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

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1200– 3rd Shock Army resumes its advance west. Three divisions begin moving on a 30km front from Peine south to Heere. The army group’s fourth division, the 47th Guards Tank Division remains in the rear, serving as 3SA’s operational maneuver group. The Soviet attack develops along the lines NORTHAG anticipated it would, leading General Farndale to formally identify it as the Soviet’s main attack.

 

1430– 32nd Guards Tank Division breaks the Dutch 52nd Armored Infantry Brigade’s forward defensive line. Sprakensehl is captured, along with the B-4, B-191 wishbone.  The Dutch 44th Infantry Battalion is penetrated in three different locations. The 52nd Tank Battalion joins the battle in piecemeal fashion, causing significant casualties in tanks and soldiers. The heaviest losses come when it attempts to cover the 44th’s withdrawal. Confusion dominates the Dutch defenders, and the appearance of the second Soviet regiment moving to envelope the Dutch forces turns the withdrawal into a rout.

 

1545– After checking an ill-coordinated two-regiment assault, the West German 32nd PgB digs in deeper, expecting a better-prepared Soviet effort in the near future. As reports arrive, the situation in the north is beginning to cause concern in the brigade headquarters. The 32nd’s commander radios his division commander and discovers that neither the general, or his staff is aware of how rapidly things appear to be deteriorating in the Dutch brigade’s area.

 

1745– The remainder of the 52nd Armored infantry Brigade anchors its main line of resistance on the municipality of Eschede. Small groups of soldiers and vehicles from the units that had been deployed round Sprakensehl make their way back to the new lines every so often.

 

2025– The 52nd’s commanding officer informs the 5th Division’s commander of his unit’s current state. He anticipates a division sized attack, supported heavily by artillery, and aircraft will be launched against his positions at some point after 0300. He requests reinforcements be moved to support his unit, and all available air support be directed to his sector.

 

2130– A Soviet air attack hits the Dutch brigade’s headquarters unexpectedly. The 52nd’s CO is killed. Thirty minutes later, the Soviets begin a brief, but heavy artillery bombardment. The new brigade commander incorrectly identifies this as the start of a major attack. Recognizing that the brigade doesn’t have the combat power remaining to halt a division-sized attack, he orders a general retreat.

 

2320– At I NL Corps headquarters, the corps commander finally pieces together the action playing out in the Suderberg-Gifhorn area. Informed of the 52nd Armored Infantry Brigade’s impending retreat, he orders the 5th Division to move southeast and fill the void. Its unclear if the rest of the 5th will arrive in time to prevent the next Soviet attack, but the corps commander was not confident. With the uncertainty of the moment weighing heavily on his shoulders, his options were becoming painfully clear: retreat, or stand and fight. As the minutes passed by, he remained unsure which road to take.

 

Author’s Note: I know I said no more timelines, but in this case I had to make an exception. Part VI will be next and summarizes the action around Hannover, and what’s happening in CENTAG.  Then I’ll move on and start filling some holes in the timeline, such as in the Arabian Sea/Persian Gulf and Western Pacific areas. 

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