Author’s Note: Short entry today owing to some real-life commitments. Apologies. Looks as if there will be a total of four Central Front entries for D+20. The remaining two will be posted in full by Monday morning. –Mike
0120 Hours– NORTHAG’s commanding general was not exactly devastated when he received the order to delay the upcoming attack. Not al all. Quite honestly, General Crosbie Saint, US Army was partly relieved. A 12-hour delay would allow the movement of additional forces to the eastern side of the Leine, giving III Corps the option to broaden its attack when the time came. Saint was also pleased the attack was not going to be kicking off at dawn because it would not allow III Corps to fully utilize its vast advantage in night-vision gear. 1st Cav’s attack a few days before demonstrated the benefit this equipment brought to the fight. A dawn attack would minimize the benefits. Saint had agreed to an early morning start based on other considerations, but now that it was off the table, he recommended to SACEUR that the attack go off sometime after dusk.
Even though General Saint was resigned to the fact his attack was on hold, he was less than thrilled with the reasons behind the delay. Saint, along with the current generation of US Army general officers, were veterans of Vietnam. While there, these men had seen first hand the volatility brought on when political considerations were mixed with battlefield strategy. Saint and his contemporaries had vowed to never let politics hijack a military campaign in any future war. Now the danger of that happening was growing quite real and Saint was determined to minimize the fallout a politically motivated delay would have on his command.
0435 Hours– As first light approached, the forward elements of III Corps remained in place. News of the temporary hold had been greeted with frustration and grumbling by the thousands of American and Dutch troops and officers who were poised to jump off. One unit that did not remain entirely in place was the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Acting on orders sent directly from NORTHAG’s forward headquarters, the regiment’s 1st Squadron started moving east of Autobahn 7 in the direction of Salzgitter-Bad to probe the first line of enemy positions.
0530 Hours– Colonel General Ivan Korbutov had been anticipating a major enemy attack by now. It had not materialized, despite reports of developing American probes in some sectors of his forward screen of tank and motor rifle regiments. Unless those were followed up and expanded in the next sixty minutes, Korbutov would breathe a sigh of relief and go about making further preparations for his defense of West German territory so recently liberated by the Red Army and its Warsaw Pact allies.
0700 Hours– SACEUR contacts General Saint at NORTHAG and requests an estimate on how much time would be needed for him to move a British armored brigade, as well as a West German panzer brigade forward to take part in the first phase III Corps attack. Following discussions with his West German and British corps commander, Saint gets back in touch with his superior and informs him he can have two brigades on the line by 2200. SACEUR is satisfied with this timeline. “Make it happen, Butch,” he orders the NORTHAG commander.