position was added to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a officer
representing special ops and intelligence.
The new military SPACE suits were another of Triple-D’s
accomplishments. The suits designed to protect against
biological, radiological and chemical weapons had originally had
another name which everyone had forgotten. The suits so closely
resembled space suits that they were quickly referred to as such.
Triple-D secretly decided to accept the name and posted an anonymous
message referring to them as Special Protection Atomic Chemical Etc.
suits and the name stuck. The suits included an air conditioning
system making them more desirable than the equipment they replaced.
With the situation in Iraq stabilized because of the U.N. inspectors it
looked like he would avoid war during his career. The inspections
hadn’t exactly cleared Iraq. Inspectors had trouble
accounting for some supplies and equipment that might be useful for
weapons of mass destruction. There had been a few
suspicious explosions at possible storage sites for chemical or
biological materials and some mysterious truck fires.
Triple-D wasn’t enthusiastic about keeping troops in Saudi Arabia to
contain Hussein, but didn’t see another alternative. He felt that
the presence of “infidel” American troops in Saudi Arabia had been a
major factor in al Qaeda’s decision to launch the 9/11 attack.
Triple-D and other American and British military leaders believed Iraq
had decided to sacrifice their existing weapons in hopes of being able
to start a new program after sanctions were lifted and the inspectors
left. Iraq had never officially announced a change in leadership,
but the intelligence community believed he and probably his sons were
There was even a rumor that he, his sons and some top military leaders
had died under unusual circumstances. According to the
rumor, a doctor involved in biological weapons development had arranged
to infect them and himself with some type of “germ” for unknown
If Saddam wasn’t in charge, whoever was had decided to use Saddam’s
clones to give the appearance he was still in power. They
apparently hoped the appearance that he was still in charge would
discourage any attempt to overthrow the government. Neither his
advisors nor members of the State Department could come up with a plan
to use the situation to get American forces out of Saudi Arabia.
Iraq without Hussein posed no threat, but knowledge of his death could
start a civil war with unknown consequences.
Triple-D was worried about the situation in Israel. Previous
attempts at peace had met with disaster. Too many Arab leaders
needed an atmosphere of violence between Israel and the Palestinians to
maintain their positions. Those leaders didn’t necessarily want
to get rid of Israel. They needed an enemy. They wanted a
He was also worried about the situation in Iran. The Iranians
were pursuing nuclear energy and possibly hoping to build a bomb.
They appeared to be many years away from developing their own bomb, but
might they be able to use their oil wealth to purchase one from North
Korea which needed money desperately. If a Muslim state did make
the mistake of using a nuke on Israel, Israel might respond by
destroying the rest of the Middle East.
At the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Ambassador Moshe Goldman went to
bed as usual at eleven. He had scheduled a meeting with the
American President in the morning at the request of his
government. The message he received indicated additional
information would be sent overnight. Goldman knew that meant the
government hadn’t actually made a decision yet, but would be making one
while he was sleeping. All he knew was that the Knesset would be
meeting in about three hours.
The fact that the government wanted him to meet the
President right after the decision implied that the decision
could involve purchase of war equipment. Ambassador Goldman had
helped negotiate the purchase of a used aircraft carrier and two used
submarines the year before. He knew the government might be
interested in another sub or perhaps some of the new American bunker
buster bombs which could be mounted on sub launched cruise missiles and
used to attack underground Iranian nuclear facilities.
The government might also be wanting him to ask the U.S. to take care
of the problem. Goldman believed the Iranian facilities had to be
destroyed before the country developed nuclear weapons that could
result in a nuclear war. He realized destroying Iran’s facilities
would be harder than the destruction of Iraq’s facilities which he had
Whatever the government was considering must be important because
the request was coming during a holiday period for both Christians and
Jews. After World War II Christian groups had agreed to schedule
the Easter Holiday during Passover week to show solidarity to the
victims of the Holocaust. Tomorrow morning would be what Christians
called Good Friday. It was the middle of Passover
Holidays had made the Ambassador nervous since the Yom Kippur
War. He was a secular Jew, but as ambassador felt he had a
duty to observe all the Jewish holidays and restrictions. He
wasn’t really familiar with all the aspects of the different
holidays. One advantage of being ambassador was that he had a
rabbi available to keep him informed of what he should or shouldn’t do.
He was pleased with the peace process. He was aware that Saddam
Hussein was dead, but his government had told him not to pass the
information along even to the U.S. because of concern about it being
leaked. His government didn’t want an Iraqi civil war at this
time. The government had ordered him to be friendly to the
Egyptian government because it apparently had helped weaken the violent
Palestinian groups. However, he was to pretend his government
knew nothing about the Egyptian role.
Moshe Goldman wasn’t sure he was qualified to be a diplomat. He
was a career air force pilot and astronaut. The government felt
he would be a good choice because Americans considered him a hero for
saving the shuttle he flew on from certain disaster.
He felt the current American President was more responsible for saving
the mission than he was. Then Rep. Willard Brewster was on the
committee that oversaw NASA. He had been watching a video of the launch
provided by a NASA engineer and noticed a large piece of insulating
foam fall from the fuel tanks and hit the shuttle. Brewster
pressured NASA into inspecting the craft for damage.
Goldman volunteered to make an unscheduled space walk and discovered
damage that could cause major problems on reentry. Fortunately,
another shuttle was available to bring up a repair kit. Goldman
then helped make the repairs. He felt they gave him too much
credit for repairing the shuttle. They did have to do some
improvising, but he didn’t think it was that
significant. Most of the crew transferred to the
other shuttle for reentry, but Goldman because of his experience as a
pilot stayed on the damaged shuttle with the pilot and mission
commander to bring it down
Morning in the Middle East
At 8:00 A.M. Egyptian time the new Egyptian President Abdul Takamen was
preparing to meet with some foreign investors that afternoon to
discuss enlarging the Suez Canal. He was very pleased with
the way things were going in Israel. Takamen had a vision
for Egypt that required peace in Israel. He knew that Egypt’s
primary economic hope was in trade.
