The Red Line by Walt Gragg is
an action packed political-military thriller with a "what
if" war story scenario. In this novel, peace is shattered
as World War III has a resurgent Communist Soviet Union pitted
against the US in the heart of Germany. The best way to describe
the plot, "war is hell."
Gragg uses his experiences to create this story. A former
Vietnam veteran he is able to write very realistic battle
scenes. He also played war games while serving at the United
States European Headquarters in Germany at the height of the
Cold War, which adds authenticity to the novel.
He noted, "Much of the story came from my personal knowledge
while serving in Europe for three years. I knew what we expected
the Soviet Union to do in such a war and what our greatest
fears were. I had significant experience with American command
and control systems and some of the weapons in the book. In
my 38 months there, I was able to gain a great deal of insight
into how such a ground war in Europe would look and what the
American military feared most about a Russian attack. What
I saw was a potential nightmare of unspeakable proportions,
our strengths, and weaknesses versus theirs."
The plot begins in the not too distant future where Fascists
once again come to power. The new Fuhrer, Manfred Fromisch,
a leader that promises unity and protection from the Communists,
is able to quash the uprisings with his ruthless SS paramilitary
forces. The fanatical Russian leader, a la Vladimir Putin,
orders the Soviet military to invade Germany and reclaim the
Eastern sector. They use the strategy of deception, sabotage,
and excess manpower to potentially win this war in five days.
In a bold move, they catch the Americans off guard, because
the US political leaders refused to accept the warning given
by the military leaders.
The US President is definitely a political animal that “was
written by me to be more concerned about getting re-elected
than doing what is right for the country. He fails the American
people and fails as Commander-In-Chief because his self-interest
is more important than doing his job. He refused to allow
the military to do what it needs to do, having a full alert.
This led to a domino effect where Americans were caught flat-footed.
The President is not cautious, but reckless because he did
not follow the advice of his cabinet.”
Gragg shows how individuals play an important role with their
decisions and choices. The US President appears to be part
of the Vietnam Syndrome, not interested in going to war at
all costs. Because of this, the Americans are complacent and
the losses become extraordinary. A warning, this is not a
sunshine and roses book. Almost all the heroes, brave men,
and women, face death and destruction so readers should not
get too attached to any character.
Almost all of the heroes were killed off because the author
hoped to show how video games are unrealistic. "I wanted
to show how good people die and never come back to life, a
reality that is not prevalent in video games. There are no
happy endings in the realistic theater of war. No one should
ever become immune to killing, and war should never be taken
This is no more evident in the scenes involving Russian atrocities.
They are truly evil as they use chemical weapons and tactical
nuclear weapons. The quote hammers the point home, "They
arrived at Ramstein as ruthless bullies," mowing down
civilians and US forces. Their strategy was using sabotage,
murder, and terror. They did everything to go against humanity
in the crowded setting of Germany, with over eighty million
people in an area the size of Oregon, making it even more
Although most of the scenarios in the book are very realistic,
the one involving Fascists regaining power seems very far-fetched.
Not only would the German people not elect them, the NATO
countries would never let them regain power. There is no way
an American President would be allowed to look the other way
and ignore the threat.
The Red Line is not a techno-thriller, but a story of
how individuals play into the equation. Readers will question
what lessons were learned from World War II. This dark tale
has a major message: be cautious in going to war, but sometimes
war is necessary to defeat evil.