The Soviet air mobile assault earlier in the morning on Rendsburg nearly succeeded in decapitating LANDJUT’s senior leadership. The town, for all of its previously mentioned importance, also served as the peacetime headquarters for the Commander, Allied Land Forces Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland (LANDJUT). When warning of Soviet helicopters approaching Rendsburg was received, LANDJUT’s commander, a West German lieutenant general, was at the forward headquarters in Dobersdorf. Most of his staff, as well as LANDJUT’s deputy commander, were still in Rendsburg and had to hastily depart via helicopter to Denmark once the extent of the Soviet attack became apparent. Their evacuation was successful largely due to the headquarters’ security troops , who bought them the time needed to depart. Allied troops based around Rendsburg fought fiercely to delay the Soviets for as long as possible but eventually, surviving troops either surrendered or retreated north of the Kiel Canal to link up with friendly forces in the area. By late afternoon, LANDJUT’s commander had rejoined his senior staff and deputy commander at their new, temporary headquarters in Aarhus. Upon his arrival, he ordered his staff to begin laying plans for the immediate retaking of Rendburg.
Forward deployed elements of the West German 6th Panzergrenadier Division bore the brunt of the fighting in LANDJUT’s sector during much of the day. On a front extending from Scharbeutz on the Baltic, south to the Elbe River, LANDJUT’s forces were engaging elements of the Soviet 2nd GTA. Despite putting up fierce resistance and inflicting heavy casualties on the first Soviet echelons, the enemy was advancing northwest and westward into the Federal Republic by late afternoon. The commander of the 6th was reluctant to pull his forces back as the situation had worsened. He was determined to defend forward for as long as possible. But the growing chance of one of his brigades being outflanked south of Lubeck forced him to reconsider.
Reluctantly, as dusk fell, he ordered a withdrawal, ceding the city to the Soviets.
With the exception of Nordholz, no other NATO airbases in Schleswig-Holstein, or farther north in Denmark were targeted by Soviet and Warsaw Pact air forces on the morning of war. Six Su-24 Fencers had made a low level approach towards Nordholz before being intercepted by West German F-4s. Three of the fighter-bombers were shot down. The survivors made one pass over the NATO base, dropping cluster munitions and fuel air explosives over the flight line and taxiways. Some damage was inflicted, but the airbase continued functioning.
The primary focus of Soviet and Warsaw Pact air forces on 9 July was the battle raging to the south. Most front line air regiments were committed to operations south of Hamburg, with the exception of air support missions for 2nd GTA, though these were few in number and not very effective thanks to the presence of NATO fighters in the area.
In the late afternoon the first raids against Denmark began. To the surprise of AIRBALTAP, the incoming formations of enemy aircraft were made up entirely of East German MiG-21s, and MiG-23s. No Soviet aircraft took part in strikes against Danish targets on that first day, mainly owing to priority tasking. The main targets were airbases and radar stations on the Jutland peninsula. Danish F-16s rose to challenge the intruders and a large air battle materialized in the skies over the Baltic Sea and Denmark. The Danish F-16s outclassed their East German opponents in every category except quantity. The maneuverability of the F-16, coupled with its highly advanced electronics, and weaponry outshined the Fishbeds and Floggers they engaged, to say nothing of the superior training of the Danish pilots. The Danes scored 24 kills that afternoon for the loss of 5 F-16s. Some East German fighters managed to get through to their targets, though the numbers were low and the resulting damage and disruption to AIRBALTAP operations was minimal.
From dusk through to the early hours of 10 July, West German RF-4 reconnaissance flights of the GDR coast were conducted. The search was on for signs of a Pact amphibious move against Denmark. The RF-4s took losses, and the film they brought back revealed no conclusive evidence of preparations. After the ambush earlier in the day, NATO was gun shy about committing strike aircraft against a possible Warsaw Pact amphibious task group without firm assurance that the target was genuine.
The Denmark Strait and accompanying sea space was becoming one large, interconnected minefield. NATO minelayers, under the watchful eye of escorting fast attack craft and frigates, laid their explosive cargoes along predesignated paths. Concurrently, allied minesweepers, and other MCM assets were equally busy with the task of sweeping the seas of mines that had been laid by Soviet/WP submarines, minelayers, and aircraft. The Baltic approaches were being turned into a jigsaw puzzle of offensive and defensive minefields, safe travel corridors, and hunter killer groups of surface warships and submarines stalking the seas.
Hit and run tactics were utilized by both sides missile-armed warships to probe the other’s defenses, and create an air of anxiety. As NATO awaited the imminent body blow against Denmark in the form of an amphibious landing, the Soviets and their allies were doing their best not to telegraph where that punch would land, or from what direction it would come from.