TANKWAR VI: DESERT PREY BY LARRY STEELBAUGH

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Copyright 1993

Max Tag and his supertank XM-F4 No Slack Too is assigned to Saudi Arabia to stop a terrorist named al-Burka. Burka was a terrorist that was behind the Iranian-Yemen invasion of Oman that Tag managed to stop before WWIII. After that Burka flew into the Saudi desert where he found a gold mine. He lived as a hermit mining the gold. With enough he used the new Palestinian Mandate which was granted to the Palestinians and consists of the useless desert territory of Jordan and Iraq. He uses the gold to buy a few hundred APCs and tanks. Then he has them smuggled into Saudi Arabia. He also has kidnapped a revered Muslim cleric named al-Kabah. Kabah wants peace but is being used by Burka to deliver a message of Jihad. Burka also plans to attack Mecca and destroy the Kaaba which will inflame the Muslim world. Max must hunt down this terrorist to stop him.

A year later they released the final book in the series. I thought the series was over but apparently the author had a contract to write one more. So he crapped this waste of paper out. As the cover says this is the conclusion to the Tankwar series and I couldn’t agree more. This was just a mess of a book. Nothing exciting happens. They just wander around the desert and talk a bunch. Once in a while there is a fight but it was extremely dull. At a mere 167 pages it was the shortest book but sadly not short enough.

So the series ends and not on a high note. It was a decent attempt to cash in on the big success techno-thriller war books being done by Larry Bond, Harold Coyle and Tom Clancy. Unfortunately events were moving too fast and it became obsolete very quickly. If you think about it the whole concept didn’t really have a long shelf live. After the war in Europe was over then what? As this book shows making it into some type of elite international force going around the world wasn’t going to work. Which is why the big announcement of its conclusion on the cover. A fairly entertaining series that just went one book too long.

TANKWAR V: FIREFIGHT BY LARRY STEELBAUGH

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Copyright 1992.

World War III is over and Captain Max Tag and his crew of the XM-F3 No Slack Too take a much needed vacation. Max and his girlfriend go to Hawaii before heading on a leisurely trip home to Montana. Yet this must come to an end and they report back for duty. They get assigned to go to Mongolia to train Mongol troops in the new Terrapin a new two man tank. The Chinese have decided to try and take Mongolia with the Russians now so weakened. Max finds himself now allied with his former enemy Colonel Yeshov and the First Guard Tank Army. While Max is only supposed to be an observer him and his crew are decisive in defeating the Chinese invasion and exposing their plan to use chemical and biological weapons.

I though the last book was the end of this series what with the Soviets being defeated. Yet the author had a few more books in him. I actually think this is the best of the series. It takes us out of the small part of Bavaria that the last four books took place in. It really needed a change of scenery for it was getting dull with the same battles being fought. Naturally at the beginning of 1992 the Soviet Union was finished and they were now America’s friends. Similarly the Chinese had just had the brutal Tiananmen Square massacre so they were the bad guys. I found the story interesting with these colorful Mongol characters and a new and exotic location. It ends with Max and his crew going to join this new international brigade to police trouble spots around the world. They really should have just stopped here while they were ahead as we will see in the concluding book.

TANKWAR IV: FIREBRAND BY LARRY STEELBAUGH

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Copyright 1991.

It is several days into WWIII and there is a tenuous truce. The First Guards Tank Corp has failed to successfully withdraw to a more tenable position thanks to Captain Max Tag and his supertank Xm-F4 No Slack Too. This didn’t come without a cost. Their driver Wheels Latta was killed. Fortunately they find a replacement in Tag’s girlfriend Lt. Giesla Ruther. Yet they still have their orders to continue to harass the trapped unit. So with his supertank, two advanced Bradleys and some Rangers he continues his attacks against the Soviets. They manage to destroy a recon battalion before the Soviets surrender.

