|Road to New York|
|Conflict||World War Z|
|Place||Continental United States, driving east from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean|
The Road to New York was the commonly used term in World War Z to describe the United States' campaign to take the offensive against the zombies and drive them out of the eastern two-thirds of the country. During the Great Panic, the remnants of the US military had fled west of the Rocky Mountains to establish a Safe Zone on the west coast. After 7 years, a functioning economy had been rebuilt and a new model army had been trained to defeat the zombie hordes. This new army was first tested at the Battle of Hope in New Mexico.
Following the Honolulu Conference, the United States announced that it would go on "permanent offensive" against the zombies. Some other nations argued that they should simply wait for the zombies to rot to pieces (some of the older specimens were already showing signs of decay) over the course of years or even decades. But the US president determined that in order to restore the dignity and pride of humanity, they had to retake the world from the zombies by force and destroy them.
Thus began a three year campaign driving eastwards from the Rocky Mountains, across the Great Plains and Mississippi basin then over the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Coast.
The campaign consisted of two lines of infantry stretched north to south across the country in one unbroken line. The line slowly advanced eastward, carefully clearing out any zombies and using sniffer dogs to find immobilized but still active zombies (who could start up the plague cycle all over again. See Dogs (World War Z). Canada and Mexico were too weak to liberate their own countries (in Canada's case due to its vast size-to-population ratio, in Mexico's case from all of the zombie hordes pouring north from Central America) so their remaining military units were focused on securing their borders with the USA from zombies to enable the sweep eastward. The plan was that after the US was liberated, they would then help liberate Mexico and Canada.
When the line encountered heavy resistance segments would break off, advance, and destroy a large target: specifically the hordes of sometimes millions of zombies clustered around pockets of survivors that were maintained as zombie-bait (to distract them from heading to the west coast Safe Zone) and supplied by air. "Major battles" of the campaign tended to consist of when the army encountered such hordes, or in the dense urban combat of clearing out major cities.
The army was divided into three groups: Army Group North, Army Group Center, and Army Group South, each with two lines. When the line in front became engaged by a large number of zombies, the line behind them would move ahead and take their place at the front, essentially "Leapfrogging" their way across the country and keeping the overall advance steady. The general plan of advance was that all three groups would push eastward until they reached the Appalachian mountains, at which point Army Groups North and South would swing around the flanks, while Army Group Center slowly pushed straight through the mountains, until all three groups met up on the coastal plain.
Major Battles against the zombies
Actual pitched "battles" occurred when major hordes of zombies were encountered, swarming around pockets of survivors. These swarms could number in the millions. Ironically, the battles were actually the easy part of the campaign, relatively speaking, as they consisted of large numbers of zombies being efficiently destroyed by ordered groups of soldiers as they walked straight towards them. They even managed to save millions of people, and in most cases were met with enthusiastic celebration from the besieged, the sort of appreciation for the troops that had not been seen since the end of World War II. The dangerous part of the campaign was clearing literally every foot of the country from the zombies, running the danger of being caught unawares while clearing houses or zombies buried under snow.
Some of these major battles against "moats" of zombies were massive. According to Todd Waino, the survivor enclave in Detroit's twin stadiums had a combined moat of at least a million zombies, and "made the Battle of Hope look like a minor skirmish". Waino said that the zombie horde in the Battle of Detroit was so massive that it was the only time that he began to seriously fear that the army's Raj Singh formation would be overrun, though the line ultimately held.
Every night, no matter how secure the soldiers felt, the entire army had to halt and fortify their position until dawn. Those in Army Group North actually had a harder time during winter than would be expected: Zombies, though not dangerous while frozen, are also difficult to find in the snow, and every spring soldiers always had to face rear attacks from several thawed Gs they had missed in areas that they had thought cleared. As Todd Wainio described, the troops in the South were lucky, as once they cleared an area, it stayed cleared.
Cities were a nightmare, mostly due to urban sprawl. It'd take weeks before the military could even quarantine a fraction of the city, let alone clear it.
And zombies were not the only threat the troops would face.
Major Battles against secessionists
During the height of the Great Panic, even within the Safe Zone on the west coast, there were many problems with secessionists. Some were crazed religious fundamentalists (Fundies) or, at the other end of the spectrum, crazed environmentalist cults that saw the zombie plague as nature's judgment (Greenies); these were always more of a nuisance than a real threat. The big problem during the first shaky year trying to stabilize the Safe Zone was that several secessionist groups tried to fight the government. Some of them were reacting to the zombie epidemic and had concluded that they were better off on their own. Others were crazed survivalists who had been planning something like this for years (in the event of nuclear war, etc.) and used the zombie epidemic as a convenient excuse. All agreed that these were simply crazed secessionists trying to set themselves up as bandit-kings in the face of the chaos and anarchy of the time, and the response to them was obvious: they were enemies of the country and were dealt with without hesitation.
The morally complicated issue was those secessionists east of the Rockies. The US had proportionately more stranded survivors in the infected zones than any other country. This is explained as due in part to the high rate of private firearm ownership in the USA, and also to the independent spirit fostered by Americans. Some of these were just small holdouts, or one or two family forts, but there were also many zones of several hundred or even several thousand refugees who were able to survive for seven years supplied only by air, if at all. Many of these pockets of survivors were still fiercely loyal and welcomed incoming soldiers.
