Baltic Approaches D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part III

The journey of the surviving vessels of the Soviet amphibious group ended up taking nearly eighteen hours. Course revisions, increasing harassment by Swedish forces and the incomplete picture on the situation in Poland each contributed to the lengthier-than-expected transit. The original plan had been for the group to skirt the East German and Polish coastlines, staying as close to friendly territory as was possible. The uncertainty regarding Poland, as well as a change in the group’s final destination led to the group adopting a more northern course. Baltic Fleet’s commander felt the risk was justifiable.

Three Soviet diesel submarines were positioned north of the group to screen it from unwanted Swedish attention. In the mid-afternoon, that attention was beginning to take shape. Swedish FAC were venturing farther south into the Baltic waters searching for signs of the Soviet group. Ninety minutes later Swedish fighters joined the effort. This brought about a swift response by Soviet MiGs based in Lithuania and Estonia. A number of brief, yet violent engagements took place in the skies above the Baltic. Both sides lost aircraft, and no Swedish planes were able to find and attack the amphibious group. Their naval counterparts fared no better, having gotten no anti-ship missile or torpedo attacks off and losing two missile boats in the process.

The Soviet ships gave the Gulf of Gdansk a wide berth. A handful of Polish warships were patrolling those waters and considering the intelligence reports from earlier in the day, the group commander decided to regard them as unfriendly. If the Polish ships had left the confines of the gulf and approached the Soviet ships, the group commander would’ve engaged them the moment they were in range. Luckily, the Poles were wise enough not to venture out and challenge the Soviet ships.

Their revised final destination was the Gulf of Riga. As the amphibious ships and their escorts approached the body of water they encountered heavier friendly sea and air patrols. In the gulf, a second group of Soviet warships was gathering. Frigates, fast-attack craft, and amphibious assault ships were preparing for an operation expected to be launched in the next 24 hours. The newly arrived amphibious group was ordered to the naval base at Riga to refuel, take on supplies and give the naval infantry troops an opportunity to debark and stretch their legs. The group commander also received new orders. His group would depart Riga early the next morning and join the larger group of ships now in the Gulf of Riga. The enlarged group would then sail to the Polish coast and land its naval infantry east of Gdansk late in the morning of D+16.

On Zealand, the situation was something akin to an impasse acceptable to both combatants for the moment. The Danish lieutenant general who commanded Allied Land Forces in Zealand (LANDZEALAND) was content with the situation. The East Germans did manage to land a motor rifle regiment on Mons but it had not yet been reinforced. As time went on, LANDZEALAND was receiving more indications that there may not be GDR reinforcements or additional supplies arriving at any time in the coming days. The troops that landed on the previous morning had fought hard, giving the 3rd Zealand Battlegroup a difficult time. But conditions on the ground stabilized and it did not appear that the East Germans would be going anywhere soon.

LANDZEALAND intended to push them into the sea, but the timing wasn’t right. The situation on Jutland remained quite fluid and it was not clear if units from LANDZEALAND’s reserve would have to be sent west. At the same time, the prospect of future Pact amphibious or airborne operations against Zealand couldn’t be counted out. These two situational realities combined to ensure the continued survival of the East German motor rifle troops for at least another 18 hours. The battlegroups LANDZEALAND intended to use against them would remain in their present positions into D+16. If no concrete signs of a new Pact move against Zealand materialized, LANDZEALAND would start the operation to clear Mons of enemy forces. Until that came about, the 3rd Zealand Battlegroup would have to keep the East Germans bottled up.

4 Replies to “Baltic Approaches D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part III”

  1. This internecine fight with the Poles is going to be one hell of a brawl. Especially if NATO throws in with the Polish government. I’m still surprised that NATO is providing them with tactical and strategic info, but not too much: in the post-war world, assuming the USSR survives, NATO as an ally parked right next to the USSR would be invaluable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know the old saying: The enemy of my enemy…. 🙂
      Besides, its just tactical level intel and NATO’s not revealing just how they’re obtaining it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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