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

One of the greatest difficulties for Soviet commanders at the division level and higher was the efficient movement of forces within and between unit sectors. This was especially true of the second and third echelon divisions now coming onto the battle line in Northern Germany, as well as those moving through East Germany inbound to the Fulda area. NATO’s deep strike efforts, or what the Americans referred to as Airland Battle doctrine, were highly effective. From the outbreak of war in Europe, enemy air, long-range artillery, and missile attacks had been striking Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces along their full operational depth. Second echelon, and reserves were being bloodied and punished even before they were committed to battle. Rear areas and roadways were attacked frequently, slowing down movement even more so.

Put quite simply, the NATO capability to launch effective, around-the-clock deep strikes had altered the topography of the battlefield. The movement and commitment to action of the second and third echelon divisions was far behind schedule and not expected to improve in the near future. This rather forthright fact was the rationale fueling Lieutenant General Tchernitsov’s decision to adopt a short-tern defensive stance. His divisions had fought well against the US V Corps, a formation the general now begrudgingly regarded as one of the most capable ever fielded by the Americans army in its history. But there was little to be gained for his men, army group, or the State fro that matter, by continuing the attack now.

Although he was aware that the war was not going to be won between Fulda and Frankfurt, Tchernitsov still acknowledged the fact it could be lost here. If the Americans took to the offensive in central Germany soon, Tchernitsov’s divisions were going to be hard-pressed to stop them. 1st GTA (Guards Tank Army) despite its best efforts would be pushed across the old Inner-German Border and be forced to stop, or at least delay a NATO offensive spearheaded by one, or two American corps until reinforcing second and third echelon divisions were able to arrive. If he were the V Corps commander at the present time, Tchernitsov would at be studying the possibility of an offensive closely.

1st GTA’s two forward divisions spent most of D+13 preparing hasty defenses. The newly arrived 39th Guards MRD (Motor Rifle Division) was setting its first line of defense along the Bundesstrasse 254 roadway from Schrecksbach to Lauterbach. The 11th Tank Division’s first line was being established south of there. The two divisions were linked in the area between Lauterbach and Herbstein.

In order to keep the US 4th Infantry and 1st Armored in the dark about what was going on, the two Soviet divisions each launched three reinforced battalion-sized probes during the day. The purpose was to create a diversion and keep the Americans believing 1st GTA was continuing its drive to Frankfurt. To reinforce the deception, the army group’s air assault battalion was utilized to seize three crossroads in the rear areas of the American divisions that would be vital to a continued Soviet advance westward.

Through the first half of the day, V Corps took the bait. The airmobile strikes proved to be the icing on the cake. In the late afternoon suspicions manifest themselves at V Corps headquarters. As the Soviet probes died down, reports were coming in from 4th Infantry Division cavalry scouts who had crossed the FEBA to search out the lead Soviet elements. The scouts reported that the enemy forward detachments were stopped in place. Later on, similar reports arrived from 5/6 Air Cavalry Squadron. Late afternoon air reconnaissance flights in 1st AD’s sector revealed a comparable situation on the Soviet side of the FEBA.

When word reached Lieutenant General John Woodmansee, the V Corps commander called his senior staff officers together to review the information. If 1st Guards Tank Army was pausing to resupply, that created a potential opening for Woodmansee’s corps, and CENTAG as a whole, to launch the long-awaited CENTAG counteroffensive. Provided, of course, that conditions were ideal.

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

  1. Deep Strike air was always going to be the key against the weight of a Soviet attack in Europe. Give the reinforcements a thump or three before they get in… and keep on them.

    That the Soviets put up a good feint is solid… and NATO buying into it made it a good gamble. And the airmobile assaults were brilliant for diversion and or tying up units… but there needs to be more done to keep the fake-out sold. If more probe happened, V Corp would not have figured it out until much later…

    But as its observed, NATO more or less owns the air or has it contested. Recon is going to find out if you are moving or not…. and they Did.

    The Soviet Doctrine is really geared more for the assault. They can do Defense… but its not a strength.

