The Southern Flank D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part I

The centerpiece of land operations on the Southern Flank on D+15 continued to be in Greco-Turkish Thrace. Two Bulgarian army groups that crossed the border on the previous day continued their advances south and east. The main effort was in the east where the 1st Bulgarian Army was pressing towards the Bosphorus. The secondary advance was underway in Greek Thrace. Here, the 2nd Bulgarian Army’s official objective was Thessaloniki, though very few Pact commanders expected them to come close to the Greek city. Keeping the Greek forces in the west busy and unable to affect the main battle taking place in Turkish Thrace was the true purpose behind this phase of the operation. It was a holding attack and little more, simply put.

Minimal territory was gained by the Bulgarians through the day. The Greek and Turkish divisions defending Thrace were well-fortified and the terrain favored the defense. Geography on NATO’s Southern Flank contrasted greatly with that found on the Central Front. Here, rugged terrain dominated a number of sub-theaters. And as was the case on the Central Front, in the south geography dictated strategy and tactics.  The hordes of armor and overwhelming artillery support that was the benchmark of Soviet and Pact doctrine and orders of battle in Germany had no place in Thrace. Here, the Bulgarians relied on motor-rifle infantry and light armor.

More significant for the NATO defenders was the sizable advantage they held in the skies over the battlefront. Air superiority was not total, but the situation for D+15 was extremely favorable. Pact air attacks on NATO airbases in Greece and Turkey in the morning and early afternoon were not disrupting NATO air operations to the degree NATO air attacks on Pact installations produced. The Bulgarian and Soviet MiGs and ground attack aircraft that did arrive over the battle area fought hard, however. Though outnumbered and having to face the very real prospect of being ambushed by NATO fighters through the duration of the mission, they caused damage to the forward Turkish and Greek ground forces in Thrace.

Bulgarian airbases were bending beneath the strain of frequent visits by NATO aircraft. At this point in the conflict Romanian airbases were supposed to have been opened and providing homes to at least some of the Pact aircraft flying sorties in Thrace. Romania had yet to join the conflict in earnest. Its air force patrolled and guarded the airspace while its land forces monitored the border. No combat elements were actively engaged presently though, and some of Romania’s Warsaw Pact allies were growing irritable with Bucharest’s reluctance.

Ceausescu’s recalcitrance was, in all likelihood, a calculated step intended to leverage the prestige of Romania, and of course it’s beloved leader. The timing of the move was regrettably poor, however. By the early afternoon Moscow’s patience was evaporating. Poland in full revolt and disquieting signs were emerging from the German Democratic Republic. If this weren’t enough, unconfirmed reports of fresh dissent in the Czechoslovakian military and political body had reached Moscow. The state of the Warsaw Pact was becoming increasingly precarious as the hours ticked by. Romania remained neglectfully unaware of the power it now held, or the urgency of the moment. The fate of the Pact, and the Soviet Union could be determined by Nicolae Ceausescu of all people!

The mere thought was enough to horrify Soviet General Secretary and his closest advisers enough to make a solemn promise to stop the Romanian maniac from lighting the fuse before it was too late.

8 Replies to “The Southern Flank D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. tick tock…. 36 hours to when I think they are done.

    The Southern Front, as I said a while ago… waited too long to jump. Much like that ill-thought-out operation against Zeeland and the mistake with the Polish Airborne, these efforts are too little, too late.

    Had they jumped within 72 hours of the start of the war, it would be a very different story.

    Instead, more men and materiel is being pissed away… Not that the Soviet’s care about client state assets (see Poland), wasting them is stupid AND counter-productive… (again, see Poland). Whoever designed this warplan can Forget counting trees in Siberia; that idiot AND his staff needs to be shot.

    Just… wow.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is turning into a circus! Jaruzelski may go down in history as the savior of Poland, and now Ceausescu Romania’s.

    It’s enough to *almost* make one feel bad for the Soviets.

    Liked by 1 person

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