The 4th Infantry Division secured Alsfeld and the surrounding network of roads in the early hours of D+16. The Soviet motor rifle troops that had stubbornly held a portion of the town into the evening hours had used the cover of night to slip out practically unnoticed. 2nd Brigade/4th Infantry spent the next four hours consolidating its hold on the town. The 4th ID commander came forward to conduct a personal reconnaissance of the battle area and start putting the pieces together for the next phase of operations.
The next objective was the Hattenbacher triangle, where Autobahns 5 and 7 come together. Seizing control of this intersection would deny the Soviets the ability to shuttle reinforcements and supplies between Fulda and Bad Hersfeld. Intelligence reports and battlefield reconnaissance photos showed the Soviets were growing serious about defending the triangle. A refitted regiment from the 20th Guards Motor Rifle Division was moving west to establish defensive positions in that area. Between the triangle and the 4th ID in Alsfeld, were two severely depleted regiments of the 39th Guards Motor Rifle Division, regiments in name, yet more akin to reinforced battalions in remaining men and combat power.
South of Alsfeld, 1st Armored Division was knocking on Fulda’s front door. 3rd Brigade/1st AD was arrayed between Grossenluder and Hosenfeld while 1st Brigade was moving into position southwest of Flieden. The next attack was set to begin at 0900 with the two brigades maneuvering towards Fulda. The Soviet tank division deployed in front of, and on the flanks of the town, remained deployed in depth and gave the appearance of being a tough nut to crack.
After dawn, as 1st Brigade/4th ID was approaching Alsfeld the division’s cavalry squadron was probing along Autobahn 5 and the B62 roadway running parallel to the highway. Soviet rear guard units were encountered multiple times and a series of brief, but violent engagements ensued. At the same time, AH-1 Cobras and scout helicopters were flying beyond the contact areas and attempting to find the main defensive positions of the motor rifle regiment from 20th Guards MRD. They encountered heavier air defenses as they flew nearer to the Hattenbacher triangle.
By late afternoon, 1/4th ID had passed through the 2nd Brigade at Alsfeld and was moving up the A5 towards the triangle. The Soviet rear guard elements continued to slow down the cavalry squadron and lead battalions of the 1st Brigade. The delays enabled the Soviets to push a tank battalion west from the Hattenbacher area and launch a limited counterattack that caused a more extended delay. As 1800 approached, it was becoming apparent to US commanders that the Hattenbacher triangle area would remain in enemy hands until the next morning.
By 1800 the 1st Armored Division had broken through the 11th Guards Tank Division in two places. The more northern breakthrough had opened the door for the 3/35th Armor to cut Autobahn 7 and serve as the spearhead for 3rd Brigade’s advance on Hunfeld. The second breakthrough occurred northeast of Neuhof and resulted in the envelopment of the 40th Guards Tank Regiment. These nearly simultaneous penetrations forced the 11th Guards TD commander to order his forces to fall back east of Fulda and begin preparations for what would turn out to be 1st Guards Tank Army’s final stand on West German soil.