The results of the last presidential election have brought national attention to a secessionist movement in California otherwise known as “Calexit.” Activists upset with the outcome are gathering signatures to place a secession referendum on the ballot in 2019.
While the probability of California seceding from the Union is remote, it is technically possible.
What if the movement ultimately gained enough traction to foment a rebellion in one of California’s most important and iconic cities? Here’s how the United States might try to take back the city and how insurgents might defend it.
Assuming the rebellion had broad-based popular support, the California National Guard would begin concentrating several units in and near San Francisco, where they would have the best chance of facing U.S. forces in the dense urban environment. In response, the Pentagon might deploy storied units like the 101st Airborne and 25th Infantry Divisions to San Francisco to seize and secure the city.
National Guard troops might consider establishing alliances of convenience with hackers, Chinese Special Forces, and local gangs like the Ghee Kung Tong, Neustra Familia, and rival elements of MS-13. Rigging the city’s multi-storied buildings and roadways with booby traps and IEDs, the rebels would dig in for a long siege.
When U.S. forces make their push on the city, the 101st Airborne might conduct air assaults across the South Bay to seize and secure Highways 280 and 101, cutting off San Francisco’s southern supply route. Elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment would launch a raid on the San Francisco airport, safeguarding it for follow-on forces.
Simultaneously, Delta Force commandos would secure nuclear material in the East Bay at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, likely encountering stiff resistance from local forces. Rogue hackers might us the attack to initiate a propaganda campaign, hinting at a possible radiation leak. The news of such a disaster would spur a flood of refugees to flee inland from Berkeley and Oakland, inundating follow-on U.S. forces and overwhelming hastily constructed refugee camps.
Further west, a SEAL team would work to disarm explosive charges set by Chinese frogmen on the foundations of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, before the 25th Infantry Division’s lightly armored Strykers could cross over.
Columns of Strykers surging across the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, would turn northwest from the Bay Bridge. Streaming along the Embarcadaro, they would race to seize the high ground at Telegraph Hill, where Coit Tower offers a commanding view of the city. To the northwest, forces crossing the Golden Gate would quickly occupy the Presidio, establishing a tactical operations center there.
National Guard units would lie in wait until U.S. forces became channelized in the city. Then, they would attack, firing small arms and RPGs from office buildings and high rises, and detonating IEDs hidden beneath concrete along the main streets. National Guard M1A1 Abrams tanks, hiding in parking structures would ambush Strykers, littering the streets with mangled and twisted metal. When beleaguered American units call for air support, Longbow Apache helicopters would stumble into massive arrays of balloons released just before they passed over the city. The balloons would tangle in the helicopters’ rotors and cause the aircraft to sputter and crash.
While the insurgents would have the element of surprise, American forces would recover quickly, rapidly seizing key communications nodes and power stations to deny rebels a link to the outside world. As American forces extend their control deeper into the city, they would hit a wall of resistance in the Tenderloin as meth-fueled gangs ambush them from every conceivable alley and window with AK-47s, Molotov cocktails, and car bombs.
To counter the chaos, U.S. forces would partition particularly restive parts of the city, walling them off with twelve-foot high, portable, steel-reinforced concrete blast walls or T-walls. At the same time, another battle would rage beneath the streets throughout the 28 subway miles of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.
Within three weeks, the U.S. military would control two-thirds of the city, but dwindling food supplies would leave the civilian population increasingly desperate. Overflowing sewage and a swelling rat infestation would only make matters worse. This horrific environment would inspire a highly effective insurgent propaganda campaign, with hackers smuggling micro SD cards containing footage of alleged U.S. military atrocities and deteriorating conditions out of the city.
Soon, the U.S. military would be overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of refugees, frantic to leave San Francisco. To prevent known criminals and insurgents from escaping the increasingly tightening cordon, soldiers would use tools like the Biometric Automated Toolset (BATS) to perform thumb and eye scans on every refugee. They would also confiscate all electronic devices to prevent insurgents from passing on critical intelligence information to other cells.
Yet some micro SD cards would make it through the U.S. military’s security checkpoints and end up on CNN. Terrifying images of rail-thin San Franciscans, bullet-riddled corpses of children, and rats the size of small dogs festering in refuse-strewn alleys would carpet-bomb the media circuit, making it increasingly difficult for U.S. forces to maintain a long-term occupation of the city.
While the U.S. victory over San Francisco would ultimately be assured, it would be a Pyrrhic one that would sully the U.S. military’s reputation. More importantly, it might have the unintentional impact of bolstering the resistance in the foothills and mountains to the east.
Award-winning author Sean Patrick Hazlett is an Army veteran living in the San Francisco Bay area. His short story, “Adramelech” appears in Writers of the Future: Volume 33 along with the work of four other veterans including, Larry Elmore, who illustrated the cover. You can read more about him at reflectionsofarationalrepublican.com.