The Central Front D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part I

The appearance of American and British armor, virtually out of nowhere, brought chaos and major disruptions to 3rd Shock Army on the previous afternoon and evening. Like a forest fire the NATO armored rampage had spread unchecked until it practically reached the banks of the river. Two motor rifle divisions were now all but combat ineffective and the 47th Guards Tank Division could not continue the advance alone. 3rd Shock Army’s position on the western side of the Leine had become delicate to say the least. The darkness of the pre-dawn hours hid the extent of damage caused by the sudden, and powerful NATO counterattack west of the Leine river crossings. As first light approached and skies brightened it gradually became apparent.

The situation was growing critical. 3rd Shock Army was not providing higher headquarters with regular, detailed updates. At his wartime headquarters, Group Soviet Forces Germany’s commander General Boris Snetkov was frustrated by the lack of information, and incomplete picture of the battlefront being provided by 3rd Shock. The highest-ranking Soviet officer in either Germany at the time, Snetkov decided to go forward himself to find out what was truly happening. His helicopter arrived at 3rd Shock’s forward command post a short time after 0600. The scene he found was more chaotic than he had expected. Damage from overnight NATO air attacks was evident. Casualties were being treated wherever there was space. The scene inside of the command bunker was no less turbulent.

3rd Shock Army’s commander briefed Snetkov on the situation in full, leaving nothing out. Once the briefing ended, Snetkov relieved the army group’s commanding general of his duties. It was clear to him that the man did not move, or react fast enough to a changing situation at the critical moment. Snetkov no longer had any confidence in his judgment, or skill as a battlefield commander. He had a replacement in mind already. GSFG’s deputy will take over command of 3rd Shock by the afternoon. Once he arrived and took control, designs for the next attack would be put together.

In the meantime, there was work to be done. The plan of attack had been disrupted and the NATO counterattack revealed some dangerous deficiencies and vulnerabilities. The tables were turned and it was the Soviets who had been placed in a fluid situation. They had been forced to think for themselves, and the outcome was not ideal. Chains of command broke down. Commanders, and troops alike panicked, froze, and as a result some units simply disintegrated when attacked by US or British tanks. 

Snetkov wanted the Leine bridgeheads expanded and reinforced before the next attack. The original bridgeheads on the river had not been put up quickly enough, or properly defended in his view. Even more reckless was the simple fact that not enough bridgeheads went up initially. In retrospect, he would’ve preferred there to be at least five, not two or three. NATO had thrown all means available at the Alfeld and Bruggen crossings and caused almost catastrophic damage, and delays. He wanted at least three additional sites selected for bridgeheads. One north of the present ones, and two to the south. Part of the reason for this planned expansion was to accommodate a southern advance to the Weser. The multitudes of delays, and counterattacks that had befallen 3rd Shock Army had given NATO time to significantly strengthen its defenses in front of Hanover, or even put together a major force to counterattack the Soviet bridgeheads. Yesterday’s action was a grim reminder of the damage a NATO attack could do.

Snetkov wanted to strengthen the advance position west of the Leine. What remained of the 56th and 58th Guards Motor Rifle Divisions was covering the approaches to the river along with a regiment of the 47th Guards Tank Division. The rest of that division was now laboring to complete its river crossing after the previous day’s events, and heavy NATO air attacks overnight. Time was becoming a valuable commodity once again. He was aware that the clock was ticking. Realistically Snetkov did not expect the next attack to start for at least thirty-six hours. An unacceptable timeframe, yet given the circumstances the general could not see a realistic way for it to be reduced without taking risks he was not yet prepared to take.

24 Replies to “The Central Front D+13 (22 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. At this point does he have any reinforcements to call on? With the Pols giving Ivan the middle finger and the Blakins probably descending into civil war I am thinking manpower/equipment is going to start running low for the Soviets.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There’s plenty in the pipeline but he’s running short on Category A and high quality B divisions. Now comes the part where what’s left of the Cat A divisions are pooled together to create an OMG and the Cat B divisions are used as fodder, perhaps

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Valid points…. but organizing the depleted Cat A units into something able to continue to attack will take time. And time he does not have.

