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Literature / Team Yankee

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Team Yankee is a 1987 Military Fiction novel by Harold Coyle.

What would happen if the Iran-Iraq war escalated into something much bigger? After an incident in the Strait of Hormuz between an American destroyer and a Soviet cruiser, the Cold War turns hot: more specifically, into a conventional World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The eponymous Team Yankee, an American heavy armored company, is stationed in Germany at the time, and must fight the Soviet advance.

The book is itself set within the universe established by The Third World War, and expands upon one of the short mentions within that book.

It was adapted to a Tabletop Game, a miniature wargame, a Graphic Novel, and a tank simulator for the Atari ST, among other consoles.

Provides examples of:

  • Alternate History: Obviously, NATO and the Warsaw Pact did not duke it out in Germany, or else we might not be here.
  • Are These Wires Important?: Team Yankee's infantry use this method when confronted with a bridge wired for demolition, cutting any wires they can find. One hapless soldier is nearly electrocuted in the process when he tries to cut a power cable.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: Invoked early on when Captain Bannon inspects the unit just before hostilities break out. The (then) hapless Lieutenant Garger tries to challenge him using his tank's M2 machine gun, causing Bannon to fear he might accidentally press the trigger while bringing the weapon to bear.note  Fortunately for the captain, he manages to climb aboard Garger's tank before anything bad happens.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Played straight within Team Yankee, where the tank commanders with the most kills are Captain Bannon and Lieutenant Garger. Largely averted at the battalion level; none of the officers there are ever depicted in direct combat, and their tactical decisions often leave much to be desired.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: Both Team Yankee and the Soviets have these. For the Americans, it's the M113 personnel carrier and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle; for the Soviets it's the BMP infantry fighting vehicle and the BTR personnel carrier.
  • The Captain: Captain Sean Bannon, commander of Team Yankee. Subverted in that he behaves like a real captain, i.e. attending meetings, planning attacks, and issuing orders, as opposed to being a One-Man Army.
  • The Cavalry: When companies C and D of Team Yankee's parent battalion, with no tanks of their own, are attacked by Soviet tanks, Teams Yankee and Bravo rush to the rescue...
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: ...but the infantry companies still suffer heavy casualties before they arrive, with C Company virtually wiped out and much of the battalion leadership dead or wounded.
  • Deadly Gas: After the first failed Soviet assault, Team Yankee is bombarded with chemical shells as the second attack begins.
  • Death from Above: The novel mentions several ways this is provided. Artillery bombardment is commonly used by both sides. In two engagements, Team Yankee is assisted by AH-1 Cobra gunships and a flight of A-10s respectively. Their Soviet counterparts, particularly the Mi-24 Hind, also make appearances, in one instance severely wounding a replacement officer.
  • Desk Jockey: The battalion staff. Each time Bannon has to attend a meeting at battalion headquarters, he feels out of place as every other officer present has an immaculate uniform. Exemplified by the battalion S2 (intelligence officer) who knows quite a bit about the "big picture", but has absolutely no information regarding immediate threats to the battalion. Downplayed by the S3 (operations officer) who is the only staff officer depicted visiting front line units in the field.
  • The Engineer: Captain Lawson and the 79th Bridge Company, who build a bridge needed by Team Yankee and the rest of the battalion... and repair it when some of Team Bravo's tanks damage it. Engineers also help prepare defenses before the battle of the Langen Gap, and are sometimes mentioned in passing as having dug positions Team Yankee is occuppying.
    • On the Soviet side, an engineer lieutenant is seen whose unit has placed demolition charges on a bridge Team Yankee is attacking. He's killed by artillery fire before he can detonate them.
  • Ensign Newbie: Lieutenant Garger, the new 3rd Platoon commander. He grows out of it.
    • Later, one of Garger's friends and classmate from the Armor School arrives to replace a wounded officer, and receives this treatment, because unlike Garger, he hasn't seen combat.
  • Hero of Another Story: Discussed, at least in a backhanded way, when Team Yankee is stopped on a road march and must wait for an engineer unit to build a bridge - Bannon muses that it is fairly common in the army to have to rely on complete strangers to do their job so that he and his men can do theirs.
  • It's Raining Men: Discussed in-universe, Soviet airborne troops have landed in north Germany and are fighting it out with NATO there.
