The Central Front D+16 (25 July, 1987) Part V

NORTHAG’s new American commander arrived at Holzminden and spent 15 minutes with General Yeosock. 1st Cav’s commanding general briefed him on the still-developing plan, providing as much detail as the limited amount of available time would allow. Saint liked the plan. It was aggressive and bold, but not wildly reckless. He gave Yeosock his approval but warned him that unless 2nd Brigade was established in the Soviet’s rear area and thoroughly raising hell by dawn, the operation was to be halted and the brigade withdrawn. Yeosock agreed and the generals parted ways. Saint flew back to his wartime headquarters while Yeosock went forward again to confer with 2nd Brigade’s commander. The thunder run was scheduled to kick off at 0015 hours. The codename for the operation was Black Jack, a nod to 2nd Brigade’s nickname.

The Belgians were informed of the upcoming operation. 16th Armored Division’s leadership thoroughly approved. Immediately, the division commander went about making preparations and plans that would adequately support the efforts of the American brigade. At 1800 hours, a lull had fallen over the battleline. The Soviet divisions were regrouping and moving their reserve regiments forward to resume the advance on the Weser. The Belgian 4th and 17th Brigades were holding, mainly due to the reinforcements that arrived from the 10th Brigade throughout the afternoon. The Belgian commander ordered his two forward brigades to conduct aggressive probing attacks against the lead Soviet regiments beginning at 2200. Around the same time he wanted a sizable amount of false radio traffic broadcast indicating the arrival of US reinforcements in 4th Brigade’s area. Deception would play an important role in the leadup to Operation Black Jack. 

Soviet commanders were wrestling with their own concerns as dusk was approaching. It was a familiar situation. NATO air attacks were causing horrendous delays. Follow-on units, fuel and ammunition were not getting forward as needed. Timetables were in shambles on both sides of the Leine. With darkness coming, the 8th Guards and 6th Guards Tank Divisions would cease combat operations for a period and resupply. Before dawn, the next attacks were to be launched against the Belgian defenses. These would be centered around fresh tank regiments and be reinforced by what remained of the motor rifle and tank regiments that spent the bulk of D+16 engaged. The bulk of the 29th Tank Division was expected to be across the Leine by 0700. 3rd Shock Army’s commander anticipated the fresh division would serve as an ad-hoc operational maneuver group and be committed to the battle by early afternoon. The army group commander also expected the Weser to be reached within 24 hours and crossing operations to be underway in force by midnight on D+18.

In Stendal, GSFG’s commanding general was not so confident. Nevertheless, General Boris Snetkov accepted the estimates from 3rd Shock Army for the time being. That army group’s commander was closer to the front and had more information available to him for the moment. However, Snetkov was far more up to date on the deteriorating supply and transportation situation on the eastern bank of the Leine and beyond 3rd Shock’s rear areas. A massive traffic jam was forming on the approaches to the Leine. Combat formations and supply convoys were intermingled and backed up for kilometers. NATO air attacks were frequent. When the did not cause severe damage, the amount of chaos and confusion they brought on were nearly as consequential.

To make matters worse, there were indications that the supply line through East Germany was in danger due to a growing confrontation between factions of the GDR government. The bulk of East Germany’s armed forces not currently deployed in Federal Republic or Baltic area had received orders to stand down and return to barracks. GRU reports spoke of a battle for control between the GDR military and internal security services in East Berlin. If true, this only made Snetkov’s supply lines more vulnerable. If the East Germans were unwilling or unable to protect them, Snetkov had no spare troops available for the task.

Things were even worse farther east in Poland where rebel Polish army units were making direct attacks on the highways and rail lines responsible for keeping the pipeline of men and material from western Russia to Germany in service.

5 Replies to “The Central Front D+16 (25 July, 1987) Part V”

  1. I’m reminded of an old cavalry saying – never stop for the night on the near side of a mountain pass or the far side of a river.

    I bet a few troopers in 1st Cav know it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Nice plan the soviets have there… be a shame if someone were to blow it to hell and gone.

    Cav launches their attack just after midnight…. in the midst of the Soviet rest/rearm/refit. The moment 2nd Brigade manages to get through (and they should- Russians have no reason to think they are even there!!) and has its follow on’s exploit the hole, the level of chaos in the Russian rear is going to be substantial… to the point of a complete break down of formations, loss of supply points and potentially even a repeat of what happened the last time…

    With the difference being the Cav isn’t leaving where the first go did. With 40 rounds per tank, there is a high probability that with only a 50% hit/kill ratio, the Cav is going to break the back of the Soviet Drive.

    And 50% is kinda conservative… it may be higher as the Soviets are not going to be ready for this.

    The heady plans for the D+17 drive for the D+18 goal… are pretty slim on a good day. With this, Slim is already on a fast horse out of town…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Once the M60A3 TTS’ and M1’s are in place with *their* night-fighting gear, when the commence firing order is given, unholy chaos is going to break out in the Soviet lines. The first units met are going to melt like butter under a blowtorch, and panic will ensue. If the Cav are equally backed up by Apaches at night it’ll go down as one of the biggest massacres of an enemy unit in military history. It will make the Highway of Death look like a scuffle between a cop and a shoplifter.

      There’s no reason the Cav aren’t going to completely obliterate the overextended Soviet units. And best of all (for the Allies)? They have *nowhere to go*. Falling back into Germany, they’ll run into roads choked with supply units trying to come west to back them up. Turning south? See Mike’s post following this one. Trying to put the hammer down and continue west? They’ll overextend further and be cut off and encircled, it’ll be like the 6th SS Army at Stalingrad. Der Kessel all over again. North will just put their weak Southern flank on the west and it’ll get punched through. No, Ivan’s done here once the Cav get in position and jump off in the dark.

      Liked by 1 person

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