"Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots." – Sun Tzu
"The principle Chechen city defense was the ‘defenseless defense.’ They decided that it was better not to have strong points, but to remain totally mobile and hard to find." – Timothy Thomas
Susan Kignak sat at the counter of Archie’s Sport Fishing and Scenic Boat Tours thumbing through a three-day-old newspaper. She had already read it, but there was nothing else to do, so she read it again. Archie only had one boat out. There was no work for them until it got back.
The Navy continued to blockade the Strait of Malacca, trying to starve the Chinese of oil. Ahmadinejad made more grandiose announcements from his bunker somewhere in Iran. Qatar burned – the photos from there were awful. No matter how much we bombed the Iranians, they never seemed to lose interest in pummeling poor Qatar with more missiles. General Motors was presenting another restructuring proposal to Congress, trying to explain how, with 5% of the market, they were going to repay the $100 billion that the government had now loaned them. Paul Krugman was talking up President Obama’s latest stimulus package in the editorials – this one was sure to lift us out of recession. Blah, blah, blah.
It was all old news. Today was New Years Eve, 2011, and the paper had advertisements for all the big parties at the nightclubs around town. But Susan and her husband Jacque intended to spend a quiet evening at home together. They weren’t into partying. The same could not be said of their sixteen-year-old son, Jake, but he too was going to be spending the evening at home whether he liked it or not.
Snow drifted down outside, blanketing Anchorage, dark already at 3:00 P.M. At this time of year, they only got six hours of daylight. All that darkness was depressing – and the fog didn’t help either. The television and radio stations had been down for three days and there had been no newspapers delivered in that time. It was just as boring as shit!
“Quite a storm,” Susan thought, though in the back of her mind there was a nagging suspicion that something more than just that was going on. It had been quite a storm. But Anchorage had seen storms like this before. None of those storms had shut down all the TV and radio stations – even the AM stations that she never listened to were off the air.
“Hey, come out here and listen to this,” said Archie, from the door.
“What? It’s a secret?” asked Susan, “Zee valls av ears?”
“No. There’s a sound out here. Come outside and listen.”
Reluctantly, Susan pulled her heavy overcoat on and donned her beaver-skin cap – Jacque couldn’t afford to buy his wife a mink one – and went outside. She listened and there was a sound. A sporadic booming noise came out of the fog. It sounded like it came from far off the coast, though in the heavy fog she couldn’t be sure.
“What is it?” she asked Archie, who was peering intently through a pair of binoculars.
“Oh shit,” he said.
And then Susan saw it too. A ship – a battleship – appeared through the fog. It was on fire. Even through the mist she could see flames all along its deck. The little gun in its turret up at the front was firing at something. Suddenly, in a flash of light, a missile was launched from the burning ship and streaked off into the distance.
“That battleship, they’ve had an accident,” she said, “They must have accidentally ignited their powder magazine or something.”
“It’s not a battleship,” said Archie, who had been in the Navy when he was a young man, “It’s a guided missile destroyer – Arleigh Burke Class – probably the Milius, out of San Diego. I heard that they were in the area. I don’t think that fire is an accident.”
The ship, now clearly visible, was listing severely towards its starboard side. Black smoke poured out of a gaping hole in its hull. It turned slowly towards the coast and, a minute later, ran itself aground about a mile from Archie’s Boat Tours.
“I’d better get home,” said Susan, “My husband will be worried about me.” And without another word, she ran to her snow mobile and started the engine.
“That wasn’t an accident. Oh shit. That wasn’t an accident.” Susan kept repeating to herself as she bounced over the snow drifts. “That wasn’t an accident.”
“There was an accident,” announced Susan, as she burst into her living room, “A battleship – I mean, a destroyer – its powder magazine…”
Her husband and his best friend Bill were crouched on the floor in front of what appeared to be two giant up-side-down microphones. At least that’s what they looked like to Susan. They were tubes with a bump on one end like the head of a microphone and an odd bipod thing on the other end. But if it were a microphone, it would have been propped up the other way.
The two men were reading instruction manuals. Jacque leapt up and kissed her. “I’m so glad you’re here. I tried to call Archie, but the phones are down. The CB doesn’t work either – it just screeches – I think they’re jamming the radios. So I waited here for you.”
“What’s going on? What are those things? Where did you get…? Who is jamming the radios?”
“They’re Dragon – actually, Super Dragon – anti-tank missiles. Sarah Palin gave them to us.”
“But… What? Sarah Palin? The governor? What’s going…?” Susan stammered.
“She was standing at the front gate to Fort Richardson with whole pallets full of Dragons. The Army uses the Javelin now, but they’ve got lots of Dragons stockpiled. Palin is handing them out to anybody who will help her fight the Russians.”
