The Nucliad - A 1983 Nuclear Apocalypse timeline

Heirs of the Empire
Heirs of the Empire

It is a debate among historians on when the United States fell. The most common date given is September 25th, 1983, when the first nukes hit the U.S. That gives the U.S a lifespan of 207 years, 2 months, and 21 days.

However, others say it ended on April 21st with the Grand Rapids coup, as that's when there stopped being a universally recognized Federal Government. Others go for an in between-date like October 16th. Either way, the point is that the Federal Government didn’t collapse immediately, it slowly disintegrated. There was a few months between September 1983 and the start of the American Warlord Period.

Of course, there are countries still claiming to be the rightful U.S government, even if they still make the distinction on when “Old America” ended (usually September 25th). These successor states differ on how exactly legitimate their claim to being the American government is. Some warlords have used the banner of American reunification as justifications for conquest while in other cases new federal governments have formed from alliances between surviving state governments. Legally, it’s not that difficult to create a new federal government claimant. A state governor can appoint the Senators for their state, and those Senators can elect a President Pro Tempore amongst themselves who is then in the line of succession.

Of course, none of these successor states are fully-recognized. Many surviving state governments believe that there is no rightful successor to the federal government. This is essentially declaring independence, although officially they recognize themselves as a state government still legally part of the U.S. The American idea is still very strong.

Having that many nations all calling themselves the United States of America causes some confusion. So other than the first two who are named after their leaders, the successor states unofficially are called the United States of America, except United is replaced by whatever region they control. For example, the successor state with its capital in Hilo that controls regions around the Pacific is commonly called the Pacific States of America.
 
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Heirs - The Watt Administration
The Watt Administration
Capital - Odessa

For how briefly it lasted, the Watt administration impacted quite a lot and set massive legal precedents for future leaders in America. As the pre-war Secretary of the Interior, he was the only survivor in the presidential line of succession. Acting President James Watt had chosen Odessa, Texas as a spot to relocate for several reasons. Texas had a large agricultural base, and was coastal. It also had a separate electric grid making it easier to restore electricity in the future. Not that Odessa would survive long enough for that to happen, though.

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Odessa, Texas, the capital of the US for 16 days.

One of Watt’s first actions was to declare a state of emergency and that Congress and the Supreme Court was dissolved temporarily in the meantime. It was an unprecedented action; essentially removing checks and balances on the President’s power, but it was an unprecedented time. There were minor grumblings, but the few congress members who survived were scattered across the country so it wasn’t feasible. Either way, it was what allowed Watt to create the ANSAR Plan

The ANSAR or American Nuclear Survival and Recovery Plan was a set of guidelines for surviving state and local governments. Watt couldn’t effectively control the entire country, but he did have universal recognition, so he could create a general plan for surviving governments to follow. Part of the ANSAR Plan was creating the Nuclear Exclusion Zones - A 25 Mile circle following the blast radius of a nuclear weapon. Of course, this wasn’t entirely accurate. Different types of missiles and local geography affect how large the blast radius was, not to mention it didn’t consider radiation. But there wasn’t time for those details.

The ANSAR plan also advised surviving state governments about the dangers of secondary strikes - attacks from surviving Soviet submarines. It recommended having at least one person in the line of succession stay away from the capital in case of an attack. However, this ended up causing hostility between governments and the residents of the small cities they relocated to. Some felt that a state government relocating to their city was going to make it a target and doom them. Largely though - with the exception of the Federal Government that broadcasted their location to a large area - the Soviet submarines didn’t know where new state governments were headquartered, they were just guessing.

The rest of the ANSAR plan were some very optimistic guidelines for feeding refugee populations. The plan didn’t take the Twilight into account much, as the concept was only just starting to be considered by the scientific community before the war. Instead, it focused more on dealing with radiation and political instability. It incorporated elements from old FEMA plans, but they were built around having time to prepare before a nuclear attack, so weren't that applicable.

His other main actions were coordinating the war against the Soviets with what little American military assets remained. Watt was unsuccessful at convincing Australia and New Zealand to change their neutrality policy and rejected an offer from a Soviet military commander for a ceasefire due to said commander not having the authority to agree to one. His most notable military action was declaring war on Cuba when the Cuban navy attacked American ships.

