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Roleplay: Red Dawn +20
In 1984, the quintessential Red Scare film Red Dawn came out and opened with a shocking invasion of the American heartland. It covered a small band of Resistance fighters in the opening months of World War III as they attacked the Dirty Communists that invaded their homeland and were gradually destroying their town, until eventually, only two of them survived to escape to American lines.

Someone, however, was intrigued by Colonel Andrew Tanner's review of the War in North America by November 1985. With vague talk of things such as The Siege of Denver, unspecified horrors being inflicted on the population of Texas, and the Mississippi River becoming a frontline, John Milius's take on the Third World War had rich potential for expansion...

And so they did...

Red Dawn +20 originally started as a thread on an Alternate History message board that ran 335 pages before relocating to this members only message board dedicated to organizing the available information and subject matter. (The Wiki Rule is also enforced.) After some considerable RetConning to separate some wheat from the chaff, a coherent, believable timeline for World War III emerged. A bloody conflict lasting from September 3, 1985, to October 14, 1989.

This extended story, told from the points-of-view of posters roleplaying as veterans of the war, covers every facet of the fight imaginable.


This thread provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Several tell their stories, including one who enlisted with the Canadians as a teenager lying about his age, got found out after scoring several kills, joined the Marines (where they didn't care how old you were as long as you could fly), shot down quite a few more Commies, then, after turning 18, joined the Kentucky Air National Guard to score still more kills flying with the Kentucky ANG...winding up with a confirmed score of 70.
  • Allohistorical Allusion: Many Real Life contemporary figures played a big part in the war.
    • Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell led the defense and offenses that saved America. The latter would become President of the US in 2004.
    • George H.W. Bush becomes President "early" as Ronald Reagan was killed when Washington, DC got nuked.
    • Gus Hall is made the president of the American puppet government.
    • Former musician, record producer, and Lieutenant Governor of California Mike Curb is mentioned; he served as an appointed Senator from 1985-1989, and played a USO-recruited has-been singer in the remake of Kelly's Heroes.
    • Bill Clinton is elected President in 1996; Hillary Clinton serves as a Senator from 1985 to 2012, when she is elected President.
    • An In-Universe Alternate History book titled With a Whimper, Not a Bang describes the "alternate" history of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Iron Curtain exactly as it happened in Real Life. The person who describes it dismisses it as as way too unlikely, even in retrospect.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When a Marine unit shoots the hell out of an ALA unit that committed an atrocity, one of the members of that unit gets arrested on charges of treason, murder, arson, unlawful destruction of personal and real property, violation of civil rights under color of law...and violating the Clean Air Act of 1970. (Those Soviet combat vehicles do NOT meet federal emissions regulations, particularly after they brew up.)note 
  • Badass Biker: Most biker gangs end up becoming cavalry regiments. The Hell's Angels are especially famous as the "13th ACR".
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Happens a lot, as anything that can move, fly, and/or shoot gets pressed into service.
    • It starts with three of the four museum-ship battleships (and even Texas packs a HAWK surface-to-air missile battery), and goes on from there...
    • Lots of "warbird" aircraft get a chance to see combat one last time. A flight of World War II-vintage TBF Avengers is used in anti-submarine patrols in the Gulf early in the war, while all three surviving Martin Maulers form a flight for counter-insurgency work.
  • Boarding Party: During the Battle of the Baltic Exits, HMS Yarmouth (the "Crazy Y") managed to board and capture a crippled Krivak class frigate, towing her prize into Rosyth Harbor two days later.
  • Brazilians With Bombers: The Brazilian Navy sends its aircraft carrier (Minas Gerais) to help out, the ship's compliment of A-4 Skyhawks and S-2 Trackers flying off the U.S. Navy carrier Shangri-La after their own ship burned out its boilers reaching North America.
  • Brits with Battleships: In the Battle of the Baltic Exits, the Soviets tried to invade the United Kingdom, sending their invasion force through the Baltic Sea. The Royal Navy found out and was most displeased. Her Majesty's Navy then expressed it's displeasure by sinking the majority of the Soviet Baltic Fleet. The result of the battle? The Soviets lost two Kiev class carriers, a Kirov class battlecruiser, and about twenty other ships, plus many more damaged in various ways. The Royal Navy lost two carriers and had two damaged, with ten escorts sunk or crippled.
  • Cool Boat: The U.S. Navy battleships Alabama, North Carolina and Massachusetts, all museum ships, were reactivated for the war and were fairly active. Texas was too old for reactivation, but did have a HAWK surface-to-air missile battery set up on her quarterdeck, becoming the only ship to see combat in all three world wars.
  • Cool Plane: Cool planes infest the series, but among the coolest of the cool mentioned are the SR-71E Blackbird (in Real Life, the SR-71 series only went up to C) and the TR-3B Black Manta.
  • Deadly Gas: Chemical weapons are used on occasion by the combatants; one infamous example given is where a TV reporter, taking a firm grasp on the Idiot Ball, dismasked to prove there were no chemical weapons being used...as the unit she was embedded with was being nerve gassed. The Marines with her were frozen with shock, then horror at the act and its results, some of them becoming casualties when they had to dismask to vomit, and after the first few seconds the video of the event is classified at the highest level as too horrific to be viewed.
