CENTAG’s commander General Glenn Otis, US Army, found himself far more optimistic than his Soviet counterparts on the morning of D+2. The major attacks that were launched against his front on D+1 had all been defeated or contained. The US V and VII Corps stood practically in the same places they had twenty-four hours ago. The small amount of ground that was lost had been recaptured by a number of local counter attacks during the night. The West German II Corps in Bavaria was holding against the combined weight of the Central Group of Forces and the bulk of the Czech army. North of the V Corps area, the West German III Corps absorbed most of the Soviet and East German supporting attacks on D+1 and remained in very good shape.
Friendly casualties had been surprisingly low given the intensity of the fighting. Reports from the battlefield indicated the price paid by the Soviets and their allies was considerably higher. Overnight and into the morning, CENTAG forces took advantage of the lull to resupply, evacuate casualties, rearm and prepare for the next attacks. As dawn approached, Otis conferred with Brussels on what the next move should be.
From most indications it appeared that 8th GA was no longer strong enough to conduct a breakout from the Fulda area on its own. That mission would now likely fall to the 1st Guards Tank Army (1st GTA). Otis was pressing 4th ATAF to begin concentrating more of its interdiction and deep strikes against 1st GTA. CENTAG staff officers were already heading to Ramstein to begin working with their 4th ATAF counterparts on developing a comprehensive targeting list.
Otis also wanted to start probing eastward with his armored cavalry to determine just how weak the Soviets were. The hope here was to perhaps find a weak point in the 8th GA lines that could be exploited. CENTAG’s commander did not intend to sit on his hands and wait for the Soviets to make the next move. He wanted to grab the initiative and have Ivan reacting to NATO. Fortunately, SACEUR was of a similar mind. He gave Otis his blessing to start pushing out and probing, and personally made sure that 4th ATAF would begin concentrating its efforts on 1st GTA at once.
As ordered, General Snetkov’s deputy boarded a helicopter and headed west at dawn. He spent the morning with 8th GA’s commander and was given a detailed overview of the situation as it currently stood. By the time he departed at 1000, Snetkov’s deputy was absolutely horrified by what he had seen with his own eyes, and been told. He now understood fully why the army commanded wanted to use chemical weapons!
Upon returning, he gave Snetkov a thorough brief. 8th GA was, in his opinion, incapable of conducting further offensive operations. Its divisions were fought out and needed time to rest and refit before they’d be of any use. The army group commander had done an excellent job under the circumstances, GFSG’s deputy concluded. The reason behind his request for chemical weapons authorization was to ensure that his divisions could achieve a breakout from the Fulda area and continue pushing west. He was fighting against some of the best-equipped NATO divisions on terrain which heavily favored the defender, and beneath a sky that was, more often than not, controlled by NATO fighters.
General Snetkov understood and sympathized. 8th GA’s commander had been in charge of the army group for less than three days. The circumstances that led to him assuming command had not been ideal. The logical solution was to relieve him of his duties. Unfortunately, general officers were in scarce supply right now. The NATO strikes against the command posts in the opening hours of the conflict had marked the start of open season on Soviet and Warsaw Pact general officers. Since the first morning no additional army commanders had been lost in action. Division commanders were another story altogether. NATO made it a point to identify division command posts early in a battle and target them with heavy air and artillery strikes as soon as possible. The end result was a number of Soviet and WP divisions currently being commanded by colonels, some with questionable qualifications and abilities.
Through the afternoon, Snetkov kept watch on the drive underway in 3rd SA’s sector, hoping a breakthrough would be achieved there. By 1600 his attention had been drawn away from the battlefield and to the political arena. The report he sent up the line regarding the chemical weapons release request had begun a chain reaction of events from Stendal to Leningrad, and then Moscow itself. CINC-WEST contacted Snetkov and ordered him to East Berlin at midnight. The theater commander be there too. A pair of Politburo members would be arriving at 0100 from Moscow for a report on the slow progression of the Soviet drive west.