Mythbusters, a never-ending job

Military Review has an interesting article on the Cold War. This article is a nice reason to slap two old myths that seem to be immortal:

The myth of the Fulda Gap and the myth that the Soviets intended to go nuclear on day one of WW3.

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First the "evil Soviets would launch nukes on day one" myth:

By 1975, and probably earlier, the Soviet General Staff had already received an “instruction” from the leadership that Soviet forces were never to be the first to use nuclear weapons.
("The Renaissance in American Strategy and the Ending of the Great Cold War", Gordon S. Barras, Military Review Jan-Feb 2010, p.103)

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Next: "Fulda Gap"

I've been annoyed by a myopic focus tunnel vision on the "Fula Gap" for many years. "Some people" talk and write as if the "Fulda Gap" was the only thing that mattered (or the only potential battlefield) in Europe. This was always highly annoying to me because it was all-too often paired with ignorance or disrespect in regard to the military efforts of NATO allies in Central Europe (Germany alone provided about half of NATO's land power in that potential war theatre, for example).

Have a look at this graphic:

This map is relevant for the most critical phase of the Cold War; the late 70's when the Warsaw Pact was the strongest relative to NATO.

The Soviets planned for a scenario in which the U.S. V. Corps would have been turned into the prey of a double envelopment. The only attacks planned into the "Fulda Gap" were meant to fix the V. Corps in order to shape the battlefield for the decisive breakthrough & exploitation moves elsewhere.

Americans are entitled to interpret the map as an indicator for the great repulsion value of the U.S. V. Corps because the Soviets didn't plan to advance through it. That would be a little bit odd, though. The mid and late 70's are widely regarded to be the worst post-Korea period of the U.S. Army, a period after which reforms were needed in order to rebuild it up to its 1990 quality.

Anyway; I've finally vented my dislike of those two myths.


P.S:: The quoted article seems to rest almost entirely on a single book of the same author:
Gordon S. Barass, The Great Cold War: A Journey Through the Hall of Mirrors (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009)
Maybe that would be a nice book to read if I hadn't a backlog of about 20 books already.


  1. Gordon Barrass is wrong about the french forces in Bold Sparrow (Kecker Spatz)and more. French defence policie was quite complicate under President Mitterand. FAR and 1ere Armee were not under NATO Command in Kecker Spatz and Fränkischer Schild 1986.
    And yes WP had plans to nuke NATO Verfügungsräume!

  2. Plans and intent are two very different things in the realm of military affairs.

    That works both ways (also against my argument), of course.

  3. I wonder who the Soviets borrowed their ideas about strategic envelopment from?

    Von Motltke the elder or Von Schlieffen? But it's definately of Prussian origen.

    I'm not sure what or where the Fulda gap is. But I'd guess it's where Czechoslovakia bulged into West Germany, where good tank country provided the easiest route to cut West Germany in two?

    But if Nato was expecting the main Warsaw pact attack through the Fulda gap... ...that map of the plan of attack would get Von Manstein's seal of approval.

  4. Fulda is where "Central Army Grop" is written on the map, right about the "L".

    Manstein wouldn't have approved of this plan. The similarities to German operational art from Moltke the Elder to the early 50's is superficial. The operation lacks a Schwerpunkt because it attempts two encirclements with three main groups and a fourth, pushing movement - all at once. German operational art would also not have had all those attacks with limited objectives to fix the other troops (or to deceive?). I recall no case inw hich more than one deception was used.
    The breakthrough (if there was one necessary despite strategic surprise) would also have looked very differently.