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

It was 0315 in the morning. The commander of NATO’s Central Army Group (CENTAG) General Glenn Otis, US Army, received a call at his field headquarters from Brussels. The voice on the other end was the familiar nasal, New England-accented voice belonging to SACEUR. “Glenn, I want to let you know what’s going on up north. Butch Saint authorized 1st Cavalry to try a thunder run on the Russian divisions getting ready to hit the Belgians in front of the Weser. It’s been underway for a couple hours now and the results look promising so far.” SACEUR paused. “Damn promising,” he emphasized, then the line went dead. There was no need to say more. Otis grasped the purpose behind the call and would take the necessary steps as the day progressed.

The fraternity of US Army general officers in the NATO command structure had been a bone of contention with some allies for decades, the West Germans and British especially. Over the years a quiet resentment developed in some quarters of the BRITISH Army (Some Brit readers gave me hell about labeling it the Royal Army earlier. Error is fixed. 🙂 ) and Bundeswehr. It was recognized and accepted that the US contributed the lion’s share of men and material to the defense of Europe. That point had never been argued by the allies. But the fact remained that any future war would be fought in Europe and thus the European allies in NATO should have a larger stake in combat leadership.

The start of the Third World War put this argument to bed permanently. The balloon went up and when it did, US generals commanded the majority of NATO army groups and corps in Germany. Beginning on D+16 and stretching into the next day and beyond, the value of the US fraternity was evident for the entire world to see. Men like Galvin, Otis, Saint and their division commanders were familiar to one another. Their career paths had crossed through the years and at least in the case of the US Army division commanders in Europe in July, 1987, they’d all served under at least one of their superiors in varying roles earlier in the decade. These men also had Vietnam and its rocky aftermath as common bonds. They took the lessons from that conflict and helped shape the Air Land Battle doctrine, ushering in a new way for the US Army to fight and transforming the service. And right now, these men and that doctrine were a large part of what was keeping NATO forces alive in West Germany.

Despite the unfolding drama in Northern Germany, things were happening in CENTAG too. An early morning report from West German III Corps sector was prompting surprise and speculation in the CENTAG field headquarters. Heavy small arms fire was heard coming from the direction of the East German 23rd Motor Rifle Regiment’s positions. The origins of the short but violent spasms of fire were unknown. The West German brigade opposite the GDR regiment had reported no contact. An hour later, as dawn broke, a trio of East German officers approached the West Germans carrying a white flag and explained their intention to surrender the regiment.

As this situation was developing near Kassel, V Corps, to the south, was probing aggressively as the FEBA crept closer to the Inner-German Border. 1st Guards Tank Army’s forward divisions found themselves pinned between American tanks on one side and the border on the other. Battlefield reconnaissance and intelligence reports indicated that 1st GTA was digging in, apparently reluctant to withdraw any farther east. These indications were accurate. It was unknown to NATO at the time but 1st GTA’s commander was under direct orders from Moscow not to allow any NATO incursion into Warsaw Pact territory. The general understood clearly that failure to do this would guarantee him a one-way trip to the salt mines of Siberia.

1st Armored and 4th Infantry wanted to keep the pressure on the Soviets. Otis encouraged this but did not want either division to become overly aggressive and fall on their sword. He went forward later in the morning to discuss the matter with the division commanders and hammered home the need for a coordinated attack. The emphasis was on First Tanks and the 4th working together and quickly and as one formation before the Soviets had time to fortify and reinforce more.

In the early afternoon the situation near Kassel came into focus clearer. A surrender was arranged between the commanders of the West German 2nd Panzergrenadier Division and East German 23rd Motor Rifle Regiment and takes place at 1245 hours. As soon as it becomes official, the East German colonel explained the cause of the fighting earlier in the morning as well its origins. Then he goes on to reveal just what brought on the surrender of his regiment. The colonel’s subsequent debriefing turns out to be an intelligence windfall.

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

  1. The level of “Holy Shit” that will come about from that debriefing will be substantial… And the sheer intel gained will be immense.

    If I remember correctly, the East Germans were pretty tightlipped about everything at that time; with the Stasi being everywhere (or so it was thought)

    NATO learning of the Ostie troubles will be huge when dealing with other East German regiments…. and may even allow for refinement of tactical interdiction missions along with Logistics Strikes on rear WP trains/Logistic sites.

    And the potential to quickly get leaflets out over other East German units to encourage their capitulation/surrender… cannot be overlooked. This is definitely a WOW moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep and the fact that the East Germans might be able to be convinced to lay down their arms is too enticing to pass up. Of course, this isnt the best development for our Russian friends at the moment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. no sir it isn’t.

        The entire house is caving in…. and the developments going INTO the night of D17 and morning of 18… are not good AT ALL for the Russians.

        It does not get much more precarious than this. Unless the Germans actively change sides….

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Russia/Former USSR may have made a (series of compounding) mistakes, but they’re still a rational actor on the whole.

    I’d they see the jig is up for the WTO forces they may be tempted to decide the proverbial “trade Moscow for Bonn”. However, I’d put my money that somebody with the means to control things decides it’s far better to be the ruler of an non-irradiated USSR than to follow over the precipice.

    Do I feel a 9mm Makarov hemorrhage coming on?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The big unknown is Moscow’s attitude. If Romanov and his aides don’t accept that the tide has turned, there’s no telling what comes next. Or worse, they might accept it and then decide to examine the nuclear option.
      The next two posts will reveal a lot in that regard

      The Makarov might be nearby 🙂

      Like

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