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


On D+7 1st Guards Tank Army had attacked west with two divisions (one tank, the other motorized rifle)  in the first echelon across a front of roughly 38 kilometers. This was essentially the area defended by the US V Corps 8th Infantry (Mechanized) and 3rd Armored divisions. Their covering forces were pulled back into the main battle area (MBA) and penetrations of the 8th ID’s main defensive line began to develop. The penetrations were eventually halted but similar problems in the 3rd AD sector put units still positioned on the original forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) in extremely vulnerable positions.

These issues continued on D+8 as the battle progressed squarely into the main battle area. At 0500 hours V Corps issued a frag order for a continuation of the defense. There was no need to order an immediate general withdrawal to Phase Line Yale just yet. 3rd AD’s situation had stabilized, it was presently on good defensive terrain and didn’t appear to be in imminent danger. For the next twelve hours 8th ID and 3rd AD’s brigades steadily delayed back to Phase Line Yale under pressure from the 11th Guards Tank Division, and 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division. During this time, the V Corps commander, and his Soviet counterpart each separately recognized the increasing need for reinforcements. As it was, both generals had a fresh heavy division in reserve, but for differing reasons neither one could commit them to the battle.

For Lieutenant General Anatoli Tchernitsov the issue was similar to that facing 3rd Shock Army’s commander up north. 1st Guards Tank Army’s reserve division was its OMG. Tchernitsov could not unleash it without the approval of higher headquarters, and his superiors had made it crystal clear that a request would not be granted until a realistic breakthrough opportunity either appeared, or was created. That moment of favorable circumstances had yet to arrive. Despite the heavy losses being endured by the first echelon divisions, the 9th Tank Division was to remain in assembly areas for the time being.

V Corps commander Lieutenant General John Woodmansee had the power to order the 4th Infantry Division (Mech) forward into the MBA. He was holding back, however, to make certain when the time came, he had a powerful force available to spearhead the V Corps counterattack. His decision was significantly felt by the 8th ID which was forced to endure another day of heavy fighting, with no sign of relief in sight. To strengthen the 8th ID and remove any chance of a Soviet breakthrough in its sector, Woodmansee ordered the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment to prepare to assist the 8th if the situation called for it.

As V Corps forward divisions continued to bleed the enemy and slowly move back towards Phase Line Yale, the 11th ACR and units of the 4th ID started moving forward from assembly areas near Phase Line Dartmouth farther west, to Yale. What their mission would be depended on the battle still playing out. It would either be to move into the MBA and prevent a major penetration in the 8th ID sector, or to prepare for either a rearward or forward passage of lines, depending which situation developed on D+9.

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