Welcome to the Layer Cake

This is how NATO planned to hold back the Soviet horde circa 1980s. Dubbed the “Layer Cake” defense, it relied upon full NATO commitment with the Americans doing some heavy lifting in the Central Army Group which expected to see the heaviest Warsaw Pact thrusts. You’ll also notice the lack of a French commitment.


48 Responses to “Welcome to the Layer Cake”

  1. Scott says:

    If memory serves the French had dropped out of NATO at this point.

  2. Gerard says:

    The French commitment to NATO was a single soldier with a white flag

  3. James says:


  4. Aaron says:

    Back when the Belgians could field more than a Brigade…

  5. dudeabides says:

    The French also had their nukes targeted for W.Germany, since they assumed by the time the call came to launch, the Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces would have been well passed the recognized border. Their strategy was to try and protect as much of the Alsace and Ruhr as possible. Pretty far out there considering what the effects of nuclear fall out would bring to the entire continent, much less those regions.

    • Gerard says:

      I didnt know that disturbing fact

      • jack says:

        Not entirely true. The intent was to deny the Warsow pact any material gain in West Germany should they succeed invading it.
        The whole french strategy, right or wrong, was not to win a nuclear conflict but to render any opfor success moot, therefore removing any value to a large scale invasion

        • dudeabides says:

          The French strategy was to build a nuclear firewall that the Soviets/Warsaw forces would not wish to cross into France for. That was the end state the French were looking to achieve.

    • A.S. says:

      Well… Given that fall out is dominated by wind (it takes multi megaton weapons to get any fall out up wind of a detonation) and that the prevailing winds are westerly, an attack by the French wouldn’t necessarily have “continent” scale effects.

      No, in an exhange like that its the response you’d have to be worried about.

      Try it for yourself at

      • dudeabides says:

        Oh, sort of like how Chernobyl didn’t poison and affect millions of Western Europeans from around the entire continent, including the exact areas the French had their nukes pointed?

  6. Erick says:

    Strange, I remember where we were on that map and which direction we were going.

    • Larry says:

      My eyes went right to where I was supposed to go as well. I wonder if that pretty little town is still as nice as I remember it…. oops, OPSEC.

  7. Jack Daniels says:

    At that point, France had withdrawn because its president of the time – WWII Free French Forces leader Charles de Gaulle, opposed the US dominance over the Alliance and wanted a bigger role.

    After unsuccessful negotiations, they withdrew their participation in the integrated forces (but remained members) and established their own national defense, including stationing forces in West Germany.

    Eric, it’d be cool to add that tidbit of info considering the current phrasing (as evidenced by some other comments…) perpetuates the (false) myth of French cowardice, while to the contrary establishing their own defense was perhaps selfish and ill-advised, but certainly not cowardly.

    • Dev says:

      I don’t think the article implied any cowardice on the French side of things.

      It’ll be nice though if they spent the NATO-prescribed amount on their defence and pulled their weight considering the new threats NATO are facing in the 21st century.

      • Jack Daniels says:

        I don’t think that’s what Eric intended either, but judging by some comments, that’s what some seem to understand.

        • SSD says:

          No, this wasn’t a ‘bash France’ post. My comment was really more of a footnote since the relationship with France was complicated. As part of the post WWII tripartite agreement they occupied part of West Germany and if occasionally run into French National Servicemen while stationed in West Germany at the closure of the Cold War but they had no comment to NATO. They were our allies, sort of.

          • straps says:

            I remember training with the French while stationed in Germany during the Reagan era. Solid folk, good times.

            My biggest take-away from that was how truly challenging it was at every level of leadership to have conscripts among a professional force.

    • Thulsa Doom says:

      de Gaulle was still a jingoistic ass who couldn’t reconcile the fact that in less than 70 years the United States had twice rescued the French, forcibly liberated their country, and financed their failed colonial adventures in Indochina. The collapse of the Fourth Republic, Algeria, and the pee-pee smack from Eisenhower over the Suez operation all required an external boogeyman.