“The Russians? The Russians are here? In Anchorage?”
“Yes. They’re here. They’ve invaded,” said her husband and, suddenly embarrassed, he added, “Um… I didn’t get you one – um – I forgot to ask Sarah.”
“But I’ve never fired… I’m not even trained – I mean – I guess they come with instructions? But…”
Realizing that she was babbling, Susan shut her mouth and breathed deeply through her nose.
“Where’s Jake?” she asked.
“He’s with his hockey team. Coach – er – Sergeant Armstrong commanded a Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Iraq, back in 2003. The soldiers at Fort Richardson let him have an extra one that they weren’t using. He’s training the boys in how to crew it.”
“The Army has a lot of equipment and vehicles stockpiled in Alaska, but few personnel – everybody has been sent to Iran,” Bill added, apparently feeling that Susan’s puzzled expression implied that more explanation was necessary.
Susan stood in her living room trying to visualize her son and his fellow Wolverines in combat. “It’s not a video game,” she wanted to tell him; “You can’t just hit the ‘play again’ button if you get killed.” But she guessed he knew that.
“I’ll get my rifle,” she concluded, “I’ve fired rifles all my life. I bought a set of Sniper Flash Cards on the internet. I’m really more familiar with… I mean, I’d rather… than these missiles.”
“Sarah Palin! Governor Sarah Palin! This is the Russian military. Ve vish to negotiate your surrender,” Styopa spoke English into the radio, “Ve vill be merciful. Surrender now and ve will stop the shelling.”
Styopa listened, but there was only static. “Sarah Palin! Governor Sarah Palin!” he began again and then stopped to listen. He thought he’d heard a voice on the radio.
“Welcome to hell!” said a female voice that might have been Palin.
“Sarah Palin! Vas zat you?” demanded Styopa, “Vat did you say? Governor Sarah Palin, answer me!”
But there was only static.
“I don’t think the Americans are surrendering,” Styopa concluded.
“Too bad for them,” laughed General Grachev, “The American’s defense… How you say it? It sucks. Palin has arranged her troops in three concentric rings around the government buildings in the center of town. The outer and middle rings consist of a string of strong points in the few concrete buildings they have in this shithole town. The inner ring is all concrete bunkers for their artillery – Ha! – I don’t think it is even possible to pour concrete in this cold weather.
“The Americans have no idea what we’re going to hit them with:
“General Lieutenant Chilindin will attack Elmendorf Air Force Base from the northwest, moving down Highway A1 from their landing site at Chugiak, just north of Fort Richardson. His forces are composed of the 131st Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB), the 106th Paratroop Division and the 56th Independent Paratroop Division.
“General Lieutenant Chindarov will land on the western beaches of Kincaid Park and seize Ted Stevens Airport. His forces consist of the 693rd MRB of the 19th Motorized Rifle Division, a regiment from the 76th Paratrooper Division and a paratrooper battalion from the 21st Independent Paratrooper Brigade.
“General Lieutenant Rokhlin, commanding the 20th Motorized Rifle Division, will land south of the city and move up Seward Highway into downtown Anchorage and seize the only two big buildings these hicks possess: The Conoco-Phillips building and the Bank of America Center.
“The Americans, they are… What is the word?”
“Fucked,” Styopa supplied his general with the correct word, “The Americans are fucked.”
Ivan stuck his head out of the hatch out the T-90 he commanded. When the 20th Motorized Rifle Division had entered Anchorage from the south on the Seward Highway, they had all been buttoned-up, expecting the Americans to fire on them at any moment. But, having traveled over twenty kilometers from their staging area without a single shot fired, it seemed safe to have a quick look around.
“The Americans are fucked,” he said to himself, repeating the English-language phrase that the propaganda officer had taught them.
It did seem that way. Three concentric rings around the government buildings? Why would they organize their defenses like that? Even Ivan, though he had only been in the army for ten months, could see that that wasn’t the right way to do it. The Russian tanks were going to punch through those thin concentric rings like a dagger though a man’s ribcage! Seizing the rich Alaskan oil fields was going to be like taking candy from a baby.
Ivan was eighteen, blonde and considered good-looking by the ladies. Only ten months before, he had been standing on a Moscow street corner selling cigarettes and occasionally mugging people. He was drunk – he was always drunk back then – and, he is a little fuzzy on what happened, but he got into a fistfight with some guys and the next morning he had a lump on the back of his head and he was in the Army.
It was a nightmare – he was raped in the barracks during basic training – and he had wanted only to escape. But then he observed something: It was possible to move up quickly through the ranks of the Russian Army. For those few guys who didn’t withdraw inwards and sulk – who stayed away from the vodka – promotions were forthcoming. And now, only ten months after “volunteering,” if that’s what it’s called, Ivan was a sergeant and the commander of a powerful weapon, a main battle tank.