  • Elite Mooks: A KGB unit ends up holding off a Marine regiment for two days at an airport, the worst possible terrain for defense. Then again, they were guarding the TVD Amerika nuclear weapons stockpile.note 
  • Enemy Civil War: One starts to afflict the Soviet Union just before they sign a ceasefire with the allies.
  • Exact Words: It takes 22 years after the end of the war before the Veterans of Foreign Wars allows WWIII veterans to join. Needless to say this causes many hard feelings.
  • Expanded Universe: For Red Dawn
  • Fail O'Suckyname: the AH.com thread mentions a Soviet general by the name of "Yuri Jurkov." 'Nuff said.
  • Filipinos with Firearms: The Philippine Army and Air Force send detachments to aid in the battle, with the former described as quite enjoying sneaking up on Soviet sentries and using bolo knives to chop them to pieces and leave a death card on the corpse.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: A female soldier chases down and captures a Cuban soldier who took her encampment by surprise while she's wearing combat boots...and only combat boots.
  • Great Escape:
    • The battleship Texas, a museum ship in its namesake state, is dragged off by tugboats to avoid it being captured.
    • NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston is also evacuated. And has everything inside taken along with the evacuees. Everything. To the bare walls.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Chebrikov Ate Sugar.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun:
    • A pilot of KC-135s and B-52s in Strategic Air Command happens to be named Buffy Somers. The title of her autobiography is BUFFy the Communist Slayer.
    • After the invasion, Congress passes a Selective Service law that uses student loan data to find EVERYBODY of military age (including the ones who didn't—or, in the case of women, didn't have to—register for Selective Service. It's known as the Curb-Stomp Act.
  • Klingon Promotion: Happens a couple of times to one Soviet officer mentioned by several, bumped up after being proven right for not toeing the party line, then again when his commanding officer orders a massacre and he objects strenuously. Lampshaded in that he's said to hate Klingon Promotion jokes.
  • La Résistance: Quite a few. Some were heroic, some weren't.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The ALA (American Liberation Army) is a military/security force raised in the occupied states. It's membership ranges from people who are forcibly conscripted, reluctantly join for free food, criminals looking for a reduced sentence and a lot of power, and of course, true-believers.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: A Soviet air raid on Los Angeles makes the fatal mistake of crossing the Port of Long Beach, where the missile testing ship USS Norton Sound, testing the AEGIS radar and vertical-launch SM-2 missile system, was docked...and the officer in command of the ship put the system in 'Special Auto'. Missiles flew, every plane died.
  • Made of Explodium: The battleship Massachusetts manages to drop a 16" high-explosive shell into a group of fully-filled liquid natural gas tanks while bombarding the Port of Houston. Her captain's first reaction is that they'd accidentally fired a nuclear round; he wound up getting the nickname Marvin.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": A quadruple missile launcher salvaged from a Soviet cruiser sunk in the Battle of Puget Sound was mounted in front of an American Legion post in Washington state. Several years after the war, it was opened up for refurbishment...and found to still be loaded. A U.S. Navy EOD squad is called in...and discovers the loading is nuclear. Cue SPAZCON ONE.
  • The Mutiny: The Political Officer of K-236 decides to incite a mutiny at the end of the war against the...less-politically-enthusiastic...officers. He winds up being shot out of a torpedo tube.
  • Mutual Kill:
    • Following the war, Dr. Robert Ballard dove on the wreck of the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal, which had been sunk by a submarine attack. Not too far away from the carrier he found the wreck of a Soviet "Victor II" sub.
    • Another Victor II scored a "tie" with the cruiser USS Yorktown.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Chernobyl Raid. Intel said the reactors were not yet completed, so an air strike was ordered to hit them before they were brought online. Turns out Intel was wrong. Oops.
  • North Koreans with Nodongs:...Fight with the same tenacity as the Imperial Japanese in World War II.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The uprising on Jamaica and the Bermuda Insurrection.
    • One poster mentions a chapter (titled "Cheeseburger in Paradise") in Long Walk to Denver as being the funniest war story he's ever heard.
  • Nuclear Option: Although many details are classified, it's known that nuclear weapons were used to bring about the end of the rump states of the USSR fairly recently, not to mention the limited nuclear exchange at the start of the war.
  • Nuke 'em: Speaking of the above, Washington D.C., New York, Omaha, Kansas City, and various nuclear silos in the Dakotas and Wyoming are wiped out. Most of China goes up in smoke as well, though duds spare Hong Kong, Macao, Fuzhou, and presumably a handful of other cities and military bases. The Chinese, likewise, manage to hinder Soviet air defenses by successfully firing a handful of nukes at Russia itself before they're destroyed, creating holes in its air defense shield, which the pilots of Operation EASTERN EXPRESS exploit over the next few years.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Until recently, the Soviet Politburo fell under this, with none of their membership ever being referred to by name until the events of Operation ROYAL FLUSH were covered. Adolf Hitler in particular finds his Spiritual Successor and Communist Counterpart in an Alternate Universe version of Viktor Chebrikov, a Real Life KGB Chairman who ended up becoming the General Secretary of the Communist Party prior to the war instead of Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • Power of Love: A series of stories tells the tale of how two veterans, who broke up the night before the war started, were reunited after the war, and ultimately reconciled by helping each other heal from their traumas. They marry and are now cheerfully living Happily Ever After.
