Baltic Approaches D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part V- Charlie

Across western Jutland other paratroopers had shared the experience of their brigade command group and dropped near to or directly on friendly units. In more than one instance the morning’s horror of an airdrop was discussed and news of it started to circulate. As is usually the case with stories of traumatic experiences wrought with emotion, exaggerations were liberally applied as the story moved farther away from its source. But the story of the airdrop, whether told in original form or not, touched a nerve in a significant number of Polish soldiers and officers. It seemed to confirm the deep, almost universal feelings and suspicions that the majority of Poles held regarding anything and everything Soviet and Russian.

Uprisings are not impetuous undertakings. The Minutemen did not challenge the British at the North Bridge in Concord on a whim. They are generally the result of an extended period of political and social upheaval such as living under the control of an oppressive foreign power. The animosities, frustrations, and hatred directed towards that power by tens of thousands of people builds up and is compartmentalized until the time comes when it is unleashed. Put simply, an uprising occurs once a keg of discontent embedded in the hearts of a populace finds a spark. The Soviet betrayal of the Polish paratroopers that morning proved to be a spark.

The remainder of the afternoon moved purposefully. As the word spread, actions were being considered by groups of officers around western Jutland. The commander of the 6th Airborne Brigade had his mind on gathering up as many of his men as possible and pushing forward with their mission. He had pushed the events of the morning to the back of his mind was concentrating on the here and now. The commanding general of the 8th Mechanized Division, however, was thinking differently. Elements of his lead brigade were in contact with Danish forces, and a large attack was scheduled to commence in 90 minutes with the objective of breaching the Danish lines for the 16th Armored Division to reach the paratroopers at Skaerbaek. This operation had been planned previous to the morning’s airdrop before the situation went, as the Americans were fond of saying, south.

Now the division commander had dispatched men whom he could trust from his staff to the headquarters of the 16th Armored Division, and those his own brigade commanders, requesting their presence at the 8th’s forward command post at 1500. Ostensibly, the reason for the gathering was to discuss the attack scheduled for 1600. While he awaited their arrival, he took the airborne colonel off to the side and explained in detail what his plan was, and how the 6th Airborne Brigade could help.

Meanwhile, some of the battalions in the 8th Mechanized Division were encountering unexpected problems. A small number of platoons, and companies were no longer acknowledging orders from their higher headquarters, and took up hasty defensive positions. These small units were also dispatching their own messengers to spread the word of the Soviet action that morning to neighboring units. As the minutes crept by, more and more platoons dropped off their parent battalion’s radio nets. In some cases, the battalion commanders weren’t even aware what was going on. In others, the commanders looked the other way, and went about disrupting or slowing their units movement north until they could get a better grasp on what was happening at the brigade and division level.

At 1500 the meeting began at the 8th Mechanized Division’s forward HQ. The division commander spoke first to his peer from the 16th Armored Division and informed him of what was to come later that day: the 8th Mech would cease combat operations against NATO forces as of 1600 and hold its positions until a ceasefire could be reached with NATO. Afterward, the division would continue to hold its positions until a political solution could be reached regarding their status. He then brought in the 6th Airborne Brigade’s commander who explained the circumstances behind the morning’s air drop, and how the Soviet decision not to attach escort fighters had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Polish paratroopers. Upon hearing this, the 16th Armored Division commander agreed to follow the lead of his peer.

Next up was informing the brigade commanders. Two of the three reacted with visible anger, and outrage at the news of the morning’s actions. The third was more poker-faced. As the division commander laid out his plan, the third brigade commander openly objected. He was an ardent, outspoken communist, and one of the officers who supported the Soviet line without question. The division commander expected him to be a problem, and as soon as he voiced his objection he was taken into custody. Minutes later so were the Soviet liaison group officers. The tanker then got on the radio and reached his deputy commander. He ordered his own Soviet liaison group to be taken into custody. By 1530 the deed was done and minutes later the communications links between the Polish divisions and Northern Group of Forces were shut down. Fifteen minutes later all Polish units in contact with NATO forces were ordered to disengage and retreat 5 kilometers, and all units presently moving were ordered to halt in place. The actual disengagement dragged out for the next ninety minutes. Some units were in heavy contact with the Danish and their pullbacks were delayed until the Danish pressure was eased.

At 1800 the battlefield in western Jutland fell silent. Twenty minutes later the 8th Mechanized Division’s commander and a party of other Polish officers were met at the forward edge of the battle area by a contingent of Danish officers. A secretive radio message sent a short time earlier had helped to hastily arrange the rendezvous and what followed. The Danes took possession of the Pole’s weapons and drove them via jeep to the headquarters of the 1st Jutland Division. During the trip the Poles were blindfolded so as not to memorize the route and location. As a further preventive measure the Danes drove a circular route the headquarters.

Once there, the Polish general introduced himself and his men, and explained at length earlier events in the day, and the climax they led to. Next, he offered an immediate ceasefire between Polish and Danish forces until midnight. Then he requested a meeting with the commander of the Jutland Division be held at that time to discuss and negotiate terms for a permanent armistice.

Polish land forces in Denmark made their decision. For them the war against NATO was over. But for them, and for freedom-loving Poles everywhere, the larger, more consequential fight still lay ahead.

5 Replies to “Baltic Approaches D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part V- Charlie”

  1. Fantastic post, Mike.
    I’ve not got a picture of just what other Polish units are in the line elsewhere, but will be fascinating to see how this ripples out…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Deeper thoughts.

    The Soviet front commander is going to be faced with a major dilemma as will Higher HQ.

    On one hand, there will be a strong desire to punish the Poles for jumping ship in the middle of the war with the potential for launching attacks at them or even Spetznaz direct action assets. And while it can lead to temporary satisfaction, it will severely compromise other activities currently being performed in the area….

    …like the attempted drive on the airbase to link up with the VDV sitting there taking it on the chin

    On the other hand, Higher may wash their hands of the Poles and double down on the loyalty monitoring of the other members of the Pact forces, like the Czechs and the Hungarian units… because if those elements think they can jump too, they might. Which would more or less take out something like 30% or better of their combat power before commitment of units to attempt a quelling.

    And that would/could lead to Russia Proper problems… as dissident factions rise up within the country… and since the Bear has so much committed elsewhere, internal uprising won’t be squashed easily, if at all.

    And it all comes tumbling down.

    There would be folks who say the Russians would go Nuclear; as its been noted in released documents/interviews over the last 25+ years, there were plans for it. But it was always as a response to NATO doing it first… cause fall-out would screw WP nations HARD and no one wants that.

    The Russians, while pieces of the culture are a bit weird to the Western way of thinking, are not Suicidal. Fatalistic? Sure… but Suicidal? No sir…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good analysis. Poland is crucial to Soviet and Pact war plans and aims right now. So the question is: how far can Moscow go to keep them in line, and the Big Red war machine functioning?

      Liked by 1 person

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