Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 21:27:45 GMT
Two Hundred & Two
Private James Gregory didn’t have anyone to wish him ‘Happy Birthday’.
He was nineteen today but there was no cake, no celebrations and no family present. Some of his mates were nearby, but others were gone – dead or wounded – and those who remained were concentrating on keeping themselves alive rather than their friend’s birthday.
For Jimmy, as his buddies with 6 Platoon called him, this was to be a day where he would too try to stay alive in the middle of the war taking place all around him, though he was also thinking about what should have been a day where there was all attention upon him like it had been when he was a child.
It wasn’t to be a good day for him.
6 Platoon was part of B Company with 2 R ANGLIAN, which was a mechanised battle-group part of 22nd Armoured Brigade with the remains of the 1st Armoured Division. This infantry formation had started the war with twenty-seven enlisted men and one officer and travelling in FV432 tracked vehicles. Those vehicles were long gone and now 6 Platoon were dismounted infantry sometimes moved in lorries; there were only sixteen men and the Lef-tenant remaining from those who had gone to war with Jimmy.
They had all been his mates – apart from the Lef-tenant, of course – even if his personal relationship with individual members sometimes got ugly. 6 Platoon was a tight-knit community especially as they had been deployed in peacetime here to Germany and based at Celle, not far from where they were today. There had been Trevor, Matt, Danny, Teddy Russell, Knobby, Knocker, Bates, Craig, Stu, Chalky, Sam Carrots, Paul, Mark, Billy, Big Bill, Gareth, Parky, Rob, Paddy, Luke, Tommy, Mike, Steve, Jonny Boy and Alistair. Sergeant Neil McMasterson – referred to as Masters behind his back, not to his face – was the real authority for them all rather than their distant Lef-tenant who they all dismissed as a typical ‘Rupert’. Jimmy had been with them seven months while others had only been with 6 Platoon for a few weeks, but, no matter what, they were his mates and the lads he had gone to war with. They were mainly from places up and down Eastern England and most were young working-class lads. Knobby, Knocker and Big Bill were all old soldiers with many years of service and were Corporals, but Jimmy and everyone else were either Privates or Lance Corporals with only a few year’s service. Masters was a man to be feared but he was a fair man too. Each and every one of them all had been true characters and the best set of mates that Jimmy had ever had.
Then war had come and they had started dying all around him. For more than two weeks now, Jimmy had watched his mates die with the worry that he was next in line. Yet, at the same time, injuries could be worse than death. He’d seen some of his mates ripped apart and scream horribly before being rushed away to hopefully survive and not join the dead.
Matt had been killed. Danny and Bates both evacuated injured. Stu had been killed even though he was officially ‘missing’ after an artillery shell blew him to pieces. Paul and Big Bill were dead while Rob had been taken away with his legs left in his foxhole. Luke had been killed by the enemy while Tommy had been run over by a Chieftain tank driven by an idiot with the Queen’s Own Hussars. Steve was someone else missing while everyone would always remember Alistair’s death. Three of those mates of his had been with Jimmy in his eight-man rifle section and he had been particularly close to them.
He would never forget them.
The war for Jimmy and 6 Platoon had been a crazy affair. They had been deployed waiting for it to happen for what had seemed like a month and living rough in the German countryside. Twice they had conducted major redeployments through the night with no reason given and no actual idea where they were sent. What had been going on in the lead-up to war breaking out had been told to them in a hurried and simplistic fashion: the enemy was lining up to attack here and at home too and 6 Platoon was going to stop that. Jimmy had blacked any more of that out for he hadn’t wanted to worry about other matters – his family back home in Peterborough chief among those – though he wished now that he had listened. Now it was about fighting to stop himself and his few remaining mates being killed though he would have liked to know what it was all about.
Once the shooting started, the war became a series of manoeuvring to avoid contact and then sudden, swift and deadly exchanges of gunfire. When first in the FV432s, the enemy wasn’t seen as Jimmy and his mates were carried in the back of those vehicles but them they had soon been dismounted and dug foxholes and trenches. The Lef-tenant had told Masters to have the men fire against the enemy when they were detected and Jimmy and his mates had obeyed their Sergeant. There had been artillery, mortars, rockets, aircraft, helicopters and machine guns. One fight soon started to merge into another. The enemy could apparently be moving to the flank and 6 Platoon would have to move. They would race back to their vehicles at rally points and everyone would be worried about tanks or aircraft. The casualties started coming, slowly but surely.
Every day soon became the same. For several days, Jimmy was told that they were all stuck in a large surrounded position around the city of Hannover though he’d never been sure of the accuracy of that. He didn’t have access to a map, they stayed away from civilians and he was only a young Private who wasn’t told things like that. Their Rupert had been worried at that time by it had all been a blur to Jimmy. He had fought in open fields, among houses, in blackened farmer’s fields, in gullies and ditches, alongside streams, in woodland and beside railways tracks. There’d been under artillery barrages and there’d been gas alarms sounded. Sleep had come in fleeting moments and the food he ate wasn’t remembered. Jimmy was always thirsty. He was covered in cuts and bruises and insect bites. He had a headache that he couldn’t shake and that he had been given foul-tasting pills for. There was dirt and mud everywhere over his body and uniform: he hadn’t washed either in weeks. There were no drills and no rest. Patrols were ran night and day and fighting came unexpectedly.
He’d killed his fellow man. Jimmy had lost count of them men he had shot at with his SA80 rifle. He’d bayoneted a man too and been told that that soldier was a Russian. There were shouts and screams in foreign languages at times. Gareth and Parky had afterwards told him that those were just young men like they were: far away from home and told to fight here in Germany for politics and politicians. Masters had told the two of them to shut up. Every memory just merged into one confusing series of events that he couldn’t sequence into an order afterwards. They’d been attacking and defending. 6 Platoon was often withdrawn with haste but then sent back forwards. The enemy would either hold or fold. Bullets would whizz towards him and miss… sometimes hitting his mates. He worried whether he was going crazy far too many times as the fighting just kept going on and on and on. Peacetime training hadn’t prepared Jimmy nor the rest of 6 Platoon for this. When on exercise they would have a break when the necessary time came and return back to barracks. People weren’t firing real bullets during training and there were no exploding shells going off with deafening blasts right nearby.
On a couple of occasions, Jimmy had sobbed. He hadn’t cried, just let a few tears fall from his eyes before he fast wiped them away. He was certain that no one had noticed even though he had seen Teddy Russell, Chalky and Jonny Boy all sob at some point too. He didn’t know why he had sobbed as he had done, but he had when he had been alone and scared and maybe that was why… or had it been after Alistair had stood on that landmine and lain bleeding to death in the field covered by enemy machine guns while 6 Platoon helplessly hid nearby as he screamed for his mother and for God’s mercy for an hour before finally dying?
Jimmy kept fighting because he had no choice. Every bullet he fired from his rifle was aimed in the direction of the enemy and he hoped that they were being made good for each one fired diminished the chance of one of his mates getting shot. Masters worried over ammunition for them all and eventually the light machine guns had to be given up when all they received was bullets for the SA80s. Tommy, killed by his own side and a good friend of Jimmy, had been the platoon mortar-man and after that tank had crushed him 6 Platoon no longer had a light mortar available either as that weapon had been smashed apart too. Masters told all the men to shoot with greater accuracy and to not waste their rounds. Jimmy had tried that and so too had the others; he blamed such a shortage of ammunition for the death of his section leader Big Bill.
Despite all the gloom and the depression, Jimmy had some moments where he and his mates had a laugh; if he hadn’t then he would have gone crazy by now. There was that night when that enemy soldier – Russian, East German, Polish… whatever he was – had appeared right among their lines out of nowhere and surrendered to them in broken English but assumed that they were from the ‘Royal American Regiment’. Where he had got that idea from no one knew! They had watched a tanker with the Queen’s Own Hussars (the two battle-groups were tasked to operate together within the 22nd Brigade) stand up in his turret of his tank and then fall out and into a muddy ditch in the most comical of fashions, ruining his smart uniform as he did so. 6 Platoon had giggled at a dirty joke told by the always filthy Stu about a girl and a couple of soldiers but then really laughed when he had walked into a spider-web and fought that with his bayonet in an escape… but then that eight-inch artillery shell had blown him apart during a withdrawal being made the next day and there was no time to recover what remained of him.
Lef-tenant David Toomey was their platoon commander. He was only a little bit older than Jimmy yet everyone thought of that Rupert as just a boy who without them, and especially Masters, would be as helpless as a baby. Jimmy didn’t think that was necessarily true, but he never objected when the others said that and often found himself verbally agreeing because they were his mates. In peacetime he’d been the perfect officer but in war he was a frightened man who had a haunted look that gave Jimmy the creeps. No ill fate was wished upon the man by Jimmy – he didn’t want him killed or maimed – but the Rupert needed to be gone from 6 Platoon. He was a distracting influence on them all with the look of worry which he wore and the terror that was apparent in his eyes at the first sign of enemy action. Jimmy had been told that 5 Platoon had gone through a total of three platoon commanders in two weeks of war and other junior officers were being replaced so he had to wonder why Lef-tenant Toomey remained where he was.
This morning, on Jimmy birthday which everyone had forgotten about and he didn’t want to mention, the Lef-tenant led them forward in an attack which he had Masters relay to them. As scared as he was, the Lef-tenant was out ahead of them as they came out of the treeline where they were staging from and moved carefully across a field and then up a sloop towards a hill a few hundred yards off whose summit was hidden with trees and undergrowth. The top of that hill apparently looked down over a highway on the other side and there were meant to be enemy infantry there in some sort of hold-up role: Jimmy and the others were told that they were blocking forces meant to impose a delay and were unsupported. 6 Platoon would make the final attack after their approach right behind some artillery that was supposed to strike the enemy there and they were to move in to finish off what defenders remained. Masters gave them the usual pre-mission talk on watching for landmines, keeping an eye on their flanks, remembering to use proper fire-and-manoeuvre and to respect the rules of warfare during their attack when faced with wounded or surrendering enemy soldiers.
Strategic objectives, field army plans of manoeuvre or political objectives were all not mentioned. The villages and towns beyond and the name of that highway wasn’t important and so Jimmy and 6 Platoon weren’t told about that. They were infantry being sent against an enemy-held position atop a small hill to root out those holding it.
Jimmy was shot fifty yards from the trees. He would afterwards say that he heard the particular crack of the rifle that fired at him and braced himself for it; those who listened to the story would nod their heads knowing that that was just how Jimmy told the story. Two bullets from a Soviet-built AK-74 assault rifle in the hands of an East German soldier hit him. One struck the rear of his boot on his left foot with a CRACK and flew away spinning wildly after such an impact and the injury here would be a massive bruise that would have stopped Jimmy from walking properly for at least a week had he not also been hit by the other bullet in the left thigh too. That bullet went through his torn combat trousers, into his skin then muscle beyond before hitting bone and afterwards going back out the other side of the leg it was tearing through and finally fabric again. Jimmy was knocked to the ground as his leg collapsed under the trauma of such a wound being inflicted. He screamed out in pain, pain like he had never suffered before. His mates all around him all had their attention drawn to him as he was on the ground grabbing his shattered leg with both hands and howling.
Masters shouted for them to find cover and locate the source of that gunfire and also called out to Jimmy that he’d be seen to as soon as possible so he just had to hold on. Jimmy didn’t hear any of that though; he passed out from the shock.
An hour later, Jimmy woke up momentarily when the field ambulance he was in went over a pothole in a country road being used for medical evacuation routing east of Hannover’s ruined suburbs. There was a busty young nurse leaning over him telling him that everything would be okay and he needed to rest. He tried to talk but couldn’t; he wanted to ask if she was his birthday present. Jimmy had been about to tell her that she was beautiful and not inquire after his wounds; the morphine made it all seem unreal… even the nurse…
Later that evening, Jimmy was conscious again. He didn’t know it, but he was in a rear-area hospital near Hannover Airport. That military run facility was treating casualties from both the Allies and Socialist Forces and Jimmy was just one of many being attended to this evening. The morphine and the after-effects of surgery took their toll on his mind but he soon figured that out. It took a little while longer for him to realise that he couldn’t hear the sounds of artillery or gunfire like he had for the past two weeks in a continuous fashion. Then, further time passed before he remembered why he was here and being shot.
Jimmy struggled to move his arm and then reach down to his wounded leg to feel just where he had been shot. It didn’t take long to realise that his left leg was no longer there and neither did much time pass before Jimmy sobbed himself to sleep. How could he be a soldier fighting with his mates when he only had one leg?
Four days would go by before Jimmy would reach the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital in Woolwich, South-East London. His journey across Europe had been by ambulance and ferry to Calais and then by a specially out-fitted coach talking wounded men like him back to military care facilities in the UK. He had calmed down quite a bit and was looking forward to the promise of a visit from his family…
…yet, despite it all, Jimmy wanted his leg back and to re-join his mates fighting in Germany.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 21:39:04 GMT
Two Hundred & Three
Acting President Bush had his base of operations no longer aboard the Doomsday Plane airborne twenty-four hours a day but rather on the ground instead. A fleet of helicopters were ready to depart with him and other senior people from Mount Weather at a moment’s notice to meet the assigned E-4B and other aircraft nearby, but for now Bush was running his temporary administration from the ground… or rather beneath the ground as the facilities here at Mount Weather were all inside this imposing natural structure towering above northern Virginia as part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
ABC News had flown a helicopter over the site managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) five years beforehand as part of a programme speculating on locations and protocols for US Continuity of Government Operations so it wasn’t as if Mount Weather was a super-secret facility as many would have liked it to have been. Nevertheless, where Bush was now basing himself and the NSC at Mount Weather meant that he was close to Congress which remained at the nearby Greenbrier and also Washington too. Frank Carlucci wasn’t far away either being up at Raven Rock and Bush felt that this FEMA site was a far better location than other, distant sites of a smaller and more anonymous nature that had been suggested. Should the country be attacked with nuclear weapons then he wouldn’t remain on the ground but for now, with World War Three still non-nuclear, Mount Weather was where its executive branch was functioning from.
There was over six hundred thousand square feet of space below ground at Mount Weather with extensive and secure communications facilities. There were no major urban centres nearby but good access to transportation links. Security was excellent with a massive Secret Service presence on-site and a battalion of District of Columbia ARNG military policemen detached from their parent unit and deployed out here in rural Virginia. An airborne exclusion zone had been set up too so that no unauthorised aircraft or helicopters could approach.
Bush had the NSC meet this evening (it was gone Midnight in Europe) to discuss the conflict overseas as well as matters of national importance closer to home too. At the beginning of the gathering, the health of President Reagan was discussed first before anything else. There was a telephone conference with his doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital where he laid comatose and Bush had many questions for those doctors with Reagan. Twice in the past few years Reagan had been there and Bush had on both short occasions taken on the role of Acting President though this time it appeared that it would be a much longer period of time – possibly for good – that he would be standing-in for Reagan. The doctors there told the NSC that the President had been deliberately put into a coma otherwise he would have died after his stroke. They needed time and further assistance from specialists; Bush promised them whatever they needed and he vowed to the NSC afterwards that he would make good on that promise too.
The war and the course of that was why the politicians, the military officers and the senior spooks were here at Mount Weather and that took up the majority of their meeting. Carlucci (on the telephone), the Joint Chiefs and Colin Powell – who Bush had decided to keep on as National Security Adviser as the man was regarded as irreplaceable – briefed the NSC of how things were going worldwide mainly from an American perspective though also making much mention of the military actions of the other Allies too.
In northern Norway, the 2nd Marine Division was pushing for Kirkenes to liberate that remaining part of Finmark still occupied by the Soviets and facing tough opposition in the Arctic environment there. They were on course to get as far as the Soviet border within the next couple of days advancing as they were though. Across in Lapland, US Army light infantry units had linked up with the Finns and were now fully engaged against what Soviet forces remained in the Finnish Wedge. A digital map was shown to the NSC and Powell explained how from all sides the Soviet perimeter was being shrunken there. In southern Norway, those Soviet paratroopers which had arrived in the Oslo area on the war’s fifth day had finally been ejected from their positions near the Norwegian capital after Swedish and local Norwegian forces finally got their act together and eliminated those isolated forces.
NATO aircraft had been busy over the Baltic Approaches trying to find and eliminate Soviet coastal missile batteries after the loss the New Jersey early yesterday. The loss of life there had been great at the US Navy was still reeling from the sinking, though aircraft from the two carriers redeployed from the Mediterranean were striking back with vengeance. That sinking of that WW2-era battleship had come alongside British failures to conduct landings in Jutland though the NSC was told how the British were soon to try again. Their second attempt was going to coincide with the landing of the US 5th Marine Division soon enough and both amphibious assaults were anticipated to bring much success once they begun… and much reconnaissance effort was done first. Meanwhile, on Zealand, the Helsingor position that the Danes and Swedes were holding after Copenhagen had been lost a week ago was reporting a lack of any major enemy activity and the Swedes had been reinforcing their forces there after initial setbacks to make sure that when they advanced as planned, they didn’t meet defeat again.
In northern Germany, NATO forces there had spent the day continuing their advances eastwards. They were almost at the Inter-German Border in many places, especially the French on the left of the North German Plain and the Belgians on the extreme right. British, West German and US troops with the understrength III Corps were still moving forward in the centre and pushing back Soviet forces which they encountered. The fighting there was very hard going with many casualties being inflicted to NATO ground troops as they met enemy blocking units holding on to hopeless positions just to slow them down. In the skies above them, aircraft with the 2 ATAF were now in almost complete control of the aerial battlefield not just in the hours of darkness but in daylight too.
The US Fifth & Seventh Armys were facing enemy forces trying to hold them back too and there remained many bloody engagements for them too as they were fighting through central parts of Germany yet at the same time they had advanced far and deep in many other places. The Soviet-held Kassel Salient had been overrun by national guardsmen and they had destroyed a major enemy force in doing so while the Fulda Gap was being approached from the west by General Schwarzkopf coming up the Gelnhausen Corridor. The NSC listened to Powell as he spoke of how the commander of the US V Corps – who many people on the ground in Germany were now calling ‘Patton’, for many reasons – had done what many had regarded as impossible and advanced most of the way up Autobahn-66, defeating all of those before him. Soon enough he would reach the end of the Kinzig Valley and reach that tank country ahead where he would be heading for the Inter-German Border too. US Army troops in northeastern parts of Bavaria were pushing to retake Franconia and also closing-in upon East Germany there as well.
In southern Germany, French and West German forces were winning engagement after engagement with enemy forces and had smashed apart Soviet and Czechoslovakian units alike as they headed for the border with Czechoslovakia. They were making slightly slowly progress due to terrain and the number of enemy forces encountered and thus trying to stop them, but they were moving eastwards without halt.
Above both central and southern Germany, NATO air forces – led by the USAF – had dominance of the skies above the battlefields beneath them as well as ahead of the frontlines too all the way up to East German and Czechoslovak territory. The NSC was told how air units with the Socialist Forces were now being defeated in detail through superior electronic capabilities put to use by the Allies as well as their inability to learn from their errors. They couldn’t adapt and stuck to their doctrine while NATO had learnt the hard way and was now tearing them apart. Sometimes the enemy would get lucky, especially with some of their most advanced fighters and certain SAM units, but those were rare occasions.
The briefing was due to move forwards to conflict zones elsewhere afterwards though the NSC moved to talk for a while about the self-imposed stop-lines the NATO was currently following when it came to enemy territory. It had been previously agreed by Reagan with the NATO Council back before the war even begun that should there arise a situation where a counterattack took NATO forces eastwards, they wouldn’t enter enemy sovereign territory on the ground. Air operations were something different, but no soldiers were to cross into East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland or even the USSR no matter what. With Poland being so far from the frontlines and the Soviets having all of those nuclear warheads still pointed at the US and the wider West, what the NSC talked about here was adapting that policy with regards to the other two countries which were making war upon the Allies. Bush stated that he wanted to see West Berlin liberated and that Prague was somewhere else that he believed NATO should send its soldiers too if, as he put it, the Czechoslovaks ‘didn’t see sense’. He believed that those countries which had taken part in an unprovoked war of aggression would need to be invaded to fully end this conflict on the terms of the Allies. Maybe full occupation might be too much, but he wanted to see them invaded if NATO troops needed to cross border lines to defeat the enemy.
That decision of the Acting President’s raised no objection at Mount Weather – neither from Carlucci or Grassley (still in New York at the UN) over the telephones – and would be presented to America’s allies as soon as possible.
Back to the war itself, the strategic air campaign over parts of Eastern Europe was still ongoing. There were losses still being taken but the ability of the enemy to move reinforcements was minimal according to all intelligence while their supply transportation network was effectively destroyed. Weary of such a statement, Bush and Grassley both questioned that, but were told that all information pointed to such a situation. Poland had been especially targeted with its rail network bombed to smithereens and links through Poland were the key even more than those further west in East Germany and Czechoslovakia. There was an upcoming big air attack targeted against Berlin mentioned too and the NSC was briefed on the plan for that which was due to take place in the next few hours.
At sea, the North Atlantic and the waters around Europe had been dangerous for the US Navy and NATO naval forces early in the war yet losses hadn’t been as high as they could have been. Almost forty American major warships and more than a dozen submarines had been lost – NATO losses were double that – but the control over them was now in NATO hands. Soviet land-based naval aviation was non-existent after two weeks of war while their capital ships were either sunk or hiding in the Kara & Black Seas. The mighty Soviet submarine arm had expended itself and what vessels remained were apparently all trying to head home with few weapons left so that they could try to resupply from bases smashed to pieces by Striking Fleet Atlantic’s relentless air attacks on the military bases along the edges of the Kola Peninsula. Those sea-lanes were open for exclusive NATO use and the danger of attack against all of those ships at sea supplying Europe was now minimal.
Warfare on a small scale in the air and at sea around Turkey continued while the Middle East remained quiet; there was still plenty of US military combat power deployed in the Persian Gulf and ashore in Oman as well as several of the Gulf States too. There was mention made again like during Reagan’s NSC meetings about withdrawing some US Navy forces from there but again it was decided to keep what was there in-place. Oil flowing from the Middle East was keeping the Allies fighting and the US protected it there at source and during the initial stages of its transport throughout the world.
In East Asia and the Pacific, the war was still generally at a stalemate stage. The Allies and the Socialist Forces had checkmated each other with so much combat power deployed by each side yet most of it unable to directly combat the other. Bush asked how his decision to divert some resources away to Europe had been reacted to by those members of the Allies there and was told by Carlucci and Grassley that there had been the few expected grumblings but no more. The Soviet coast was still facing air attacks – from the US Navy and Allied aircraft out of Japan – and the Soviets were launching a few of their strikes back at Japan, but there remained no instances of ground combat where so many troops from both sides were posited yet not directly facing each other.
Casualties were discussed by the NSC, those suffered by the US in particular. The latest figures available to be presented to Bush were almost at the fifty thousand mark in terms of dead, wounded, missing and captured.
This was a staggering figure.
The US Marines had lost many men in Cuba at Guantanamo Bay and then some more in their advance across Finmark pushing towards the Soviet border. The USAF had seen personnel lost not just in aircraft but on the ground at attacked airbases too. Then there was the US Navy with all of those ships sunk including the carrier Ranger in the Pacific, the New Jersey in the Baltic Approaches and the cruiser Virginia which had all been big ship losses where most of their crews had been lost while hundreds of sailors had died aboard the carrier Forrestal in the fires there which had knocked that ship out of action. It was the US Army – including USAR and ARNG units assigned – which had taken the bulk of American military losses in the war though. It wasn’t just frontline troops but many in the rear which had become casualties of war in this great loss of life which had taken place on such a small time-scale. The wounded men were another matter too with so many of them with life-changing injuries.
It was explained that the number of losses wasn’t something that a lot of people were yet to understand. US Army Chief of Staff General Vuono told Bush and the other politicians meeting at Mount Weather that the men on the frontlines couldn’t possibly realise how many of their fellow soldiers had been killed or wounded as the war was so fast-moving and units were constantly engaged in mobile conflict. Such numbers were kept from the ordinary fighting men and junior officers to keep morale up and Vuono explained that if such a thing were to get out and sink in among those fighting, there would be a major drop in morale. The peacetime US Army in Europe which had been reinforced by regulars and afterwards by those Reservists and national guardsmen had all been taking major personnel losses but were still fighting; winning the war depended upon them not understanding how many of their fellow soldiers weren’t going to be around afterwards.
The NSC was briefed too on morale issues when it came to US military personnel released from POW camps in retaken portions of West Germany during the fighting there late last week. Of the sixteen thousand NATO military personnel rescued: six and a half thousand of those had been American. All of these had officially been listed as ‘missing’ before the wire pens where they were kept out in the open like animals had fallen to advancing NATO troops. There were a few USAF pilots, though it was mainly soldiers which were rescued from levels of depravity which the NSC had previously been briefed upon. Bush again showed his anger on this matter and queried how war crimes investigations were going regarding the treatment of female prisoners and those of ethnic minorities especially which the Soviets had been holding as well of those POWs who never made it to camps like those and were shot where they had surrendered when unarmed. He wanted to know what reconnaissance efforts were being made to locate further camps which there had to be located eastwards back in enemy territory and what plans were being made with regard to those.
The movement of the US Army’s final expected group of major ground reinforcements heading for Europe was talked over. Those old soldiers and the national guardsmen who would accompany them – the US II Corps and the US XI Corps respectively – were going through their final stages of training now while convoys of ships were underway and crossing the North Atlantic. When those ships started landing, the soldiers would be flown over to join them. The US Third Army was expected to be in-place ready to fight by the end of the week but there was an eagerness that both Powell and Vuono had to calm on the part of many members of the NSC to rush that. The national guardsmen with the US Fifth Army had been rushed into action last weekend and suffered accordingly due to them not being truly ready at first; they would be a much stronger force than they currently were had that hadn’t happened.
The meeting turned afterwards to diplomatic matters.
The outcomes of the failed attempt at ceasefire talks in Geneva the night before, which had been aborted almost as soon as they got started, were covered. There hadn’t been much hope for those and what Armitage and Ridgway had to say in paraphrased reports was discussed and so too was what Grassley was hearing at the UN in reaction from that. He was preparing for a trip to Europe later this week before planning to return again to stay on the ground in New York, but his work at the UN with other representatives of the Allies and diplomats from other nations was important. The Soviets and the few Socialist Forces countries had very few friends left on the international stage; Grassley was leading the effort to further reduce that number. Bush reminded him that he wanted the policy of offering inducements to countries to join the Allies kept up but to keep those vague for the time being and not to make any firm commitments. His Secretary of State was walking a tightrope with such a contradictory course of action, but it was to remain ongoing.
Cuba again come up in discussions as that matter remained unresolved. The ceasefire was holding and US Marines plus some downed USAF aircrews were back in the US after transferring through The Bahamas from Cuban custody. Guantanamo Bay still remained in Cuban hands though and the military was in-charge down there after the people had deposed Castro and then those generals had wiped out the spooks who tried to take charge in the aftermath. The original desire for the US to see Cuban Exiles allowed to return was still being refused by the Cubans and so negotiations were stalled. Cuban air attacks on the US mainland as part of their surprise attack had the American public, as well as Congress, regarding those strikes as another Pearl Harbor. Less than a hundred civilians had been killed in Florida compared to the almost two thousand more in Hawaii, Alaska, Seattle and parts of New England when Soviet attacks had come early in the war, but Cuba was still being vilified more than even the Soviets were.
Bush confirmed Reagan’s earlier policy that those Cubans who wished to return home – and certainly change the political, economic and social make-up of their country – should be allowed to and that Guantanamo Bay couldn’t be allowed to remain held by the Cubans. Maybe there was a solution in the long-run, but for now, that was the policy he was to follow as well.
Northern Ireland was mentioned when discussing international relations as part of the war. Again there was pressure coming from Congress with this as many of the elected representatives in secluded luxury at the Greenbrier Resort had been hearing disturbing reports for a while now coming from Ulster of what was happening there. The NSC under Reagan had discussed that a while ago after the Republic of Ireland had complained furiously about the effective genocide and ethnic cleansing going on there but that had been ignored for wartime unity. Grassley stated that the British were aware of what was going on and were far from pleased but couldn’t stop the killings there as taxed as they were with the conventional war on the Continent. CIA Director Webster spoke of how upset Thatcher was at the issue and she had already reacted politically, but Britain didn’t have the capability to act decisively there even with Ulster being an integral part of Britain. Something had to be done about this though, Bush told the NSC, for the events there taking place inside a nation with the Allies – especially one like the UK – just couldn’t continue.
South Africa’s role in the war was another matter so too was China’s absence from the conflict. The NSC covered other issues away from international affairs to do with the US economy and the latest news of emergency internal security following the terrorist attacks which had occurred across the country in the few days before the war and once it got started. Continued preparations for nuclear war should that break out were also talked over and then there was a late interruption with a NSA staffer delivering to his boss General William Odom two urgent notices which the NSA chief soon shared with the Acting President and the others. He told them that there was satellite intelligence – photographs and ELINT – of a massive further military mobilisation taking place across wide parts of the Soviet Union that could result in further Soviet troop reinforcements showing up in Germany at some stage. Moreover, the second dispatch sent to him, hot on the heels of the first, spoke of what he called ‘interesting developments’ in Moscow…
…after all that had happened since late last November, there were actually few gasps around the secure room where the NSC was meeting when they heard that latter piece of news whereas a year ago such news certainly would have caused great shock.
Two Hundred & Four
Operation CERTAIN VENGEANCE was an American-only affair; USAF assets alone were used in the air attack against East Berlin with many of those beforehand and afterwards returning to their NATO assignments with 2 ATAF, 3 ATAF and 4 ATAF. Carlucci had been instrumental in conceiving the mission before Bush authorised it and the strategic bombing was planned by his senior people at the Raven Rock facility in Pennsylvania where the operational side of the Department of Defence had transferred to rather than those ‘out in the field’ forward in Europe. For several weeks now, since West Berlin had been captured and then the East Germans had taken part in the war in a major way, the mission had been postponed several times as aircraft were needed elsewhere and there were other priorities.
However, in the early hours of Tuesday 29th March CERTAIN VENGEANCE got underway.
A total of twenty-six aircraft were involved with less than a third actually conducting the direct bombing attack against Berlin itself; those others provided support for the mission. The USAF had pulled together multiple assets as CERTAIN VENGEANCE was a mission which came from the very top. The eight strike-bombers assigned for a low-level attack run on Berlin would have four fighter-interceptors covering them nearby from above while there would also be a pair of air defence suppression aircraft with them too. A trio of heavy bombers with cruise missiles being fired against further air defences would precede the air strike, four airborne tankers were assigned in support for mid-air refuelling before and after the mission, there were three stand-off electronic warfare aircraft, an AWACS aircraft for mission control and a strategic reconnaissance aircraft flying high and fast at a distance to give mission feedback.
The FB-111As, F-15Cs and EF-111As came from airbases in the UK first and were met by KC-135R tankers above the Netherlands before they transited through 2 ATAF airspace. Aircrews aboard the single- & twin-seat aircraft going into East Germany airspace were nervous but still confident in their mission as they knew the level of support assigned to them. They had a full mission brief beforehand on everything that they needed to know – the targets for attack, enemy defences, the weather and emergency landing sites – and knew that their aircraft had been heavily-serviced beforehand. These fourteen aircraft flew over Holland and then above the North German Plain fast heading towards the frontlines and enemy territory beyond.
Three B-52G bombers acting as missile-carriers tonight had been launching missiles when over Belgium long before those attacking aircraft got over mainland Europe. These aircraft had come from Britain too but hadn’t flown that far forward: just to their launching points. The B-52s had each fired a dozen AGM-86C CALM missiles, an experimental version of the usually nuclear-armed -86B ALCM with a blast-fragmentation warhead instead. Technicians from Boeing had been involved right up to the last minute with those missiles when on the ground as the CALMs were something very new. Those missiles were out ahead of the strike aircraft and their escorts while the B-52s were on their way home.
Providing stand-off support for the mission were those three electronic warfare aircraft and the airborne radar platform which remained back far from the frontlines too. The RC-135V reconnaissance aircraft and two EC-130H jamming aircraft had battle-staff fully focused upon the entry and planned egress of the attacking aircraft and those cruise missiles as well. Then there was the E-3B with its radar seeing several hundred miles ahead over the horizon with a very accurate radar picture of the skies.
Finally, the last aircraft involved in the mission came down towards East Germany from over Sweden and then the Baltic but was staying away from Berlin. This was a SR-71A; an unarmed supersonic strategic reconnaissance aircraft. Extra mission pods hung beneath the aircraft tonight and its flight plan was to take it high above East Germany behind Berlin to the east as the strike was conducted there so its own systems and those extra ones carried tonight could record enemy responses for further analysis later.
Getting all of these pieces together and acting together in concert had been difficult, but after two weeks of warfare, along with decades of training, the USAF knew what it was doing.
The CALM’s entered enemy airspace first flying fast and low. They were using terrain contour matching guidance rather than the planned GPS navigation which was the ultimate idea for the missile in a conventional role and they were still very experimental. Three of them had mis-fire launches from the B-52s and another four had further failures in-flight; post-mission analysis would point to too many modifications being made to these missiles in the rush to produce them and send them across to Europe. The others soon started striking multiple targets across East Germany though and hit known strategic air defence sites far back from the frontlines. Batteries of SA-10 and SA-12 SAMs along with radars associated with these top-tier systems were targeted by those cruise missiles flying in beneath radar coverage and so too were several airfields near Berlin where some of the première air defence interceptors were based. There weren’t enough missiles to knock out most of the SAM batteries nor shut those interceptor bases, but plenty of disruption was caused by the sudden arrival of these missiles which the enemy didn’t detect for what they were until they started impacting.
The attack aircraft went forward in two waves of seven aircraft each: four strike-bombers, a pair of fighters and a defence suppression aircraft. Those F-15s stayed high with their radars being lit up once they were deep inside East Germany while the versions of the Aardvark down low had swept their wings back and kept their own active systems in stand-by mode. Penetrations were made through the weakened air defences while the fighters up above were soon shooting off many air-to-air missiles: they had distant warning coming from the E-3 back over the Rhineland for assistance.
CERTAIN VENGEANCE had begun with some of the strategic SAM sites with those more modern air defence missiles being struck at though there were plenty of air defences around Berlin in the heart of East Germany. The focus with those CALMs had been to hit defences around the approach and exit routes for the aircraft going deep, but not all of them had been hit and then there were others unknown too. Such an issue had been factored into the heavily-worked plan for this mission though and that was why there were those EC-130H aircraft flying over the Weser in northern Germany as the strike package reached Berlin. Targeted rather than blanket electronic jamming came from the antenna which festooned from the pair of aircraft and was directed against air-search radars and those of SAM systems. The lone RC-135 further back was assisting in this as the aircraft aboard that bigger aircraft were working in real-time to identify threats coming online. Therefore, a whole lot of electronic jamming was being directed against the enemy’s defences in the Berlin area.
