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Red Storm Rising is an 1986 novel. A bit of a Doorstopper of a novel (830 pages), this is one of Tom Clancy's most famous works and one that is apparently on the syllabus of several military academies.
Co-written with Larry Bond (creator of the Harpoon game series, which Clancy had used for The Hunt for Red October), this novel tells the story of a conventional World War Three between the Warsaw Pact and NATO in the late 1980s.
When a Soviet petro-chemical plant is destroyed by Islamist terrorists, the USSR realises it's seriously short of oil. So they decide to invade the Persian Gulf. To do that, they need to deal with NATO. They do this via launching an invasion of Western Europe and the use of a False-Flag Operation (bombing the Kremlin and blaming West Germany).
The war starts and the novel focuses on some of the people in the war. There are Loads and Loads of Characters, but the main ones include:
- Michael Edwards - a USAF meteorologist on Iceland when it's captured by Soviet forces. He spends most of the novel with a rag-tag group of marines in hiding and monitoring Soviet movements.
- Daniel X. McCafferty - Captain of the Los Angeles class submarine USS Chicago.
- Edward Morris - Commander of two USN antisubmarine frigates. Gets to see the Second Battle of the North Atlantic from the 'getting shot at' end (hence two frigates- USS Pharris to begin with before it ends up becoming an essential write-off, then USS Reuben James).
- Robert Toland - USNR Lt Commander who starts putting together the picture of Soviet intentions, before the start of the conflict. Gets to see the Second Battle of the North Atlantic from the same end as Morris- he's injured when he's thrown across Nimitz's CIC when the ship is hit by two "Kingfish" missiles.
- Pavel Leonidovich Alekseyev - Colonel-General in the Soviet Army, and the main viewpoint character from the Soviet side.
- Mikhail Eduardovich Sergetov - Candidate (nonvoting) Member of the Soviet Politburo and Energy Minister. Another of the Major Soviet characters and mainly provides a point-of-view from the Soviet political side.
- Ivan Mikhailovich Sergetov - Mikhail Eduardovich's son and Alekseyev's aide-de-camp. Starts the series as a Red Army captain and recieves a Field Promotion to major.
It's not 100% accurate, with Bond and Clancy making some alterations to the scenario to stop the thing turning into a nuke-fest; e.g., the Soviets deciding not to use chemical weapons, which NATO would have interpreted as a license to go nuclear; and also having the Soviets place their boomers in their territorial seas to free up their submarines for anti-convoy missions (there was a dispute among Western analysts as to the point of the Soviet sub fleet, so they chose one of the two options).
The book was made into a naval computer game. In more recent years, a fan made it into a free campaign for the naval game Dangerous Waters. Sonanalysts liked it so much they put it on an extras disc in the European edition.
This book contains examples of:
- Accidentally Accurate: in a half-meta, half-In-Universe example that sits squarely astride the Fourth Wall. NATO intel in the book had evaluated Soviet Tu-22 Blinder bombers as being unable to carry missiles, which is disproven when a Blinder regiment raids Stornoway airbase with a missile attack. As it turns out, Real Life Tu-22s could carry missiles, as the Iraqis proved in the Iran-Iraq War.
- Achilles Heel: the entire Soviet Army has one in its fuel shortage. It's not really a factor until the retaking of Iceland and the capture of Major Chapeyev, which is when the Americans learn about it. After that NATO's air strategy changes accordingly.
- Anyone Can Die - while none of the main characters die, let's face it: you really didn't expect most of Edward's squad or both the Boston and the Providence to buy it, did you?
- Attack Pattern Alpha - "Rules of Engagement - Option Bravo," which means conventional weapons only, much to Morris' relief. Later on, an EW officer calls "Plan Delta" for a heavy Soviet bomber strike supported by jammers. Obviously Truth in Television, as this is how real militaries work.
- Badass Bookworm - Michael Edwards is a weather analyst who manages to impress even crack British
- Bad Dreams - Morris must deal with the psychological aftermath of Pharris getting nearly sunk by a Soviet sub, including nightmares about his executive officer being decapitated by shrapnel.
