A Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today.
Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Written by Alternate Historian
'Ground Zero Murmansk' by Guest Historian Chris Oakley Guest Historian Chris Oakley says, a new thread in which we explore a limited nuclear exchange in 1968. If you're interested in viewing samples of my other work why not visit the Changing the Times web site.
On this day in 1968, retired general William Westmoreland met with Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon at Nixon's California home; the meeting was arranged by a mutual friend who had recommended Westmoreland to Nixon as a potential future Secretary of Defense.
As it turned out, however, Westmoreland would join the Nixon Administration in a much different capacity -- he would serve as White House chief of staff for most of Nixon's first time as President of the United States.
On this day in 1968, East German dictator Walter Ulbricht was overthrown by dissident Volksarmee officers who held him responsible for the nuclear devastation inflicted on East Germany by British missile strikes against Soviet bases in that country during the Anglo-Soviet nuclear conflict.
The overthrow of Ulbricht was the start of a chain reaction of political and social upheavals that would eventually climax with the breakup of the Warsaw Pact.
On this day in 1969, Richard Nixon was inaugurated as the 37th President of the United States; in his inaugural address Nixon pledged to work for the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons from the world and to maintain cordial ties between the U.S. and Russia's Kosygin administration.
Although he wasn't able to completely eliminate the nuclear threat before he left office, Nixon did achieve a substantial reduction in the global nuclear stockpile-- by 1973 nearly two-thirds of the nuclear warheads which were in existences when Nixon was sworn into office had been dismantled.
On this day in 1968, twenty Soviet navy sailors were court-martialed on charges of insubordination and conspiracy to commit mutiny after refusing orders to report for duty with a convoy transporting decontamination teams to the ruins of Murmansk. The sailors asserted that the anti-radiation suits they'd been issued did not sufficiently protect them from the lingering fallout from the British nuclear strike the previous month against the once-great Arctic port.
On this day in 1968, longtime CPSU hardliner Mikhail Suslov committed suicide; since Brezhnev's decision to launch the disastrous nuclear strike on Birmingham had been based partly on Suslov's recommendation, Suslov deemed himself responsible for many of the calamities that befell the USSR during and after the Anglo-Soviet nuclear conflict.
On this day in 1968, the Soviet Union, which was then locked in a bitter standoff with Great Britain over the Dubcek "Prague Spring" reform movement in Czecholslovakia, launched a single nuclear warhead at the industrial city of Birmingham and vaporized it in an attempt to intimidate the British government into backing down. However, the nuclear gambit would backfire catastrophically on the Soviets; just minutes after they destroyed Birmingham, they would lose one of their own cities when a British nuclear submarine on patrol in the North Sea fired two missiles at the Arctic port of Murmansk and obliterated it along with the neighboring towns of Komsomolsk, Rosta, and Minkino.
The May 1968 Anglo-Soviet nuclear war and the collapse of the Soviet government in the war's aftermath would both later be chronicled in British author Clive Egleton's book Never Surrender.
On this day in 1968, Soviet defense minister Andrei Grechko resigned; previously one of the strongest players in the Kremlin, Grechko had seen his political position sharply deteriorate in the aftermath of the Anglo-Soviet nuclear conflict.
On this day in 1968, Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev made a televised address defending the Kremlin's decision to use nuclear weapons on Birmingham.
On this day in 1968, hundreds of demonstrators braved searing heat and KGB threats of arrest (or even execution) to hold an anti-nuclear and anti-Brezhnev rally in Moscow's Red Square.
The demonstration became a riot when Soviet security forces attacked the protestors, killing twenty and provoking the rest to lash out in an orgy of violent unrest the likes of which Moscow hadn't seen since the 1917 October Revolution.
On this day in 1968, the New York Times published a story about the Red Cross-sponsored "Mercy Convoys" of volunteers from the United States, Canada, and Australia who'd come to Britain to aid the survivors of the Birmingham nuclear strike.
The story would later earn its author a Peabody award nomination.
On this day in 1968, US Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon called for the world's major nuclear powers, including the United States, to agree to a pact reducing and eventually eliminating the global nuclear weapons stockpile.
Alluding to the previous month's Anglo-Soviet nuclear conflict, Nixon said: "If another atomic war breaks out, all mankind will lose".
On this day in 1968, the US embassy in Moscow sent President Johnson a 30-page top secret report on the state of the Brezhnev regime in the aftermath of the Anglo-Soviet nuclear war. The report's conclusion was succinct and blunt: Brezhnev's government was only months, if not weeks, away from total collapse.
On this day in 1968, thousands of Czech citizens marched through Prague's Wenceslas Square in support of Alexander Dubcek's "Prague Spring" reform movement; in response pro-Soviet Czech Communists held a counter-protest outside Dubcek's office. After hours of harsh verbal exchanges between the two sides, a riot broke out at the height of which a group of anti-Soviet fanatics stormed the Soviet embassy in Prague and wrecked a third of the embassy complex.
