Could The US Defend From An Invasion of the Homeland


It’s the early 1980s, and over the skies of
the American heartland, Soviet and Cuban paratroopers begin to fall from the sky. In minutes thousands of communist invaders
have gained a foothold in the very heart of America, and with World War III in full swing,
it’s up to a band of plucky teenagers to fight a guerilla war against the godless commies. If you grew up in the 80s, or just plain don’t
have a bad taste in movies, then you’re well aware of the action hit Red Dawn, a film that
portrays a Soviet invasion of the United States towards the end of the Cold War. No, we’re not talking about the remake, we
don’t speak of the remake. But film aside, could it really happen? That question was asked by Inforgraphics Show
fan Blazik (VO NOTE: PRONOUNCED BLAZE-ICK) who wanted to know if someone were to invade
America, could the US pull all its forces home and hold out against a foreign invader? Despite what fiction like Red Dawn would have
you believe, the United States was never in any danger of an invasion by the Soviet Union-
mostly because the Russian people were about as interested in invading the US as Americans
were in invading the Soviet Union. Of course that didn’t stop politicians and
military officials on both sides using the fear of an evil capitalist- or communist-
invasion from ballooning defense budgets. The saddest fact of the cold war just might
be that despite all the preparations to defend from an invasion by both sides, neither NATO
nor the Soviet bloc ever had a single war plan drawn up for an actual preemptive invasion
of the other’s territory. But another major reason why the US was never
under threat of an invasion is due to its unique place in world geography. In order for an enemy to get to America, first
it must cross two massive oceans, and this geographic fact makes the United States the
single most secure nation on earth. Even today, moving troops and equipment across
the oceans is a massive undertaking in terms of both logistics and cost, and very few nations
are even capable of attempting the feat. But let’s say that the two leading peer competitors
to the US decided to join forces and team up against the United States. With all troops returned home from overseas,
could the US defend itself against a double-sided assault against it by China and Russia? First, the two power alliance would have to
decide on where to strike. For an invasion to be successful, both nations
would have to land troops as quickly as possible, and that would require the use of a working
seaport. These ports would require good rail and road
infrastructure, and must have deep water anchorages so that large cargo ships could dock and disgorge
troops and heavy equipment. The need to take and hold major seaports is
critical, as aside from a few token forces with a small number of fire support platforms,
amphibious landings alone wouldn’t be able to deliver firepower fast enough to secure
a beachhead. In Normandy during World War II, the success
of the landings was largely down to a brilliant deception played out by the Allies which saw
the Nazis concentrate their forces at the wrong landing site, and even when the real
landings happened a hundred miles away, Nazi commanders were so fooled by Allied intelligence
that they ordered their forces to hold their positions, believing that the ‘real’ assault
was coming their way any day. This ruse, combined with some whopping tactical
blunders by Hitler, allowed the Allies to quickly build a makeshift port facility which
let Allied armor and artillery disembark. Had Hitler allowed his commanders to commit
Panzer reinforcements to the landings, Normandy would likely have ended as a complete catastrophe
for the allies. By the time he cleared reserve Panzer units
for an assault on the beachheads, Allied logistical units had already disembarked enough tanks
to repel the assault. In an invasion of the US homeland, such a
ruse would be impossible to pull off. Long range and satellite surveillance assets
would see an invasion fleet days before it made landfall, and its target would be clearly
known to the American defenders. Therefore China and Russia would have to act
quickly and decisively, taking major sea ports and holding them long enough to disembark
a sizable expeditionary force able to repel American counter-assaults. For China, the only good options for unloading
main battle tanks and mechanized artillery would be the ports in LA, Long Beach, Oakland,
Tacoma, and Seattle. The LA/Long Beach complex would be especially
attractive, as it is one of the world’s largest ports and would allow Chinese forces to disembark
very quickly. Unfortunately, these port facilities are also
very close to several American air and naval bases, making them easily defended. The Seattle and Tacoma ports however are far
more vulnerable, as only five major American bases are near these facilities. Landing in Washington though would mean Chinese
forces would have to fight south into California through easily defended and very mountainous
terrain- a tactical nightmare for any Chinese commander. Russian invaders would face an even less enviable
job. The American east coast is home to far more
numerous large port facilities, giving the Russian invasion force a greater number of
targets to pick from. Unfortunately, the American east coast is
also its most heavily defended, with several dozen major military installations spread
out from north to south. The east coast is also home to America’s largest
military shipyards, which would be so heavily protected it would be suicidal to attempt
a landing or assault against them. Russia’s best bet would be to attempt a landing
in Mobile, Alabama, or Houston, Texas. This however would mean Russian forces would
have to spend more time out at sea, and move into the Gulf of Mexico where they would be
surrounded on all sides but the south by major American air bases. For both our challengers, the tactical picture
is not looking very good, as the United States simply has no viable landing sites for a major
expeditionary force that couldn’t be easily defended. China and Russia could opt to coerce or bribe
Mexico or Canada into allowing them to land at their facilities and then launch an invasion
into the US itself. This would be by far the best strategic option
for the invasion forces, but in response to the agreement between either nation and the
Sino-Russian alliance, the United States would immediately begin a large-scale bombing campaign