- Berserk Button - Michael Edwards' old girlfriend was brutally raped and killed. This fact is used by Mission Control to verify his identity, and later causes him to personally execute three Russian soldiers after witnessing their rape of an Icelandic woman. (It also impresses his fellow soldiers to no end.)
- Big Damn Heroes - Inverted with McCafferty, when, during his attack on Kirov, a Norwegian submarine attacks the battle group and screws up his approach. Chicago is then forced to make an impromptu Harpoon attack on the battle group and quickly withdraw before seeing if their Harpoons hit anything. Several chapters later, he meets the Norwegian captain in a bar, who gratefully thanks him for saving his boat, since the Harpoons ended up hitting two destroyers that were about to sink his submarine, sinking one of them.
- Brits With Battleships - When it first meets Reuben James, the British frigate Battleaxe asks what a "Reuben James" is. The American crew's response:
AT LEAST WE DON'T NAME SHIPS FOR OUR MOTHER-IN-LAW
- A team of British Marines land in Iceland, and British forces are mentioned fighting in Germany.
- The Cavalry:
- Played straight during the Live Action Escort Mission sequence for the Chicago. The Alfa-class submarine has managed to sneak up on and sink both the Boston and the Providence, and has proven itself able to outrun the American Mark 48 torpedo. Chicago is left all alone against a superior opponent — and then HMS Torbay, which had heard the whole commotion, launches an ambush with the new-generation Spearfish torps.
- Marine support from the fleet sent to recapture Iceland shows up barely in time to rescue Edwards' team from Soviet troops. As it is, most of them die.
- Chekhov's Gun: while the fact that the Soviets are out of fuel is the casus belli, it quickly fades into the background once the shooting starts--until American Intelligence makes a spectacularly lucky catch with Major Chapayev, the son of a Politburo member. Then the Americans make sure that the fuel shortage returns to haunt the Soviets with a vengeance.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Be honest; you thought the Airborne Captain at the memorial service was just background colour, didn't you? Well, so did Director Kosov.
- Colonel Badass - the unnamed Soviet colonel in charge of the attack on Bieben, who became the de facto divisional commander after his general was killed. Competent, aggressive, not afraid to speak his mind, he is last seen giving orders to his division after casually surviving an artillery barrage.
- The also unnamed KGB Colonel who sets the Kremlin bomb. He turns up in a later scene after killing every guard on the same floor of the Kremlin building as him.
- Cool Boat - The portrayal of the USS Reuben James and the USS Chicago are pretty damn awesome.
- On the Soviet side, special mention must be made of the Julius Fucik, the civilian merchantman transporting the Airborne Division detailed to capture Iceland. The Fucik manages to survive a missile hit and an American air attack, and still completes its mission.
- Cool Plane: The F-19 Ghostrider, which ended up getting a model made of it as people thought it was real. In fact the design of the aircraft was actually too complex for the Real Life computers at the time to design.
- Defcon Five: Whilst Clancy avoids the common trap of stating that Defcon Five is the highest state of alert, he makes the mistake in reverse with the British "Queen's Order" system. The book is set in the 1980s, but the Queen's Order system was abolished in 1970. If the UK was in transition to war at some point during the 1980s, then it would be at either BIKINI Alert State: AMBER or BIKINI Alert State: RED. (The word BIKINI was randomly selected by a computer, by the way)
- Defensive Feint Trap: employed by the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and their German panzergrenadier counterparts in phase two of the defense of Bieben. The Germans let the Soviets overextend themselves, swing around, then executes a three-sided trap with the defiladed American tanks.
- Determinator: The captain of the merchant vessel Julius Fucik, which is used by the Soviets to sneak troops into Iceland, valiantly stays at his post to guide the ship into harbor even as he bleeds to death from wounds sustained from 20mm cannon rounds, refusing all but the barest minimum of medical attention until his task is finished.