    Our entire mindset (from my perspective has always been a mix of using set-piece and mobile defense to slow down the Red Assault until an opening presents itself. When it does, its prosecute the opening until enemy momentum is halted then its “keep up the skeer” until they yell uncle…. or in the case of a war in Europe, you’ve pushed them back across the border.

    The Thunder Runs were the gamble that really set the soviets on their heels…. combined with the tenacious defense that we are good at.

    What comes next…. won’t be very nice.

    But war isn’t.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True. With the focus up north right now, its time for the Soviets in central Germany to hang tight and reinforce. But the deep strikes aren’t making that easy.

      Nope, not going to be much fun what could come next. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just wanna make sure I’m reading this right, Mike (great update, by the by). So the Soviets are trying to sucker the 5th Div. into attacking? Or their airmobile strikes and recon by force attacks were meant to fool NATO forces into thinking they were still on the offense, and by doing so, buy the 1st TGA time to reform and prepare a defense, and it only half-worked (“Through the first half of the day, V Corps took the bait. The airmobile strikes proved to be the icing on the cake. In the late afternoon suspicions manifest themselves at V Corps headquarters.”)

    I believe I’ve got it right in the latter case, and 5th is in a great position to actually do the counterattack the Soviets fear, yes?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Bill. The 4th Infantry Division. One digit off but it’s cool. 🙂 The Russians are trying to buy time for the next wave of reinforcing divisions to arrive. Since it’s taking forever and a day for that to happen 1st GTA is going on the defensive briefly in case CENTAG decides to go on the offensive. Eventually towards the end of the day, V Corps figures out what’s happening. Now the question is whether or not its the right time to launch a counter attack.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Mike,
    V Corps is in a good position to do just that, launch that counter attack. Several fresh divisions of capable equipment, some still viable seasoned units and solid air.

    The things needed is a point to hammer on to split the Soviet lines, a dose of luck to hit before any real reinforcement and a bit of Soviet hesitation.

    Once that first item is determined, the second item can be managed. And you will get the third item because I think Soviet mindset may not believe its anything more than probe in return until it hits like an avalanche. And then…. it will be too late.

    My opinion, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah, well, I blame a misspent youth playing Twilight:2000 (not nearly often enough). 5th Division and all being the last NATO division operational before the Summer 1999 offensive.

    Mm. That’s a poser, innit. I mean if V Corps is rested and ready (as these things go…) why not? At the very least I might commit a brigade level harassment, just to keep the pressure on. I would say, if you don’t want to commit, entirely, but rather spoil them just a little, I would arrange a drive by from the 11th ACR, backed up by the 144th Field Artillery Regiment, pre-register egress routes, snooker the Soviets, who have proved they can’t resist a chum line, and just rain death all over ’em as they pursue the “beaten” ACR with a TOT strike.

    But that’s just me 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Here is something I never thought about much before, but US combat replacements to replenish units pulled off the line. REFORGER POMCUS stocks would be used for equipping units flying in. 7th Army units would use what they had on hand. Sealift and airlift would bring in replacements of vehicles from stateside stocks. But troops? What was the manpower pool? No draft was in effect, Reserve and Guard unit’s have dibs on their troops and equipment as they are mobilized, or would they be cannibalized? Were Individual Ready Reserve Soldiers enough of a manpower pool to make up for combat losses that quickly? Most IRR soldiers would likely not be able to be plugged into a unit in such short time. Not to mention their basic equipping and training. The few combat arms troops in OSUT and AIT at various bases such as Ft Benning, Ft Knox, Ft Sill, And Ft Leonard Wood would rapidly be used up in full scale combat. You had mentioned two Divisions of V Corps being pulled out to refit and now 4th ID and 1st AD are carrying the battle in their AO. What were the US Army’s plans to refill combat depleted formations?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Think about how they did it during Desert Shield. Units deploying were filled out with troops from other divisions remaining stateside, or reservists. That was essentially the Army’s plan for Germany too after REFORGER ended. Only at that point the troops coming over on transport planes would be replacements for casualties. Not sure how IRR would figure into the mixture before the war reached the 30th day or so. By that time you would probably start seeing them in large numbers. Especially to refill combat depleted units.

