In an underground command bunker situated in the forest outside Mons, Belgium, Boris Snetkov’s NATO counterpart was sizing up the day ahead. General Jack Galvin, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) was taken aback by the date on the calendar. He realized this was the twenty-third day of war. In his mind it seemed more like the start of its twenty-third week. Each day presented unparalleled challenges and problems to solve and overcome. In many instances, these were issues foreseen in the mountain of studies, field exercises and war games fixated on a NATO-Warsaw Pact war in Central Europe over the years. Some, on the other hand, demanded prompt, decisive on the fly solutions. The fact that the Red Army had been halted and NATO was in the early stages of a counteroffensive told SACEUR most of the solutions drawn up and implemented by his forces were on or near the mark.
The centerpiece of D+22 would be the continuing NATO offensive on the North German Plain. The timetable for the next 24 hours had to be revised due to political considerations (once again). SACEUR was compelled to order US III Corps to apply the brakes slightly and await the arrival of additional West German and British units before beginning the final push to dislodge Soviet ground forces permanently from Northern Germany. The politicians in Bonn and London smelled victory and in both capitals, there was growing desire for their respective national forces to be actively involved in the war’s final push. Obviously, and for good reasons, the West Germans were most adamant that a sizeable amount of their ground forces should be present to liberate some of the last areas of Federal Republic soil still held by Soviet forces. Washington backed the move, surprising SACEUR. Yet Galvin understood the growing role politics was playing in the war. NATO was a nation comprised of sixteen sovereign nation-states. The majority of fighting in the war had taken place on the territory of the Federal Republic. The West German government’s request to be in at the death, so to speak, was sensible. Especially given the amount of casualties and damage sustained by West Germany. The same held true for Great Britain to a lesser degree. The British Army of the Rhine had fought hard, inflicted enough casualties and sustained enough damage to earn a place at the table too. The United States government was cognizant of the political sensitivities that would become factors in the early days of the post-war phase and agreed to the requests of its two closest wartime allies.
On the ground in the NORTHAG area the offensive would go on, only at a restrained pace. The Dutch were tasked with continuing their push east to seal off Hamburg and the Soviet divisions around it from influencing the growing battle to the south. III Corps was set to continue pushing east, however, at a slower pace. The revised objective for D+22 was for 1st Cavalry Division, and 11th Armored Cav Regiment to reach Phase Line Dodger by nightfall. PL Dodger ran from Wolfsburg south to Schöppenstedt (Exact location of the line will be laid out on a map accompanying the next entry.).
The enemy forces sandwiched between Braunschweig and Dodger did not intend to go gently into the night. By all accounts, the damaged regiments were digging in and gearing up for a tough fight ahead. These units were remnants of the 5th Guards Tank Army. SACEUR believed their main purpose now was to slow down III Corps long enough for 7th GTA to enter the fight. At least, this was what SACEUR would do if he were in charge of Soviet ground forces. 7th GTA was not an immediate concern though. Closer to dawn, NATO air power would be unleashed against the lead elements of the army group, and the infrastructure it would need to get to the battle area and operate inside of it. This would hopefully delay 7th GTA’s arrival in West Germany. SACEUR did not want to prevent it from showing up, though. Quite the opposite. In fact, NATO’s entire offensive hinged on 7th GTA being committed to the battle. Once this happened, US V Corps from the CENTAG area would make its appearance and the life expectancy of 5th and 7th Guards Tank Armies would be measured in hours.