  • Red Shirt Army: Aside from the obvious quip about the Dirty Communist armies, the ALA, the Mexicans, Libyan, and Angolan armies are described by their own allies as "Worse than useless."
  • Reds with Rockets: But of course.
  • Reformed Enemy:
    • Several mentions are made of ComBloc soldiers and pilots who, after the war, decide not to return to the Motherland upon their release from Prisoner of War status, instead remaining in America to become successful businessmen.
    • One poster mentions that piping C-SPAN with appropriate subtitles into EPW camps was very effective in convincing prisoners to flip sides; they got to see what a truly representative government looks like.
    • Token Evil Teammate: For a given value of evil, one of the posters was a Russian T-80 crewman who fought throughout the first half of the conflict before being captured alive at The Battle of Wichita and applying for citizenship after the war.
  • Retcon: While many were inevitably made as part of an agreed-upon timeline, the most notable one is that initially, England submitted to a Quisling government that kept control of it until the war's end. This was changed to England successfully fending off Soviet air and naval attacks despite Colonel Tanner's thoughts to the contrary.
  • Rule of Cool: It's pointed out on occasion that some elements of the scenario (above and beyond the inhererent oddness of the movie's plot) are unlikely when looked at with a realistic eye; for instance, the reactivated battleships. A combination of inertia from having been around in the story so long and plain old Because It's Cool keeps them around despite this.
  • Semper Fi: The 5th Marine Division (the guys who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi) is reactivated using Marines from grounded West Coast helicopter units. (The definitive history of the division is titled Every Marine a Rifleman.)
  • Shout-Out: The series is full of them, including but not limited to:
  • Stuff Blowing Up: A U.S. Navy pilot, rolling in for a strafing run on a Soviet destroyer, suddenly finds himself having to dodge flying destroyer bits as an incoming battleship-caliber salvo blasts the ship to pieces in his face.
  • Tank Goodness: The Battle of Wichita is explicitly said to be the Spiritual Successor of the Battle of Kursk.
  • Throw It In: The film never once hints at New York City getting nuked. Someone on the thread did, and as a result, it's wiped out in this timeline.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The Mexican army is laughably incompetent and easily thwarted during the first half of the war. As the tide turns and America starts forcing the ComBloc forces back to the Rio Grande, though, they're consistently described as "fighting like demons."
  • Unusual Euphemism: The "Gold List" of high-value enemy personnel who were to be turned over to "OGA" (read: Central Intelligence Agency); the Marines referred to this document as the Special Human Intelligence Target List
  • War Is Hell: Invoked in several pieces of fiction and many posts.
    • One character recalls being under chemical & high explosive artillery bombardment (where even a minor shrapnel wound can be a death sentence)
    • Many cases of witnessing (or, in one case, arguably committing) war crimes
    • There are multiple stories of veterans trying to come home
    • One story deals with a female POW's experience of torture (including rape).
  • Wartime Romance: Several examples.
    • One major example: a fighter pilot becomes romantically involved with his female back-seater; they marry after the war, and eventually command two different fighter wings (at the same time, no less) in the Air Force Reserve.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue:
    • From the original film, Colonel Ernesto Bella defected to the United States a few months after the events of the movie and testified at various war crimes trials. Likewise, Wolverine veteran Erica Mason serves as a Colorado state senator and is elected Governor in 2010.
    • However the other Wolverine, Danny, is never mentioned.
    • Despite being an unwilling Quisling, Mayor Bates and an unspecified number of other collaborators native to Calumet were killed by Black Operatives. The posters, particularly one of the aforementioned black operatives, show him No Sympathy. Admittedly, they had no way of knowing his reasons for collaborating.
  • World of Badass
    • Considering they survived—AND WON—a war that started with a nuclear strike and reduced the American population by 13 million, yeah, they're going to be badasses.
    • Truth in Television: In the 1980s, some teenage punks decided to go over to a mostly-WW2-era VFW post with the avowed purpose of "beating up the geezers." The punks ended up in the hospital with broken limbs, missing teeth, and one eye gouged out...by some guys who were collecting Social Security.
  • Wretched Hive: Most of China has become this, thanks to mass bombardment by nukes. Only Hong Kong, Macao, and two provinces across the sea from Taiwan are still ruled by any sort of authority, with the rest of the land under the control of bloodthirsty warlords and bandits ala Fallout. Strategic Air Command has a standing offer to the British forces in Hong Kong, just in case any of the warlords start getting uppity.

Land Of FlatwaterAlternate History Web OriginalReds
Rebuilding The WorldPlay-by-Post GamesRemnants Of An Empire
Pure Souls RoleplayWebsite/Alternate History.comReds

alternative title(s): Red Dawn Plus20; Red Dawn Plus 20
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