The Central Front D+2 (11 July, 1987) Part I


At 0300 hours local time on D+2 Alfons Pawelczyk, the mayor of Hamburg contacted Bonn to inform the West German government that the Hamburg Senate had just voted to declare Hamburg an open city. The declaration meant that the city, now unfortified and undefended, would be exempt from enemy attack under international law. Pawelczyk, and the legislative branch of the city’s government had taken the step without informing Bonn, or NATO beforehand. When informed of the move, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was enraged. The vote and declaration had been made unilaterally, without any direction or advice from Bonn. Kohl understood the Hamburg politicians desire to spare their grand city from suffering war damage, but the move had been made without any consideration of the ramifications it might have on military operations in the area.

For NORTHAG, the declaration was of little value or detriment. Most of the fighting was taking place north, and east of the city. Hamburg, though a major city, held little military value. Neither NORTHAG or LANDJUT had plans or intentions to defend it tooth and nail. The Warsaw Pact’s primary objective was to reach the Rhine, not waste its combat power fighting for Hamburg. Pawelczyk’s declaration would probably spare the city from major damage, however, it would do nothing to prevent follow-on Warsaw Pact forces from occupying Hamburg.

Soviet forces reached the  Elbe River on D+1. The 16th Guards Tank Division forced a crossing at Geesthacht, though heavy NATO air strikes on the bridgehead slowed and then halted the progress of enemy forces across the river. By 0100 on D+2 forty percent of the division was on the south bank of the Elbe and expanding the bridgehead slowly as additional bridging units were brought forward to replace those lost to air attacks during the night. Dutch forces launched a counterattack that stopped the Soviet expansion of the bridgehead at Handorf.

1 NL Corps held a hasty defense line from Seevetal to Radbruch. This line, and the counterattack, kept the Soviet tank division bottled up and covered the withdrawal of Dutch forces from around Luneburg. At 1000, the movement was successfully completed and corps reserve units had moved forward to take up position east of Autobahn 7. In late afternoon, the 43rd Armored Infantry Brigade and attached units had abandoned the Seevetal-Radbruch line and were pulling back under the watchful cover of Leopard 2 tanks belonging to the 41st Armored Battalion.

2nd Guards Tank Army had failed to close the trap on the Dutch 4th Division. The combat power to expand the bridgehead and exploit the wedge it had placed in the Dutch flank simply was not available. The bulk of 2nd GTA’s fighting units had been involved in the drive to Jutland and were still in the process of handing off to the Northern Group of Forces by mid-afternoon on D+2.  Offensive operations against NORTHAG would not be set to resume in force until sometime after midnight. In the meantime, 16th Guards completed its crossing of the Elbe, once more under heavy pressure from NATO airpower, and prepared to resume the advance.


*Author’s Note: Central Front D+2 Part II will be posted on Thursday night*


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