Ivan assumed that this was the way it was in all militaries. He would have been amazed to learn that, in the U.S. Army, it takes years to become a sergeant. And that their “all volunteer army” was just that – they didn’t hit people over the head in alleys. He would have also been amazed to learn how much training the Americans did. They literally wore the tracks off their tanks just in training exercises. The Russians would never drive a tank around so much that the tracks had to be replaced unless there was an actual war going on.
When they reached 6th Avenue, half the column turned right to seize the Merrill Airfield and the other half turned left to seize the Bank of America Center, where the state government had their offices. Except for a few curious onlookers, there had been no sign of the Americans. Apparently, their three concentric rings had just melted away before the advancing troops. Some defense!
The column of vehicles had just been thrown together. Ivan did not know the commanders of either the BRDM in front of him or the self-propelled anti-aircraft gun behind him. And that wasn’t even the right way to organize a column of armor! The BRDM, an amphibious scout car, should not be in front of a main battle tank. But, when the order to move out had been given, that was just the way they had fallen into line.
Following along behind the BRDM as they moved westward on 6th Avenue, Ivan wished they would speed up. The cemetery to his left was making him nervous. He could not see anybody out there, but all those granite tombstones were good cover for enemy infantry. And where was the Russian infantry that should have cleared the cemetery? There was none. There was supposed to be infantry covering their flanks, but somehow it had gotten left behind.
The column moved forward a hundred meters and then it stopped. Then forward again, then stopped. What was going on? Ivan was pulling out his hair. What could be the holdup?
What Ivan did not know was that the lead elements were having trouble finding the Bank of America building. It was hard to believe that they had missed a twenty-story office building, but they had. Off to their left they could see a large building, but it was clearly labeled the Robert B. Atwood building, and that one wasn’t among their objectives.
Ivan had the turret of his tank turned left, aiming at the cemetery. If there were soldiers in the cemetery, the tanks’ machine guns would make short work of them. It took eleven seconds for a Dragon missile to fly 1000 meters and the Dragon gunner had to keep his crosshairs on the target through the missile’s entire flight. If the tank’s machine guns forced him to take cover or killed him in that time, the missile would fly off course. The cemetery was only about 300 meters across, but Ivan was still confident that he would have time to hit anybody who launched a missile from there.
The full moon reflecting off the snow provided plenty of light. Ivan could see people moving among the tombstones in the cemetery. But they weren’t in uniform. They were just civilians. There was nothing to worry about. Anyway, they were too close for missiles, which were Ivan’s only real concern. Both the Dragon and the newer Javelin had a minimum range of 75 meters.
Because they had such powerful rocket motors, the back blast would kill the gunner if the missile immediately ignited its main rocket motor, especially if he was in an enclosed building or a bunker. So, instead, it had a less powerful motor that popped it out a little ways from the gunner before the main motor ignited. But, while this “soft launch” gave the missile the ability to hit targets far away, it prevented it from hitting close-up targets. So Ivan had nothing to fear from these people – onlookers – who were less than 75 meters away.
“Hey!” Ivan called out in English, “Do you know where I can buy some cigarettes?”
BLAM!!! Susan shot the young tank commander right between the eyes. Having practiced relentlessly with her Sniper Flash Cards, Susan knew without even having to take her eyes off the target that, if the hull and turret of a BRDM measured six milliradians, she should hold over a half a mil-dot. No stupid slide rules for her, she had the information she needed memorized!
It was like a nuclear bomb had gone off. One minute there was quiet and the next there was the cacophony of all-out combat. From the Conoco-Phillips building and the Atwood building (previously the Bank of America building – the Russians had an old map) the Army rained Javelin missiles down on the tank column. First they hit the lead elements and the rear elements to trap the others in between them and then they methodically took them all out. Because the tanks could not elevate their guns enough to fire on the upper floors, they were helpless against the missiles.
“Finish off that tank!” Susan urged her husband.
There were no more targets for her to shoot – every Russian head had ducked back into their vehicles and slammed the hatches shut. Machine gun bullets impacted all around Susan, bouncing off the tombstones. She could see, but not hear, explosions. It was scary.
Jacque sat on his rear, sighting his Dragon missile launcher over the top of a tombstone. With a roar, his missile streaked towards the Russian vehicles. From their position near the back of the cemetery, it took only a couple of seconds to reach its target. The self-propelled anti-aircraft gun exploded, its four-barreled turret flipping through the air and landing in the ditch.
