Freden, FRG, 0000 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 (0200 local time)
1st Brigade/1st Cavalry Division’s crossing of the Leine was underway in earnest by 0200 hours. At Freden and Greene, 2nd Brigade’s battalions had the bridgeheads secure and pushed out 8 kilometers east of the river to give 1st Brigade a buffer against potential enemy attacks during the crossing operation. At 1st Cav’s forward headquarters, division commander Major General John Yeosock was satisfied with the progress of 1st Brigade. His dilemma at the present time was in making a decision about Alfeld and the other northern crossing points on the Leine. Part of him wanted to send 1st Brigade north to seize them and effectively isolate the 3rd Shock Army west of the Leine. Another part was determined to get 1st Brigade across the river and expand the defensive perimeter in preparation for the rest of the division and then III Corps to cross. Grabbing Alfeld and Brüggen would also expand the bridgehead for those regiments and divisions coming after 1st Cavalry. Yet at the same time, such a move ran the risk of overextending 1st Cav’s combat strength and leaving it susceptible to a Soviet counterattack coming out of the east.
The operations staff was divided on the validity of the idea, as was their commanding general. For now, 1st Brigade was continue its crossing. When it was on the other side of the Leine in full, Yeosock would make a final decision on the matter.
Ramstein Airbase, FRG, 0235 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 (0435 local time)
Commander, Allied Air Forces Central Europe General Bill Kirk, USAF looked at the 4th Allied Tactical Air Force commander sitting across the desk from him and appearing quite crestfallen. The man knew what was coming.
“I hate to do it,” Kirk explained in a sympathetic voice. “But I have to take a sizeable number of your ground attack aircraft and put them to work up north. Your counterpart at Rheindahlen is seriously hurting.”
“I know, sir.” 4 ATAF’s commander acknowledged sincerely. “But dammit, this is going to play havoc with my priorities and air tasking. There are going to be a lot of disappointed FACs expecting to get A-10s when they call down close air tomorrow.”
“Fair enough,” Kirk conceded and then leaned forward. “But you need to appreciate the situation up north right now. 2 ATAF has taken a beating for days now trying to interdict traffic on the Leine bridges. Now those very same bridges are in our hands and there’s a US armored division crossing them at this moment. With quite a few more behind it,” he added and then stabbed a finger at the 4th’s commander. “Do you want to call Brussels and tell General Galvin that 16,000 US troops are going to be hung out on a limb without sufficient close air support in a few hours?”
“Of course not!” 4th ATAF’s commander nearly exploded. He took a moment to gather himself and then asked, in a calmer, more businesslike tone, “What do you need?”
“Continuous A-10 coverage over the Leine bridges from 0600 until midnight. One squadron overhead at any given time, minimum. Come tomorrow night, I might need more depending on what happens in the next twelve hours.”
“Is there anything else?”
“Not for now. Just A-10s. But I won’t make any promises about the future.”
“Well, general,” he rose from his chair and stretched. “In that case I’d better make you aware that it seems as if CENTAG is thinking about a counteroffensive as well. I don’t know when or with how many divisions, but CINC-CENT contacted me earlier and wanted to know how many A-10 squadrons I might have available in 36 hours.”
Kirk’s face fell upon hearing that. “Oh, shit.”
“Not sure how serious they’re planning over there, but I thought you should know. If he does jump off, I’m going to be hard pressed to support him without those A-10s.”
“Don’t worry, Andy. I’ll handle it,” Kirk assured his subordinate. “Now kindly see yourself out so I can call Brussels and talk to them about this.”
Author’s Note: There really isn’t much going on in the North Atlantic or Northern Flank during this four hour block of time so I’ll just end 0000-0400 here. On Monday, 0401-0800 will start up. –Mike