The Central Front D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part II

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By 0200 the 56th Guards Motor Rifle Division (MRD) was across the Leine and establishing a perimeter out to Highway 240. Behind it, the 58th Guards MRD began its own river crossing. NATO air attacks continued to disrupt the operation, damaging the crossing points and bringing on delays, but the movement of men, and equipment across the river never came to a full stop. The division’s crossing did not resume again until after the sun came up, and soon the 47th Guards Tank Division had moved up in anticipation of its own movement across the river, causing additional traffic issues on the west bank.

3rd Shock Army’s commander wanted to strengthen and expand the bridgehead before then. The present layout was not going to be enough to get 47th Guards over in a timely manner, and behind that division was the bulk of the 5th Guards Tank Army. The nearest unit from that formation was the 8th Guards Tank Division, a Category A unit as was the 47th Guards. The general intended to request that 8th Guards also be attached to his own army group to strengthen the drive to Hameln, the next objective. With luck, the two tank divisions would be across by 2300 hours and by then the two motor rifle divisions ahead will have established a corridor and cleared away NATO resistance between the Leine and outskirts of Hameln entirely.

 

NATO formations were also in motion in the first hours of D+12. Two brigades, one US and one British had been taken from reserve and sent forward to cover the withdrawal of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The regiment was now entirely removed from the battle area, and the two brigades were preparing to fulfill their next mission: feint a counterattack towards the Leine bridgehead and draw the Soviets out into a trap. The consensus at NORTHAG’s forward headquarters, and in Brussels, was that the Soviets did not have an accurate picture of NATO’s strength, and unit dispositions between the Leine, and Hameln. The fog of war in this sector of the battlefront was particularly thick. SACEUR wanted to take advantage of this, but NORTHAG’s commander had objections. In the end, SACEUR won out, as higher-ranking generals usually do. The plan was for a force of two NATO brigades to hit the flank of the Soviet divisions as they advance away from the Leine, create a swift, violent meeting engagement, and cast doubt in the minds of the Soviet commanders about the size of the force facing them, and question how secure their flanks are.

The US unit was the 2nd Brigade/2nd Armored Division. When III Corps had completely Reforged, the 2nd AD reunited. Its 3rd Brigade, which had been fighting with the Dutch I Corps in the north was removed from the line and reassigned to its parent division, which was now serving as the tactical reserve for the NATO forces digging in around Hameln. Now the brigade was positioned forward, and preparing for its first contact with the enemy.

The British formation was the 4th Armoured Brigade, one of the 3rd Armoured Division’s combat formations. Unlike its American counterpart, this brigade was battle-tested, and scarred. Not every casualty, or piece of destroyed equipment had been replaced. On paper the brigade was at 70% of its authorized strength presently, but the estimate was hardly an accurate assessment. As things stood, this was the most the British I Corps could spare for the time being, and the brigade was capable enough to fulfill its latest mission.

 

The communications situation at 56th Guards headquarters was becoming an issue as the sun rose. Enemy jamming was growing in strength and contact with the forward reconnaissance screen was spotty at best. What was left of three reconnaissance companies were now moving west of Highway 240 to survey the terrain, and routes that the 56th and follow-on divisions would use to reach Hameln.

At 0700 the northern recon company reported sighting British troops and APCs moving near an abandoned theme park just off of Highway 1. Minutes later the company reported it was in contact. Communications broke off shortly afterward. While the northern company was engaging in a fight, one of the other two reconnaissance companies soon radioed in a report of American tanks at Esbeck. The 56th Guards commander assumed these were rear-guard elements of the US cavalry regiment and ordered his troops to monitor them. The information was sent up to 3rd Shock Army’s headquarters just as the jamming increased. For the next half hour the radio networks were filled with ear splitting static. Attempts to reach the reconnaissance units were futile.

Finally, as the time reached 0830, contact was reestablished. The northern company reported a company of British APCs and tanks now moving east on Highway 1. The center company’s report was even more alarming. According to the unit commander there was at least a company of American tanks located at Esbeck, and they appeared to be readying themselves for movement.

6 Replies to “The Central Front D+12 (21 July, 1987) Part II”

  1. I’m just going to say this…

    That Soviet Commander has GOT to be saying to himself- “This is not the actions of a rear guard force…. And the British are not supposed to be here…”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Gotta love those jammers. I served on a MLQ-34 TacJam system when I was in Germany in 1990. Also served on a Piranha jammer. We had the commo guys make us a cable to plug into a boombox so we could jam with music. We called ourselves “KPIG radio, the VOICE of Hohenfels!” 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. KPIG! I love it LOL TacJam was an interesting system. Never saw one up close but I did get to check out an EH-60 Quickfix once. Interesting helicopter. 🙂

      Like

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