- Executive Meddling: A big reason why the Soviet strategy fails is that every large-scale troop movement has to be approved by their high command (STAVKA) in Moscow. In theory, this means the Soviets can coordinate huge, sweeping attacks against gaps in the Allied lines; in practice, those gaps appear and disappear at a moment's notice due to the sheer speed of mechanized warfare (the constant air attacks against Soviet communications centers don't help, either). As Alekseyev repeatedly fumes, on multiple occasions he could've brought about a decisive victory if STAVKA had allowed him to mobilize the strategic reserves on his own initiative, instead of having to wait several hours for approval.
- Ironically, following the above case, in the next battle, lack of healthy Executive Meddling permitted a hot-headed regimental commander to redirect artillery that should have been above his authority level, causing the loss of much needed bridges and ending the best chance of a Soviet breakout.
- Expy: Clancy didn't want WWIII in the Ryanverse, so he replaced CIA analyst Jack Ryan with NSA Analyst Bob Toland. Note that Cornelius Ryan was a historian who wrote several famous histories of WWII, such as The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far, while John Toland was a historian who wrote a famous biography of Adolph Hitler.
- False-Flag Operation: Used by the Soviets to create a casus belli; they fake a bombing of the Kremlin and blame it on West Germany.
- Field Promotion/You Are in Command Now - This is played remarkably frequently on the Soviet side, as NATO doctrine is to target the officers and commanders first, in order to throw the men into disarray. When Alekseyev first arrives at the front, the first commanding officer he meets is a colonel who's taken over command of his division after its general was killed. Making matters worse, his regiments are commanded by majors, and his battalions by captains.
- A series of these takes Alekseyev from an (admittedly senior) aide all the way to CINC-West and effective leader of the whole Soviet war effort.
- On the NATO side there's Sgt. Terry Mackall, who manages to get this twice. The first time is to commander of his tank platoon when the lieutenant commanding was killed on the second day of the war by a one-in-a-million artillery shell that landed right on top of his tank. The second is to XO of the troop (and with it the rank of lieutenant) when that commander was killed during a Soviet advance. It happens so quickly that it takes a while for it to register, and he still wears his sergeant's stripes for some time after said promotion since he can't find the time to change.
- Alekseyev also temporarily inverts the trope by taking a step downwards from Deputy CINC-West to division commander of the 20th Tanks after its commander was killed in an airstrike. His boss was not happy about this, since Alekseyev was much too competent and too irreplaceable as a theatre commander to "run around and play divisional commander".
- Four-Star Badass - Pavel Alekseyev, with a double bonus in that his rank actually is four-star.
- Gauls With Grenades - The French aircraft carrier Foch is sunk in the first major Backfire raid. F-8 "Crusader" fighters (retired from US service after the Vietnam War) flying from the carrier manage to score the only kills on the retreating Backfires, the US defensive aircraft out of position to catch the Soviet bombers thanks to an earlier feint.
- Geo Effects - special notice goes to a rare seaborne use of them during the retaking of Iceland. The NATO amphibious fleet positions itself in a rocky harbor, which makes navigation very difficult. The upside reveals itself once the Soviet bombers launch their dreaded Macross Missile Massacre strategy: the missiles are designed for use in the open ocean and home in on the largest radar/infrared signatures they can detect. In the rocky harbor, those belong not to ships but to volcanic mini-islands, causing most of the AS-4s to miss their targets.
- General Failure - not particularly extreme, but both the old CINC-West on the Soviet side and Admiral Baker on the NATO side are far too complacent to be successful military leaders. CINC-West is killed in an American air raid right after he relieves one of his sub-commanders for failing at his job, and Baker does not survive the attack on the Nimitz after his own complacency allows him to be lured into the Soviet trap. Their successors do a much better job.
- Redemption Equals Death for CINC-West.
- Government Conspiracy - 90% of what the Politburo does 'on screen'.
- Hot Sub-On-Sub Action - The Chicago sequences focus more on sub versus surface ship, but there are a few sub versus sub moments, too.
