CINC-West’s succinct explanation for the hold was wholly unexpected. It spawned a fresh stream of questions in Snetkov’s mind. The general acknowledged the order, and sent off a message of his own to the Western TVD’s wartime headquarters, diffusely requesting the reason why the attack was being postponed. CINC-West’s response was short and direct: ‘Political Considerations.’ This only brought about more questions, but by then Snetkov’s immediate priority was cancelling the attack.
Stop-orders were transmitted to the army groups on the North German Plain. Acknowledgements gradually made their way east to Snetkov at his wartime headquarters. NATO jamming lengthened the process and added to the general’s growing frustration. His superior had revealed no clues about the possible length of the present delay. This was a particularly significant variable given the amount of effort and time which needed to go into regenerating the delayed attack.
NATO’s reaction to the hold was the other major consideration as 0600 passed by. He was quite certain his opponents had been anticipating a major attack. The delay would serve to give NATO additional time to reinforce its Northern Army Group and strengthen the defensive lines now in place. Snetkov was concerned about the status of REFORGER. His intelligence officers estimated that 70% of the units were formed up. The majority of REFORGER divisions belonged to the US III Corps, which was earmarked for service in the NORTHAG sector. It was known for certain that the 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment were both fully formed and moving to join the NORTHAG reserve. The latest reports also suggested the US 2nd Armored Division would be formed and ready for action in two days.
If these divisions were allowed to join the battle before 20th Guards and 3rd Shock launched their attacks, the dynamic of the situation on the ground would be altered, and not in way that would be advantageous to Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces. Until the fate of the attack was decided, Snetkov resolved to keep NATO off balance and speculating about when and where his attack would finally come.
The Soviet general was correct in his earlier assumption. NATO was expecting a major attack to kick off early that morning. Every indicator had been pointing in that direction for eighteen hours. When dawn came and went without a renewed Soviet push beginning, SACEUR, and his senior commanders were surprised. As the minutes passed by, surprise gave way to speculation, followed by analysis. SACEUR wanted to take advantage of the moment, a desire shared by NORTHAG’s commander General Martin Farndale.
SACEUR and Farndale discussed the matter on a secure communications link. The American general outlined what he wanted done. Farndale gave his input, and suggested changes where necessary. There were some points the two clashed on, but these were quickly ironed out. By the end of the call, SACEUR and CINC-NORTHAG were on the same page.
I NL Corps was ordered to shorten its defensive line as a precaution against any gaps forming that could be exploited by the enemy later. The southern section of the Dutch line was especially now too far forward given the situation. The 1st Division’s two forward-positioned brigades began pulling back late in the morning, aided by spoiling attacks launched by the division’s reserve brigade. This action was also supported by the 4th Division to their north, which launched a pair of spoiling attacks against the 2nd Guards Tank Army and East German divisions facing them.
Farndale had reluctantly recognized the vulnerability along the boundaryline between I NL Corps and I West German Corps and ordered the West Germans to reorient partly to keep watch over this area. He still believed the main attack would be made by the 3rd Shock Army and be aimed at Hannover. With this in mind, he directed the British and West German divisions forward of Hannover to begin reconnaissance-in-force maneuvers by 1100.