But back to secondary strikes, Watt was very much aware he was about to be on the receiving end of one. While broadcasting his actions across the country he knew he would alert surviving Soviet submarines as well. Watt’s plan was to relocate the Federal Government somewhere else in Texas and shift every few weeks. This way, he believed, he could avoid secondary strikes while also strengthening the power of the Federal Government by travelling to several states.

Could Watt’s plan have worked? There were several issues with it, namely that secondary strikes would likely follow Watt’s relocations. Considering what happened in Grand Rapids, his plan might’ve been seen as a man running around trying to save himself but leaving a path of destruction behind him. The opposite of the unity he hoped. And of course, relocating a government constantly is a difficult task, and that’s why his plan remains theoretical.

Watt wanted to leave Odessa but he faced several delays. Of course, Watt had created a plan in case he died, appointing several cabinet members and flying some of them away in case Odessa was struck. Largely though this was a way of exiling the advisors he didn’t like. Watt was an… arrogant person. Even in his time as Secretary of the Interior he made several controversial comments. A notable one being when he compared the environmental movement (who criticized his actions) to the Nazis. He didn’t take kindly to criticism of his actions and generally wasn’t that smart of a leader. By appointing his critics to cabinet positions and sending them away, it essentially meant he didn’t have to deal with them anymore. If Watt was killed, they would gain power, but he didn’t plan on staying in Odessa much longer. However he faced significant delays in doing so. 16 days after first arriving in Odessa, a secondary strike from a surviving Soviet submarine hit the city and killed him. [1]

[1] Funnily enough, the Nuclear war made his career last exactly a week longer. OTL he resigned on October 9 due to controversial comments.
 
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Heirs - The Forgotten Ones
The Forgotten Ones

Three of Watt’s appointed cabinet members had been flown outside of Odessa when it was destroyed. The new Secretary of State was in Dodge City, Kansas, the new Secretary of the Treasury was in Eugene, Oregon, and the new Secretary of Defense was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On October 27th, Dodge City was hit by a secondary strike, and 3 days after Eugene was also hit. This left Secretary of Defense Robert Taylor in Grand Rapids as the highest surviving person in the line of Succession. Because of them not really doing much, the Dodge City and Eugene governments are usually ignored.

The one thing to note is that the brief government of Dodge City appointed Robert Shoemaker as Secretary of Transportation and sent him out of the city in case of a secondary strike. As the Secretary of Defense was higher on the line of succession Shoemaker made no claim to the presidency at the moment, but he would later become the founder of the Plains States of America [1]
 
Heirs - The Taylor (and Rowden) Administration
The Taylor (and Rowden) Administration

Robert Taylor was the last universally recognized Acting President of the United States.

Before the war, he was Deputy Commander of the United States Central Command, headquartered at McDill Airforce Base in Florida. When the bombs fell the personnel there attempted to evacuate, but most of them including the Commander didn’t make it out in time, making Taylor the new commander. Like other high-ranking surviving generals he made his way to Odessa to support the remnants of the Federal Government. However, Taylor was very critical of Watt, so Watt appointed him Secretary of Defense and sent him away as he did two other times.

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Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids wasn't the best choice for a remnant government, as the Eastern U.S was struck the worst, but Watt never intended for Taylor to ever gain power. After hearing news of the destruction of the other secretaries, he declared himself Acting President and was recognized by the surviving authorities.

Taylor's government in Grand Rapids failed largely because of infighting with Michigan's state government, which had also reformed itself in Grand Rapids. After seeing what happened in Eugene and Dodge City the population of the city was terrified of being killed by a secondary strike and were hostile to Taylor.

Also, Michigan, like many states, had been facing a refugee crisis. Survivors from suburban Detroit and Chicago fled into the surviving parts of the state and it was uncertain if the state could even support that many people. Poor coordination between the state and federal government prevented an actual response to the crisis. The emergency powers Watt had first declared were ambiguous and there was confusion on what powers the federal and state government had. County governments were confused by being given different orders from two different governments, unsure of what to follow. So through the Winter of 1983-1984, most of the counties further from Grand Rapids became de-facto independent.

