The Commander-In-Chief of the Western TVD, Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov was relieved of his duties at 1600 hours, CEST. It was to be another hour before General Snetkov learned of the news. A KGB officer arrived from Western TVD’s wartime command post in Poland to personally deliver the news of Ogarkov’s removal. The officer also informed Snetkov that he had been named the new CINC-West by the Politburo. Under the present circumstances, Snetkov was reluctant to quickly pack up, head east to Poland and take up the new duties. He would be out of touch for far too long, something he could ill afford with NATO on the verge of crossing the Leine in force. Every minute counted right now. His place was at GSFG’s command post directing the battle. Until the situation in West Germany was stabilized, this would remain the case. The general radioed Western TVD’s command post and gave orders for a small number of staff officers he was familiar to be sent to his present location. Not long after, he amended the order to include a handful of combat officers currently serving with the Northern Group of Forces (NGF) and its counterpart in Czechoslovakia.
It was taking longer than expected for 1st Brigade to start crossing the river. Earlier in the evening, a battalion-sized attack out of 8th Guards Tank Division’s perimeter managed to cut the Bundestrasse 64 roadway, which was serving as the 1st Cavalry Division’s main supply route for the time being. The Soviet success was short-lived though. 2/8 Cavalry, the next US battalion moving up from the rear, with support from AH-64 Apaches from 1/227 Aviation Regiment pushed the enemy forces off the road and surrounding area, and then held it while the remainder of the brigade passed by. It was relieved by another battalion from the 3rd Brigade and then moved east to catch up with the rest of its parent unit. At Freden to the north, the attack launched by elements of a 47th Guards TD’s regiment was swiftly contained and then driven off. Finally, just after 2230 the first vehicles from 1st Brigade began crossing the Leine.
Around the same time, General Crosbie Saint, CINC-NORTHAG and his operations staff were busy planning the next phase of the evolving operation. In the early evening, a sense of ‘What now?’ had crept into Saint’s mind. 1st Cav’s push exceeded his expectations by a wide margin. The bulk of that division was expected to be across the river by dawn and they were going to need orders. So were the rest of III Corps and the remainder of NORTHAG for that matter. A number of options were available, some more ambitious and far sighted than others. It remained unclear if 1st Cav’s breakthrough could be transformed into the spark for a general counteroffensive. However, it showed great promise. At the very least, the enemy’s drive to the Weser had been checked. The five damaged Soviet divisions west of the Leine were increasingly vulnerable as the night continued. Intelligence updates indicated that the Soviets had recognized this and was moving to reinforce the northern bridgeheads with whatever units were available. The bulk of 3rd Shock Army was in danger of being cut off and isolated. Whether or not its commander realized the gravity of the situation facing his army group wasn’t known to Crosbie and SACEUR. Not that either man was overly concerned with that.
NORTHAG had the initiative now and it was time for the Soviets to start reacting to NATO’s moves for a change.
Author’s Note: Schedule conflict this weekend and I don’t want to skimp on details so Part V will have one more entry. I’ll post it tomorrow night, along with maybe an accompanying map. 😊 – Mike