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

Author’s Note: When I wrote up the Central Front D+12 entries I neglected to cover the CENTAG area. So, in order to catch up, this entry will be a timeline summary of the main action in US V Corps sectors on D+12. Tomorrow or Saturday, I’ll post D+13 Part V which will cover CENTAG on that day.

CENTAG D+12

0000-0500  The 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division was reinforced by a motor rifle division from the rear. 39th Guards MRD was an understrength 8th Guards Army division that had suffered close to 60% casualties in the first eight days of the war. Like the rest of its parent army group, the division was now receiving new manpower, and equipment in preparation for being recommitted to the fighting at some point soon. Suffice to say, the 39th MRD was not ready when it was ordered forward. To make up for shortcomings in troop levels, and equipment, assorted units from other divisions were incorporated into the 39th. The end result was a bastardized motor rifle division of sorts, cobbled together from its two core regiments, and assorted units from a pair of its sister 8th Guards Army divisions. This was not an ideal solution for 1st Guards Tank Army’s commander Lieutenant General Anatoli Tchernitsov but the alternative was to commit the 9th Tank Division, his army’s operational maneuver group, early. He was not prepared to waste his OMG division before a breakthrough was either achieved, or in sight.

The process took longer than expected, owing to confusion in the rear areas, and periodic NATO air attacks. The 39th MRD was not on the road and moving west until first light.

0800 The 194th Armor Brigade arrives in the V Corps area twelve hours after drawing its equipment from the POMCUS sites in Pirmasens. REFORGER is officially complete.

1000-1845  In the morning 1st Guards Tank Army resumed its advance deeper into V Corps territory. The 20th Guards MRD’s first act was to launch a series of probing attacks against the US 4th Infantry Division’s positions to its front. Soviet reconnaissance and motor rifle troops met the US division’s cavalry squadron in three separate engagements before noon. To the south the 11th Guards Tank Division conducted a similar series of probes against the US 1st Armored Division. It’s purpose here was the same as it had been the previous day: Keep the US division occupied and unable to support the 4th ID.

1200-1745  By the afternoon the battles expanded in size. 20th Guards first regimental-sized attack made little progress, however. They attacked US forces that were dug in along another line of well-prepared positions. Just when it seemed the Soviet tankers might have the upper hand, US artillery and airpower combined to close the potential opening in friendly lines. A second Soviet attack came in the mid-afternoon, but was a half-hearted effort, easily repulsed. The US 4th Infantry Division’s forward brigades held in place, planning a phased withdrawal to the next series of defensive positions to the west later in the afternoon. However, indications of a new Soviet division approaching the front changed the plan. The brigades would remain in place for the moment.

1900– As the 39th Guards MRD was arriving at the FLOT and preparing to pick up where 20th Guards left off, General Tchernitsov was having second thoughts about continuing the advance west. At his forward command post the general received a fragmented report about the fighting around Hanover. By the account, the situation to the north was growing more strained. At the same time, the enemy forces to his front showed no signs of breaking. Tchernitsov was also aware that the two US divisions taken off the line for rest and refit showed no indications of being sent north to reinforce NATO’s Northern Army Group. The prospect of his army group facing a major counterattack in the near future could not be discounted.

As a result, Tchernitsov toyed with the idea of going on the defensive and giving the American V Corps a taste of its own medicine for a change.

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