The Central Front D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part I

NORTHAG’s picture of the battlefront and the Soviet drive to the Weser remained unruffled and consistent as the new day started. 3rd Shock Army’s push to Hameln was continuing with a tank division expected to be committed sometime around daybreak. Behind this unit was a nearly intact tank army approaching the northern Leine bridgeheads. This group was expected to take up the advance from 3rd Shock Army and attempt the breakthrough and subsequent crossing of the Weser at Hameln. That particular phase of the advance was expected to start within the next 24 hours.

NORTHAG’s plan for the defense of Hameln remained undisturbed for the moment. The British and West German brigades now absorbing the brunt of the enemy push were in the process of being reinforced and would eventually be replaced on the line by other brigades from their respective divisions. As the new Soviet tank army crossed the Leine and prepared to join the battle, NORTHAG’s commander-in-chief General Martin Farndale planned to use that moment for a counterattack. It was to be centered around two armored divisions, one American, and the other British. He intended to use them to strike the flank of the approaching Soviet tank army and slow it down between the two rivers long enough to exploit the pause and seize the Leine bridgeheads. There was much that still had to fall into place for the counterattack to come off ideally. However, Farndale was, if anything, highly confident in his ability to bend the present battlefield situation to his will.

In Brussels, SACEUR did not share that confidence. Farndale’s take on how the battlefront stood at present, as well as the direction events were likely to go in made perfect sense. The evidence was certainly in favor of the NORTHAG commander’s views. Yet SACEUR’s suspicions about the Soviet advance on the Weser remained. He wasn’t fully convinced the main attack was aimed in the direction of Hameln. The possibility remained that the point of main effort would develop at a point south of there. If that did happen, the American general was sure it would place the bulk of NORTHAG in a disadvantageous position, quite possibly endangering the entire front. Farndale’s forces south of Hamburg consisted mainly of a Belgian division, and a handful of British sub-units. Not enough to delay a Soviet tank army long enough for NORTHAG to shift enough reserves into the area and meet the threat. In deference to SACEUR’s concerns, Farndale also moved additional West German Territorials and a brigade from the US 1st Cavalry Division to act as an immediate reserve for the Belgians in the event of a major attack in their sector. Realistically though, he didn’t anticipate the possibility. The main attack was moving in the direction of Hameln. Farndale was confident enough in his forecast that he’d be willing to wager all of Western Europe on it if he had his way.

Unbeknownst to him, that was exactly the situation being brought to existence by his thoughts and actions over the previous three days. The fate of Western Europe, for better or worse, appeared destined to ride on Sir Martin’s hand.

Author’s Note: Afternoon, everybody. Short entry to begin Central Front D+15 but for a reason. This day on the Central Front will be laid out a bit differently than others owing to the amount of activity taking place. Especially in the north. I will put up a note explaining the plan in greater detail tomorrow evening along with an outline for the upcoming Central Front posts. –Mike

18 Replies to “The Central Front D+15 (24 July, 1987) Part I”

  1. Literally got caught up on binge reading yesterday, so very glad you put this out today. I’ll continue to hang of the edge of the cliff along with the rest of the allied forces for a little while longer. Excellent work, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through this as someone who spent their teen years in the 80s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like good timing on both of our parts. 🙂 Again, thanks so much for taking the time to binge. I know it’s a pretty large number of posts to sift through.
      Yeah, a little while longer….at least. 🙂 So you grew up during the 80s too. Fantastic. I was still a younger kid for most of the decade but I do remember how dangerous some years were and how it scared the hell out of adults.


      1. I think you and I are around the same age, then, Mike. Remember stuff like The Defense of the United States of America, and Countdown to Looking Glass, all that stuff? I think you’ve mentioned it before in the Media related posts.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I remember. Countdown was an interesting film. Canadian movie, believe it or not. My favorite line was the one about the ’24 Typhoon class submarines entering the Gulf of Oman.’ Makes me laugh even more now

          Liked by 1 person

          1. LOL. 24 Typhoons in the Gulf of Oman. If they surfaced, you’d be able to walk across the decks of them all without getting your feet wet they’d be crammed so close together.

            Again, I know we discussed it earlier, but what was the one where they used stock footage to portray a surprise attack on the US that was a decapitation strike?

            Liked by 1 person

              1. Yeah, that was it. First Strike. I know Threads, The Day After etc get a lot of play but I remember watching First Strike with the old man and asking him if that was how it would really be. I was looking for some comfort at the time, but all my pop could say is “Nobody really knows, son.”

                Liked by 1 person

              2. I got similar reactions from my family when I asked those questions. It was the truth too. Nobody really knew. And they still don’t today.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. chieftain Mk 5 pic nice in the middle of painting some up,, ah the 80’s high school , got married had kids and hope to god we left them a better world then what we got… nam oil crisis, iran hostage crisis, lebanon civil war what a ride

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Chieftain is probably the most photogenic British tank ever 🙂

      It was a hell of a ride. The tide turned in the West’s favor in the 80s and the Cold War ended right at the end of the decade. Too bad so many of the gains made are being wasted now.


  3. I was expecting the Soviet tank army to go south as well. Things appear to be going mostly NATOs way on the other fronts, an unexpected move by the Soviets somewhere wouldn’t surprise me.