However, some of the large pockets of survivors felt completely embittered, and actively tried to secede from the United States, resisting advancing army groups with lethal force. They said, with some justification, that "we didn't abandon the USA, the USA abandoned us." They felt that the disastrously incompetent government response to the initial zombie outbreak had doomed millions of people, and that the subsequent retreat behind the Rockies (even if it was necessary, after the defeat at Yonkers) had left them for dead. Usually this was just one or two people, nicknamed "LaMOE's" (pronounced "Lay-moh": "Last Man On Earth"), most of whom had been isolated from living people for so long that they often fired on soldiers by mistake, having come to expect only zombies for so many years. These were the more friendly ones, nicknamed "Robinson Crusoes", and they usually stopped shooting once they realized that these soldiers were alive. The hostile ones however, the ones the military actually called LaMOE's, had gotten so used to being the kings of their little forts or skyscrapers that they refused to come down. At worst, these were organized and armed gangs, such as those that controlled the Sears Tower in Chicago and had to be cleared with lethal force.
But some of the large pockets of survivors, organized into actual communities, still actively tried to secede. The largest of these was the group of survivors that maintained their own defense perimeter in the Black Hills of South Dakota. They felt that the US had abandoned them to die when the zombies took over, they had resisted the zombies on their own for seven years, and they did not want to become part of the United States once again. This was one of the few times that actual tanks and military combat vehicles were used in the campaign, but the regular army was not used to fight secessionists. Separate units dealt with human secessionists, not the three army groups.
As bad as these were, it could have been far, far worse had not the right decisions been made early on. When the Western Safe Zone was first trying to stabilize its economy, one major issue was what to do with prisoners. Prisons were a massive and useless drain on government resources: To pay, clothe, arm and train strong, able-bodied people to house, guard, feed and clothe other strong, able-bodied people, especially when they were running out of money just trying to feed the millions of refugees was a waste of money and time. The Attorney General suggested that the government should dump as many of these convicts into the White Zones as possible and let the zombies take care of them. Both the President and the Vice President rejected this idea, the latter for moral reasons, the former for logical ones. The White Zones were still U.S. territory, infested now but hopefully to be reclaimed one day, and as the president said "The last thing we need is to come across one of these ex-cons as the new Grand High Imperial Warlord of Duluth." This led to the temporary elimination of the current prison system and the creation of the new Punishment Laws. Several of the president's cabinet thought he was making light with the Duluth comment, but later on they saw just what kind of a disaster they had averted when this exact scenario played out in several European countries. Those European convicts had not only survived the zombie hordes, but had carved out their own large and sometimes very powerful fiefdoms. Many of these had to be reclaimed with heavy military force after the war, and a few were so powerful that they couldn't be reclaimed at all.
- Feral Humans are human children whose parents were killed by zombies or for some other reason. The children grew up in the wild, living and reacting to humans like animals. Special HR (Human Reclamation) teams had to be called in to tranquilize them so they could be rehabilitated. But,as Todd Wainio said "If a feral 200-lb bull is charging at you, a couple tranqs ain't gonna stop it." Rehabilitating feral humans met with mixed success, the result of a decade of living like an animal, and some saw capturing them as a waste of limited resources; however, Wainio said that at least some progress was made. Feral humans did not use firearms - that's what made them "feral", distinguishing them from LaMOEs.
- Feral animals are just packs of abandoned dogs, and they can also be rehabilitated. Feral cats, however hide and then attack when the soldiers weapon is down. The reason the dogs were so easy is because naturally, dogs are social animals so they bark when people approach and are at least easy to spot.
- Quislings are people who completely lost their sanity in the zombie epidemic, and actually try to appease the zombies by acting like them. Unlike ferals, captured Quislings could never be successfully rehabilitated, their minds were too far gone.
- Diseases are just like they have always been, but because of diseases we thought were extinct in the pre-war world, they came back during the war and post-war. Due to the sheer number of unburied corpses littering the abandoned countryside and cities, diseases like cholera or influenza multiplied rapidly. They caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and Todd Wainio said that an entire batallion in Detroit had to be quarantined because one got sick with Spanish Influenza.
- Booby traps are landmines and other miscellaneous traps (e.g. the old tripwire shotgun trap) left behind to blow up the zombies as the army fled to the safezone, or for survivalists to hold out. However, it made the Army Groups suffer more casualties. They had no maps of where the mines were, and plus the zombies that did step on them became Crawlers, which were twice as dangerous as average zombies because they crawl on the ground and are harder to spot.
- Weakened buildings were another problem, either weakened from fire and vandalism during the Great Panic, or from the years of neglect and ice damage. Sometimes, all it took to trigger a collapse was a loud noise, like a gunshot.
Post-war military estimates are that at the start of the campaign, the United States east of the Rockies contained about 200 million zombies, of which at least 25 million were refugees from Latin America who had been infected attempting to flee to the Canadian Arctic. Almost all were eliminated during the three year long campaign.
US casualties in the war were reported to be relatively moderate. Relatively as in comparison to the massive, apocalyptic losses that China and Russia took during the war. Losses were still heavy. After reaching the Atlantic coast, it was decided that as much had been asked of the soldiers as could reasonably be asked, and "Victory" was declared ("VA Day") ten years after the zombie epidemic began. However, a new all-volunteer UN multinational force was put together to clear the rest of the world of zombies, first Canada and Mexico. Many volunteered, either because they believed in liberating the entire world, revenge on Zack, or simply because they didn't know how to go back to civilian life anymore. Within two years, all major nations had been cleared of zombies, finishing with China. "Victory in China" day, twelve years after the zombie outbreak began, is usually held to be "the end" of the war, or at least major combat operations. But zombies remain in the "White Zones" of the frozen north or mountains, where they thaw out every spring, and in the oceans.