Hildesheim, West Germany
1 August, 1987 0030 Zulu (0230 Local)
He should’ve left for the rear two hours ago, General Crosbie Saint, US Army reminded himself sourly. The commander of NATO’s Northern Army Group had assured his superiors in Brussels that he would be back at his headquarters by midnight. Now, thirty minutes into the new day, Saint was still at NORTHAG’s forward command post in Hildesheim desperately trying to find a reason to prolong his stay here. The effort was proving to be fruitless. Saint had outlived his usefulness here, not to mention his welcome. In the eyes of the staff officers here, Saint was doing little more than providing a ripe, tempting target for the Russians at this point. There was nothing more the CINC could do here, in their unspoken but mutual opinion, to positively influence events. The time had come for him to depart for the rear and get out of everyone’s hair.
For his part, Saint knew this. Yet he was the army group commander, and it was incumbent upon him to be sure that everything was dialed in for the coming day’s operations. In III Corps sector, everything was in order and ready. Objective LASORDA was in friendly hands. South of Wolfsburg, 1st Cavalry Division was crowding Phase Line Dodgers, while to the north of the town, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 2/2 Armored Division and West German and British brigades were lined up at Dodgers. At 0500 the advance east would resume. Between PL Dodgers and the border the remaining Soviet forces were digging in and preparing to hold off the coming assault. Saint didn’t envy them. At best they could only delay III Corps and attached British and German units from reaching the border, barring a rapid reinforcement. This did not seem probable to Saint. The most recent intelligence reports indicated that 7th Guards Tank Army was preparing a defensive line in East Germany. There were no signs revealing a major movement of combat forces across the border. He expected his troops to be on the Inner German Border by 1800 at the latest.
To the north, it was another story. I NL Corps needed to speed up its advance if it was going to be in position to cut off all Soviet units north of Hamburg. Right now the Dutch were spending too much time and effort to capture Uelzen. Saint had hoped to see Dutch forces moving north and east of the town by now. If they did not hurry, the Soviet divisions north of Hamburg could be afforded an escape route into East Germany. Saint wondered if his Soviet counterpart was reaching the same conclusion. He did not want to micromanage the battle or step on the toes of I NL Corps commander, but if the Dutch did not begin moving faster by late morning, Saint would intervene.
USS Mount Whitney
1 August, 1987 0130 Zulu (0330 Local)
In the northern Norwegian Sea preparations for a new day of war were also ongoing. On board the command ship Mount Whitney, Strike Fleet Atlantic’s commander and his operations staff made the final touches on the plan of operations for D+23. For the time being, the strike fleet was in a defensive posture, though this was going to change as the day progressed. At 1100 the first air strikes against targets on the Kola would launch, signaling the start of offensive air operations against the Kola Peninsula. After the delay brought on by the previous day’s Badger attack and political developments, the air wing commanders and air crews alike were anxious to unsheathe their swords and go on the attack.
Defense of the carriers and amphibious assault ships carrying two-thirds of a Marine division was priority. The first targets struck would be the Backfire and Badger bases to neutralize the threat posed by these bombers. Once this was completed, Strike Fleet Atlantic’s Corsair, Intruder, and newly arrived Hornet squadrons would go to work on enemy naval installations and military targets in the vicinity of potential landing sites for the Marines.
Until the bomber threat was handled, Backfires and Badgers were the greatest threat to Strike Fleet Atlantic. The carrier fleet and amphib task force were now steaming northeast at twelve knots, with fifty nautical miles of sea separating the two large groups. E-2 Hawkeyes and one squadron of F-14s was kept airborne continuously. On the flightdecks, more Tomcats, and in the case of Coral Sea, F/A-18 Hornets sat manned and ready to launch.
Submarines were a considerable threat too, as always. S-3 Vikings, supplemented by land-based Orions patrolled around the perimeter of the force. Closer in, Seahawk, Sea King and Seasprite ASW helicopters dropped lines of sonobuoys and patrolled their respective sectors. To the east of the group and positioned near the North Cape was HMS Illustrious and her escorts, serving as an ASW gatekeeper to the Strike Fleet and II MEF force. Lusty was in a rather exposed position and already survived one Soviet bomber attack, but her presence there was necessary. Strike Fleet Atlantic would provide as much protection and support as possible but given the distances between the British carrier and Kola, Lusty’s group would be on its own if the Russians decided to have another go at her.