With time being short before the Soviets and East Germans were able to react, the pair of strike packages coming in from the northwest and the southwest raced in towards Berlin. The unarmed EF-111As were in the lead with those stretched FB-111s behind them carrying heavy weapons loads of bombs. The Ravens were working hard at the tactical level with further jamming and much of that was generalised as they themselves were facing the same threats as the strike-bombers following them. The night-time sky was black up above beneath thick cloud cover which was over central parts of East Germany tonight, but from the ground there came flashes of unnatural light: tracer rounds from anti-aircraft guns and missile launches too. They raced towards all of that though as their targets lay ahead where those defences were trying to protect.
Four targets in East Berlin had been highlighted for attack, all of which were deemed of a strategic nature and were to be treated to a low-level bombing attack where it was hoped accuracy would be great and destruction assured. These were ‘regime symbols’ as far as Carlucci at Raven Rock was concerned and their bombing would be a sign to the East German regime of how determined that United States was to have its vengeance for the role played in the war by East Germany starting from the seizure of West Berlin.
The party headquarters of the Socialist Unity Party (SED), the ruling communist party in East Germany, was targeted by the first two FB-111s on their bomb run coming up from the southwest and across West Berlin into East Berlin. They faced extensive anti-aircraft fire from multiple batteries firing into the sky after warning had been given of the approach of aircraft on an attack run. Most of that fire was wildly inaccurate and the USAF aircrews had to think that no one on the ground was worrying over just where all those 57mm high-explosive shells were going to land and whether they would do more damage over all that the bombs which they carried…
The building slated for destruction had been identified from long-time intelligence and last minute satellite observation too: this information had been fed into the nav/attack computers aboard each of the strike-bombers who went to hit it. Last-minute jinxing to avoid anti-aircraft fire complicated the bomb-runs made though and therefore the attack wasn’t perfect. Mk.82 and Mk.83 bombs were dropped from the USAF aircraft and those 500lb and 1000lb bombs – ten fell away from each FB-111 – didn’t all strike their target. In the main, the front of the building and the nearby street outside suffered the immense destruction when those warheads went off aboard the bombs dropped, yet there was still much damage done and there was certain to be much propaganda achieved when the citizens of East Berlin were able to see what destruction had been wrought.
The Palast der Republik was another target where the propaganda effect was sought by attacking it. The remaining FB-111s coming in from the southwest bombed that immense complex which East Germany’s ruling regime used as a showpiece of their country. Their rubber-stamp Parliament met there and it also housed many official state functions. Bombs fell atop this building too with much greater accuracy and when they went off they thoroughly wrecked it. Fires were soon started afterwards which the civilian fire service of East Berlin was soon struggling to cope with when the morning came.
The other two targets inside East Berlin were the headquarters of the Stasi in Lichtenberg and the Ministry of National Defence at Strausberg. Much of the functions which usually took place at both had been moved out before the war started though while again they were targeted for propaganda effect they were still in use in a limited fashion. Erich Mielke also had his office in the former location and a stated aim of CERTAIN VENGEANCE was to send a message to him.
One of the FB-111s heading for the Ministry of National Defence building was shot down seconds before dropping its bombs. That aircraft with the 393rd Bombardment Squadron (part of the 509th Bomb Wing based in peacetime in New Hampshire but now flying from the UK) was hit by a Soviet Army Tunguska combined gun and missile tactical air defence system. Rapid-firing 30mm guns and short-range SAMs had been blasted from this tracked vehicle which was crewed by East German soldiers with the Felix Dzerzhinsky Guards Regiment after it and several others had recently been transferred to their control. At short-range it was a deadly system and it blew apart much of the wings and rear fuselage of the FB-111 hit.
The Ministry of Defence Building was still bombed though and so too was the Stasi headquarters; a further Tunguska system at the latter location tried but failed to hit the strike-bombers engaged there. Much destruction was again caused at each location as those bombs fell away from the aircraft overhead coming in at only a hundred feet above urban terrain. The noise of those aircraft approaching at speed was one thing, but then the blasts were even louder. Afterwards, it seemed like everyone in East Berlin had heard the attacks commence, especially as the sleeping city had already been awoken by defensive weapons firing but not conspicuously silent air raid sirens.
As the Americans started their egress, one of the EF-111s was lost too. The F-15s up above had been overwhelmed by so many enemy aircraft filling the skies – MiG-29s in both Soviet and East German markings – after those targeted airbase hadn’t been closed effectively by the CALM missiles. The USAF fighters had fired off many air-to-air missiles and were almost out of such weapons that they could only give a radio warning that several enemy fighters had reached the centre of Berlin before that EF-111 fell to a short-range missile fired by a MiG-29. The remaining attacking aircraft with CERTAIN VENGEANCE engaged afterburners while still above the city to start their escape while activating jammers and deploying chaff. Anti-aircraft guns continued to fire and SAMs were being lofted, but they managed to get away and were glad to hear a report coming from the distant E-3 that one of those MiG-29s which had reached Berlin to strike at them seemed to have been hit by a ‘friendly’ SAM and wasn’t giving chase.
The whole strategic air defence network throughout East Germany was alive though and it was taking a lot of effort for the distant jamming efforts to cancel out their effects. The remaining aircraft of the strike packages were meant to route around enemy air defences but not all of them had been plotted and many were very effective. An SA-13 battery guarding a major Soviet Army mobile communications column for rear-area command and control, travelling north of Berlin on East Germany’s rather good road network, reacted to enemy aircraft nearby and started firing SAMs skywards. These came fast and unexpected before anyone with the USAF – over East Germany or far away to the west – knew about it and another two FB-111s were hit with missiles. One of those would keep flying but the other blew up mid-air in a fireball which would take the lives of the aircrew aboard.
Three of the fourteen aircraft which had made the deep strike mission failed to return though CERTAIN VENGEANCE was a major success as those losses were regarded as minimal for what was achieved. Major strategic targets had been bombed right in the hard of East Germany’s capital with such damage being of immense propaganda value to where Berliners were concerned. The SR-71 uninvolved in the actual strike had made its high-speed reconnaissance run as the bombing attack was going on and the intelligence which that brought back later would be of great value too in seeing how the enemy reacted to such a mission against Berlin.
After all, this was just going to be the first air attack against Berlin.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 21:45:32 GMT
Two Hundred & Five
Throughout March 29th, troops with the British I Corps remained fighting on the eastern edges of Luneburg Heath and pushing for the Elbe-Lateral Canal and the Inter-German Border beyond that. They fought against cut-off enemy forces which were unable to retreat backwards with the shattered remains of the Soviet Second Guards Army and other enemy forces purposely left behind in fixed positions to delay them. With a trio of heavy divisions including many tanks – Centurions, Chieftains and Challengers – the British Army tried to fight a battle of manoeuvre through the broken terrain but instead much of the fighting was an infantry affair. The threat to the advancing tanks which slowed them down and relegated them to a support role came from a mass of dismounted Soviet infantry armed with man-portable missile-launchers in abundance along with plenty of towed anti-tank guns which were being fired at distance. Infantry had to move against these threats to allow the tanks to operate, but this was a slow process.
General Inge, the field commander, was left very frustrated with the slow progress of the day. He understood of course the need to root out the enemy from their plethora of temporary fixed positions, but everything was so slow. Only late last week he had led his command on that daring thrust forward from Hameln through Springe and towards Hannover tearing past the enemy but advances like these were tiresome.
Nonetheless, the British Army was advancing and driving towards the border with East Germany.
Advancing as they did on a narrow front between French forces to their north and newly-arrived Bundeswehr troops to the south, the British I Corps set about crushing all opposition before them. Artillery and air power blasted the way ahead of them, though with the latter fire support much of that wasn’t British: the RAF’s tactical air assets had suffered heavily during the conflict and there weren’t enough of them anymore in Germany to be as effective as needed.
The 7th Armoured Division was on the left-hand side of the attack. Infantry out front mainly advanced on foot though there were a few instances where they remounted their vehicles and darted forward through holes opened up. It was frustrating and hard work for these old soldiers as the enemy they encountered wouldn’t understand that the best thing for them to do would be to surrender rather than keep fighting as they were. Many of the division’s veterans had spent time here on Luneburg Heath as part of countless training exercises during their previous time with the British Army. It was different now though. The pine trees had been felled, blown up or burnt down. The seemingly endless dry, sandy soil was now nothing but mud after being churned through so many times by vehicles during recent periods of wet weather. The bogs that littered the terrain were still there yet many of them were exceptionally dangerous now as unexploded ordnance littered them after contact fused hadn’t gone off with impact. It was a blackened and miserable environment with drifting smoke always present and choking men as they tried to fight their opponents through trenches, foxholes and strongpoints. The woodland that was all across the heath, especially here in the eastern parts, was set amongst hilly ground and while the main bodies of trees were no longer standing: their remains were still there with bases of trunks still rooted into place and on the ground the rest of the trucks along with branches. As the area had been fought over for a sustained period of time, the ground was littered too with the remains of that fighting. There were even some bodies and body parts encountered by the men fighting here today and they were horrified to realise that these had been here more than a week, even up to two weeks, and greatly attacked by nature.
The Iron Division was in the centre and its regular soldiers had too seen much of Luneburg Heath in peacetime too. Two of the 3rd Armoured Division’s combat brigades had fought in the particular area where they returned to during the first week of the war when they had acted as part of the counterattack force which had been Kampfgruppe Weser. They remembered the success which they had then though the reverses suffered afterwards elsewhere were recalled too. Combat veterans as they were, the men of the Iron Division were generally young but certainly not foolhardy. They attacked the enemy stubbornly holding on in a determined and careful manner by bringing heavy weapons to bare upon their opponents. The Soviets which they encountered were in the same position as they had been when they were trapped in Hannover and did fight just as tough before being overwhelmed. It was hard going for these attacking troops especially as they were still suffering immense shortages. They had been relieved almost a week ago but then gone straight back into the attack as the division was rolled forward with few breaks. Much gear and even weapons had been abandoned with in the latter cases there being absolutely no more of certain ammunition available for those specialist weapons. Their divisional commander, Major-General Jones, wanted to be the first to reach the canal ahead, get over it and then have his men cross the border into East Germany too. With that latter aim he had, he wouldn’t be able to do that as orders stated not to, but that didn’t stop him hoping to be in a position to do so when he was finally free of not just political constraints but also the damned enemy which just wouldn’t give up when beaten…
On the right was the 4th Armoured Division. The men of the Tiger Division were all combat veterans too who consisted themselves the very best of the British Army at the moment as they had conducted BLACKSMITH to liberate Hannover and then drove on afterwards first northwards before leading the way eastwards too. They were fighting now with the river Aller on their flank where the Bundeswehr was retaking Gifhorn and on their way towards Wolfsburg, but across open countryside rather than urban and suburban terrain. The parts of the Luneburg Heath which the Tiger Division fought across today were less hilly and with fewer patches of dense if ruined woodland; there were also less boggy regions too. This gave them a greater opportunity to advance as the enemy forces which they encountered struggled to find natural defensive points which to make a successful stand at before they were blasted out of them. Soviet infantry with their man-portable weapons often found themselves unable to find suitable cover too while the bigger towed anti-tank guns that the Soviet Army was currently relying upon for defence while the main body of their surviving tank strength was reorganised were exposed as well. These factors led by terrain allowed the 20th Brigade first to reach the Elbe-Lateral Canal with the 11th & 33rd Brigades soon following too. Tanks had finally been leading the infantry, instead of that being the other way around as it shouldn’t have been for a major offensive drive as planned. With those tanks that reached the narrow waterway running across their line of advance came Royal Engineers rolled in the assault bridging mission. Those close support sappers were well-armed themselves and some assisted in unexpected mopping-up operations near sections of the canal to be crossed before they started moving their equipment into position. Vehicle-launched bridges had already been laid over the canal from versions of the Chieftain but the Royal Engineers parties which came forward started moving their bigger, stronger structures into place. Pre-fabricated bridge sections were being brought forward to get move of the Tiger Division over the canal before darkness came…
…but instead there was just a general alert issued. The Soviets hadn’t been withdrawing in panic but rather marshalling their forces. A stroke of luck with last minute air reconnaissance allowed that alert to be issued that gave the Tiger Division a short warning that a regiment of enemy tanks was coming their way towards their crossings. The enemy had moved probably too early, but they were coming fast and in strength. T-72s and BMP-2s were suddenly all over the crossing sites made across the canal on the eastern side after emerging from concealed ambush positions and massing for their strikes. NATO air power was quickly on its way, but first the Tiger Division and the Royal Engineers with them were drawn into a furious fight. The British would eventually hold as the warning given had allowed them just enough time to prepare but it had been a very close run thing. A Soviet regiment had been smashed but several hundred British soldiers and sappers had been killed while quite a few tanks and specialist engineering vehicles knocked out. Many of the crossing sites were wrecked and those that hadn’t been had still been identified to the enemy so that even after their ground attack had failed, the Soviets could still launch artillery and tactical missiles at them.
It had been a tough day’s fight for the British I Corps with an enemy which wasn’t beaten just withdrawing away and only making a real fight of it when they wanted to. The semi-successful ambush against the Tiger Division was followed by others made in the evening too against the 7th Armoured Division and the Iron Division as well. The Soviets were trying to defeat those forces fast enough to catch up with their main body of withdrawing troops seeking better defensive positions and they made the British Army pay for its advances to close up to the Inter-German Border.
Nonetheless, the day’s fighting was still a great success. General Inge was able to report back to his superior General Kenny that his troops were almost there at the entrance to East Germany now and were still combat effective ready to go further.
There were other events that were currently making anything like that impossible though; political matters. The will was there with many people from politicians to generals to go over the border, but until those leaders with the Allies could fully understand what was going on in Moscow, that would – for now – not happen.
Two Hundred & Six
Marshal Ogarkov’s coup was very different to the one which his predecessor Marshal Akhromeyev had taken part in less than four months before.
This time there were no hit teams ambushing targets in their beds in the dead of night for elimination and then a fabrication for public consumption of what had occurred. Instead, the Soviet military made an open move to get rid of the terribly ineffective leadership which was in place in the Kremlin now that they had been dragged into an unwanted war with the aim that only acting as they did would save the Motherland. Ogarkov felt that he had good cause and was sure of much support… if not then the Soviet Army had the guns to make any fight suicidal for anyone trying to stop the military take-over he planned.
Chebrikov wasn’t necessarily the problem. He was a cruel and ruthless murderer, but since the war had started he had been hiding in his bunker apparently fearful of assassins from the GRU coming to get him. He had no more influence over the KGB despite remaining as that organisation’s chairman. The central government had come to a halt with the war being fought and so he had no control or support among the Party. The Soviet people had no love for him and few had any idea as to what influence he had as their leader. The military which Ogarkov was the professional head of despised Chebrikov and were far from happy fighting for him.
Ogarkov had Soviet Army officers – captains and majors from the Moscow Garrison who he knew were reliable – take control of the Kremlin with ease as they led a small but well-armed force there and Chebrikov was removed from his bunker after his own bodyguards had been intimidated into standing down and surrendering the madman underground. Chebrikov had been taken away and shot without any form of trial as Ogarkov knew that to try to detain him would only lead to further problems down the road. What use was a blabbering fool of a Chekist to anyone anyway? Elsewhere, those idiots who were allies to Chebrikov in the top levels of the KGB and the senior people from his nemesis at the GRU were also removed from their places or work (the coup took part during the afternoon) to face summary execution too at the most convenient time. Ogarkov had gone after people who were fighting their own war against the West and hurting the necessary attempts of the military to do so.
Away from Moscow, orders went out to Soviet military forces at home and deployed abroad to detain senior KGB and GRU personnel deployed with military formations in political supervision and intelligence positions. Those orders weren’t even hidden as they were broadcast quite openly so that there was little need for sneaking around. Those targeted for detainment heard what was about to happen to them and many took the wise course of surrendering while proclaiming their innocence. A few men tried to avoid being held by the soldiers moving against them, but these were doomed attempts and would only see their lives being lost. These orders from Ogarkov were in his name and were welcomed everywhere they went. For more than two weeks, the armed forces had been fighting against the West but had had their efforts hampered by those spooks. The KGB and the GRU were meant to be supporting them, but instead only caused obstruction and were blamed for the many, repeated failures… even if many of those weren’t their fault. In addition, there were countless senior military men who had failed to achieve objectives when fighting the enemy or had been accused of defeatism. The KGB had been shooting many of those while the GRU had been seen as the ones responsible for much of that by blaming those generals for their own failings. Again, this wasn’t always true, but it was what the military wanted to believe and thus acted upon when Ogarkov started issuing his orders.
Those murders at the highest levels and the arrests out ‘in the field’ had left both intelligence organisations leaderless. There remained tens of thousands of personnel, many of them well-armed, spread from Germany to the Kola, from the Caucasus to Central Asia and from the depths of Siberia to Vladivostok. These spooks were all important in keeping order throughout the state, making sure that puppet allies stayed under control and sometimes even doing what they were meant to in supporting the military operations underway. They couldn’t all be stripped of their positions or shot out of hand, especially not with the war going on: that would cause a civil war and while the military would win that, it would certainly allow for the defeat of the Soviet Union abroad which Ogarkov was trying to preserve. He needed these people no matter how much he despised their now removed leaders and the manner in which those middle and lower level ranks of the organisations conducted their business.
The Soviet Union was now in the hands of Marshal Nikolai Vasilyevich Ogarkov.
He was seventy years old and a career military officer. Recognised as a supreme strategist in the theory of modern warfare, he had first come to the attention of the West following the downing of KAL007 in 1983: that South Korean airliner shot down with the loss of two hundred and sixty-nine people aboard. Ogarkov had given statements to the media concerning that where this Soviet action, seen by many as an act of cold-blooded murder, had been defended. Intelligence sources in the West had got hold of some of his later writings and these had been read by military figures who believed that they would one day have to fight the Soviet military.
Ogarkov was a Russian – not Soviet – patriot who believed wholeheartedly that the uniformed service of the state which he served were the ultimate guardians of stability in his country when faced with the traditional enemies of his nation. His own politics would be deemed right-wing in the West though such a concept in the Soviet Union was different. Ogarkov was an authoritarian who deemed political compromise, democracy as practised in the West and any form of opposition to the traditional Russian way of life as something to be violently fought against until utter defeat.
He had no wish to be a dictator himself though had come to realise that Chebrikov wasn’t up to that task. Apart from that foolish Chekist, who else was there who would lead the Soviet Union at this time where its military forces were on the verge of defeat? There was only himself, he had decided, and his sense of patriotism drove him to act as he did. He would lead his country because there was no one else that he thought could do that at the moment in an adequate manner. As to the war which the country had become embroiled in, he was determined that that should be finished as soon as possible, yet on Soviet terms. Those armies of the West which were fighting against his country were massing to eventually invade the necessary security zone of Eastern Europe established more than forty years ago and then enter the Motherland afterwards. To defeat this attempt at a second Barbarossa, Ogarkov was going to lead his country to defeat them with military means. The West had larger economies, surrounded the Motherland and also would have a long-term advantage in convention military power, but for now there was an enormous amount of military potential untapped within the country which hadn’t been put to use by Chebrikov. Ogarkov decided that he was going to unleash this all against the West and defeat them on the battlefield before, with time, the enemy could effectively marshal their numerical strength and finish off the Soviet Union. The war would be fought on the territory of other nations too, far from the Motherland where it had been in the first Barbarossa.
The orders were sent out once Ogarkov was sure of his position for the biggest mobilisation since June 1941 of the remaining military might that the Soviet Union had and meanwhile Ogarkov prepared to show his countrymen what a leader they had now. He had never been comfortable in front of the camera, so Ogarkov spoke to his country on the radio: what he regarded as an excellent medium of communication. The Motherland’s new leader called on his people – civilians and the military alike – to fight for their freedom from planned hostile foreign occupation. He called for a total war on behalf of the people and promised them that he would lead them in that to ultimate victory, one which would be achieved soon as well.
Afterwards, Ogarkov set about doing that and in the correct manner too now that the military was in charge and free from those previously restricting political considerations.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 21:56:42 GMT
Two Hundred & Seven
Making certain that the war would be won for the Soviet Union which he now led was Marshal Ogarkov’s priority; everything else was secondary. He had to defend his country at all costs and there could be no allowances made. The threat which came from the West, now full of vengeance, could only be stopped with a full commitment to combat rather than what had been in many instances a somewhat half-hearted attempt beforehand.
The war had been a disaster; there was no getting away from that. After the period of time that had elapsed up until now, the West should have been defeated on the battlefield and be now pleading for a ceasefire while offering all sorts of concessions. Ogarkov was convinced that if Chebrikov had listened to him from the start, then Soviet armies would still be on the offensive rather than the defensive as they now were. Too much attention had been focused upon politics though and the state within a state which was the intelligence services had been allowed to do as they wished. The West was powerful but at the same time it was divided and there was weakness there.
Everything had gone wrong though with RED BEAR and there didn’t seem to be any way to fix that situation now. Ogarkov no longer cared for the initial reasoning of the war taking place; all he was focused upon was ending it as soon as possible and achieving the best outcome for his country. The only way that he could see his nation emerging from all of this was to achieve victory on the battlefields of Western Europe. That was where the Motherland would be defended from invasion and where the armies of the West would have to be fought to a standstill. He anticipated this not being an easy task yet at the same time believed that it would work, especially under his personal direction.
As to the future, Ogarkov didn’t see himself as some sort of Bonaparte-type figure: he only wanted to lead his country to victory in this war. He had already identified someone in particular who he thought best to lead the nation after a successful conclusion though considered it rather dangerous to propel that man to power now fearing that his chosen candidate would end up being overthrown before the war commenced. The troika which had removed Gorbachev had then fought amongst themselves with Marshal Akhromeyev being murdered first and then Chebrikov killing Shcherbytsky… Ogarkov had then moved against Chebrikov. This pattern would only be continued unless someone put a stop to that using strength and such strength could only come following military victory.
Of course, before his visionary future plan to save his country in the meantime could take place, there was a war to be won first. Ogarkov had identified five key war-winning measures that he would personally oversee.
Firstly, military efforts in the Soviet North-West and in the Far East would continue to try to defend the country in those locations as much as possible. Offensive military assets had been near destroyed and much damage had been done to those defensively orientated, but the nation needed to be protected by every means possible against further air and naval attacks. Ogarkov had no fear that the West would invade with troops into the North-West or the Far East at this point in time; such moves would only come unless the Soviet position in Europe had collapsed and they were already marching on Moscow via Germany and Poland. His orders were for the Soviet military forces in those areas to hold out and protect Soviet soil as best as they could. In addition, in some of Chebrikov’s more lucid moments before he had descended into madness, Ogarkov had been assured that KGB influence operations had made the West understand that to directly invade Soviet soil would bring about a nuclear response. Maybe in time that threat would lose credibility among them, especially if their armies were tearing across Poland, but for now Ogarkov was certain that Murmansk or Vladivostok weren’t going to be captured by occupying troops.
The intelligence services which had caused so much damage to the war effort would remain active despite Ogarkov despising them as he did. However, he had successful neutered them at the top and knew for a while they would be subservient to his wishes. He wanted them to do what they were supposed to do not what they had been doing. Ogarkov sent firm instructions that the KGB was to maintain the political security of the Soviet Union and serve the countries interests in helping to secure control over the populations behind the frontlines on Europe’s battlefields. Moreover, the Third Chief Directorate with its KGB officers assigned to Soviet military units for political control was being disestablished with immediate effect. As to the GRU, Ogarkov wanted them preforming the role in which he thought they should be doing too: supporting the military efforts in their reconnaissance role. He told the surviving senior people within that organisation that they were to cut their ties with their operatives abroad at once and focus all attention on the tactical situation at the frontlines in Europe.
To win the military conflict in Eastern Europe so as to bleed the West dry, Ogarkov had mobilised all of those military forces across major parts of the country. Regulars and reservists held back beforehand – including half of the forces down in the Trans-Caucasus Military District which were defending against a Turkish attack that was never going to materialise – were to be pushed into East Germany, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere to defeat NATO in its counter-invasion. With these being tasked for a defensive mission, Ogarkov knew they wouldn’t need the extensive service support assets which weren’t there to supply them seeing as they only had to hold ground not take it: he believed that these troops he was forming-up into improvised field armies and sending into Eastern Europe could hold the lines there.
The supply problems across Eastern Europe which were being exasperated by external factors were going to be solved, Ogarkov had determined. He had committed the necessary personnel to make that happen who all had firm instructions that ammunition, fuel and food must get through to his soldiers fighting at the frontlines. The stocks of these were available but getting them where they were needed and on time too had become an immense problem that was having a disastrous effect upon wartime operations. Ogarkov wanted those supply links fixed with those originally tasked to do that job replaced wholescale, resistance from the Poles in particular to this movement which was becoming a problem ruthlessly crushed and also a reinforcement of air defences behind the frontlines to stop NATO air attacks destroying those supply links. Poland was seen as the key to the supply problems and Ogarkov made certain that his orders were firm that where the difficulties were present there was to be nothing to stop them anymore no matter what affect it had there in that country.
Lastly, Ogarkov gave the order for the Soviet Fourth Guards Army to finally commence their offensive which he had long been in heated discussions with Chebrikov about. In western Hungary, the Soviet Army had assembled a trio of combat divisions into this field army there ready to defend against any NATO moves to use Austria as a springboard for an attack deep into Eastern Europe. Such a sneak offensive from there didn’t look possible with assistance from the Austrians when an examination of how Vienna was behaving was undertaken, yet Ogarkov knew that if he was in the shoes of NATO’s senior generals in the West then he would be thinking about using Austrian territory with or without their consent. From there, NATO forces could move deep into Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Ogarkov had for some time been now wanting to counter that by moving first with the lone division left there from the pre-war Southern Group of Forces and the two reserve divisions from across the Ukraine moved in afterwards; after his assumption of power he decided to go ahead with not so much the fear of the West moving first but to knock them off balance. The weak Hungarian Army would be instructed to follow the Soviet Fourth Guards Army in their attack due to the strong numbers of Austrian soldiers fully mobilised across their nation and the enemy would have no choice but to move their own forces into that Alpine nation. Again this would go with the strategy of fighting the West on their territory and as far away from Soviet soil as possible. Ogarkov had issued the orders for the Soviet Fourth Guards Army to strike as soon as possible and much of their supplies were going to come from the Hungarians for the time being too.
There was no hesitation in Ogarkov when he issued these instructions, just as there hadn’t been when he had given the go ahead for his coup to depose Chebrikov. He considered himself a soldier and a patriot who was only doing his best for the Motherland. Russia came first even before the rest of the Union for him though he still wanted to maintain the grip that his people had upon their necessary empire. When foreign soldiers had been on Russian soil beforehand they had caused untold suffering to the Russian people as so he would do everything that it took to make sure that didn’t happen again.
A major part of ensuring that if his strategy for defeating NATO on the battlefields of Eastern Europe didn’t work was the posturing which he had the Soviet nuclear arsenal undertaking. Everything he knew about the West told him that that divided as they were, they would never launch a nuclear attack first. They might be fearful of one commencing under his orders, yet they wouldn’t land the first blow. If everything else failed, the Soviet Union was always going to survive due to its nuclear arsenal.
Ogarkov had no fears over that such a certainty wouldn’t be enough to ensure that the endgame he desired would be the result of this war.
Two Hundred & Eight
‘No plan survives first contact with the enemy’…
Initially, when the first attempt was made at PORTER three days beforehand, the British military forces assigned along with their allies had taken a knock back in trying to land in Denmark and open up the Baltic for exploitation. The defences hadn’t been scouted properly resulting in the near disaster of landing in a well-defended area and the subsequent loss of the American battleship New Jersey too. Moreover, contact hadn’t been made with the Danish Resistance on the ground either and such an oversight where it wasn’t realised how strong such a force was had cost Britain dear. With hindsight, such mistakes were plain to see and everyone agreed how easily they could have been avoided.
This time, however, the British had done their homework and were sure that they were much better prepared for their mission. This wasn’t Norway where the then separate elements of the 6th Light Division had been operating in friendly territory where the enemy held onto isolated outposts: instead, Denmark was fully occupied and would be a much tougher task to take on. A great deal of reconnaissance was undertaken across the northern reaches of Jutland in the past few days and special forces soldiers had been sent in ahead to not only act as pathfinders but to scout where ‘friendly’ local armed militias were operating too so that contact would be made with them. Long-range missile defences had been located from the air and then attacked with intelligence flowing back that the vast majority of such mobile assets had been knocked out and the remainder too busy trying to hide their location rather than defend the occupied coast.
Moreover, the delay in the landing operation had brought an increase in time to prepare in other fashions too with further fire supporting assets being gathered – though none which could truly replace the New Jersey – as well as better arrangements made for the transport of the troops assigned for the assault. PORTER had been put together in a rush and there were still going to be problems that would crop up, though now it was hoped that as many wouldn’t be of a serious nature as they would have been beforehand.
Due to local tidal conditions, the Royal Marines – moving ahead of their sworn enemies the Paras – landed on the coast of Jutland an hour before dawn. They arrived along the beaches north of Frederikshavn just as they had planned to on the Sunday in landing craft though also came ashore by helicopter too in places with anti-armour teams being dropped off at key points. The darkness hampered the assault in some ways by forcing carefulness and thus slowing things down, but it was certain that their enemy on the ground from the East German Army was in no way prepared for an assault to come at such a time.
The Royal Marines named their assault beaches RED, GREEN, BLUE and YELLOW for ease of operations and their inland sites were numerically coded following the BLACK keyword. Reinforced company groups of rifleman came off fast landing craft along those beaches while helicopters raced inland to deposit more naval commandoes at the BLACK sites. BLUE beach was the scene of a horrible surprise when anti-personnel landmines were stumbled into in the darkness while at BLACK #3 a nearby anti-aircraft gun blasted several Sea King helicopters with many 23mm shells. These instances of resistance were painful but they weren’t going to defeat the landing operation here.
Those assault landing craft and helicopters had raced back to the Royal Navy amphibious group offshore to get more men for a return while there were other vessels assisting too. The amphibious capability of Britain in terms of assault shipping had been badly hurt earlier in the war yet with the time to marshal assets, the Royal Navy group had got some help. There were some Norwegian vessels present ferrying troops and equipment ashore and so too were refugees from the once mighty localised amphibious fleets of the Danish and West Germany navies. The five Berbe-class ships crewed by Germans were especially useful with their shallow bottoms and their beaching capabilities so that vehicles could drive straight off them.
The whole area north of Frederikshavn was soon swarming with Royal Marines. They were getting air support from a couple of RAF Harriers operating from the decks of the carrier HMS Invincible nearby and knew that for the time being that ship would stay there protected by its own RN Sea Harriers for air defence. Eventually that carrier would have to move to more open waters but with it being less than thirty miles away at the time of the assault many missions could be flown from the aircraft based aboard. Close air support missions were called-in by the Royal Marines as they moved inland and while such attacks weren’t always brilliantly effective they did raise the morale of the attacking naval commandoes.
The local defences near the landing beaches came in the form of the East German tank battalion based at the village of Elling. There was infantry in Frederikshavn, but those tanks were the major threat to the Royal Marines getting ashore and securing the harbour facilities in the area including those in that bigger town as well as at the smaller Strandby. Harriers had dropped cluster bombs across the garrison that the East Germans had established moments before the landing stages of PORTER begun and then those Sea King helicopters flown by Royal Navy crews had started to drop of men from R Company, 41 Commando nearby. These were veterans of the fight against Soviet tanks at Skibotn and had shown their worth there in engaging such vehicles.
Moving on foot away from their landing sites where the departing helicopters had dropped them off, these Royal Marines took upon East German T-72s like they had smashed Soviet T-80s. MILAN missiles were fired first at distance and then Carl Gustav rockets close-in. The East Germans tried to fight back yet their manoeuvrability was hampered by unexploded cluster bomb munitions and the fact that their enemy had somehow predicted their deployment routes away from their garrison… those SBS soldiers already present had already taken a look at the ground and observed track marks from a recent deployment exercise conducted.
Then there came the rumble of massed gunfire from offshore that was similar to a battleship opening fire. The New Jersey might have been gone, but to partially make-up for that loss there was the presence of the West German gun-armed cruiser Deutschland. This was a training vessel for the Bundesmarine and had spent the war up until this point hiding along the Norwegian coast as while a big vessel the Deutschland had few weapons, especially for self-defence in the modern age. Yet she did carry a quartet of 100mm rapid-firing guns and was a capable military asset because of that. Those guns started firing at targets around Elling and such shots were guided by men on the ground.
The actual effects of the rounds weren’t that spectacular and those 100mm shells only knocked out lighter support vehicles and killed men rather than destroying tanks. Nonetheless, the East German tank crews initially panicked at the naval gunfire and then the men stalking them on the ground with man-portable weapons. More and more T-72s were destroyed or disabled. TOW missiles started coming from Lynx helicopters also flown by Royal Marines – 3rd Commando Brigade Air Squadron – and some of those had successful strikes against further tanks. Eventually, the East Germans were pinned down and some crews started to abandon their T-72s. It would take some time to finally subdue the rest of the garrison but for the time being the armoured threat to the landing beaches was over with.
Further troops came ashore as the skies got lighter and above the Royal Marines those Sea Harriers on fighter patrol found themselves engaged by a flight of Polish MiG-21s scrammed to intercede in the landing. Despite coming low and fast behind what they thought was capable electronic jamming, a NATO-manned Sentry airborne radar aircraft flying out of Norway detected that attack long before the Poles could get close. The Sea Harriers were vectored into ambush positions and then started launching missiles on cue. Several MiG-21s went down but a couple got away with fast evading; one in particular went fast over the landing area and engaged its cannon in a crazed attack as it sped past. A Sea King laden with further Royal Marines as reinforcements was shot down and crashed with many men aboard becoming casualties, yet even this couldn’t stop the arrival of the full brigade into Jutland.
An effort was being made to spread out from the landing beaches and to take over a large portion of enemy-held territory as fast as possible. Frederikshavn was approached though strong resistance was met at first before helicopter support was called-in and more gunfire from the Deutschland and Royal Navy ships offshore. Of greater importance for the time being though was to make a physical connection with the Paras landing near Aalborg.
5th Airborne Brigade’s contribution to PORTER was their landing at Aalborg Airport. The fire-fight a few days ago near here which had caused their Pathfinder Platoon to be wiped out when unfortunately engaging members of the Danish Resistance had put the mission to recapture this facility at threat, yet the airport was too important for its position and the fact that parts of the facility had been under repair after initially being wrecked in a deliberate sabotage effort when organised Danish military resistance on Jutland had collapsed. An SAS team held back in the UK for strategic missions had been sent to Aalborg to replace those dead pathfinders and they marked out landing zones for the air-drop of 1 PARA into the area as well as making sure that this time no eager locals interfered.
