Baltic Approaches D+21 (30 July, 1987)

Early on D+21 the NATO counterattack on the North German Plain was underway. Unfortunately, allied land forces in the BALTAP region were nowhere near ready to commence offensive operations. Despite the best efforts of COMBALTAP and his ground commanders, the NATO brigades and divisions arrayed in Jutland appeared to need another twenty-four hours before their own counterattack would be ready to jump off. The purpose of the Northern Counterattack, as it was being called in Brussels and Karup, was to clear Warsaw Pact forces from Jutland and Schleswig-Holstein. Unfortunately, it appeared COMBALTAP would be limited to using its own indigenous ground forces through at least the first phase of the coming counterattack. AFNORTH had turned down the request to move the two brigades of the US 10th Mountain Division from Norway to Denmark.

The advance of the Warsaw Pact’s Northern Group of Forces in eastern Jutland had been halted on D+18. Over the next two days, the lead elements adopted a hasty defense posture as the remainder of its effective combat forces established a more traditional defensive line just north of the West German-Danish border. NGF’s current situation was barely one of envy. Its supplies were down to three days’ worth under heavy combat conditions and Western TVD had made it clear the prospects for resupply were low. Twenty-two days of high intensity combat had shattered many of the core divisions and supporting units. Heavy casualties and equipment losses had been replaced more than once and now NGFs war stocks were almost entirely depleted.

It was not supposed to be this way. The war plan estimated three weeks of intense fighting, with most of it expected to occur in Germany. By now, the Soviet spearheads down there should’ve been approaching the Rhine while Northern Group of Forces mopped up the remaining pockets of NATO forces in Denmark. As it was, reality had cared not a lick about the Soviet war plan’s aims. Whether expected or not, NGF’s divisions would continue to fight. Only now, the focus was in keeping NATO forces from breaking through its lines and running roughshod through Schleswig-Holstein.

Compounding things even more was the air situation. NATO owned the skies almost entirely now. Only the remaining ZSU-23s and mobile SAMs prevented them from seizing total air dominance. This would eventually happen though. Warsaw Pact air power was severely depleted. The remaining aircraft and pilots were committed to Germany where the main battle was just now starting to get underway. Fortunately for NGF, D+21 was a quiet day on the air front as the NATO squadrons assigned to Denmark did not undertake deep strikes against convoys and other targets in the Soviet rear areas. This too would change in the next twenty-four to thirty-six hours as the enemy push towards Schleswig-Holstein began.

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