The Able Archers
Koehler Books Bestseller
US Air Force Captain Kevin Cattani and Soviet GRU Colonel Ivan Levchenko team up in the fall of 1983 to stop the worst nuclear crisis of the Cold War. The crisis begins with the Soviet shootdown of Korean Air Lines flight 007 and escalates when the Soviets’ most advanced missile warning satellites incorrectly detect the launch of multiple nuclear missiles from a US Air Force base in North Dakota. The crisis reaches its crescendo weeks later when NATO kicks off the largest nuclear war exercise (called Able Archer) in the history of the Cold War. Nerve-wracking episodes unfold in locations from Tokyo to Moscow to East Berlin and more. At a time of apocalyptic confrontation, the United States and the Soviet Union rely on Cattani and Levchenko to prevent a global nuclear war.
“16th Annual National Indie Excellence Award” Winner of the Military Fiction category, Finalist in the Historical Fiction category
“2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards” Finalist in the Historical Fiction category
—New York Journal of Books
—Harvard Veterans Alumni Organization
—Robert M. Gates, former Secretary of Defense
Brian J. Morra is ‘the master craftsman’. The Able Archers is brilliant.
—William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense
—Jack Carr, former Navy SEAL Sniper and #1 NYT bestselling author
A brilliant thriller full of practical lessons for policy-makers… A seamless blend of carefully researched history and a fascinating cast of both real and fictional characters…
—Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Commander USN, (Ret)
—General Bryan Doug Brown, USA (ret) 7th Commander of Special Operations Command
—Admiral Timothy J. Keating, United States Navy (retired)
—The Honorable James K. Glassman, former Undersecretary of State
Brian’s settings, scenes and characters are absolutely authentic and can send shivers up the spines of those who were there and will never forget those events of 40 years ago.
—Larry Cox, Intelligence Officer
This is a must read, and I hope that future books by this talented author will use history to help us understand our world today.
—Samuel C. Mahaney, Maj Gen, USAF (Retired), HVAO Historian
The Able Archers is a truly gripping account of one of the most dangerous episodes of the Cold War.
—Taylor Downing, historian and author
—Award-winning author Carole P. Roman
—Dr. Robbin F. Laird
—Jeffrey “Skunk” Baxter
—Samuel G. Tooma, Oceanographer and Author
Interviews & Articles
“12-Book Salute to National Military Appreciation Month” on the Novel Network blog — May 23, 2023
“The Nuclear War Scare of 1983, and the Pop Culture Soundtrack of Anxiety” written by Brian in Crimereads — March 22, 2023
“US Policy Is Prolonging the War in Ukraine” written by Brian in Air & Space Forces Magazine — March 6, 2023
“Is the US ready to address China’s threats in time to make a difference?” written by Brian in The Hill — February 15, 2023
“Does Congress Care About Defending America’s Skies?” written by Brian in Air & Space Forces Magazine — February 9, 2023
“The Near Nuclear War of 1983,” written by Brian in Air & Space Forces Magazine — December 2, 2022
“The Able Trailblazer: Interview with Brian Morra,” InMag.com — November 2022
“A Former Intelligence Officer and Sarasota Resident Recounts His Experience With the 1983 Nuclear Crisis,” Sarasota Magazine — June 8, 2022
Discussion with Professor Ryan Musto — May 13, 2022
Cold War Museum newsletter featuring Brian — Spring 2022
Q&A with Koehler Books on The Able Archers — April 12, 2022
“Reaping the Results of More than Two Decades of Western Appeasement of Vladimir Putin,” SLD Info — March 8, 2022
“How Not to End the World” with Dr. Robbin Laird — February 10, 2022
“Something Something about Brian Morra ,” Something Something Podcast — February 9, 2023
“A Day in the Life: What’s It Really Like to Be an Intelligence and National Security Expert?,” Discover Your Talent–Do What You Love — February 6, 2023
“The Almost Nuclear War You Never Knew About,” MinddogTV Your Mind’s Best Friend — November 16, 2022
Brian Morra on Deprogram with Michael Parker (TNT Radio) — November 11, 2022
“Brian Morra and his new book The Able Archers,” The Ross Kaminsky Show — April 6, 2022
“The shooting down of KAL007, the Able Archer exercise and the nuclear war scare of 1983,” Cold War Conversations — April 1, 2022
“Brink of Nuclear War: Able Archers and Lessons for Today,” The Aerospace Advantage Podcast — March 26, 2022
CBS News Podcast, “Intelligence Matters” — March 23, 2022
The Able Archers
The year 1983 was the most dangerous in human history. I realize this statement flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which is that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was the event that brought the world the closest to a nuclear Armageddon. While the Cuban crisis was exceptionally dangerous and both the United States and the Soviet Union had significant nuclear arsenals in 1962, a war in 1983 would have likely ended the human race.
There are key differences between the 1962 and 1983 cases. The first difference relates to state-to-state communications and public awareness of events. The second concerns the lethality of the nuclear arsenals each side possessed at the time of the respective crises.
In 1962, Washington and Moscow were talking to each other, both through official and unofficial channels. The world was aware of the crisis because the United States government made it public, in the form of televised presidential addresses and through American action at the United Nations Security Council. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev were in frequent communication with each other. Indeed, President Kennedy opened an informal channel with Moscow through his brother Robert F. Kennedy, the US Attorney General, when he felt the formal channel was inadequate. The American public was kept informed by its government and the news media. In addition, the American public was aware of the military preparations that took place out in the open for a possible invasion of Cuba and for defense of the homeland. The public was relatively well informed throughout the crisis and rightfully on edge.
At this late date, it’s doubtful the Americans will change their plans for Able Archer 83, including the participation of the president and the British prime minister. Still, while there is a chance of defusing the situation, I must take it. My larger concern lies within the Kremlin. The leadership’s paranoia is tuned to a fever pitch. The preparations that are no doubt underway for nuclear war will be very difficult to walk back. Just think of the momentum that built toward war across all of Europe in August of 1914. None of those leaders really wanted a major war—they didn’t even think one was possible—but once the machinery of mobilization started, they were powerless to reverse the inertia.
Captain Kevin Cattani, a US Air Force Intelligence officer, spars with the four-star admiral commanding the US Pacific Fleet.
The Pacific Fleet chief is unmoved. He tells me in a condescending tone, “Captain, do you think you understand the Russians? Do you? The Soviets cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Hell, Stalin signed an alliance with Hitler, and then fought the biggest war in the history of the world against him. And, Stalin killed how many of his own citizens? These are evil people with a failing form of government. They lie. I don’t believe anything that they say—or care what they think. Maybe they replaced officers in the Far East because they were drunks or incompetent and they couldn’t track the Pacific Fleet during our fleet exercise. Maybe they are reacting so often because they need the training. You don’t know why they are reacting the way they are, and you cannot prove anything, so it doesn’t matter what you think.”
Crowe motions for me to respond. General Flannery looks at the floor, taking an unusual interest in the pattern of the carpet.
I gather myself and say. “Admiral, with respect, the Soviets think this happened and I believe it does matter what they think, because what they think is driving them to change their operations in ways that are potentially dangerous to our reconnaissance aircrews. And, sir, you are correct—it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is what the Soviets think, and they clearly believe that there was an overflight and their entire air defense network in the Far East has been on high alert ever since, potentially endangering the lives of our reconnaissance crews, and possibly commercial airliners.” My upper body is shaking when I finish. I wonder if I’ve gone too far with the admiral.