Baltic Approaches: D+2 (11 July, 1987) Part I

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D+2 presented a myriad of new problems for COMBALTAP, his battle staff, and commanders to contend with. Pre-war analyses, simulations, and exercises had largely predicted that the probable Warsaw Pact assault on Schleswig-Holstein, and Denmark would come from two directions: a land advance from the  East German border northwest into Schleswig-Holstein and ultimately onto the Jutland peninsula itself. Simultaneously, or near enough, WP amphibious assaults and airborne landings would take place across Jutland, and Zealand. BALTAP’s entire defensive plan was predicated on holding WP forces as far south as possible, while holding enough forces in reserve to contend with a sudden appearance of enemy forces on the Danish coast or interior.

With his rear area quiet thus far, and no indications of WP amphib/airborne operations coming at any point in the next forty-eight hours, COMBALTAP was considering the transfer of some of his reserves to Schleswig-Holstein. This marked a major shift from his thinking on D+1 when he was reluctant to permit Denmark’s ultimate fate to be determined before WP forces even reached the West German/Denmark border. Political, as well as operational realities were causing him to reconsider this.

Thus far in the conflict, the majority of Danish citizens had seen very little of the war first hand and except for Danish airbases, radar sites, and air defense positions, most sovereign Danish soil remained untouched by the fighting.  Politically, the longer Soviet and Polish forces were kept off Danish territory, the less chance there was of the Danish government being pressured into seeking a separate peace. A cadre of leftwing Danish politicians were pushing for the government in Copenhagen to declare neutrality, withdraw from NATO and escape from the war with Denmark’s dignity intact. These politicians had long been suspected by Danish authorities of being financially backed by the Soviet Union. Once they started making public statements about Danish neutrality, the Danish government had them arrested and interned.

COMBALTAP appreciated that if Denmark withdrew from NATO the fallout would be disastrous. The political prestige of the alliance would be irreparably damaged. A separate peace by Denmark would compel Greece and Turkey to reevaluate their own situations and quite possibly choose to do the same.  Soviet diplomatic efforts were still underway in various regions of the world at this point, as we’ve noted in other sections. Turkey, Greece, Denmark, and Japan were four of the nations Moscow had diplomatic designs on. Cajoling just one of them to flip and declare neutrality would be a major victory, and cause havoc to NATO and the US war efforts.

On D+2 the Warsaw Pact advance in Schleswig-Holstein slowed to a crawl as units of the 2nd GTA completed their hand off and the Northern Group of Forces prepared to resume operations. Officers from the 2nd GTA gave their newly arrived counterparts detailed reports about what they could expect from their opponents. The mobility of NATO forces, and the effectiveness of their anti-tank missiles had come as an especially unpleasant surprises to the Soviets.

Elements of the 6th Motor Rifle Division began advancing by the mid-afternoon on a twenty kilometer front extending from fifteen kilometers south of Rendsburg to Kiel. Rear guard actions by German Territorial units slowed the first echelon of motor rifle troops. The engagements served to highlight the dangers that 2nd GTA officers had advised about. By the early evening, additional battalions joined the battle,  the pressure on the West Germans became too much and they disengaged. Motor rifle troops reached the outskirts of Rendsburg and made contact with the air mobile forces that had been dug in there since D Day. Soviet units bypassed the city of Kiel almost completely, choosing to continue advancing and let follow on Polish forces contend with mop-up operations.

 

*Author’s Note: Part II will be posted on Sunday and will wrap up ground operations on D+2, and get into the day’s air operations.*

 

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