  8. john smith says:

    As a kid- my Dad was in the Air Force- we lived in Germany just outside the Fulda Gap. I recall thinking that our little base’s A-10’s and OV 10’s were cool. Only later, as an adult, did I realize why they were there.

  9. Mac says:

    Why are all the streets leading into Paris lined with trees?

    The Germans like to walk in the shade….


  10. Dev says:

    Is there a good map on what’s on the other side? An ORBAT of the OPFOR maybe?

    It’ll be interesting to see what they were up against.

  11. FWIW US forces defending the Fulda Gap expected 70-80% casualties in the first two weeks. That would have easily exceeded the last 14 years of casualties. We weren’t happy about it but expected it.

    It’s often forgotten because of the very lopsided actual casualty count that Desert Storm casualty estimate over a ten day period was up to 100k casualties.

    I think it speaks of a different mindset on the costs of war by the government and warfighters.

  12. Jeff S says:

    Where’s the map for the dependents driving to the English Channel? LOL I love hearing my mom’s stories from when we were stationed in SW Germany in the late 70s/early 80s. Dad is supposed to jump in the airplane and go take pictures… probably with no base to return to and we’re supposed to drive to England. Don’t forget runs at the Commissary on sugar and flour too!

  13. Kevin Rooney says:

    After serving 4 years in the Corps, I joined the US Army hoping to get Jump School, Ranger School etc. Anyway, ended up in Germany as a Cav Scout 85-86, the Deutsch Mark conversion was terrific, better yet, we patrolled the Czech Border. I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to do foot/vehicle patrols in such a beautiful part of Europe. Calling in SPOT reports on HIND24 activity etc. We were told that our life expectancy, if the Ruskies attacked was 15 mins. max.

  14. Kevin Rooney says:

    I totally understand everyones supposed disdain for the french in the 20th Century. Let’s not forget the Marquis De Lafayette. If it were not for the French we would not have the USA!!!

    • SSD says:

      Absolutely. There is a certain level of irony in that the French monarch helped us gain our independence and then he was deposed in a revolution not long after.

      • France definitely deserves credit for assisting us but their aide wasn’t because of any great love for our principles. France aided us because of a long and still ongoing competition with Britain which back then, was almost a blood feud.

        France didn’t help us because they wanted us to be free but because it would hurt the British their mortal enemies. Those that place the French on too tall a pedestal don’t seem to understand the power politics of that day.

    • This. I’ve often wondered why we, as a country, are so enamored with all things British, especially their monarchy? Is it the common language? Has everyone forgotten that we fought a revolutionary war against this same monarchy? The vast majority of Americans have also forgotten the fact that the French monarchy helped us out immensely during the same revolutionary war. Not that Louis XVI motives were truly altruistic . . .

      • Kevin Rooney says:

        I believe one of the ket factors that sparked the French Revolution was the debt incurred from assisting the USA in our Revolution. Point taken Buckaroomedic, the disparity of the classes didn’t help Louis either.

      • SSD says:

        The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

      • We have much more in common with the British than just a common language. The Magna Carta, British justice system/traditions, first common culture, military tradition, a tradition of rebellion and many of the philosophers the founding fathers relied upon were Brits (Hobbes, Harrington, Locke). etc.

      • fact275 says:

        Will has it right. Our Founding Fathers saw themselves as British. After the war, transatlantic trade was back to normal. The USA was soon in an undeclared naval war with France. The American Revolution was controversial in Britain with many MPs wearing American blue uniform coats as a symbol of protest. Pitt would not let his son serve. Simon Schama best explained it in A History of Britain by saying the USA went on to develop British ideas born in the Magna Carta and English Civil War while Britain got sidetracked by empire in India.

        The USA will always have more common bloodline with Britain than France.

    • Jeff S says:

      The French Monarchy helped a fledgling United States against the Brits. I’m not sure how much the monarchy of the late 18th Century has to do with today’s Fifth Republic though…

      • Kevin Rooney says:

        A fellow went to the library and asked the librarian where he could see a copy of the French Constitution. The librarian told the fellow that periodicals were kept on the first floor.

  15. Andrew says:

    Interesting post. Good movie reference, as well.