Early in the afternoon on D+4 advance parties from the 1st Guards Tank Army went forward. 1st GTA’s commander, Lieutenant General Anatoli Tchernitsov was eager to gain a first-hand look at the battle his army group would be joining in a short time. As Tchernitsov sat down with his counterpart from 8th Guards Army, the advance parties from 1st GTA’s divisions were fanning out across the front, conducting their own appraisals of the current situation. The fresh-faced, officers clad in clean, spotless uniforms discovered grim conditions. Divisions were commanded by colonels, and regiments by majors. Battle damage, and in many cases, simple maintenance issues had reduced the number of armored vehicles available. Ammunition expenditures were far beyond projections, as were human casualties.
Despite all of this, 8th GA was still fighting, though its tempo of operations was considerably less than it had been just two days ago. The high casualties inflicted upon unit commanders had produced a steep learning curve for many of the replacement officers. Some were rising to meet the challenge, however, and coming into their own as capable combat officers. The officers from 1st GA were impressed by many of the officers they encountered that morning. So much so that a formal request was made to bring a small cadre of seasoned 8th GA officers back to give in-depth briefings to the unbloodied 1st GTA division and regiment commanders about what to expect when they arrive. Reluctantly, 8th GA’s commander agreed to the request, but only after Tchernitsov assured him that none of his officers would be poached by 1st GTA’s division commanders.
Up until 0500 that morning, Tchernitsov had been under the impression that his army group would be moving north to join the growing effort on the North German Plain. His divisions had been moving northwest towards the inner-German border for roughly twenty hours. Snetkov’s orders attaching 1st GTA to the northern effort were countermanded early that morning. 1st GTA’s original orders to assume the battle from 8th GA were put back in effect. With NATO airpower’s efforts to delay his army group’s movement finding success, he estimated it would be at least one more day before his units began arriving. Tchernitsov only hoped NATO did not recognize how thin 8th GA was spread and attempt to take advantage of it before his divisions arrived.
Author’s Note: I wanted to finish this part up today, but my schedule is not allowing for it. So, despite my best efforts, there will be a Central Front D+4 Part FIVE published over the weekend. 😊