The Suez Canal could provide the country even more benefits if the area
of Israel and Lebanon became a major manufacturing center. The
Canal would be the route for manufactured goods headed toward the Far
East. Takamen wanted to encourage Israel to continue
developing technology for growing crops with limited water so
that Egypt could take advantage of the technology. Well paying
university positions were available for those interested in the areas
of solar technology, particularly using solar energy to remove salt
from sea water.
Apparently, no one knew or even suspected that he had arranged the
deaths of some of the more violent Palestinian leaders through
accidents or “illnesses” while buying off others. Investigations
indicated that members of some rival groups had killed each other in
gunfights. One of his scientists had found a way to make
Hezbollah’s ammunition deteriorate and become unstable. A few
explosions of defective rockets had encouraged Lebanese citizens to
report any Hezbollah ammo dumps they knew about.
Egyptian agents had discredited Hamas by arranging for a couple
of suicide bombings to kill mostly Palestinians. Agents had also
planted evidence implicating a few Hamas officials in a bribery scandal
Takamen was somewhat of a mystery man. Foreign intelligence
services had checked his biography and discovered part of it seemed to
have been faked. The information they were able to discover
indicated he might not really be an Egyptian. They suspected that
he was covering up Palestinian ancestry because of concerns
Egyptians would be less willing to accept a Palestinian as their
leader. Takamen told everyone he had changed his name to connect
with the days of the pharaohs when Egypt was a major power.
Intelligence analysts believed the name he changed it from wasn’t the
one he was born with.
Takamen’s predecessor had designated him as a potential successor
because Takamen had such a strong vision of the country’s future and an
ability to communicate with the Egyptian people. Takamen used the
assassination of his predecessor by radical Muslims to discredit the
One of Takamen’s first projects was improving Egyptian intelligence
gathering capabilities. He believed he had succeeded in making
Egyptian intelligence second only to Israeli intelligence. One of
the steps he took was to develop an intelligence sharing relationship
with the U.S., particularly regarding watching the
Palestinians. Egypt maintained diplomatic relations with
Israel in part because it allowed Egypt to gather intelligence in
Israel, including intelligence about the Palestinians and the countries
that had encouraged them to engage in violence.
He felt the shift of American intelligence gathering to the military
from the CIA was beneficial to Egypt. His military attaches could
share intelligence through American military attaches in other
countries at social functions. Egyptian agents had found an
interesting way to share intelligence in Israel. A female
Egyptian agent had developed a romantic relationship with a Marine
security guard at the American embassy in Israel. A military
attache talked to the Marine’s commanding officer Captain David
Lawrence who agreed to share intelligence through the two of
them. Any Muslim state that knew she was an agent would just
figure she was trying to spy on the
Takamen was one of the few outside of Iraq who knew for certain that
Saddam Hussein and his sons were dead. The details were still
unclear, but his intelligence people had discovered that they had died
from a disease that might have been connected to a biological weapons
program. Apparently one of them (it was unclear which one) had
become infected and passed the infection along to the others. One
report indicated that the person responsible might have been suicidal.
Unlike many other leaders, Takamen thought the situation in Israel was
a little too quiet.
Egyptian intelligence indicated that Iran and Syria were very unhappy
with the Israeli peace agreement and might try to find a way to
sabotage it. He was concerned that the quiet situation meant they
were waiting for something. Egyptian agents had infiltrated the
larger Palestinian organizations, but some very small ones appeared to
be existing as sleeper cells.
Takamen represented the new Egyptian nationalism. He argued that
Egypt should stop viewing itself as subordinate to the Arab
world. Egypt was an empire while the Arabs and Israelis were
wandering around the desert and should be the leading nation in
the region. Egypt had been a major economic power in the ancient
past and could be again.
Publically these nationalists argued that Moses was actually an
Egyptian religious dissident who found acceptance of his teachings
among the Israelites. Under their teaching, Moses persuaded Aaron
to call him brother in exchange for making Aaron his priest. The
Israelites were primarily an Egyptian group because the small group
that arrived originally could not have become so numerous without
marrying Egyptian women. The Israelis weren’t too enthusiastic
about such claims, but did welcome the closer relations that followed.
The State Department viewed the change in Egypt as positive and
contributing to peace in the region. Intelligence analysts were
concerned about the implications of what was going on in private among
the nationalist academics. They were trying to develop approaches
that would have Egypt compete for control of Islam. They were
looking for ways to interpret the Koran that would suggest that other
Muslims had moved away from the true teachings of Allah through his
prophet Mohammed. If the Jewish religion was an outgrowth of a
minor Egyptian religion, then the same claim could be made for Islam.
The Egyptians were urging a nonviolent version of Islam. [Some in
the Pentagon called it a kinder, gentler Islam.] They
believed that the violent version discredited the Islamic world and
kept it in an inferior power position to the rest of the world.
The more advanced nations considered Islamic nations to be primitive
and prone to barbarism. Takamen wanted Egypt, if not the
entire Middle East, to become the center of learning that it had been
when the Europeans were the primitive barbarians.
In Damascus, Syria, American Ambassador James Allen “Sandy” Sanderson
was preparing for the upcoming Easter holiday. He still used the
nickname his current boss gave him when they served together in
Vietnam. Sandy, like Brew, couldn’t afford college so figured
he’d go ahead and get his military service out of the way. Unlike
Brew, Sandy didn’t have any plans for a career. Vietnam
gave Sandy a career, or perhaps more accurately, a mission in
life. Sandy decided to pursue a diplomatic career to try to
prevent future wars.
