The Central Front D+19 (28 July, 1987) Part II

Author’s Note: CENTAG is coming first because my laptop went south on Friday and it took over 36 hours to get it reset and all my files recovered. Need some extra time to gather my CENTAG and NORTHAG timelines and notes up from the wreckage. As a result, this entry will be short, unfortunately. 😊

As was the case in the north, the NATO corps and Warsaw Pact army groups squaring off in the CENTAG region began D+19 by sniping at the enemy to their front. Companies and battalions squared off in a number of brief but fierce battles through the first eight hours of the day. In the suburbs of Kassel, Soviet motor rifle and tank regiments had replaced the East German divisions that either surrendered or withdrew to the other side of the border late on D+17 and early on D+18. These were units from the 8th Guards Army that were filled out with replacement soldiers and commanded by officers who were still alive and relatively healthy after three weeks of war. These skirmished gave the men a feel for what the coming hours and days would bring provided the war remained conventional. It also provided the officers with an opportunity to coordinate and command larger units than they had been accustomed to. Men who started the war as captains commanding companies now found themselves raised in rank and in charge of almost full-strength regiment.

From outside of Kassel to within sight of the Inner-German Border at the Fulda Gap to north of Regensburg, units squared off. The threat of more nuclear weapons being used remained first and foremost in the minds of officers and NCOs. Yet the terrain in the central and southern regions of the Federal Republic was quite different from that found in the north. Here the valleys and uneven terrain provided a degree of natural cover against the effects of a nearby nuclear detonation that was not to be found on the North German Plain. As a result, NATO and Pact units did not feel the need to remain exposed for extended periods of time along the line of contact. Probes and reconnaissance missions darted into enemy territory, made contact and spent short times engaging the other side before pulling back to the relative safety of friendly lines.

At Central Army Group’s forward headquarters, the prospect of a NATO counteroffensive aimed at the Hannover, Brauschweig and beyond solidified the need for CENTAG to have a plan ready to implement that would support NORTHAG’s push and ultimately form a separate prong should the decision be made to cross into East German territory. This notion was one that planners had been looking at closely on D+17. Events of the next day temporarily shelved the idea but it was now starting to come back.

A push by V Corps northeast could bypass Kassel and the stalemate there and serve to threaten the enemy’s left flank. This would give the 5th Guards Tank Army and whatever other Pact formations that were present a serious threat to deal with while III Corps was charging straight at them.  3rd Armored and 8th Infantry were ready to jump. The division commanders were standing by waiting for orders. Those would not be coming until SACEUR reached a final decision on when the counteroffensive would begin. He was waiting for the green light from Washington. Until that happened, CENTAG was in a holding pattern. But the planning continued, and as the early afternoon approached, there were indications that General Galvin was close to issuing orders.

8 Replies to “The Central Front D+19 (28 July, 1987) Part II”

  1. time to get some… Fresh troops, solid morale and better gear.

    This is going to be a big mess for the Warsaw Pact. And there is still the question of their rear area security against turncoat Osties and further east,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Getting through (or around) the Harz gets V corps pointed towards Magdeburg or coming into Brunswick/helmstedt from the flank. The question is how far and who?

    Keep heading north inside the IGB helps exploit the crumbling situation in the north created by the polish and East German collapse. You get a shallow envelopment and the possibility of isolating more Soviet forces. This gives you a pretty clean military solution and avoids the potential political question of going east,

    Crossing into the DDR out of the Harz gets you Magdeburg. Magdeburg gets you Berlin. Going northwest gets you into the operational depths of the western Tvd fronts and develops towards the sea while ripping up a lot of the pre-war gsfg infrastructure. Relieving Berlin has great political symbolism, and the military impacts of operating in the pact’s depth sets conditions for their defeat in detail. The problem is you’ve got nato headed East and potentially widening the war. Poles and Czechs (not to mention ossies) may get nervous with the Wehrmacht (I mean bundeswehr) and the vengeful imperialists charging towards them!

    Maybe cross IGB advance gets lots of messaging about limited objectives, downplaying historic themes, and rapidly reaching out to dissident groups and disaffected military units?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would think limited objectives is the way to go, if NATO goes west of the frontier. And I’d assume NATO special operations groups are already reaching out to dissidents in the GDR

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      1. Managing the PR of an eastern push (“We are liberating you,”) is going to be absolutely vital to the success of any adventurism past the Inter-German Border. It’s only 1987. For perspective, that’s only 42 years after WW2, and in current year it’s only 45 years after 1987, and for those of us Gen-X, how close does that feel?

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  3. Advancing to an announced stop line Storkanal-Elbe-Vltava restores NATO territory, prevents tube and artillery rocket on contiguous West German territory (sorry, Berlin), allows the establishment of a defense in depth East of the IGB, and doesn’t require a major river crossing operation.

    I’d question the ability of some of the NATO forces to perform sustained corps level offensive operations. III (US) Corps trained for an operational counterattack role, and the other US regular corps could do so as well. 1UK could probably do the same. I’m not so sure about the Bundeswehr and the Dutch- much of their sustainment structure was ill exercised in sustained mobile operations in peacetime, being composed of reservists or anchored to depots. In addition the Bundeswehr was distributing corps level artillery and combat engineer formations, preventing them from being used to weight offensive operations. I think the Danes and the Belgians aren’t going to get out of the gate in corps level offensive ops.

    Having NATO forces in Magdeburg pretty clearly telegraphs that the Soviets have been militarily defeated, and will probably be the death knell of the GDR and CSSR. Maybe enough to let negotiations begin. NATOs logistics and c3i structure will probably need that pause after the offensive push.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Infiltrating USSF or other UW assets into the east and making linkup would be interesting to say the least. Anecdotally, one of the possible missions of SF Det Berlin was to clandestinely exfil the city by ground before hostilities and link up with networks in the DDR. That said, for the first portion of the conflict the border, coastal, and air defenses in the east would make infiltration exceptionally difficult. One wartime of the border and coastal troops was expressly to prevent SOF infil and exfil. In addition, the target countries possessed effective internal security forces which included counter SOF operations in their mission sets.

    I’m betting it’s only the recent crumbling of those measures and attrition in the frontier defenses caused by two weeks of war that will enable successful UW operations.

    Liked by 2 people

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