Just as dawn broke and following on from an air attack coming from RAF Tornado strike-bombers, Paras started jumping from low-flying Hercules aircraft near Aalborg Airport. The mobile SAM systems which the East German occupying troops and Soviet Air Force ground troops operated had been bombed and also jammed negating them, but there were many launches of man-portable shoulder-mounted SAMs against the transports. One Hercules was struck and had part of a wing torn off which would mean a flight to nearby Sweden rather than back to the UK so an emergency landing could be made in that Scandinavian country, but apart from that those short-range SAMs were thankfully ineffective enough to not disrupt the parachute assault.
The available light and favourable weather allowed 1 PARA to successfully hit their correct landing zones. They touched down to the north of the airport in open fields marked out for them and were hastily formed up by their officers. The battalion of riflemen came with light equipment but a lot of weaponry for fire support, with mortars and big machine guns being dropped alongside the men. They set off quickly to attack and seize the airport ready for the rest of 5th Airborne Brigade to arrive through there.
Danish Resistance fighters attacked Aalborg Airport on cue and showed great courage in attacking defended positions to keep the enemy occupied. There had been worries on the part of the British over their ability to make a stand-up fight, yet the civilian militia in this area had recently been stiffened by a few professionals who had arrived when the SAS had the day before. These special forces soldiers were from the Jaegerkorpset – the ‘Hunters Corps’ – and were trained in all sorts of unconventional warfare roles. Many of their comrades had been lost in action during the war but most success had been had working with stay behind missions. The unorganised Resistance had shown its worth during the conflict though and the Jaegerkorpset was starting to assist them in places.
By the time the garrison was fully deployed and getting ready to use their mobility and heavy armour in defence of the airport to take on the Resistance, the first of the Paras started to arrive in the area and coming from the opposite direction. Outposts spotted the British approach and the word went out but there was little time to get ready for an attack which 1 PARA was now excelling at after such operations in Norway. There would be a fierce fight for Aalborg Airport with the defenders being outmanned, trapped in one place and then having to suffer under the barrage of air attacks coming against them.
There were plenty of American aircraft in the skies above Jutland with the US Navy and the US Marine Corps committing aircraft to support their Operation BLACK PYTHON along the western coastline. British aircraft weren’t as numerous but were still present as Invincible was offering support for the ground troops employed and then there were also some aircraft flying long distance. Among those coming from afar were some older aircraft wearing the colours of the Royal Navy but based in the southern reaches of Norway.
Royal Navy operated aircraft and helicopters were flown by the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). Before war commenced and during the LION preparations for the conflict, the FAA had mobilised aircraft from storage, from training formations and trials units to reinforce those already in active service so that a large combat force could be assembled to support wartime operations. There were many helicopters serving aboard plenty of ships and then almost every single Sea Harrier naval fighter had ended up flying from the three aircraft carriers sent to the Norwegian Sea. Soviet raketonosets had then blasted the Illustrious and the Ark Royal on the war’s second day and the wrecks of such ships had destroyed many FAA Sea Harriers. There had been no more available and the air group aboard the Invincible had been left with a slowly-dwindling supply of these fighters to defend the Royal Navy at sea.
Some fixed-wing aircraft remained in FAA service though and these didn’t initially see combat action as they were deemed incapable of such in the high-threat environment encountered. French-built Falcon-20 and Jetstream aircraft built by British Aerospace were flown with the Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU) to allow pilots to gain flight experience over water. These had a wartime role in maritime surveillance around the British Isles and had been doing such a thing to the west and south where the threat axis from enemy aircraft was less but it was thought that small ships might try to land enemy commandoes. Also with the FRADU were a total of twenty-six attack-fighters: subsonic Hawker-built Hunters. These aircraft were arguably twenty years out of date and operated in the training role with the FRADU. Their armament had long been removed and there was no capability for the operation of modern electronic warfare equipment.
Nonetheless, with Britain being short of everything at the moment and the FAA having taken the losses which it had, just under half of those Hunter attack-fighters (the GA11 variant) had been hastily fitted with gun & rocket pods and sent to Norway. They were meant to support the Royal Navy in engaging small enemy surface vessels though had yet to see action in such missions with the enemy having the remains of their Combined Baltic Fleet kept back to the south of Zealand. The Americans had assured the British that their carrier-based aircraft had eliminated that Soviet missile battery that had destroyed the New Jersey and then further hit other coastal defence missile sites that the enemy had established in Denmark too. There was plenty of photographic intelligence to point to this and the US Navy had the motive to destroy such targets as they had their BLACK PYTHON operation ongoing as PORTER was.
Some of those Hunter attack-fighters had still been assigned on the counter-missile patrol just in case and that turned out to be a very wise decision indeed.
A pair of these aircraft were racing along the eastern coast of Jutland during the PORTER landing operations. They were at a low altitude and burning up much of the fuel carried in their external tanks and soon to turn towards Sweden where they were meant to be refuelled on the ground before a return to Norway. Eventually the plan was for the Hunters to be based in Jutland, probably at Aalborg but maybe elsewhere like at Karup if the Americans didn’t make it a US-only base, but for now they had a limited range. The pilots of the two aircraft were visually scanning the coastline during their dash and looking for mobile radar station rather than what they thought would be concealed missile batteries.
They got lucky and detected a small convoy of wheeled vehicles near a place called Als. There was no civilian road traffic in Jutland, it was all military, and gunfire erupted towards them from what was thought to be an anti-aircraft gun. That fire wasn’t accurate though and the Hunter pilots were both instructors with plenty of experience and much gusto. Their aircraft broke formation and split up while heading inland to come back again towards the convoy before it would try to scatter. Their guns and rockets were armed and they expected to do a lot of damage to what was thought to be a radar platform along with communications and security personnel. Instead though, as they made a quick and sudden attack run, it was realised that they had found some missile-launchers instead. That would mean that a radar vehicle supporting these was elsewhere, but this was still a better target. 20mm cannons roared and plenty of 68mm SNEB rockets were fired before the attack was broken off. A few SAMs chased them but the Hunters went back down low just above the waves and rocketed away towards distant Sweden.
It hadn’t been those brand-new Slingshot missiles engaged – as those had been destroyed by the Americans – but rather some older Sepal missiles travelling into a launch position. The platoon engaged and smashed by the FAA attack-fighters was part of the surviving portion of a battery with Soviet Coastal Troops and getting ready to follow-up on intelligence about NATO ships in the Kattegat. Another platoon elsewhere was meant to join them in a massed attack of supersonic missiles which while not guaranteeing success when faced with NATO jamming surely would have achieved something. Instead, that attack as planned now wasn’t going to be taking place.
The Hunters had done their part very well indeed.
Meanwhile, British forces continued to arrive in and take charge of northern parts of Jutland. Nearby was also seeing the US Marines make their own landings too.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 22:03:39 GMT
Two Hundred & Nine
At first glance on a map, the Danish and West German coastline along the North Sea appeared perfect for a wide range of landing operations to take place there. Many locations seemed like they would be suitable for the US Marines to get ashore and advance across the narrow stretch of land to the Baltic shore beyond and therefore cutting off all enemy forces located north of such a drive. A better look at the map would tell a different story though, one which would first be evident by the lack of ports along that western shoreline. Those were located out to the east and on the Baltic and not facing the Atlantic. Instead, what the western coast of Jutland and Schleswig-Holstein had was mud… and lots of it.
The waters offshore were known as the Wadden Sea and they extended all the way up from the coast of the Netherlands eastwards to Hamburg and then northwards up along the Danish shoreline. There were many beaches with seaside resorts present, but then there were the extensive mudflats too. These were hidden and exposed by tidal activity as well as being well-marked in many places. Nonetheless, while channels leading to many ports, especially down towards the south, had long been cleared for shipping, further northwards this was not always the case. The mudflats could be overflown by helicopters and the channels traversed by landing craft, yet their constricting presence made them unattractive for naval gunfire support missions for landing operations that warships would bring and also allow for the enemy to predict the courses of heavily-laden ships bringing in supplies. The US Marines couldn’t go into combat in a full-scale landing operation through areas where those offshore mudflats were in they wanted to pull off their mission without taking what were expected to be heavy casualties.
However, once the mudflats came to an end there was the Danish port city of Esbjerg. The harbour here was deep-watered and sheltered from the rough sea swells and those mudflats were some distance away. There were extensive inland communications links away from Esbjerg as this was a major port with peacetime sea links to Britain and elsewhere along the North Sea coast. Jutland was narrow at this point and the Baltic shore was very close by on the other side. There had been some damage done to that port by evacuating Danish troops in the war’s first week as their country was overrun, but the facility was still relatively intact and would certainly suit NATO’s purposes. As to the defenders, elements of the East German 7TD had been identified along with some reserve infantry units which had come up from Hamburg; this wasn’t a strong opponent and there had hardly been any fixed defensive works constructed either that the US Marines would have to overcome.
All in all, a landing around Esbjerg was very appealing for the US Marines and BLACK PYTHON was something desired at the highest levels for the strategic opportunities a landing in Jutland presented, especially if it could be done with haste and with little friendly casualties.
The 5th Marine Division was a wartime ad hoc formation put together in a hurry. It lacked basic administrative elements that a peacetime formation would have and there was little unit cohesion where officers and men were used to serving alongside each other. It’s various elements were composed of retired riflemen along with reservists and those who filled staff and training billets. In addition, it was understrength in combat formations as well as combat support units. The equipment fielded was old and often mismatched.
Despite these problems, the 5th Marine Division was still capable of the mission assigned to it in conducting a landing operation on the Danish coast. The enemy forces were similarly weak in numbers and it was certain that those East Germans expected to be encountered didn’t have the motivation and morale that the US Marines assigned did. There was plenty of fire support available and the Marine Riflemen knew that. They were keen and eager to get into combat, especially with the news that three quarters of the regular US Marines were sitting on their behinds and twiddling their thumbs in the Pacific, the Middle East and the Turkish Straits while the 2nd Marine Division had been heavily engaged in Norway. To show the world what the US Marines could do was something that the men making up the 5th Marine Division were pretty eager to do.
It was put up or shut up time.
Amphibious shipping to support them had come from the Norwegian Sea in part though mainly from the reserves along the US East Coast. Recently-retired and stored vessels had been hastily-crewed and sailed across the North Atlantic; carried in them had been assault landing craft and helicopters too. Off the coast of southern England, the 5th Marine Division met up with those ships and then the convoys of vessels headed towards Esbjerg under air cover supplied by the carriers America and Kennedy.
The landing at Esbjerg was conducted with two main assaults commencing either side of the city to the northeast and the southwest. Regimental Landing Team 28 (RLT 28 – the reformed 28th Marine Regiment) conducted their landings via their assault craft in the former area with the aim of moving into the city slowly and taking on the expected stand that the East Germans would make there. CH-53A Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopters flown by Marine Reservists from Dallas brought in towed 155mm howitzers to selected firing positions and also much ammunition for those guns too so that RLT 28 wouldn’t be alone.
A bigger landing with many more troops involved, especially in the first wave rather than in the build-up fashion to the north, came in the southwest with RLT 26 & RLT 27. These three-battalion task forces arrived on beaches and moved in-land fast towards several sites identified as garrisons where the East Germans were. Marine Hornets flying from the US Navy carriers offshore had already hit those locations but there was a fear that such attacks might not have been successful as they looked on gun camera footage. The enemy had had a long time to dig-in here and these were professional soldiers too.
Several outposts were engaged on the way as the US Marines moved inland and they took on those quickly as electronic warfare teams with the Marine Riflemen reported many radio calls being made from such enemy positions. Such haste turned out to be the best of decisions as there was soon a lot of artillery fire coming from inland towards the direction from where the US Marines had landed. Counterbattery fire was plotted to eliminate such guns so far yet unseen but that was never going to be immediate.
There was air activity in the skies above the Marine Riflemen on the ground. They had their armed Cobra helicopters acting in support, those Hornets flown by fellow US Marines and then US Navy aircraft flying missions too. Opposition came from short-range East German Army air defence systems which couldn’t always be jammed and then there were some Soviet fighters that made an appearance during the early stages of BLACK PYTHON too. The aim was to keep those Soviet aircraft from getting either at the troops on the ground or at the landing craft heading back to the amphibious ships too. Missiles criss-crossed the skies and both sides too casualties in the air, yet the landings were still going unmolested.
An understrength battalion of tanks came ashore behind the Marine Riflemen and were racing to catch up with them. These were up-armoured M-60s with the 5th Marine Tank Battalion, another brand-new unit. They were careful in crossing the beach in case it was mined and then moved inland behind the Marine Riflemen they were to support. The Baltic shoreline far in the distance was where they were heading towards, though that would be after much fighting had been done first.
A side operation with BLACK PYTHON was the landing made by a company detached from one of RLT 28’s battalions. Using helicopters, these US Marines arrived on Sylt which was an island-shaped peninsula in the far north of West Germany. German Territorial troops had withdrawn here early in the war with a view to trying to hold on against all the odds. An initial attempt to push them out had been repulsed and they had managed to hold on here. The causeway linking Sylt with the mainland was blockaded and the West Germans present here who were on their own had used their extensive supply of artillery and anti-aircraft guns to hold out.
The small airstrip was judged by the US Marines to be suitable for their own operations with some improvements made as it would sit right on their flank. They moved troops there first this morning with their assault into Jutland though engineers and then aviators would be following them soon afterwards.
The landing on Sylt was a firm success though the Germans rescued there didn’t feel like they were in a position to be rescued as the US Marines treated them like they were being. These reservists had held out for a long time and their pride told them that this was a firm defensible position. Regardless of this small side issue, Sylt was now going to be a firm supporting base. The US Marines were on the European Continent to stay and Sylt would be a part of that.
Two Hundred & Ten
The invasion of Austria commenced at dawn on Wednesday March 30th.
Colonel-General Aleksey Arsenevich Demidov, the peacetime commander of the Southern Group of Forces (SGF) and now controlling the Hungarian Front, ordered the Soviet, Hungarian and Czechoslovak troops under his command forward into battle in what he personally feared was going to be a very tough fight from which few of those would end up surviving when it was all over.
The reason behind this concealed dread that the operational commander had was down to how unconventional the invasion was; typical Soviet military strategy was not to be followed with the strike across into Austria. The long-term plans which the SFG had and which had long been exercised would have seen a massive contribution from paratroopers, airmobile troops and large numbers of strike aircraft accompanying a huge ground assault. With that ground attack there would have been multiple axis’ of advance to link-up with assault troops flown forward where thousands of tanks would have been involved. Many warfighting assets would have been wasted in feints to draw away attention while there would have been an immense amount of long distance fire support to blast apart the enemy far away from the battlefield in it’s supposedly safe rear areas.
None of this happened with the attack General Demidov led into Austria. He didn’t have the manpower, he didn’t have enough aircraft and he didn’t have men to waste. His task was to get his troops deep into Austria and engage the Austrian Army – and the expected NATO troops soon to reinforce them – as soon as possible on a tight timescale so that the objective of pinning enemy attention there in the country as far away from Soviet-controlled territory as possible could be achieved.
The Soviet Fourth Guards Army led the main attack into Austria.
The three divisions assigned – the regular 254MRD and the reserve formations 50TD & 126MRD – had all been assembled in the northwest of Hungary for the past week and moved towards the border on command. Artillery, heavy mortars and rockets preceded their advance aiming to hit Austrian defences just over the border while there were also tactical missiles used to hit targets further back. On the right-hand side those two reserve formations moved after coming up from the area around Gyor and following the main roads leading directly towards Vienna. They were side-by-side in their attack rather than the tank division following the motorised rifle formation and spread over a wide area aiming to smash through enemy lines. Meanwhile, on the left came the 254MRD moving from the border salient around Sopron; General Demidov had instructed the field army commander to commit all three divisions at once rather than delay the movement of the latter as an exploitation force as he would have preferred to himself because higher orders from STAVKA demanded this mass attack.
Just as expected, the attacking Soviets ran into the best units of the Austrian Army sitting facing that expected invasion route. For weeks now the Austrians had been fearing such an attack like this and had tried their best to maintain their neutrality by diplomatic means and also making sure that their nationwide mobilisation was visible to all. That strategy hadn’t worked so it was now up to the men on the ground to do the job of defending Austria with their lives. There were four light infantry brigades organised as free-standing separate combat formations (light tanks, towed anti-tank guns and artillery were assigned) in the area of the main attack coming over border along with three regiments of Territorial troops as well. These light formations were all well-armed and dug-in well into fixed positions covered by heavy weapons to shoot into defined kill-zones. They had multiple fall-back positions and had set up mazes of traps in the form of mines and physical blockages. Civilians had been cleared from the towns and villages near the border and evacuated far back deep into Austria. The Danube Valley and Vienna were where the invader would surely advance towards and such a move was planned to be halted before it reached there.
The initial clash of arms was just as each side projected it would be. The Soviets ran right into the Austrian defences and tried to overcome them with their fire support and mobility, yet found that the Austrians were clinging tenaciously to their own territory. Only when the tactical situation demanded it did the Austrians fall back and they certainly weren’t adverse to localised counterattacks too. Man-portable anti-armour weapons fielded by autonomous anti-tank teams (using recoilless rifles as ATGMs were banned by international treaties from Austrian service) caused chaos in areas of ground won by the attacking Soviets and the T-55s fielded by their two reserve divisions really took the brunt of such defensive efforts. Far more artillery fire missions than planned had to be fired to blast whole areas to nothing just to kill those defenders and that ammunition expended had been tasked for later missions. Where the 254MRD attacked in a planned move to head towards Vienna from the south, those regular troops had just as many problems as the reservists. Again, they had to blast their way forward with artillery just to get anywhere and they weren’t able to overrun the defences just push them back.
Overall, the wartime strategy of Austria involved making the country very difficult and also costly for an attacker to take, especially at the outset. Its army was trained to defend the borders and there were also many fixed fortifications in place as well to assist the troops on the ground and out in the open. The turrets from tanks retired from active service with the Austrian Army littered many strategic points along the borders with plenty of thought going into their particular siting so that they would be along anticipated invasion routes. Tanks built in Britain, the United States and also the Soviet Union had been retired through the years yet their main weapons served as gun emplacements in fixed position protected from attack. Along the Austrian-Hungarian border there were many of these weapons and they were soon in the thick of the action.
What the Austrian Armed Forces didn’t have was a modern air force… and they surely needed one on the morning of the invasion. Even an adequate number of point-defence fighters, backed-up by suitable mobile ground control, would have assisted them greatly in defending their country from the damaging if limited series of air strikes which came their way. Thirty plus Saab-105O attack-fighters were in the inventory of the Austrian Air Force while the planned soon arrival of Draken interceptors from Sweden was currently on hold due to Sweden being involved in the war. These turbojet-powered aircraft were in no way capable of defending Austria and struggled to survive as the Soviets flew three times as many aircraft above Austria in the invasion’s opening hours and those were all of much better quality with superior weapons and combat systems. The Saab-105Os were blasted out of the sky when they got airborne and the few which survived long-range missile attacks beyond visual range had no bases to return to afterwards. It was a massacre… yet it couldn’t be argued that the Austrians weren’t aware of the limitations of their tiny fleet of combat aircraft.
The troops on the ground fighting the Soviet Fourth Guards Army were of good quality and were considered to be enough to seriously delay and invasion coming along the expected invasion route. However, full mobilisation had allowed Austria to field heavier combat forces in reserve and organised in a three-brigade fashion into the 1st Panzergrenadier Division. This was a NATO-type formation well-equipped and with the best troops available. It had been assigned the counter-attacking role and was located behind those combat units right at the frontlines. The local geography of the eastern part of Austria south and east of Vienna would allow for mechanised movement towards the capital and that was where the 1st Panzergrenadier Division was waiting. A tight rein was kept on the division with its tanks and mechanised infantry by higher headquarters though it was anticipated that it would soon see action smashing into the most threatening enemy attack and tearing that apart.
Other formations of the Austrian Army were elsewhere in the country. There were many small units in static roles guarding key positions though other forces located along the border with Czechoslovakia and the rest of the Hungarian frontier, including small counter-attacking forces too.
North of Vienna, Czechoslovak reservists assigned to the Hungarian Front under General Demidov edged towards the border and over that into Austrian defences there. A bigger effort was made right to the west in the direction of Linz, yet that didn’t meet any major progress. It was hoped that the Austrians might be distracted by this and move mobile forces in that direction, yet the almost instant failure on the part of the Czechoslovak troops here wasn’t going to cause such a reaction as the border defences actually held back the invader. This truly messed up the overall operational plan to a great degree and more capable troops certainly should have been assigned there: the Soviet Fourth Guards Army was supposed to be in Linz after four or five days following a bypassing of the urban area that was Vienna and a drive up the Danube Valley towards Germany.
Such plans always looked great on paper though…
The Hungarian Army was not something feared anywhere in the West and not in the Eastern Bloc either. Hungary spent less on defence than other nations behind the Iron Curtain and the country’s living standards were thus higher than elsewhere… despite the intense political repression at home. The four Soviet divisions with the SFG pre-war were relied upon by the Hungarian leadership to defend their nation yet three of those had gone to Czechoslovakia and East Germany in the immediate build-up to World War Three erupting. Hungary had been forced to mobilise its poorly-equipped and badly-led military under Soviet instruction yet three weeks on continued exercise and preparation for combat only brought forth those failings with the men under arms and domestic troubles at home. Orders had come through from STAVKA – directly bypassing the civilian Hungarian Government – for the Hungarians to attack Austria though even with such a weak force and these were followed.
Operating as the First Hungarian Corps with a total of eight mixed-arms brigades under command, the invasion was launched from springboards around Gyaloka, Szombathely and Csorotnek. From the northernmost of the three towns a pair of Hungarian brigades were to cover the flank of the Soviet 254MRD and maybe provide manpower for attacking fixed defences which the Soviets were struggling with though that would depend upon tactical circumstances. Those other six brigades were to strike west following the roads leading into Austria with the distant city of Graz being their ultimate objective… such an aim was almost laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.
The Hungarians crashed into another pair of light infantry brigades which the Austrians fielded and who had the support of Territorial troops on the ground and more bunkers up high with tank turrets. Well-aimed fire from 105mm guns which were once mounted atop Centurion tanks did immense damage to Hungarian armoured units though so did 85mm & 90mm cannons from retired Charioteers and M-47s. Hungarian military equipment was old and operated by inexperienced and badly-trained crews who even if they had wanted to be committed to this mission didn’t stand a chance. The lone heavy brigade of Austrian troops behind the forward troops remained waiting for the Hungarians to make a major effort to get far from their start-lines though very quickly there was talk of that formation going northwards instead.
There had been some morale problems with the Soviet reservists assigned to the invasion and a few isolated cases of disobedience from Czechoslovak units too immediately before and during the invasion. In these cases such incidents were quickly and harshly dealt with and examples made. Outright mutiny came from within the ranks of dozens of Hungarian units though and field police units couldn’t contain these at all. Officers were murdered, men refused to attack and groups of soldiers set off to defect en mass to their supposed enemies in Austria. Such actions were exploited by the Austrians too as their Kurassier light tanks charged forwards leading dismounted infantry into gaps made by trouble in the Hungarian lines.
The First Hungarian Corps was soon in disarray and while inside Austria and large in number, it was hardly a real threat after the trouble which erupted within its ranks and the countermoves to exploit that.
Those fears that General Demidov had right before the invasion were quickly shown to be true. Within a few hours of the cross-border attack beginning he was sure that all was lost with the mission and by midday there were no doubters among his staff of this opinion of his when he chose to make it verbal. The reports of the tough fight being put up at the border against the Soviet Fourth Guards Army and then the failures of the Hungarians on their flank told him much but then so too did the intelligence gained on what the enemy was up to. Overflying Soviet aircraft had been unable to locate the Austrian heavy force known to be waiting ready to counterattack so they could begin the process of attacking it from the air and the plan for a successful invasion depended upon such a thing. The Austrians needed to commit their heavy forces early, especially against the right flank of the Soviet Fourth Guards Army so that the stronger left flank could surge forward. The enemy wasn’t co-operating with that plan though and the Austrians were doing a very effective job of defending their country with what they already had at the border.
Matters got worse as the day went on with intelligence pointing to more capable opposing aircraft being encountered in Austrian skies. There were some NATO fighters coming down from Germany which meant that the grand strategic plan was working in that respect, but also making appearances were Italian aircraft too. These had come up over the Alps and were attacking Soviet aircraft over Austria on clear offensive missions… that wasn’t supposed to have happened at all and General Demidov knew that it wasn’t going to be fun to have to report such news back up the chain of command to STAVKA. Marshal Ogarkov had got rid of the KGB people who used to be with his headquarters as part of the Third Chief Directorate and so he didn’t have to fear being shot by a Chekist on a trumped-up charge of ‘defeatism’ yet he knew that such intervention on the part of the Italians with their aircraft would probably mean there would be troops too following them: that would be the end of the Austrian invasion and might lead to an invasion of Hungary instead.
Such a result would be the complete opposite of the whole concept of invading Austria in such a manner at this stage in the war.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 22:15:44 GMT
Two Hundred & Eleven
Whilst the fighting was spreading elsewhere, the vast majority of the combat taking place in World War Three remained within Germany. It was here where the massed armies of the two opposing sides were gathered and locked in their epic struggles to defeat one another.
This was where the war was going to be decided, everyone was sure, and where the vast majority of those lost in the conflict were going to meet their end.
In the northern portions of West Germany, there were two army group commands in-place there commanding NATO troops with a third on its way. In size these equated to the Front-level command structure employed by the Soviets though the armies fielded here by the Allies remained of a multi-national character, especially the British Second Army. There were American, Belgian, Portuguese and West German troops under General Kenny’s command while the French Second Army also had some West Germans with them along with a scattering of Dutch troops too who had survived the near total destruction of their previous command formations. Command problems between these combat units from different nations were few and far between due to the pre-war NATO structure and now only came about due to language problems after they had all shared combat and bled together. Units which had started the war under one headquarters were now somewhere totally different and formations with a clearly-defined structure before the first shots had been fired were now mixed-and-matched with others. There were new units which had been stood up – at the highest levels too – and then many others which had been disestablished.
The Northern Army Group had been the peacetime command formation on the North German Plain but what NATO forces were there now were almost unrecognisable after two and a half weeks of combat. Many troops remained in operational areas where they had spent their military service exercising over and therefore knew the ground well while others remained a fish out of water somewhere far from home and full of the unexpected.
General Kenny and his French counterpart were both leading their commands towards the Inter-German Border. They had political instructions to not go over that defining line, though there was pressure too coming to get as close as possible to there so that the last lingering portions of West Germany held by the enemy could be liberated. The population which had been caught the wrong sides of the frontlines was known to be suffering immensely under occupation and those West Germans needed to be liberated as soon as possible.
Moreover, there was also an unofficial race underway.
Senior military officers from several armies – in particular the British Army, the French Army and the United States Army – wanted to be the first to reach the border as a matter of pride for themselves and their organisations. Then there were the junior officers and the fighting men themselves who were all now well-aware of not only the treatment of West German civilians but also their fellow soldiers who had first fallen into enemy captivity and then been lucky enough to be rescued afterwards. Many men had returned to service though as battlefield replacements with different units and they brought with them horror stories of what the Soviets had done; some of these tales were exaggerations but many were very real indeed. The men wanted to liberate more of their fellow soldiers who remained prisoners of the enemy but they also desired a terrible vengeance too and considered the best way of doing that was to get into the enemy’s territory and give them a beating on the battlefield there.
The French Second Army was pushing up against Hamburg’s southern reaches still though avoiding the edges of the urban area and instead isolating those East German security forces encountered who were occupying the city. Fierce resistance was put up in places, yet those men who the French were combating were far from professional soldiers and all the dedication to the cause didn’t make up for the fact that they had no idea how to combat real fighting men. The French also moved eastwards towards the Elbe either side of the city; along the Elbe Estuary their moves were less contested than further upstream in the area around Luneburg. The Inter-German Border was not far away and again there were incidents where political troops from the East Berlin regime were engaged and fought against, but at the same time Soviet troops encountered here fought well too.
French tactical intelligence pointed to these being from the Soviet 3GMRD and that formation had gained a wealth of combat experience during this conflict. The Soviets were overcome with force of numbers as the French had the numerical advantage in this fight but the Soviets didn’t give in easy. They fell back to the Elbe and thus the border with the French hot on their tails aiming to reach that river but wouldn’t yield from those positions. The information concerning this unexpected development was shared up the chain of command by the French III & V Corps to their headquarters with the French Second Army, which soon afterwards was to confirm that other NATO forces were reporting the same issue in isolated but growing locations.
Throughout the day, senior NATO commanders started informing their political masters that a sudden boost of morale had infected many enemy units even with the continuing series of ongoing defeats they were suffering. It was speculated at the highest levels that this was due to Marshal Ogarkov taking over and political issues with the field formations being resolved but at the same time it was not anticipated to be in anyway generally effective overall.
The British Second Army was almost three times the size of the French-led army group on their left and operating over a much larger area. The units under command were all still engaged in chasing the retreating Soviets back towards the border though still some distance away in many places. There were plenty of enemy forces who weren’t about to roll over and be beaten nor withdraw and so the NATO forces under General Kenny’s command had to smash through them.
His British and Bundeswehr units remained along the Elbe-Lateral Canal and pushing towards the Wolfsburg area as well. Those new formations that the West Germans had put together after long being formed up in the Ruhr and the Rhineland were by now seeing action; three divisions had come under command full of old soldiers. This was the combat which many of them had been trained to fight in during their years as conscripts and afterwards thought that they had avoided when released from military service in the years leading up to the war. Now they were back in uniform and issued with older equipment – like what they were used to – and finally putting those soldiering skills which they were remembering to use. In some quarters there had been worries over whether they would be up to the job, yet General Kenny had never had a doubt about that. The NATO armies were all doing this and the West Germans were also defending their country too.
The enemy counterattack against the British I Corps yesterday had stung those assigned forces to that command greatly yet the British were recovering here. There had been many air attacks undertaken and long-range artillery missions commenced though through the Wednesday the British remained on the western side of the canal making sure their hold over the left bank was secure and building up their strength. A major push was planned for tomorrow and so before them all the necessary pieces needed to be in-place. With enough marshalled troops and plentiful fire support, once they got moving on the Thursday morning, the British Army planned to reach the Inter-German Border before anyone else could.
Operating in the area around Braunschweig and Salzgitter, and now across the narrow Oker River, the Americans were pushing forward too. Their US III Corps was still understrength and waiting reassignment to the US Third Army when that command formation along with reinforcements came into play, but before then it was advancing towards the Inter-German Border. Their troops got into a major fight around the forest at Oderwald that was particularly vicious and costly, yet they were still winning engagement after engagement, if slower than beforehand. The famous Helmstedt Crossing – also known as ‘Checkpoint Alpha’ – was not that far away from them though at the moment it was out of their immediate grasp. If the US III Corps hadn’t taken the losses that it had done earlier in the war then things might have been different, however…
Many former POWs returned to the US III Corps and this number was proportionally higher than anywhere else in northern parts of West Germany. The United States Army believed in having a very fast turn-around time with those soldiers freed from enemy captivity especially due to those returning to the US III Corps as having not been long as prisoners of the enemy. Some men were of course brought back to serve with their colleagues too early and were soon to suffer from mental and emotional problems, yet the vast majority showed little immediate signs of complications. They were generally as mad as hell as what had happened to them and at what they had witnessed happening to others and wanted to take the fight to the enemy rather than sitting in the rear dwelling on it all. This wasn’t a uniform approach being made everywhere else and certainly wasn’t always going to be the best thing to do, yet for now the US III Corps was benefiting from the increase in manpower. While not boasting about it to his superior General Kenny, the US III Corps commander General Saint was actually hoping that maybe he could get to Helmstedt before anyone else reached the Inter-German Border due to the infusion of manpower.
The race was on… though there were still a hell of a lot of the enemy on West German sovereign territory and sitting between NATO troops in northern Germany and the border which they were trying to reach.
Two Hundred & Twelve
The advance towards the Inter-German Border continued elsewhere too along with liberated occupied portions of West Germany and then, of most importance, smashing apart the enemy forces arrayed against NATO as well.
Three more army groups were assembled running southwards from the edge of the operational area of the British Second Army down to the Austrian border and these all had a multinational character too. The US Fifth & Seventh Armys were still combating the Soviet forces opposing them and pushing forward like everyone else while maintaining their make-up of primary American formations though with Spanish and West German troops assigned too. The French troops which had been with the latter formation had left that command effective last night with a view to transfer southwards to join the French First Army (with French, Moroccan and Bundeswehr forces assigned), but with this morning’s events in Austria that deployment was being altered. Those men with the French II Corps – which had been deployed forward in Germany pre-war – were not going to the Danube area in eastern Bavaria but were being tasked further southwards.
Of particular note with the day’s fighting in central parts of Germany was what many referred to Lt.-General Schwarzkopf’s attempts to seemingly win the war single-handed with the US V Corps. Though it was unprofessional, there was a lot of jealousy and backbiting when it came to the corps commander’s attempts to get the command he had recently taken over and then led into multiple successful engagements back into the Fulda Gap. His superiors were more than pleased with the drive and determination that he had, yet many of his peers were not so much and did ask what was the point in returning to that region apart from settling the issue of pride.
US Seventh Army commander General Otis and most importantly General Galvin as SACEUR were both behind Schwarzkopf’s offensive to return the United States Army to the rolling open terrain of the Fulda Gap as this was perfect tank country. Once there, the US V Corps would be able to smash apart the enemy forces opposing them in open battle rather than in more challenging terrain elsewhere and also reach the Inter-German Border. The 82nd Airborne Division, which had only seen action at Rhein-Main Airbase / Frankfurt International Airport and an aborted engagement trying to recapture the airfield at Hanau so far in this war, was committed to support Schwarzkopf. The two combat brigades assigned were transported by helicopter into multiple airmobile assaults during the entrance into the Fulda Gap before then being left behind when the tanks of the 3rd Armored & 24th Mechanized Infantry Divisions overtook them. There was intense Soviet opposition to this advance on the ground and also in the air where enemy aircraft were encountered in numbers not seen for a while. 4 ATAF assigned assets struggled against such opponents especially as there was no intelligence that such numbers would show up to oppose the US V Corps’ attack like they did, yet that did mean that other aircraft weren’t operated elsewhere at the same time.
Soviet and East German forces on the ground assigned to the Soviet Third Guards & Sixth Guards Tank Armys didn’t benefit greatly from the air support that they were given and the elements of those two field armies engaged in battle were unable to stop the Schwarzkopf. There was pressure on both their flanks from further American units on their right and Spanish troops to the left too. They were unable to stop the United States Army from getting out of the Gelnhausen Corridor into the open countryside and from then charging towards the Fulda River and the stretch of Autobahn-7 that ran through the area. A retreat was made back towards the border but many units with the Soviet Sixth Guards Tank Army were given permission to fall back to the town of Fulda. From there they would be right on the Americans flank and also holding that major communications point therefore denying effective NATO control of the region until they could be blasted out of their new defensive positions.
The battle for control here wasn’t over yet, though Schwarzkopf was hardly on his own and when his advance continued into the next day more American ground forces would be entering the fight here.