against port facilities in Canada or Mexico. With every viable port being within easy reach
of American bombers, even before the invasion force crossed the ocean they would be sailing
for ports that have been turned into rubble. Assuming that the US didn’t use naval aviation,
which it definitely would, the invaders could opt for using ports in South America- well
out of the reach of most American bombers- and then simply move north to invade through
Mexico. Moving through South America’s poor road and
rail infrastructure though would be a nightmare for the invaders, allowing plenty of time
for the US to simply move blocking forces through Mexico to Panama and hold off the
invasion there. If miraculously though the alliance did manage
to land forces in Canada or Mexico, it would face a different tactical nightmare altogether. In Canada, the lack of suitable border crossings
would force the invaders to spread out over a large area, or bottleneck and be subjected
to endless attacks by American air power. In Mexico military border crossings would
be possible over a far larger area, but enemy forces would be moving through terrain that
provided absolutely no cover. American air power would once more devastate
any invaders trying to move through the flat terrain of the US/Mexico border. Geography alone provides the United States
with near invulnerability from enemy invasion, but the logistics of the world’s militaries
proves why the US simply cannot be invaded. An invasion of the American homeland would
rely on naval power to get the job done, and right off the bat, no nation on the earth-
nor any combination of nations- has the firepower and logistical support needed to carry out
such an invasion. The matter is one of historical necessity
for the world- ever since the end of the second world war, all of the world’s major powers
have had no need to project military power far from their own shores, except for the
United States. The Soviet Union was chiefly concerned with
securing its European borders, and in the case of a third world war, its most vital
strategic objectives could all be reached over land. The vitally important oil fields of the middle
east could all be taken via land routes through Afghanistan and Iran, and no navy was needed
to hold off NATO forces in Europe. The same was true for Europe’s NATO members-
while once their mighty navies ruled the waves all over the world, their concerns in the
20th century quickly became resisting a possible Soviet invasion, and for that no major naval
power was needed. In the Atlantic, the Soviets hoped to slow
the American response with the use of submarines, but ultimately knew they could never stop
the US Navy and thus never seriously tried. On the other side of the world, China struggles
to turn itself into a first world power, and other than resentment towards Japan over its
actions in World War II, China has had no real motivations to build a strong navy- at
least until now. Much like the Soviet Union and Europe’s NATO
partners though, China definitely had no real reason to build a heavy sealift capability
in order to move thousands of troops and heavy equipment across the ocean. On the other hand, the United States is both
blessed, and cursed by geography. While it is untouchable to invasion thanks
to the Atlantic and Pacific, it also means that in order to project power on the world
stage, America has always needed a strong navy. This is the reason that the US has always
had a very strong naval tradition, and why it has invested in naval and air transport
more than any other nation on earth. If US troops want to get somewhere after all,
they’re certainly not walking there. To even get forces to the US, any invading
army is going to need some serious sealift capability, and no force on earth comes even
close to the US’s 125 vessel Military Sealift Command, which operates a vast fleet of oilers,
tankers, and heavy cargo transports. Yet even this fleet is not enough according
to some analysts, and plans are being called for that include dramatically increasing the
capability of the US’s military transport fleets. China has in recent years expanded its landing
ship capabilities, with several dozen available to carry troops and heavy equipment. These ships though are not meant for global
operations, and are only designed for cross-strait invasions into Taiwan or to ferry supplies
to China’s illegal holdings in the artificial islands it built across the South China Sea. A crippling lack of support vessels such as
oilers means that China cannot physically get its landing ships across the Pacific,
though even if this problem were to be solved, the nation cannot hope to make a contested
landing on foreign soil. Again, this is because of China’s lack of
need for a global expeditionary military force. China’s chief military concerns lie with a
military invasion and forced repatriation of Taiwan, and thus it has not invested money
into developing a true blue-water navy. Russia has even less naval transport capability
and support vessels, which again is a result of its military objectives being close to
home. To compound the two nation’s sea lift problems,
both nations have no dedicated amphibious assault ships capable of providing close air
support and air superiority to landing forces on a contested beach. By comparison, the US operates 9 of these
specialized vessels, and they will soon be equipped with the F-35 stealth fighter. Projecting air power is in fact the biggest
weakness for any nation hoping to invade the US, and China and Russia combined only operate
two active-duty aircraft carriers of extremely limited capabilities. Russia’s infamous Admiral Kuznetsov very publicly
had to be towed back to a friendly port after experiencing severe mechanical problems. Without adequate air power, neither nation
could expect to secure a foothold on the US mainland. America’s air forces are twice as large as
both nations combined, and its naval aviation alone is as large as Russia’s total air power. If by some miracle either nation could get
troops across the ocean to US shores, the lack of airpower would reduce the attempted
landings to a suicide mission. In the end not only could the US protect from
an invasion of the homeland, but it is currently and for the foreseeable future, completely
invulnerable to military invasion. Luckily, the US, China, and Russia have no
desire to fight each other, and there exists no real reason to. Now that you’ve made it to the end of the
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