- How Much More Can He Take? - The captain of the HMS Battleaxe is very surprised when a Soviet Oscar-class missile sub winds up taking three lightweight torpedo hits--and still manages to come to the surface in order to surrender. Justified, because the Oscars are some of the biggest, toughest submarines ever made, complete with double hulls, and ASW torpedoes have relatively small warheads.
- Ironic Echo Cut - Terry Mackall grumbles about the bad weather, saying something along the lines of "The Russians must love this shit, our A-10s have a bare five seconds to attack before they have to pull back." In the next section, comes the Russian perspective: "Even the Goddamned weather in on the Americans' side - their planes come swooping in too low for our radar to warn us!"
- And happens again after that particular attack, the Russians note that, "We can't make that kind of mistake very often and expect to succeed." and Mackall says, "We can't survive much more of what the Russians are throwing at us."
- It Got Worse: Red Storm Rising is an escalating series of these for NATO before they manage to turn the tide.
- It's All My Fault - After Ed Morris allows a Victor to close in and torpedo Pharris, killing over a dozen of his crew including his executive officer, he continues to blame himself and have nightmares for weeks to come afterward. He's even taunted by his vanity license plate, carrying his failure around with him. It takes a considerable talking to by O'Malley after assuming command of Reuben James to sort him out.
- It's Quiet... Too Quiet - more accurately, the "it's successful--too successful" variation, for the Americans during the first battle between the Nimitz and the Backfires. Initially, the Russian bombers attack straight and dumb, and the defending fighters take them apart with ease, causing Toland to worry since the Russians are being just a little too stupid. It turns out he's right. The "bombers" are actually decoy drones to lure the American fighters out of position, and things get noisy very quickly once the real Soviet bombers show up, well within missile-launching range, from the other direction.
- It's Raining Men - Royal Marine commandos parachute onto Iceland to assist Edwards. It doesn't go well: crosswinds, rocks, and parachutes don't mix.
- Little Hero Big War - Every character. It's World War Three, after all. Special mention goes to US Air Force Lt. Mike Edwards, a meteorologist who escapes the Macross Missile Massacre of his air base at Keflavik, Iceland. After escaping, he leads a ragtag band of Marines across the island, directed by Mission Control on his handily acquired satellite radio to scout out Russian troop movements and assist in making sure the landing zone for a beachhead is relatively unguarded.
- Live Action Escort Mission: after Operation Doolittle runs into a bit of trouble. On a broader scale, the Atlantic convoys in general: shepherd the slow, fat, vulnerable merchies to Europe against Soviet submarines and bombers.
- Look Both Ways - nonfatal example. A Spetznaz major, who is too busy grousing about his KGB superiors to check German traffic, steps right in front of a Peugeot, sending himself and a briefcase of important tactical information right to the Germans. As a result, NATO gets early warning of the attack and many of the remaining Spetznaz raiders are caught red-handed.
- Macross Missile Massacre - A major part of the Soviet strategy to eliminate U.S. fleets and bases, used most prominently against Iceland and the Nimitz battlegroup. The Backfire bomber squadrons operating in the North Atlantic continue to wreak havoc on NATO shipping for much of the war. Clancy describes it eloquently:
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Edwards and his Marines try to make their execution of the Soviet patrol they encounter look like an accident by making it look like the group drunkenly rolled off the cliff, causing their vehicle to explode. The investigating Soviets quickly see through the ruse as one of the bodies was thrown from the jeep, allowing them to identify a knife wound in his chest. The rest, though, went up with the vehicle along with its fuel and the grenades that subsequently cooked off in the flames.
- Meaningful Nickname: The A-10 Thunderbolt. Shortly after the beginning of hostilities, the Soviets began to call it the Devil's Cross, in part because of a resemblance to a Russian Orthodox cross.
- Misguided Missile: Inverted, in the Backfire raid mentioned in the Gauls With Grenades entry. It's Soviet target training missiles that decoy US Navy aircraft away from their carrier group, instead of aircraft leading away missiles.