The French II Corps was tasked initially to move towards the Nurnberg area and then move down to the Bavarian Forest to link up with their countrymen already pushing towards the Czechoslovak frontier along with the Bundeswehr. It was anticipated that they would make this journey quickly as traffic control procedures were already in place to facilitate such a transfer and transport was all assembled. The Soviet invasion of Austria changed the plans there though and all of a sudden the French were tasked to head for Munich with immediate effect though with a follow-up for them to then reach the Passau and Salzburg areas. Austria had long been maintaining its neutrality and combined with the chaos that the sudden invasion brought inside their country, there was no speedy contact made in terms of a liaison between their military forces and those of NATO.
General Galvin had ordered such a move because he believed that soon enough NATO troops were going to be needed in Austria as the flank there wouldn’t be allowed to be turned should the Austrians suddenly face a collapse. He couldn’t see into the future and adequately yet predict that they would hold and therefore had to do his job and react to the unexpected. Senior French Army representatives at his headquarters set about organising that redeployment and there were no political issues with such a move.
However, this was never going to be an easy affair.
It was a long way down to Austria and while NATO aircraft had the upper hand in the air war against the Soviets, they didn’t have air dominance or anything close to it. Such a redeployment could be badly delayed by long-range enemy air attacks and then there was also the enemy’s use of tactical missiles to be taken into consideration too. NATO troops in French uniforms weren’t going to appear overnight in Austria no matter how much anyone wanted that to happen.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 22:22:49 GMT
Two Hundred & Thirteen
The politicians met in Brussels earlier than planned. Events drove the rescheduling of the summit between senior government figures from NATO to gather in Belgian capital before the plan had been for them to assemble, especially Marshal Ogarkov’s coup in Moscow.
US Secretary of State (SecState) Chuck Grassley flew across the Atlantic and so too did the Canadian Foreign Minister while Tom King also came by aircraft. Other politicians came by aircraft and helicopters from across Europe and there was a major military effort undertaken to guarantee that their arrivals were free from external interference. On the ground too, Brussels was flooded with Belgian security troops to reinforce those already in the capital as there remained a fear that enemy commandoes or domestic subversives (Belgium, had like most of Europe, seen their fair share of the activities of these treasonous terrorists) might try to launch a bloody intervention.
The SHAPE complex at Casteau near Mons would usually have been where the North Atlantic Council (NAC) would meet, but Lord Carrington as Secretary-General had removed the political command structure of NATO from there before war broke out. Multiple separate locations were used for NATO to continue to function with the necessary administration done across small towns throughout Belgium south of Brussels: schools and other non-essential government buildings not in use became home to these efforts as much of the non-combat support functions of the command had temporarily ceased. As to the NAC and its high-level diplomats, those men had been inside a security zone in the heart of Brussels which the Belgians had set up in a similar fashion to that ‘ring of steel’ which had been in place in London. They were based at several hotels set aside for their use though most inter-NATO cooperation was now occurring either at the tactical level with army group headquarters in the field or with telephone links between heads of governments in bunkers. Nonetheless, NATO was still in Belgium and the support network was there for foreign ministers to meet as they needed to.
Those diplomatic Permanent Representatives to NATO who regularly sat on the North Atlantic Council from the various countries which were meeting several times a day along with their aides had been at the forefront of ironing out differences between their countries whilst they were all at war. Their task was to make sure that matters ran seamlessly behind the scenes so the troops at the frontlines wouldn’t have to receive conflicting orders from their national commands and NATO field commanders, but rather just from the latter. This certainly wasn’t an easy task, especially when things had gone wrong, yet it was something that was being maintained throughout the conflict. The NAC was meant to be a forum for senior government officials like foreign ministers or heads of government to meet as well as the Permanent Representatives and such was the case late this evening when the aircraft and helicopters arrived in Brussels.
The historic Hotel Metropole in the heart of Brussels was where Grassley, King and the others met. This location was inside the protected zone within the Belgian capital and had been used throughout the war to host various diplomatic figures staying within the country. It wasn’t very spacious as a conference location, but it was secure.
Tom King had come to Brussels with the newly-appointed Armed Forces Minister Michael Howard MP. The two of them had flown over from London and been engaged in discussions concerning their country’s role in the conflict. Howard had only just replaced Ian Stewart when his colleague had resigned at the same time George Younger had as Defence Secretary but he was quickly on top of his brief. They spoke about the future strategy for the war which Thatcher and the War Cabinet had agreed upon and also the unofficial hints they had been given about what Grassley and the Americans would want. The two of them got on well as would be able to make sure that a perfect united front would be put on at the conference when the NAC started talking.
When Grassley arrived, the SecState was met by Richard Armitage who had come up from Geneva. These two hadn’t got on well in the past during the former Iowa Senator’s short time as SecState and this was to continue. Both had different ideas and weren’t afraid to tell the other that there was a major schism between such. Nevertheless, they had instructions from Bush and were to follow those despite their personal feelings over those.
The NAC met to discuss the conduct of the war and more importantly the future of such fighting too. West Germany was nearly all liberated while Norway was in the same position and NATO forces were fighting to push the enemy out of Denmark as well. As these efforts continued, the borders of not just the Soviet Union’s allies but also that nation itself were very soon to be reached unless there was a dramatic turnaround in fortunes. On the eve of the conflict, directives had been issued that in any counter-attacking scenario, those borders were not to be crossed on the ground with troops invading such nations.
Matters had changed since then though, especially in how many NATO nations regarded the regimes of their enemies as being pure evil. There was plenty of evidence of the atrocities which had been committed against civilians and captured military personnel alike and this went alongside the war of aggression launched against multiple nations. There hadn’t been any sympathy for those regimes beforehand; now there was just pure rage directed against them. The general feeling expressed before this NAC gathering was that in continuing the war, NATO had to make sure that the enemy was defeated in detail. To just push them back over their borders wasn’t enough: they had to be stopped from attacking again.
While this had been a generally wide opinion, it wasn’t a uniform one. There were different views on how this was to be done in addition the feelings of several nations which had joined the Allies – which now overlapped with NATO – that invading the Eastern Bloc could only lead to that dreaded thermonuclear response. Such a fear was evident within many though not all believed that that would come should East Germany, Poland or Czechoslovakia be attacked.
Some hostility was present too among these allied countries senior representatives with beliefs of betrayal, lack of commitment to the NATO cause and the view that the wishes of some nations – especially those not official NATO nations – shouldn’t hold as much weight as those who had committed more than those in this conflict from the beginning.
The fourteen NATO nations which had been at war with the Soviet-led Socialist Forces since the start had their foreign ministers here: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and West Germany. The Finnish, Irish and the Swedes had all sent top-level officials and then there was the Italian Foreign Minister who was a last-minute arrival as well. Such a gathering of people speaking different languages required multiple translations and advisers for all of them. Without the long-standing NATO structure under Lord Carrington there would have been a lot of chaos yet at the Hotel Metropole things were kept under control. Everyone was allowed their say… within the confines of diplomacy.
Tom King and Michael Howard both tried their best to help maintain the unity that they felt should have been present. Nothing was spoken openly about that vote that the Dutch Cabinet had taken early in the war to seek a way out of the conflict and the views of the Finnish, Irish and Swedes were listened to. When it came to the Italians, these two British ministers put a lot of effort into keeping the peace there as quite a bit of hostility was still being felt to the decision of the Rome government to first sit out the war and now to suddenly announce they were entering the conflict at this late stage.
The Americans were setting the agenda at this meeting though and the NAC was forced to follow their lead in discussions. Grassley and Armitage both put the wishes of Acting President Bush forward that the Eastern Bloc, not the Soviet Union, needed to be invaded. The liberation of West Berlin was a key war aim that the United States wished to see undertaken alongside the destruction of the regimes in East Germany and Czechoslovakia. These two men spoke of Poland and now Hungary too as further enemies which should be invaded so that the regimes in both could be brought down as well.
There was much support for this, though opposition too.
Those fears over nuclear war were present but so too were others over what the future would bring with successful invasions: were there any plans for what would happen on the ground in those nations should their regimes be toppled and Soviet military forces pushed out? There were still other enemy forces holding onto other parts of NATO territory and elsewhere with significant parts of Denmark in Soviet hands along with the very northern reaches of West Germany and now parts of Austria too. Shouldn’t those be liberated first before attention was focused upon Berlin and Prague, let alone Warsaw and Budapest? Several NATO nations were suffering domestically from the effects of the war and not just those who had been partly occupied either. Assistance needed to go into rebuilding and civilian relief as there had been internal chaos in many countries.
The first night of the conference ended late so that those present could get some sleep and also contact their home governments. Nothing had yet to be decided and further talks were needed. There hadn’t been a major break with inter-NATO relations and no one had stormed out of the NAC meeting, yet there was plenty of diplomacy to be undertaken before a final series of decisions could be made. However, at the same time, everyone was aware that events on the battlefield could change matters at any time and they needed to keep that in mind as well.
Two Hundred & Fourteen
Throughout the evening and night following the joint Soviet and Hungarian invasion of Austria, forces of the Italian Army moved into that country too. Theirs was an unopposed move which came across the Alps and through the mountain passes until like the fierce opposition being put up to the east. Immense convoys on the roads and rail snaked over the border as the fully-mobilised Italian Army set off for warfare beyond their own frontiers.
There was some movement by air, but mainly the Italians moved on the ground. They had been planning this move for a long time now and every effort was made to make it as seamless and fast as possible. Fighters patrolled the skies above while there were anti-air defences moving with the convoys. Helicopters transported selected groups of armed men forward to link up with Austrian rear area defence forces at key points where there was a fear of enemy commando operations to block key routes while a big effort was made on the ground by combat engineers to advance with the vanguards to scout for explosives laid in preparation to disable the cross-border movement at other vulnerable points. As it turned out, it wouldn’t be enemy action that delayed the Italians and neither problems with the Austrians letting them cross into their country, but the scale of their own effort in moving so much so fast over limited access points through the Alps which would cause the Italians the problems which they encountered.
Strategic thinking for the Italians throughout the Cold War was that in a scenario where fighting broke out they would have to face an attacking enemy – Warsaw Pact forces were not actually named directly in studies for political reasons – approaching their country from the northeast. Austria and Yugoslavia lay in that direction and as those plans covered Italy fighting as part of NATO against the Eastern Bloc, it was assumed that Warsaw Pact forces would come through those countries in number towards Italy and its army. There were numerous variants of the general war plan covering this to do with either or both neighbouring countries being invaded first and then the level of involvement that either had in such an invasion too – Austrian neutrality and Yugoslavian active assistance were the more numerous versions – but the general concept for what the Italian Army was meant to do remained the same: they were to fight to defend Italian territory as far as possible beyond those borders inside the territory of their neighbours. Other military threats to Italy were foreseen as coming across the Adriatic and in the central Mediterranean as well (enemy naval action possibly combined with small-scale maritime commando strikes) but to the northeast was where the threat lay.
Consequently, the Italians had the majority of their active military ground forces in that area with air and missile support also positioned to act too in the northeast region along the borders with Austria and Yugoslavia. In peacetime, there were heavy ground forces there along with lighter units for Alpine operations. More mobile troops could be called upon along with airborne troops too so that full scale battles on terms that the Italian Army would set could be achieved rapidly without those forces having to travel a long distance throughout the country first. Supplies and transportation assets were also gathered throughout the northeast as well with the intention that those were on-hand too rather than having to be waited for in a wartime scenario. The best minds in the Italian military had long put plenty of thought into how the Italian Army, along with the Italian Air Force and even the Italian Navy as well, would fight for the cause of keeping Italian sovereign territory clear of an enemy invader aiming to enter the country across the Alps to the north or through the plains directly a-joining Yugoslavia.
The political decision made in Rome to stay out of the war when it broke out was opposed in many quarters. NATO allies of Italy had extended enormous pressure and reminded the country on multiple occasions of treaty commitments. Italians politicians had reacted furiously to the decision to stay out of the conflict while there had been a lot of discontent in parts of the intelligence services as well. As international trade collapsed with the war affecting that and then intentional economic moves by the United States, the Italian economy had suffered immensely leading to bankers and financiers turning against the government’s decision to stay out of the conflict. At the same time, there remained many people in the country who were pleased that Italy wasn’t involved in the fighting taking place elsewhere and causing all of that death and destruction. Many politicians fought to keep the government committed to its course of action and the influential trade union movement wasn’t in favour of war either. Ordinary civilians weren’t out marching and demanding that their country go to war either and when they expressed their views those were that they were glad that the war wasn’t killing Italians.
The government hadn’t stayed out of the war because they supported Soviet interests nor because they were opposed to the ideals of the West either. Italy would suffer greatly in any conflict internally and with military losses expected to be heavy whatever the outcome… as they had been in the past two world wars. That was why that decision in the build-up to conflict erupting had been made.
Meanwhile, the Italian military had been forced to remain neutral in such ideological clashes. Those at the top issued clear instructions down the chain of command that the country’s armed forces were to following the legal instructions of the government and not to take any hostile action anywhere; with there being no fighting on Italy’s borders this was something which was able to be done. Military officers who tried to express their opinion in public against the decision to stay out of the conflict – or even those who wished to support that – were silenced. However, like the armed forces of every country in Europe, those of Italy were fully mobilised and prepared for warfare. Political instructions were for this to take place should the conflict spread though no guarantees were set by the politicians to the generals of what would be done exactly in certain situations. There still remained a distant threat to the country from the northeast, the generals had argued, and there needed to be preparation to meet that head-on should the time come.
The Italian Expeditionary Army had thus been formed up in the northeast in case war did spread close to Italy and into neighbouring countries where the only sensible course of action for Italy to take would be to intervene. Peacetime command structures had three corps’ headquarters already in-place controlling over-sized combat brigades; the Italian Army had done away with divisional organisation only eighteen months beforehand. With reserves being called back to uniform in selected places and the deployment of units out of their barracks into combat positions in the field, the Italian Army stood ready to face combat abroad. The politicians had been made to understand that the military would insist on such a thing should either Austria or Yugoslavia become involved as the generals weren’t going to allow a potential invader to seize entrance points towards Italy. This hadn’t gone down well with Rome yet the politicians had enough problems trying to keep their domestic opponents under control and then fighting off not one but two attempts at a coup to topple the government: one by KGB and/or GRU agents working with native Italian left-wingers and the other by what appeared to be the Americans & French supporting Italian spooks in trying a right-wing coup. The military had been kept out of the politics with those as security forces loyal to the government put down such attempts to topple them from within and therefore the generals kept their focus on events in neighbouring countries as well as enlarging their mobilised forces.
A fourth corps command was established in the northeast (including a brigade of mechanised Carabinieri troops) to control reinforcements brought into the region and further supporting assets for the Italian Expeditionary Army gathered up. There were multiple exercises run where the government was informed that defensive preparations were being made with these… yet the politicians weren’t exactly aware that to the Italian Army that meant exercises involving rapidly moving to the borders to cross those rather than defending Italy on Italian soil as they led Rome to believe. On various occasions, certain military officers raised objections with their superiors at how the military was treating their legally-elected government with these deceptions yet disciplinary measures were enacted to detain and silence such people. The generals weren’t about to allow such moral objections to stop them from defending their country and their people and knew also that they weren’t actually breaking any laws.
In the long-run, such a situation would have reached breaking point and possibly that might have been in the same manner as had occurred in Finland. However, then came the invasion of Austria, which was just what the generals had been worried about but at the same time were ready to react too.
Immense pressure was put on the politicians to react when Austria was invaded. The generals reminded them how this wasn’t the first time in this conflict and probably wouldn’t be the last either where a neutral nation had been attacked by the Soviets and their lackeys: Finland, Ireland and Sweden were perfect examples of that. Even if there had been any sort of justification for an invasion into Austria, the government was reminded of the long term defensive security strategy of Italy when it came to the northeast. Along with the pressure being exerted from the military to act, common sense broke out among many in Rome too. They could see what the generals were saying was true and realised that Italy would have to be next in the firing line for the Soviets and their seemingly crazy desire for military and thus political domination of the European continent. A lot of pride would have to be swallowed diplomatically and there would be economic and social problems, but no other choice remained but to act to intervene.
Diplomatic moves were made to gain Austrian approval for the Italian Expeditionary Army to cross the border but before that permission could be sought Rome did give authorisation for the Italian Air Force to deploy already alerted aircraft on combat missions: of a defensive nature. The interpretation of this was up to the generals though and they took what many would consider advantage of that. Starfighter interceptors flew into Austrian air space and started engaging Soviet and Hungarian aircraft while Tornado strike-bombers and G-91 attack-fighters begun hitting ground targets east of the Graz area where the Hungarians had entered Austria. Arguably these were offensive missions, but then they were defensive at the same time as far as the Italian military was concerned.
In the main, it was with the Italian Expeditionary Army which combat to defend Italy was to be gained with. The four corps’ commands all had standing orders for their combat and combat support forces to start moving with their supporting assets. Intelligence conducted while both Austria and Italy were still neutral had pointed out where the Austrians had deployed their military forces nationwide and especially on routes through which the Italians wished to advance. As diplomats started talking, German-speaking Italian military intelligence officers were already making localised radio contact with the Austrian Army and then there came personal contacts on the ground in Austria made after helicopter flights. Some problems did occur – nothing ever goes to plan in wartime – yet there was overall success met.
What did cause issues though was the massive push the Italian Expeditionary Army made all at once over the border. There weren’t enough passes through the Alps and nowhere near enough transport aircraft and helicopters available. Traffic jams quickly occurred while those trapped within those looked nervously skywards waiting for an enemy air attack to come. Though they didn’t know why at this stage, they were fortunate that external events elsewhere caused the non-reaction of the Soviets to this massed movement of exposed military forces.
Assisted by the Austrians and unmolested by the Soviets, the Italians would quickly sort themselves out and get over the Alps in one piece ready to set off for battle. Their heavy forces would move further northeast towards the Graz area with screening forces in the rear and into western parts of Austria as well… to establish links with NATO in Bavaria and aim to spread goodwill on the ground if that couldn’t be achieved by the country’s foreign minister in Brussels. There were shipments of ammunition stocks for NATO military forces in Germany as well as civilian relief supplies ready to go straight through the Brenner Pass, past Innsbruck and towards Munich in a bribe that the Italian military believed would be taken. Moreover, there was also the intention to send parachute forces to Vienna as well.
Italy intended to secure its own territorial sovereignty far from its borders and while the current strategy of the Soviets was in effect to do the same, in the case of the former that was with allies on the ground rather than enemies as the latter had found everywhere they went.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 22:28:55 GMT
Two Hundred & Fifteen
The Great Intelligence War still remained active in many locations around the world despite the losses taken by those involved and the rapidly approaching withdrawal from the playing field of Soviet spooks operating away from home. The Greek capital of Athens was where there was still kidnapping, shooting and murders occurring on a regular basis in a tit-for-tat fashion that had long since moved away from intelligence gathering and espionage and the local authorities were unable to handle this. Professional spooks and hired killers (in the latter category many weren’t even locals but rather foreigners living in Athens) were still combating each other in the shadows though their actions sometimes occurred out in the open too. It was all rather pointless when viewed from the outside, yet those involved all believed that they were doing the right thing.
Officially, Athens and the rest of Greece was a country at peace while most of the rest of Europe was at war for the third time this century. There had been no foreign invasions of its soil and nor where there any signs that such a thing was soon to occur killing Greeks like had happened in previous wars which had torn through the continent. However, at the same time, Greece was suffering greatly because of the war.
The economy was destroyed with the collapse of international trade and then a deliberate effort made by the US Treasury to ruin the liquidation of many Greek banks and finance companies in a serious form of economic warfare. NATO warships were present in number throughout the Aegean Sea and they made it clear with their physical present who ruled the waves there; Turkey was taking advantage of its strengthened position following this. At home, there had been clashes up and down the country between pressure groups from the left and from the right with marches and demonstrations that oftentimes turned to violence. With many ordinary Greeks being out of work, this situation was only exasperated. Many Greeks had been called up for military service and were along the borders with neighbouring Balkan nations as well as on islands in the Aegean and on Cyprus too. That should have kept many potential young troublemakers off the street, yet there had been a high desertion rate and in many cases weapons had been taken by those young men leaving their military units. Civil war was thought to not be long off.
Therefore, Greece had little concern for the foreigners who wished to kill each other in the backstreets of Athens because they had more pressing issues to deal with. Other countries may have taken the drastic steps of deporting such people en masse yet there were so many other things going on that the Greek government had no time to get round to this.
The British diplomatic and intelligence presence in Athens had been greatly reduced in the immediate build-up to the conventional side of World War Three erupting and then after the great clash of armies involved. Like many other NATO nations, Britain had tried to put pressure on Athens to honour its treaty commitments and stand by their allies in their time of need. Even once warfare had opened, there were still efforts made to get Greece to come onside and evidence was presented by British diplomats to the Greeks of Soviet atrocities committed. Eventually, the Foreign Office realised that this was never going to happen and many of the mid- & lower-level staffers at the Embassy were withdrawn from Athens. Diplomatic relations weren’t cut and the Ambassador remained in-place, yet members of staff with key skills were needed elsewhere for other duties.
As to the spooks, their numbers in Athens were cut back by hostile action. MI-6 had a small staff pre-war in Athens of intelligence officers and more had arrived in the build-up to war so they could support diplomatic efforts overtly and conduct covert actions as well. Once war broke out in the battlefields of Europe and the gloves came off elsewhere in the shadowy world of intelligence operations, British agents started going missing, being seriously wounded and being killed. They battled against Soviet agents also in Athens who were following an agenda that soon turned from keeping Greece neutral in the war to getting personal vengeance for their comrades and friends. During such conflicts, Athens Station lost their superior officer on-site and many talented intelligence officers who really shouldn’t have been running around with guns like they were in a James Bond movie.
Amongst this bloodbath – and as it was elsewhere – there remained attempts to do real espionage and intelligence work. MI-6 headquarters in London and Director-General Curwen were repeatedly sending out instructions of tasks to be undertaken. The British spooks which remained in Greece were for example to talk to a figure high up in the Greece security services or to discover if a certain politician in the government was being blackmailed by the Soviets or whether a ‘person of interest’ was using Athens as a base of operations for their own nefarious activities in relation to the war. All the while as these orders were being acted upon, British spooks faced immense danger to their lives.
One of those tasks that Century House sent to the overwhelmed Athens Station was to watch for the arrival of an Irish national at the main international airport coming in from Belgrade. His name was Sean Garland and someone with a history of much interest and concern to Britain. Intelligence pointed to him supposedly travelling across Europe after being recently in Moscow and attempting to get back to his native land… Belgrade and Athens were stops on his way. There were meant to be at least two bodyguards with him, maybe even three and they were not harmless people.
Garland was the General Secretary of the Worker’s Party of Ireland, a Marxist organisation with long-established links to the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA). For some time now there had been intelligence pointing to him trying to establish links with Soviet and Eastern European regimes behind the Iron Curtain so that he could improve his party’s ‘internal security’ and this guaranteed that he would draw the attention of Britain’s intelligence services if his activities were just limited to that. Of course, his activities weren’t just limited to this. Garland was a terrorist who’d acted against Britain many times in the past and the goal he sought to achieve was the end of democracy not just in Northern Ireland but in the Irish Republic too: the result would be what MI-6 believed would be a totalitarian state that Britain couldn’t abide by. Before conflict erupted – and his own nation was attacked despite being a neutral – Garland had left Ireland by means which MI-6 wasn’t sure about but had been reported to be in Moscow. Shcherbytsky had encouraged many politicians of fringe far-left groups to come to the Soviet capital to build bridges with them and men like Garland had been eager to do that.
What Garland was up to, what his intentions were and what his thoughts were about the departed Shcherbytsky and that man’s ilk were unknown. There was no intelligence as to the scale of his links to the KGB or any other Soviet organisation. The true support that his party of himself had back home in Ireland, especially when he returned as he planned were further unknowns. What was certain was that he was trying to make his way back to Ireland by travelling through several neutral nations, using a false identity and accompanied by men who may or may not have been Soviet intelligence agents.
It had been decided in London that Garland and others like him must be stopped. The situation with the Irish Republic’s feelings about events in Ulster was very tense and someone like Garland was a threat to that, even if he only posed small danger. The British spooks in Athens were told to detain him and to do it in a clandestine manner if possible, but no matter what to make sure that they picked him up at the airport when he arrived from Belgrade so that the trail on the man wouldn’t run cold.
The ‘snatch’ mission at Ellinikon International Airport turned out to be a disaster.
Greek security forces weren’t about to allow armed men to try to seize an airliner passenger from an arriving aircraft and nor threaten fellow passengers with that man with automatic weapons. On edge as they were, they decided to shoot at those in the restricted area of the flight-line who had guns and keep shooting until such men were on the ground.
Three MI-6 agents, a local ‘contractor’, two of Garland’s bodyguards (fellow Irish nationals) and Garland himself were all killed by Greek security troops who had two of their own lose their own lives when the foreigners treating their country like it was the Wild West returned fire. Civilians present ran for their lives in a short but furious exchange of gunfire and then afterwards further security personnel were all over the scene establishing a cordon to keep the interested away.
MI-6’s Athens Station lost half of its remaining manpower and was wholly comprised afterwards when another Greek national hired as muscle-cum-shooter was arrested and soon spilled everything he knew.
It was all for nothing as well. Like all those other Western nationals which the once all-powerful Soviet security services had interests in and were using for their own ends, Garland had just been cut loose and had been ejected from Moscow along with many people like him. MI-6 would never be able to interrogate him and find out the secrets in his head nor listen to the plans he had been trying to put together back in his homeland to rid the island of Ireland of capitalism and bourgeois democracy to be replaced with his dream of a worker’s paradise.
In addition, Britain had just hammered another nail in the already closed coffin of Anglo-Greek relations. In the short-term damage would be done to the UK, yet those in Greece didn’t yet realise the long-term consequences. What else could they have done though? Like their actions throughout, they were only looking after their own sovereignty and what they regarded as the interests of their own people as most of the rest of the world seemed to have gone truly mad.
Two Hundred & Sixteen
The USAF-led series of strategic air attacks deemed Operation THUNDERSTORM had commenced as soon as it had gotten dark the evening before, but before the sun came up on the morning of the last day in March those strikes far to the east intensified. American combat aircraft took advantage of the so-called ‘Austrian Gap’ and streamed through a hole in the enemy’s battered but still functioning strategic air defences to hit targets deep inside Eastern Europe via an unexpected direction. Military and government installations – the latter being ‘regime targets’ – were bombed from Hungary up through Czechoslovakia and into southern Poland too.
Those aircraft had come from across mainland Europe and Britain too with F-15s and F-16s acting in the fighter role providing protection for many B-52 and F-111 strikes. Many of those B-52s had only been released from their strategic nuclear role held back in the United States and their presence was truly felt as they were able to deliver a lot of ordnance to targets far away from their bases. Soviet air operations of a planned offensive nature (against locations in western Austria and also the Alpine passes with Italy) were greatly disrupted by the sudden intrusion into supposedly ‘safe’ airspace especially as the NATO air forces in many ways had got the measure of their opponents. There were air battles across the dark skies to go with the destruction caused on the ground and both sides took losses, yet the winners and losers were clearly defined.
THUNDERSTORM was something that USAF planners with the numbered multi-national air forces across Western Europe had long wanted to undertake. There were far too many other missions that needed their attention and the needs of the alliance were always paramount beforehand above everything else. However, beginning with the air strike against East Berlin the night beforehand – CERTAIN VENGEANCE – the USAF was now being given permission to undertake such politically-orientated strikes that met American-centric war aims with NATO assigned assets. There was a balancing act both militarily and politically, but this was a course of action wanted at the highest levels of power and the USAF was doing as instructed.
The plans formulated in the build-up to and during the war for THUNDERSTORM for these air attacks focused upon that aptly-named Austrian Gap. The country remained neutral and though it had a large army once mobilised, its air force and air defences were minimal. NATO and Soviet aircraft had violated the skies above Austria though not in a deliberate fashion. Therefore there was a large geographically open patch of sky that neither side was putting to use in their air operations as diplomatic needs took precedence.
NATO had stripped some air defence assets away from their positions facing Austria as no Soviet air attacks had come through that route into Bavaria and West Germany and notice had been made of how weakened the already minimal air defences that the Soviets had on the other side of Austria were becoming too. A strategic opportunity had opened up yet politics hadn’t allowed such a thing to be taken advantage of.
Then had come the Soviet-Hungarian invasion of Austria and permission from on high for THUNDERSTORM. The USAF also considered the risk that the enemy would take advantage themselves of the skies above Austria and this was only another factor in the decision to act first.
To the east of Austria lay all sorts of targets that were regarded as almost open to a massive air strike. There were cities with political significance where the damage which could be wrought by a few well-placed bombs was hoped to have major propaganda implications. Enemy rear area logistics centres – such as they were anyway – were located that far deep in Eastern Europe tucked away. There were transport links that were being used to replace those already smashed further to the north and west and these made tempting targets as well. Then there were the airfields and communications points, further fixed targets, which had so far been unmolested by NATO air power.
There had been a lot of frustration surrounding the refusal to allow THUNDERSTORM to go ahead but once it did the USAF went at it with all that they could spare from other operations and then some too.
Budapest and Hungary on the western side of the Danube as it ran north-south through that country was hit on a smaller scale by THUNDERSTORM air attacks but struck had nonetheless. B-52s dropped bombs from high altitude over military bases outside the city and then some bridges over the Danube just outside the urban area of the Hungarian capital. More military bases throughout the country were attacked too while railway links were attacked; with the latter the aim was to disrupt movement of military forces by bombing marshalling yards and bridges. There had been a planned air attack directly upon the very heart of Budapest where government buildings were located though upon the request of the CIA those weren’t hit with a last-minute change to the flight plan of the F-111s heading that way.
Bratislava was the capital of the Slovak Socialist Republic, one of the components of the theoretical federation that was Czechoslovakia. Here in this city also by the Danube, there was no last-minute halt to the bombing of political targets. Several government and communist party buildings in the heart of Bratislava were bombed while there were further attacks against military targets throughout western parts of Slovakia too. A political goal was being sought here and it was one where tensions within Czechoslovakia were meant to be strained as this part of the country had yet to see the effects of war brought home.
Across in the Czech Socialist Republic, the other half of the union, military targets and communications links in Moravia (the eastern part of the Czech lands a-joining the bigger Bohemia) were bombed by the USAF. Again these were further areas so far almost untouched by the war and the opportunity was taken to hit rear areas through much of the support network for the armies of the Soviets and the combined Socialist Forces at the frontlines were using. Brno was particularly hard hit due to the rail links in and around that city and if there were political outcomes due to that, then those would only be an added bonus as far as the Americans were concerned.
Further past the Austrian Gap lay southern Poland again with transportation links, military bases such as airfields & supply centres and important cities as well. Aircraft taking part in THUNDERSTORM were focused upon those military aims yet some were tasked to try to exasperate what were already reported to be tensions on the ground throughout Poland. There was care taken to try the utmost not to kill civilians as collateral damage but the cities of Katowice and Krakow were still attacked despite the knowledge that civilian losses were inevitable. Bombs fell upon regime targets there and the railway links over which so many freight trains coming from the Soviet Union were using and some USAF aircraft even dropped dispersing containers from which thousands of propaganda leaflets floated away from.
F-15 and F-16 fighters used external fuel tanks to extend their range and had less weapons carried due to such a need on the THUNDERSTORM missions. Those fighters were not assigned to directly escort the B-52s and F-111s but to rather run long-range patrols to scour the skies of enemy aircraft. Their presence caused immense panic over the parts of Eastern Europe where they flew as Soviet transport aircraft were scattered all over the place trying to avoid them after panicked calls from ground controllers.
Those fighters engaged some of such easy targets as those big aircraft bringing men and high-priority supplies forward. Then there was a force of Soviet Blinder bombers staging out of Hungarian airfields on their way to try to bombs the Alpine passes through which the Italian Army was crossing that was caught when airborne and who had yet to meet their own fighter escorts. Such aircraft were slaughtered when airborne and USAF fighter pilots came away with impressive score tallies for such an engagement.
When they engaged in combat against more capable foes, those American fighters found their opposition confused and far out of their comfort zone. The Hungarian and Czechoslovak rear-area air defence interceptors fell prey to them as these were not pilots who had been in a full-scale war for more than two weeks like those flying aircraft with USAF colours. Massacres occurred in the skies between mismatched opponents but when was warfare ever meant to be fair?
Along with THUNDERSTORM, there were also Italian Air Force aircraft flying long-range missions across eastern parts of Austria and into Hungary. Tornado strike-bombers flew many low-level attacks of a general tactical nature against targets with the Soviet and Hungarian forces invading Austria though some of a semi-strategic nature too.
Italy had only just joined the war and didn’t have the combat experience that the USAF did. The Tornado crews were lucky that they faced weak opposition already being torn apart by the Americans as being out of the NATO structure for as long as they had been during combat meant that they had yet to receive what would soon become a tidal wave of intelligence on enemy tactics, capabilities and more importantly weakness in the electronic systems field.
Having remained neutral as they had also meant that Italian air missions over Eastern Europe weren’t co-ordinated with the USAF. The 5 ATAF had packed up and left Italy before war erupted and then wartime experience had brought about new ways of doing things for NATO air forces. There were quite a few close calls during the THUNDERSTORM and Italian air missions where aircrews on both sides almost mistook the other for the enemy and nearly opened fire. Italy was fast working to reintegrate itself within the NATO wartime structure yet that was going to take some time. For now they were acting independently and that wasn’t something that could last if they wanted to achieve something worthy in this conflict with their air force and their army too.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 22:34:24 GMT
Two Hundred & Seventeen
Across Scandinavia, there remained portions of three of the four countries there occupied by hostile foreign forces and efforts continued to finally rid the territory of the nations of Norway, Finland and Denmark of those remains of armies from the Socialist Forces. Sweden joined its neighbours in maintaining this effort and there were military forces from NATO nations – Britain and the United States especially – assisting in this. The aim was to rid mainland Northern Europe of the invader and by the end of March 31st, only one Scandinavian country still had sovereign territory under foreign occupation.
In the far northeastern reaches of Norway, the US Marines made their final push towards the Soviet border. The battalion of Dutch marines which had sat frustrated in the rear throughout the entirety of the conflict in Norway finally saw some action as they came under the operational command of the US 2nd Marine Division following the departure the week before of the British Royal Marines who they had initially been assigned to. At the coastal port of Vadso on the Varanger Peninsula, the Dutch wiped out Soviet rear-area forces dug in there trying to hold on after long being cut off and also successfully captured the nearby civilian airport intact too in the face of an enemy failure to conduct demolitions. They had plenty of assistance from fire support offered by the US Marines, yet the Dutchmen knew that it was their hard fighting the first time in combat which had been the main factor in their victory.
