0405 Zulu (0605 Local)
Events were moving faster now. At the Western TVD wartime headquarters, the commanders of artillery and chemical troops arrived and were briefed on their new orders by Marshal Snetkov. After five minutes spent explaining the orders and timeline, as well as the quite lengthy restrictions attached to them, the theater commander ordered them to begin making the necessary preparations. This was no simple task. A fire plan had to be built, comprising the allocation, and targeting of chemical weapons. Once completed, this would be fed into the operational directives and orders put forth to the affected front and army group. Specifically, the chemical fire plan would include the targets to be hit and the number of chemical warheads to be expended on each target. Types of toxic agents and delivery systems was also laid out by the theater artillery and chemical troop commanders, though a certain degree of latitude would be afforded to the army group commander to make necessary revisions. Perhaps most important, the time to be prepared for the delivery of strikes would be handed down. This was the one part of the fire plan that the front or army commanders could not revise.
When the fire plan was completed to the satisfaction of the artillery and chemical commanders, it was presented to Marshal Snetkov for review. The theater commander asked a number of questions that were answered truthfully and without hesitation. Most of these had to do with delivery time. Snetkov had reservations about whether it could be met. His subordinates assured hi that it would be. This was enough for the marshal. Satisfied, he gave his approval to the fire plan and opened the door for the next step of the process to commence.
Schleswig, West Germany
0445 Zulu (0645 Local)
The Northern Group of Forces field headquarters, situated on the edge of Schleswig, was a hive of activity even before the orders and chemical fire plan arrived from Western TVD. NGF’s commanding general confirmed the validity of the orders, as wartime process for special weapons required. When this was finished, he brought his artillery and chemical officers in and together they pored over the documents.
The timeline could be met, it was decided. But just barely. This was all being laid on rather fast. Peacetime training and large exercises had revealed that a period of six hours minimum would be needed to prepare an army group to deliver chemical munitions and then fight in a contaminated environment. Even though Northern Group of Forces was not a traditional-sized army group, a similar amount of time was needed. Instead, Western TVD had given it half the amount.
The weather was not in their favor either. The meteorological officer arrived and laid out the forecast for the next twenty-four hours across Jutland and Schleswig-Holstein. 1 August was expected to be a windy, drizzly and overcast day. The winds would be coming out of the west at around 20 knots for most of the morning and afternoon. Wind speed, directions and a host of other factors had to be taken into consideration. Rain and strong wind could dilute the chemical agent’s concentration. Measures had to be taken to negate this, as well as to ensure the downwind areas near friendly forces remained uncontaminated. It would take some additional effort, but the chemical and artillery officers were confident the problems would be solved.
As they spoke, word was received from the GRU security contingent that the chemical rounds were arriving at the locations of the artillery batteries that were part of the fire plan. Air defense units in the area were now on high alert, although the weather would also help keep NATO warplanes away. Hopefully.
As the minutes went by, NGFs commander ordered 6th Guards MRD and 20th Tank Division to initiate chemical defense preparations. When this was complete, he issued similar orders to his headquarters company.
0600 Zulu (0800 Local)
The Danish Army captain looked up from the table map and directly at the middle-aged, stout officer who had just entered the TOC. “Colonel, White elements are approaching the border,” he reported in a business-like tone.
The colonel was commander of the 2nd Jutland Brigade. White was the brigade’s 1st Battalion, now about to cross into West Germany according to the staff officer. The colonel nodded and took in the symbols on the map, as well as their locations. Things had quieted down in the last ten hours or so. After his brigade had broken through Soviet lines the previous afternoon, the path into Schleswig-Holstein appeared wide open. A fierce Soviet counterattack blunted the breakthrough, however, and temporarily halted his brigade’s advance.
Now it was underway again, with 1st battalion in the lead and strangely not encountering significant resistance. In fact, the battalion’s recon elements had come across empty fighting positions which had been occupied by vehicles and men of the 6th Guards Motor Rifle Division before midnight. They were now gone. As the reconnaissance vehicles scouted ahead, now White’s first combat company was coming to the empty positions, with the battalion commander tagging along.
Other companies were approaching as well, and the plan was for the battalion cross the border in full. 2nd Brigade’s commander approved. He walked over to the radio set up and ordered the NCO there to contact1st Battalion’s CO. When the major was on the line his brigade commander ordered him to provide a report on the present situation.
“Reconnaissance platoons have crossed the frontier and are probing,” the officer spoke loudly over the bursts of static. “No indication of enemy forces yet. I’ve temporarily lost contact with them but they’ve reported moderate artillery falling to their west.” He paused for a long moment. “We are beginning to receive artillery fire here as well. Nothing too heavy, just harassment fire.”
The brigade commander asked about the status of his companies and received short, brief replies. The battalion CO seemed to be distracted by something or someone. The colonel was just about to sign off and leave him to run his unit when the mike keyed. He could make out shouts in the distance, followed by the sound of a very distinct alarm blaring in the background. The next thing he heard was a high-pitched warning cry from the battalion commander.
“GAS! GAS! GAS!”