DefCon (Defense Condition) 3 had been set. Fifty B-52 strategic bombers were moved from Guam to bases in the continental United States. Airborne divisions in both the United States and the Soviet Union were on alert for fast deployment to the Middle East. A force of 2,000 Sixth Fleet Marines was headed east, and a third carrier force was en route to the Mediterranean. The Soviet Mediterranean squadron had been augmented by forces coming through the Dardanelles and now numbered nearly 100 ships, including 23 submarines. Armed U.S. aircraft were continually aloft over the Soviet surface ships, and heavily armed Soviet warships shadowed the U.S. carrier forces.
The forces involved were larger than those that faced off in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, and tensions were running so high that some analysts rated the chances of war at nearly one in two. Yet, the American public seemed largely unaware. Vice President Spiro Agnew recently had been forced to resign, and the Watergate crisis was the top story in most U.S. media.