The Central Front D+6 (15 July, 1987) Part I

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Minor adjustments were made to General Snetkov’s original attack plan, but it generally remained intact and entirely feasible. 2nd Guards Tank Army, reinforced with East German divisions, was in position to commence attacks against the Dutch 1st and 4th Divisions as originally intended. Simultaneously, 20th Guards Army’s lead divisions would advance towards the seam separating the Dutch and West German corps and engage the Dutch brigade and West German units that intelligence indicated had moved east of Celle and into the Suderburg-Gifhorn gap. In the following hours, 3rd Shock Army’s drive on Hannover would resume. If all went well, NATO would not realize the main attack was being made along the corps boundary lines until it was too late.

Speed was going to be the key. The terrain in the area of the main attack favored the defenders. If 20th GA’s advance was slowed enough to allow NATO to reinforce, the attack would likely bog down. 3rd SA was an insurance policy against this happening. If its push towards Hannover showed signs of success, NATO’s Northern Army Group could find itself caught between two chairs, and its commander forced to make a difficult choice between two unpalatable options.

The Soviet Air Force would support 20th GA and 3rd SA to the utmost of its ability. A large number of ground attack aircraft, and fighters were dedicated to the attacks, along with other supporting platforms such as AWACS, and ECC.  General Snetkov, and CINC-WEST had both emphatically stressed the need for air superiority over the battle area. 16th Air Army’s commander Lieutenant General Yevgeny Shaposhnikov had assured both men that their divisions would have ample air cover, and support. He understood that his future would be determined by the performance of his command today.

Not very long after midnight, Snetkov went forward to deliver the final briefing and instructions to his army commanders in the field. He warned against fixing themselves to one location for too long, reminding the men of the fate of their predecessors. Snetkov also didn’t want them to command from too close to the front, or from too far behind in the rear. One of the most consequential lessons to come out of the war so far was the brittleness of communications on the battlefield. A commander’s radio links to subordinate units were very susceptible to breaking down, being jammed, or even monitored by the enemy. If the primary communications network went down, and the army group headquarters was too far away to influence the action, the subordinate units were effectively on their own. On the flip side of the equation, having the headquarters situated too close to the fight would help ease the communications dilemma, however, the HQ would also attract the attention of enemy air and artillery.

It would be up to the generals to establish the parameters for their headquarters’ and plans of command for the upcoming battles. Snetkov only intended to make certain they were aware of the variables involved, and by the end of each meeting he was satisfied this was the case. The commander of the Group of Soviet Forces Germany was back at his own headquarters at 0400 making his own final preparations. The day ahead promised to be long, and difficult.

 

(Author’s Note: The Central Front D+6 is likely going to be a long, drawn out series of posts. I’m thinking the final number will be 6 or 7 when all is said and done. There are twotrwo eas for this: first, my work schedule for the upcoming week is unfortunately going to leave me less time to write than usual.Second, D+6 will predominantly cover the major battle in the NORTHAG area. Because of the importance of this battle, I want to include more detail than I usually do.)

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