On this day in 1968, an outraged Alexander Dubcek broke off diplomatic relations between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union and declared war on the USSR after learning the Kremlin had made plans to occupy his country.
On this day in 1968, French students held a protest rally outside the Soviet embassy in Paris in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian independence movement. That same day, KGB chief Yuri Andropov was assassinated in Moscow by what official Soviet media claimed were Western "agents provocateurs" but were actually rogue elements of his own bodyguard detail.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department ordered the swift evacuation of all remaining dependents and nonessential personnel from U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Soviet Union; in New York, NYPD riot squads were posted outside the Soviet UN mission to deter protestors from storming the mission compound. In Havana, the official Cuban government newspaper Granma printed an editorial staunchly defending the Brezhnev government in the USSR.
In Beijing Chinese ruler Mao Zedong ordered the People's Liberation Army to place its units along the Sino-Soviet border on full alert. The Russo-Czech war saw its first major air battle as Czech fighter squadrons fought off a group of Soviet warplanes sent to bomb Prague. In Archangel, the twenty Soviet naval sailors who'd refused to go to Murmansk a month earlier were executed by firing squad.
In Gdansk, factor workers walked off the job to show sympathy for the Lenin Shipyard strikes, prompting the Polish government to convene in emergency session; in East Berlin, new East German chancellor Erich Honecker opened secret reunification talks with West Germany. In Romania, anti-Brezhnev demonstrators held a rally outside the gates of the Soviet embassy in Bucharest.
On this day in 1968, Polish anti-Communist demonstrators in Warsaw held a rally to show support for the striking factory and shipyard workers in Gdansk.
On this day in 1968, the East German government signed a pact with West Germany under whose terms Germany would be reunified effective October 1st. Shortly after the agreement was signed, Erich Honecker issued a directive ordering all Warsaw Pact-tasked Soviet military forces to withdraw from German territory within fifteen days.
On this day in 1968, anti-Brezhnev demonstrators stormed the Kremlin and lynched several key CPSU Central Committee members, effectively decapitating the Soviet government. Post-Cold War historians would cite this event as the beginning of the end for Communist rule in Russia.
Also on this day, Armenia and Kazakhstan both seceded from the Soviet Union.
On this day in 1968, a new provisional Russian government headed by former Brezhnev supporter-turned-critic Alexei Kosygin formally disbanded the CPSU, effectively ending more than half a century of Communist rule in Russia
On this day in 1968, the former Zossen headquarters of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG) was taken over by the German government for use as the campus of a new Bundeswehr officers' training school.
On this day in 1968, a major breakthrough was made in the Paris cease-fire negotiations to end the war in Vietnam; Le Duc Tho, the chief North Vietnamese delegate at the talks, submitted an offer to withdraw Vietnamese Communist forces from South Vietnam within 90 days of the signing of a peace pact between the Communist regime in Hanoi and the US-backed Saigon government.
Le Duc Tho
The concession was in part triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting loss of a major source of support for the North Vietnamese war effort.
On this day in 1968, after extensive consultations with his own cabinet and with U.S. ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu announced the government of South Vietnam would accept Le Duc Tho's troop withdrawal offer and establish full diplomatic relations with North Vietnam as a possible first step towards Vietnam's long-delayed reunification.
On this day in 1968, the Vietnam War ended with the signing of a cease-fire pact between North and South Vietnam. The withdrawal of remaining foreign troops from Vietnamese soil would begin two days later.
On this day in 1968, Poland elected its first non-Communist government in twenty years. Among those who took seats in the new Polish parliament was a 24-year-old dockworker named Lech Walesa who had been one of the key participants in the Lenin Shipyards strike two months earlier; in his early 40s Walesa would go on to become Poland's president.
On this day in 1968, representatives from the United States and Russia met in Paris to begin negotiations on an agreement for the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons stockpiles by the two world powers.
The proposed accord, formally known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), would be ratified by both countries in the summer of 1969 and signed by Great Britain and France in 1970; China would sign the pact following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.
On this day in 1968, the Kosygin government in Russia began paying compensation to the families of the twenty Soviet navy sailors executed on mutiny charges three months earlier after they refused to enter the ruins of Murmansk with defective radiation suits.
On this day in 1968, the South Vietnamese government assumed ownership of the former headquarters of the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam in Saigon.
Following Vietnam's reunification in the early 1970s, the building would become the site of a new cadet training school for the post-Cold War Vietnamese army.
On this day in 1968, North Vietnam opened its first-ever diplomatic outpost in South Vietnam as the new North Vietnamese embassy was established in Saigon under the terms of the cease-fire pact signed between the North and South a month earlier.
The next day, South Vietnam's embassy in Hanoi would be officially opened; by early October a North Vietnamese consulate would be up and running in Da Nang while a South Vietnamese counsulate was founded in Haiphong.