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


The cavalry squadrons of the 8th Infantry Division and 3rd Armored Divisions played their role as covering forces well. The battalion-sized units harassed the enemy formations making their way west through the morning. Bolstered by fixed wing close air support, attack helicopters, and artillery, they slowed down the leading units of the 11th Guards Division and 20th Motor Rifle Division considerably. By early afternoon, the squadrons had done about as much as they possibly could and started withdrawing west of Phase Line Princeton, handing off the battle to their parent divisions.

In the afternoon and early evening hours, 11th Guards Tank Division executed three separate attacks against the 8th Infantry Division’s 1st and 2nd Brigades. The second attack was the most powerful, briefly penetrating the 2nd Brigades defenses and reaching beyond Kirchheim before the division’s 3rd Brigade was brought forward and conducted a successful counterattack. This attack allowed the 1/8th ID ample time to establish a new defensive line west of Oberaula, and 2/8th ID withdrew from the battle area entirely to a point in the division’s rear area west of Phase Line Yale. By nightfall, things had settled down along the 8th ID’s front.

To the south, 3rd AD’s sector had also settled down by the evening. The US armored division had successfully hung the Soviet 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division up around Fulda for most of the day. The first Soviet attack turned out to be a haphazard frontal assault on Fulda that fast became a bloody defeat at the hands of Task Force 5-18 Mech. Subsequent Soviet efforts avoided Fulda almost entirely, though enemy advances north, and south of the city were slowed, or halted at multiple points through the rest of the day. The 20th MRD’s commander urgently requested reinforcements, incorrectly advising his superiors that he was facing two enemy divisions. Lieutenant General Tchernitsov adamantly refused to commit his OMG division to the battle so early, though. For now, the 20th MRD was on its own.

The V Corps front was the most active area of CENTAG on D+7, but there was fighting taking place in other areas as well. North of V Corps, the West German III Corps continued sparring with two East German divisions. The East German’s drive to Kassel was over and now the GDR tankers and infantrymen had to content themselves with keeping pressure on their former countrymen as the larger, more consequential battles of the war raged to their northwest, and south.

The US VII Corps on the right flank of its sister US corps was growing anxious. D+7 brought little in the way of action. Soviet efforts against VII Corps divisions were little more than probes, or harassment hit-and-run attacks The corps commander and his staff knew it was time to get back into the war. And if the war wasn’t going to come to them, VII Corps would have to go to it.

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

  1. VII Corps going to the war will be a sledge-hammer hitting a damaged brick. given soviet doctrine, they might have issues with this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. VII Corps between 1984 and 1991 is the most capable, and powerful corps level formation the post-World War II world has ever seen, at least that’s my opinion. I’d rather face Godzilla.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, those would be the two primary options available to them. Or maybe invade Czechoslovakia. I saw that written out in a book last year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting point that might affect the battle: while the Soviets were made aware of the cable tap in the Sea of Ohktosh by the Walker family, they didn’t know about the one in the Kola area. Consequently a lot of Soviet plans could be foiled, or at least our capabilities could be masked. This might lead them to underestimate the power of VII corps, and if that’s the case then they’re in for a rude surprise. If VII turns left they could chop the head off of the Soviet advance in a pincer maneuver, and then follow-up airborne and tac-air strikes stop the “body” of the snake trapping VII until they complete the encirclement. Then once the pressure is off V Corps, they could themselves turn left and smash into the flank of the units facing Ger. III Corps., again with Airborne forces being used to drive a wedge in between V and VII to hold that salient against Soviet pressure, until 8th ID and 3rd AD can swing around and plug that gap, now that they’ve bought time for the Germans. In this, like Roman soldiers rotating through the Phalanx, units are kept off being constantly on the line. With good luck in the tac air the 20th MRD and 11th GD are going to be separated and chopped to bits. The x-factor is the OMG division: I hate to sound like a broken record but if Tac Air is doing their job then OMG is going to be harried all the way to the front, and the situation they find will be utter chaos. Where will Tchernitsov deploy them? There won’t be a single situation where there isn’t a complete swirling melee of cut off brigades and enemy attack helos and defense-in-depth of anti-tank units waiting for the incautious units to stick it out too far, just the kind of bogged-down fighting the WarPac units hate. All that bottled up at the front then is a big fat juicy target for the VII to turn and pick their desired point of entry and smash into.