- Also played straight later in the war, when the anti-sub helicopters of the HMS Battleaxe and USS Reuben James play "decoy" to lure away anti-ship missiles from their respective ships, after it was determined that the Soviets were focusing on the escorts to make the job easier for other Soviet forces to get at the convoys the escorts were defending.
- Never Recycle Your Schemes - Justified, since every plan that works once will presumably be neutralized by different tactics on the opposition's part. For instance, the Soviet decoy drones that worked so well against the Nimitz battle group are not deployed against the Independence later on, since this time the Tomcats make sure to close to within camera range (still a good fifty-plus miles) before firing off their missiles, thus making sure that their targets are bombers and not decoys.
- Also discussed by the American Tomcat pilots defending British airfields against bomber raids: after they take a beating from long-ranged MiG-23s with heavy jamming support, the pilots determine that next time, they'll have missiles pre-configured to take out the jammers. "They learn, we learn."
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The heads of state of either the Soviet Union or the United States are never directly named, though it is clear that the new Russian leader was an expy of Mikhail Gorbachev, whom had only been in office for a year or so when the book was published.
- No One Gets Left Behind - Providence is damaged by a patrol frigate, so Chicago and Boston offer to escort her to safety. Brutally subverted when Boston and Providence both don't make it, and Chicago just barely escapes with timely help from the British.
- Not So Harmless - Michael Edwards is an Air Force meteorologist, not a combat soldier. Sure, he went through basic like everyone else, but his team of crack Marines is astonished to see him lead an attack on a KGB squad, killing two in combat and executing one other afterwards personally... with a knife.
- Officer and a Gentleman - Michael Edwards to a tee, and Alekseyev's a pretty nice guy too.
- Old Soldier - one of the most sympathetic Soviet Politburo members is Pyotr Bromkovskiy, who is a survivor of the Second World War. Prophetically, he denounces the whole war as madness, and is among the first to push for peace after the nuclear scare--perhaps the closest that the Politburo has come to nuclear war.
- Old School Dogfighting - as part of an aerial Last Stand by the Soviets on Iceland when the NATO fleet arrives, the remaining seven MiG-29s manage to jump a squadron of F-18s just as the Hornets are done dropping bombs. The problem is, the MiG-29 and the F-18 look rather similar, especially at standard air combat distances. Since neither side wanted to fire on a friendly target, the result was a cannon duel at extremely close range as both sides tried to identify their targets visually. The SAMs firing more or less at random did not help.
- Redemption Equals Death: General Failure CINC-West dies heroically.
- Reds with Rockets - Loads of them. Kirov is sunk by NATO subs.
- Reporting Names - Loads of them. When one guy on the USS Pharris (an anti-submarine Knox-class frigate) calls out "Down Beats!" you might end up getting confused unless you realise that "Down Beat" is the NATO designation for the search radar on the Tu-22M "Backfire".
- Right Man in the Wrong Place - Lt. Edwards, originally stationed in Iceland as a weatherman, with his best claim to martial fame being that he's a marathon runner.
- Science Marches On: Several of Clancy's books set Twenty Minutes Into the Future make use of proposed weapons systems that never went into production, or never existed in the first place. The most famous example is from Red Storm Rising: the "F-19 Frisbee stealth fighter". Clancy fell hook, line, and sinker for a fake description of the rumored stealth fighter's appearance and capabilities leaked by the Pentagon to conceal the real engineering principles behind the actual F-117 Nighthawk.
- Shoot the Dog: The target of the False-Flag Operation.
- Shown Their Work: Clancy's research on Iceland and its geography is highly accurate. In a broader sense the entire book shows off Clancy and Bond's encyclopaedic knowledge of military hardware and strategy.
- This is a Tom Clancy staple.
- Smug Snake: Director Kosov of the KGB, who regards the disastrous way the war plays out as the ideal leverage to dispose of his treacherous assistant (who helped start the war in the first place) and remains convinced of his own untouchability to the end.
- Spanner in the Works:
- Ametist managed to screw up the American plans pretty badly.
