45 Years Ago, The US Almost Fought A Nuclear War With Syria And Russia
On the night of October 24, 1973, came the dreaded words: Assume Defcon 3.
On bases and ships around the world, U.S. forces went to Defense Condition 3. As paratroopers prepared to deploy, B-52 nuclear bombers on Guam returned to bases in the United States in preparation for launch. On another October day eleven years before, the United States had gone to the next highest alert, Defcon 2, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
This time the catalyst of potential Armageddon wasn’t the Caribbean, but the Middle East.
In fact, the flashpoint was Syria. And as tensions rise today between America and Russia over the Syrian Civil War, and U.S. and Russian troops and aircraft operate in uncomfortable proximity in support of rival factions in the conflict, it is worth remembering what happened forty-five years ago.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Cold War is what didn’t happen: the United States and the Soviet Union managed to avoid fighting each other directly, and instead waged their conflict through proxies.
A Syrian T62 tank abandoned following the conclusion of the 1973 Yom Kippur War
But as usual, the Middle East upset the status quo. On October 6, 1973, on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on the Sinai and the Golan Heights. The stunned Israeli defenders held on desperately, even as their leaders and senior commanders feared this might be the end for their nation. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, followed by the United States, airlifted in massive amounts of military equipment and supplies.
By October 11, Israel had halted the Syrian offensive: Israeli armor and infantry had crossed into Syria, and would eventually advance to within artillery range of Damascus. In the Sinai, an Israeli force, led by the flamboyant and aggressive …read more
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