Vadso had been the last enemy position held on the Varanger Peninsula but there had remained Soviet ground forces across eastern Finmark which the US Marines took on and overcame. There were temporary bridges over the lower reaches of the Tana River to help with the logistics effort and many small air strips set up for the land-based deployment of ground-attack Harriers. M-60 tanks, Cobra helicopter gunships and plenty of old but effective towed artillery gave the Marine Riflemen all the help they needed in advancing in a march southeast following the E6 highway and past Kirkenes all the way to the Soviet border. They had a tough fight to take Kirkenes itself but elsewhere they met Soviet forces which just couldn’t put up an effective stand against them. The US Marines found that the Soviet Army had weak units here after all their best troops had long been beaten and cut off across in the Finnish Wedge yet they remained surprised that their enemy wasn’t fighting harder for the direct approaches to their own soil.
Orders came for the 2nd Marine Division to go no further than the downed road bridge at Elvenes, which was located just short of the Soviet border itself. The Marine Riflemen were almost within touching distance of the enemy’s soil but such an order was firm and left no room for exploitation in the form of armed reconnaissance ahead of anything like that. As could be expected, the US Marines were rather aggravated at this as there technically was still parts of Norway unliberated. Those were near desolate places to the south of where their lead units ended up though and the stop order was in effect.
There was no time for celebrations after the victory which they had won, especially when that had come right in the face of naysayers who had said that what they had achieved first at Alta and then beyond through Finmark couldn’t be done. Small groups of the enemy were cut off all behind their lines and needed to be blasted out of hopeless positions which they clung on to. There were POWs to be disarmed and transported back to Lakselv as well. On top of this, the US Marines had to deal with the effects of the occupation on this part of Norway where there was widespread devastation, minefields & unexploded ordnance that needed attending to and then a distressed population as well. Norwegian civilians would eventually be assisted by Norwegian Army units behind the Marine Riflemen but they first came to their liberators for help. They pleaded for assistance due to hunger, medical needs and the fates of missing relatives. This was a traumatic experience for many of the young US Marines who had been expecting scenes of wild joy at their arrival rather than such unpleasantness.
Away from such matters as those, there still had been a victory won and out of Norway the invader had finally been evicted.
Back to the west, the remains of the Soviet Sixth Army were finally brought to surrender in the small part of Finland where they had been holding onto in a forlorn attempt to await their own liberation. The Soviet troops there had been beaten in battle, cut off from external assistance and then crushed between enemy forces from all sides but they had stubbornly tried to hold on. Their ammunition was almost all expended and that was the final cause for the wave of surrenders that happened among individual units there not any of the other important factors like hunger, the lack of fuel or their strategic situation.
Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and American troops moved in from their positions surrounding the Soviets here and started the process of disarming them. There had been some trouble within the Soviet Sixth Army due to mutinies taking place in the lead-up to the surrender and so the NATO and Allied troops went in heavily-armed themselves expecting trouble yet they found that the men they encountered had only wanted to fight their officers and the KGB rather than the opponents which they had meant to be fighting. There were tens of thousands of prisoners to deal with all trapped within the Finnish Wedge and many of them were in a sorry state. Malnutrition was rife and so were frostbite injuries to say nothing of those wounded in combat who had only had the most basic of medical care. Compassion overcame many of the men who ended up dealing with these POW’s, even those who had previously greatly demonised their enemy after their own countries had been invaded.
This wave of POWs were all quickly set to be removed from Finland under a previous agreement made among the victors. They were to be transported northwards into Norway for processing by NATO troops rather than to either Finland or Sweden, neither of whom wanted them. Both latter countries had a lot of internal problems to deal with and the resources to handle such a number of men who would be a drain just weren’t there.
Agreements hadn’t been made about the war booty that came with such a large enemy force destroyed though and this would cause some heated discussions to take place. The Soviets had been short of fuel and ammunition for all of their tanks, armoured vehicles and howitzers but there were still a lot of these weapons of war along with man-portable weapons. The armed forces of all three nations present all set about gathering up this horde of combat equipment along with other items like trucks, engineering supplies and such like for removal so that they could find good use for it.
General Foss, the US XVIII Corps commander, refused to play peacemaker when asked to as his orders were to stay out of it. Personally, he regarded such arguments between supposed allies as petty but more importantly foolish in the long-run. They were all meant to be on the same side and he believed too that a lot of what was being near fought over was junk that would never actually see proper use in the armed forces of either nation due to maintenance issues and lack of suitable spare parts as well as ammunition to fit many of the weapons. He reported back to higher command that such disagreements he witnessed weren’t going to help matters in the future conduct of the war. No one was shooting at each other or even threatening to, but such actions taken to seize war booty from allies before they could get their hands on that were far from what should have been happening if everyone was going to stay on the same side to the end of this war.
The war had brought occupation to most of Denmark and it was going to take some time to liberate that country despite the best efforts to do so as fast as possible.
The easternmost island of Bornholm remained under Soviet occupation – just like it had at the end of World War Two in an unfortunate occurrence – and it seemed like that would continue for some time with it being so far away. Falster, Lolland and Mon were three other large islands that formed part of Denmark and these were in the south of the country where Polish troops remained in-place holding them. Those were of a limited number but the geography meant that like Bornholm there would be no liberation expected anytime soon bearing a complete enemy collapse. Instead, Zealand and Jutland were where the Danes and the Allies were fighting for the time being to eject the invader from Denmark.
The Helsingor Bridgehead had held out following the loss of Copenhagen and most of the rest of Zealand. Danish and Swedish troops had initially made plans to evacuate across the Oresund but then enemy attacks had stopped being so fierce and stalemate had occurred. For more than a week, those trapped there in the northeastern edge of Zealand had been eager to break out. The Swedes wanted to gain revenge for the defeat they had suffered when first arriving in too much haste while the Danes wanted to liberate their capital city. Sensibly, their commanders had waited for preparations to be made in the form of gathering reinforcements – especially heavy armour – and stocking up on supplies. The air and naval situations had improved and then intelligence had pointed to the enemy on Zealand being worn out with those Soviet and Polish naval infantry left unsupplied and on their own.
Finally, the break-out occurred and the much stronger forces of the Allies than originally in-place moved out of the Helsingor Bridgehead to smash the enemy holding onto the rest of Zealand. Polish naval infantry was encountered first and torn through by Swedish tanks and other heavy armoured vehicles while Danish infantry battled against the concentration of Soviet naval infantry in the area around Hillerod. The main advance by that Swedish armour was towards Copenhagen in the distance yet they knew that it would take some time to get there and they didn’t rush either. Their fear was over Polish troops being bypassed by fast-moving tanks and reappearing to harass supply columns and other supporting assets. Therefore they took care to engage all enemy units which they came across and pushed them back. Some arguments came that this gave the enemy too much time to withdraw yet the risk of moving too fast was seen as a greater danger.
A leap-frogging operation was made by the Allies on Zealand though as Danish troops were transported by a fleet of Swedish Army helicopters to seize the much damaged Vaerlose Airbase ahead of the main advance. Swedish versions of the AB-204 and AB-206 light transports made low-level approaches at speed to drop off Danish airmobile-trained infantry to enter that facility and engage Soviet Air Force personnel there. Just like with Aalborg Airbase on Jutland and the British effort at that location, the Danes here had watched as the enemy patched-up a major airfield previously damaged in combat and by demolitions conducted beforehand by retreating Danish Army forces. The Soviets had been repairing Vaerlose with a view to making use of it themselves and the Danes were very grateful for that effort put in and showed the invader the scope of that gratitude…
With the initial success met here on Zealand, all signs pointed to a successful operation to retake the island especially as there were many Swedish reinforcement ready to come across the Oresund once there was room for them to deploy and enemy attention was certainly focused elsewhere for the time being.
In Jutland, PORTER and BLACK PYTHON continued with the British 6th Light and US 5th Marine Divisions fighting hard to liberate Danish territory there and make sure that the Soviets became aware of the threat to their Baltic right flank by their presence.
With the successful seizure of the Aalborg area by the Paras, there hadn’t been an opportunity for the East Germans on North Jutland Island to get across the Limfjord and onto the mainland. The main connections for such a movement, especially an armour heavy force like the East Germans were, were in British hands and combined with the amphibious landing, PORTER achieved its initial objectives of making a rapid landing and eliminating the enemy threat. Making sure that the rest of the 6th Light Division was able to be safety brought into Jutland was meant to be the main priority once Aalborg and the Limfjord crossings were taken though for the men on the ground further engaging the enemy by pushing forwards was what they were more interested in. A substantial portion of the East German 9TD had suddenly been cut off by this manoeuvre and needed engaging where it was trapped yet many middle- & junior-ranking officers wanted to race deep down into Jutland to link up with the US Marines coming in from the North Sea coast with the belief that the rest of that division would be joining its sister formation in that direction and thus open to attack. Such thinking was often encouraged in junior men, but the senior British officers involved in PORTER remained wary of doing something as foolhardy as that.
The East Germans had plenty of tanks and heavy armoured vehicles while the British remained a light infantry force with only small amounts of armour assigned and let alone on the ground. That needed to be assembled and air power in the form of combat aircraft and armed helicopters were to be used to smash apart the East German tanks encountered so that an avoidable defeat wasn’t occurred. Permission was given for probing missions to push southwards yet the main focus for the time being was building-up in strength and dealing with the cut off and dangerous enemy first. The Royal Marines and the 5th Airborne Brigade were sent against the East Germans on North Jutland Island and when the Guards Brigade arrived they would be moving southwards.
As to the US Marines operating away from their landing sites around Esbjerg, there were similar issues present. Junior officers wanted to sweep all the way to the Baltic at once while those in more senior positions realised that while desirable such a course of action was dangerous. The East German 7TD may have been unable to stop the landings taking place but they were an effective counterattack force at a tactical level. US Marines piloting Harriers, Hornets and Skyhawks broke up many tanks attacks that the East Germans undertook but there was a lot of enemy armour present. Again and again this was encountered in battles which the Marine Riflemen on the ground struggled to deal with as the enemy certainly knew how to put their T-72s and BMP-2s to use.
The East Germans had reacted fast to BLACK PYTHON and caused the US Marines plenty of trouble. Superior fire support eventually made sure that overall the 5th Marine Division kept on moving forward though much slower than many involved would have liked and certainly with more casualties than everyone wanted.
Lead units of the US Marines reached the area around the towns of Holsted and Brorup, following the route of the cross-Jutland highway E20 running from Esbjerg to Fredericia, before they finally were forced to stop. Enemy resistance inland was getting too tough and more Marine Riflemen needed to be brought forward and especially tanks. The dash had taken them almost halfway across the width of Jutland in less than two days but there were also strong enemy forces to their north too which couldn’t be left unmolested. Combat was soon joined ahead and on the flank and casualties would mount up, yet there was still great success with BLACK PYTHON despite the temporary halting of the forward march. The hope was soon to get going again and reach the Baltic… just once the enemy had been properly dealt with.
Two Hundred & Eighteen
Soviet bombers and cruise missiles had done a lot of damage to the infrastructure of parts of Britain and that had compounded that civilian strife in the immediate pre-war period when TtW had come into effect in the drastic manner which it had. Power supplies, military-related industries and transportation links had all had immense harm done to them with the war from internal troubles and external attacks. Yet, Britain remained standing with a functioning government that was making sure that as much effort as could be possibly spared was going into repairing some of the destruction caused where wartime priority needs were met. This was particularly true with regard to the country’s ports and major airports as these were vital for the continued war effort.
Acting as a major rear-supply distribution centre and troops transfer station, Britain’s transportation infrastructure was a hive of activity. Ships and aircraft were making constant use of a multitude of facilities throughout the nation while repair and urgent construction work to expand many of these went on around them.
Along the coastlines to the west, the south and the east there were many fine deep-water harbours with a lot of infrastructure and transport links. Britain was a maritime country and it was from these where the now departed Empire had begun. The ports in the west lay on the Clyde, at Merseyside, through South Wales and along the Bristol Channel. Those in Devon, Dorset, Hampshire and Kent were in the south while to the west they stretched up from the Thames Estuary to Essex on to Humberside as far as the North-East and then along Scotland’s North Sea shore. There were ships arriving in these from all over the world and then departing too bound for further global destinations. They brought in not just military-related equipment for onward transfer but food and fuel to assist the British population. Many of these ports were badly damaged while others remained fully-operational while at a lot of them there was urgent work going on to re-establish cranes, railway sidings and such like to expand their capabilities. Minesweepers and minehunters were afloat along with armed patrol boats near the ports searching for signs of enemy action; in the case of mines there had been quite a few instances where vessels had been damaged or even sunk by such weapons of war laid clandestinely by the enemy.
Military airbases operated by the RAF, the Royal Navy’s FAA and the USAF were hives of activity but so too were civilian airports nationwide. TtW had brought a stop to commercial flights and ground private flights before aircraft were taken into military service. Facilities like Heathrow and Gatwick in the south along with other airports up and down the country were operated by the UK Armed Forces now though with large numbers of NATO military personnel operating from them in support. Airliners, commercial freight aircraft and military transports were making use of their big runaways and passenger-handling facilities to move soldiers through the UK. Some of those were going onwards to the frontlines in Germany while others were being routed elsewhere forward. Coming back through the UK and out again in the other direction were a lot of empty aircraft on their way to bring more soldiers to Europe but also medical flights too. At several locations and not just at the airports, civilian aviation infrastructure had been attacked by the enemy and great losses taken to air traffic control and aviation fuel storage. Some of those strikes had come on the ground from commando type forces which had caused havoc in the early stages of the war. Nonetheless, what damage had been done was eventually overcome, even in haphazard form, with time.
Away from just the movement of equipment, supplies and fighting men there came the establishment at several ports and especially at smaller civilian airports of rear-area repair and maintenance facilities for warships and combat aircraft. This was in the main an undertaking by the US Armed Forces who viewed Britain as a generally secure base of operations from where they could establish temporary locations to assist in the upkeep of their warfighting assets. Many of their own bases on the European continent had been severely damaged while those back home in North America were very far away from the frontlines. Britain was perfectly-placed to house such work being done on warships and aircraft, especially major aircraft repairs to allow those to keep flying. Equipment and workers had been brought in and facilities put to use for these efforts; the British Government approved of such measures as this was part of their NATO commitment and it also helped give many British people some work on the support side of those operations.
Keeping Britain in the war was costing the country an absolute fortune and all of that incurred debt.
War-emergency Treasury reserves had long been depleted and there had been an utter failure in an admittedly half-hearted attempt to sell Government bonds domestically. American banks had worked with the US Treasury Department to provide loans to certain Allies at extremely favourable terms (guaranteed by the US Government) so that they could continue to fight when their own economies had been brought to a halt. Britain was thus able to sustain itself though there were fears from many that this was a very dangerous long-term solution for the country’s future. Jobs were created in many places supporting the war effort in all sorts of roles and many people took them because they had found themselves in desperate straits. Not everyone was behind this, especially many trade union figures due to the banning of such organisations among such workers in sudden wartime positions – this would cause an immense legal row in the courts for years to come –, but there was a big propaganda push being made across the country for people to get behind the war. There were instances where that was overdone but it was generally becoming a success with the British public being as patriotic as they were in the face of a foreign enemy.
Nonetheless, Britain wasn’t united behind the war effort like it had been during World War Two.
Party politics had returned with a vengeance in Parliament and there remained a great deal of domestic opposition to the conflict despite Britain being attacked as it had been. There was still a high level of crime going on with so many police officers serving in uniform abroad and TA soldiers at home being unable to do their job in their absence. Schools remained closed and sporting events were still cancelled for the foreseeable future. War damage had been greatly disruptive in many places. Major road & rail bridges, power stations and industry that the enemy had regarded as of a military support nature had been attacked and many of those strikes had been far from pinpoint in their accuracy. Then there were all of those people put out of work when the domestic economy crashed. Much of the NHS remained on a war-footing while a lot of firefighting equipment had been pulled out of cities and hidden in the countryside in case of a nuclear strike. To many, Britain remained broken and would never recover so there was widespread despair among a lot of people.
In addition, the casualties of war among not just the military but civilians too were very high and the knowledge of those – direct and indirect – was the cause of more despondency among others.
Direct military attacks against the UK mainland by the enemy had been getting less frequent as the war went on. The initial wave of cruise missiles launched by raketonosets and submarines had been intense and then there had come commando attacks despite the best efforts at security to guard against them. When conventional bombing raids had come across the North Sea from the Baltic Approaches area, they too had caused much damage and loss of life.
The combating of these from Britain and its NATO allies had taken many forms from the hunt for enemy submarines at sea to a better focus in long-range air defence and British troops going to southern Norway. The enemy had used up many of its one-shot assets as well, especially after the Spetsnaz forces operating on British soil had committed their attacks and then been hunted down eventually. There was still a nationwide blackout in effect (questions remained over the actual effectiveness of that in the face of modern navigation systems) and a lot of combat assets were deployed to defend the country. Some attacks were still occurring yet those were a rarity now.
The country had suffered greatly from these though and along with the other domestic effects upon the country, some were beginning to ponder whether Britain would ever be the same again.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 11, 2019 22:47:10 GMT
Two Hundred & Nineteen
Several days after it was signed, the agreement reached in the capital of The Bahamas would become known as the Treaty of Nassau. The US Secretary of State would fly across from Europe for that short ceremony while the lead member of the Cuban Military Council (formerly the Chief of Staff of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces) General Ulises Rosales del Toro would come up from Havana to add his signature in person too.
There were always anticipated to be many negative reactions to what was agreed in Nassau from all quarters, yet both sides believed that the settlement that was trashed out meant that there would be peace in the Caribbean, a viable future for Cuba and honour settled on the American side for what had occurred when Cuba had unexpectedly entered the war. The ceasefire would become a permanent peace treaty so that Cuba could be saved from the risk of further destruction and the Americans would be able to concentrate their efforts on fighting the Soviet Union and its puppets in Eastern Europe.
Regardless, the details agreed were always going to cause upset and resentment to many.
John Whitehead – Deputy Secretary of State – and his assistants from the State Department were those on the American side who were responsible for negotiations on behalf of their country. The Cubans sent many military figures from the senior Ochoa at first to junior-ranking officers specialising in military intelligence and foreign relations alongside their military careers to Nassau. Del Toro would eventually oversee the aspects of the agreement made in series of talks with the Americans and those he had sent there ended up being his ears and his mouthpiece instead of being like Whitehead was for the Americans. For The Bahamas, Prime Minister Pindling considered the talks and then the subsequent treaty a crowning achievement for himself and his country that would see him and his nation do well in the future. He had been busy in recent years trying to repair his country’s position following the revelations in the early Eighties about how The Bahamas had been used as a transit base to flood the United States with illegal drugs and was certain that the Treaty of Nassau would greatly help there.
Those at the talks on Nassau from the American and Cuban sides had been generally isolated from the outside world. They had communications with their governments back home but were cut off from external sources of pressure in a deliberate fashion so that their discussions couldn’t be influenced by any form of protest or back-channel lobbying. The Bahamas could control who came into their country and get near the diplomats better than if such talks had been on the ground in either the US or in Cuba. Of course, their home governments could still be influenced by those with an agenda, yet the intent was to keep those at the talks away from such outside impact; there were too many personal interests from people and groups who wanted to have their input into what was going to be agreed at Nassau.
The Treaty of Nassau would cover all aspects of relations between the United States and Cuba from those of an historic nature to the present wartime conditions and into the future as well. There had been so many issues from those who attended the talks in Nassau to go through there and in consultations with their governments back home that at times it had been felt that no settlement would ever be reached. One was though and it was in those details where the controversy following the treaty would come from.
A major foreign policy objective of the United States – and thus one with domestic importance too – was the status of the Cuban-Americans. There were exiles from the regime which the deceased Castro Brothers had deposed who had made their home in the United States and then those born to Cuban parents while in America as well who many considered to be Cubans as well. Generally, these people were opposed to the communist regime on the island while retaining their desire for the overthrow of that before they could return there. They were a major domestic political force and so too were their supporters.
The policy of the Reagan Administration, which was what Whitehead’s brief had covered even after Bush had become Acting President, was that the return of such people to their homeland was desirable for the interests of the United States. Such freedom to travel backwards and forwards between their homes in America was what was wanted along with the influence that such people would bring to Cuba… and then the domestic political effects in the United States too.
del Toro and his fellow Military Council had all risen to their positions by being good communists, but they all considered themselves Cuban first. They had a fear – and one which would prove correct in the coming years – that such people would want to do just as the Americans wanted and make changes to Cuba. Such people were their countrymen though and the Military Council knew that their country would need to go in a different direction in the future if it was to survive. The people had overthrown the old regime therefore finishing off communism on the island and then their own actions as the Cuban Armed Forces had made sure that there could never be a reconciliation with the Soviets.
The Treaty of Nassau would allow any Cuban – even one born abroad – who wished to return to Cuba to do so. In addition, those who had claims of property lost in the Revolution of 1959 and afterwards as well were to have those issues addressed. At the suggestion of Whitehead, an international panel of experts (all of whom were agreeable to the Cuban and US governments) would make the judgements on what would be claimed in compensation and how that was to take place with the Deputy Secretary of State agreeing to the Cuban wishes of an assurance that as long as no direct property was removed from their current owners that would be acceptable; they didn’t wish to incite another revolt among the people by taking land but money being paid was something they were willing to allow.
The Military Council consisted of generals and a few admirals all of whom were professional military officers. These men had done the wishes of the Castro Brothers under what they claimed was duress. As part of the treaty, military officers with the Cuban Armed Forces (the term ‘Revolutionary’ had been pointedly dropped) couldn’t face any action in the United States in terms of criminal or civil charges for what others would regard as war crimes during the short conflict or beforehand too on other occasions. This was for military personnel only, the Americans agreed, not those from the intelligence world or politicians.
As part of this commitment that del Toro had Whitehead assure him of to protect his own, Cuba also wished to see the return as soon as possible of all Cuban military personnel captured in the fighting in southwestern Africa with South African forces. The Cubans were very unhappy at what had occurred there and were alarmed at how the South Africans took their time to stop destroying the Cuban Army even after the US-Cuban ceasefire had gone into effect. Cuban wanted all prisoners back, again without any charges laid against them for any sort of alleged crimes. Cuba had promptly returned all American POWs as a sign of good faith during the talks in Nassau, they had reminded the Americans, and wanted their own officers and men back from Angola.
An agreement on this was reached so that those soldiers and their personal effects – not weapons – would be brought home by the Americans, not the Cubans (who would have struggled to do that anyway) and especially not by the South Africans either. del Toro’s representatives in The Bahamas at the talks had made clear their distaste for the racists in Pretoria but Whitehead had been forced to counter against his own personal feelings on the matter that South Africa was an ally of the United States in this war. Under usual circumstances when dealing with the Cubans, under the Castro regime, a diplomat such as him could have spoken of the outright racism of the Havana regime to Cubans of an African heritage and there could have been back-and-forth accusations made, but such things weren’t said in Nassau for the sake of diplomacy in addition to proclamations made from the Military Council about human rights in their country.
Cuba would be getting its troops brought home and families across the island nation would be pleased with that. Opponents in the United States to the Treaty of Nassau would take objection to the involvement of the American military in doing such a thing especially with the war going on and ships and aircraft needed elsewhere, but del Toro had been insistent on this and there was also an unstated American aim of a political nature here too: such returning soldiers would be grateful it was hoped of the United States bringing them home from South African captivity and would also tell tales of the defeat of Cuban arms in such a spectacular fashion as had occurred in Angola.
Once the Treaty of Nassau was signed, Cuba was then to enter the Allies by declaring war upon the Soviet Union.
This flip-flopping in diplomatic terms was something else that the Americans saw as something of great importance. Cuba had been left in a bad way by the conflict with the US and without the usual pre-war support of the Soviets it wasn’t going to have the logistics to deploy men abroad to fight with the Allies elsewhere in the world. The Cuban Armed Forces operated Soviet equipment and followed their doctrine; again, a presence of Cuban military might – such as it was – wasn’t really going to help the Allies. There wasn’t a military aim for the United States in having Cuba join the war though, just a diplomatic one.
Every single Latin American country would now be at war with the Soviet Union from Mexico down to the bottom of South America. Panama and Argentina had been pressured into doing so while the new regime in Nicaragua that the Contras had established with CIA support had declared war too. The neutralist government in Costa Rica had even been browbeaten into becoming one of the Allies. Across the Caribbean, many of the small island nations had done so too leaving only a few countries in the Western Hemisphere not involved and none of those remaining had any ties to the Soviets.
Acting President Bush had pushed for this even when Whitehead had told him that it would be difficult to get the Cubans to agree, yet the determination to force the Cubans to join the war with the Allies had been there. The Military Council had been weary of this but when they understood that they wouldn’t have to contribute anything meaningful to the cause they had gone along with it albeit with reluctance.
Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were to be fully restored. Embassies were to open in both Washington and Havana with the probable establishment of Cuban consulates in Miami and maybe New York as well.
Whitehead couldn’t get del Toro’s representatives to agree on any form of security treaty that would come with this restoration in direct inter-government relations due to the Military Council stating that they intended to hand over power ‘soon’ (their words on that matter) to a civilian government yet that wasn’t something which the United States pushed for overall. It was spoken about as both were with the Allies, yet there was no immediate need. The thinking on the part of the Americans was that there needed to be some agreement on Cuban military power so that never again could they attack the United States as they had done on its own soil. It would have been very difficult to get the Cubans to go along with that for it would have looked like an attempt to force a disarmament of them though the plan had been to offer them a pledge to not interfere in the domestic affairs of Cuba.
Such a thing didn’t work out and the Americans didn’t get what they wanted here. The Cubans were rather annoyed at the suggestion but then del Toro had sent word from Havana that if the United States wanted a joint security agreement then he would also want that to be linked to that request since talks started about America providing Cuba access to foreign loans to fix their economy now that they were about to declare war upon their biggest financial supporter.
The mess here with both sides wanting something that the other couldn’t give meant that it was left alone for now. The Treaty of Nassau would establish in its text the groundwork for something like this in the future so that discussions could come there, but there was nothing real in affect. Cuba wasn’t going to gain access to international loans with American help and in the long-term that would have some major negative effects to which both Whitehead and del Toro could only partially foresee when they concluded their talks on that matter.
Then there remained the issue of Guantanamo Bay, which the resolution to brought about most of the later opponents to the US-Cuban peace agreement.
When the Cubans had attacked the United States, they hadn’t just bombed the American mainland at Key West and outside Miami hitting military bases there but had too conducted an overwhelming infantry assault upon the military base at Guantanamo Bay. Immense casualties had been taken on both sides with the US Marines and the few US Navy personnel there putting up a furious if short and doomed defence while the Cuban Army having put all it had into taking the facility fast regardless of their own losses. del Toro and his fellow military officers had been distancing themselves when at Nassau from the air attacks made on Florida – blaming that all on the Castro Brothers – as they knew how the Americans had reacted to that politically, but for them Guantanamo Bay was something else.
It was Cuban soil which had been illegally held by a foreign aggressor which they had every right to retake in times of warfare. Of course, that was not how the Americans saw the matter. There were treaties going back throughout the Twentieth Century concerning their right to use Guantanamo Bay and they wanted possession of it back. Above everything else, resolving this issue was of greatest importance for both sides. There could have been no Treaty of Nassau if the matter of Guantanamo Bay wasn’t dealt with; it couldn’t be sidestepped as it was paramount to both sides.
The Military Council feared that to return to the previous situation where the Americans were free to do as they wished when it came to Guantanamo Bay following their own handover of it back to them would mean civil disorder on the scale that saw Fidel Castro lynched by the Havana mob. Anarchy would breakout island-wide with military units rebelling alongside the people. Guantanamo Bay was just that important to the Cuban people.
Should the Americans have let the status quo remain with the Cubans keeping their occupation, then any political figure involved would no longer have a career in office. It would be seen as the greatest of all capitulations and a personal betrayal to the men and women who had died there. The US Government didn’t have to fear being violently overthrown by the mob like the Military Council did if they gave in, but it was almost the same thing…
It was Prime Minister Pindling who approached them with a solution to this matter. He had stayed out of the details of the US-Cuban talks on other issues but intervened here in what the Americans later realised was something that had actually came from a back-channel move made by the British through their Commonwealth representatives in The Bahamas. The UK Government wanted the United States wholly focused on Europe while Pindling was thinking of his own prestige, but still what would be suggested would generally be beneficial for the goals of both the Americans and the Cubans.
US military forces would return to Guantanamo Bay within a month’s time and be allowed to re-establish their naval and air bases there. The Americans would pay for all of the necessary repairs and construction work themselves with Cuban enterprises doing this paid work not American or foreign companies. The remains of the fortifications which had been destroyed during the Cuban assault would be torn down and instead there would come a simple security fence manned by a joint US-Cuban guard force. Inside the facility there would be Cuban military personnel stationed as observers working similar to military attachés that would come with the re-establishment of formal diplomatic relations and such people would sit on a joint panel to oversee that the US military activities there didn’t threaten Cuban interests.
An initial offer made by the Americans of fifty years was negotiated down to just a tenth of that for their presence there. After that five year period, the United States would withdraw from Guantanamo Bay though there would remain the legal right for the Americans to return military forces subject to joint approval should the security of the United States be threaten by what were deemed ‘external threats’. Cuba would then run a military base there for their own purposes as long as it was kept functioning for such a possible return by the Americans and if they had trouble paying for the upkeep, then the United States could make payments for that. All backdated rent for the facility owed to Cuba would be paid (not really a significant amount) and beginning from the day American forces returned, that amount would greatly increase too.
Cuban sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay would be reaffirmed in the treaty signed in The Bahamas though the wording would state that the status on jurisdiction had changed to allow further Cuban control with their observers having some veto on what went on there. By May 1993, Cuba would have absolute physical control of the facility when the Americans departed.
Even with the diplomatic wording used in this part of the Treaty of Nassau, there were expected to be problems on the ground there when it came to what the Cubans could stop happening during that time the Americans remained and then when it came to possible later American military use as well. Nevertheless, what was to be put into a legal guarantee was the most that either side was willing to accept and it was understood that domestic public consumption was key. The US Government and the Military Council would both have trouble selling this to their own people yet recognised the trouble that the other would too.
Within the United States during those ongoing talks in Nassau, the US Government had come under intense pressure when it came to how to act when it came to the Cubans. The ceasefire had been fiercely opposed by many and then any sort of talks made also strongly objected to. There were very few calls for a settlement with Cuba compared to those who objected to continued fighting with the Soviets… and there weren’t many doing the latter either. Cuba’s attack on the United States had made the country angry from coast to coast and from those of all sorts of political persuasions came passionate emotions.
Reagan and then Bush had both been away from the ghost-town that was Washington during the early stages of the war but as lobbyists, activists and even some politicians started returning to a city which many thought would be vaporised first should the war go nuclear, those opponents gathered together and became stronger by concentration. When such people had been scattered they had been outspoken in their opposition to Cuba but together they were a real danger. Calls were made for the ceasefire to be broken by the Americans and for Cuba to be bombed again and even invaded. There were demands that a military operation to retake Guantanamo Bay be mounted at once as news leaked that the Defence Department did have one planned with the troops and military assets available in the region; any success with Operation TROPIC JUSTICE was doubtful to the planners with the few assets available but those loud voices didn’t care about that.
Across the country there were protests concerning Cuba with so many Americans having strong feelings on the matter. As expected, this was stronger down in Florida and then the Governor Bob Martinez got involved. He had a reputation to repair after domestic troubles with a sales tax the previous year and the Republican Governor there believed that the best way to do that was to follow the call of the crowd in demanding that there be no talks with the Cuban generals for a settlement just for them to be deposed. Bush and other figures in his party had tried to talk him into calming the situation down but Martinez went too far and there was an ugly instance where FBI agents had to raid a warehouse in Miami where weapons were being assembled by an ad hoc ‘Liberation Army’ (a few hundred people at most) getting ready to invade Cuba a la April 1961. Martinez publically defended such people when those caught with those weapons which included heavy man-portable items like mortars, rocket-launchers, & heavy-calibre machine guns were arrested on weapons charges. Martinez himself was the son of Spanish immigrants and he was an example of those not of Cuban extraction themselves who took it upon themselves to fight for this cause – some with the best intentions of Cuba at heart and others doing so in an opportunistic fashion.
Whitehead came under attack as it was known that he was in Nassau talking with the Cubans and this diplomat who was serving his country the best way he knew how faced a torching of his private home in New York while he was abroad doing that. Certain newspapers ran stories concerning his personal life which were of a slanderous nature in another effort to change the course of events.
As Congress met at Greenbrier, there was much attempted interference in the US-Cuban talks coming from there. America was a democracy yet sometimes the actions of its politicians when it came to particular matters leave admirers disgusted. There were Congressmen and Senators who were working for interests that sought to scupper any agreement with Cuba while at the same time there were a few with genuine feelings on the matter who were unhappy with any sort of agreement being made with Cuba that wasn’t a diktat. Arguments and inflammatory statements came from Congress with regular fashion when it came to the situation with Cuba.
In later years, when discussing the matter, Bush would state that if the country hadn’t been at war with the Soviets and thus media attention generally elsewhere, the opposition to the Treaty of Nassau would have inflamed the American public to such a degree that it never would have been signed by his Secretary of State. He would also spoke of the trouble that would later occur when the treaty went to Congress for approval and what happened there.
For the time being, once the talks in The Bahamas were finalised and they waited for the Treaty of Nassau to be signed, some other matters outside of the text of the agreement were dealt with.
del Toro and the Military Council had authorised the disclosure to the Americans during those talks of some nuggets of intelligence to help sway the discussions. They knew that there would be great influence coming from the US Intelligence Community towards what was finally agreed upon and set out to buy some goodwill; the Americans weren’t fools and realised this yet took what was on offer because to not do so would only harm them.
The DGI had been crushed by the Cuban Armed Forces as senior people from that intelligence service had tried to maintain the Castro regime even without the deceased brothers. Many of those people had been killed alongside their Soviet puppet-masters at that military base when the Cuban Army had struck though other DGI officials had decided that their lives were more valuable that a principle. The decision was taken to give the Americans intelligence that wouldn’t harm the new Cuba and then of course a new intelligence service would be set up in the long-run.
Using that information from the Cubans, the Americans had formally arrested a female Defence Intelligence Agency analyst who was a spy for the DGI and then detained pending a decision an academic who advised the State Department when it came to pre-war policy towards Cuba. Both people had ideological motives for their activities and were secret supporters of the Castro regime. These were the opening offers which the Military Council gave the Americans on the promise of a lot more and once those talks were finished to a satisfactory degree in Nassau, the floodgates opened.
The US Intelligence Community was made aware of all sorts of figures who worked for the DGI currently and in the past. There were few spy rings but instead individuals in positions of power and influence. Some had acted for Cuban interests because they were true-believers yet more had been either brought or blackmailed into doing so. Their names and evidence against them was handed over in a tidal-wave of information that also included details of KGB activities in the United States that Cuba was aware of and then lists of people in Cuba that were wanted by the Americans. These defectors, exiles and even criminals were all promised to the Americans now that there was a peace between the two nations and diplomatic relations were to be restored. It was expected that the Americans wouldn’t make public the arrests of spies for the time being but the Military Council would televise the arrests of many people in Cuba which were known to be wanted by the US Government with the knowledge that such events would then play well to the American public.
