The Central Front D+7 (16 July, 1987) Part IV

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1st Guards Tank Army commenced its advance at 0600 hours. There was a level of concern in the army group’s headquarters regarding the dispositions of the opposing NATO forces. The main avenue of the advance would be through the US V Corps area and it was known for certain two heavy divisions were positioned there. What remained unknown was the location of the REFORGER units that had been assigned to the corps. NATO planning had indicated a mechanized infantry division, and two independent armor brigades were earmarked for V Corps. The mechanized division, either the 4th or 24th according to the KGB, had reforged, but there were indications the unit was  diverted to Northern Germany, where the battle appeared to be reaching its climax. Efforts were put underway to determine just where the third enemy division was located.

1st GTA’s initial objective was to reach Autobahn 7, which was fast becoming one of the most heavily fought-over roadways in military history. Seizing at least a portion of the highway would cut the main north-south supply route for NATO, preventing them from rapidly moving units to reinforce threatened sectors in the V Corps main battle area. 11th Guards Tank Division, and 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division were leading the army group’s advance, with the 9th Tank Division in reserve. Lieutenant General Anatoli Tchernitsov intended to use speed and maneuver decisively. He was not planning to smash the bulk of his army group at the strongest point in the NATO line much like his comrade in 8th Guards Army had. Defeating the Americans here required more finesse, and guile than brute force.

Tchernitsov’s NATO counterpart was Lieutenant General John Woodmansee, the V Corps commander. Woodmansee and his G-4 amended the main battle area for the corps. The eastern boundary line of the MBA, now designated Phase Line Princeton, extended from just west of Bad Hersfeld south to Ebersburg outside of Fulda. Covering forces were deployed out in front of PL Princeton, and the 8th ID and 3rd AD had begun shifting some of their brigades during the night and pre-dawn hours. They would defend west of Princeton, and east of Phase Line Yale which ran on a north-south axis from Alsfeld through Lauteral, and coming to an end at Birstein. Woodmansee believed the changes to the MBA would give his divisions more flexibility, and open up new options for the commitment of the 4th ID when the time came.

Corps and division-level artillery began falling on the advancing Soviet columns even before they reached their lines of departure. Lance missile strikes suspected locations of forward headquarters, and supply depots. Even before first light, 4th ATAF was launching interdiction missions against targets in the Soviet rear, especially airbases deep in East Germany. OCA missions, and fighter sweeps caught the first wave of Soviet fighters, and ground-attack aircraft just as they were departing from their bases, while ARM-equipped F-4G Phantoms spread out and hit radar and SAM sites that had been set up to cover the 1st GTA’s supply lines.

Tchernitsov was expecting NATO airpower to show itself early on and he was not disappointed. Still, he was taken aback by the ferociousness, and accuracy of NATO’s aircraft, air-delivered weapons, and pilots. The general could only wish that his nations own air force could be half as effective. But wars are never won in the air, and for all the havoc NATO’s warplanes caused, this developing battle in Central Germany would be decided on the ground, where the Soviet advantage was more pronounced and decisive.

4 Replies to “The Central Front D+7 (16 July, 1987) Part IV”

  1. Thank you for this immensely entertaining narrative, I’ve followed it closely and enjoyed it very much.

    One thing puzzles me, though. You’ve referred to e.g. a Soviet Guards Tank Army as an army group. I’ve usually seen a Soviet Army compared to a Western Corps, in terms of size, while the counterpart of a Western Army Group is typically a Soviet Front, comprising anything from 3 to 8 Armies.. Also, the Soviet Groups of Forces, such the Northern Group of Forces, are to my knowledge peace time organizations, replaced by Fronts in wartime. For example, the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, which became the Western Group of Forces in 1989, would presumably have formed two Fronts in wartime, while the other Groups of Forces would probably have formed only one Front each. I do know it would be confusing to many readers to use the term Front for a Soviet army group because the word has other uses too. Maybe this is the reason?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kade. Good to meet you, and thank you for checking out the blog and following it.

      Yeah, a Soviet Tank Army, such as 1st Guards Tank Army is an army group sized force. And you’re right, it’s comparative in size and mission to a Western corps like V Corps. The Soviets would’ve used Fronts in wartime too, you’re right about that. Western TVD would’ve probably had three first echelon fronts active in Central Europe in wartime: North, Central, and Southwestern Fronts. I haven’t really used the Front term much in this blog. It would be confusing to many readers, I agree with you. I may add it here and there when I make deep revisions later this summer though.

      Like

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