“Why didn’t you shoot the tank?” Susan asked plaintively. She had wanted to be able to say, “We destroyed a tank,” but then her husband had to go and shoot a different vehicle!
“The anti-aircraft gun is more dangerous to the Army because it can fire into the upper stories of the Atwood and the Conoco-Phillips buildings,” he informed her brusquely.
“Fire your damned weapon!” Jacque ordered Bill, who was peering through the sights of his missile launcher but not doing anything.
Bill launched his missile and a moment later a BMP that was already on fire exploded like a can of chili beans that had been put on a car’s exhaust manifold without first having any air holes punched in it.
Machine gun fire from the tanks ceased as they were all destroyed now, but there was fighting in the cemetery. The Russian soldiers who had managed to get out of their armored personnel carriers were fleeing into the graveyard. Their Kalashnikovs blazing, they were met with only sporadic pistol fire from the civilians. Susan sighted her rifle on a Russian soldier, but her husband pulled her away.
“C’mon,” he ordered, “We have to get out of here. Shoot and scoot!”
“No ‘buts,’” he said, “We have to keep moving. It’s those people’s fault for being too close to the tanks.”
“If the person in front of you is killed, pick up their rifle and shoot… If the person in front of you is killed, pick up their rifle and shoot…” Sarah Palin’s voice was hoarse from saying the same thing over and over.
She had run out of dragon missiles and was handing out rifles to the Alaskan civilians who queued up before her at the gate to Fort Richardson. But only every other person in line got a rifle. The next in line got a handful of ammunition clips and instructions to follow the one with the rifle.
Jacque and Bill stood in line while Susan guarded their snow mobiles with her rifle. Jacque was concerned that someone might try to hotwire their snow mobiles. His in particular, was a target for theft. While Susan’s hobby was competing in high-power rifle matches, Jacque, though a competent marksman, had found such competition boring. His thing was snowmobile racing. Jacque’s snow mobile breathed fire! Literally, when he gunned the engine, flames came out of the exhaust. It could beat cars in drag races.
After their initial defeat on 6th Avenue, the Russians were holding Merrill field but had otherwise withdrawn from the city center, leaving behind pockets of troops to fend for themselves while their artillery pounded the city. High overhead, Russian Bear-H bombers – the same ones that had been spotted over the Aleutian Islands on 11 March 2008 – rained bombs down on the city. But reports from the hospitals were that American casualties had been light so far. The ground was frozen solid and, by the simple expedient of hiding in their basements, the people were protecting themselves from the artillery and bombs.
The shelling and bombing were counterproductive. Few residents were killed, but the destruction of their homes hardened their hearts against the Russians. When they emerged from their basements, rifles in hand, they took one look at the ruins of their once-beautiful homes and set out with grim determination to exact revenge on the Russian ground troops. Meanwhile, news of the early success in the Battle of 6th Avenue had spurred huge popular resistance across Alaska. Grizzled sourdoughs poured into Anchorage, many arriving by dog sled, and all carrying their ubiquitous deer rifles.
A great game of hide-and-seek was being played out, with everybody looking for the Russian troops who had fled their doomed convoy and were hiding in the city. On their way to Fort Richardson, the Kignaks had passed a man in an alley cutting off the head of a Russian paratrooper with a samurai sword. Jacque had given him the thumbs-up sign and he had returned a maniacal grin. “Where are the rest?” he asked.
In spite of intercepted radio reports from the 693rd Motorized Rifle Brigade claiming that they had seized Ted Stevens Airport, the Russians were still assembling off the coast. Their landing craft milled about in a disorganized manner though, with guns, they had managed to set the airport’s fuel depot on fire and destroyed their radar. The Russians under Chindarov’s command appeared to be experiencing considerable confusion and there was little indication that they would storm the beaches of Kincaid Park anytime soon.
General Lieutenant Chilindin’s attack on Elmendorf Air Force Base had met with more success, at least in the sense of establishing a beachhead at Chugiak just north of Fort Richardson. The Army was throwing everything they had into fighting off Chilindin’s forces and, except for occupying the Atwood building and the Conoco-Philips building, they had mostly withdrawn behind North Fork Ship Creek, leaving the civilians to mop up what remained of the 20th Motorized Rifle Division.
But, while Susan had heard conflicting reports from the northern front, it was clear that the Russians had so far failed to achieve their primary objective of seizing Elmendorf AFB, as evidenced by the continued presence of American aircraft in the skies over Anchorage. At that very moment, Susan was watching a couple of F-15 Eagles and one of the new F-22 Raptors in a dog fight with a dozen Su-27 Flankers. Susan and her son were big fans of the Lock On air combat simulator and, in spite of how fast the airplanes were flying, she was able to identify the fighters overhead.