He thought he was succeeding here in Syria. He had persuaded the
Syrian government to support the Israeli peace agreement, at least in
public. He wasn’t completely sure they would be satisfied with
Israel turning over the Golan Heights to a Palestinian government
instead of returning it to Syria. Then, there was Syria’s
continuing desire to dominate Lebanon.
Sandy thought one of the his favorite protest songs from the 60's could
be modified to fit the situation in the Mideast. The original
included the line “the French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the
Poles...and I don’t like anybody very much.” The Middle Eastern version
might go: “the Sunnis hate the Shiites, the Shiites hate the
Kurds...and everybody hates the Jews.”
Iran’s apparent attempt to develop nuclear weapons could make the next
line come true. “But we can be thankful and tranquil and proud
for man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud. And we know for
certain that some lovely day, someone will set the spark off and we
will all be blown away.” The world had survived other rival
nations having nuclear weapons, but Iran’s leadership might be
irrational enough to actually use such weapons and bring destruction to
the entire region.
Sandy disagreed with those who blamed the Muslim religion for the
situation. Religion didn’t cause such problems, it was the way
politically ambitious individuals used religion that caused the
problems. Those who wanted to make trouble emphasized issues that
encouraged violent acts. Ambitious politicians or clerics with
political ambitions could find issues to fight over even if it was
something trivial like the Lilliputians and their dispute over which
end of the egg to eat first.
The Europeans had fought numerous wars over the centuries and had only
abandoned the idea of war among themselves after the devastation of
WWII. The various peoples of the Middle East had been fighting
each other since Biblical times. War hadn’t imposed sufficient
costs on them to convince them to stop fighting. Sandy also
believed that the hot dry climate likely contributed to their inability
to get along by making them more irritable. .
Sandy had helped design the current American embassy in Syria.
The building included a large basement, part of which was accessed
through a concealed door. He proposed the hidden area to allow embassy
personnel to hide in the event of a situation like the takeover of the
embassy in Tehran years earlier. Food was stored in the
area. The area had a tunnel that could be used to escape from the
The plaques on Sandy’s desk stated his philosophy. One quoting
M*A*S*H*’s Hawkeye Pierce stated:
“War Is War and Hell Is Hell
and of the Two War Is Worse...
There Are NO Innocent Bystanders in Hell.”
The other quote he believed had been made by Dr. Martin Luther King:
“True Peace Is not the Absence of War
But the Presence of Justice.”
In the Kremlin it was 9:00 A.M., President Vasili Petrovich Karpananov
was contemplating the Easter holiday. He had inherited the
presidency just before Easter three years earlier. President Vladimir
Putin had died of what was officially described as a heart
attack. Actually he had been poisoned by someone with a long
The assassination had been covered up so that no one would know the old
ways had not completely died in the modern Russia. Vasili was not
concerned so much about the response of the Russian people. He
didn’t want the rest of world to believe that Russia was a backward
country. The assassin was taken care of in the old way, with the
death disguised as a traffic accident.
Vasili had been known as Peter the Great when the 6' 8" forward led the
Soviet basketball team to an Olympic gold medal. He decided it
wouldn’t be a good idea to use that name when he decided to work in the
government. He didn’t want to appear too ambitious and thus a
possible threat to those higher up in the government. He wanted
to lead the nation, but felt it safer to keep his ambitions secret.
At one point he seriously considered defecting, but he decided he would
rather try to change the Soviet system from within. He believed
that the Soviet system needed to change or it would eventually
collapse. He felt that trying to reach a position to change the
system would be an even bigger challenge than defeating the U.S. in
basketball in the Olympics.
He knew that tsar Peter the Great had been a tall man with athletic
ability. The original Peter the Great had sought to
modernize the Russia of his day. Vasili wanted to follow in the
original Peter’s foot steps, but not let anyone know his goal so
he told everyone to call him Vasili.
Before entering government service, Vasili studied leaders of the past
and current political and economic theories. As a government
employee he always acted as a team player as he had as a member of the
basketball team. He always made sure that his supervisors and
others in whatever office he was working in received credit even if the
ideas were his. After being transferred to other positions
or promoted above his supervisor, he would always make positive
comments about his old boss to his new one. Personnel in the
bureaucracy appreciated such loyalty. His bosses were glad to
recommend him for promotion to higher levels because they knew he might
be able to help them advance later.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Vasili allowed others to persuade
him to run for elective office. Older voters remembered him for
his basketball playing even though he insisted they call him Vasili
rather than “Peter the Great”. He started out in legislative
offices and later accepted cabinet appointments before he was given the
number two job. Once Vasili got the top job he vowed he would do
everything he could to make democracy work in Russia. Democracy
had its flaws, which he would try to correct in the Russian version,
but the bureaucratic system of the old Soviet Union was much worse.
Not long after Putin’s death Vasili had helped the new Iraqi leaders
cover up an assassination of Saddam Hussein and his sons. A
deranged scientist in the biological weapons program had infected
himself and them with a fatal disease. His reasons were unclear,
but apparently involved one of Hussein’s sons doing something to a
female relative or friend of his.
Vasili realized that the death of Hussein would likely trigger revolt
by both the Shia and the Kurds which would end the oil for food program
that Russia was using to its advantage. Vasili suggested to the
generals that they continue to use Hussein’s clones to make it appear
he was still alive. The generals would then benefit financially
from the oil for food program. Russia had a good position in the
region with its association with both Iraq and Iran.
Vasili was uncomfortable with the Iranian nuclear program. He
would have preferred that Iran purchase enriched uranium from Russia
for economic reasons. Russia couldn’t afford to offend Iran, but
Vasili hoped the United States would be able to discourage the Iranian
enrichment program or at least find a way to prevent development of
weapons grade material. He had instructed Russian technicians in
Iran to try to find a way that would allow remote control of a self
destruct button on nuclear facilities that Russia could use if the
Iranians looked like they would operate the nuclear program in a way
that threatened the peace of the region.
