The Central Front D+4 (13 July, 1987) Part II

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NORTHAG

D+4 opened on the North German Plain in much the same way the previous day ended. Warsaw Pact pressure on Dutch lines was constant although not heavy. Probing and limited attacks continued along the length of I NL Corp’s line. Dutch forces held firmly to their positions with little trouble as the morning progressed. The corps commander was growing concerned, however, about the 5th Division as it completed its move from Holland and formed up in the corps rear. The timetable for the reinforcing division had gone to hell. Instead of the 5th being present and ready to move forward by 1200 today, another day was needed. The corps commander, as well as NORTHAG’s commander-in-chief wanted to use the current quiet time to move as many reinforcements forward as possible. Traffic problems, transportation issues, and other contributing factors in the rear areas prolonged the time needed to reinforce.

Through 1100 hours, the bulk of the enemy effort was focused in the 4th Division’s sector. A particularly vicious battle had taken place at Salzhausen between a Dutch armored infantry battalion and Soviet motor rifle regiment. The Dutch had been pushed away from the town and back to Autobahn 7. The battalion commander responded promptly, rallied his officers and launched an aggressive counterattack that caught the Soviets off guard and regained the lost ground. For a brief period, both the corps and division commanders expected the Soviets to launch a larger attack, but it did not happen. 2nd GTA’s attention was moving off of the 4th Division as early afternoon came.

By then, the pressure was transferred to the southern portion of the Dutch lines. Conditions in the 1st Division’s sector to the south were heating up. Probes by the battered East German 8th Motor Rifle Division in the morning had made contact with forward elements of the Dutch 11th Armored Infantry Brigade situated just east of the B191 highway. The Dutch were eventually forced back to the other side of the roadway. Sensing blood in the water, the East Germans pursued towards Suderburg, meeting unexpectedly light resistance along the way. The 8th MRD commander judged the chances of achieving a breakthrough here as being very good. He pushed two of his regiments forward and sent word of his situation to 2nd GTA’s headquarters.

At 1500, a tank regiment from the Soviet 21st MRD was moving southwest towards Suderburg to exploit the expected East German breakthrough. Unfortunately, the breakthrough never materialized. The Dutch held, grinding down the advance of the East German motor rifle troops and bleeding them white. Then a rapidly organized and launched counterattack by Dutch armor drove the East Germans back and reclaimed B191. By dusk, the Soviet tank regiment had been fully committed and a large tank battle was underway for control of the roadway and surrounding area.

As the fighting around Suderburg continued, alarming reports were arriving at NORTHAG’s forward headquarters. ELINT data, and photographs from reconnaissance flights revealed that main combat elements of the 20th Guards Army were beginning to move west. This fact, as well as reports concerning 3rd Shock Army, and events taking place in I West German Corps and BAOR sectors was leading many at NORTHAG to conclude that a major Soviet attack was on the horizon.

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