This factor is a large part of why the Grand Rapids government collapsed. With help from more rural agricultural regions, the city might've been able to feed itself and some of the refugees. Attempts for a compromise failed due to both sides' worries. The State government was worried about a secondary strike, and Taylor was worried about being kicked out of the city. Taylor generally had the support of surviving National Guard units and the state government generally had the support of the refugees and the population of Grand Rapids.

As the spring months began the weather refused to get warmer. Farmers had to delay planting due to the cold and food scarcity was starting to become an issue. And then, on April 8th, Taylor was assassinated by a member of a recently formed doomsday cult called the Church of Eternal Prosperity.

Taylor's Vice President, a previously unknown member of the Michigan National Guard named Arnold Rowden was left as acting president. [1]. Rowden blamed the state government for the assassination and with emergency powers dissolved it, but they ignored his decree. On April 21st the acting governor and surviving legislators met to decide on how to respond to Rowden's actions. Rowden sent troops to break up the meeting.

The Grand Rapids coup, as it became known as, was a total mess. Rowden was just trying to prevent the legislature from possibly declaring his presidency illegitimate and hoped for some type of compromise after he had the upper hand. However, the state government thought that Rowden was going to arrest or even kill them in the name of keeping order.

They barricaded themselves in the building and Rowden's troops broke in anyway. What followed was a confusing mess that resulted in the death of the acting governor and three legislators. The population of Grand Rapids rioted, surviving legislators fled to Muskegon and declared Rowden illegitimate, and a rebellion of hungry refugees took control of South Haven.

As the Nuclear Twilight reached its apex, the final remnant of the United States government was in complete chaos. Rowden was horrified by what had happened and resigned the next day, but it was too late to undo the damage he had done. Especially because a week later on the 28th a secondary strike destroyed Grand Rapids. Even by the furthest definitions, the original United States of America was dead.

Of course, there were still people that had a claim for acting president. There were remnants of the brief Dodge City and Eugene governments, surviving members of Congress, and surviving lower-ranking officials of the legislative branch. However, after what happened in Grand Rapids they laid low for a bit to avoid secondary strikes. The result of this was several different people claiming to be acting president, the country no longer had one government.

This had consequences not just for Michigan but for the entire country. While Taylor and Rowden mostly dealt with local affairs they also legitimized other state governments. The gubernatorial lines of succession were generally much shorter, so in several cases, there was no one left to be Acting Governor. In those cases, new governments were declared national guard units, local governments, or others with dubious legality. Taylor and Rowden helped legitimize them by recognizing them and dealing with issues where there were competing state governments. Now there was no one left to do that.

More symbolically, the destruction of the Grand Rapids government represented the end of pre-war America and its institutions. It popularized the idea that the old way of running things was doomed to fail in the post-war world and that the state remnants were weak. New ideologies grew that claimed to be able to solve the issues of this new world: Rationalism, Neo-McCarthyism, Millenarianism, Fascism, Atomism [2]. As state governments weakened because of famine, opportunistic leaders filled the power vacuum. The American warlord period had begun.

[1] A fancy way of saying I couldn't find which high-ranking member of the Michigan National Guard would survive the nukes so I'm just making up a person.

[2] Okay not all of those are new but you get what I mean.
 
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This chapter was quite hard to write I gotta say. I knew a fully recognized federal government was going to collapse but not how exactly, I ended up rewriting it several times.
But now that's done we can get to the fun part, the warlord period.
 
So it's like 1983: Doomsday but up to worse start.

With most of the government officials dead, Reagan having failed to escape from New York City on time while Caspar Weinberger was in China. What happened to the other 25 world leaders? Were they also whisked away to safety?

I think there are other cabinet members like Elizabeth Dole may have survived. She's the President of the United States in Protect & Survive.
 
So it's like 1983: Doomsday but up to worse start.