Vasili didn’t trust any of the Muslim countries. Muslims suffered
from a degree of irrationality that could cause explosive
situations. Some of the Muslims in Chechnia were infected with
the same mental disorder. He understood why the Jews might
want to live in the place they called “Israel” because of Hitler.
He didn’t understand why they and the Palestinians were so willing to
die for what Vasili considered a largely worthless piece of real
estate. The area had no vast energy resources and its water could
not be expected to serve much more than the current population.
The North Korean nuclear program had concerned Vasili until the Chinese
assured him that the Koreans were just trying to con the United States
into paying them money like they had once done to the old Soviet
government. Vasili wasn’t concerned about North Korea using nukes
against Russia, but was concerned they might provoke a war with the
United States or sell weapons to radical Muslims, possibly including
those in Chechnia.
In Hutchinson, Kansas, 1st lt. Michael Alexander “Max” Lucas went to
bed about midnight CDT. His friends had given him the nickname
because of his habit of wanting to do everything to the
max. Max was the executive officer of Charlie company
1/504th Airborne, 82nd Airborne Division. He had come
home on leave a week earlier for his parents 30th anniversary.
He planned to stay another two weeks. He was taking leave
now because his unit was expecting to be sent to Afghanistan in
September. He would rather take leave in the spring than in the
late summer because of the cooler weather and a fascination with
Max was unsure what he wanted to do with his life. He didn’t
think he wanted a military career, but couldn’t decide what he would do
when he got out.
He had spent the early evening monitoring severe thunderstorms in the
area with a high school classmate who was a volunteer firefighter and
4. Friday Almost 2 A.M. (EDT)
Lt. Jessie Martin “Wichita” White, Bravo Company 2/503rd Airborne
Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade (Sep.), had just finished breakfast at
the Sheraton Hotel in Padova, Italy, at 7:45 A.M. local time.
Wichita White was an Air Force brat. He spent a significant
portion of his childhood in Wichita while his dad was stationed at
McConnell AFB. His mom moved back to Chicago to be near her
family after his dad was assigned to Korea. Wichita’s mom and her
sister had had their sons within a few hours of each other and hadn’t
discussed possible names before hand. They both named their sons after
their dad. An uncle on Wichita’s father’s side who had died in
Vietnam also was named Jessie.
After they moved to Chicago the two Jessies resolved the problem of the
same names by naming themselves after their hometowns Wichita and
Chicago. Their grandfather, Jessie King, had told them how men in
the old west had sometimes used city names for their own. They liked to
hear stories about his grandfather who had been a buffalo soldier and a
cowboy. The moms weren’t too sure about the nicknames, but their
grandfather was overjoyed.
Wichita was at the hotel on an unusual assignment. About 150
members of the legendary “Herd” of Vietnam War fame had been
assigned to stay at various hotels in cities near the Brigade HQ. at
Caserma Aderle near Vicenza, Italy. A mobilization exercise was
scheduled for later in the weekend. The call could come any time,
but wasn’t expected until Sunday evening or even early Monday morning.
Wichita would be expected to take charge of arranging transportation
for those who happened to be in Padova back to their base at
Caserma Aderle. He wouldn’t be told how many would need to be
transported until the exercise began to simulate a situation in which
personnel were dispersed around the area at the time of an unexpected
emergency. As an officer he would be expected to anticipate such
a call in any city he might be visiting and be prepared to help others
return to the post quickly.
Personnel in Padova would most likely be taken back by helicopter and
get on planes as quickly as possible to jump into a simulated trouble
spot located in one of the other European countries whose soldiers
would play the role of the enemy in the war games.
HQ. would notify Wichita and the others using their Personal
Communications Devices (PCD’s) - sophisticated satellite cell phones
issued to each member of the armed forces. The PCD’s allowed use
of a computer to send specific messages to each member of a military
unit, to only selected members, to personnel in a specific area
or even to all military personnel at one time. A headset included
in the small bullet proof carrying case allowed hands free
communications in a combat situation as well as making it possible for
soldiers to whisper messages into the device.
Officers and NCO’s could carry a larger viewing screen that could be
attached to the PCD to display maps or the latest recon photos.
The PCD could also be connected to a computer. The design allowed
its camera to be replaced as better cameras became available.
Soldiers on recon missions could send back pictures of enemy
installations or documents immediately.
In this operation, the PCD would sound the bugle call for assembly to
notify Wichita and the others that they needed to return to the
At Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, U.S. Marine Captain Robert
David Lawrence was waiting for El Al flight 1203 to arrive with his
fiancé Michelle Gold, the woman he called “Ebony Eyes”.
David, as he preferred to be called, and Michelle had been
rediscovering their Jewish heritage before they met and were glad to
find a potential spouse of their own religion. David’s
grandmother was very happy that he had found “such a nice Jewish
David’s and Michelle’s parents would be flying in a week
later. Their parents only nominally followed the Jewish
religion. The parents were much like those Christians who
attended church only on holidays like Christmas and Easter.
David decided to pursue a military career because of Operation Desert
Storm although he was only a freshman in high school at the time.
He believed the United States needed to do something about the Middle
Eastern situation. He initially favored the Marines because
his grandfather had been with the Marines in the Pacific in WWII and
his father had been at Khe Sanh in Vietnam. As a kid he thought
they had better looking uniforms. When it came time to make the
final decision, the Marines provided more opportunities for travel,
including being stationed at embassies in countries where the U.S. had
no other troop presence.
David realized that he was an hour early, or maybe two, but he wanted
to be there early in case the plane got a strong tail wind. David
and Michelle had considered emigrating to Israel until the colonel told
David he was likely to be promoted to major within another year or two.
