The Central Front D+9 (18 July, 1987) Part III

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On the Eastern Front in the Second World War, Red Army formations generally utilized mass and speed, or terrain in their attacks. After the war, many German officers admitted openly that speed was the most difficult to defend against. The Soviets favored mass and speed, and the results obtained in the east justified their overindulgence in it.

In the CENTAG region in July, 1987 mass and speed was again the primary preference of attack. But it had not worked as well for the Soviet army groups, and their Warsaw Pact allies in this area. The terrain features here favored the defenders, giving the NATO corps in CENTAG a decisive advantage through the first ten days of the war. Pre-war Soviet estimates had expected the 8th Guards and 1st Guards Tank armies to have broken out of the Fulda Gap and be approaching Frankfurt by this point. This was not the case. 8th GA had been shattered in its engagements with the US V and VII Corps. Its replacement, 1st GTA was advancing west slowly, enduring heavy losses in its attempt to break through V Corps lines and imperiling Frankfurt. Despite the cost, the advance was showing promise. If the city was seriously threatened, it could potentially upset the overall defensive plan for NATO, and permanently prevent the movement of CENTAG forces north to the Hanover area where the battle was hanging in the balance.

In the West German III Corps sector the lines were static. Kassel remained in NATO hands. The combined East German-Soviet drives on the city had all burned out in the suburbs, and a follow-on effort never materialized. The focus was now in the northern corps area where 12th Panzer Division was anchored. The German division was tied in with the Belgian 1st Infantry Division in  I Belgian Corps sector to the north, defending against a possible deep swing south by Soviet second echelon divisions once they joined the battle.

Fighting continued in the US V Corps Main Battle Area. The corps commander General John Woodmansee walked back his decision to keep the 8th Infantry Division on the line. After reevaluating the present situation, he opted to move the 4th Infantry Division forward and pull the 8th back to the corps rear. Phase Line Yale was designated as the new defensive line in the MBA. The 11th ACR screened the movement of forces to and from throughout the morning and into the afternoon, keeping the 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division at bay. The 3rd Armored Division adjusted its dispositions accordingly.

The fact was that both of the V Corps divisions were in need of relief. The 3rd Armored was in better condition than the 8th ID, but ten days of war had taken its toll. To make matters more challenging, the remaining two REFORGER heavy brigades earmarked to support V Corps were not completely reforged. There were simply not enough transport aircraft and CRAF airliners available to meet every requirement of US forces around the globe at the moment. To compensate, CINC-CENTAG planned to replace the 3rd with VII Corps own 1st Armored Division. The southern US corps had all of its REFORGER units manned and in theater. The 1st Infantry Division was on the line southeast of Nurnberg, with the Canadians farther south. Redeploying 1st Tanks General Woodmansee concurred with the plan. It would allow both of his divisions the opportunity to rest, refit, and be ready for the next phase of operations. Late in the afternoon, 1st AD started moving, with its arrival in V Corps sector, and subsequent handoff planned to take place in the early morning hours of D+10.

Author’s Note: I intended to include operations in southern Germany with this entry, but then realized I have not been posting too much about events in that area. So instead, the final post of the Central Front D+9 series will be a catch-up timeline of the war in the south. That should be posted by the end of the week.  

6 Replies to “The Central Front D+9 (18 July, 1987) Part III”

  1. I know you said it’d be soon, Mike, but was it this phase of the war you mentioned the Apache making it’s battlefield debut in Europe? Just curious – no pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, I’m finally getting to that point. There were still more Cobras in Europe back then, but the Apaches are coming in now so there will be some serious talk about them in the coming days D+10 and on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Excellent. I knew they were coming up, just could not remember when. I guess those would come over disassembled on C-5s & C-141’s or a combination of those and ship?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. In the real world the first Apache units made it over to Europe in September of ’87. 68 aircraft went over to take part in REFORGER/Certain Strike. They came from Fort Hood I believe. So figure in the alternate timeline some are in Europe already ten days into the war. Figure one battalion or so up north with III Corps, and the other down in CENTAG. They would’ve come over on the trash haulers (cargo planes) most likely.

          Liked by 1 person

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