      At this point 3rd AD and 8th ID are getting refilled from active duty, NG, and Reserveheavy maneuver units still stateside, as well as Knox, and Benning too.

      Great question. It’s making me want to do some research on the subject. Thanks!


      1. I think I can shed a tiny bit of light on that one (bodies for units). Not a direct analogy but close enough.

        Two items…. Some of the troops used to fill out my Active Duty Unit in the months leading up to our leaving for Desert Shield, we apparently had priority for replacements/back fill from those just finishing AIT classes. And I recall some of the guys who came saying they had some very intense training just prior to their final exercise… So I would imagine that something similar would happen here. And if you look at how troops were rushed through Boot Camp for WW2, i can see a uptempo in training or even a shortened training period. After all…. this is only three years before the real life Desert Storm

        second item- Desert Storm, my father was in a Signal Bn undergoing training on the new sat-com rigs they recently got at Ft Devins Massachusetts when the war kicked off. As they were there, there was rumors then provisions made to send them over instead of going home (National Guard unit). The closer to the end of the training, the more questions asked. Just before the end, the Bn Commander told everyone that it depends on which way we turn going out the gate. Right Turn meant going home to NJ.

        Left turn… was to take them to Hanscom AFB for a C-5 flight to the Middle East. Which would have made life interesting…. as I was already there with 3rd Armored. Not the first father/son in a combat zone…

        There also might be augmentees from other services too… though as this is a world war, doubt that one.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Takes about 3 weeks to a month to build an M1 during peacetime, Mike. I’m not sure how S-4 is doing on repairing all the damaged stuff that can be brought back behind the line (wait, is it S-4? Or S-2? I know one’s intel and the other is mechanical stuff 😛 )

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Mike, discovered this blog a few weeks back and been voraciously reading it ever since! Thank you for taking the time to research and write such a great plotline.

    Quick question though: where are Spain and to a lesser degree Portugal in all this? Spain joined the alliance in 82 and though politics kept them from being fully integrated into the alliance for most of the 80s, by 1987, they would have been included in all NATO war plans. Can see them chopping at least a brigade to Central Europe and likely another one to Greece/Turkey on the Southern flank too. Their Navy had a baby carrier with 8 Harriers and if I remember right, they had plans to integrate in with the Italian Navy in the Med. Could easily have seen them being of use against the Libyan Navy earlier in the conflict and giving NATO a handful of extra planes for the Soviets to worry about.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, David. You’re welcome, and thanks for taking time to read and enjoy the blog 🙂

      You’re right, I have shortchanged Spain and Portugal somewhat. In the early Southern Flank posts I talk about Spetsnaz attacks on targets in Spain but that’s about it. The Spanish and Portuguese navies are active though in the western Med and in the Atlantic. I really should dedicate a post to their contributions.
      As far as ground forces go, I could see that too. Apparently NATO planners back in the day could too. Spanish troops were earmarked to go to northern Italy if a Warsaw Pact attack had ever materialized from Yugoslavia or through Austria.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the reply!

        Yea, had been curious to see if I missed anything–did see the Spetsnaz attack on Torrejon; but nothing after that.

        With France holding back their Army, would imagine the Iberian contingent would be extremely valuable to NATO seeking extra brigades and air power to toss into the various theaters. While the Spanish public and govts weren’t always eager to jump into the NATO pool, the Spanish military has always been willing and eager participants, so wouldn’t surprise me to see them raring to join the fight (it hasn’t been a great past couple of centuries for the Spanish military and there’s a palpable institutional hunger to regain some lost honor). Could see the Portuguese and Spanish Marine Corps join the Greeks/Turks in protecting the Dardanelle Straight and a brigade being sent to Germany with the main forces being sent to Italy as a hedge against Warsaw Pact operations there.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m petty sure that is all there was. But to be fair, I’ll go back and double check.

