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In 1978, General Sir John Hackett (a retired, although he never liked the word, Australian-born British general who led a brigade at Arnhem) and a bunch of other high-ranking ex-military and diplomatic people, some contributing anonymously wrote a book on a possible World War Three, The Third World War: August 1985.
Written in the style of a history book written in 1987, it had the war start over the collapse of Yugoslavia, with Moscow starting to lose control over the Warsaw Pact. The USSR launch their main offensive against West Germany. There is fighting the world over, including in space.
Before this period, the NATO powers realise the Soviet threat, engage in a crash re-arming programme (including bringing back the draft in the US) and prepare their peoples to survive a conventional conflict as well as a nuclear one.
NATO wins and the USSR collapses, but not before Birmingham (the British one, not the American one) is nuked by the USSR and Minsk nuked in return.
The book sold over 3 million copies.
Part argument for increased defence spending (it makes no attempt to hide it and says so in the OOC acknowledgements), part imagining what it would be like if the Cold War turned hot from people who had seen real war, it is a very interesting read, even if very dated.
In 1982, political changes, most particularly the fall of the Shah in Iran, led to a second book, The Third World War: The Untold Story, which made a number of ret-cons and focused more on the Soviet story. It was presented in character as new evidence coming to light.
A number of other works have been set in the basic scenario, such as:
- Team Yankee (a book by Harold Coyle, also made into a video game and board game)
- World at War: Eisenbach Gap
- Dean Ing did a trilogy (Systemic Shock, Single Combat, and Wild Country) beginning in a 1996 which clearly follows from this book; the first chapter specifically mentioned the nuking of Birmingham and Minsk.
This series contains examples of:
- Animated Adaptation: Future War 198X, an obscure anime movie loosely based on it.
- Apocalyptic Log (the journals of three civil defence centres in the UK at the back of the first book, one of those centres happening to be in Birmingham and ending mid-word)
- Author Tract (admitted as such)
- Cool Boat (Kirov and the "Kirov-class cruiser in the Pacific", the name Frunze having not been known at this point, feature in the second book as the class had come to light in 1981. They are both sunk pretty quickly)
- Despair Event Horizon - the USSR collapses after Minsk is nuked.
- Fictional Counterpart (the British Prime Minister in the first book is called Mrs. Plumber. Mrs Thatcher was Leader of the Opposition in 1978, but looked likely to become PM)
- Fictional Document (several of them, including a book on the Southern African war called The Veld Aflame, which also happens to be a punny title)
- Mnogo Nukes (an SS-17 is used to nuke Birmingham)
- Moral Event Horizon and Shoot the Dog (the Soviets, getting thrown back in West Germany, decide to try and scare NATO to the negotiating table by nuking Birmingham, close enough to a summit in London for the attack to be seen from there, stating that further strikes will follow unless they agree to talks. The NATO leaders decide the only way they're going to avoid a complete collapse of public morale is to nuke Minsk back).
- Reporting Names (The "Backfire" is solely referred to under that name, as the writers clearly didn't agree on whether the Soviet claimed designation of Tu-22M was the real one)
- Retcon (the second book makes a large number, including modifying the space battle when it was realised that the space laser of the period could not actually cause the damage stated in the first book- space mines are used instead to cripple the shuttle, the laser merely blinding the commander)
- Reverse Funny Aneurysm- a couple actually:
- In the first book, Jimmy Carter serves two full terms. The second implies Ronald Reagan stood down after one term.
- It's stated in the first book that Channel 4 is not created because of the increase in defence spending. By the second book, it was being created. Considering what's on C4 at the moment, this line gets funnier all the time.
- Strawman Political (Hackett and his team have a clear dislike of militant trade unionists, although they never state they are knowingly doing Moscow's bidding, just that they're considered "useful fools"- a line commonly attributed to Lenin)
- Superior Firepower (Two Trident missiles are fired at Minsk)
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future
- Ultimate Defence of the Realm (British Polaris missiles are two of the four fired at Minsk)