0700 Continued– Artillery barrages and airstrikes preceded the Soviet divisions westward advance. A full regiment of MiG-29 Fulcrums was on station over the area, keeping NATO airpower from inflicting damage on the advancing first-echelon regiments, and giving protection to the MiGs and Sukhoi attack planes flying strikes in support of the units on the ground. As the morning went on, more Frontal Aviation units were expected to join the battle. The Soviet commanders on the ground had heard similar assurances before and took the promises with a grain of salt.
The reconnaissance elements and advance guards belonging to the lead regiments of the 32nd Guards Tank Division shifted from their march columns to pre-battle formations. The recon troops sped ahead to identify the positions and makeup of the Dutch forces deployed in the vicinity of Sprakensehl, as the advance guards struggled to keep pace behind them. Intelligence reports concerning the dispositions of Dutch forces in the immediate area were somewhat incomplete. It was known that an enemy brigade was arriving west of the B-4. East of the roadway, the picture was incomplete.
The 35th Motor Rifle Division’s reconnaissance and advance guard elements were also moving forward by 0800. Unlike their comrades to the north, the 35th MRD had a more detailed and accurate intelligence picture of its sector. In front of them was a West German panzergrenadier brigade deployed in depth. For the lead troops it was not so much a matter of finding where the Germans were, as much as it was determining the weak points in the enemy’s lines.
0800-1000 Hours– 32nd Guards TD’s reconnaissance troops encountered their Dutch counterparts eleven kilometers east of Sprakensehl. Both sides sent initial contact reports up their respective command chains. The advance guard of the 69th Motor Rifle Regiment quickly joined the skirmish, forcing the Dutch recon units to pull back. The advance guard took up the pursuit and pressed the enemy until it began encountering heavy anti-tank missile fire. The 287th Guards Tank Regiment, moving parallel to the motor rifle troops, also reported its advance guard receiving anti-tank missile fire as it approached Allersehl. After consulting the division commander, the colonels in charge of the regiments ordered their advance guards to hold in place as the main forces moved forward to take over the battles.
The 35th MRD ran into heavier opposition than its sister division to the north. The reconnaissance units of the lead regiments identified and engaged West German reconnaissance vehicles supported by armor at Schönewörde and Dedelstorf. The advance guards moved up and prepared to close, however, West German artillery halted them long enough for the Luchs and Leopard I tanks to withdraw with few losses. The terrain in this area favored the defenders and was well-suited for ambush purposes. Subsequent movement forward by the recon and advance guards was briefly slowed by enemy ATGM teams and tanks.
1000-1200 Hours- The commander of the Dutch 52nd Armored Infantry Brigade was starting to have a bad feeling about the situation developing on the other side of the B-4. His reconnaissance troops, and anti-tank company were engaging an enemy force that the company commander estimated at being ‘at least a regiment.’ Soon after learning this, the Dutch liaison officer attached to the 32nd PgB informed him the West Germans were also in contact with a large force in their sector. This bit of news led the colonel to conclude that a reinforced Soviet division was moving against their two brigades.
Alarmingly, the 52nd was not yet prepared to weather the gathering storm. Just one of its armored infantry battalions -the 44th– was in place and digging in. The second, as well as the tank battalion, and brigade support elements were either just reaching their sectors, or still strung out along the network of roads to the rear. He radioed the commanders of the 52nd tank battalion, and 52nd artillery battalion, the two closest approaching units and ordered them both to step it up. The artillery battalion commander estimated half of his unit’s guns would be in position to provide fire support to the units in and around Sprakensehl by 1200. The 52nd tank battalion’s commander, a career armored officer who’d just left active service that past April, informed the brigade commander that his first squadron wouldn’t reach the B+4 until 1300 at the earliest.
Just under a minute later, the brigade headquarters lost contact with both the anti-tank company, and reconnaissance unit east of Sprakensehl.