          Thrace or the Dardanelles would be a great fit for Spanish and Portuguese marines, and air forces. Both countries had pretty capable air forces back then and still do for that matter.
          In this timeline keep an eye on Yugoslavia. Things are starting to come apart (like they did a couple years later in real life) and if NATO needs to put some troops in there, the Spanish and Portuguese forces would be ideal.


  8. I’m looking forward to what your research reveals.
    Desert Storm had minimal casualties. And no real need to employ a combat replacement system in the fighting that did take place. In the 80’s Ft Benning was turning out at most one to two companies of trained infantrymen per week. Each division in Europe is probably taking at least that many casualties, KIA and WIA, per day.
    The National Guard “round out” units did not deploy with their parent Regular Army Divisions for Desert Shield/Desert Storm. That is a whole different discussion. A few stateside and 7th Army units sent battalions and brigades to bring those divisions up to full strength for Desert Storm. Once REFORGER is completed, there are zero Regular Army Mech units left to draw replacements from, aside from 24th ID, which is the heavy unit for XVIII Airborne Corps and theoretically heading wherever it’s Corps is going, the Persian Gulf I presume.
    The Light Infantry Divisions are still manpower pools, but only a small percentage of those troops would be familiar with Mech Infantry doctrine. And the Light Fighters are probably needed in other theaters such as Korea and Central America.
    WWIII Europe was always seen as a high intensity combat scenario that would eat up munitions, equipment and men. The only real near term quick option is condensing surviving units into smaller elements. Much like their Soviet opponents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Carlos, check out John T’s latest comments on this post. I think they’ll be helpful.

      Funny you mention the light infantry divisions. I just wrote about units of the 7th Light in the Central American/Carib entry just posted.


      1. Mike, first off let me just say that I’m loving your blog, and don’t want to sound overly contrarian.
        I don’t buy the Desert Shields/Desert Storm analogy. One, that was a long build up of months that allowed schools to send graduating classes of new troops weekly to SWA when they are trained and ready to fill them up to full strength. Plus “stop loss” is in effect to keep soldiers from leaving the Army. There is far less time in your scenario from the time of your Soviet coup, REFORGER activated, and the commencement of hostilities.
        Two, there is no other theater of war at that time to compete for replacement troops. In your scenario, there is one big war, Europe, one medium war, Korea, and two small wars, Kuwait and Central America. IIRC, at that time, we were supposed to have Forces available from all branches to fight 2 1/2 wars simultaneously, supposedly Europe, Korea, and the say perhaps Central America (the half war). Adding the Persian Gulf at the same time really throws a monkey wrench into that equation.
        Now Army Divisions left to play globally, unless I’ve missed them the first time in my reading, are still: 24th ID (M) at Ft Stewart, 6th ID in Alaska, 10th Mountain at Ft Drum, 25th ID from Hawaii, and 101st Airborne at Ft Campbell.
        I’m looking forward to seeing where they all come into play.
        (No disrespect intended in not mentioning the USMC units not yet employed, nor the Ranger regiment and remainder of the 82nd and SEATF)

        I did read today’s update with the 7th going to Central America.

        You’ve got me hooked! Keep up the great work!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. As long as you’re enjoying the blog, Carlos, and getting something out of it, that’s what matters the most to me. You’ve made some good points about the how replacements might be fed into combat divisions and such. That’s one area I never really delved deeply into. I am now though because the systems and methods are fascinating.
          I’m an air guy so when it comes to fighter squadrons, and wings, their ordnance usage, aircraft and pilot replacement system and such, I’m current on. First hand knowledge of all that.

          Thanks for this comment. As well as providing me with some useful knowledge it’s also given me an idea for a blog post later on.


          1. Hello again Mike,
            I look forward to see what you come up with on the subject. I have a bit of personal experience on the ground pounder side both Regular Army and Guard, but never thought above my level of concern. But your fun blog is both unit local at times and the “The big picture” at others so my idle mind got clanking.
            I’ll comment on other areas now that I know how to post on your blog.

            Liked by 1 person

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