Again, the Americans wouldn’t be foolish enough to know exactly what the Cubans were doing here in building bridges from one side.
There were very few United States military forces remaining in the region prepared to act against Cuba. The carrier Coral Sea was now in the Barents Sea while the training carrier Lexington had taken her place the US Navy had hardly made a like-for-like replacement with those vessels. USAF combat assets were minimal with the units involved waiting at any moment for a release order to come so they could redeploy to Europe. When it came to troops there remained the regular 193rd Infantry Brigade deployed in Panama with some elements in Puerto Rico now and the lone brigade from the 7th Light Infantry Division in Nicaragua slated to transfer to Norway but possibly Denmark now once the threat of further conflict was resolved. US ARNG troops from Florida and Puerto Rico were still in-place in both their home stations with the understrength 4th Marine Division (many assets deployed elsewhere) nearby.
That planned attack against Cuba, TROPIC JUSTICE, should it have been authorised was meant to land in southeastern Cuba to retake Guantanamo Bay though it had many doubters due to the limitations of military assets gathered. Peace now meant that these and the combat support assets positioned to assist the combat forces could all be redeployed elsewhere. The Lexington, the national guardsmen and a select few Marine Reservists were instructed to remain in theatre once the agreement was settled in Nassau, but the combat aircraft, the regular troops and the US Marines would all now leave the region to go to Europe. This wasn’t the biggest influx of American reinforcements, but all would come in handy where they went.
Finally, in an another immediate outcome of the Treaty of Nassau, of much later note within the United States domestically, some smiles were raised when the world of sport moved as it often did in a diplomatic fashion. The Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, an outspoken and widely-known figure, announced that he was putting together a team to make an immediate trip to visit Cuba. There were quite a few players who quickly announced they would be going to the country once everything was arranged and then some media drama about others who weren’t showing an interest in going. A series of expedition games were planned to show goodwill using sports as a means of that.
Throughout the conflict, nationwide sporting events across America had been cancelled; football, baseball, hockey, basketball, motorsports and golf prominent among these but in no way exhaustive. Those athletes were regarded as superstars with many of them having important public images. Some chose to express their views to the media throughout the war with the overwhelming majority (but not all) publicly supporting the war effort and US military personnel abroad. In the absence of organised events, extra training sessions occurred for those sports stars yet others wanted to take part in the war effort as best they could. There were plenty of volunteers for the military and then others who joined figures from the music industry and Hollywood in events to ‘support the troops’ at home and abroad. Across the United States there was still the fear of nuclear holocaust yet at the same time with the conflict being as conventional as it was there were plenty of echoes of World War Two.
Two Hundred & Twenty
The position in the UK Government of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was considered by many to be a thankless task. It was a dangerous one too on a personal level with the Cabinet member undertaking the role facing arguably the greatest threat to their life within the government… as very recently exemplified by the assassination of John Major who had been killed very shortly after taking up the position. Ken Clarke, whom Thatcher had assigned as Major’s replacement at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), had moved from the role of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the NIO and knew all about the risks involved. Yet, at the same time, the ambitious Clarke knew that if he could succeed here then he could rise very high indeed in the government.
Foresight wasn’t available to him but Clarke’s wishes would come true and only three years later he would be in Downing Street…
Meanwhile, Clarke was forced to use all the political capital he had along with the force of his will to bring a halt to the terribly violent events going on in Northern Ireland. He was the minister responsible for Ulster and under his watch the situation had become one of civil war in the Province. There was ethnic cleansing and genocide taking place and that had to stop. Earlier measures had been tried and failed due in part to the external effects of the ongoing war, yet Clarke had come to realise that even such a factor as World War Three ongoing couldn’t mean that the murderous mayhem could continue. If the only way to stop that was through a draconian approach then that was the way it had to be. He had requested that Thatcher and the War Cabinet give him what were in effect dictatorial powers to address the issue and those were granted. Only with the powers that allowed the NIO to take complete control of the security forces and local government in Northern Ireland was he able to do this.
Nothing else had worked and this was the final result of all previous failures.
Major had been killed by the IRA and Soviet intelligence agencies had shipped weapons to the INLA in two pre-war events which had lit the fuse in Northern Ireland. However, while those Republican terrorist groups had been active in the internal conflict which commenced in Ulster after the shooting started with the Soviets elsewhere, it was Loyalist terrorists which had truly committed the worst of the atrocities that had then started taking place. That wasn’t something that many had wanted to accept for the Loyalists were seen as the ‘good guys’ – even if slightly misguided – while the Republicans were meant to be the ‘bad guys’. It was the former, not the latter who had started driving tens of thousands of innocent civilians from their homes and then committed massacres across Northern Ireland while the latter had reacted to these and done terrible things too those had been nowhere on such a murderous scale. Too many people had their political careers staked on the fact of who were the good guys and who were the bad guys and this had at first hampered Clarke’s attempts to deal with the crisis in Ulster as it got worse and worse with every passing day.
The Northern Ireland Secretary at first just hadn’t been believed and his reports side-lined by those who didn’t want to hear the truth. However, once tens of thousands of refugees had started to stream into the Irish Republic bringing with them tales of unimaginable horrors and then there had come identical reports coming up the chain of command through the British Army, the thinking elsewhere had changed. In addition, the reaction to all of this which had come from Dublin and then the United States – especially in the case of the latter nation – had piled on the pressure to act. The War Cabinet in London and then Parliament once it had finally met both had demanded immediate action and given Clarke what he had asked for. The conventional war with the Soviets still dominated the political scene but no one could allow the civil war to continue in Northern Ireland once there was repeated, overwhelming and confirmed evidence of what was occurring there.
The new Defence Secretary Cecil Parkinson – who had only taken the role upon the personal request of the PM and only for the duration of the conflict – had repeatedly stated to the War Cabinet his position in support of Clarke that this was happening on British soil and those people from both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland were British citizens!
Members of both the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) would protest furiously when orders came down from Clarke that their organisations were being taken under the direct command of the British Army and that they were all to answer to orders from professional soldiers instead of their own senior officers. The MI-5 presence of the ground came under command of the British Army too and again there was a lot of anger at this as well yet the Prime Minister was far from happy with what she regarded as the less-than-stellar recent performance of the Security Service so this went through as Clarke wanted. Each organisation was full of decent, honest and hard-working men and women though at the same time there were many members who had looked the other way when the atrocities were occurring and gone as far in some instances to aid and even take part in those. It was impossible to weed out the honest from the dishonest and Clarke had had to take this step because there was no time to be fair.
British soldiers from the mainland might have had many general sympathies with the Loyalist agenda and a hatred for the IRA but there wasn’t a connection between them and those committing the killings at a local level. Moreover, full-time soldiers responded to orders much better than those on the ground with a vested interest in helping those who they mistakenly believed were right. Clarke knew that he would be making even more enemies than he already had that might cost him dear in the future but he still went and did this because there was no other option that he could see.
There had to be the rule of law imposed and he put his faith in the British Army.
General Pascoe had been transferred out of his position as head of Northern Ireland Command and his place taken as commanding British Army forces in Ulster by General Charles Guthrie who had been serving as Assistant Chief of the General Staff. Pascoe hadn’t gone quietly and reminded those at the MOD that before war erupted in Europe he had seen his command stripped of troops and complained bitterly about this with warnings that the situation would fast get out of control. He hadn’t foreseen what would eventually occur in scale but his warnings had been there. Clarke had lost faith in the man though despite knowing just how hard Pascoe had been doing in such a difficult role due to the fact that the soldiers under his command had in far too many cases unwittingly done the bidding of those involved in the murders and mayhem. One of the worst example of this was Force Research Unit: a British Army manned covert reconnaissance organisation (part of 14 Intelligence Company) thoroughly implicated not just in collusion with Loyalist killers but also believed to be committing murders too. Clarke had this unit disbanded, its men sent back to the mainland and an NIO-led investigation started in to what had been done by these supposedly intelligence operatives.
Two battalions of regular British Army troops had remained in Northern Ireland following the LION deployment of the UK Armed Forces elsewhere and both of those were left understrength with many combat support units moving to Germany to join other formations with the reasoning that heavy weapons and engineering specialists weren’t needed. Pascoe and then Guthrie would have used such men for patrol duties because they were trained soldiers yet those wishes there had been overruled. In their place and also to replace other regular troops who had departed there had first come men from TA formations such as 4 PARA and then other units of less-capable reservists from the western parts of mainland Britain. Even those part-time Paras didn’t have the necessary training to allow them to keep the peace in Northern Ireland when they arrived as they ended up like the regular soldiers with 1 LI & 3 QUEENS chasing their tails and being deceived as civil war broke out. There needed to be an acclimatisation period and those reservists from the UK mainland who had been rushed in had missed out upon that.
Eventually thought, the soldiers all became aware of what they were facing in Ulster. They discovered the after-effects of massacres which had taken place, they witnessed homes being burnt down in an organised fashion as communities were burnt out and they came under fire from civilians with guns who then tried to melt back into the population. Military officers working with the UDR, the RUC, MI-5 personnel in Northern Ireland and also local authorities all started to understand that there was an undercurrent of cooperation between those organisations and many of those committing the violence. At the same time, the soldiers also understood that the violence wasn’t all one sided either; the Republican terrorists were out killing innocents just like the Loyalists ones were and made their own claims of ‘self-defence’ as well.
Guthrie’s instructions from Clarke upon taking over were to make sure that his men were ready to act when he got the political authorisation to act and the general did just that.
When it begun, Clarke’s solution to the problems in Northern Ireland was shockingly effective. He wasn’t a political or military genius it was just a case of him acting at the right time and with enough support behind him for what would have normally been regarded as too terrible to contemplate now being the only thing that could be done.
Martial law came into effect in Ulster.
The war zone that the Province had become was treated just like that with dusk-to-dawn curfews, a lifting of previous restrictive rules of engagement and the introduction of military courts. The soldiers were not going to look that other way due to the needs of someone’s political agenda and they were free to engage the enemy when they saw fit. There were always going to be objections back on the Mainland about this with the claim that it was ‘un-British’ but the only choice was a continued state of anarchy which had already claimed thousands of lives if the worst estimates were true. With complete military control over other elements of the security services on the ground in Ulster and then the NIO bringing in people from London to take control of the local authorities, the aim was to bring law and order back to Northern Ireland.
For those committing the acts which were now being treated as war crimes, the sudden unleashing of the British Army against them was a shock. No longer could they rely on being warned through back channel contacts of an impending security operation and there came a sudden end to the intelligence on where to find their ‘enemy’ which they were being supplied though those friendly sources. British soldiers opened fire at will rather than being forced to follow a complicated set of ROE: there was little hesitation on their part either to delay that because of all the horrors that they had seen beforehand and not been allowed to act against.
British military operations to end the violence came with two major operations to begin that process. The higher formations of the 3rd and 39th Brigades unleashed their men in wide-scale operations to the west and south respectively against those judged the most dangerous enemies first with the intention of hitting them so hard that they would collapse. Afterwards the soldiers would then conduct smaller operations elsewhere of an aggressive patrol nature after these first shock-and-awe strikes.
The first battalion of the Light Infantry (1 LI) battlegroup was the lead tactical unit for the mission deep into the west to stage an assault operation that bore all the hallmarks of a real combat operation around Enniskillen in County Fermanagh. The regular soldiers were joined by UDR men strengthening their ranks yet under tight discipline. Arriving at dawn in convoys of light armoured vehicles from several directions, the soldiers moved throughout the countryside surrounding the town rather than in there itself and focused upon the roads running northwest, west and south away towards the border with the Irish Republic. Catholic civilians from County Fermanagh and beyond had been travelling along these as they fled Northern Ireland only to be face robbery, rape and murder by Loyalist terrorists acting like brigands of the Middle Ages. Such killers had base camps, transport and stocks of weaponry to support them in their effort and had thought themselves to be invulnerable to any attempt to stop their activities… until they came up against some real soldiers.
The resulting clashes were a one-sided affair. 1 LI attacked those base camps with overwhelming firepower and then struck at those who tried to flee fighting. Men who thought that they were tough when killing unarmed civilians got a taste of their own medicine in being cut down with impunity. There had been no warning from their usual sources of any sort of operation even being planned against them just the biggest ambush which they could have ever faced. After the numbers among them of the unlucky and the foolish had been killed those with a bit of common sense who remained started surrendering to the British soldiers. They hoped to wiggle their way out of trouble by playing on patriotism and then rely on a later civilian court case where in the meantime witnesses against them would have moved on or could be intimidated. What they weren’t expecting was to be stripped to their underwear, hog-tied and then shipped off to a distant detention camp without any access to supporters or even a friendly solicitor. Their captors didn’t want them to trade information in return for being let go and instead quickly gave them military trials where the evidence against them that they were suspected war criminals was enough to see them detained until an undefined later date. Word would soon spread fast about this and such a thing was hoped to reach others engaged in similar actions elsewhere.
Down in South Armagh, the IRA men there were always going to be a tougher nut to crack than the Loyalists around Enniskillen. Elements of the SAS and some UDR troops had suffered greatly in trying to defeat the terrorists here which had established a war zone along the border with the Irish Republic but they had badly stung the IRA as well. Yet operations had been hampered by a refusal to allow crossing of the border over into the Irish Republic to engage those who fled after attacking and even Clarke hadn’t been able to get permission for that to occur. The IRA had their bases outside of Ulster and slipped across to fight the security services where they had much local support whenever they wished. 3 QUEENS – again with extra manpower from the UDR under command – were given the task of stopping this with the mission orders being for them to defeat the IRA once and for all from coming across and attacking security services infrastructure on British soil.
Using some helicopters but mainly travelling cross-country in a several fleets of Land Rovers, 3 QUEENS closed the border by moving from above and in from the northwest. They moved fast to seize the main crossing points and then spread out from there from company-sized groups down to platoons and fire squads. Plenty of ammunition and supplies were taken with them to allow them to operate out in the countryside in a mobile fashion on foot and in their vehicles patrolling the border area just inside Ulster and taking on those who tried to challenge them. Very quickly those fights came with the IRA though while successes came they weren’t as effective as the Enniskillen operation as the border was long and porous. Everywhere that the IRA and 3 QUEENS clashed in a stand-up engagement the British soldiers would win but the IRA really knew this terrain well and understood how to slip away from a pursing enemy. Of course, killing those IRA men was a major objective for 3 QUEENS yet so too was stopping them coming across the border doing their worst. Intelligence pointed to a wholescale stop order going out through the ranks of the South Armagh Brigade’s cross-border activity units and then local supporters on the ground on the British side of the border quickly realised that they were mismatched against a regular force of soldiers like this who they couldn’t observe up-close and pin down in an attack.
Clarke’s gamble was working. Martial law and the concentrated application of military power was putting a stop to the activities of the worst groups of offenders in the civil war. Once those initial operations were completed those troops would be joining the reorganised UDR and specialised RUC units through which Guthrie might as well have taken a flamethrower to get rid of the bad guys in retaking the rest of Northern Ireland for the forces of law and order.
Britain was no longer going to stand for ethnic cleansing, genocide and wholescale murder taking place on its own soil.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 12, 2019 19:17:43 GMT
Two Hundred & Twenty–One
The British Army had taken many losses in this war and faced some extremely tough fighting beforehand all across the North German Plain as well as in parts of coastal Scandinavia.
At times there had been crippling defeats and even with victories so many men had been killed, wounded or ended up in the hands of the enemy. The fighting which took place on March 31st when crossing the Elbe-Lateral Canal and reaching the Inter-German Border ahead of the rest of NATO was up until that point probably the fiercest instances of all combat undertaken. The corps-level attack made came following much preparation and four complete divisions were assembled for an attack over a relatively small area where there was control of the air and much reconnaissance done to gain knowledge of the enemy, but still that enemy made the British Army bleed almost white.
The race was won to set foot on the borderline but it came at a great cost.
General Inge pushed the British I Corps – a command formation somewhat unrecognisable from its pre-war order of battle – forward across what had once been the defensive sector defended by the Bundeswehr. Many of his men knew the terrain and they had plenty of West German military personnel on-hand with them to assist. All of the gathered intelligence was put to use as well, especially when it came to where and how the opposing enemy forces were positioned ahead. Those defensive forces were under the command of the Soviet Second Guards Army and included elements which had been part of the Second Guards Tank and Third Shock Armys pre-war. These troops had been pushed backwards from their previous occupying positions along the lower reaches of the Weser all the way to the border and his mission was to defeat them on this side of the dividing borderline rather than just let them withdraw into East Germany. This hadn’t been what he had initially wanted to do but the orders had come from Generals Kenny and Galvin to defeat the enemy in battle rather than letting them escape. Therefore there had been that halt order to stop at the waterline that was the canal and build-up strength while also letting the Soviets dig in.
Due to these orders and the time the Soviets were allowed to prepare for the British assault, the mass casualties even among a stunning victory were taken.
In the push over the Elbe-Lateral Canal and the drive to the border beyond that, the 3rd & 4th Armoured Divisions remained in the lead for the combat with the 5th Infantry & 7th Armoured Divisions behind and ready to come forward in support. Infantry units from the Iron & Tiger formations were used but armour was needed as well to advance under the intense artillery barrage coming over their heads and then the air attacks that took place as well. The majority of the Soviets were dug-in yet they had some tank-heavy mobile forces positioned ready to launch counterattacks and the British were expecting this… just not in how they were undertaken.
Once over the narrow waterline that was the canal, the British went through minefields and banks of barbed wire hastily-laid to slow them down. The ground itself was pure mud after previous instances of heavy fighting here earlier in the war and then a lot of recent artillery barrages. Soviet machine guns, mortars and missile teams opened up on the British and they returned fire with their own heavy weapons. The men on the ground – both British and Soviet – took some time to engage each other directly as their fire support assets at first did all the damage but once they clashed up close and personal the fighting was intense. The British had a numerical advantage yet that wasn’t decisive here. At the same time, the Soviet troops deployed were under firm orders to stay where they were and defend what they held unlike the British where junior officers were given greater freedom to manoeuvre.
The intention on the part of the Soviet Second Guards Army to hold many of its defending forces where they were wasn’t so that they could be needlessly slaughtered. Instead, the dug-in defenders were meant to provide suitable distraction for the British so that Soviet tanks could defeat the attacker. Those tanks operated in platoon- & company-sized attacks with the small numbers charging out of cover and into the British attacking units. Tactical reconnaissance efforts at the front were looking for battalions and regiments, not these smaller units that did their assigned task of tearing into the British. Aircraft above swooping in low in the face of SAMs and anti-aircraft guns along with soldiers on the ground armed with man-portable ATGMs broke up these attacks alongside Centurions, Challengers and Chieftains yet there were many losses taken.
The Soviet Army was showing that it could defend territory when it wanted to at a tactical level and a lot of effort had to be employed to overcome that.
Nonetheless, the British I Corps drove onwards. They pushed their opponents back to the borderline and then fought them along that. Despite orders to the contrary, there were British units that went over the Inter-German Border at a local level though never more than a mile or two before their commanders pulled them back. Some latitude was given – effectively a nod and a wink so to speak – to allow Soviet units that were eventually trying to retreat as the day got later to not escape unharmed. The fixed border defences on the East German side were those of a pre-war nature and weren’t as impressive close-up as they had looked from a distance through decades of intelligence work.
Estimates from General Inge’s intelligence staff after the day’s fighting came to a close informed him that two thirds, maybe even three quarters of the enemy had been destroyed in the fighting by his attacking pair of divisions without the need to bring up his follow-on forces. At the same time, the expenditure of ammunition had been immense as the enemy had to be blasted out of their defensive works and then there was the equipment and human cost to the Iron & Tiger Divisions as well.
The corps commander spoke to the British Second Army headquarters afterwards and General Kenny was told that the mission to reach the border had been achieved with the desired results of smashing the enemy ahead apart as well. Congratulations came but also questions over own losses suffered as the army group commander was too a British Army officer as well as the commander of multi-national forces here on the North German Plain. Both men agreed that the British I Corps was worn-out and would need another halt before going any further eastwards and anyway such a thing as that would depend upon politics first too.
General Inge inquired over what decisions had been reached in Brussels if any…
In Central Germany, General Schwarzkopf would be greatly disappointed when he later found out that the British were the first to physically reach the Inter-German Border and not his troops. The US V Corps commander had his tanks on that borderline by the early afternoon of the last day in March yet the British had done that in their operational sector by midday. In a typical example of the certain type of diplomacy he was known for when dealing with his allies-cum-rivals, he would send his congratulations to the British afterwards… but also challenged them to race for Berlin too where he anticipated winning this time.
Across the Fulda Gap, the US Army forces under Schwarzkopf’s command spent the day fighting to not only reach the border with East German not that far from their grasp but also against Soviet forces throughout the general area. The drive was made across the Fulda River up to the border by the 3rd Armored Division while the 4th Mechanized Infantry Division moved against the town of Fulda and its new defenders, the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division widened the operational area to the southwest pushing against the enemy in the hills of the Rhon and then the 82nd Airborne Division concentrated against crushing pockets of resistance bypassed. The need for several different operations to take place throughout the countryside already littered with the refuse of war limited attention that could go into that push on the border though Schwarzkopf still gave it priority.
Once the narrow river was bounced, the Americans did like the British and pushed Soviet forces back into East Germany and followed them too just a little bit. A whole arsenal of high-powered anti-tank guns manned by East Germans met those US Army invaders and stung the 3rd Armored Division badly. Several individual unit commanders wanted to launch major assaults against these guns but were overruled and ordered to withdraw back over the border. Schwarzkopf would later make sure that the brigade commanders involved were not reprimanded for this intrusion across the Inter-German Border as he claimed they had been following his orders for ‘armed reconnaissance’ and he would also personally brief the 3rd Armored Division concerned how once political permission was given to invade – which he expected to occur soon enough – those anti-tank guns with such long-range wouldn’t be a surprise and would certainly get attention paid to them.
Around Fulda, the Soviets who had fallen back then had allowed themselves to become cut off and surrounded. The US V Corps was given extra artillery support released from US Seventh Army reserves of heavy eight-inch howitzers brought of storage in the mainland United States and shipped to Germany. These were used to blast away at the troops who had dug in around Fulda and keep them in-place there rather than defeat them; the 4th Mechanized Infantry Division would move against them in time on their own terms once the battlefield was suitably prepared.
As to the 24th Mechanized Infantry and the 82nd Airborne Divisions, those troops under Schwarzkopf’s command made physical contact with the Spanish I Corps on their right in the high ground and eliminated most of the strongest pockets of enemy resistance in the centre.
Through all of these simultaneous operations that the US V Corps had ongoing (over a small area nonetheless) there were furious air battles going on above them. Enemy aircraft had remained in greater number than elsewhere in the skies over the eastern reaches of Hessen and across the border above Thuringia. There was no intelligence that the 4 ATAF or the higher command of Allied Forces Central Europe had as to why this was the case and therefore many suspicions were raised as to the reasoning behind this.
Were the Soviets trying to hide what was going on further eastwards? Was there some sort of mass attack being hidden as it was prepared?
Those questions couldn’t yet be answered though plenty of work was going into trying to find out the circumstances behind the continued strong Soviet air presence in the region. Meanwhile, for those involved in the air combat all that mattered was doing their duty by completing their missions and also staying alive. There was air combat in the hours or daylight and in the darkness, at all altitudes and with the opposing sides sometimes seeing each other and sometimes not. Fighters tried to protect their own troops from enemy air attack while attack aircraft tried to bomb those on the ground and then there were reconnaissance aircraft also in attendance on the airborne battlefield.
From the ground below came missiles that were launched against those aircraft as both American and Soviet forces tried to defend themselves but then there also came much longer range missiles from deep inside East German too. These were modern SAM systems against which NATO air forces had had some success but still struggled to deal with overall. The S-300 systems – known as the SA-10 Grumble and the SA-12 Gladiator / Giant – were being supplied as priority cases over older, less-capable systems and giving NATO aircraft a lot of problems. These lanced across the sky and hit aircraft from distance including many Soviet aircraft too. Specialist NATO electronic warfare teams were engaged in struggles against these though of course there were always other missions they had to undertake too from enemy communications interception to countering Soviet long-range jamming efforts.
There was some speculation that the enemy was trying to use fighters to defend strategic SAM batteries yet that was discounted as that had been tried and failed by Soviet allies in the Middle East in the past.
Something was certainly going on though across in Thuringia far from the frontlines and while NATO did know what that was yet, they weren’t sitting on their behinds thinking that they’d won the war here yet and it was time to take their eyes off the ball.
Two Hundred & Twenty–Two
Despite the claims of detractors, NATO wasn’t dominated either in a military or political fashion by the largest members of the organisation in peace or war. The United States wasn’t in a position to force the rest of the alliance to do its bidding as the organisation was a truly democratic body with the wishes of all members actually meaning something. It certainly would have been easier if NATO had been like the Warsaw Pact where the largest and most powerful nation – even nations – made all the decisions and everyone else did as they were told, yet that simply wasn’t the case.
Acting President Bush wanted NATO to agree to his wishes that there should be an invasion eastwards and diplomacy was the key to that, not intimidation, bribery or brute force. Therefore, it was taking some time to get an agreement among the meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) in Brussels for such a strategy to be accepted even with many member nations supporting the American’s wishes.
The diplomats meeting in the Belgian capital were representing their home countries and the interests of those not just the needs of the military alliance which those nations were members of. As they took part in discussions within the NAC framework, at all times those factors needed to be taken into consideration. The strategy which NATO took for continued warfare needed to adequately reflect the needs of each of the countries who had their diplomats gathered.
What the NAC remained discussing was the proposal put forth by the United States for an invasion of East Germany and Czechoslovakia to go alongside the continued efforts at liberating the remains of Denmark in Soviet hands and also the parts of Austria recently forcibly taken. Liberating West Berlin was a major part of this but so too were the war aims of collapsing the regimes of the Warsaw Pact nations which had taken part in the war launched by the Soviet Union as well as destroying the military forces of the Soviets and their puppet regimes in battle.
This was regarded as a sound political and military strategy by many yet there were still a few nations which were opposed to it and there were also objections from more as to how it was to be achieved despite agreeing overall.
The Netherlands and Norway, through their representatives in Brussels, were opposed to an invasion of Warsaw Pact territory. The foreign ministers of both nations pointed out the great losses in this war so far suffered by their own countries and those of their neighbours and then also the risks that they believed were very apparent in striking eastwards… namely those of Soviet nuclear weapons. It was made clear to the NAC that the governments of the two countries believed that the mission of NATO was to defend the territory of those nations part of the alliance and not to invade other countries no matter what wrongs had been done. The Dutch viewed the situation as being too costly for NATO when so much damage had been done at home while the Norwegians also made this point they were also rather worried about a nuclear response.
Then there was the West Germans whose country had been fought over so furiously and was utterly destroyed in many places. They were behind the proposal to advance upon West Berlin and liberate that city from foreign rule yet their wish was for full attention to be paid to that rather than elsewhere such as in Czechoslovak and even assisting the Austrians to a great deal either with Austria not being a member of the alliance. There were concerns from the West Germans too over the effects of toppling the East German regime as they believed that if such a thing was successful, their own future would be imperilled as they would have to deal with the after-effects on the ground of such a success rather than other countries.
Like the West Germans, the French were opposed to military attention being directed elsewhere apart from the liberation of West Berlin and the last remaining portions of West Germany in enemy hands. It was many of their own military forces who were currently positioned facing Czechoslovakia and also heading towards Austria to join the Italians but those had been moved under NATO command. The French weren’t happy at having to work with the Italians whom they regarded as traitors and such a thing would be necessary in further efforts to strike into the heart of the Warsaw Pact through Austria. Their position on Austria wasn’t the same as the West Germans for the French were prepared to help defend that nation; their concern was that their troops would be fighting alongside the Italians and no one else would be doing that.
The Danish foreign minister was still reminding his fellow representatives that much of his country was still under enemy occupation with all the horrors that was bringing. He expressed thanks on behalf of his nation for all the sacrifices made beforehand and still ongoing in fighting to liberate his nation, but Denmark was a NATO member with its capital and much of its population still in enemy hands. Denmark needed to be rid of the enemy and while invading East Germany could assist in that, his nation’s needs were still very important.
Ireland and Sweden, both nations not formal members of NATO but with the Allies and therefore invited to the NAC conference, expressed fears over going too far. They weren’t opposed to an invasion of the Warsaw Pact like the Dutch and the Norwegians were yet they believed that it would be more costly than anyone yet anticipated. The representatives of these two nations expressed fears that the Soviets would only use such an invasion for their own purposes in justifying their own apparent ‘defensive efforts’ to open the war. Whereas governments worldwide had cut their ties with the Soviets since the conflict had started with only a very few nations supporting them and then only diplomatically, such an invasion would instead – the Irish and Swedes believed – see a growth in the domestic peace movements slowly starting to begin across the West among the citizens of nations already at war. Both nations had been stung by the conflict by enemy attacks at home and by combat losses abroad (only the Swedes in the latter case) but many of their populations were opposed to open warfare and would oppose an invasion eastwards. It was pointed out that there would be similar events in many other nations too and other countries needed to consider this.
Belgium, Britain, Canada, Spain and Portugal all remained firmly behind the American proposal to take the war eastwards as their heads of governments had first stated when first approached by the United States. These nations understood the needs of others but believed that many of those concerns were short-sighted. Evicting the Soviets from NATO territory by forcing them back over the border would only mean that the regimes which had sent those invaders westwards would survive and the armies of the enemy were free to be reconstituted at a time of their choosing. A second attack could come soon afterwards or maybe after a delay when NATO was focused upon rebuilding and not with the current wartime strengths that it had.
Taking aboard the worries of domestic peace movements which the Irish and Swedes had pointed out, those points were used instead as a reason to continue the war and invade the nations of the Warsaw Pact now while such movements were small and near-irrelevant before they could grow into something strong.
With the Americans themselves, as it was their proposal they pushed the most strongly for it and tried to counter all hesitation and opposition too. The Soviets had started this war with an unprovoked attack against NATO on its military forces as well as civilians and it was the position of the US Government that an end to the regimes of those who had launched that war was the only realistic solution. The Soviets themselves were a different matter with their nuclear weapons though a defeat on the battlefield was believed to be enough to bring them down rather than outright invasion. When it came to nuclear weapons, the Americans along with the British and French had their own pointed at the Soviets and with such postures as both maintained ready to destroy the other, the Americans regarded NATO nuclear warheads as effectively countering those of the Soviets. Should the enemy have ever intended to use them, they would surely have used them first and a later attack would only mean the certain destruction of the Soviet Union.
The diplomats at the NAC were assured by the Americans that their strategy of invading East Germany and Czechoslovakia – with a view to moving into Poland and Hungary afterwards as well – would mean the liberation of remaining NATO territory as well… and wasn’t West Berlin the territory of a NATO nation? Enemy forces in the Baltic would be cut off and caught in a vice alongside the joint US-British effort in Jutland to destroy them and then the Danish-Swedish efforts on Zealand. In Austria, giving full assistance to the Austrians and the Italians who were now fighting alongside their allies after a delay meant that Soviet arms were going to be defeated there like elsewhere. The armies of the Soviets needed to be crushed, the Americans believed, for they would only return again if not defeated in battle on the soil of Warsaw Pact nations across Eastern Europe.
Moreover, there were other factors to take into consideration.
The naval war had been won and the air war was tilting in the favour of NATO. NATO forces could reinforce and move forces around if not at will then with a great deal of safety. Diplomatically the Soviets were beaten and they were surrounded by hostile nations or those displaying a strongly-armed neutral stance. This meant that they were on the ropes and the time was perfect to strike right now.
In the hands of the Soviets and their puppet regimes were tens of thousands of POWs from across the NATO nations alongside those millions of Danes, West Germans and now Austrians too (though not so much in the latter case) as civilians under occupation. With those prisoners from the military forces of the Allies, there had already been many confirmed stories of abuse against them and the remainder in the hands of the enemy as well as innocent civilians needed to be saved. There was a moral obligation to liberate all those who needed to be freed and one which the Americans argued that NATO couldn’t ignore.
Ogarkov’s coup d’état in Moscow was regarded by the US Government as a major factor in why NATO needed to strike eastwards and as soon as possible too. This field marshal who had taken control of his country was a firm military-man and not really a political figure. It was believed that he was someone who could, unlike Chebrikov, could be willing to make a sincere peace with the Allies but only following a series of major defeats on the battlefield. The little intelligence that had come out from behind the Iron Curtain when it came to Ogarkov said that he was a strong-willed patriot and nobody’s fool yet believed far too much in his own military prowess. To smash apart the armies which he commanded would mean that he would be willing to engage in serious talks unlike those initiated by Chebrikov.
The chances of victory in an invasion eastwards were strong, the Americans put forth, and not least by what was currently going on in Poland. Those masses of Soviet troops that had recently been mobilised right before Ogarkov took over and certainly on his orders were heading towards the frontlines in Germany but first they would have to go through Poland. There had been plenty of NATO effort gone into stirring up trouble on the ground there amongst the Poles with their natural hostility towards Russians and the Soviets in particular yet at the same time domestic issues had come into play. American intelligence pointed to a full-scale civilian revolt, maybe even a military rebellion in places, due to start at any moment and the movements of all of those Soviet troops through Poland was sure to do that. With Poland up in flames against the Soviets, a defeat of their armies on the battlefields of East Germany and Czechoslovakia was certainly assured. Ogarkov wasn’t thought to be power mad with a wish for a last gasp victory for international communism and was only believed to be interested in defending his country… which meant Russia. There was even the hope that maybe by thinking of his beloved Rodina a possibility would come where he would let the Soviet Union collapse to save Russia and there would be no more threat to Western Europe after that.
While the diplomats put across the concerns of their nations, the fighting continued on the battlefield and news of what was going on there was something that of course affected those talks. The minute details of combat weren’t important over narrow rivers crossed and divisions engaged, but rather the long advances made and the defeats of armies. This was important overall yet at the same time there was the personalities involved in the discussions at Brussels that took on even greater significance than that especially as how those representatives used the results of those battles to further their diplomatic aims.
Both Grassley and King as US SecState and British Foreign Secretary had taken up their roles in the immediate pre-war period and were both still rather new on the diplomatic field. Yet, in comparison, these two were now old hands at diplomacy when it came to some others which attended the NAC meeting in Brussels as the senior foreign affairs representatives of their nations. The presence of coalition governments in certain nations in wartime along with the lack of faith in previous holders of office and also in a few cases of Soviet KGB/GRU activity meant that there were many new faces. The Danes, the Dutch, the Irish and the Spanish all had new foreign ministers after reorganisations at the top levels of their government and then the Swedes were present with a new foreign minister too after there had been that wave of assassinations in Stockholm when war broke out as the Swedes hadn’t taken enough precautions.