As he waited he remembered when he first met Michelle at LAX a little
over two years earlier. She was going home after the fall
semester at the University of Southern California She had gone to
the University of Southern California in part to have a chance to
live somewhere other than New York City for a few years. The
possibility of an acting career also appealed to her, but only if the
right opportunity came along.
David had been stationed at San Diego. He had spent a few days in
L.A. with a friend who had received orders for Korea. David was
going home on leave to New York City before continuing to a dream
assignment at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Michelle approached David and thanked him for serving in the
military. He was immediately attracted by her shoulder length
black hair and her dark “ebony” eyes. As they talked they
discovered that they both had become more interested in their Jewish
heritage after 9/11. Both had researched their family
histories which indicated that some of their ancestors had arrived in
New York City on the same ship from Germany shortly after the Civil War
and lived in the same building for several years.
They discovered that they both had developed a taste for Mexican food
from living in Southern California and hoped they could find a place in
New York City that sold Mexican food that was also kosher. Their
parents had never been very strict about kosher food. They
purchased it for home use, but ate whatever was available
elsewhere. David and Michelle both liked film noir movies
and jazz music, from early jazz to contemporary jazz.
They spent a lot of time together in New York City until David had to
leave for his assignment in Israel. Michelle decided to switch
her major to business administration. She learned languages
easily. For a time she considered becoming a translator at the
U.N., but gave up the idea after attending a few U.N. sessions.
Translating boring political speeches didn’t sound like a very
A business career would allow her to use her linguistic ability so that
she could follow David where ever he might be stationed in the
world. She had graduated in January and found a job with an
American company with offices in Israel. They wanted her to work
in their New York office for a short time to become familiar with the
company before moving to Tel Aviv. She would arrive in Tel Aviv
two weeks before she would start work. David was glad that
she could arrive in time to attend a Seder at the residence of a second
cousin in Haifa who had immigrated to Israel 20 years earlier.
On flight 1203 Michelle Gold had made friends with two American couples
and their granddaughters who were making a pilgrimage to Israel.
Retired American Air Force Colonels Jonathan Berger and Nathan Johnson
had begun taking their grand kids on a pilgrimage to Israel after
the grand kids graduated from college as a rite of passage many
years earlier. The two men had barely made it into WWII. They had
reached the Pacific theater just in time to watch the bomb being
dropped on Nagasaki. They stayed in the Air Force through Korea
and Vietnam. They usually tried to arrive earlier the week before
Easter, but one of the granddaughters couldn’t get off early enough.
On the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt in the Eastern Mediterranean Commander
Shirley Nguyen was emailing her cousin Elva Lewis who was touring the
Holy Land with some other nurses from the Chicago area. Shirley
thought she might be able to make it to Israel the next week to see her
The visit would depend on the tests of the new computer coordinated
radar system that would begin within a few hours. Among other benefits
of the system was the ability of planes to use radar images received
from other planes instead of drawing attention to themselves by
activating their own radars.
Commander Nguyen was due to become Captain Nguyen in three weeks,
although her first “command” would be a desk at the Pentagon rather
than a ship at sea. The assignment meant that for all
practical purposes she would be grounded, but it had the benefit that
her husband, Marine Col. Juan Gonzalez, whose mother was also
Vietnamese, was stationed at the Pentagon. They might
consider having children because they would be stationed there for
several years and the Pentagon had an excellent day care
They had met while both were junior officers on the same ship.
Their mothers had both taught their children the Vietnamese
language. Initially, they met to practice their mothers’
language. They later discovered that their fathers had briefly
served together in Vietnam. Nguyen also had some
knowledge of other Asian languages.
Nguyen’s real father, Jessie Abraham White, was an American killed in
action three months before she was born . The father who raised
her had been a Viet Cong who defected and was serving the unit
Jessie was in as a Kit Carson scout. He felt marrying Shirley’s
mother, My Nguyen [Note: Nguyen is a common Vietnamese last name.
The two weren’t otherwise related], and raising Shirley as if she were
his own daughter was the least he could do for the man who saved his
My could speak and write some English. She had been a Viet Cong when
she met Jessie. His respectful treatment of her and the other
residents of her village along with his willingness to help them
convinced her to defect and fall in love with the chocolate colored
GI. Jessie had told her his grandmother was named Shirley
and My decided to give his daughter this American name.
Jessie’s commanding officer, Ike Martin, had helped Jessie marry My
before his death and made sure My had documents establishing
Jessie as Shirley’s biological father. Captain Martin was the son
and grandson of generals and knew how to arrange such matters.
After Shirley’s family moved to the U.S., Major Martin along with a
Special Forces major, whose life Jessie had saved that day, and
several enlisted men personally visited the INS office to make sure
Immigration officials recognized Shirley as the daughter of an American
hero. The documents insured her admission to the Naval Academy as
the daughter of a Medal of Honor winner.
Charlie Nguyen, as he chose to call himself after becoming an American,
had profited from the ending of American involvement in Vietnam by
facilitating the sale of various GI owned items like small
refrigerators, fans, etc. to Vietnamese civilians. Unofficially
he also helped transfer some weapons, ammunition etc. from American
forces to Vietnamese forces so American commanders wouldn’t have to
worry about moving them out of Vietnam. Charlie had been involved
in the black market before being “drafted” by the VC.
Early in 1975 Charlie became concerned about the possibility of a North
Vietnamese invasion and arranged an extended vacation in the United
States to thank American veterans for their sacrifices and to give his
adopted daughter the opportunity to meet her American relatives.
When asked why he chose winter, he replied he had heard so much about
this thing called “snow” he wanted to see it for himself. They
had been in the United States about a month when the invasion
started. My had kept in touch with Jessie’s family and sent them
pictures as Shirley grew up. Initially, Shirley and her parents
lived with Jessie’s sister, Elva’s mom, and her family until they could
afford their own place.