        Add in, iirc, the Soviet doctrine/ practice of burning out a command (ie: taking below 30%) before pulling to reconstitute is kind of at odds with what he’s planning. I do not think the Soviet Command structure allows for ease of different commands intergrating.

        Mind you, combining commands is possible under their system but I don’t think its that seamless. And as I pointed out earlier in this Front’s entries, Soviet Command are very centralized for tactics and not very “creative” in lower echelon. Free thought isn’t/wasn’t encouraged…. so finding someone able to take the combined remnants and use effectively is going to be Problematic.

        Granted, their system is kind of plug and play… when there is an intact staff in place. Given how bad 3rd Shock was mauled as well as some of the other commands, the desired expansion of Bridgeheads and the reintroduction of 3rd SA is NOT both going to be able to happen. Snetkov is kinda pissing in the wind if he thinks he’s going to manage BOTH in the next 36 hours.

        Don’t get me wrong, Its possible… but EVERYTHING has to go right. He has to get manpower and supplies to the 3rd SA, Soviet Aviation has to protect his bridging units AND suppress NATO air… and try to ensure that there isn’t a 2nd Thunder Run… Because we silly westerners will try something that worked once a second time- ie: Stop us if you can…

        56th & 58th Guards MRD’s and the 47th Tank are all at something like 50% (or neighborhood of) effective strength… and they are hard pressed to hold on to their gains, if I am reading this right.

        IF he can get 3rd SA reconstituted enough and the CAT B units (lets be honest- those B units should have been committed four days ago!!) coming are able to be committed soundly and in good order within 48 hours, maybe he can manage to retake the momentum.

        Maybe.

        But that says everything goes right, NATO doesn’t have a say… (smart generals remember the enemy ALWAYS has a say, whether you like it or not…) and outside events to his front don’t upend efforts. And then, its possible to at least halt NATO’s momentum and reverse it some.

        As readers/observers, we already know the tidal wave coming that is (as pointed out) the Poland Issue as well as Yugoslavia. Both of those are going to affect him… and very soon- along with the strengthened NATO opposition.

        The Battle of the North Atlantic’s effects on his Aviation assets… are just about to be felt by the end of this day’s activities too. Which cannot be afforded. Not now.

        By the end of D+13, Snetkov is gonna know if he has time or if he needs to gamble with 3rd SA and available assets in a big push. And if he can’t get his plan in motion by mid to late D+14 (which is faster than he wants but realistically, the longest he can wait), they are done by D+15- because of events OUTSIDE of the Central Front.

        Even not knowing of the outside events as readers, the overall state of the Soviet battle plan is in ruins. No plan ever survives contact with the other side…. but it seems like they married the initial plan too much and didn’t make enough provisions for adjusting on the fly.

        Snetkov is trying…. but I think Doctrine and training/adherence to policy is going to hamstring him even before the rest of the stuff hits.

        My theory on how this is gonna play out, barring a blind squirrel moment or three. Will be interesting reading to see if it goes the way I think or not, at the very least. 🙂

        *goes off to make popcorn*

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Good points. Keep in mind the day isn’t done yet, and its D+13. We already know what’s happening in other theaters. How much of an impact that will have on the Central Front remains to be seen.

          I’ll email you tomorrow BTW. Got tied up today. Didn’t forget ya. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh I know the day isn’t done yet.

            D+13 events in other theaters…. is going to be telling on what happens on THIS particular front for Day 14. And omg, it won’t be pretty. Come 2359 on D+13, Snetkov is gonna have a migraine from hell as news from other fronts trickles in- if he’s even told about some of it before the morning of +14…

            You have him written as smart and flexible enough… and in order to get something going, he knows he’s gonna have to throw the dice before he wants to. No one ever wants to do that and I feel for the character. I really do.

