Freden, FRG 0420 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 (0620 local time)
As dawn broke, the decision was made for Major General John Yeosock and his division. Lieutenant General Crosbie Saint exercised his prerogative as NORTHAG’s commanding general and ordered the 1st Cavalry Division to secure Alfeld and Brüggen as soon as possible. Saint clearly wanted to pocket the bulk of the enemy’s 3rd Shock Army between the Leine and Weser rivers. That could not be accomplished until the northern-most bridgeheads on the Leine were in NATO hands. Once this was accomplished, the process of squeezing the Soviet divisions could start. Saint intended to use his British and West German formations for that as III Corps crossed the Leine and started moving east in force.
By 0615, lead elements of 1st Brigade/1st Cavalry Division were approaching Alfeld and meeting minimal Soviet resistance. A little to the north, Cobra/Kiowa teams scouting the routes leading to Brüggen reported just two companies of motorized infantry in proximity to that village and its bridges. Intelligence reports from earlier in the morning indicated each of the northern crossing points was defended by a Soviet motor-rifle battalion. In place of these units, however, US scouts and helicopter pilots found platoon and company-sized formations.
COMAAFCE was true to his word. As skies over the Leine brightened, flights of A-10 Warthogs appeared over the area. It wasn’t long before forward air controllers (FAC) on the ground were establishing comms with the flight leaders and calling them down. Along with the A-10s came OV-10 Broncos and airborne FACs. The first Broncos to arrive began scouting the terrain, roads and towns east of the river, searching for signs of enemy columns moving to counterattack, as well as fuel depots and unit headquarters.
Moscow, USSR 0500 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 (0800 local time)
Agendas for regular Politburo sessions were generally put together weeks in advance. In times of war or another sort of national emergency or turmoil, the agendas are more fluid. This morning’s meeting fell into the later category. There was to be just one topic of discussion and this came as no surprise to the Politburo members. Preparation time had been non-existent, meaning there would not be a group of summoned field experts seated against the wall in uncomfortable chairs, waiting to provide this imposing body with answers or explanations. Filling the role of field expert this morning was General Snetkov.
The members filed in and once everyone was settled, the General Secretary opened the meeting. Right from the beginning of his introductory remarks, it was apparent to the men who’d been at the earlier Defense Council meetings that Romanov had reached a decision. What remained to be determined were the particulars, as well as making certain the Politburo as an entity would support the next phase.
Romanov spoke of temporary setbacks in Germany in the last thirty-six hours, expounded by ‘growing difficulties’ along the supply lines through Poland, the GDR and other Warsaw Pact countries. Most of the men here were already aware of the ‘difficulties’ in the satellite states. But on the matter of battlefield setbacks, half of the Politburo was bewildered to learn that the Red Army had been temporarily checked.
When Romanov concluded the opening remarks, he ordered General Snetkov to stand up and explain the present position in Germany, as well as his plan to rectify the situation and resume the drive to the Weser and beyond.
Severomorsk, USSR 0513 Zulu, 27 July, 1987 (0813 local time)
At Red Banner Northern Fleet’s headquarters building, fleet commander Admiral Ivan Kapitanets was in his office when the KGB officers arrived. He’d been expecting their arrival for days now and was not surprised to see them standing at the door now. Put in simple terms, the Northern Fleet failed in its primary wartime mission and there needed to be a reckoning. He would absorb the blame and be remembered as the fleet admiral responsible for the greatest defeat in Soviet naval history. If there was to be a history of this conflict recorded. Right now, he had grave doubts about this, however, Kapitanets was certain he’d not live long enough to read it in any event.
He was not the only one taken into custody on this morning. As the Politburo meeting continued in Moscow, ten other senior officers were relieved of their commands and arrested. The list of men included the commanders of the Southwestern and Southern TVDs, as well as the admirals commanding the Red Banner Baltic Fleet and its Black Sea counterpart.