1235– The initial fire preparation commences. Forward NATO positions, and their division rear areas were the priority target areas. The first preparation was twenty minutes in duration and covered the length of the entire NATO defensive line in front of the Weser, roughly thirty-five kilometers. The amount of time was far less than it would’ve been earlier in the war. Soviet commanders had learned frightful lessons on the speed and accuracy of NATO counter-battery fire. On this afternoon, the majority of Soviet fire assets were already redeploying to alternate firing positions when the first NATO artillery rounds began impacting.
1300– The northern assaults begin. 58th Guards Motor Rifle Division, with partially consolidated regiments and subunits following the heavy combat of D+12, spearheads the renewed drive on Hameln. Its first echelon regiments cross the departure line. Not long after, its sister MRD, the 56th Guards, followed suit just to the south. Inside of an hour, both were in contact with forward reece and security elements of the British 6th Armored Brigade, and the West German 19th Panzergrenadier Brigade.
1315– The 6th Guards Tank Division’s first echelon (a motor rifle regiment) advances west from the Freden bridgeheads on the Leine. Its mission is to establish a security cordon and prevent a NATO counterattack similar to the one so skillfully executed farther north two days before. Behind it, the division’s remaining combat elements are closing on the river.
1445– So far, the opening stage of the Soviet attack is playing out along the lines of what NORTHAG’s senior commanders expected. The enemy is pushing in the direction of Hameln with two divisions, and a respectable amount of air and artillery support. Reports from the British and West German units now in contact describe heavy casualties inflicted upon the enemy and minimal loss of territory. South of there, it appears a southern arm of the Soviet attack is forming on the west bank of the Leine. NORTHAG intelligence’s original assessment that this will be a diversionary effort remains unchanged: The main axis of the Soviet attack is aimed at Hameln.
1720– The first echelon regiments of the 58th Guards MRD ground to a halt 2 km west of Weenzen. British resistance has been heavy throughout the late afternoon. The second echelon formation, consisting of the division’s tank regiment, moves forward to pick up the advance where the motor rifle troops left off.
1800– The Belgian reconnaissance company deployed well forward of the 4th Brigade’s defensive lines discover long columns of Soviet tanks and armored vehicles moving towards Wenzen from the direction of Freden. The Belgian captain in command estimates at least a regiment’s worth of vehicles. His report is fast tracked to NORTHAG.
1749– The West German 19th Panzergrenadier Brigade threw back a pair of afternoon attacks by the 56th Guards MRD and inflicted heavy casualties. A third enemy attack appears to be forming now, and early indications are that it could be aimed at the seam between the German and British brigades.
Author’s Note: Part III will be a little short, thanks to some unforeseen Cloud issues earlier today. So as a result, Part IV will post Wednesday followed by V and VI on Friday and Saturday. –Mike