Italy had a new Prime Minister but Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti remained at his post and came to Brussels knowing full well that he was not going to be the most popular person present. Just like Andreotti was as a former prime minister now a foreign minister instead, Joe Clark from Canada remained in his pre-war role as Minister for External Affairs though he came to Brussels a rather troubled figure after an attack on his person in the war’s first day by a supposedly long-term loyal political aide of his who had attempted to kill him on behalf of the Soviet GRU. Clark had come away from that terrifying experience physically unharmed though many thought that there was a different sort of damage done to the man.
Second-tier ministers and civil servants acting as professional diplomats were with the foreign ministers and there was also Lord Carrington and other NATO officials in Brussels. Clashes were always expected to occur as the situation with the ongoing war made the atmosphere tense and then there were matters spoken of too bluntly as well as not talked about when everyone pretended that they didn’t know something.
With such a gathering of personalities engaged in discussions that on occasion got a little heated to discuss the proposal to advance eastwards, there were some incidents which were bound to occur.
Michael Howard was passed a message in a surreptitious manner by Frits Korthals Altes, the new Dutch Foreign Minister who had replaced Wim van Eekelen after the latter had resigned last week. Howard had never met the man before and had been engaged in small talk using a translator during a break for lunch when he was slipped a small piece of paper. He handed that to one of the MI-6 officers in Brussels with him and King after reading the short English text printed and then made a sterling effort to carry on afterwards as if nothing had happened.
Howard didn’t know why he had been chosen to be the recipient of a message explaining that there was a group of Dutch ministers who were seeking support to oust Lubbers and the last of his supporters in the Dutch national government and nor was he able to speculate what would happen with that. He believed that there should have been other methods of contact that the Dutch should have tried rather than through him and was left rather confused by that clandestine approach as well as thinking of what the end result would be there.
The Finns had a representative of their military government in Brussels and this Major-General with the Finnish Defence Forces was acting as the de facto foreign minister for his country for the time being. There was a clash between him and the new Swedish Foreign Minister when the Swede inquired when the Finnish Defence Forces were going to return control of their country to a civilian government and the Finn replied that the situation was still too dangerous for that. In response, the Swede pointed out that while his government had been stung by assassinations by foreigners and his country faced direct attack, Sweden had stuck with civilian democracy rather than a regime led by the military. This upset the Major-General who viewed such comments in light of the complicated history between the two Scandinavian countries as once again being an example of Sweden trying to interfere in the internal affairs of his nation.
Both sides were certainly at fault for a lack of tact on the part of the Swede and an overreaction by the Finn yet such men weren’t professional diplomats and they had already expressed diverging opinions on the future conduct of the war. The sour taste left in the mouth of the Finnish Major-General after such a clash of words was thought by many to be partially responsible for a further later incident at the NAC meeting.
Before that, Andreotti had found himself confronted by Jean-Bernard Raimond but managed to use some of his diplomatic charm to not allow a potential clash with the French Foreign Minister to occur. The French were most-displeased with the conduct of Italy before it had entered the war even more than the Americans had been and Raimond had been reminding Andreotti of how even the Moroccans had come to assist Europe yet Italy had stayed out of the conflict. The Italian was able to divert blame onto his former prime minister and also congratulated Raimond on his achievements with Morocco before other events at the conference took the attention of everyone.
A security officer with the West German diplomatic party pulled his gun upon a Portuguese junior diplomat in another incident as the West Germans were on edge. A misunderstanding had taken place and the latter had gotten too close to the former’s protective charge resulting in near gun-play. This was hushed up but it revealed the ongoing tension taking place in Brussels and the rather frightened Portuguese man in question needed some time to calm down afterwards while his Foreign Minister hadn’t been at all pleased when Portugal had had its soldiers recently give their lives for West Germany.
Richard Armitage found himself most upset at a comment from that Finnish Major-General when it came to how Finland viewed the continuation of the war and there was a clash between the two men that made many present wince. Finland was still angry at how the Soviet Embassy in Helsinki had been bombed by an American aircraft resulting in the death of Finns present there in an event which they believed could have caused the Soviets to invade Helsinki proper rather than just occupy parts of Lapland. Armitage defended that strike by a USAF F-117 aircraft as something that had kept southern Finland from being occupied like many parts of the north had been as KGB operations from there had been instrumental in coercing the Finnish government to stay placid as their country was used to attack Norway and Sweden. Moreover, Armitage also pointed out that from the Embassy the KGB and the GRU had directed efforts to obtain passports for their Spetsnaz terrorists to enter countries in the West undercover to kill innocent civilians. There came a comment next by the Finn that his country may request that ‘foreign forces’ on its soil might be ‘asked to leave’ now that the Soviets had been ejected from Finland; he didn’t directly refer to the victorious light infantry troops of the US Army’s XVIII Corps but Armitage was sure that that was what he meant.
The threat to ‘bomb Finland back to the Stone Age’ was made by Armitage in response. The Assistant Secretary of Defence believed that Finland was threatening to do to his country like they had done to the Soviets and exploded with anger in a very undiplomatic manner that shocked even those who eventually ended up agreeing that such a comment from the Finns was rather unfriendly to say the least after the Americans had helped liberate Lapland and shed blood in doing so.
The Finnish delegation wouldn’t walk out of the NAC meeting but they didn’t take an active part in further discussions.
Incidents aside, a decision was made by the end of the day. NATO soldiers had reached the Inter-German Border and were poised to cross it in force. To stop and wait for a political decision was something that senior military officers were telling the politicians wasn’t a good idea as it would allow the enemy to recover some and these comments were understood to be a pressurising factor for those in Brussels.
It was the strength of the American arguments that won the day though, especially as there was support for what Grassley was asking on behalf of Bush from several other foreign ministers present. The war couldn’t be halted at this point and needed to be fought to the finish, everyone eventually agreed though there were plenty of concessions made and promises undertook to satisfy many objections.
Word immediately went out to the military forces that the borders with East Germany and Czechoslovakia were no longer stop-lines. General Galvin then flashed a signal to his subordinate commanders that Operation ABOLITION was to begin at once… and with earnest.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 12, 2019 19:25:14 GMT
Two Hundred & Twenty–Three
Austrian military strategy was based around planning for the worst case scenario of defending their country against a Soviet-led attack coming from the east. Their defences were positioned to guard against an attack launched from Hungary with supporting efforts made from Czechoslovakia in the north and northeast as well. Guarding their rear areas from paratroopers and airmobile troops was another element of this plan as well and so with full mobilisation the Austrian Army was large and well-equipped with a wide spread across their nation.
Before the invasion occurred, the Austrians had military intelligence specialists analyse combat operations taking place throughout Germany. Those officers assigned as observers with the Bundeswehr and the French Army in Bavaria stayed well away from the fighting itself as Austria had been neutral but they had been able to understand the tactics employed by the Soviets on the attack and NATO efforts to defend against these, in particular counterattacks. The danger to Austria from Soviet forces in Hungary and the armies of their puppets was further planned against following these observations made and at the last few days of peace that Austria had there had been some small but not insignificant changes made to defensive structure to protect the nation.
Along the border with Hungary, through Burgenland, the Austrian Army was positioned with light infantry units scattered across the countryside through defensive works. There were fortifications with heavy guns from tank turrets up high with those weapons zeroed-in upon the natural avenues of approach. More light infantry units were deployed in hidden positions where they were supposed to hide until being overrun and attack enemy units from the rear in the heat of battle. Then, there were the heavy forces that the Austrian Army had in the form of the 1st Panzergrenadier Division located southeast of Vienna and the 3rd Panzergrenadier Brigade east of Graz. These forces were meant to engage the enemy after they had been blooded first and deliver a sharp counterattack to smash apart those attacking forces which had made it through everything else.
The heavy forces were the best-equipped units of the Austrian Army with their tanks and the majority of their mechanised armoured fighting vehicles as well as self-propelled artillery. Naturally, the Austrians positioned them to guard against enemy intrusions into Vienna and Graz and also hid them from overhead observation as well in a large effort at concealment. The fate of the nation would depend upon the Austrians keeping these units intact and ready to strike so that they could save the Republic from being overrun and occupied.
Such an approach on the part of the Austrians would cause them a major problem though. They didn’t want to commit these heavy forces until the time was just perfect and they were held back waiting for that moment. The senior command of the Austrian Army were the ones who were to issue the orders for them to move and not the local commanders on the ground because such formations represented all the mobile striking power available. Austria’s new allies in Italy and the NATO nations fighting in Germany were moving their own forces towards the eastern parts of the Republic though were still some distance away. The Austrians were dealing with the invasion themselves for the time being and so couldn’t afford to throw away their heavy forces at the wrong time and allow the Soviets to take Graz or, even worse, reach Vienna and strike into the heart of their capital like they had in 1945.
However, the Austrians waited just too long and had the heart ripped out of their army on the approaches to Vienna.
It took the Soviet Fourth Guards Army a day and a half – including much night-time fighting as well where casualties caused by ‘friendly fire’ were immense – to push through all of the outlying Austrian defences. Thousands of Soviet soldiers and hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles were expended in combating the light infantry and fixed defences that the Austrians had deployed to slow them down but they eventually got clear. A total control of the skies above them helped in this achievement as the Austrian Air Force couldn’t intervene and NATO combat aircraft had yet to make an appearance over the battlefield either. A lack of Austrian SAMs and the inability of the anti-aircraft guns fielded instead made sure that for the first time in this war Soviet Army helicopters were able to play an important role as well.
On both sides of Lake Neusiedl (often called the Sea of the Viennese) and into the northern parts of Burgenland, the Soviets drove forwards with the remains of their three divisions and towards Vienna. There remained plenty of harassment against their flanks and in the rear but they were chasing Austrian infantry units which were on foot while they themselves were in tanks and armoured vehicles. More and more of their opponents were crushed as this took place and the way ahead was open. Finally, at this point, there came reports from attack helicopters roaming ahead on scouting missions that Austrian heavy armour had been spotted moving forwards to engage them.
There were three combat brigades with the 1st Panzergrenadier Division and one of those consisted of motorised jaegers while the other two had those tanks and the armoured vehicles which had been so jealously kept back. The Austrian Army had planned to keep this formation together as a complete formation when employing it yet they were faced with the invading Soviets having made gains in two separate locations either side of that lake more than a dozen miles apart. There was no other choice available and so the division was split into two parts in a hasty decision whereas for the past several weeks everything had been about those parts working together as a whole. The timing was off and the heavy forces should have been committed earlier, but this last minute order to break the formation apart really was to be the death of the 1st Panzergrenadier Division.
To the west of the heavily-forested Leitha Mountains, where Autobahn-3 came up from Sopron in Hungary and through many towns south of Vienna, the Austrian 9th Brigade came forward to take on the Soviet 254MRD. Aircraft and helicopters had spotted the Austrians approaching and engaged many of the M-60 tanks and other armoured vehicles first and then the Soviets made a multiple regimental attack using a flanking manoeuvre to the west as well. Austrian observers had seen this attempted against NATO forces in Bavaria and watched how it had been countered, but they didn’t have attacking aircraft of their own, the necessary air defences to defend themselves and they didn’t have the numbers to take the losses which the Soviets came.
Everything went so fast with the Soviets all over them. Early model M-60s blew up when hit from the air and then on the ground while Kurassiers & Saurer-4K/4Fs were also torn apart. There was much bravery on display from the Austrians yet they were overwhelmed and T-64 heavy tanks backed up by scout cars carrying missiles which did them great harm. The infantry of the 9th Brigade was unloaded from their vehicles less they be killed when those were hit yet they were not ready to fight when the enemy appear and tore into them. Austrian artillery wasn’t in place and engineers hadn’t got out their equipment to start sewing minefields or constructing barricades. Supply trucks carrying ammunition forward were hit and so were command columns as well. Multiple-barrelled rocket launchers that the Soviets had couldn’t be countered and nor could their massed divisional artillery either. In Bavaria, NATO had aircraft and counter-battery artillery fire but the Austrians had none of the former and the latter wasn’t ready in time.
The 9th Brigade was destroyed before it could fully get into the fight and these professional soldiers of Austria along with their valuable equipment were all lost.
The rest of the 1st Panzergrenadier Division, the 4th & 6th Brigades, engaged the right wing of the Soviet Fourth Guards Army with those reservists there striking south of the Danube Valley. The Austrians weren’t fast enough to reach the road and rail communications centre of Bruck an der Leitha where the terrain narrowed between the mountains and the river and so attempted to launch a hasty attack against the flank of the Soviets moving westwards along the path followed by the highway coming from Gyor across the border in Hungary. Soviet control of the air was key here and they spotted the Austrians moving against them as well as being able to take many shots at them first before the clashes on the ground occurred. There were impromptu ambushes laid that the Austrians blundered into in their haste and they paid dearly for their last minute attack. The trucks with the infantry and then the tanks supporting the panzergrenadiers all faced an alert enemy that tore them apart piece by piece.
What Austrian units the Soviet 50TD & 126MRD (Category C formations) didn’t destroy in open battles of manoeuvre here as these reservists following their warfighting doctrine perfectly, they surrounded and blasted at with artillery while making sure they wouldn’t hold up the advance… which was driving upon Vienna International Airport just ahead. That huge facility was located outside the city along the Danube Valley and right up ahead. There had been enemy air activity in the form of Italian aircraft present in that area; there was the possibility that maybe troops had arrived. Nonetheless, hundreds of tanks were being pushed that way and behind them the rest of the 1st Panzergrenadier Division had been destroyed in a battle which it hadn’t been ready to fight away from strategy meetings.
The Soviets had been perfectly correct to have paid attention to the airport located at Schwechat. Italian fighters were overhead there and above other parts of Austria as the Folgore Parachute Brigade arrived into Vienna International Airport. This reinforced formation had four battalions of paratroopers, another battalion of paratroopers from the training school at Pisa and airmobile artillery & engineers. They were all in the process of being flown into the airport just as the Soviets made their breakthrough and came with many heavy man-portable weapons but not with any armoured vehicles yet.
The Italian Army had assumed that in an invasion of Austria the airport at Schwechat would have been seized in an airmobile assault as it was located between the border area where the Austrian Army would fight and Vienna. Its wide open spaces were perfect for such an assault and they had been planning to recapture it with their paratroopers before the Soviets would set themselves up properly. When that attack never came they moved in anyway due to the need to establish a large airhead in northeastern Austria as part of the planned operations to assist the Austrians in stopping the Hungarians before they got to Graz and then driving northwards through the border areas to hit the Soviets in the flank before they could take Vienna. That operational concept of the Italian Expeditionary Army involved the Austrian 1st Panzergrenadier Division doing the role which the Italians thought that it would in assisting the lighter units in bleeding the Soviets dry in the border regions and so it came as a major shock to them when the Austrians did their own thing and deployed their heavy forces later than they should have and all for nothing too.
The heavy forces of the Italians were still a long way away from Vienna and the eastern part of the Danube Valley where they were planning to end up once their offensive got going but now their paratroopers were sitting right in the way of part of a Soviet combined arms army bearing down upon Vienna and the only organised opposition standing in the way of that.
The Folgore Brigade was in for a tough fight indeed and got little notice of what was coming their way directly towards them from not just the east but now the south too. Those paratroopers were right in the firing line…
Diplomats in Brussels had been discussing how they would make use of the Soviet incursion into Austria to counter-invade Czechoslovakia and Hungary. The news hadn’t reached them though and wouldn’t until after their discussions had finished that the Austrian forces outside Vienna had collapsed and unless the Italians were able to pull off a miracle, a whole lot of that country was soon to fall into enemy hands.
NATO would have to instead defend what remained of Austria free of the Soviet Army rather than using the country’s geographic position at the heart of Central Europe as a springboard for their own attack. Ogarkov’s apparent mistake that NATO senior commanders had been pleased to see occur as it looked like the Soviets were to come unstuck in Austria now appeared to be not such a major error at all. Things could change with time, but at the moment the situation on the ground there was going to cause a lot of headaches… as well as taking the lives of many too.
Two Hundred & Twenty–Four
The loss of Vienna International Airport to enemy control was a major blow for the Italian Expeditionary Army and its moves to combat the invasion of Austria. That airhead in the northeast of the country was planned to be very important in their operations and without it those would suffer. Nonetheless, it wasn’t the case that the Italians suffered a defeat there and neither was it won in any sort of victory by the Soviet Fourth Guards Army either.
The peacetime theoretical strength of the two divisions on the right wing of the advancing Soviet field army was just short of five hundred tanks yet such a number had been greatly lowered to almost half that figure after serious maintenance issues even before the Austrian-Hungarian border was crossed and then there had come many more tanks knocked out of action in combat with the Austrian Army. Nevertheless, those hundreds of tanks which still did drive upon Vienna by way of its outlying airport were still far too great in number and capability for the Italian paratroopers deployed ahead of them to take on. They had rather a lot of man-portable heavy weapons, including dozens upon dozens of MILAN missile-launchers, but no heavy armour of their own nor any time to construct major anti-tank defences. There only obstacle in the way of the Soviets driving towards the airport was the narrow Fischa River and that was far from a defensive position in any way.
The commander of the Folgore Parachute Brigade requested permission to withdraw and was granted such a thing very soon after some of his forward reconnaissance detachments operating in jeeps had disastrous clashes Soviet armoured scout cars along the Fischa River. Austrian Territorial troops had been demolishing bridges there with pre-planted explosives and then taking on vehicles fording the river, the enemy was too strong and the Italians realised the futility of making such a foolish stand. At the same time, they didn’t make a panicked withdrawal from the airport even though they were in a great hurry. Working with further reservists from the Austrian Army, the airport was to be wrecked and nothing of value left for the Soviets heading towards it. Explosions ripped apart structures and tore giant holes in the runways while aircraft sitting on the ground – generally commercial aircraft which were in a non-flying condition – were blown up as well. Thick plumes of smoke filled the skies and went high up into the atmosphere all around the airport and Italian combat aircraft operating nearby had to avoid this.
Back towards Vienna the Italians withdrew and past the petrochemical works to the Schwechat and Liesing Rivers. These were again shallow waterways where defending them would be difficult but the Italians moved fast to reach these last natural barriers before Vienna to set themselves up there through the night knowing that they could then be able to make a fight of it in the morning and hopefully by then be reinforced. Special forces troops with the Folgore Brigade (those commandoes with the 9th ‘Col Moschin’ Parachute Assault Battalion) set alight to much of the industrial areas ahead of the new defensive position chosen and in doing so hoped that this would further slow down the enemy from pursing the Folgore Brigade in withdrawing as they did.
The Italians were left with a wide open flank to their right though, stretching away to the west and south of Vienna. The paratroopers which had fallen back from their airport didn’t have the manpower to cover such a gap and of course still remained without any armour when the terrain over which the Soviets were advancing was perfect for a tank assault rather than where such a thing might be halted like in mountains or an urban area. There were many towns south of Vienna but highways too and where Austrian Territorial troops made a stand they were bypassed by the Soviet 254MRD as it kept on driving to Vienna aiming to reach the outskirts of that city before darkness fell.
The small airfield at Voslau was put to use as a forward point by the Soviets here with a temporary refuelling station set up with haste to assist their helicopter operations. Mil-8 Hip and Mil-24 Hind helicopters both made attack missions instead of airmobile operations as the speed of advance was being maintained on the ground and there were also several attacks made by Italian aircraft which while flying from distance caused the losses of several helicopters heavily-laden with troops. Voslau turned out to be a trap though as local Austrian commanders on the ground had wired the place for demolition but hidden the charges along with a small selection of volunteers with mortars also out of sight nearby. Once it was starting to be used by the enemy and fuel was spotted as arriving, blasts were set off and fireballs of aviation fuel lit the darkening skies followed by the arrival of mortar rounds coming in from all directions.
This success here couldn’t stop the Soviet armour from rolling further and further north and reaching the towns of Perchtoldsdorf, Brunn am Gebirge and Vosendorf when darkness came. These were right at the southern reaches of the city near industrial areas where there were numerous Austrian reservists digging in. Fires had been started and immense demolition work was going on as the Austrians caused epic destruction to the area to throw a blockade in front of the Soviets. Such an advance had come to a halt for the night anyway as the Soviet Army wasn’t going into an urban area in the darkness and the orders for them from the Fourth Guards Army had been to move to the northwest as well. The woodland of the Lainzer Tiergarten, broken and hilly terrain west of the city, was where the advance was meant to go next and end at the military airfield at Langenlebarn before reaching the Danube Valley. Such an objective as part of a wide flanking manoeuvre had been too far for the Soviets to reach yet they still had come a long way.
Through the night, as the Soviets cleared their rear areas, they engaged Austrian troops out front as well with probing attacks to keep them occupied and the pressure upon Vienna. Civilians were streaming out of that city as further Austrian reservists poured in to join those already there along with the Italians trying to set up defences against an expected assault in daylight. As this was being done, the 254MRD was being reorganised after the fighting it had undertaken and the losses taken during two days of combat. The once four-regiment formation was now no more than an oversized brigade in strength. The men were tired and there had been some major discipline issues involved when they had moved through Austrian towns as wholescale looting, rape and murder had gone on inflicting grave injustices to the Austrians who hadn’t managed to flee. The divisional commander cared nothing for the civilians and instead worried over his unit cohesion and whether the men would respond to orders to start advancing again to fight the enemy rather than see opportunities everywhere for personal riches and enjoyment; Austria was a culture shock for them coming from their barracks in Hungary.
The Italians had set their forward headquarters up just outside Graz with the command organisation having being airlifted forward along with security troops before the first of the heavy forces arrived in the city and started to deploy using the road network around it. Such an arrival had come just before the Austrian heavy forces were smashed outside Vienna and at once the danger to the paratroopers sent forward there to that city’s airport had been realised. The airlift had stopped and been re-diverted in part to Langenlebarn yet that facility was far too small for any large aircraft as the Austrian Armed Forces mainly used it for helicopters and the runaway was not suitable for C-130s which the Italians were flying… it was also a long way away from the Folgore Brigade.
The paratroopers outside Vienna couldn’t be abandoned and the fight which they were surely to have at first light would be fatal for them if the Italian strategy in Austria didn’t change. Those Hungarian forces marching on Graz had already been stopped by the Austrian forces in the southeast yet in the northeast was where the enemy which the Italians were in Austria to fight were now located.
A decision was made for the flanking attack upon the Soviets to now be redirected towards where they were located not where it was thought they should have been by this point. Such a reorientation of objectives had to be made and so new orders were issued for the leading Italian units not already too far into the southeast to instead go directly northwards aiming for Vienna. A night-time movement would be difficult and there would be issues with units getting lost and tired men expected to fight in the morning, yet that was the only choice available for the Italians.
It was the Ariete Armoured and Julia Alpine Brigades which were tasked to move through Styria and towards Vienna. The heavy armour and light infantry – the latter which could be moved by trucks and multiple helicopter lifts – with these two formations quickly got underway heading northwards with the objective being the woodland of the Lainzer Tiergarten. They would be following roads that wound through central parts of Austria and operating under some air cover but still suspected a troublesome journey on their way.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 12, 2019 19:46:53 GMT
Two Hundred & Twenty–Five
As was the case with NATO ground forces in Europe, the air forces assigned had seen significant changes made before the conflict erupted and during the war too. Pre-war needs were vastly different to those once the shooting had started with losses, reinforcements and strategic needs directing those changes made at all command levels. Politics was another factor with commanders from certain nationalities being appointed to command new headquarters often but not always with the nation providing the most forces having one of their officers appointed.
As the conflict had gone on there had been a transformation in NATO air forces operating in Europe.
The newly-created First Allied Tactical Air Force (1 ATAF) had assumed command of NATO air assets operating in northern parts of Norway at first and then throughout the whole nation soon afterwards. Norwegian personnel had staffed the 1 ATAF yet it was in no way comparable in size or capabilities to those of a similar name operating elsewhere with it being an ad hoc formation created mid-conflict. The desire on the part of the Norwegians to have the rest of NATO at least appear to take seriously their political needs had been important here but then there had been the justification used that with so many different air units operating across the country those needed a higher headquarters to give geographical command.
In the Baltic Approaches, those NATO units which had been assigned to the 5 ATAF had not lasted long under that command organisation which had moved up from Italy just before the war broke out. The 5 ATAF had seen its airbases on the ground captured by the enemy and many aircraft either lost in combat, destroyed on the ground or having to flee to Norway where they ended up with the 1 ATAF when that was established there. Again, this had never been a large organisation and much of it had been thrown together after leaving Italy. With the entry into Denmark of the Royal Marines and the US Marines there had been some discussions within NATO of re-establishing the command but they had yet to come to much as RAF aircraft in support were operating from Norway and the US Marines had their air support either on amphibious ships or temporary airstrips on land alongside a determination to keep their aircraft in direct support of themselves.
The majority of NATO aircraft operating in Europe were at the beginning of the war with 2 ATAF, 3 ATAF and 4 ATAF as this trio of large numbered air forces were deployed across West Germany and into the Low Countries as well as in Britain. These were all under the command of Air Chief Marshal Joseph Gilbert, an RAF officer acting as Commander Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE). Gilbert’s headquarters ranked just below General Galvin in the NATO hierarchy and had been at Brunssum in Holland before the war begun but moved away from the fixed headquarters and subsequently operated in a mobile fashion. There came the addition of the French Air Force as a separate but subordinate command under AAFCE afterwards and this position he filled was a major responsibility for a capable commander like Gilbert was; the RAF enjoyed the prestige of having one of their command all air operations over Western Europe and into Eastern Europe too.
NATO air reinforcements, primarily American, arrived as the war went on yet Gilbert remained in charge yet as his staff grew there was a greater contingent of USAF officers over other nationalities. Such pressure was exerted for a second controlling headquarters to operate alongside his under an American with a north-south split similar to the ground forces yet that ultimately came to nothing. Those in support of AAFCE argued that Gilbert’s staff was needed to implement overall operations from a central headquarters to ensure that there were no clashes of priority and to also ensure that the rear-area support network was all under one command too rather than two as some wanted with a USAF general officer acting in a similar fashion with an identical headquarters created for no apparent reason. AAFCE had been following pre-war expansion doctrines and Gilbert was doing a good job there in making sure that even with growth in assets this NATO command still functioned as it was meant to.
What did occur instead of a split at AAFCE was the dividing up of assets at the next level down. Those three numbered air forces and the French had ended up controlling too many assets from combat aircraft to support aircraft to air defence on the ground with each at times struggling to do this. The French First Air Force became the 7 ATAF (in western parts of Turkey was the 6 ATAF) and then between the geographic areas of operations covered in Germany by the 2 ATAF and the 4 ATAF came the new 8 ATAF. This new organisation was staffed mainly by USAF officers right over where the majority of their ground forces were operating. The threat to the British mainland had greatly decreased and so proposals to split the 3 ATAF – which had been made throughout the conflict with conflicting responsibilities for such a command – were again rejected there.
This reorganisation, especially with the creation of the 8 ATAF in central parts of Germany, came into effect at the same time as the US Third Army was being activated (so that it could support that army group and the US Fifth Army too) and political permission had come for ABOLITION to commence.
NATO ground forces were moving into Warsaw Pact territory and the air forces above them were thought to be better organised to support them as well as playing their role in the general war effort too.
No. 74 Squadron, RAF had originally been assigned to the 3 ATAF with air defence duties of Britain as its wartime tasking. This squadron with Phantom F3 fighters had started the conflict based at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk before moving to RAF Waddington when the air threat to the UK mainland had been at its height. There had been fourteen aircraft assigned originally and these were slightly-modified F-4Js (their popular designation) which had previously served in the US Navy. Armed with air-to-air missiles and fitted gun-pods, the Phantoms had played their role in the defence of Britain rather well and especially at high-altitude where their General Electric engines had given better performance than if Rolls Royce models had been fitted like the case was with other Phantoms in RAF colours.
Nineteen enemy aircraft had been confirmed as shot down – Soviet raketonosets and long-range strike aircraft coming over the North Sea in seventeen days of conflict – by 74 Squadron. Skyflash and Sidewinder missiles along with the six-barrelled 20mm cannon attached had done their worst to the enemy and there was much evidence that many more of the enemy had been damaged enough to be confident that they never made it back to where they had come from. These victories had come with the cost being the loss of six Phantoms assigned.
The one-to-three loss rate had been much better than RAF units across Germany had taken yet was still hard among the men who manned the formation from the pilots and navigators to the ground crews even if five of the twelve aircrews had eventually made it back to the squadron. When RAF Waddington had been attacked on three occasions during 74 Squadron’s time there, the cruise missiles and Fencers which had struck hadn’t managed to damage or destroy any aircraft on the ground yet more than three dozen ground crew assigned to the formation had lost their lives in these attacks. Such losses had again hurt the morale of the unit and it had taken a lot for that to recover as well. 74 Squadron was a ‘family’ for the majority of those men who served within it even those RAF reservists who had arrived to add to its personnel numbers for the war.
As air attacks on the UK dramatically decreased, the need for the Phantoms with 74 Squadron to remain where they were had nearly disappeared.
43 Squadron had left Scotland at the beginning of the week and headed across to southern Norway where they soon joined the air campaign there made in support of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines and then 74 Squadron had been ordered to stand down and redeploy across to the Continent. They were to be reassigned to the 2 ATAF instead operating in the battlefield fighter role with their remaining eight aircraft being a necessary reinforcement to the weakened NATO fighter force above the North German Plain. Experience in conflict not only with the Phantoms themselves but many other NATO air combat units meant that the enemy’s air tactics and electronic combat capabilities were believed to be understood and 74 Squadron was going into that fight as best prepared as possible. Some ground crew – technicians and staff officers – were to remain behind in the UK at RAF Waddington where in place of the departing 74 Squadron a new formation was to be stood up with a view to moving across to the Continent soon enough too.
For now, before dawn on the morning of April 1st, 74 Squadron was now flying over the heads of the men of the British Second Army about to enter East Germany.
No. 13 Squadron, RAF had been flying Canberra reconnaissance aircraft before being disbanded six years previously. The formation had had a glorious history before then and at the MOD it had been high on the list of units to be reformed if possible in a wartime scenario with various plans for what aircraft it would field.
Aircraft from the AMARC site in Arizona had been arriving in the UK for some time now with the RAF taking a total of fifty-eight Phantoms from the Americans to wear RAF colours. These aircraft were the F-4E & F-4S versions built by McDonnell Douglas for the USAF and the US Navy. Hasty work had been done on these aircraft when in the UK by British and American military personnel assisted by civilians and this was done at military facilities across Britain. The aircraft were to be designated as the FGR4 in RAF service with four squadrons flying them (a dozen aircraft each) along with a conversion training unit also set up. Everything was done quickly and many of those due to fly them being former USAF and US Navy aircrews as the RAF didn’t have enough personnel immediately available and the new FGR4s were different from what were previously operated as well.
Like the other new formations, 13 Squadron was to fly their new Phantoms in the strike-fighter role with an emphasis upon ground attack missions. RAF Phantoms hadn’t undertaken such a role in many years with those in the UK and assigned to Germany having focused upon air combat but there remained the skill base for this even though it was small and then there were the Americans assigned to work with the RAF who did have the recent experience.
It was still taking some time though to get these new aircraft and units into frontline service. The RAF was standing-up the new formations in the UK where last minute training could take place alongside work being done on the aircraft to make them compatible with armament, communications and fuelling conditions of the RAF. To have them thrown straight into combat over Germany just wasn’t desirable as such a thing as that would have been outright murder.
Meanwhile, formations such as 43 & 74 Squadrons with the Phantoms which they had been flying with for some time already had been moved across to the fight the air battles over the Continent.
Two Hundred & Twenty–Six
Having a military career before entering politics wasn’t seen as something necessary like it was in the past. In Britain this was more the case than it was for example in the United States. However, at the same time, serving your country in the armed forces was something always regarded highly when it came to later public service and many took that route even if such a thing wasn’t necessarily planned.
British military personnel came from all backgrounds and there were some of those who had intentions of a later career in politics. For many this would never occur yet others were already on that path to Parliament.
A few of such people were with the British Second Army as it started to advance forward this morning across the Inter-German Border and into enemy sovereign territory.
Second Lef-tenant Desmond Angus Swayne was a former school teacher and now a banker who had served with the Combined Cadet Force and recently joined the Territorial Army. He was a rather ambitious young man who had last year stood as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Pontypridd in South Wales. That was a Labour stronghold and Swayne had been lucky to get nearly twenty per cent of the vote there but he was looking forward to the next general election and finding a seat to challenge for next time when mobilisation had come. Rather than join the regiment which he had recently been assigned to – the Queen’s Own Mercian Yeomanry (QOMY) – Swayne was instead attached to the headquarters troops with the Northern Army Group before it became the British Second Army. He didn’t go to Norway with a squadron of the QOMY nor stay with the bulk of the regiment in East Anglia assisting in anti-Spetsnaz duties there but rather to Germany.
The British Second Army relied mainly upon West German Territorial Troops for Lines of Communications (LOC) duties yet each nation with forces assigned to this command on the North German Plain had some of their own men acting in this role too. The fighting troops at the frontlines needed a continuous supply and keeping the connections open and available to them was a valuable task. It could also be dangerous too with the enemy out to disrupt those LOCs and therefore Swayne had been given a command of a platoon of TA men from various units detached to serve in this role so that his little command could combat efforts by the enemy to sever these links that ran back from the frontlines.
For weeks now, the platoon which Swayne had led had been very busy and been active across a huge area. They had guarded convoys with ammunition, fuel and all sorts of other supplies going forwards full and coming back empty. There had been assistance given at times to the Royal Military Police and other similar NATO detachments in escorting POWs back to the rear. At other times Swayne had led his men to try and hunt for escaped POWs and also the odd enemy aircrew seen bailing out of doomed aircraft. There had been the need for this small detachment to join with other NATO forces in the massive withdrawal late in the war’s first week backwards with haste across the Weser and then when BLACKSMITH later got underway to go back across the Weser Swayne and his men had been involved in that too.
War was hell, as Swayne had found out to his cost. He had seen the wounding and deaths of many of his own men and then seen the effects of war on many others including a lot of civilians caught up in the cross-fire. When that Soviet gas attack had come he had witnessed the after-effects of that too yet at the same time there had been even worse sights during conventional fighting too. There had never been any time to stop and truly reflect about what was going on as Swayne had led his men all over the place oftentimes receiving conflicting orders where it was suddenly decided that there was a more urgent need for his men elsewhere.
Like most of those serving with the British Second Army beneath general officer rank, Swayne had no idea up until last night concerning the political situation with talks ongoing in Brussels about the future of the war. He was aware that the border was being approached but he was a junior officer with more pressing concerns than NATO strategy. It came as a surprise to him though when he was told that at first light, the British Second Army with its British, Belgian, Portuguese and West German components (the Americans with their US III Corps had just been reassigned) were to enter East Germany. He didn’t think that that was a good idea at all with how the Soviets and their puppets would react to that.
Who was going to ask his opinion on that though? He was just a junior officer obeying higher orders of his senior military commanders and those politicians like he wished to be who made the decisions.
