The Soviet air mobile assault earlier in the morning on Rendsburg nearly succeeded in decapitating LANDJUT’s senior leadership. The town, for all of its previously mentioned importance, was also the peacetime headquarters for the Commander, Allied Land Forces Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland (LANDJUT). When the warning of Soviet helicopters approaching Rendsburg was received, LANDJUT’s commander, a West German lieutenant general, was at his forward headquarters in Dobersdorf.. Much of his staff, as well as LANDJUT’s deputy commander, were still in Rendsburg and had to hastily depart via helicopters to Denmark once the extent of the Soviet attack became apparent. Their evacuation was successful largely due to the headquarters security troops, who bought their superiors the time needed to leave. Allied troops based around Rendsburg fought fiercely to delay the Soviets for as long as possible. Eventually, surviving troops either surrendered or retreated north of the Kiel Canal to link up with friendly forces in the area. By late afternoon, LANDJUT’s commander had rejoined his senior staff and deputy commander at their new, temporary headquarters in Aarhus. Once he arrived, he ordered his staff to begin laying plans for the immediate retaking of Rendburg.
Forward deployed elements of the West German 6th Panzergrenadier Division bore the brunt of the fighting in LANDJUT’s sector through most of the daylight hours. On a front extending from Scharbeutz on the Baltic south to the Elbe River, LANDJUT’s forces were engaging the Soviet 2nd GTA. Despite putting up fierce resistance and inflicting heavy casualties on the first Soviet echelons, the enemy was moving northwest and westward into the Federal Republic by late afternoon. The commander of the 6th was reluctant to pull his forces back as the situation had worsened. He was determined to defend forward as long as possible, yet was now looking at the possibility of one of his brigades being outflanked south of Lubeck. Reluctantly, as dusk fell, he ordered a withdrawal, ceding the city to the Soviets.
With the exception of Nordholz no other NATO airbases in the BALTAP area of operations, or farther north in Denmark were targeted by Soviet and Warsaw Pact air forces on the morning of 9 July. Six Su-24 Fencers made a low level approach towards Nordholz before being intercepted by West German F-4s. Three of the fighter-bombers were shot down. The surviving trio made one pass over the NATO base, dropping cluster munitions and fuel air explosives over the flightline and taxiways. Some damage was inflicted, including destroyed aircraft, but the airbase continued functioning throughout the rest of the day.
The primary focus of Soviet and Warsaw Pact air forces on 9 July was the battle raging to the south. Most frontline air regiments were committed to operations south of Hamburg, with the exception of air support missions for 2nd GTA, though these were few in number and not very effective thanks to the presence of NATO fighters in the area.
In the late afternoon the first raids against Denmark were launched. To the surprise of AIRBALTAP, the incoming formations of enemy aircraft were made up entirely of East German MiG-21s, and MiG-23s. No Soviet aircraft took part in strikes against Danish targets on that first day, mainly owing to priority tasking. The main targets were airbases and radar stations on the Jutland peninsula. Danish F-16s rose to challenge the intruders and a large air battle materialized in the skies over the Baltic Sea and Denmark. The Danish F-16s outclassed their East German opponents in every category except quantity. The maneuverability of the Falcon, coupled with its highly advanced electronics, and weaponry outshined the Fishbeds and Floggers they engaged, to say nothing of the superior capabilities of the Danish pilots. The Danes scored 24 kills that afternoon for the loss of just 5 F-16s. Some East German fighters managed to get through to their targets, though the numbers were low and the resulting damage and disruption to AIRBALTAP operations was minimal.
From dusk through to the early hours of 10 July, West German RF-4 reconnaissance flights of the GDR coast. The search was on for signs of a coming Pact amphibious move against Denmark. The RF-4s took losses, and the film they brought back revealed no conclusive evidence of preparations. After the ambush earlier in the day NATO was gun shy about committing strike aircraft against a possible Warsaw Pact amphibious task group without solid intelligence that the target was genuine.
The Denmark straits and accompanying sea space was becoming one large, interconnected minefield. NATO minelayers, under the watchful eye of escorting fast attack craft and frigates, laid their explosive cargoes along predesignated paths. Concurrently, allied minesweepers, and other MCM assets were equally as preoccupied with their task of sweeping the seas of mines that had been laid by Soviet/WP submarines, minelayers, and aircraft. The Baltic approaches were being turned into a jigsaw puzzle of offensive and defensive minefields, safe travel corridors, and hunter killer groups of surface warships and submarines stalking the seas.
Hit and run tactics were utilized by both sides missile-armed warships to probe the other’s defenses, and create an air of anxiety. As NATO awaited the imminent body blow against Denmark in the form of an amphibious landing, the Soviets and their allies were doing their best not to telegraph where that punch would land, or from what direction it would come from.