Two tank regiments from the 6th Guards Tank Division east of Einbeck began their attack at 0600 hours. Following the sharp clashes between the division’s motor rifle regiment and forward units of the Belgian 4th Brigade on the previous day, the 52nd and 53rd Guards Tank Regiments encountered heavier defenses and resistance as they approached the Belgian brigade’s suspected main line of resistance. 4th Brigade was now deployed on a 12-kilometer line from Escherhausen south to Dassel. Its sister 17th Brigade covered the area from Dassel to Solling, with 1/3rd of its combat power deployed in depth behind the initial area. This arrangement was done to provide stronger defenses in the event of a Soviet breakthrough in the Dassel area, giving time for the 16th Armored Division’s reserve formations to counterattack the breakthrough point and plug the hole should it be needed.
The two-regiment early morning Soviet attack was launched on a 10-kilometer front. 6th Guards TD was hoping his attack would dovetail effortlessly with that of the 8th Guards Tank Division. NATO airpower had caused disruptions, however. That attack was not expected to go off until 0900.
Reconnaissance companies and the advance guards from both advancing regiments met a near solid wall of Belgian ATGMs and artillery. Soviet counter-battery fire helped clear the approach for the follow-on battalions. But soon enough the Belgian defenders recovered, and the initial attacks bogged down. By 0830 the Soviets had advanced a total of five kilometers and enemy resistance remained both organized and fierce.
The 8th Guards Tank Division commenced its attack at 0915. The division’s first objective was Dassel but reaching it would prove to be costly. Many of the smaller towns and hamlets dotting the landscape between Einbeck and Dassel were hives of Belgian mechanized infantry and their effective anti-tank weapons. They made movement along nearby roads dangerous and expensive in men and vehicles. The division’s motor rifle regiment was stopped cold three times before noon. The heaviest engagement took place at Markoldendorf, where a dug in Belgian battalion of the 17th Brigade held firm, causing the 6th Guards TD commander to commit his first tank regiment earlier than he’d hoped.
Smartly enough, the regiment commander opted to take advantage of his unit’s maneuverability and send his tanks cross country to leapfrog the meatgrinder at Markoldendorf. Unfortunately for him and his unit, the Belgians were waiting for just such a move. A battalion of Leopard 1s emerged from Amelsen and smashed into the 60th Guards Tank Regiment’s right flank.
Nothing would come easily for the Soviets this morning.
As the fighting between the Belgians and Soviets took shape that morning, at NORTHAG’s wartime headquarters the new army group commander was settling in. General Crosbie Saint, US Army had not expected to be greeted with open arms by his staff, which was made up primarily of British officers whose loyalties had been firmly attached to his predecessor. But the British officers were also professionals and recognized the danger of the current situation. They responded as one would expect, disregarding the circumstances behind Farndale’s dismissal and setting their focus on stopping the Soviets from crossing the Weser. Their sense of humor remained intact though, and this was evident when a BAOR officer, who had at one time spent time with the US Army in Texas, somehow managed to have Colonial 6 be designated as Saint’s handle on the NORTHAG communications net.
The orders issued by SACEUR while NORTHAG was transitioning between commanders earlier in the morning did not need to be changed, Saint judged. 2/1st Cav was crossing the Weser and would be ready to support the Belgians by noon. The rest of the 1st Cavalry Division was heading towards the Weser, as were West German and British brigades. The enemy was reinforcing the southern Weser sector as well. Another tank division was starting to cross the Leine and there were two divisions behind it according to intelligence.
Yet it did not matter what side reinforced the fastest if the Soviets broke through and reached the Weser in force by dusk. Saint recognized that as the worst-case scenario. Failure keep the enemy contained would open up an entirely new phase of operations and quite likely put to rest any notions of stopping the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies permanently on this side of the Rhine.