Shirley’s desire to feel closer to her real father caused her to choose
a military career. The idea of flying at high speeds also
appealed to her. She was more likely have a chance to visit the
land of her birth in the navy then in one of the other branches of
Her career had included helping the Israeli navy learn to operate the
used carrier they had purchased from the U.S. Navy (although no money
actually changed hands). The Israeli pilots initially trained on the
Roosevelt to learn how to take off and land on a carrier. The
carrier Moshe Dayan was acquired primarily to provide an additional air
base without the need to clear land for an air base. No one
mentioned it, but the carrier might also provide a way for Israel to
move planes into range to attack Iran should that be necessary.
The transfer of the carrier wasn’t a secret, but there wasn’t any
effort to publicize it either.
Commander Nguyen sent her email and headed to the Combat Direction
Center (CDC). She noticed that the clock she had set
to Washington time showed 2:00 A.M.. She and her husband always
tried to keep a clock set to the time zone the other was living in so
they would know when it might be practical to call.
5. A Cloud in the East
At 2:00 A.M.(EDT) on Good Friday morning Col. Rufus Bernard “The
Panther” Trevina was in the Pentagon’s space station, the newly
designed room used to monitor images from the most recent
generation of spy satellites. Pictures from the various
satellites and some military planes were displayed on the wall screens
of the otherwise unlighted room. The screens could hold separate
images or combine for the blow up of a single image. The display
could extend to the edge of each screen to provide a seamless image.
The decision to use multiple screens rather than single large screens
for a wall was based on economics. The Pentagon could save money
by purchasing the same equipment used by consumers. The image on each
screen was controlled by a separate computer.
Models used in homes often were programmed to display a user selected
border around the regular picture area. When they weren’t watching tv
they might have the screen display an image the same as the surrounding
wall or display a picture of the area outside the residence as if the
screen were a window. Some people placed them over windows that
otherwise would just show nearby buildings. The screens might be
set to display favorite scenes from other areas or things like
The Panther enjoyed being in the space station especially when no
one else was there. It was like being alone watching the earth
below, without the weightlessness of space.
The Panther expected an uneventful morning of watching the scenery
“below”. The Israeli-Palestinian fight seemed to finally be
over. Yasser Arafat had died and the new leader seemed committed
to peace. In the fall Jerusalem would become the capital of
Israel and Palestine. Each government would have a separate
sector. A third sector would be devoted to religious sites as
well as provide space for the embassies of foreign nations. The
larger nations would have separate ambassadors for Israel and
Palestine. Many of the smaller nations would rely on one
ambassador for both nations.
Some in the Pentagon thought that things were going too smoothly, but
the Panther didn’t share that sentiment.
His pleasant morning soon changed.
A computer alarm sounded as one of the images expanded to cover
the entire wall. It only took the Panther a moment to recognize
the rapidly growing mushroom cloud where the superimposed legend
indicated Tel Aviv should be. He immediately hit the panic button
and picked up the secure phone to the White House in one motion.
The secure phone used a line that ran underground from the Pentagon to
the White House without going through the phone company.
The panic button would sound an alarm at all American bases and ships
as well as at NATO headquarters – even though NATO had its own
space station and someone there was reacting like the Panther.
Somewhere else in the Pentagon someone would be entering the message
“NUCLEAR EXPLOSION IN ISRAEL” into a computer that would be sent with
CDC of the USS Theodore Roosevelt quickly became very
busy. Pilots had the option of communicating with the Roosevelt
using their PCDs or using digital radio with encrypted
transmissions. Communication using the PCD was directed to a
satellite making it more difficult for an enemy to detect the
aircraft’s location, but such transmissions wouldn’t normally be
monitored by other navy aircraft. The digital radio allowed
the pilot to push a button or say a keyword to contact the ship or send
routine messages. The computer would add the appropriate
words. The computer would store multiple transmissions sent at
the same time and play them sequentially. In combat situations
both the PCD and radio could send communications as very short bursts
making detection more difficult.
Navy pilots could communicate with civilian aircraft using
standard radios although rarely did so except to warn civilian
aircraft away from military operations.
“Rough Rider, this is 313.”
“313, this is Rough Rider, go ahead.”
“Rough Rider, this is 313, a nuclear explosion has just occurred in or
near Tel Aviv, Israel.”
“313, this is Rough Rider, are you advising a nuclear explosion?”
“Rough Rider, this is 313, a nuclear explosion has just occurred in or
near Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m transmitting video now.”
“313, this is Rough Rider, we are receiving video. Pentagon also
reporting the explosion. Attempt to contact Israeli military for
On the Roosevelt an alarm sounded and an ominous message came over the
PA. “Battle stations. Battle stations. All Personnel battle
stations. This is not a drill. Repeat this is not a drill.”
Commander Nguyen quickened her pace to the CDC to a near run.
“Israeli air command, this is U.S. Navy 313 . Can you copy?”
“Israeli air command, this is U.S. Navy 313 . Can you copy?”
“U.S. Navy 317, this is Israeli Air Force 100. We are very busy.”
“Israeli Air Force 100, this is U.S. Navy 317, understand. Can we be of
“U.S. Navy 317, this is Israeli 100 , did you observe any suspicious
aircraft in the vicinity of the explosion?”
“Israeli Air Force 100, U.S. Navy 317, negative but our computers will
be reviewing video and radar images.”
“U.S. Navy 317, Israeli 100 , we are closing our air space to all
civilian aircraft, including El Al. Our civilian air control is
down, except in Jerusalem . Can you divert incoming aircraft?”
“Israeli Air Force 100, U.S. Navy 317, affirmative. We will begin
“Beirut air control, this is U.S. Navy 313.”