  • Military Alphabet: The eponymous Team Yankee and its sister unit, Team Bravo, designated "Y" and "B" respectively on maps. The military alphabet is also featured prominently in all radio communications.
  • The Namesake: Team Yankee is about an armored company, named...Team Yankee.
  • NuclearOption/NukeEm: An unnamed British city is nuked towards the end of the book. A similarly unnamed Soviet city is nuked in retaliation, and a cease-fire is declared soon afterwards. The only direct effect on Team Yankee before hostilities cease is an order for its parent battalion to disperse.note 
  • Oh, Crap!: The entire Team has one when they realise they've all overslept several hours, and must now withdraw under the bright morning sun, instead of under the cover of darkness.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The sequence of events leading to Team Yankee becoming Trapped Behind Enemy Lines on Hill 214. Most of Team Yankee's supporting units become lost on their way to their starting points for the attack, ending up late, out of position, or both. Team Yankee is ordered to attack anyway.
    • Later on, Bannon finds himself trying to relay a report to a superior through the superior's dimwitted radioman, all while Team Yankee is busy fleeing a forest fire. The radioman:
      • Is completely unaware of unit callsigns and consequently has Bannon spell out in detail who he is and that he is authorized to contact the superior.
      • Needs to have the message repeated twice in order to copy it down correctly.
      • Manages to screw up the message anyway in the course of relaying it to the superior, changing Bannon's report about the forest fire into a request to change position.
      • Is said to be typical of the soldiers assigned as radio operators.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Discussed and averted with the infantry assigned to Team Yankee, a unit based around a tank company. Bannon is surprised to hear Polgar telling new replacements that they now belonged to Team Yankee and should be honored - and that many of said replacements volunteered to join the team - when in the past it was a hated assignment.
  • Sergeant Rock: Sergeant First Class Gary Pierson, 3rd Platoon platoon sergeant and Vietnam veteran.
    • Sergeant First Class Hebrock, Pierson's 2nd Platoon counterpart, who holds his platoon together through the loss of two different officers.
    • Sergeant Polgar serves as this as well for the mechanized infanry platoon, to the extent that the platoon leader is rarely mentioned.
  • Shown Their Work: At the time he wrote this book, Harold Coyne was a Major in the US Army, and had commanded a combat team much like Team Yankee. It shows.
    • Less so for the bits of the book involving the Soviets: Coyle tends to stereotype quite badly. Read Ralph Peters' Red Army for a much more balanced picture of the Soviet soldier.
  • Tank Goodness: Team Yankee has two platoons of M1 Abrams main battle tanks. The Soviets have their own.
  • Technology Marches On: A small case of this: much of the technology in the book is accurate for its time period (1987), though by the mid 80s some hardware was starting to be replaced (for example, AH-1 Cobra gunships were gradually being replaced by AH-64 Apaches (first Apaches arrived in Europe September 1987), and the M1 Abrams with the 105mm rifled gun was being replaced by the M1A1 Abrams with the 120mm smoothbore gun). Still plenty of the older variants in USAREUR, though, so it's not too jarring.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Garger, who opens the book by getting chewed out by Captain Bannon for being a dumbass, takes several levels in badass when the shooting starts - at the end of the book, his tank has the most kills in the entire Team.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Team Yankee itself, after capturing Hill 214 while the rest of the battalion fails - or never even tries - to take its objectives.
  • Wire Dilemma: Averted when Team Yankee's infantry encounter demo charges; they simply cut anything that remotely looks like a demolition wire.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: At one point Team Yankee is described as traveling at "one meter a second," with context implying this to be a fairly high speed - C Company, following behind the team, is said to be having trouble keeping up. However, 1 meter per second works out to all of 3.6 kph, slow even for a walking speed. This would make sense if the team were having to keep pace with dismounted infantry, but C Company and the other infantry units are riding in APCs at the time.
  • You Are in Command Now: Being a war novel, several characters find themselves in this position:
    • Sergeant Hebrock assumes command of 2nd Platoon on no less than two occasions when his platoon leader is hit.
    • The XO of Team Bravo ends up in command of the unit when the CO is killed by artillery fire.
    • When the battalion is ambushed, Captain Bannon temporarily assumes overall command; command ultimately passes to Major Jordan, formerly the battalion S-3 and the highest ranked survivor of the battalion staff.