    Kick in the door, and the whole rotten structure will come down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think how the Soviet estimated VII Corps depended on who you asked. KGB likely had one assessment, the GRU another, and the Western Military District another that was entirely different.

      I like the look and sound of that battle plan. How Tchernitsov uses the OMG will determine how the Soviet advance in Central Germany turns out. A lot is riding on the next 36 hours for him and his army group.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Ouch, I’ve used wrong question marks, and my post as “eaten” – here’s what I’ve wanted to put here:

    “With the historical underpinnings in factors and considerations from a Soviet perspective, let’s run through the offensive at the operational level as anticipated by the estimate and Soviet expectations.
    The Polish army in the north against the German Reserve Corps [i.e. the Jutland Corps and Schleswig-Holstein Defense Sector – DS] would probably makes its main attack in the southern part of the sector because that would put their main attack adjacent to the Northern Front main attack on their southern border. Also the terrain would be better along the Elbe River versus the coastal littoral, and with the main attack’s southern flank along the Elbe would preclude a counterattack from that direction. The Poles would meet initial resistance from relatively prepared positions, but their weighting the main sector would push forward, threatening encirclement of German units against the North Sea coast while moving directly towards Hamburg with its port facilities.
    For the sake of this scenario, the Northern Front’s main attack is with the 20th GA in the first echelon, to be followed by the 2nd GTA against the Dutch sector. The first echelon units of 20th GA would move forward attempting to fix the Dutch forward defense while working to create a penetration corridor straight off the Dannenberg salient just north of Uelzen in the direction of Soltau. Dutch pockets of resistance in strongpoints and assembled counterattack forces would receive heavy air and artillery strikes. Extensive bridging equipment would be forward to facilitate multiple crossings over and through the Elbe-Seiten Canal which runs from south to north in front of the Uelzen-Luneberg line.
    Surprise on the Elbe-Seiten Canal could be a two-edge affair. The Soviets could possibly surprise the Dutch in locations, fashion, and speed in their overcoming the obstacle. The Dutch on the other hand could blow elevated sections of the canal creating flood plains that would canalize the Soviet advance. Consequently, the main attack is moving closer to Uelzen versus Luneberg which was a flood victim of a major break in the canal back in the early 1970s. The 20th GA by the end of the first day or early the next day be able to have a penetration that would support the commitment of an Operational Maneuver Group and/or the 2nd GTA, somewhere before Soltau. By day two, Soviet forces driving on, through or past Soltau will be in a position to threaten Bremen, but more importantly the German I Corps flank south of the Dutch Corps.
    The threat to the German I Corps flank is accented by the 3rd SA which has its main attack supporting next to the 20th GA main attack aimed at moving down the Dutch-German corps boundary and the supporting attack of SA fixing the German I Corps which is fighting strongly and finds it is able to hold against the supporting attack.
    The East German MD III Army attacks with all its weight against the British Corps sector which is south of the German I Corps. MD III is the Northern Front’s southern boundary unit.

    The East German Army attack against the British Corps receives support from the Central Front’s main attack by the 8th GA against the Belgian Corps sector and working against the British Corps’ boundary with the Belgians. THE 8TH GA’S MISSION IS TO PENETRATE THE BELGIAN CORPS AND FACILITATE THE COMMITMENT OF THE 1ST GTA ONTO THE PADERBORN PLAIN.
    The firm drives against the British Corps sector which had a number of water obstacles does force the Brits back towards the south side of Hannover.
    With a major penetration in the Dutch sector and the forced British withdrawal, the German Corps has both of its flanks threatened and must withdraw to avoid encirclement.
    The significant dilemma for NORTHAG is the identification of two major breakthrough operations by elements of two Fronts in sector: Dutch and Belgian Corps. NORTHAG has an operational reserve of one U.S. corps.
    Which way to send it?
    1) Against the northern penetration is to deal with penetration into the operational depth that will seal off the NATO forces from the northern ports and allows a development of the offensive into the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
    2) Against the southern penetration to ensure contiguous operations with CENTAG in order to stabilize the situation in the south and work either a counter strike into the Soviet effort against the north.
    The situation is complicated because on the first day, an Operational Maneuver Group in the first echelon got a jump on the penetration and is into the operational depth going after the NORTHAG reserve corps.