- Another incident has the spanner in the works being an ally. The USS Chicago had a perfect attack solution on the Kirov. Then a Norwegian sub that had been undetected by both the sub and the Soviets attacks the Kirov first, and the Soviet retaliation ends up focusing on the Chicago.
- And another incident, this time for the Soviets: the heretofore successful advance on Alfeld by the 20th Tank Division, under the command of Alekseyev, is brought to a screeching halt when one of his regimental commanders calls in artillery on the withdrawing Allied forces in a fit of rage. Unfortunately, he didn't bother to specify what kind of artillery, so high-powered artillery rockets end up landing on the very bridges Alekseyev needed intact. The bridges collapse before Alekseyev could countermand the orders, and the resultant delays allow the Allies to dig in and contain the Soviet breakthrough once more.
- The Major of Parachute Troops becomes a fatal one for Kosov.
- Taking You with Me: In one scene on the German battlefield, the readers (and a Soviet general) are shown the end result of a NATO fighter that crashed into the anti-aircraft mount that shot it down.
- Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Ellington near the end, when his F-19 is shot down. Also essentially the Iceland sequences for Edwards.
- Trial by Friendly Fire:
- Edwards' team requests a strafing run from the fighters that show up to rescue them, despite the Soviet troops being literally on top of their position.
- And on the Soviet side, a constant problem for the ground-attack aircraft and the surface-to-air batteries that are supposed to support them. With only seconds to lock on and fire, missile units often have no chance to distinguish between friendly aircraft and NATO planes, a problem that frustrates Alekseyev no end.
- An issue for both sides in the final attack to retake Iceland, as the F/A-18 Hornet and MiG-29 "Fulcrum" look remarkably similar, particularly in the middle of a giant furball.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: throughout the book, the readers are shown tantalizing glimpses of "Operation Doolittle": a sub wolfpack sortieing into the Barents, lots of ELINT work by the Brits, F-14s working out flightplans. It's not until the Tomahawks hit the Backfire airfields on the Kola peninsula that we really figure out what it entails.
- Vanity License Plate: Morris' car has the license plate FF-1094, the hull number of Pharris. This becomes an Ironic Echo after Pharris is crippled by a torpedo hit and several of the crew die.
- Villain Protagonist: by definition, all of the Soviet POV characters. True, we're supposed to be rooting for NATO, but it's hard not to feel a thrill as Alekseyev's 20th Tank Division blasts its way into Alfeld.
- Villainous Valor: the Soviets are shown as brave and capable fighting men, just as much as their NATO counterparts. Particular mention goes to the captured Spetznaz field team, whose leader was drugged into revealing their mission and talked to save their lives. His second-in-command is initially aghast and tries to kill him with a grenade, only to change his mind when he realizes that he had no choice in the betrayal. Instead of grenading his commander he blows up his team's maps and plans, earning a "well done, Andrushka!" from his team leader.
- War Is Hell - there's one particular quiet scene where Alekseyev muses on this trope very, very bitterly.
- We Are Not the Wehrmacht - Most of the land war takes place in Germany, and the German armed forces appropriately feature heavily.
- We Could Have Avoided All This: When the oil crisis is revealed near the novel's end, an American laments that the whole war could have been avoided if the Soviet had just asked for help as the West would have been happy to give aid. Which is a bit idealistic, given that this is the Cold War. Aside from revealing their own weakness to their mortal enemies, the Soviet leadership expected that oil aid to come with major strings attached.
- What the Hell, Hero? - One of the Marines protests when Edwards is about to summarily execute their Russian prisoners. However, he and everyone else quickly accepts that they wouldn't have been able to take the Russians with them anyway and there was no way they could leave living witnesses.
- World War Three
- Yanks With Tanks - All four major branches of the US military are involved in the war.
- You Have Failed Me - Turns out the Politburo really doesn't like it when you can't carry out their warplans.
- You Killed My Daughter: Cause of the eventual downfall of Director Kosov, which is itself a Tear Jerker and a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
"For my little Svetlana ... who died without a face."
- missile-cruiser USS Ticonderoga
- AS-6 "Kingfish", Soviet anti-ship missile