The Central Front D+3 (12 July, 1987) Part III


Supply, fuel, and munition expenditures were also on SACEUR’s mind as D+3 progressed. Like his land commanders, General Galvin was keenly aware that NATO ground and air forces were burning through everything from tank rounds, to spare parts at a brisk clip. Fortunately, NATO war stocks contained enough munitions and material for ten days of  fighting. Barring an unforeseen catastrophe, NATO divisions in West Germany wouldn’t be facing any shortages, or supply issues for another six days according to the logisticians in Brussels. By then the first transatlantic convoys were expected to begin arriving and resupply efforts could shift into high gear. If the convoys took heavy losses during the crossing, on the other hand, NATO’s supply situation would be bleak. The air bridge across the Atlantic was holding firm. USAF C-5s and C-141s were bringing in countless pallets of beans, bullets, and band aids. But transport aircraft were only able to carry a fraction of the material that heavy merchant ships could. Resupply was essential to the continued existence of NATO as a fighting force. Allied soldiers on the battle line were performing magnificently, yet they could not continue to hold the Red Army without the proper tools.

SACEUR’s primary focus was on the big picture, but he devoted a tiny slice of time each day to look over the reports from his division and brigade commanders on the actions their respective units were involved in. It gave him an insight into the fighting that was now going on. By far, the performance of the forces under his command had greatly exceeded his expectations. Commanders were using their own personal initiatives to overcome challenges not adequately covered in war plans and battlefield doctrines. He was especially pleased to discover this. Galvin believed commanders needed to be freethinkers to an extent, able to adapt to ever-changing conditions on a modern battlefield.  Commanders willing to divorce from pre-war plans if the situation demanded, were more effective than their less flexible counterparts.

The strides made by NATO nations in improving their militaries, and the subsequent upgrades to NATO forces were evident. If this war had broken out ten years earlier, Galvin wouldn’t have given NATO a nickel for its chances of stopping the Pact before they reached the banks of the Rhine. The US Army was just beginning to emerge from the post-Vietnam malaise by 1977. The rise in morale, new battlefield doctrine, and next-generation weaponry was still on the horizon. The militaries of other NATO members were in no better shape back then either. Things did not start to improve markedly until the early 80s. In a 1977 war, Soviet tanks probably would’ve been pouring through NORTHAG’s shattered defenses by now. Or perhaps half of West Germany would’ve been consumed by nuclear fire as NATO turned to nuclear weapons to halt the red hordes.

Gavin had his own issues to contend with in the very real war now raging in 1987, but he was grateful to have had a well-prepared, and highly capable command under his control when the balloon went up.

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