    The Central Front places its main attack against the Belgian Corps sector creating a second major penetration that has the potential to move west to the Rhine north of the major urban built up area ranging from Dortmund-Düsseldorf-Cologne to Bonn.
    The remainder of the Central operates against CENTAG which creates two major problems for the Soviets: 1) the terrain in the southern half of West Germany is tougher in relief and vegetation with relatively minor water obstacles; 2) and more importantly, if the Soviets punch through where do they go? A breakthrough to the north of Frankfurt puts the Soviet forces on line for the Ardennes. And a breakthrough to the south of Frankfurt points the Soviet effort to the south of France which is good for a supporting force for occupation, but does not militarily bring off capture of significant military objectives.
    A Soviet effort against the Fulda Gap area with a direction of attack along Bad Hersfeld-Alsfeld-Geissen-Weisbaden supports the Central Front’s main attack by cutting off the major south-north roads/highways and fixing German and U.S. corps in the south.
    Consequently, a Soviet army (created from the Soviet Northern Group of Forces HQ) [according to Col. Jerzy Kajetanowicz, based upon materials of the Polish General Staff, it would be the 16th Combined Arms Army – DS] comprised of Soviet divisions from western Poland and northern Czechoslovakia attack with a main effort against the Fulda Gap ensuring enough forces to fix the German III Corps south of the Belgian Corps and one of the U.S. corps. Central Front also picks up a Tactical Air Army from Poland (HQ at Legnica).
    The Soviet Central Group of Forces becomes the Southwestern Front with Soviet and Czech armies attacking the remainder of CENTAG. While a relatively strong attack, the terrain is difficult. Ideally, it hopes to fix the forward NATO corps and draw the French Corps reserve for CENTAG.
    The attack against CENTAG’s northern German and U.S. corps clearly puts them on the defensive. The German III Corps is concerned about its northern flank with the Belgian Corps and siphons forces to shore up the southern part of the Belgian Corps as it begins to disintegrate. By late the second and third day, the U.S. corps begin to think counterattack (maybe counterstrike). As discussed previously, the consideration was to Leipzig, about 150 miles deep. While it would be good to attack the Soviet offensive, the direction to Leipzig is little help against the whole fight in Germany. It would threaten the Central Front main attack against the Belgian Corps, but does nothing to further north. The U.S. corps would have to attack all the way to the south side of Berlin to disrupt the Soviet Western Theater’s main attack.
    Additionally, by days 3-5, the Western TVD (Theater of Military Operations) reserves of at least the Polish 2nd Army, 11th GA from the Baltic, and 5th GTA from Belorussia would be staging to the south side of Berlin. The Polish 2nd Army would likely reinforce the 1st Polish Army in the securing of Hamburg and sealing off the Jutland Peninsula. The 11th GA would be sent to reinforce the 1st GTA’s drive to the west, while 20th GA secured Bremerhaven and came on line to cover the right flank move into the Netherlands. 5th GTA in reserve could deal with a U.S./CENTAG counterstrike and/or support attacks against remaining NORTHAG resistance.
    Additional, Soviet armies (ground and tactical air) would be arriving from Ukraine and Soviet Union interior.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Mike. Finally got up to date on your excellent story. I learned about it from Airborne Rifles over on Arm Chair Dragoons when he posted a link to the review of his book, Northern Fury.

    Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome aboard! Glad you were able to catch up. 🙂 Arm Chair Dragoons is a great site and I’m hoping to get in there and explore it more now that summer is here.

      Enjoy the weekend and rest your eyes from all of that reading. The next entry will be up Sunday night or Monday morning most likely.


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