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Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with a representative government located in western Asia. It is bordered to the north by the former nation of Syria; the former nation of Iraq to the northeast; Saudi Arabia to the east and south; and Israel & Palestine to the west. A mostly landlocked nation, its only coastline, sixteen miles in length, abuts the Gulf of Aqaba in the country’s extreme southwest. The country’s geography includes the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, which it shares with Israel.
The region which compromises modern day Jordan was originally part of the Ottoman Empire, known as the Emirate of Transjordan. Following the conclusion of World War I, the empire was partitioned by the League of Nations, who created the British Mandate of Palestine, consisting of the modern nations of Israel and Jordan and the West Bank region. In 1922, Britain separated the region east of the Jordan River into Transjordan, granting it limited independence under the control of Abdullah I bin al-Hussein. The nation gained full independence in 1946 as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan and Hussein was proclaimed by the legislature as King Abdullah I. After Abdullah was assassinated in 1951, he was succeeded first by his son Talal and then in 1952 by his grandson Hussein bin Talal, who was king on Doomsday. Under the constitution, King Hussein is supreme commander of of the entire military and as such exercises close control. Jordan has been involved in two major wars with Israel, the first in 1948 during which it captured the West Bank, and the second in 1973, during which it lost the same region along with East Jerusalem. The nation was wracked by violence in 1970, when King Hussein reasserted his control over the country when he expelled Palestinian militant groups. Although a pro-western country, it maintained a good relationship with Iraq.
Shortly before 4:00 AM local time, Prime Minister Mudar Seyyid Muhammad Badran was startled to receive a phone call from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir warning him of the Soviet nuclear launches and making him aware Israel was in the process of scrambling its military to address the situation. At the time, since King Hussein I was on a trip to Asia and unavailable, Badran contacted the Prince Vice-regent acting in his absence, Crown Prince Hassan, Hussein’s brother, and the commander in chief of the military, Field Marshal General of the Army Ash Sharif Zaid ibn Shakir. After a brief discussion, the consensus was to take the communiqué at face value and order a full alert of the military. The order was given to disperse the military and scramble as many warplanes as they could to begin patrolling the skies. Radar stations were also alerted and missile defense systems were activated. Additionally, an immediate order was given to evacuate members of the royal family in residence at the palace compound to a safe location and secure key members of the government. The country’s civil defense system was activated. By 4:14 AM, a helicopter lifted off from the royal compound with Hassan and other members of the royal family, heading out of the city.
At approximately 4:28 AM, a Soviet SS-19 ICBM dropped out of the atmosphere and launched six 550-kiloton warheads. Despite valiant attempts by the Jordanian Air Force, they were only able to shoot down one warhead. The targets were:
- The capital of Amman – destroyed by airburst.
- The main Jordanian Army bases in Amman and Az Zarqa – the base in Amman was destroyed, but the one in Az Zarqa was saved when the warhead was shot down
- The main bases of the Jordanian Air Force
- King Abdullah Air Base at Marka, which housed the headquarters of the air force and the Royal Jordanian Academy – destroyed by airburst
- King Hussein Air Base at Al Mafraq – destroyed by airburst
- Prince Hassan Air Base east of Amman at Pumping Station H-5 – destroyed by airburst
The weeks immediately following Doomsday were extremely chaotic. Since the strikes came in the early morning hours many people awoke to find communications down and electricity out. Remote areas of the country had no idea of what had taken place other than the limited information the military could share. In the northwestern region of Jordan, it was evident something terrible had occurred. The hundreds of fires ignited by the explosions over Amman, Marka, and Al Mafraq, had merged into raging firestorms with the help of winds blowing west. Thick clouds of smoke from the fires could be observed over fifty miles away. Additionally, badly injured survivors began to flood nearby areas which had escaped direct hits, overwhelming medical facilities. The one good note, if any could be said, was that the wind was blowing primarily west most of the day of the attacks and with the exception of areas adjacent to the strikes, a large portion of the fallout was carried towards sparsely populated areas.
As the government of Jordan attempted to restore order and ascertain the full extent of the destruction, much of this leadership would focus around the Crown Prince Hassan. The helicopter bearing members of the royal family had been successful in escaping Amman, but crash landed due to the effects of EMP when the bombs exploded over the capital. After securing ground transportation, they were moved to Madaba where Hassan established a temporary capital. Writing out hasty orders, he dispatched soldiers by motor vehicle to contact military installations and regional capitals to determine their status; make them aware of what happened; and remain calm and alert. He ordered citizens not in harm’s way to stay indoors to avoid fallout in areas near the strikes and advised the military and civil defense operations to concentrate on evacuating survivors from the affected areas and only fight the fires as they affected relief efforts. Many members of the government had perished, but a number had escaped, including the Prime Minister Badran and General Shakir. Over the next days these survivors would make their way to Madaba to meet with Hassan and decide what next to do. With some of the static in the air easing up, communication was slowly restored by radio with remote areas.
On Doomsday, the population of Jordan had stood at 2.4 million people along with over 826,000 refugees. Amman was the largest city in the nation with over 1.3 million people living in or nearby, which constituted over 30% of the overall population. Since two of the five warheads exploded over the city, a catastrophic loss of life took place. Additionally, when Marka, which sits on the edge of Amman was struck, the nearby Marka Refugee Camp, was also destroyed. It was later estimated that nearly 50% of the county’s overall population, just over one million people, perished on Doomsday or within a week due to injuries or exposure to radioactive fallout. By the end of 1983, the overall population stood at roughly l.2 million.
Return of the King
On Doomsday, King Hussein, his wife Queen Noor, his son Abdullah, and some twenty-five advisors were on an economic tour of Asia. The party had arrived in Bangkok on September 25 and had planned to stay for three days. It was just after 8:00 AM, when word started to reach Thailand of the unfolding global tragedy. News reports were sketchy but everything indicated a nuclear war had erupted and contact could not be made with many areas. Over the next several days, the royal party stayed in the Jordanian Embassy trying to contact Jordan and gather as much information as they could. By September 28, the King decided he could not wait any longer and must return home. Dissuaded from using his plane because of the possible side effects of the lingering EMP, steps were taken, with the assistance of the Thai government, to charter a boat, load it with supplies, garrison it accordingly, and set–off for Jordan.
On October 2, 1983, the ship, carrying the royal party, guards and staff from the embassy, and several hired security personnel left Thailand in the company of a Thai Navy patrol craft which stayed with them for several days. The voyage would last over two weeks, with stops in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. They would survive two storms and in one particularly scary moment, successfully fight off a hostile ship which tried to stop and board them. By October 17, they would enter the Red Sea and encounter the Saudi Navy who would accompany them on the final leg of their journey, radioing ahead of the King’s arrival. On October 20, the boat docked in Elat, Jordan, greeted by thousands of Jordanians, including Prince Hassan and Prime Minister Badran. Feared lost or dead, King Hussein’s arrival seemed like a miracle and quickly spread across Jordan. For the first time since Doomsday, Jordanians felt they had hope for the future.
To be continued...