So this book sees the war in Europe come to an end. The Soviets due to internal rebellion see the hardline government overthrown and a new democratic one take it’s place. You can tell that this series was already running out of steam. It has this supertank very overpowering and it is endless skirmishes with the Soviets. Naturally they achieve an overwhelming victory each time. Yet you get this sense reading this that it is pointless. The Soviets are clearly defeated so why bother? The book came out literally two months before the Soviet Union actually collapsed so it was already becoming highly improbable for this scenario to happen, I actually thought this was the last but I found out that there were two more books for this series future.

TANKWAR III: FIRESTORM BY LARRY STEELBAUGH

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Copyright 1991.

The Soviets have resorted to a tactical nuclear strike on NATO forces in southern Germany. NATO responds and devastates the Soviet divisions. A truce is called for units to withdraw from contaminated areas. General Kettle though wants to punish the First Guards Tank Army which was the unit that launched the strike. The army is trapped between lake Constance and contaminated fallout areas. So Captain Max Tag with his supertank XM-F4 No Slack Too is given the job of harassing them. Because of the truce he will be operating without any support. Although he gets two super enhanced Bradley APCs and a company of Rangers to help him out. So begins a series of hit and run attacks against the army. Yet the commander a Colonel Yeshev has his own formidable tanks in the new T-80B.

For the third book the author ups the stakes by going nuclear. This seems to have hurt the Soviets more than NATO. After this we have units deserting. We are also introduced to the Soviet perspective in this book. Colonel Yeshev gives up a look at how hardliners took over. He is someone who is a sympathetic character and not some cartoon caricature that sometimes populate these type of books. We get plenty of over the top action as the No Slack Too causes mayhem with the Soviets. Needless to say the T-80Bs do not live up the the hype that the book hints at. It ends with them successful in preventing the Tank army from withdrawing but they do lose the driver Wheels Latta.

TANKWAR II: FIREBALL BY LARRY STEELBAUGH

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Copyright 1990.

World War III has started with a Warsaw Pact invasion of western Europe. Sgt. Max Tag has managed to get the experimental tank back to NATO lines. Now he finds out his new mission from General Ross Kettle the commander of NATO. First he gets promoted to captain. Then with the newer XM-F4 No Slack Too he is to go back behind enemy lines to gather intelligence and hit rear area command and supply. They are also to go after units that are bringing up tactical nukes. So Tag and his tank are reunited with the Jagd Commandos and American supply company. Operating from an old mine and working with the local resistance they manage to take out a rear area HQ and many of the units bringing up tactical nukes. Only they don’t succeed in getting them all and a nuclear attack is launched against the NATO armies in southern Germany at the end of the book.

So the second has Tag and his supertank going behind enemy lines. They reunite with the units that helped them including his girlfriend Giesla. It must be great to be in a combat unit and have your girlfriend along for the occasional sex during those rest periods. Somehow I don’t think the real world works that way but this series was not set in the real world. You also get a new character introduced in Sgt. N. Sain. A hashish smoking rock musician who was visiting during a USO tour and now commands a Bradley. He was in the reserve Army and has his two keepers Mad Dog and Rabies. He spouts all this goofy new age mumbo-jumbo. This came out in December of 1990 which by then it was obvious that the Warsaw Pact was a Humpty-Dumpty that wasn’t getting put back together again. Still it was an enjoyable action series that you just suspended belief to enjoy. Ends with a big cliffhanger of a nuclear strike to give the reader a sense of much more serious stuff to come.

TANKWAR BY LARRY STEELBAUGH

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Copyright 1989.

It is the near future and hardliners in the Soviet Union have taken over. They have reasserted themselves in Eastern Europe and tensions are about to break out in open war. Sgt. Max Tag is testing out a new prototype of tank. The XM-F3 No Slack is on maneuvers near the Czech border when the war starts. They find themselves trapped behind enemy lines. Luckily they hook up with some Jagd Commandos a specialized unit of West Germans in light attack vehicles that are to harass the Soviets rear lines. They also pick up some American rear echelon supply company also trapped behind the lines. This motley group has to fight its way through the Warsaw Pact forces to the NATO lines.