“What is it?” asked Jacque, showing Susan the rifle that Governor Palin had given him.
Bill, nervously fingering a couple of ammunition clips, followed behind Jacque. He looked like he was on the verge of throwing up.
“It’s an M1 Garand,” said Susan, “It’s the rifle we used during World War Two. Here, I’ll show you how to load it.”
Susan deftly loaded an ammunition clip into the top of the rifle and handed it back to her husband. “Here, you try.”
“Ow, fuck!” exclaimed Jacque and he stuck his thumb in his mouth.
“Be careful not to let the bolt close on your thumb,” Susan advised, belatedly.
They had five eight-round clips and Susan used one of them to sight the Garand in on a tree stump 200 yards away. That left Jacque with 32 rounds. Susan had 75 rounds of ammunition for her own rifle. That didn’t seem like enough to go to war with. But it was all they had.
“So, what’s the plan?” asked Jacque.
“We need to stay close to the Russian vehicles,” said Susan, “but not too close.”
Bill paled. “Stay close to them? Maybe we should – um – get like 1000 yards away and you can snipe at them from there.”
“No,” Susan explained, “There is a safety zone 300 to 500 yards away from the enemy. Any closer and we are vulnerable to SAWs and RPGs. Any farther away and we are vulnerable to artillery and air strikes. It’s called ‘hugging’ the enemy. We parallel their convoys, like wolves stalking a herd of caribou, and fire when there is an obstacle like a canal or something to shoot over so they can’t rush us.”
“Well, let’s go! We’re going to kick some Russian ass, aren’t we old buddy?” said Jacque, enthusiastically slapping Bill on the back.
“Yeah,” said Bill in a small voice, “We’re going to kick some Russian ass.”
Driving back into town, Jacque spotted something in the snow. “Over there,” he said, pointing.
About a dozen people lay dead in the snow, caught out in the open. It is easy to tell when someone is dead. Their muscles go limp and their bodies fall into awkward positions that nobody would ever get into if they were just sleeping.
“Cool!” said Jacque, “Here are some more Dragon missiles for us.”
Susan didn’t think it was very cool, but she did appreciate the fact that there were four unfired missiles lying in the snow. For his part, Bill quietly stepped aside and threw up over a log.
“Hey, this guy had a heavy-barrel sniper rifle. Man, these things are expensive! You want it?” Jacque asked his wife.
“No, no, you take it,” said Susan, “I don’t want to switch rifles in mid stream.”
They gathered up the weapons and proceeded, Bill with the Garand, Jacque with the sniper rifle and Susan with her deer rifle. Susan and Bill each straddled one missile on the seat of their snowmobiles while Jacque attempted to sit on two missiles. But they’d only gone about fifty yards when it became clear that they could not carry so much stuff. Jacque was a big man, but it is hard to drive a snow mobile while straddling two forty-pound missiles. He hit a bump and they both fell out in the snow.
“We’re going to have to leave one of these behind,” he said, “Man, I wish I’d brought some rope! Then we could tie the Dragons to the snow mobiles.”
“No, no, I’ve got an idea,” said Susan, “I read in the Sniper Flash Cards tactical page about how the Mongols fought:
“The Mongols had archers on horseback that would attack the European knights. The knights were on chargers, which are powerful but not very fast horses. The Mongol archers would stay just ahead of the knights, shooting arrows at them over their shoulders. The knights would think that they were just about to catch the Mongol archers, but they were actually being led into an ambush. The Mongols had lancers hidden behind a hill and they would charge the Europeans’ flank.
“I think we can do the same thing. You and Bill set up all four dragon missiles on their bipods and get ready. I’ll go pick a fight with the Russians and lead their vehicles back here.”
“That’s pretty risky. Are you sure you want to go out there alone against Russian tanks?”
“Yes, yes, I’m confident that it will work,” she reassured him, “But let me drive your snow mobile. It’s faster than mine.”
“I didn’t ask you if you thought it would work,” Jacque snapped, “I asked you if you wanted to take that risk.”
“We have to kill them;” Susan said resolutely, “Jake is out here somewhere in a Bradley. Every Russian vehicle that we destroy is one that won’t be shooting at our son.”
Susan had removed an interior door and set it on four chairs in front of the living room window. Jacque’s fire-breathing snow mobile was parked in the kitchen, facing the back door, ready for a quick getaway. Looking through her scope, she measured the height of a garage door at four milliradians.
Because she had practiced relentlessly with her Sniper Flash Cards, she knew immediately that she needed to give targets at that distance three mil-dots holdover and, if there was a ten mph wind, she would need five MOA of windage.
