Alpha Section- Land and Air activity in and around Jutland D+13 1200-2359
1200– The objective of the 108th Guards Paratrooper Regiment was Skrydstrup Airbase. Seizing the base was crucial for the regiment since the prospect of follow-on forces arriving via air drop was dim. With Skrydstrup in Soviet hands, reinforcements could arrive in a more orderly, and rapid manner. MiGs could also be dispatched there to provide air cover over the base and keep NATO fighters at bay. Without possession of the base, the regiment was destined to wither on the vine until it died or surrendered. By noon two of the regiment’s three battalions were organized and starting to move towards the objective in tactical march formations. The distance between the drop zones and the airbase was roughly 7 kilometers. Speed and security were the primary concerns for the battalion commanders. The forward security elements kept watch for signs of NATO forces moving to meet them. For the first thirty minutes all was quiet. Then, as the security and advance elements approached the hamlet of Kolsnap, the first NATO ground attack aircraft appeared.
At Skrydstrup, the installation commander understood he was fighting the clock even more than the Soviets. The earlier appearance of parachutes against the morning sky confirmed that his airbase was indeed a target for Warsaw Pact (most likely Soviet) paratroopers. Instantly, the focus of him and his men shifted from repairing the light amount of damage caused by Soviet air attacks, to base defense and preparing every single airworthy aircraft for immediate departure. The base commander, a Royal Danish Air Force Colonel and former fighter pilot named Finlay Carlsen, regarded the safety of the aircraft based at Skrydstrup to be his top priority. The only way to guarantee their survival was to get them away from the base as soon as possible. And that’s exactly what Carlsen did. Fighters that had just landed after chasing transports and MiGs all over the Jutland skies underwent hot refuelings and took off at once. Their destinations, along with every other aircraft that followed them, were airbases in northern Jutland, or even Norway. Aircraft unable to fly such as those with battle damage, and hangar queens were unceremoniously burned by ground crews.
Next Carlsen turned to base defense. Aside from a company of Danish Home Guard infantry, he had little more to keep Skrydstrup out of Soviet hands. Another local Home Guard force was moving northeast to make contact with and engage the Soviet airborne troops. A handful of enemy paratroopers had their chutes pushed off course by gusts of wind and ended up landing within the base perimeter. All of them were in custody now. Carlsen was under no illusions about how long his defenses could hold up. The Soviet force was made up of elite paratroopers, well-trained and highly motivated. They would be squaring off against Danish reservists, men in their thirties and forties, armed with obsolete weapons who spent a handful of days training every year. Carlsen did need them, however. He needed them to buy enough time for him to clear out the ground crews, and other essential personnel. Odds were that the Soviets would capture Skrydstrup one way or another in the coming hours. But if they also captured enough ground crews, intelligence officers, and others, it would put a serious dent in AIRBALTAP’s abilities to conduct a major air battle.
1320– So far, the day’s push up the eastern half of Jutland by Northern Group of Forces (NGF) was proceeding slower than expected, and exacting a high cost. The West German 6th Panzergrenadier Division’s (PzGD) lines had stabilized the previous evening after a day of intense clashes with the Soviet 6th Motor Rifle Division (MRD). The crossroads at Kliplev was finally seized, but the next NATO defensive line had been established from Aabenraa west to Kasso. That line had held twice today, mostly due to NATO close air support which never faltered despite the Soviet airborne landings 21 kilometers north of the NATO lines NGF’s commanding general Colonel General Ivan Korbutov was determined to break the NATO defenses and push through at least as far as the airbase at Skrydstrup. He would ask the 6th MRD to lead the attack once more, and not to relent until a breach was created in the NATO lines. Then he could finally unleash 20th Tank Division to wreak havoc in NATO’s rear area.
1410- The commanders, and staffs at LANDJUT and AIRBALTAP were recovering from the morning’s unpleasant surprises in piecemeal fashion. There were Soviet and Polish paratroopers on the ground in Jutland, moving towards a pair of strategically significant objectives. In the east, the Soviet airborne troops were approaching Skrydstrup, and in the west the Polish paratrooper force was expected to begin setting up blocking positions along the Jutland Division’s main north-south line for resupply and reinforcements. The debate going on at LANDJUT centered on whether to keep the main NATO defenses on the eastern half of the peninsula south of Skrydstrup or pull all friendly forces back and reestablish defensive lines north of the airbase. The British 1st Infantry Brigade, and a brigade from the US 9th Motorized Infantry Division were moving south to reinforce. Some LANDJUT officers wanted to use one of these units to attack the Soviet airborne troops maneuvering to take Skydstrup, AIRBALTAP had already written the base off as an operational asset, however. And the 6th PzGD was not expected to hold out for too much longer.
After close to an hour of debate, and discussion, the two commanders agreed on a plan. The new NATO defensive line in Jutland was to be established just below Kolding and run west across the width of the peninsula. The US and British troops would anchor the eastern half, with limited support from the Home Guard, leaving LANDJUT to hold the west.
1500- The evacuation of NATO personnel from Skydstrup Airbase is completed. Soviet paratroopers reach the base perimeter not very long after. Through the rest of the day they endure multiple attacks by US A-10 Warthogs, and AH-1 attack helicopters.
1659- The main combat elements of the West German 6th PzGD begin moving north after enduring a heavy Soviet attack. While the Soviet 6th MRD has not achieved a breakthrough, Colonel General Korbutov decides to commit the 20th Tank Division later in the evening.
1830- LANDJUT’s field headquarters receives a strange radio communique from western Jutland. A party of Polish officers have approached a Danish brigade headquarters under a white flag and requested a parley with the commander of the Jutland Division at 0000 Hours. Fighting and activity in the western sectors has diminished since late afternoon.
2000- Korbutov has lost contact entirely with the Polish divisions on his left. The Soviet liaison officers assigned cannot be reached. More suspicious reports arrive minutes later. Polish columns have halted in place and are no longer moving. Time goes by and it becomes clear something untoward is happening. He cancels 20th Tank Division’s planned attack and goes about investigating the situation with the Poles in the west.
2203- It takes a little more than two hours to unsort matters. Once Korbutov discovers exactly what is going on, he orders his communications officer to contact Western TVD’s wartime headquarters at once.
Author’s Note: The sectional approach seems to be working for Baltic Approaches D+13 so I’ve decided to continue it for Part V. With so much happening it has actually been a great help. So for Part V there will be three sections: Alpha- Eastern Jutland, Bravo- Western Jutland, Charlie- Naval and Amphibious.