    Not that they have many choices for such a move with the Pact of the edge of coming apart.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. tick tock….

    Farndale… is going to be committing those reserves. But given the madness catching up to the Soviet efforts at a rapidly increasing pace, all that front has to do is hold long enough.

    Its one thing to make gains on one part of the front- but if the rest of the effort stalls/is tossed back, it will potentially be a wasted effort.

    Mind you, if he does hit them in the middle of a crossing, it’s gonna be a disaster for the Soviets… but some of the Murphy Rules of Combat really ring true here.

    If your attack is going really well, it’s an ambush.
    The enemy diversion you’re ignoring is their main attack.
    The enemy invariably attacks on two occasions: (1) when they’re ready, (2) when you’re not.
    No OPLAN ever survives initial contact.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sigh.

    Farndale is going to Market-Garden this and give the Pact leverage for status quo ante bellum. I can feel it in my bones. Sure, NATO will have them on the ropes in the North, on the Cape, and the mideast is a foregone conclusion, but this Brit is going to cost the center, and the goddamn Soviets are going to be able to negotiate from a position of power and maybe even retain control of E. Germany, and be able to utterly massacre the Poles.

    Honestly if I was SACEUR I would (no pun intended) sack Farndale, listen to my gut, and commit everyone to the line. The strategic picture is clear enough now! The Pact is going for a Hail-Mary push in the center, a blind man could see that. A kid learning to play checkers for the first time could see what to do in the middle! I mean, this is what the commander on the ground in Korea had to do in what was basically the exact same set of circumstances, just a day ago.

    I pity the American officers who’ll have to put up with that Burra-Sahib “Yus, well, get on with it chaps.” Farndale is inevitably going to greet any voiced concerns with.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Got that answer. I think…

        Style, Training on OpPlan development and differing methods of implementation. And that lovely bit of history from the late 18th Century.

        At the Flag level, its often a battle of Preferred Methods versus Controlled Chaos.
        Brits have always had a bit of regimented thinking, though initiative to toss the plan/improvise does exist at the operational level (ie: Lt Colonel and below)… us poor slobs are the ones with first hand knowledge of the scene after all and we’re pretty much the ones who have the best idea if a plan is “cocked up…” before it starts. I think the inflexibility tendencies go back to the time when the heavy braid guys were mostly Nobility. In many cases, not terribly creative in plans types. Don’t get me wrong- there are plenty who had some talent for getting the most out of their men and a plan. But not as many as you’d think. (had the Brits had more flexible commanders in the Rev War, we might be still part of the UK. Just saying…)

        US Generals seem to mostly have a knack for knowing when to chuck the Plan or mod it on the fly as well as be unorthodox. Not all of them though- to my knowledge, the ones who tended to operate from a framework plan and adjust as needed are the Infantry Generals. IMO, any Flag officer who has been on the receiving end of bad-ideas-that-became-OpPlans will have a better feel for what’s in front of them and if a proposed plan is good to use or needs a ton of adjustment. Quite a few of those will gamble if need be when something doesn’t sit right. Especially if enough subconscious voices start screaming in his head.

        SACEUR seems like you have as one of those… Something isn’t passing the Sniff Test for him… and him ordering something up to NORTHAG anyway or tossing a countermand on the reserves delay… strikes me as a possibility.

        You hinted at him knowing a good deal about his counterpart on the Soviet side. And thinking something was fishy because something was not making sense of their activities…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Bill,

      Based on the characterization shown of SACEUR, I strongly suspect he’s going to listen to his inner strategic thoughts…. and do something to bolster up there anyway.

      He’s already got doubts over the Soviet activity/lack of it in areas…. and has an idea of his Soviet Counterpart’s tendencies…. And iirc, the comment was made that the Soviets were not doing as expected with some of their movements.

      2+x+1=5; Solve for X.

      I do think its gonna be a close thing. And as I mentioned earlier, all NATO has to do here is hold long enough because the collapse is coming. The real question is how fast is that collapse moving versus the NATO ability to hold the line.

      Yeah, a breakthrough here would SUCK. But with reversals on both sides of the break through (if its what is to happen), those flanks are horribly exposed…. and the French *should* be pulling up shortly. That breakthrough would suffer badly. Not before it cause serious damage… but it would be cut off at the knees and beaten down. Because it won’t have the needed advances on both sides of the hole.

      NO commander worth his brass wants to have a breakthrough without having stalemate to minor advances on flanks to help propel it along. You are asking for disaster….

      On the level of Market Garden, now you mention it.

      Farndale is being Monty-level Cautious. Not that I blame him… but I’m not certain, were I in his shoes with the same intel he has, that I’d be marrying the notion he’s got right now.

      But I’m also an outside the box thinker who has a long frenemy relationship with Murphy. I am more than well aware of how much say he has on any plan… and sometimes, its more than the Enemy’s. I believe in acknowledging worst case in any plan… and try to have an idea to lessen the pain of Murphy saying hello should that rat bastard show.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Or you know he might actually be competent. The Brits do have a few people who know their business. Of course there is the routine Hollywood trope of brits either as evil bad guys or howling idiots. Sigh,

      Liked by 1 person

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