3rd Shock Army’s commander fervently hoped this day would bring better fortunes for his army group’s forward divisions. The two tank divisions pushing towards the Weser at Hoxter had been on the verge of breaking through the Belgian forces in front of them in the later afternoon of D+17. Follow on regiments were preparing to move forward and continue the effort when NATO airpower made an untimely appearance over the Einbeck area and discovered two large convoys of fuel trucks moving towards the forward staging areas of those regiments. Both convoys were little more than scattered debris and sheets of flame by the time the West German Phantoms finished with them. Worse yet, the regiments had only received a fraction of their allotted fuel. As a result, the attacks set to resume in the early evening never went off. The follow-on regiments of 8th and 6th Guards were then scheduled to resume the attack at 0500 hours today. Then a second string of NATO air attacks right before midnight caused an unexpected amount of damage and confusion. The attack was then moved to 0700. 3rd Shock’s commander was determined that this one would go off on schedule. Provided enough fuel and ammunition made it forward in time.
Despite the best efforts of the head of logistics, every one of the divisions now positioned west of the Leine were suffering from critical shortages in a host of essential categories. The fuel and materials were simply not getting forward quickly enough. And when the material did finally arrive, it fell victim to a bootless distribution system not designed to take into consideration the possibility that the enemy might control the skies over the battleline. 3rd Shock’s commander had seen the writing on the wall and decided that the forward refueling, ammunition and other logistics points were positioned too far forward given the circumstances. 6th and 8th Guards were ordered to move their logistics assets farther back until the Weser was reached.
The line positioned from Dassalt to Lenne consisted of the remnants from three Soviet regiments that were mauled on the previous afternoon. Company-sized formations which had been full battalions only 24 hours earlier were strung out from north to south in a loose collection of blocking positions. This forward screen could handle a spoiling attack, but no serious opposition was expected. The Belgians were on their last leg according to intelligence, and the single available American brigade was being held in reserve for the time being.
2nd Brigade/1st Cavalry Division’s attack commenced at 0100. Cav scouts had been probing since 2200 and discovered two rather weak points in Soviet forward lines. The defending forces were surprisingly light and the scouts bypassed them best they could establish corridors for the follow-on elements of the brigade to utilize. 1/8 Cav, an armor-heavy battalion, was the first to go. Its lead company and scouts slipped by the outposts of a Soviet motor rifle company unseen and then disappeared into the woods east of Denkiehausen. The next company through stumbled across a trio of BMPs and an observation post. The enemy troops and vehicles were quickly taken out before a warning could be radioed in.
As the rest of 1/8 Cav crossed through, the first two companies negotiated the trails through the dense forest, and came to a halt in the tree line on the eastern end of it. Before the American tankers was the village of Luthorst. Beyond it lay expansive fields of farmland and thickets of trees. Ideal tanker country. Once the rest of the battalion had caught up, 1/8 Cav would advance northeast into the rear area of the northern Soviet tank division. The battalion behind it would aim itself at the rear of the other tank division. If all went well, the better part of a US armored brigade was going to be raising hell in the Soviet backyard before dawn. And so far, the operation had gone entirely according to plan.