There was only about a five mph wind, so she dialed in two and a half MOA of windage and took careful aim at the man she took to be the Russians’ commanding officer. She couldn’t see his insignia at this range, but he was an older man with gray hair and he strode around the vehicles with an air of command.
Anticipating that he would be wearing a bullet-proof vest, Susan waited until he was turned sideways to her and then shot him in the shoulder. Her bullet broke his humerus and drove through the armhole of his vest and into his heart. The Russian colonel spun around and fell to the snow, kicking his legs and flailing his arms like an epileptic.
Normally, a sniper would only fire one shot before leaving, but it was not Susan’s intention to get away clean. She wanted them to follow her. Cycling her rifle bolt quickly, she shot a Russian who had frozen and was giving her a deer-in-the-headlights look. Unsure from which house the shots came, the Russians were methodically destroying them all with cannon fire. But still Susan did not leave. Cycling her rifle again, she shot a machine gunner between the eyes.
“Time to go!” Susan leapt onto her snow mobile, rocketed out the back door and made a run for it.
The Russians could see Susan’s blonde hair flying behind her as she drove away. It infuriated them that a woman – and a blonde – had killed their colonel.
“Get her!” shouted a young lieutenant, giving the first and last order of his new command.
In the U.S. Army, soldiers often have training exercises where the commanding officer pretends to be wounded and a junior officer takes command. But the Russians rarely train like that and are typically befuddled by the sudden loss of their commanding officer.
Susan looked back, saw that she was a good 600 yards ahead of the pursuing vehicles, stopped and rested her rifle over the back seat of her snow mobile. By the time she had done that, the Russians had closed to within 300 yards of her. BLAM!!! Susan shot an infantryman off a BMP that he was riding on. He fell to the snow, rose to his knees and was run over by a BRDM. Slinging her rifle over her shoulder, Susan gunned the engine of her snow mobile and took off running again.
Like threading a needle, Susan hit a four-foot-wide pedestrian bridge at fifty mph and flew over a small river in the city park. The pursuing vehicles plunged into the river and up the other side. As they crested the river bank their undercarriages were momentarily exposed. BLAM!!! BLAM!!! Two Dragon missiles found their marks.
The remaining vehicles crested the river bank and fired their machine guns at where they had seen the missiles come from. BLAM!!! Another Dragon found its mark but a fourth missile flew harmlessly over the Russians’ heads.
Jacque skidded to a stop beside his wife at their agreed-upon rendezvous point.
“Where’s Bill?” Susan asked.
“He isn’t coming,” said Jacque.
It was then that Susan saw that her husband’s coat and snow pants were splattered with blood.
“Oh my God! Are you okay?”
“It’s not my blood,” said Jacque gruffly, “Let’s go.”
The fighting was not going well for the Americans. In spite of an Alaska Airlines pilot taking off under fire and flying his 737 into a troop transport ship, General Lieutenant Chindarov had finally organized his amphibious assault on Kincaid Park and seized Ted Stevens Airport. The destruction of over eighty Russian vehicles on 6th Avenue had seemed like a great victory, but it counted for little now that Chindarov had brought ashore another four hundred tanks and APCs.
But the Americans too had been reinforced. After flying non-stop all the way from Afghanistan, Army Airborne had arrived and parachuted into downtown Anchorage. They fought like wild men, leaping over the barricades that the civilians crouched behind.
The Russians were proceeding more systematically now, not plunging into the center of the city as they had done initially, but advancing one block at a time and only after prepping each city block with a three- to five-minute barrage from their Anemone self-propelled 120mm mortars. There was no escaping for the snipers who fought in the traditional, Vietnam-era way of wearing gillie suits for deep concealment. Bundled up like Michelin Men in their white snow suits, they were sitting ducks for the Russian mortar crews. The Russian artillerymen did not have to see the snipers. They knew where they were because such snipers, infatuated with Carlos Hathcock’s famous half-mile shots, always chose the highest promontories to position themselves at.
Only the highly mobile snipers mounted on snow machines survived, as they could run from the mortar barrages and then re-infiltrate along the Russians’ flanks, being careful never to expose themselves down the length – the long axis – of city streets. Long, straight streets were their Achilles’ heel, for the Russians had cannons that, unlike deer rifles, really were accurate past 600 yards. Also, they had vehicles that could quickly close in on the snipers with machine guns and grenade launchers, which are very dangerous at close range. The successful snipers knew that, by attempting long shots that they would probably miss anyway, they gave the enemy two can’t miss opportunities to kill them. They were better off staying just outside the range of SAWs and RPGs and just inside the range of artillery and air strikes while stopping to fire only when there was an obstacle to shoot over.