“U.S. Navy 313, this is Beirut air control, go ahead.”
“Beirut air control, this U.S. Navy 313, Israel has closed its
air space to all civilian aircraft. Can we divert aircraft to
“U.S. Navy 313, Beirut air control, advise reason for closing air
“Beirut air control, U.S. Navy 313, there has been a nuclear explosion
in or near Tel Aviv.”
“Beirut air control to U.S. Navy 313, stand by.”
A few minutes passed.
“U.S. Navy 313 this is Beirut air control, negative. Believe our
airport will be unsafe if Israel has been attacked. Foreign
aircraft may wish to leave here. Will they be able to do so
“Beirut air control this is U.S. Navy 313, contact our embassy about
outgoing aircraft. Believe they will need to clear with NATO
HQ. We will stand by to escort if approval granted.”
“Cairo air control, this is U.S. Navy 318.”
“U.S. Navy 318 this is Cairo air control go ahead.”
“Cairo Air Control this is U.S. Navy 318, Israel has closed its air
space to civilian aircraft due to nuclear explosion at Tel Aviv..
Can we divert to your facility?”
“U.S. Navy 318 this is Cairo air control, standby.”
“U.S. Navy this is Cairo air control, we prefer not to accept, but will
do so for aircraft that cannot reach other destinations. Planes
will have to fly under fighter escort. We will be closing our
“Rough Rider to all aircraft, we are monitoring traffic and
contacting NATO about location that will accept inbound aircraft this
“Rough Rider to all aircraft, NATO advising all aircraft in our
area to be diverted to Athens. You are to escort until
relieved by Greek Air Force.”
“Rough Rider, this is 321, moving to intercept El Al flight 1203"
“321, this is Rough Rider, roger that.”
“El Al flight 1203 this is U.S. Navy 321.”
“U.S. Navy 321, this is El Al 1203 go ahead.”
“El Al 1203, this is U.S. Navy 321 Israel has closed its
air space. We will escort you to Athens.”
“U. S. Navy 321 can you advise reason for closure.”
“El Al 1203 this is U.S. Navy 321, I regret to inform you that a
nuclear explosion has occurred in or near Tel Aviv. Exact
location and extent of damage unknown at this time.”
“El Al 1203 understood, diverting to Athens.”
As the big 747 began its turn, Nathan Johnson recognized the same type
of cloud he had watched 60 years earlier, even though this time
it was farther away. He nudged Jonathan Berger, who looked at
something he had hoped he would never see again. Jonathan’s
granddaughter saw it too and glanced at her grandfather with a question
in her eyes. Jonathan slowly blinked his eyes to say yes that was
a mushroom cloud. They all said a silent prayer that Michelle’s
Marine was okay, but thought it unlikely.
As the 747 completed its turn, the pilot said, “This is the Captain
speaking. A warning light has come on in the cockpit and we are
diverting to Greece to check it out. We are not experiencing any
problems, but we don’t want to take any chances.”
Michelle asked the men behind her, “Does that mean we might crash?”
“It’s isn’t likely,” Jonathan replied. “Most of the time the
problem is the warning light itself is defective or just overly
“Is that navy plane out there in case we crash?” Michelle asked.
“Well, that is a possibility,” Jonathan replied, happy that Michelle
did not yet know the real reason for the change of course. He decided
to play along with the pilot. “The pilot will be watching our
plane for any indication of something wrong. I know I always
appreciated having a ‘wing man’ when my plane told me something was
wrong. I remember one time when the plane was telling me my
landing gear were still up. I was very glad when another pilot
told me the landing gear were actually down.”
Duck and Cover
At Ben Gurion Airport, Captain David Lawrence heard a baby cry and
started to get up. His first thought was had he been unconscious
for seconds, minutes or hours. As his recent memories became
clear, he decided that he had merely been stunned.
He had been looking out the window at a plane that was taxiing when he
saw an extremely bright flash. He wasn’t sure why he
recognized what the flash meant, but he had acted instantly.
“EVERYBODY GET DOWN. EVERYBODY GET DOWN”, he said in his command voice
as he pushed a woman and her baby to the floor and covered them with
his body. Then he added a phrase he remembered his father had
told him. “DUCK AND COVER. DUCK AND COVER.”
He remembered a blast of hot air coming through, but couldn’t recall if
there had been any type of noise with it. He did know that the shock
wave a nuclear bomb produced traveled faster than the speed of
sound. Paper and other debris were scattered around the
area and the windows had been blown out.
Outside the air reminded him of video he had seen of the area around
the World Trade Center after the Towers collapsed on
9/11. He recalled part of the words from a song his parents used
to play. He wasn’t sure if he remembered the words correctly, but
thought it went something like. “Now the sun has come to
earth. Shrouded in a mushroom cloud of death. Twisted,
helpless wrecks of men...” The people near him were slowly
getting up and seemed unhurt.
For the first time that morning he hoped that Michelle’s flight had
been slowed and was too far away to be affected by the blast. She
would probably think he had been killed, but he wouldn’t be able to
correct that impression until later.
David noticed there weren’t any security people in the vicinity.
Then he remembered he had seen several security people run through the
area just before the blast. They were obviously aware an
emergency existed, but probably didn’t know how serious the threat
was. He waited for a minute or two to see if there would be an
announcement. The area still had lights so the building’s
emergency generator was obviously operating.
He had studied behavior in organizations and realized those in charge
might be reluctant to say anything on their own until they could talk
with someone outside. The area David was in wasn’t significantly
damaged except for the missing windows, but David realized that other
areas, particularly those on the same side of the building as the
explosion might have more damage
The building itself had opened a few months before David arrived in
Israel. It had been built as part of a long-term process of
expanding the airport to the north to reduce the distance between the
airport and the business district. The new location was north and
west of the main take off and landing runways. He was
familiar with the terminal because he helped with security for
visiting American VIP’s. It had been designed so that even if a
truck bomb went off in the building, only the area immediately
surrounding the truck would be damaged.
