The Central Front D+8 (17 July, 1987) Part I

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The focal point in the battle for West Germany was rapidly developing around Hanover. NATO and the Warsaw Pact each recognized the significance of the city and surrounding areas to their future operations, and overall war aims. Hanover was the gateway to the Weser River. Beyond that body of water lay the Ruhr Valley, the industrial heartland of the Federal Republic. It was generally accepted by NATO general officers, and Federal Republic politicians that whoever controlled the Weser controlled West Germany.

For the Red Army it all was about reaching the Weser at the moment. 20th Guards Army was committed northeast of Hanover. Following its daring attack along the seam between two NATO corps the day before, its divisions were now attempting to exploit the chaos and confusion the earlier attack brought on. 3rd Shock Army had focused its advance on Hildesheim and the southeast suburbs of Hanover. This was the area where a breakthrough was most desired. West of Hildesheim, the terrain opened up, favoring the mobility and maneuver of an attacking force significantly more than had been the case farther east. NATO realized this too, and was moving to concentrate a considerable amount of combat power and prevent an enemy breakthrough from occurring.

By dawn on D+8, West German forces had almost entirely withdrawn from Celle. Rear guard troops armed with ATGMs, and a handful of Leopard 2 MBTs bled the 35th Motor Rifle Division’s lead elements as they approached the small city. The division spent much of the morning clearing the approaches to Celle, and securing it. Elements of the West German 11th Panzergrenadier Division counterattacked just as the 35th MRD was handing off the advance to the 90th Guards Tank Division. This significantly slowed 20th GA’s general advance and by the time it got back underway in the later afternoon, West German resistance had stiffened west of Celle.

As this was going on, a motor-rifle regiment-sized reconnaissance in force was conducted against I NL Corps known and suspected positions. The purpose of the maneuver was two-fold: gain solid intelligence about the strength and dispositions of the Dutch defenses around Bergen and Hermannsburg. The secondary objective of the reconnaissance was to sell the notion that the 20th GA’s main attack was going to be made in that direction.

In front of Hanover, the British 7th Armored Brigade covered the withdrawal of the remainder of the 1st Armored Division from east of the city. It held the ground just forward of Autobahn 7 for the majority of the day, beating back increasingly half-hearted enemy attempts to penetrate the line. NATO did not expect the Soviets to advance into Hanover itself, yet a penetration of the 7th Armored Brigade could potentially cause major issues and end up outflanking British and allied forces arrayed to the south.

South of Hannover, the NATO defenses were a mixture of British, West German, and Belgian units. The British 4th Armored Division held a line running from Laatzen to Hildesheim. A West German brigade was dug in at Bad Salzdetfurth, and a reinforced Belgian brigade at Bockenem. A deep defense was established, intended to delay, inflict heavy casualties on, and spread out the 3rd SA as it advanced beyond Hildesheim and towards the Weser. But before the Soviets could even think of reaching the Weser, it first had to reach and bridge a smaller, yet no less important river: The Leine.

6 Replies to “The Central Front D+8 (17 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. In looking at a map for these locations… the Soviets have to go thru NATO to get to the Leine.

    Who is south of the Belgians? Because in looking at teh maps, a drive to the Leine through Hahausen and a gamble run via the wide valleys can avoid the NATO strongpoints…. and a turn up towards Alfeld. (Kinda Red Storm Rising there…) The French, I imagine, would be committed by now…. and theory has it that REFORGER has happened and the US forces are hauling butt to get to their sector.

    (Did the Cav and 2AD make it into position? If so, the rest of my thoughts are kinda moot….)

    The terrain sucks for anything but a pile driver move ( but powering through with a few diversionary attacks on the belgians *could* see success with an end-run.

    Could… because if the NATO LP/OPs are forward enough, a sneak southwest to Seesen is gonna get caught. And iirc, Soviet Doctrine does not do Hedgehog Anti Air (ie: intermingle the AA with advancing columns) like we do.*

    (Desert Storm, we had stinger teams and the like all intermingled with us- we expected Iraqi AF assets to find us- they never did but no one ever should dismiss a possible blind squirrel moment by their foe. Ever)

    In all things…. awesome stuff, I wish I had the programs being used and I look forward to more writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, when I started gaming the war I kept having thoughts about the similarities between how the battle was shaping up and Red Storm Rising. South of the Belgians are the West Germans again, mostly territorial units. I’ll talk more about the tactical picture in the next entry but you’re right with what you’ve said. 2nd AD is with III Corps in the NORTHAG rear. The 3rd ACR is moving up, but CINC-NORTHAG hasn’t decided where to put them yet.

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  2. It’s always interesting to read Cold War stories set right where you live. In my case on the river Leine, just between Laatzen and Hildesheim.
    This really brings up childhood memories like the yearly fall manouvers of the British stationed in Hildesheim, or the nape of the earth flybies of Tornadoes. Back then, just at this time of the year, one would often find British soldiers taking cover in ditches besides the road. Nearly always we children would be startled when they popped up while we were playing. Usually we then would get apples or chocolad. A fun memories.

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    1. I’m so jealous. Those childhood memories sound absolutely wonderful, although the fact that the Brits were preparing to potentially fight a major battle in your backyard must’ve been unnerving when you realized it.

      The area you lived in is going to figure quite heavily in the coming Central Front blog entries so please watch for them. Feel free to share any more memories from your childhood as well.

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      1. 😀 fun! Just read the second part. Good stuff! I’m really looking forward to reading if and where the Soviets will break through.
        Yeah, they’re quite some memories. Although we probably would not have been around anymore to see the Soviets coming. Sources from the GDR, that were discovered over the last years show clearly that the GDR and Soviets planed to use tactical nukes to neutralize the city and and the units stationed here, the moment any hostilities started, regardless wheter they would be on the attack or defense.
        For my pupils who were all born after 2000 so many of these things are as far away as the middle ages. Take the GDR for instance. It’s quite strange they only know a world with a unified Germany, Euro, War on Terror, smart phones, wireless internet, etc.. They really cannot imagine being constantly targeted by nuclear weapons.

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        1. Thanks! 🙂 It will be revealed soon enough if and where a Soviet breakthrough will take place.

          I think you’re right. A volley of FROGs with tactical nuclear warheads would’ve been aimed right at your area. Thankfully, that never happened.
          It’s amazing how today’s children have no clue about just how dangerous the world was when we were their age. It’s bad today, but students in Germany don’t know what life was like when Germany was divided and every day brought the possibility of war on their home soil.

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