            As I said, it is where I see things going based on what’s happened *so far* in other fronts and here…

            Last section to do after Central is done is Latin America- where there is potential for WP *win* of some kind but not anything great. Cuba is staying out of it… (last update of that was D+10) which is the smartest thing Castro can do. IIRC, Cuba populace was not as docile as one thought back then… And why would he risk it?

            No worries on the email- considering what has happened this weekend in the world, I imagine your plans for the weekend were trashed by it.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m still waiting for the rest of III Corps to make an appearance. I was in 5th ID out of Ft Polk at the time of your blog, and we were assigned to III Corps. I like to think that had it been for real that we would have acquitted ourselves well in combat. We did train constantly and were quite proficient with tasks and equipment.
    So far you’ve only mentioned a few major sub units of III Corps, and it almost sounds like they’ve been parceled out to other Corps.
    I’ve been following your blog now for awhile and am truly enjoying the tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Evening Carlos. I assure you I’m not through with III Corps yet. Not by a country mile. They haven’t gotten into the fight in full just yet. You’re right, the units that have gone in were used in emergency situations and basically parceled out for a period.
      In the timeline at this point, NATO wants to keep III Corps intact and available to use in a counteroffensive. But it’s becoming more and more difficult to do. 5th ID will be neck deep in the fighting. No way I’d leave out the boys from Ft.Polk 🙂
      Did you do any REFORGERs while you were with 5th ID?

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    1. Hi Jordan. Glad to see you’re enjoying it. No, I haven’t…for either. But I’d definitely like to. Can you send me a link?

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  3. Good evening Mike,
    Yes I was with the 5th ID for REFORGER 84/Certain Fury. We flew from England AFB to Rhein Main then drew our vehicles from a POMCUS site near Kaiserslautern. Quite an adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, England AFB. There’s a base name I haven’t heard since I was a kid.
      Must’ve been one heck of an adventure. That’s interesting that you drew from the sets down near K-Town. Those were the wartime sets for the 4th ID. Your division’s war equipment was up in Holland.
      Matter of convenience, I suppose, for the exercise.

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      1. Yes, at the end of the field problem we rail headed up to Holland and turned in the vehicles to a POMCUS site near Brunssum. I’ve read later that the site we turned in the vehicles we used were for the 1st Cav. That was all well above my pay grade.
        I’ve seen some photos from the exercise that some division units used sea lift to deploy as well.

        I’m looking forward to the next installment.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Reforger was an amazing exercise in retrospect. Even just from a logistical standpoint. Especially when you see how much trouble the Brits have had just getting a brigade to the Baltics, and the big deal we made getting a single armored division across the Atlantic and to Eastern Europe.

          The more things change, the more the remain the same. Now the POMCUS sites and armor will be based in Poland facing the Russian threat.

          Next installment should be up late this afternoon or in the evening.

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  4. Things are going to seriously slow down once he starts having to dip into the back-half reserves of Category B troops, as he’ll be pulling from units based out of the ‘Stans…the language barrier alone will screw with the timetable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The first B divisions are on the line already. 5th and 7th Guards Tank Armies (56th and 58th MRDs belonged to these armies) are approaching the front now in greater numbers. One more combined army behind it, (mainly B and C) divisions. Then its all C divisions practically. They better move quickly now while there are still some A divisions left.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well my thinking (which could be wrong, so if it is, please let me know) was that there’s a gradient of Cat. B. troops, like…some are good enough to almost be Cat A., but there’s some that are barely better than Cat. C.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, that’s pretty accurate. Same with any category really. Not every unit designated as a B will behave like one in battle, so to speak. Some will excel, others will disappoint.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Very much a grab bag of ability, I suppose, with the B’s.

        I remember reading somewhere that C Units were T54/T55’s at best with a healthy (?) amount of T34’s (of all things) and some of the KV and IS heavy tanks included with them for numbers, raw firepower and utility… Because why not?

        Never thought it was practical idea or even completely true/accurate… but the Soviets never throw anything away plus they have the manpower s, in theory, it was possible..

        Wish I could remember where I read that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s not like the Soviets ever threw anything out. They saved everything and would’ve been pretty well prepared for a WWI style war of attrition.

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