The Central Front D+17 (26 July, 1987) Part V Charlie

Late in the evening, General John Galvin, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) received word that the first troops from 1st Cavalry Division were over the Leine. The news invigorated SACEUR’s deputies, as well as his staff. After two and a half weeks spent playing round-the-clock defense, NATO had possession of the ball. NORTHAG’s new commander had taken a massive gamble and injected a brigade-sized force into the Soviet’s rear area to raise hell. The gamble was paying off handsomely. The Red Army had been halted practically in sight of the Weser, an entire US armored division had broken through Soviet lines, and most of 3rd Shock Army’s combat divisions were now in danger of being trapped on the wrong side of the Leine River.

The NATO position on the North German Plain was markedly improved in comparison to what it had been forty-eight hours earlier. NORTHAG was moving to expand the two current Leine bridgeheads in preparation to cross the remainder of the 1st Cavalry Division and behind it III Corps. SACEUR did not want to commit too much of this corps to containing the 3rd Shock Army. As things were developing now, he was leaning towards using it as the centerpiece for a counteroffensive, a notion General Saint at NORTHAG was in favor of. There was a lot to be worked out and determined though, and very little time to do it in. Still, SACEUR wanted plans for a major counterattack presented to him by 0200. His staff would be burning the midnight oil.

Western TVD’s new commander-in-chief General Boris Snetkov spent the last hour of the day planning as well. With an army group in danger of being fully enveloped and NATO tanks preparing to cross the Leine, Soviet forces in Northern Germany were being thrust into the unfamiliar role of defense. 5th Guards Tank Army was the nearest army group to the Leine. It was severely understrength after 3rd Shock had siphoned off three of its divisions to support the push to the Weser. Behind it, the 7th Guards Tank Army was moving into West Germany after a drawn out transit across a dangerously hostile Poland and an indifferent East Germany.

Snetkov faced a choice. He could use 5th Guards Tank Army to attack the NATO bridgeheads on the Leine and in the process possibly rescue its sister army group. Or it could become the anchor for a defensive line aimed at slowing down a future NATO counterattack until 7th GTA arrived could enter the picture. There were not enough fresh combat divisions available to do both and a decision needed to be made quickly.

The speed and ferocity of the American attacks stunned Snetkov. His enemies had done to him exactly what he planned to unleash on them. Had the 3rd Shock and 20th Guards performed at the same level as the American division earlier in the war, Snetkov presumed he’d be standing on the east bank of the Rhine at this moment, instead of a deep underground command post inside of East Germany. He admired the abilities of the Americans and at the same time regarded them with dread.

He was in his office alone, drawing up the outline for a counterattack on the Leine bridgeheads the next day. It was 2355 hours. A single knock came to the door. His aide stepped in and informed the general that a message had arrived from Moscow ordering Snetkov to be in Moscow by sunrise.

17 Replies to “The Central Front D+17 (26 July, 1987) Part V Charlie”

  1. Recalling Snetkov is a giant Rodina-sized mistake. But one that has precedence in past actions of the Russian hierarchy.

    NATO has the momentum right now and the WP has the ability to blunt it and possibly stall it. But it requires time, manpower and being left alone to come up with a plan of action that will do it.

    And of those three items, time can be fought for, manpower is coming but requires said time…. and the left alone part controls how well the the other two items can be done.

    And Moscow…. can’t leave well enough alone (historically, they have NEVER been able to for long).

    IIRC, it was their idea to attack west- with a good amount of Pie in the Sky thinking by advisors. It was no fault of Snetkov’s that the West managed to hold and get its feet under it in order to push back. He did better than he had right to believe (there are hints of this thinking elsewhere), just not enough to satisfy the Arm Chair folks back east.

    And lets be honest, it was Higher Command errors that made it that much harder for him. And post war analysis will determine this. (Monday Morning Quarterbacking isn’t just an American thing)

    If there is failure anywhere, its on Red Army Intel underestimating NATO equipment/training, NATO will to fight plus its ability to shift strategy on the fly (the previously mentioned Chaos Theory of most American War Planning) and the reliability of the WP client states. That last item… is the hardest to determine/maintain followed by the Enemy’s will. Gear and Training… can generally be assessed, IMO, based on eyeballs seeing gear, and selective application of assets to gain knowledge via industrial espionage or compromising select persons of interest to learn what is needed. Or at least have a good idea of what’s what.

    Accepting American Chaos Theory of Warfighting… well, that’s a culture thing. And neither side gets the other right…. though the West is a touch better at predicting Soviet tactics/strategy when they are paying attention. In my opinion, at least. Y’all will have a different assessment.

    The KGB/GRU failed the Red Army on some of this. Some of this was tactics/strategy employed… and the rest, a mix of Soviet Doctrinal holes and lack of ability to adjust quickly.

    Which is a flaw of the Soviet system as a whole.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh s**t. They’re not relieving him, he just took over the job. You’re too much of a realist to write a nice Tom Clancy or John Hackett denouement.

    “Comrade General, the time has come to revise our plans…” And everyone in Western Europe better.find the nearest cellar, basement, underground parking garage, or subway tunnel. S**t, s**t, s**t. I’m using “*” cause I know our fine Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen never use profanity 🙂 But extraordinary situations require extraordinary vocabulary.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I pray to God that Snetkov will have a moment of clarity, a moment of realization, to ask for the permission of nuclear discretion to be handed directly to brigade commanders.

    Because, to quote the private thoughts of Pavel Leonidovich Alekseyev “So you don’t use them, you fucking maniacs!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is a bit too fast for STAVKA to send Snetkov east to count trees (or to be counted as a tree), so he’s probably going to be “asked” on how best to use special weapons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw your comment before and decided to post a map update. I’m in trouble with it at the moment but will come through with a respectable finished product

      Liked by 1 person

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