With most of the government officials dead, Reagan having failed to escape from New York City on time while Caspar Weinberger was in China. What happened to the other 25 world leaders? Were they also whisked away to safety?

I think there are other cabinet members like Elizabeth Dole may have survived. She's the President of the United States in Protect & Survive.
1983 Doomsday I think also had fewer nukes used. But the aftermath will also differ from 1983 quite a bit.

As for other leaders, Thatcher was in Ottawa when the nukes fell and evacuated fast enough. I haven't looked into the details for all of them but generally Europe is a lot worse off and has less surviving leadership.

Elizabeth Dole was one of those cases where I couldn't find any information and just gave up and said they'd probably be dead.
 
1983 Doomsday I think also had fewer nukes used. But the aftermath will also differ from 1983 quite a bit.

As for other leaders, Thatcher was in Ottawa when the nukes fell and evacuated fast enough. I haven't looked into the details for all of them but generally Europe is a lot worse off and has less surviving leadership.

Elizabeth Dole was one of those cases where I couldn't find any information and just gave up and said they'd probably be dead.
Oh that's what makes this TL different. It also shows COG plans are useless because that assumes all cabinet members are in D.C. to be whisked away but as it shows, they are in different places which makes COG difficult.

Thatcher in 1983: Doomsday survived and became an emergency governor in one of the Canadian provinces.

Yes, you are right about Dole possibly dying in D.C.
 
I'm still working on this timeline, the next update will cover the factions in California, but its taking a bit.

In the meantime I got distracted and started an ISOT timeline, and I've also been working on a map for a west coast in 1994.
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"why is this faction like this" I'll get to it.

Eventually.

(also a reminder the "region states of america" names are unofficial, they call themselves the USA)
 
Western America in 1994
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10 years and 3 months after the war, the former Western United States remains shattered and divided.

In the the dryer areas and deserts in the south, authority collapsed in most places under pressure from refugees, famine and infighting. Warlords and new cults emerged from the mess. A few agricultural regions managed to survive the worst of the 1st Great Crisis and are now filling in the power vacuum in the region.

The North had a higher survival rate from the Twilight thanks to a smaller population and better geography, yet poor leadership led to autocrats and radicals seizing control of many regions. The few democracies that remain are low in population and struggle to exert control of their sparsely populated regions.

The region is slowly recovering however. It seems unlikely that America might ever fully reunify, but the more stable factions are consolidating and expanding as others collapse. Foreign powers increasingly influence the region, for economic reasons and for enforcing the Santiago Accords.

Now, let's look into the factions in the region.
 
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What is the largest surviving community in the former western United States?
The largest city in the West is definitely Bakersfield (~100k), second largest is Corvallis which took in a lot of refugees, it's around 60k.
Bakersfield isn't the largest city in all of America though, I think that's either Lafayette (LA) or Green Bay (WI)
 
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10 years and 3 months after the war, the former Western United States remains shattered and divided.

In the the dryer areas and deserts in the south, authority collapsed in most places under pressure from refugees, famine and infighting. Warlords and new cults emerged from the mess. A few agricultural regions managed to survive the worst of the 1st Great Crisis and are now filling in the power vacuum in the region.

The North had a higher survival rate from the Twilight thanks to a smaller population and better geography, yet poor leadership led to autocrats and radicals seizing control of many regions. The few democracies that remain are low in population and struggle to exert control of their sparsely populated regions.

The region is slowly recovering however. It seems unlikely that America might ever fully reunify, but the more stable factions are consolidating and expanding as others collapse. Foreign powers increasingly influence the region, for economic reasons and for enforcing the Santiago Accords.

Now, let's look into the factions in the region.
Yup, I am dead ITTL. No doubt about it.
 
I’m definitely looking forward to reading more about these various factions. Especially the various military remnants.

And I see that the Church Universal and Triumphant is a lot less successful without quasi-demonic/eldritch forces at their beck and call.

  1. Why would anyone call a statelet “Los Pollos Hermanos”?
  2. Why are some nations labelled with people’s names like “Mary Vegara” or “John Johnson?”?
All in all, this is already shaping up to be very interesting!
 
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