0400– The NORTHAG counteroffensive, officially codenamed Operation Thunder Cloud begins on schedule. As reconnaissance elements of the Dutch 5th Division north of Hanover, and US 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to the south, cross their lines of departure, heavy barrages of artillery and MLRS fire falls on the confirmed or suspected areas containing the main lines of resistance of the forward Soviet divisions.
0445– NATO ground attack aircraft join the effort. As skies brighten, the number of sorties directed against Soviet ground forces increases considerably. Attack helicopters join the fray as well.
0500– 2nd Brigade/1st Cavalry Division begins crossing the line of departure.
0520– 1/3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) was making excellent progress in its eastward sweep, encountering only light resistance from the handful of company-sized units of Soviet motor-rifle infantry and armor. In none of these engagements did the Soviet side show a desire to stay and fight. Intelligence had identified elements of a tank regiment from the 29th Tank Division dug in between Autobahn 7 and Lebenstedt and another regiment directly to its south. However, in the opening 120 minutes of Thunder Cloud, initial reports indicated less than a full-strength regiment of Soviet troops was defending an area which Soviet doctrine called for two to hold.
0700– Colonel General Ivan Korbutov monitored the early morning developments from the GSFG (Group Soviet Forces Germany) alternate wartime command post west of Wunsdorf in the GDR. Although he did not officially carry the title of Commander, GSFG, this was his task in reality. The Western TVD commander installed him specifically to reverse the fortunes of the Red Army on the North German Plain. The first step in that herculean task was to defeat the coming NATO counterattack before it made headway. Right now, judging by the bit and pieces of information coming into his bunker, that attack might very well be taking shape. Pressure was developing northeast and southeast of Hanover. Dutch and American reconnaissance and armored units were making contact with the lead defensive positions of 20th Guards Army and 5th Guards Tank Army’s forward divisions. It was not clear if this was the main attack or perhaps a diversion. Time would tell. Until then, Korbutov could do nothing more except watch and wait.
0755– 1/3 ACR begins handing off the battle to 2nd Brigade/1st Cavalry Division. The armored cav performed its job perfectly. The enemy and its dispositions had been located. Now the rest was up to 2nd Brigade and the rest of the 1st Cav.
0930– 29th Tank Division’s headquarters in Braunschweig had lost contact with the division’s forward regiments. The last radio transmission received by 29th Tanks commander reported heavy contact with American battalion-sized armored units west of Lebenstedt. That was twenty minutes ago.
0950– What the division commander was unaware of was that by now, his southern-most regiment, the 32nd Tank Regiment, had been decapitated and was breaking apart under the weight of an American attack. An airstrike on the regiment’s headquarters had killed the unit’s commander and much of its command staff. As a result, there was minimal coordination between battalions and support units.
1025– At NORTHAG-Forward, General Saint was satisfied with the progress of the attack so far. The 1st Cavalry Division was now entirely across the line of departure and crashing into the 29th Tank Division while 3rd ACR was repositioning to continue screening west of Lebenstedt towards Brauschweig. In the north, the Dutch were making good progress against the Soviet forces defending Celle and its western approaches. The only problem encountered in Operation Thunder Cloud so far was the West German and British brigades covering the northern flank of the 1st Cav. They were running behind at the moment. Not dangerously so, however, if they did not catch up to the American division soon, Saint might be forced to order 1st Cav to slow down until they did. Otherwise, John Yeosock’s division would be vulnerable to a Soviet counterattack against its left flank.