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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 Pottersville.

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.

            C. 2035

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 Brewster

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 the VC.  

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 American colonel.

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 to withdraw.

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 the Republicans.

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 line.                  

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 political ads.  

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 policy.

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 countries.

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 Afghanistan.

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 died.

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 the case.

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 dead.

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 reasons.  

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 perpetual conflict.  

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.

                Ambassador Goldman

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 participated in.

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 week.  

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 safely.            

            3.  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 radicals.

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 Americans.        

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 building.  

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 standing grudge.  

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 thunderstorms.

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 storm spotter.  

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 post. 


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 girl”. 

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 interesting job. 

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 cousin.  

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 program.. 

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 life.

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 military service.
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 aquariums.
 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 the alarm. 

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 additional information.”

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 assistance?”

“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 diverting aircraft.”

“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 your facility?”

“U.S. Navy 313, Beirut air control, advise reason for closing air space.”

“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 safely?”

“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 airspace.”

“Rough Rider to  all aircraft, we are monitoring traffic and contacting NATO about location that will accept inbound aircraft this area.”

“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 sensitive.”

“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.”

            6   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 with communications.”

“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 away. 

“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 outlets.”                   

“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 made.

“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.”