triangular patches peculiar to the Russian marines, and at any desired
angle, shape, or position on the head, a bit of unit nonconformity
surprising for an otherwise superbly disciplined force.
The morale of the men was good, and Yevtushenko was pleased at that. In
a civil war–or a mutiny–it was never possible to know ahead of time
exactly how the troops would react. Often they had friends, even family,
among the troops on the other side.
Fortunately, in this case, at least, the enemy forces were composed
mostly of Spetsnaz, and there was little love lost between the Russian
special forces and the marines. Spetsnaz–the name was a contraction of
the Russian Spetsialnoye Nazranie, “Special Designation Forces,” and
they technically belonged to military intelligence, the infamous GRU.
Naval Spetsnaz units worked closely with the naval infantry, providing
frogman and reconnaissance forces, but Boychenko’s Bodyguard, as some of
the men jokingly called the 4th Black Sea Fleet Spetsnaz Brigade, were
army, participants in the sharp rivalry between naval and army units
throughout the Russian military. Yevtushenko had explained the situation
carefully to his men–itself something rare among Russian military
commanders in any service–telling them that Boychenko’s people wanted
to abandon the Crimea to the Ukrainians.
Perhaps a quarter of Yevtushenko’s men were native to the Crimea, and
many others had wives or sweethearts here. His own wife and
twelve-year-old son lived in base housing at Glazivska, just a few
kilometers north of Kerch. He and his people were not simply going to
abandon their homes and loved ones to the Ukrainian genocides.
And if protecting those homes required in some left-handed fashion that
they fight fellow Russians, so be it. He’d explained that by
stopping–or at least punishing–the mass defection of Boychenko’s men,
Krasilnikov would be made to understand the larger issues at stake here,
perhaps even be induced to send more men to the Crimea’s defense.
And as for the rumors that U.S. Marines were helping Boychenko’s troops,
so much the better. The Morskaya Pekhota would have them for breakfast.
.. then turn and crush the Ukrainians if and when they dared set foot on
Crimean soil. It was unfortunate only that Boychenko himself, at last
report, had escaped to refuge with the American fleet, coward and
deserter that he was.
Scouts had already reported on the rebel position, occupying a low ridge
not far from the Arsincevo refinery and storage facility south of Kerch.
American fleet units were reported approaching from the south.
Yevtushenko’s unit–a reinforced battalion–was not enough to block a
major amphibious assault, but they could certainly spoil the enemy’s
plans to cross the straits at that point.
Thunder boomed overhead, and he looked up. Mig-29s, a flight of six of
them, howled overhead, their bellies bristling with missiles.
He was eager for this coming clash. Boychenko’s force did not stand a
Saturday, 7 November 0830 hours (Zulu +3)
Arsincevo Crimea Military District By 0830 hours, the U.S. Marines were
firmly ashore, moving onto and across the beach by a variety of means.
Dozens of LVTP-7 amtracks, each carrying twenty men, churned through
light surf at nine knots toward the beach. As their tracks hit sand,
they lurched up out of the water like prehistoric beasts rising from the
sea, grinding inland in a meticulously planned double envelopment that
secured both the undefended beachhead and the refinery complex at
Arsincevo. A public beach south of Kerch was designated Red Beach.
Moments after dawn, LCACS–Landing Craft Air Cushion–howled across the
surf in billowing curtains of spray, then drifted across the beach shelf
over self-generated hurricanes of windblown sand. As each hovercraft
settled down onto collapsing rubber skirts, bow and stern ramps dropped
to disgorge twenty-four troops or as many as four vehicles. The first
amtracks growled ashore at 0750 hours, just twenty minutes after
Overhead, Marine helos clattered through the air, racing inland to touch
down and disgorge Marine strike teams at key points around the tank farm
and the naval base. Marine Harrier jets and Cobra gunships joined with
the F/A-18 Hornets off the Jefferson to hit the Kerch airfield and
various military facilities all over the eastern end of the peninsula.
Others were precision-blasted by cruise missiles launched from the