David didn’t know the size of the bomb or the altitude at which it
exploded. He doubted that it was delivered by plane or missile, but
some bombs were supposed to be small enough that they could be placed
on top of a building or hilltop. Detonating above ground would
increase the area of damage. The bomb could also have been
detonated in a moving vehicle.
Perhaps those in charge of the terminal were injured. The
administrative area had been placed on top of the building. They
felt that those in charge, including security officials, could better
keep track of what was going on outside if they could step out on the
roof and look for themselves. The placement also allowed them to
restrict access by using a secure stairway and elevator with
access controlled from the “Penthouse”. The location on top
meant that the offices didn’t need to be as well protected from
the typical suicide bomber as the rest of the building. The only
need was that the building supporting it be well built.
That placement could be a disadvantage in a nuclear explosion. A
shock wave moving along the ground would dissipate some of its energy
by hitting low structures. At higher levels the wave would
retain more energy. Low structures would block or absorb some of
the radiation, including extremely high UV radiation. A
higher level structure might be more susceptible to damage from an
Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) that nuclear bombs could produce.
He had been trained as a Marine officer to act in such situations
because waiting might lead to a worse situation. He walked over
to the nearest counter, identified himself and asked if he could
contact those in charge about making an announcement.
“Ma’am, I’m a U.S. Marine Captain with knowledge about nuclear
weapons,” David said. “Why hasn’t an announcement been made about
the nuclear explosion that just occurred?”
“I’ve tried to contact the director, but communications says something
has happened in the admin area,” she replied. “I’ll connect you
“I’m U.S. Marine Captain David Lawrence with knowledge about
nuclear weapons, “David began. “I believe an announcement needs
to be made to those in the terminal about the nuclear explosion that
just occurred several miles from here.” David knew he
couldn’t be sure about the distance, but the time lag between the flash
and the shock wave indicated the explosion was some distance
“I’m not sure that is possible, sir,” the clerk replied.
“I am also Jewish which means under Israeli law I am a citizen of
Israel,” David informed her. “ I work at the American Embassy and
occasionally work with Israeli military officials.” These contacts
primarily had to do with Embassy security issues, but the person on the
other end of the line didn’t need to know that. David didn’t hear
a male voice in the background tell the woman it was okay.
“Ladies and gentlemen I am Captain David Lawrence,” he began over the
PA without mentioning what organization he was a captain in. “We
have just experienced the shock wave from a nuclear explosion in the
vicinity. The worst is over, but we must stay inside until
rescuers arrive because of the danger of radioactive fallout
outside. The emergency generator is running
which means they will be able to keep the food from spoiling
until help can arrive. We need to stay calm and see if there are
people in other areas of the terminal that we can help. We also need to
prepare to help survivors who may come here from outside. Anyone
with medical training, including advanced first aid, should notify the
nearest service desk.
“Regular phone service and cell phones will probably not be working,
those of us who have satellite phones will be able to contact
people outside once the atmosphere settles down. The United
States, Russia and other countries will have observed the explosion
with their satellites. The rest of the world knows what has
happened and will be sending help.”
The clerk told David he had a phone call. David picked up the
phone wondering if someone was about to complain.
“Glad to hear the Marines have landed,” Mike Russell said. “This is the
Mad Russian. How did you get here so quickly.”
Mike Russell, a.k.a Rasputin, the Mad Russian, had been one of the
first Russians to immigrate to Israel after the fall of the Soviet
Union. He told people he had chosen the name “Mike Russell” (the
first name was “Mike” not “Michael” ) for three reasons: he didn’t want
to have to teach people how to pronounce his Russian name, he had had
one of the longest names in the former Soviet Union and he hoped people
would think he was a rich American instead of a poor Russian. An
old girl friend had given him the nickname “Rasputin” because she
claimed he looked like the legendary “Mad Monk” of Russian history when
he got up in the morning.
“Rasputin,” David said. “Actually I came in early to wait for my
fiancé’s plane. What’s the situation here?”
“I’m not sure,” Mike replied. “We’re kind of isolated here in the
bowels of the building. We wouldn’t have had any idea that
something that big had happened if it hadn’t been for the images from
the exterior security cameras we used to have.”
“Used to have?” David interjected.
“That’s right,” Mike continued. “First was an extremely bright flash
that temporarily blanked out the pictures from the west side
cameras. When the picture came back on, we saw a science fiction
like blob racing toward the building at warp speed. Then we got
pictures like someone was twisting each camera around before we lost
the pictures from all the cameras.”
“We may have a problem in the Penthouse,” Mike added. “We had a
temporary temperature spike which triggered the fire alarm. The
alarm then reset with the temperature returning to a more normal level,
but with the air conditioning off . The alarm system reset its sensors
indicating they have taken care of the problem themselves.
The area has a separate electrical line and whatever happened blew the
big fuse that the current flows through. The alarm system wasn’t
affected because it has its own separate power supply. However,
the security cameras in that area get their power from wall
“That sounds serious,” David commented. “I’ll head in that direction to
check it out. What about the security people?”
“Their radio system is down,” Mike replied. “They had a call just
before the bomb went off saying that a suicidal person with
personal psychological problems was headed in this direction.”
At Athens International Airport the following announcements were being
“Attention all passengers, pilots and air crews: Effective immediately
all outgoing flights are suspended indefinitely.”
“Will any rabbis, priests or persons with similar occupations please
identify yourselves to the nearest service desk.”
At a heavily protected secret military installation in Israel a
voice said over the loud speaker:
“Operation Jawbone will commence in 40 minutes.”