This series just came out one month before the Berlin Wall came down so the idea soon became a bit dated. Yet this is a pretty solid little military action series based on what seemed like a very credible scenario. It had a decent run in the early nineties. You have this super-dooper advanced tank with anti-air missiles, monopolar carbide armor, advanced computers, laser targeting and radar. Not the mention it can go 80mph. The crew is your typical stereotypes that you get in these type of series. Fruits Tutti the loader who is an Italian from the Bronx that’s also a genius with computers. Wheels Latta a hillbilly that was a moonshine runner in his civilian life is the driver. Naturally he uses his driving perfected from evading revenuers to evade the Soviets. Then there is Ham Jefferson the gunner who is your token black guy.

You also like many men’s adventure series the romantic hot girl for the main protagonist. This this case a Lt. in the Jagd Kommandos who is the sister of his best friend. Naturally they have the obligatory very graphic detail sex scene during one of the lulls in fighting. We find out that Max Tag’s manhood is so big she has to use both hands to lift it. Yes it is that big. The story gives everything from the groups perspective and we don’t get a big perspective on the war in general which I think was a good idea. Gives a more intimate feel to the story. We do get some flashbacks to show Tag’s past. Like his time growing up in Montana and a fight with the local biker gang that leads to him finding out about his father’s service in Vietnam. His past experiences in fighting off an Yemeni-Iranian invasion of Oman and another in Honduras fighting a Communist coalition. Naturally they make it back to fight WWIII another day.

COUNTDOWN WWIII: OPERATION PERSIAN GULF BY W.X. DAVIES WITH THE STRATEGIC OPERATIONS GROUP

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Copyright 1984.

It is the near future of 1987 and the Ayatollah Khomeini dies. This leads to a power struggle within the Islamic Republic of Iran. On one side the mullahs. On the other an army general who stages a coup. The coup manages to take Tehran and some other major cities but the mullahs remain in control of a good part of the country. The mullahs turn to the Soviets to help them in the war. They send in troops and the army general turns to the U.S. which starts sending troops and supplies. Soon the Marines land at the strategic oil fields and the Soviets threaten to attack with nuclear weapons. In steps Triad with a plan to defuse the situation. They plan to free a dissident mullah held by the regime. The cleric is a moderate who supports neither the Soviets or America but has broad support among the population. His government would restore the status quo of an Iran in neither of the superpower spheres. So they must rescue him and convince the Soviets to also accept this alternative. Otherwise the world will be plunged into a nuclear war.

So for the final book in the series the author sets it in Iran. He envisioned factional fighting and a civil war after the Ayatollah’s death. He was only off by his death two years but there was speculation of what a post-Khomeini regime would be like. The reality was that the mullahs grip was strong and they remain in power to this day. But they didn’t know that at the time. A plausible scenario that ratcheted up the threat to a possible full blown nuclear war between the U.S and Soviets. I love the realpolitik approach by the author to solve the crisis. Just return the status quo with them assassinating the pro-western general and the Soviets taking out the head mullah. An exciting story to end the series.

So the series ends. I hope that the author enjoyed writing it for I don’t think he had much success in achieving a more sophisticated espionage capability for the U.S. In fact I think this was probably not read by many and remains an obscure series. Some real Books that Time Forgot. I personally enjoyed the series and wish I discovered it when it first came out. I would have loved to see where this series would have continued. But for now it is more of a historical curiosity to those like me who love the old cold war thrillers.

COUNTDOWN WWIII: OPERATION CHOKE POINT BY W.X. DAVIES WITH THE STRATEGIC OPERATIONS GROUP

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Copyright 1984.

In the near future a border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana threatens the peace of the region. Guyana has a socialist government and receives massive aid from the Soviets in weapons and advisers. They also get seasoned Cuban troops fresh from Angola. Tensions escalate and soon a shooting war starts. A war that sees the inexperienced Venezuelan army lose ground to the Cubans. Naturally the U.S. is concerned about the threat to Venezuela’s oil and calls on Triad to defuse the situation. They start by finding the secret Soviet staging area in Costa Rica a country destabilized as all the region is by insurgencies. They gather a force of anti-Communist refugees to launch an attack on the base. They also have to stage an assassination of a KGB official and make it look like an accident to preserve the status of their main Soviet double agent Mr. Clean.