But dodging mortar fire is not as easy as it looks. The Kignaks’ snow machines were destroyed by an Anemone and they barely escaped with their lives. Wading through knee-deep snow, it was like one of those nightmares where one is pursued but can only move in slow motion.
Now, Susan and her husband hid in a shallow trench in the middle of a snowy field. She was down to only seven rounds for her deer rifle and Jacque had just the five rounds in the magazine of his sniper rifle. The Ruger Corporation had hired every bush pilot in Alaska and had them flying into Anchorage at treetop level and making touch-and-go landings in the city streets where they tossed buckets full of loaded Mini-14 magazines out to the civilian fighters. But nobody was supplying match-grade .30-06 and .308 cartridges, which is what Susan and Jacque needed.
The Kignaks were tired and cold and hungry. They wanted only to get back home where they could eat and sleep before returning to the battle with more ammo. But, 500 yards away, an entire column of Russian tanks and APCs were organizing for a renewed attack on the city center.
“If they see us out here, we’re screwed.” Jacque observed, pointing out the obvious.
In the other direction was a row of houses about 400 yards away. Beyond the houses, behind a small hill, Susan knew that there were more Russian tanks, though they could not be seen from where she now lay. She carefully scanned the houses through her rifle scope but saw nothing.
Suddenly, a Bradley Fighting Vehicle that Susan had overlooked launched its two TOW missiles. The Bradley had been hiding in a swimming pool with only the top of its turret – and its two missile launchers – visible above the pool deck. The Russians had a pair of self-propelled anti-aircraft guns positioned two hundred meters apart and 400 meters behind the column to suppress anti-tank guided missile sites. Both fired but apparently missed as, among the Russian column, two T-90 tanks exploded in twin fireballs. There was a shower of sparks from both vehicles as their ammunition detonated.
The Bradley leapt out of its hiding place and sprinted down the street. Running parallel to the Russian column 900 yards away, it quickly reached its top speed of 40 mph. The Bradley’s Bushmaster chain gun blazed, laying accurate and deadly fire on the Russians. A BMP and then, in rapid succession, two BRDMs exploded under the hail of 25mm armor piercing bullets.
The Russians responded with a barrage of cannon fire. There were explosions all around the Bradley and then it disappeared behind a concrete building. It all happened so fast that Susan could not tell if the Bradley had been hit or not.
“You don’t suppose that was…?”
“It doesn’t matter who it was,” Jacque snapped, “Listen, I’ve got an idea. Those Russian tanks on the other side of that hill will respond. But I don’t think they know about the Russian column on the other side of this field. If we both fire simultaneously on both groups, we might be able to get them to shoot at each other.”
Susan was already sighting her rifle on the Russian column even before her husband had finished speaking.
“As soon as you have a target, fire,” she told him, “I’ll fire when you do.”
Jacque peered through his mil-dot scope. “I see a four-door sedan. It measures three milliradians from the bottom of the door to the top of the roof. What’s my holdover and windage?”
“Hold over one mil-dot, give them three MOA left wind,” Susan answered immediately, without taking her eyes off the Russian officer she was lining up in her sights. With only seconds to put their plan into action, the Kignaks couldn’t possible have taken the time to fuck around with a slide rule.
Moments later, a BMP came careening down the street. They had seen the fast-moving Bradley disappear behind the concrete building and hoped to outflank it. The BMP commander was standing tall in his vehicle, looking for the Bradley, when Jacque shot him in the face. Simultaneously, Susan shot a Russian lieutenant in the groin. He rolled around in the snow, clutching at his crotch. An infantryman ran to help his lieutenant and, when he bent over, Susan shot him in the ass.
Confusion reigned among both groups of Russians. Firing in the direction of the sniper, their bullets hit near the other group of Russians. Thinking that they were taking fire from the Americans, they opened up with everything they had. Within seconds, there was a barrage of cannon fire in both directions as the two groups of Russians shot each other to pieces.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jacque suggested, “Before they figure out that they’ve been had.”
Quickly, Susan and her husband scurried away. Having fired every cartridge that they possessed, it was time to call it a day.
Susan, a statuesque blonde, was striking in her black dress. She stood beside her husband, awkward in his black rent-a-suit from Dooley’s, at Bill’s wake. Bill had been Jacque’s friend for years, but Susan had never gotten to know him very well. Most of Bill’s relatives she had never met. Now she stood quietly and listened as Jacque told them all the same thing:
“Bill was a brave man. He never flinched in the face of machine gun fire. He held the sights of his Dragon missile steady on the Russian tank until the very moment when he was hit by enemy fire. I saw with my own eyes Bill single-handedly destroy a BMP on 6th Avenue and then, later, another BMP in the city park where he died.”
