The Central Front D+14 (23 July, 1987) Part II

NORTHAG’s preeminent responsibility was the defense of the Weser, and more precisely to prevent the Soviets from bridging the Weser and flooding NATO’s rear areas. To the west of the river lay the Ruhr Valley, the industrial heartland of the Federal Republic. Beyond this invaluable region were the Low Countries. A breakthrough in the next thirty-six to forty-eight hours would assuredly cancel out the brilliant performance of NORTHAG’s forces to this point. The Weser was the last remaining major geographic barrier for NATO forces on the North German Plain. Losing it would practically hand the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies every kilometer of West German territory from the river east to the former Inner-German Border.

Overall, the current NORTHAG defensive plan for the Weser defense was little changed from that of two days earlier. The center of the NATO line remained anchored at Hameln, still considered by NORTHAG to be the probable main axis of the coming attack. On its left, north of Hanover, was I NL Corps and elements of I West German Corps. On the right, south of Hameln, was the Belgian 16th Armored Division supported by one British brigade from the 1st Infantry Division (Br), a brigade of  West German Territorials, and what remained of the British armored battalions that had fought the valuable delaying actions on the Leine three days before. Serving as the NORTHAG reserve was the entire US III Corps. At SACEUR’s strong recommendation, no US brigades or divisions were presently on the line. However, the 2nd Armored Division was positioned to react quickly to a potential Soviet breakthrough either north of Hannover or at Hameln. A brigade of the 1st Cavalry, another a tank-heavy US maneuver division, was positioned similarly to the west of the Belgian and British forces defending the Weser from Pegestorf south to Höxter.

As the morning progressed, enemy activity and movements strongly pointed to Hameln as the Soviet’s most likely objective to establish a Weser bridgehead. The Alfeld and Brüggen bridgeheads on the Leine were hurriedly being prepared to support division-sized movements across the river. Air defenses had also been reinforced again, making the sky above those river towns increasingly dangerous for NATO aircraft. Despite the threat, reconnaissance missions and air attacks on the bridgeheads continued, but at a higher cost in aircraft and pilots.

Two damaged motor-rifle and a single tank division were on the western side of the Leine now and preparing to advance towards Hameln, according to intelligence. On the other side of the Leine, intercepted Soviet communications confirmed that two divisions of 5th Guards Tank Army were expected to start crossing the river by 1200. The better part of a regiment of fighters had also been parked over Alfeld and Brüggen by 0900. The fact that the Soviets were apparently prepared to defend the Leine crossings by land, and by air cinched it for NORTHAG’s intelligence chief. Hameln was almost assuredly the objective.

Behind Soviet lines in the late morning, final preparations for the attack were underway. Regiments were moving towards their crossing points. Fire assets came forward and were dispersed to their initial operating areas. Fire sectors were revised where necessary and finalized. The first divisions moving along the main axis would have close to 500 tubes and launchers at its disposal for the initial fire preparation.

Command posts and headquarters were manned and activated. 3rd Shock Army’s forward HQ and alternates were up and running by 1130 in the wooded valley east of Brüggen. 3rd Shock’s new commander and staff were to coordinate and run the attack. 5th Guards Tank Army’s divisions approaching the Leine would fall under their command until the Weser was forced. At that point 5th GTA would be unleashed and permitted to operate autonomously.

One hundred and fifty-three kilometers east of Alfeld and the Leine, at his wartime command bunker, Colonel-General Boris Snetkov reviewed the latest status reports from 3rd Shock, and 5th GTA’s sector with satisfaction. All seemed to be moving ahead according to plan. This will change once the first shots are fired, he reminded himself in a moment of sincere clarity. It always did. He looked up at the clock hanging on the wall over the entrance to the operations room. It was 1220 hours.

“Soon,” he breathed quietly.

12 Replies to “The Central Front D+14 (23 July, 1987) Part II”

  1. It would appear my thinking V Corp would leap before the attack was a error.

    Such is life.

    But the writing is on the wall- and if Nato has elected to let the Soviets run into a damn granite wall THEN hammer them with all the arty/bullets/tank shells, I suppose that works too.
    Not what I would have done the same but I ain’t in charge- if I can’t preempt their attack, having them be met with an obnoxious amount of firepower is the next best thing…. I just know when you smack your foe into a bit of a stunned reassessment, finding a means to hit them AGAIN usually breaks their plan utterly and forces retreat…. or for them to go turtle. 🙂

    Just an avid reader of this story…. and looking forward to the responses from the NATO side on the Polish saying they are DONE with the Pact and being throw-away troops. Incredulous is a word…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Regardless, in this case, don’t stop shooting. Don’t ever stop shooting. Fire the arty ’til the barrels glow hot, keep slinging rockets ’til there’s none left. Keep flying attack aircraft in ’til there’s no bombs left to drop. Shoot, shoot, shoot, then shoot some more.

      To keep the football analogy, force the A-Gap pressure, make their QB feel the heat, never relent, make him scramble, make him throw bad, desperate passes when he sees that front four reinforced and coming in for an LB blitz.

      But for God’s sake, *don’t stop shooting*

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s see how solid NATO’s goal line defense is. The Belgian linemen up front are small but fierce and the heavy, swift US linebackers are just waiting to plug up the holes and stuff Ivan the running back.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly. Got some mean Safties back in our secondary. 1st Cav gon’ mess you up, Ivan! 2AD’s no slack either. Not gonna be a cake walk, but I think as long as we can relieve the edges, the Reds won’t cross that goal line.

        Liked by 1 person

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