0500– Elements of the 2nd Guards Tank Army (2GTA) begin a series of supporting attacks against the Dutch 4th and 1st Divisions. The 207th Motor Rifle Division moved into the 4th Division’s sector expecting to find the enemy quickly. This was not to be the case. The two forward brigades had largely withdrawn, as per the orders received from higher headquarters on the previous day. Motor rifle troops and reconnaissance companies approached towns such as Salzhausen, and Oldendorf cautiously and instead of running into the main Dutch lines, they found Dutch reconnaissance troops, and light armor waiting for them. The bulk of the 4th Division had withdrawn on D+5 and was establishing a new line of resistance just forward of Autobahn 7.
The 94th Guards MRD’s contact with the Dutch 1st Division turned out to be quite different. Like it’s sister division, the 1st’s main combat elements had started pulling back the previous day. Left in their place was a screen of reconnaissance units and light armor. However, positioned just behind this thin line was the 13th Armoured Brigade, which had been acting as the 1st Division’s reserve. Following the doctrine of I NL Corps carefully, the 13th counterattacked what it had identified as the 94th MRD’s main body passing northeast of Uelzen. The orders were given at 0630 hours and less than a half hour later, Dutch armor was making contact with the Soviet formations.
0700– 32nd Guards TD’s lead regiments start moving into the northern portion of the Suderburg-Gifhorn gap. This particular area is defended by the Dutch 52nd Armored Infantry Brigade. The 52nd had been ordered forward to cover the northern half of the coverage gap that had developed between the Dutch and West German corps. By 0500, much of the brigade had not deployed fully. As units continued to arrive and establish a defensive line along the B-4 roadway, the brigade’s anti-tank company, and reconnaissance troops had moved farther forward and set up a hasty defense centered on the municipality of Sprakensehl.
The 35th MRD was tasked with achieving a penetration in the southern half of the gap, the area I West German Corps was responsible for. The 11th Panzergrenadier Division (11 PgD) was charged with defense of an area running from Celle east to the B-4 roadway, and from Gifhorn in the south up to Gross Oesingen. The 31st PgB, and 33rd Panzer (PzB) Brigades were deployed in-depth behind the 32nd PgB, which was deployed to cover the B-4 and hold an enemy force at bay for an extended period, buying time for the rest of the division, as well as follow-on reinforcements to prepare a deep defense. When the time came to hand off the battle, the 32nd would become I West German Corps’ tactical reserve.
Behind these two divisions was the remainder of the 20th Guards Army (20GA) consisting of two tank divisions, divisional artillery, and army level support units. This was the designated OMG that would move forward to exploit a penetration when it came and turn it into a major breakthrough. The OMG was placed 35 kilometers behind the advancing divisions. A safe enough distance to keep it from being heavily targeted by NATO air and artillery before its commitment. A great deal of effort was put into concealing this large force from prying eyes. Although it was impossible to hide the entire OMG, 20GA’s commander, along with General Snetkov at his headquarters, were confident the true makeup of the force would remain unseen until it was too late for NATO to respond.
Author’s Note: As I mentioned the other day, my writing time is very limited right now unfortunately. I had hoped to complete the 0500-1200 time frame in one post, but that’s not happening unfortunately. So, I’ll finish up the remainder on Tuesday and then move forward on the remainder of The Central Front D+6.