The third book in the series has the crisis in South America. Wow times have changed to have Venezuela a U.S. ally fighting Cubans and a Socialist government. This definitely does feel dated. Still for the times is was a fairly accurate scenario. Guyana did have a Socialist government and the border dispute is real although has never became anything serious. Central America was envisioned as being engulfed in guerrilla wars which was where the region seemed headed. I like how it accurately portrays a U.S. government paralyzed politically from getting involved and the Byzantine machinations that Triad uses to accomplish it’s objectives. Another enjoyable book in this little known series.

COUNTDOWN WWIII: OPERATION BLACK SEA BY W.X. DAVIES WITH THE STRATEGIC OPERATIONS GROUP

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Copyright 1984.

In the near future of 1986 Turkey has had a military coup. The military government has not done a good job of running the economy so decides to start a war with Greece to distract peoples attention. They declare that disputed waters are now Turkish. To back it up they invade and occupy some islands off the coast. The Greeks respond and now two NATO allies are at war. The Soviets exploit this by backing Greece with arms shipments and sharing intelligence. At the same time Enver Hoxha the leader of Albania is dying. The Soviets see this as an opportunity to reclaim a former satellite nation and invade. The U.S. seems in a no win situation as events spiral out of control. Enter Triad the Global Crisis Task Force. They come up with a plan to parachute a squad of Green Berets into Greece and go over the border and attack invading Soviet forces. The plan is to provoke the Soviets into violating the Greek border and driving Greece back into the NATO fold.

The second book in the series deals with the tensions between Greece and Turkey. There have been numerous incidents between the two over the territorial waters of the Aegean. Several times this almost lead to a shooting war. Even now the countries don’t get along. So this scenario was a very real possibility. Throw into this a Soviet invasion of Albania and you have a nice little crisis that could spiral out into a much broader war. The author once again weaves an exciting tale of this conflict and the Triad response to contain it the best way possible.

COUNTDOWN WWIII: OPERATION NORTH AFRICA BY W.X. DAVIES WITH THE STRATEGIC OPERATIONS GROUP

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Copyright 1984.

It is the near future of 1986. A new President Creighton Turner has created a new team to combat the growing tension with the Soviet Union. The Global Crisis Task Force is to consist of four experts in political, economic, communications and intelligence affairs. They are to formulate contingency plans and prevent the crisis from occurring and to arrest the crisis if it does occur. Reporting directly to the President they are code named Triad.

Their first assignment is a crisis in North Africa. Libya with the backing of the Soviets are fomenting trouble in the two pro-western nations of Tunisia and Morocco. In Tunisia they are backing an Islamist leader and giving material support to an armed invasion of that country. In Morocco they are providing military aid to the Polisario insurgency in the Western Sahara. Both threaten to bring down these pro-western regimes and tip the balance of power in the Mediterranean. Triad must work at turning a corrupt Soviet agent codenamed Mr. Clean because of his bald head to gain valuable intelligence. They also have to lead a group of dissidents into Libya to destroy an anti-satellite installation.

So this is the first of a series from the eighties. I remember seeing it and thinking that it sounded interesting but never actually getting it. Well thanks to the internet I was able to acquire this series and see what its all about. I found it a very intelligent and interesting read. The group Triad was mainly about defusing the situation so it didn’t spin out of control. The geopolitics at the time are portrayed accurately. The only thing that bothered me was that they had an F-16 land and take off from a carrier. Otherwise everything in the book seems accurate and believable.

W.X. Davies is a pseudonym for a well known writer. I have never found out who this mysterious well known writer is. He states that the purpose of the series is to “entertain and argue for a more sophisticated espionage capability for the U.S.” I don’t know if he succeed in the second but the first was a success. Also the Strategic Operations Group was an informal advisory council whose military, intelligence and security experience provides much of the background for the stories.

I can’t find anything on this group so I don’t know if it still exists. They did a good job of providing the politics of the countries but could use a lesson in modern jet fighters.