The War in 2020

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The War in 2020
Author Ralph Peters
Country United States
Language English
Genre War, Adventure novel
Publisher Pocket Books
Publication date
February 1991
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 434 pp (Hardback)
ISBN ISBN 0-671-67670-9 (Hardback)
ISBN 0-671-75172-7 (Paperback)
OCLC 22347519
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 20
LC Class PS3566.E7559 W37 1991

The War in 2020 is a 1991 military-adventure novel written by Ralph Peters.

Plot summary[edit]

The War in 2020 takes place in a future dystopia dominated by an alliance of Japan, South Africa and militant Islamic states. The novel describes the attempts by the United States to defend the remnants of the (still existing) Soviet Union against attacks by the Japanese alliance.

The novel begins in the year 2005, when the South African Defence Force (equipped and trained by Japan) seizes mineral-rich areas of the Shaba Province in Zaire. The United States sends the XVIII Airborne Corps along with associated air and naval assets to repel the aggression. The American expeditionary force is defeated due to a combination of technological inferiority (the South Africans' Japanese equipment has such innovations as onboard battle lasers), lax security (a squadron of USAF B-2 Spirit bombers is destroyed on the ground by South Africans and local guerrilla) and poor intelligence. The American collapse is so swift that the American President is only able to force a cease-fire and South African withdrawal by carrying out a nuclear strike on Pretoria. The political cost paid by the United States for these events, however, is very high. An African epidemic spreads home with the returning soldiers, while abroad, an economic and political conflict with Japan reduce American power and influence. A newspaper summarizes the results of the war with a headline that reads: "THE END OF THE AMERICAN CENTURY".

The novel's protagonist, George Taylor, is an air cavalry captain commanding an Apache gunship squadron that is attacked and destroyed on the first day of the South African offensive. Through a combination of luck, physical strength, and sheer willpower, Taylor makes his way several thousand miles through the African bush from the Shaba province to the Zairean capital, Kinshasa, where he is evacuated, but finds himself suffering from a virus named "Runciman's disease" that leaves him horribly scarred. After the war in Shaba ends, Runciman's disease spreads rapidly through the rest of the world, bringing numerous societal problems along with it.

In 2008, the United States is suffering from escalating social unrest and gang violence in major cities because of the spread of Runciman's Disease. The U.S. Army is ordered into the major cities to quell unrest and to ensure the safety of basic services. Taylor is placed in command of a unit deployed to Los Angeles as part of the operation.

In 2015, Mexico is occupied by the United States, and the U.S. Army is fighting a guerrilla war against Japanese-supported insurgents. Taylor commands a unit in the war, where his unconventional tactics are unleashed on an unsuspecting rebel leader.

By the year 2020, the Soviet Union is collapsing from the inside-out. Quality of life for Russian citizens continues to decline. The Muslim Central Asian republics have joined forces with other Japanese-supported Islamic nations and have begun a genocidal conquest with the dual purpose of slaughtering ethnic Russians, as well as conquering the resource-wealthy territory for their Japanese masters.

In order to prevent the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, the United States intervenes, secretly building up an in-theater force of experimental and secret war machines. Once unleashed, (now-Colonel) Taylor's force proves to be unexpectedly advanced technologically to the Japanese. They strike a crippling blow to forces in the region, however, the Japanese have one last trick up their sleeve: a radio-wave weapon that cripples, but does not kill, all those affected.

Their forces were battered, but their resolve was intact. The American forces planned a daring counter-attack.


  • Col. George Taylor

Leader of the USA 7th US Cavalry Regiment (heavy). Formerly the leader of an Apache gunship squadron in Zaire. He reads classical literature, as his first scene involves him reading Conrad's Heart of Darkness. He is infected by a new plague in Zaire known as "Runciman's Disease", but survives with only scars on his face. He is feared by the "People's Government of Iguala", to whom he is known as "El Diablo". He whistles "Garryowen", an old Irish air, as a part of the persona of "El Diablo".

  • Lt. Colonel Howard 'Merry' Meredith

A United States Army officer. He lives through the horrors of the RD epidemic unmarked, but his largest problem is that his parents were wrong in the dreams that shaped their lives.

  • Lt. Colonel Manny Martinez

A Mexican-American lieutenant under Col. Taylor's command. Chief Mechanic in charge of fixing the US secret weapons. He dies in an enemy napalm attack at an old industrial complex.

  • President Jonathan Waters

First African-American President of the United States of America.

  • Clifton Bouquette.

The leader of the Unified Intelligence Agency. One of the chief American opponents of Taylor's proposed war strategy.

  • Daisy Fitzgerald

An analyst at the UIA. Colonel Taylor's secret love interest.

  • Colonel Viktor Kozlov

A liaison from the Soviet Army. (In)famous for his rotten teeth.

  • Major Yuri Babryshkin

The leader of a decimated Soviet tank brigade. Husband of Valya. Shot by KGB officers for supposed treason.

  • Valya Babryshkina

The wife of Yuri. She has a romantic relationship with Warrant Officer Ryder.