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

As darkness fell on the North German Plain the tempo of operations and activity remained steady. The 56th and 58th Motor Rifle Divisions continued to press in their respective sectors, seeking out the weak points in the West German and British lines in preparation for commitment of the 47th Guards Tank Division early on D+15. Soviet tactics in this area have been more aggressive compared to past attacks, yet still within the norms of doctrine. NATO commanders attributed the change to a determination on the part of the enemy to achieve a breakthrough and exploit it while the balance of combat power remained in its favor.

The second echelon of 58th Guards MRD resumed the division’s advance west at 2000. The first objective was to eject the British rear-guard troops from Wallensen, a small hamlet that commanded a vital crossroads. Despite heavy fire assets and for a short while attack helicopters and ground attack fighters in support, the British troops stubbornly held onto the town. Soviet air support disappeared with the appearance of British Phantoms over the battlefield and as midnight approached, the British not only remained in control of Wallensen, but were being fed reinforcements.

56th Guards MRD’s situation was even less favorable. The late afternoon and early evening attacks against West German positions had severely degraded the enemy’s combat power. Unfortunately for the division commander, it had also reduced the effectiveness of his unit. He could not maintain consistent pressure on the West Germans now. From dusk until midnight, the 56th Guards maintained tentative contact with the 19th Panzergrenadier Brigade and probed NATO lines as the 47th Guards Tank Division prepared to be committed here in the morning.

The Soviets, NATO had learned over the past two weeks, had developed a penchant for division and corps level boundary seams. As NORTHAG was now fighting to keep the Soviets from reaching the Weser, the seam between the West German and British formations took on a new level of importance. The anticipated attack there earlier had not materialized but it was expected to at some point. The British and West Germans were moving a number of their reserve battalions forward to strengthen the seam and hopefully prevent the Soviets from making this area the focal point of the next day’s operations.

In the southern sector of the Weser defensive line, reports by the Belgian reconnaissance company resulted in a battalion-sized counterattack along the flank of the approaching Soviet regiment’s line of advance as twilight approached. Five hours of sharp fighting developed, lasting beyond midnight before the Belgians broke off. The attack succeeded in stunting the Soviet advance for a spell. Communication intercepts indicated a second enemy regiment from the same division was moving forward now to relieve its comrades.

NORTHAG estimated a reinforced Soviet tank division would be committed in the southern sector after midnight. Behind it were bits and pieces of other units either crossing the Leine at Freden or preparing to. Air missions against this southern Leine bridgehead were few and far between given that the tasking priority remained fixed on the northern bridgeheads. Post-mission debriefings did reveal that the air defenses around the Freden bridgehead were not heavy. Triple A fire was intermittent, and only a handful of mobile SAM radars were picked up in the vicinity. The biggest threat was from hand-held SAMs, which came as little surprise.

All of the information being processed continued to support the conclusion that the attack in the Belgian sector was secondary in nature. Its purpose was to pin down the Belgian and other NATO forces forward of Höxter and prevent them from influencing the primary battle, which was developing east of Hameln. Still, SACEUR believed in overkill when it came to reconnaissance, especially in the fluid environment that was the Federal Republic of Germany in July, 1987. A TR-1 sortie was scheduled for 0100. Its mission was to provide pictures of the roadways and area leading to the southern Leine bridgeheads.

NORTHAG considered the mission to be unnecessary, but in Brussels, the NATO supreme commander was of a different opinion. Something was out of sorts on the North German Plain. Why would his Soviet counterpart plan another major push on Hameln? From everything he knew, Snetkov was not a man who reinforced failure very often, if at all. But at present it appeared he was doing just that.

SACEUR possessed not a crumb of hard evidence to support his thesis. Perhaps the TR-1 flight would provide some. Then again, maybe not.

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

  1. Trust the gut.

    If the attack is going well, its an ambush.
    If the defense against an attack is going well, and things seem too blatant, its a diversion….. especially when you know the other guy in charge isn’t stupid

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL Luger was a true American hero.

      Yeah, text book -117 strike against command posts. In real life it worked great against Iraq. In 2 wars


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