In 1978, General Sir John Hackett (a retired, although he never liked the word, Australian-born British general who led a brigade at [[Film/ABridgeTooFar Arnhem]]) and a bunch of other high-ranking ex-military and diplomatic people, some contributing anonymously wrote a book on a possible WorldWarThree, ''The Third World War: [[TheGreatPoliticsMessUp 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 WarsawPact. The USSR launch their main offensive against WestGermany. There is fighting the world over, including in space.

Before this period, the UsefulNotes/{{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 [[SweetHomeAlabama American one]]) is nuked by the USSR and Minsk nuked in return.

The book sold over 3 million copies.

Part argument for increased defense spending (it makes no attempt to hide it and says so in the OOC acknowledgements), part imagining what it would be like if the UsefulNotes/ColdWar 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:
* ''Literature/TeamYankee'' (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.
* Tom Clancy's ''RedStormRising'' presents a similar scenario, though non-nuclear.
!!This series contains examples of:

* AnimatedAdaptation: ''Anime/FutureWar198X'', an obscure anime movie loosely based on it.
* ApocalypticLog (the journals of three civil defense centers in the UK at the back of the first book, one of those centers happening to be in Birmingham and ending mid-word)
* AuthorTract (admitted as such)
* CoolBoat (''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)
* DespairEventHorizon - the USSR collapses after Minsk is nuked.
* DiveUnderTheExplosion: In the alarmist reconstruction of what might have happened if World War Three had broken out in the 1980s, the war inevitably becomes a limited nuclear exchange. The Soviet Union, in a spirit of socialist brotherhood and sympathy for the low aesthetic standards enjoyed by the workers of Great Britain, performs a large-scale urban redevelopment of [[UsefulNotes/TheMidlands Birmingham]], England. The author notes that people pleasure-boating twenty miles away from Ground Zero had the presence of mind to abandon ship and dive overboard, to seek to escape the blast-wave and backdraft from the fireball washing over them. Dive under the explosion taken UpToEleven there.
* FictionalCounterpart: 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.
** A British journalist who breaks the story that the PM has been informed that the Soviets are mobilising for war goes by the name of [[ Jardine Snatcher]]
* FictionalDocument: several of them, including a book on the Southern African war called ''The Veld Aflame'', which also happens to be a punny title.
* InvadedStatesOfAmerica: Averted. The Soviets discuss the possibility of invading the U.S. West Coast as a diversion from the fighting in Europe, but nix the idea when they realize the logistics it would require.
* ReportingNames: 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. In addition, the entire Middle East section is heavily altered to cover the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Camp David accords.
* StrawmanPolitical: 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
* SuperiorFirepower: Two Trident missiles are fired at Minsk)
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: August 1985, the book itself being a future history from 1987.