There was a photo on the wall of the burned-out BMP on the river bank. Written in large letters over the photo were the words, “William ‘Bill’ Chihuly destroyed this tank and another one like it while defending Alaska from unprovoked Russian aggression.”
After she and her husband had shook everybody’s hand, Susan drifted away to mingle with the mourners. There was a TV on in the corner and Sarah Palin was being interviewed:
“Three concentric rings around the government buildings? I don’t know where the Russians got that idea. There was never any such plan. We had no concrete bunkers for artillery in downtown Anchorage. The invasion took us completely by surprise. But even with warning, how could we have poured concrete in this cold weather?
“Our tactic was to fire at the enemy everywhere without being seen anywhere. The Russians did not know where and who the enemy was. We shot, destroyed, withdrew, went home to sleep, returned to start military actions again. No organization or planning. We were independent hunters.”
The reporter interrupted her, asking if it was true that the Russians had destroyed 300 tanks.
Palin laughed. “If I had 300 tanks, I would storm the Kremlin. History will record how many tanks I had.”
The scene on the TV shifted and there were more of the Russian mothers who had come to Alaska seeking their sons. Even while the fighting still raged, while the top three floors of the Atwood building burned, Valentina Krayeva, a school headmistress from Volgodonsk, had arrived in Anchorage and met with Sarah Palin. Valentina had seen her son among the POWs shown on Russian TV and had come to negotiate his release.
The governor had sent two of her guards to escort the woman to the Atwood building to search for her son among the prisoners held in the basement. Sprinting through Russian fire, followed by a television cameraman, they had returned with her son on a stretcher. Only hours later, the Russians dropped two deep penetration bombs on the Atwood building, which punched through all twenty floors and exploded in the basement, killing most of the POWs.
Now, since the Russian withdrawal, many more Russian mothers had traveled to Anchorage and had become a fixture at the main gate to Fort Richardson, holding up photos of their sons, or poking through the burned-out Russian vehicles and the piles of frozen corpses. Susan watched the TV for a few minutes and then drifted outside.
Jake sat on the front porch with some other high school students. Susan stood quietly in the doorway and listened to him as he told his friends of his adventure:
“We were hiding in a swimming pool. We launched our two TOW missiles – they have to be fired while we are stationary, you know – and destroyed two T-90 tanks. Then we drove down the road and I was firing the Bushmaster chain gun. I got a BMP and two BRDMs. Then we were hiding behind a concrete building. But there were more Russians behind us. We thought we were fucked for sure. But then the Russians started shooting at each other – I’m not sure why – but they were so preoccupied with that that we were able to get away.”
Susan could not have been more proud of her son.
EPILOGUE: In the first edition of the Anchorage Daily News to be published after the fighting was over, the editor ran a contest for the best poem commemorating their victory. But he cannot decide between the following two poems. Help him out by voting on your favorite!
Palin Saves the Day!
by David L. White
Some thought that she was kidding
when she talked about her view,
across a narrow channel
the Russians there, it's true.
And after the elections
when she didn't get the nod,
they thought it an easy target
if Alaska they would trod.
SNL had given them
a false security,
so they planned a mission
to invade our Sovereignty.
The Ruskies thought "all systems go"
the U.S. has it coming!
They would act so swiftly that
the siege would be quite numbing.
And so that fateful night
their plan they executed,
thinking it an easy task
with pride these so exuded.
So they put their plan to work
they thought that we were sleeping,
but they were all so surprised
to find the watch we're keeping.
But unknown to the KGB
their mission was anticipated,
and so it really was a flop
and a crisis was abated.
Governor Palin was on guard
and clearly showed her stuff,
the attack was foiled post haste
for Sarah proved herself tough.
Not one soldier stood his ground
even though many were trying,
her mighty men stopped 'em in their tracks
then offered 'em asylum!
And so we herald a Heroine
who really saved the day,
and assured there for herself
she'd run another day!
By Rick Bohne
Darkness brings the sounds of war,
as explosions rock the night
Attacking Alaska unprovoked,
they overlook our hard earned right
For freedom rings aloud these days,
and when pushed beyond belief
Americans band together,
they fight for days with no relief
It was no army or politicians,
but it was her people here who died
The common man and woman, who fought,
righteousness on their side
The tattered flag waves in the wind,
dawn greets skies of smoke
Triumphantly they stand as one,
yet on death’s scent they choke
As the battle raged they fought as one,
dying to stay free
Americans all so different,
born of every race, color and creed
Solemn in one purpose,
standing tall in freedom’s name
To repel oncoming slaughter,
they die to quell the serpent’s claim
They send a message to the world,
this is the land of liberty
Let no man think to tame the hearts,
of Americans together and free
Which poem do you prefer?