For the Soviet Union, the principal objective of this war was to capture and neutralize the Federal Republic of Germany. Campaigns and offensives undertaken in separate theaters were planned and executed in support of this goal. In the leadup to war, the Kremlin believed wholeheartedly that seizing West Germany was an elixir for the Soviet Union’s problems. It would bring about the collapse of NATO and the eventual shifting of Western Europe into the Soviet sphere, with the exception of England, perhaps. The United States would withdraw back across the Atlantic, bitterly leaving behind a continent and alliance that had leeched its treasure and blood for decades. These events were to ensure a bright future for communism with the opportunities to spread the teachings and doctrines of Marx, Engels around the world growing exponentially. That was the plan, at least.
Eighteen days into the campaign on the Central Front and West Germany was nowhere close to complete subjugation. NATO remained disturbingly united and intact while the Warsaw Pact teetered on the brink of collapse. The Soviet offensive had come to a bloody halt in the central and southern regions of the FRG. On the North German Plain, however, the westward advance continued on. Soviet tanks were on the verge of seizing the Weser River and breaking out into the West German industrial heartland as well as the Northern Army Group’s vulnerable rear areas. 3rd Shock Army, injected with fresh divisions from 5th Guards Tank Army, was close to breaking up the weakened Belgian lines and racing to the Weser. Behind it would come the remainder of 5th GTA, and a second full tank army. Western TVD and Group of Soviet Forces Germany both believed these second echelong forces would be sufficient to assure final victory over NATO in West Germany.
As is the case with all armies of the 20th Century, logistics was a key to victory for the Red Army in this campaign. All things considered, Soviet logistic planning was sound. It had anticipated that there would be unexpected movements of divisions or even army groups by front commanders as the battle progressed. Locations for temporary fuel and ammunition depots were identified and mapped out along the probable routes of advance ahead of the first shots being fired. But while the planning was first rate, the execution left much to be desired. The ferocity of NATO air interdiction efforts, and internal disruptions deep in the Warsaw Pact rear were having an adverse effect on Soviet operations as the war went on. To help deflect some of the supply line problems, divisions in Northern Germany were being stripped of all the fuel, ammunition and equipment they could spare. This excess was then transported to the rear areas of the divisions fighting between the Leine and Weser.
As far as the Soviet forces engaged north of Hanover went, their war was essentially over for now. 2nd Guards Tank Army’s push against the Dutch and West Germans had come to a halt. Casualties and equipment losses in many of its divisions were at the critical level. The resistance put up by I NL Corps was largely responsible for this. Under Western TVD’s master war plan, 2nd GTA was slated to be reinforced by second operational echelon forces from the Carpathian Military District. In the final hours of peace, Western TVD’s command staff had debated designating the army groups of the Baltic Military District to reinforce 2nd GTA. That proposal was denied by CINC-West who preferred to keep the Baltic MD forces dedicated to the role of force regeneration should the nuclear threshold ever be crossed.
D+17 was slated to see resumption of the advance against the Belgians defending the southern approaches to the Weser. The Belgian division that had stubbornly held up two Soviet tank divisions on the previous day was not expected to absorb another round of punishment. Behind 6th and 8th Guards Tank Divisions, a third Soviet tank division would be in position to force a breach in the Belgian lines by 1200. Information was making its way to Western TVD’s wartime headquarters from the front concerning a new line of NATO defenses being formed along the eastern bank of the Weser. This defensive line consisted of elements from an American armored division.
It was essential for 3rd Shock Army’s divisions to break through the Belgians and bridge the Weser before the Americans had the opportunity to build up strength on the east side of the river.