Guardsman Michael Alan Penning was a firefighter from his native Essex who had spent six years in the British Army between 1974 and 1980. Afterwards he had joined Essex Fire Service while remaining as a reservist at first liable then volunteering to be called up should the situation warrant this. He had political views but had not yet decided upon whether he would want a career in politics. When mobilisation came with TtW, Penning was at first told he would be not be recalled to active service due to his profession and a government desire to see people like him in essential public services not deployed aboard. He had appealed against this though and gained a dispensation to instead put back on his military uniform.
The Grenadier Guards was Penning’s own regiment and they had a battalion rolled as armoured infantry in Germany and a second battalion tasked as light infantry that went to North-East England to join the Independent Guards Brigade. Penning was a late addition to mobilisation and it wasn’t as if the Grenadier Guards or any other prestigious Foot Guards unit were short of manpower following the initial return to active service of many guardsmen. Therefore, Penning had been sent to Germany on attachment to the Northern Army Group headquarters like his future Cabinet colleague Swayne was. Once there he was assigned to be part of a security force to assist with the work of detachments of the Intelligence Corps deployed in Germany as this combat support arm of the British Army would be having its specialists deploying not just in the rear but through the frontlines too.
Penning did his duty throughout the conflict and saw many interesting sights. The Intelligence Corps had a wide role and those armed security troops assisting them were more than just guard dogs for them, especially an experienced and well-educated man like Penning. There were combat observations to be made of enemy tactics and equipment and then prisoners to be spoken too; many were enemy POWs but some of these were released NATO personnel too. When Soviet headquarters units were overrun in the course of combat or the abandoned locations of them discovered following advances documents were often found and needed examining. Penning and men like him escorting the intelligence officers were put to use in all sorts of roles helping with this. There had come a few instances of combat as sometimes armed enemy stragglers had had to be dealt with and Penning had remembered his combat training for his previous service as well as his refresher training in mobilisation too so that when he saw action he did his duty.
This morning, as the advance got going, Penning remained with the Intelligence Corps and was still in his security role for those officers he had been with throughout the conflict as they prepared to go to work inside East Germany. There were jobs to be done just like on the western side of the Inter-German Border but it was anticipated by many, including Penning himself, that things would be different across on the eastern side. His duty remained as it had been since he had put back on his uniform and he was eager to keep carrying that out.
Lef-tenant George Iain Duncan Smith was another reservist who after leaving the Scots Guards seven years ago had entered the field of business. He had married well – his wife was the daughter of a Baron – and became active in politics when standing for the Bradford West constituency for the Conservatives last year and losing in a not unrespectable fashion. Smith, or ‘IDS’ as he was better known, hadn’t been too upset and was anticipating fighting for another seat when the next general election came with a view to making his new career in politics. Even before mobilisation, IDS volunteered his service back to the British Army before such a thing became compulsory for former officers like himself yet he didn’t officially put back on his uniform until TtW begun… in later years, when he was at the height of his political career, comments that he had previously made stating that he had done so before it was compulsory would be shown to be ‘misleading’.
IDS had joined the 2 SCOTS GDS battalion battle-group and become second-in-command to a specialist detachment under a full-time Captain that numbered a reinforced platoon. These guardsmen remained in the UK and became part of what was deemed the ‘Royal Duties Force’; several British Army formations taking part in Operation CANDID. CANDID covered providing military support for the efforts of protecting senior members of the Royal Family during wartime. There were detractors that called CANDID a waste of manpower and equipment in the face of the Soviet land threat in Germany yet the policy of the MOD was that CANDID was necessary due to the possible capabilities of the enemy in their intent to do harm to the Royal Family in wartime; soldiers and even armoured vehicles were to be provided to assisting civilian security forces in protecting senior Royals.
The CANDID-assigned platoon which IDS was with had travelled to North Wales with the Met. Police and Security Service personnel guarding the Prince of Wales and his family. It had been IDS himself who had issued the order for his fellow guardsmen to fire upon those intruders at the Caerwys Rectory hideaway chosen to keep the heir to the throne ‘safe’ and he had had no hesitation in doing so. The Royals had afterwards left Flintshire and gone to Cumbria for an even more secluded location with IDS first travelling with them before later being reassigned back to the rest of the battalion in London. He had received an official commendation for his actions in preventing what looked like a Soviet assassination attempt (this would play a role in his future political career) and was also promoted to Acting Captain. In London, the Scots Guards were busy assisting the civilian authorities in protecting the heart of the city behind the Ring of Steel which had been erected and IDS had served in a staff function. He had been eager to see action once combat had erupted on the Continent and had requested a transfer as a casualty replacement to the 1 SCOTS GDS fighting on the North German Plain. That hadn’t come through and IDS had gritted his teeth for more than three weeks while stuck in Whitehall guarding the city against the supposed threat of Soviet paratroopers which everyone in uniform seemed to understand just weren’t ever going to come.
Thankfully, IDS had finally been given his desired opportunity to see action again when Brigadier Mike Jackson’s 32nd Light Brigade had been activated and 2 SCOTS GDS assigned to cross to Germany. IDS was allotted to the battalion’s operations staff in a frontline role and he had played an important role in getting his fellow guardsmen ready for their advance across the border this morning into East Germany. There would be plenty to do, not least assisting in the destruction of the enemy on their own territory and gaining revenge for all the British Army soldiers already killed in this war.
IDS was finally happy.
Captain Patrick John Mercer was a regular officer with the Worchester & Sherwood Foresters Regiment (1 WSFR battle-group) and on the promotion list with his battalion at Oakington Barracks in Cambridgeshire when mobilisation occurred. 1 WSFR received many reservists to stiffen its ranks as it was deploying abroad with those officers and enlisted men linking up when it arrived in Germany. Mercer was second-in-command of a rifle company within the battalion and was naturally worried for himself and those with him as the threat of war became ever more real with every passing day, but at the same time he was ready to do his duty. As a career officer with the British Army his personal politics were meant to remain just that yet he was known among many of his peers for not keeping silent upon many of his beliefs.
The outbreak of war saw 1 WSFR fight with the 6th Armoured Brigade as part of the Iron Division. Once committed to combat midway through the war’s first week there had been heavy action on the counterattack and then later a planned withdrawal back to the Weser that went wrong and saw the 3rd Armoured Division end up in the Hannover Pocket. Mercer’s commanding officer had been killed in the fighting and he had assumed acting command with at first there being plans for an officer of Major rank to retake command yet with the conflict costing so many British lives nothing came of that, especially with Mercer’s unit being among those trapped behind enemy lines. 1 WSFR fought during its encirclement against those surrounding it and then when the BLACKSMITH operation liberated them Mercer had been one of the many officers silently relieved that that had occurred when it did for he had believed that they were all doomed trapped as they had been.
Losses among Mercer’s command had accumulated as war went on and been hard to take yet he had been forced to shut that out and try to inspire those beneath him to accept that as a natural part of warfare. At the same time, he allowed his men to do whatever it took to beat the enemy back from their attempts to kill his men and did avert his gaze when certain things occurred. Mercer believed that in wartime peacetime standards had to be sometimes put aside.
During the push eastwards after BLACKSMITH towards the Inter-German Border, Mercer had on quite a few occasion approached the 1 WSFR command staff asking to make his unofficial promotion official – he wanted to be an Acting Major – and been left frustrated when they explained that there were more pressing matters to be dealt with such as liberating the rest of West Germany from foreign occupation. His actions were excused by his battalion commander who knew that Mercer could lead men even if there had been a few minor instances that others might consider unworthy conduct for an officer though far below any form of insubordination.
Mercer was just that type of officer.
When given the order to take his much-depleted company forward this morning over the border into East Germany, Mercer immediately did as he was instructed. He was taking the fight to the enemy and like so many of his fellow British Army soldiers was keen to repay the damage done by the enemy. He was rather keen on getting busy heading for Berlin like all of the talk from senior ranks was all about.
Captain Crispin Jeremy Blunt came from a military family with his father having retired from the British Army as a Major-General. After completing his officer training at Sandhurst, the younger Blunt had read Politics at university for three years – getting heavily involved with student politics while there – and then joined the regular forces with the 13th/18th Royal Hussars (13/18 RH). This was an armoured recce formation based at Tidworth Camp that had many wartime contingencies and while Blunt was with the 13/18 RH he deployed overseas to Cyprus for peacekeeping and in training missions to Schleswig-Holstein in Germany where it was anticipated part of the regiment would go in wartime.
The 13/18 RH deployed to Germany under the new LION plans for mobilisation rather than the previous COMPASS and formed the division reconnaissance battalion of the new 5th Infantry Division. Blunt, like many others, thought that this was the best move possible for being far out on the flank in Schleswig-Holstein away from the rest of the British Army would have been fatal for the 13/18 RH and other formations meant to be assigned there under COMPASS with a NATO commitment in that region. In the build-up to war, the 13/18 RH exercised furiously for their defensive role at the head of the division they were supposed to support once the fighting started though also undertook much counter-attacking training too along with tank and infantry forces.
When war came against the Soviets it was unlike Blunt have ever thought he would see. Hundreds upon hundreds of enemy armoured vehicles and tanks had stormed across the Inter-German Border under immense barrages of artillery, rockets and bombs. It had been one hell of a frightening experience for all involved.
Blunt was assigned command of a platoon-sized Troop within a Squadron of the 13/18 RH. He commanded a detachment of Scorpion and Scimitar armoured vehicles in taking the fight to the enemy which mainly saw him protecting the repeated withdrawals that were made again and again. Luck, nothing more, saved the lives of him and his men when the 5th Infantry Division suffered under the lone Soviet chemical barrage of the war and afterwards he led his men and some other survivors with the 13/18 RH during the retreat back over the Weser when that came. Later he took part in the BLACKSMITH offensive and then combat again on the eastern side of the Weser with the 13/18 RH being a shadow of its former self. His determination to lead by example and his strong personal faith kept him going yet he truly felt the strain of warfare upon him.
When the orders came for this morning’s attack over the border into East Germany, Blunt kept his own feelings on that matter to himself. He had seen enough of war and feared that many more of his men were going to die in invading the enemy’s homeland yet he himself had no input in that decision and would just have to do his duty like everyone else.
Second Lef-tenant Eric Stuart Joyce would in later years become a Labour Party MP unlike Swayne, Penning, Smith, Mercer and Blunt who all sat in Parliament with the Conservatives yet like them he would eventually rise high in the later post-war years too.
As an eighteen year old he had joined the British Army as an enlisted man serving with the Black Watch first as a Private before rising to a junior NCO rank. Joyce would take a sabbatical to attend a technical college and then university for six years before returning to uniform the year before war broke out with officer training to commence at Sandhurst. He had wanted to join the Royal Army Educational Corps once his training was complete with a desire to help those who hadn’t had access to the education he had yet still wanted to further their military careers.
Mobilisation cut short Joyce’s training and he was ordered to leave Sandhurst and head back to Scotland to his hometown of Perth. At Queen’s Barracks there – which was a TA post rather than the historic location from where the name was taken – Joyce was at first tasked to assist in the urgent refresher training of elements of the 51st Highland Volunteers mobilising there ready to go to Germany. He wasn’t happy at seeing such unprepared TA soldiers being sent off to what he feared would become a nuclear war in Germany yet he followed orders and did just that. At the same time, Joyce did make a request to go to West Berlin to join the Black Watch there which was denied though in later years he would argue against allegations that he only did so because everyone else was and he was coerced into doing so. Had he gone to West Berlin it would have been very likely that he wouldn’t have survived the war…
Once the TA soldiers were gone, Queen’s Barracks became a transit station for further reservists throughout central parts of Scotland where men were given more training on an individual basis before they went to Germany as combat replacements: Joyce showed no official desire to leave Perth even after open warfare began but it wasn’t going to be his choice there.
Very quickly the MOD decided that soldiers like Joyce were going to link up with many retired soldiers not on the reserve list to create hastily-formed emergency war formations for service on the Continent. Those like Joyce were in non-combat roles while the retired men were in their late twenties and thirties with recent experience in the British Army who were generally volunteers. Soon enough, the 7th Armoured Division had been put together along with other formations and Joyce found himself with the former. With Saracen armoured vehicles taken from the vehicle driving training school at Leconfield and personal weapons from storage, Joyce was part of an infantry battalion designated 2 BW: the second battalion of the Black Watch. Many Scottish soldiers joined this and a second battalion of the Royal Scots and then those men became part of the new 21st Armoured Brigade. Some had a lot of recent infantry experience though others hadn’t been in uniform for many years.
Joyce had worried over how well they would all fare in combat and had feared the worst; when combat was joined with the enemy as part of the BLACKSMITH operation this had been shown to be true. The 7th Armoured Division had walked away from their fights in the Suntel Forest and around Wunstorf as victors but the cost had been heavy. Joyce had seen his men fight and die in blocking actions there and then there had later come an incident of friendly fire when B-52s had dropped bombs upon the Black Watch. When afterwards they had advanced behind the lead attacking units of the British I Corps towards the Inter-German Border there had been more casualties inflicted. The men had needed proper refresher training and experience in less demanding roles, Joyce had said time and time again, yet no one had listened to him.
When the order came this morning for the invasion of East Germany, Joyce wasn’t necessarily opposed to that itself yet he was now against this war that he was involved in overall for all the loss of life that it meant. He wanted to scream at those above him the question of was all this worth it?
General Kenny knew none of these men personally and nor would he meet any of the six during the war or in the immediate post-conflict period either; there were tens of thousands of men under his command. His concern was with his orders that he had got from General Galvin with SACEUR instructing him and other army group commanders that they were to lead their forces across the border into East Germany; likewise there had also been messages from the War Cabinet (new Defence Secretary Cecil Parkinson foremost) for that advance to get underway as soon as possible. ABOLITION as an operational plan was still a work in process in many places with only general concept yet decided upon rather than the countless smaller intricacies of such a huge military operation. Nonetheless, he was instructed to advance eastwards with the knowledge that planners were working on those.
The British Second Army moved across the Inter-German Border at first light to play their part in ABOLITION.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 12, 2019 20:14:12 GMT
Two Hundred & Twenty–Seven
‘Abolition: the act of abolishing a system, practise or institution.’
NATO forces crossed over both the Inter-German Border and the Czechoslovak-West German frontier with the objection of abolishing the system of government in-place in both East Germany and Czechoslovakia. This was their political objective as decreed by their governments though on the ground with those engaged in the invasion eastwards the immediate objective was one of a military nature.
On the other side of those borders were huge armies of the Socialist Forces. They were primary Soviet yet there remained East German, Polish and Czechoslovak troops on the battlefields too. Such armies had been beaten in battles on West German territory and chased back across the Iron Curtain after suffering immense reverses yet they remained active. NATO armies had got the measure of them and had beat them yet a change of fortunes was always possible.
In addition, not far behind those armies and moving westwards were a lot more Soviet troops that had recently been mobilised ready for combat. These were regarded as much weaken in terms of combat strength with older men and less-capable equipment… but there were still a lot of them.
NATO forces needed to engage those forces – those already in play and the reinforcements coming towards them through Poland and causing chaos as they did so – as soon as possible less they make another attack into West Germany. So many men, so much equipment and so much effort had been expended in the victories pushing back the armies of the Socialist Forces and there was a worry that the cost would be even greater on the second occasion.
The time to do that – the only time – was right now, starting on April 1st.
In the north, the French Second Army struck against the lower reaches of the Elbe and its defenders first before turning towards the Inter-German Border in an area where they were sure their opponents weren’t going to be expecting an attack.
Reserve infantry units with the French IV Corps remained pushed up against the southern reaches of Hamburg and along the Elbe Estuary, but to the southeast of there with armoured assaults towards the river opposite the downed crossings at Geesthacht and Lauenburg. The reorganised French V Corps undertook this manoeuvre with light armoured units in the attack yet along a narrow frontage to push enemy forces on the western side of the Elbe back towards the water before low-flying transport aircraft filled the skies. Immense artillery barrages had carefully targeted anti-aircraft guns and suspected SAM positions before the French Second Army made their second air assault operation of the war here but this time not very far ahead of their ground troops.
It was the 11th Parachute Division which again was dropped behind the enemy with that formation understrength following previous engagements yet still combat capable. Once over the Elbe, the French paratroopers attacked the defenders on the northern bank from the rear and especially their armour while bridging units came forward to get the troops with the 9th Marine Light Infantry Division over the Rhine.
The French took plenty of casualties and met extremely stubborn defenders who despite being on the flank of where the main French effort was expected fought very hard indeed. More French infantry units, those with the 4th Airmobile Division (no more than a large regiment despite the name), pushing forwards to secure the crossing sites so that several bridges of a temporary nature could be erected while the two West German towns were cleared of the main bodies of resistance.
Soon enough, as the morning went onwards, the French III Corps arrived and came across the Elbe. The enemy was reacting in pushing some of their forces out of East Germany westwards across the nearby stretch of the Inter-German Border but these weren’t enough as it was still believed that the French were going to strike a little further upstream. In addition, there were further French paratroopers on the Elbe-Lubeck Canal, just inside West Germany there, holding many of the crossing points. Those men were lightly-armed and in a potentially dangerous situation, yet they held their nerve in the face of the enemy who was still trying to figure out what was going on.
Four French divisions with the III Corps – the 2nd & 10th Armored, the 6th Light Armored and the 8th Infantry Divisions – were to be pushed over the Elbe and into Holstein with the intention of then turning eastwards to engage Soviet forces along the Elbe slightly further upstream. Each formation had taken heavy losses earlier in the war and were nowhere near as strong as they were, but they were pushed forward fast with the certainly of their commanders that they were going to knock the enemy of balance. Far to their north there were British and American marines fighting in Jutland proper, but they were here at the very base of the peninsula hitting the enemy where it wasn’t expecting to be struck.
The French soon went over the canal.
The French III Corps used its two armoured divisions to do that and enter East Germany into Mecklenburg-Vorpommern from the flank. The two other divisions with that corps were to start to follow the Elbe-Lubeck Canal going towards that city on the Baltic shores where intelligence said that there were nothing but East German security troops present and plenty of logistics assets meant to be supplying the troops fighting in Jutland. As to the rest of the French Second Army troops across the Elbe with them, they would now be able to start an approach towards Hamburg now again without the fear – unless the intelligence was wrong – of major enemy interference in this sector.
The French had successfully turned the Soviets flank and the risk here had paid off.
Significantly larger than the French Second Army was the British Second Army. This latter formation had a multi-national make-up rather than the exclusively French former. Some elements of General Kenny’s formation had yesterday evening gone over the border only to be pulled back very quickly with the wait for political authorisation, yet the whole of the army groups wasn’t ready to plunge across the Inter-German Border as only part of this huge command had reached that point.
On the left, the Bundeswehr-British IV Corps (once known as Kampfgruppe Weser but now very different in make-up and role) operated across the northern portions of the Luneburg Heath with a view to reaching the Wendland: a small portion of Lower Saxony that in peacetime had been a salient jutting forwards to the east. That was located near the Elbe and was beyond the towns of Luneburg and Uelzen which, along with a portion of the Elbe-Lateral Canal, formed the enemy positions ahead of them. There were three divisions under command with the exploitation force assigned being the 7th Panzer Division and the two leading twin attacks the new 17th Panzergrenadier Division and the British 1st Armoured Division. The 17th Panzergrenadier Division consisted of mobilised Bundeswehr former soldiers operating old equipment taken from storage along with the Territorial Brigade that had been stuck in the Hannover Pocket. The British formation which the West Germans were attacking alongside was almost unrecognisable from what had gone to war nearly three weeks ago now with regular, TA and Portuguese troops making up its ranks.
The IV Corps pushed forward aiming to reach the Wendland and thus the frontier with East Germany knowing that great success wasn’t expected of them. Other efforts either side of them were supposed to be the main attacks here in North Germany and their mission was to keep the enemy concentrated everywhere rather than where the real danger was. Despite this, those troops involved fought and died today advancing forwards into murderous enemy defences all the while screaming for fire support that was apparently too busy elsewhere. They would push the enemy out of Luneburg and Uelzen and also rout them along the canal ahead yet getting into Wendland and reaching the Elbe was just a little too far. Nonetheless, they still beat the enemy arrayed against them in open battle once he was blasted out of his defensive positions and did their job of keeping eyes upon the area with the hope that when they tried again the next day, they should get to those distant objectives.
When inside East Germany the day beforehand, for some of those involved it had seemed like a holiday excursion. Of course that hadn’t been the case, but many were caught up in the excitement of the event of actually getting over the border. Coming back today, everyone with the British I Corps knew that they were in for a fight and that was certainly true. The British Army entered Upper Saxony (Sachsen-Anhalt) into the Altmark region and went straight into heavy fighting.
The enemy here had many fixed defences but was also fighting a mobile battle too just as they had done right on the other side of the border yesterday. Small tank detachments engaged attacking British forces taking on infantry positions in ambush manoeuvres and co-ordinating those with intensive artillery and rocket barrages. Electronic warfare units with the British were extremely busy in breaking up these combined arms counterattacks by using radio jamming and signal triangulation for their own artillery yet the Soviets here were again showing they knew how to fight on the defence. For the corps commander, General Inge, reaching the communications centres which were Gardelegen, Salzwedel, Tangermunde and especially Stendal were important for future operations inside the enemy’s homeland but eliminating the heavy armour which the enemy had was paramount to his mission first. Many Soviet tanks encountered were showing extra armour plate fitted externally to them and whereas this had been done in an ad hoc fashion beforehand it appeared to be more organised now. The Soviets had been busy up-armouring their tanks and such additions to the defences of these tracked monsters made them harder to take down. Intelligence had pointed to this and preparations made but going up against such an enemy countermove like this was very challenging… and cost a lot of casualties that he couldn’t afford to take.
General Inge was expecting other Soviet defensive moves like their counterattacks, the extensive minefields and the small specialist detachments of Spetsnaz acting in a stay-behind manner (who managed to kill Major-General Rous, the Tiger Division commanding general in a stroke of luck) it was just that those combined with the nasty tank shock slowed things down. The British Army spent the day fighting inside East Germany and wasn’t defeated but its attack wasn’t achieving the hoped for level of success… yet.
Nearby, General Kenny’s two other operational corps commands, the Bundeswehr VI Corps and the Belgian I Corps, started the day inside West German territory with the intention of reaching the Inter-German Border and only with a stroke of good luck could they expect to cross it at this point.
The fighting to clear West Germany they engaged in took place around the smouldering urban areas of Wolfsburg and Braunschweig and in the border areas east and south east of there. For the Bundeswehr, including the two newly raised formations making up their number, pushing the Soviets out of West Germany was all that mattered to them and there were times where commanders couldn’t stop junior men going too far in that effort and having to deal with the consequences of fighting a very capable opponent who while had suffered many reverses hadn’t been beaten yet. The Belgians had recently redeployed and traded operational area with the Americans on the eastern side of the Oker River. Their troops took greater care while still aiming to destroy the enemy but a level of measured caution was always there due to their commanders not wanting to sacrifice any more lives than possible here. In doing so and with the Bundeswehr on their flank doing what they were doing, the Belgians managed to get to Checkpoint Alpha before sunset and have some of their men take the extensive East German facilities on the other side. Helmstedt had fallen to a careful attack they made and retreating Soviet forces from there had been caught in the open while pulling back ready for NATO air power to blast them.
Then the Belgians had crossed over the Inter-German Border in that area. There was going to be great propaganda value from this the Belgians knew and they were mighty proud of themselves in taking this facility. Moreover, where their leading armour units had ended up at Checkpoint Alpha meant that they had cut the line of retreat for the enemy forces fighting the Bundeswehr and that was a further success for them.
The US Third Army was still not available for combat action with its newly-arrived formations still getting standing up ready to see action soon, just not today. At Einbeck – the town where the 1st Cavalry Division had made its doomed stand – Lt.-General Chambers was busy setting up his headquarters yet at the same time he wasn’t about to have his men be idle where ABOLITION was concerned. The US II & XI Corps needed another day but the US III Corps was also now under his command after leaving the British Second Army. These combat experienced if somewhat weary men had just been transferred slightly southwards into his planned operational area and were a potent striking force that he wasn’t going to have doing nothing for the day when the Europeans were busy invading the enemy’s homeland.
The US III Corps was sent tearing towards the East German frontier south of the Harz Mountains. General Saint as corps commander was instructed to have his troops attack in a southeastern direction with the aim of entering Thüringen though afterwards and once the II Corps were ready start making a turn across the high ground that was criss-crossed with roads back to the northeast. All intelligence pointed to the enemy being rather weak in this sector and certainly with nothing capable of putting a stop to a reinvigorated US Army when on the attack.
Just as hoped, the US III Corps reached the Inter-German Border and went over that. They headed for the communications centres of Nordhausen on the left and Leinefelde on the right. Only two divisions were involved in the attack – the weaken 2nd Armored & 5th Mechanized Infantry Divisions – yet the US III Corps would soon be assigned the 6th Armored Division while the US II Corps would join them the next day with three of its own heavy divisions as well.
An immense amount of fire power was expended in this effort as the Americans didn’t want to slow down unless they had to and any suspicious lump of mud or hilltop covered in undergrowth got the full-on artillery or attack helicopter treatment. So much ammunition had been flowing through the NATO-controlled sea lanes and this was being put to use here like it was everywhere else yet now destroying the enemy East Germany rather than parts of the allied West Germany. This was a country which was going to be laid waste to if the troops within the US III Corps had the chance to and they were sure that their newly-arriving fellow soldiers with the rest of the US Third Army would be feeling the same when it came to this as well.
The US Fifth Army with its Bundeswehr and national guardsmen would spend the day fighting to reach the Inter-German Border throughout northern Hessen.
West German troops with the new V Corps (which had replaced the hollow shell that was the III Corps with recently-created units adding to those which remained, primarily the 12th Panzer Division) fought east of Kassel to push against the Werra River that ran near the border. There was much high ground and thus areas suitable for enemy defensive operations, but their opponents were weak in number after recent shattering defeats and couldn’t make the best use of that. The West Germans were eager to tear apart the Soviets inside their territory and combatted them with their usual fury eager for revenge.
Along the middle reaches of the Fulda River upstream through Bad Hersfeld and down as far as Hunfeld those national guardsmen with the US IV & VI Corps also fought to liberate West Germany. They took part in tough fighting that was regarded as a sideshow to everyone else but them involved in the life and death struggles that took place to secure the western side of the river and push over it towards the border beyond. The enemy wasn’t giving ground easily here and so the national guardsmen took plenty of casualties in pushing forward.
The centre and right flank of the US Fifth Army had much extra NATO reconnaissance assets assigned to it in its efforts to close up to the border here with the advance heading towards Thüringen. This went alongside efforts being made south of them as well as everyone was wary about what the enemy were doing up ahead and deep inside East Germany there.
Schwarzkopf as US V Corps commander had his theories about what was leaving everyone puzzled. His analysts had presented him and his operations staff with intelligence pointing to Thüringen being the staging ground for a major enemy counter-counterattack being planned to strike back westwards again. That was based upon the belief that when those reinforcements arrived in East Germany after coming through Poland in great number they would all mass in one area rather than being split up as beforehand and then strike for the Rhine. Such a strategy made sense to him as if enough men were gathered with enough forward supplies waiting for them they could move forward taking on all comers and drive westwards even with heavy casualties being inflicted. NATO forces were not overwhelming in number anywhere and liable to such an attack if the enemy went about it the right way and with preparation too.
Such an attack, if he was right about it, would come through the operational area where he had his men fighting yet he wasn’t about to let that start anywhere on West German soil. Schwarzkopf led his men back into East Germany again after concentrating his men due to the enemy forces trapped inside the burning town of Fulda surrendering late last night and the progress of the Spanish on his right flank giving him more freedom to move. Out of the Fulda Gap the US V Corps advanced… and straight into heavy enemy defences across the border.
Schwarzkopf was driving for the Werra Valley ahead and then the Thüringen Forest on the other side of that. His aim was to defeat the enemy defences in these regions and then head towards the communications centres which were the towns of Gotha, Erfurt, Weimar and Jena beyond. When reaching those, if he was correct in his judgement, he would be engaging a huge enemy force there but, thankfully, he and the US V Corps weren’t in this war on their own.
Striking from northern parts of Bavaria to clear the last parts of this region of West Germany of the enemy were the rest of the US Seventh Army: the Spanish I Corps and the US VII Corps. General Otis – whose intelligence staff didn’t agree with Schwarzkopf’s smaller team on what the enemy was up to yet had no answers of their own – was playing a more leading role in the command of these two corps commands than with the US V Corps. Schwarzkopf had too many proponents back in the United States who were willing to allow him to do almost as he wished on the back of all of his success so far and for the time being General Otis knew that the wise thing to do was to let that occur. He was the senior commander and still gave the orders, yet Schwarzkopf knew how to fight and didn’t need a great deal of oversight.
Reaching the border was the objective for the rest of the US Seventh Army with a view to later crossing it. The Spanish took over part of the US VII Corps previous operational area and went northwards from parts of the winding Main Valley already in NATO hands up towards the frontier with a drive being made upon the Coburg area. This town and the area around it were being used for East German propaganda purposes in a manner which they were making their usual disaster about and was also regarded by General Otis as being a gateway into entering Thüringen from the south. When the Spanish struck in the area they ran into plenty of enemy resistance from East German troops though then moved a little to the east in a wide flanking manoeuvre. Through a lot of accident but some design too, Spanish tanks soon rolled over the Inter-German Border and found themselves inside East Germany around the nearby town of Sonneberg. Little actual fighting took place in conventional terms here but there afterwards came guerrilla activity that the Spanish had to make a lot of effort to effectively counter once darkness approached. NATO intelligence found that the local authorities had organised Free German Youth groups as a resistance force and such a thing was very effective in Sonneberg. Later in the night, despite misgivings high up in NATO of a political nature, the Spanish pulled out of the town centre area while still remaining inside East Germany outside the urban area. They were determined to go back in the daylight and address the issue though…
The US VII Corps was still pushing in a northeastern direction though Franconia aiming for Hof. That West German town was regarded as a key communications centre for an advance into Saxony to head for the industrial centres of Zwickau, Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz) and then Dresden. These were key war aims if ABOLITION was to live up to its name and were accessible to a strong advance following the highways heading away from Hof. The US Army troops here were pushed against enemy forces that were strong yet were more willing to give ground than expected. Naturally cautious, the Americans found that they had done the right thing as they edged forward as the Soviets they encountered were trying to be clever with immense armoured traps laid using hidden forces ready to counterattack from the flanks and plenty of minefields laid to cut off escape routes from such traps. Instead of failing into that or trying to deal with it carefully, the US Army here had assistance from the USAF in unleashing relentless air attacks. They wouldn’t be getting to Hof today nor seeing the border, but the intention was that by tomorrow that would be possible especially as air strikes were meant to go on all night.
An invasion of East Germany couldn’t be undertaken without a simultaneous attack into western parts of Czechoslovakia. The French First Army was deployed in eastern Bavaria and it was the French – along with Bundeswehr forces – which were going to have to undertake that mission despite Acting President Bush pushing for the destruction of the Prague regime. Moreover, the issue with Austria was something else to figure in as well.
Pilsen was the key to Czechoslovakia as far as the French were concerned and it was towards there they ultimately hoped to go with the majority of their forces while the West Germans covered their flank and then further French troops alongside some Canadian reinforcements coming to Bavaria would assist the Italians in Austria. This would have to be a major operation with the large amount of territory to be fought over and then the numbers of Soviet and Czechoslovakian troops to be engaged. The enemy had never been able to spread out effectively through Bavaria and that had cost them yet that also meant that they remained bunched-up along the border areas through those forests that separated the West Germany from Czechoslovakia.
The French attacked with an aim of driving on the border just as everyone else was doing throughout April 1st though they knew that it was going to be tough going. Their objective would be to clear West German territory then focus upon getting an offensive going towards the Pilsen area. Everything got off to a good start, including the deployment of the Moroccans in their first instances of combat but this was all going to take some time.
ABOLITION was underway all across Germany.
NATO troops engaged in the fight went into battle with chemical warfare protection and behind them tactical nuclear forces were on alert too: an invasion of Warsaw Pact territory was something that had caused worries over an enemy nuclear response of a possible tactical nature. The political directive had been clear through that this was to take place and nothing was going to stop the Allies until the mission was complete.
Other factors remained in-play though especially those hundreds of thousands of Soviet reinforcements starting to pour through Poland and then the fighting in Austria as well that couldn’t be ignored while ABOLITION was ongoing.
Two Hundred & Twenty–Eight
The orders were issued in both verbal and written forms in Marshal Ogarkov’s own name and certainly would have made damming evidence at future any war crimes trial. There were multiple witnesses to these orders on the Soviet side, with the Poles and to later intelligence efforts made by the Allies as well to look into what went on inside Poland.
All and any forms of resistance within Poland to the movement of Soviet forces through their country was to be crushed with the utmost violence and intimidation efforts were to be made to discourage this occurring in the future again with disproportionate force used.
The early stages of the Great Polish Rebellion had been underway for some time now with Polish troops under Soviet officers as part of the Socialist Forces disobeying orders at first and then mutinying in places. Across Poland there had been civil unrest where violence had taken place yet at the same time much non-violent action had been taken too on the part of Poles with strikes, human blockades and intentional sabotage of the war effort. Measures responses had been undertaken – by Soviet standards anyway – and intelligence-led efforts had been tried to defeat these as well. In addition, NATO had been stirring up trouble as well to add to the already negative reaction of the Polish people to the war efforts.
Ogarkov had had enough of ‘playing nice’ with the future of his own country hanging in the balance and politics were pushed aside. He cared not one iota about Polish-Soviet relations now or in the future, just victory on the battlefields on the other side of Poland where it lay geographically between those and the Rodina. The gloves came off and his orders to be as harsh as possible on any and all resistance were going to be followed.
The Great Polish Rebellion truly would get going once his instructions were followed.
Those masses of Soviet troops which had been mobilised inside the Soviet Union and Ogarkov had ordered to move to East Germany with utmost urgency needed passage through Poland. The only viable way to get those men and their equipment to the battlefields was by transiting Poland as all other options were too much trouble. The train ferry service running from the Lithuanian SSR to Mukran on the island of Rugen could only take what would be small cargoes overall and despite being still operational was liable to an enemy attack that would close it at any time. Rail lines that ran from the Ukrainian SSR into Czechoslovakia and hence to East Germany were long and again not able to carry enough for the immense transfer required. There were aircraft available to move men in great numbers but certainly not everything else from the thousands of tanks to heavy equipment to supplies… those were also being used for other supply missions that were keeping key units stocked with certain missiles and such like.
It was through Poland on the railway lines that the extraordinary large Soviet Army force needed to move as the road links were poor and couldn’t compare to those rail links that connected the Soviet Union with Poland through multiple points and with a lot of infrastructure in-place. Hundreds upon hundreds of freight trains were to make back-and-forth journeys between East Germany and western portions of the Soviet Union and to make use of the rail transportation infrastructure in Poland. There had been a lot of damage done by NATO aircraft dropping bombs in the west and some home-grown acts of sabotage elsewhere throughout the country, but continuing repairs were to make good that damage and allow the trains to keep running.
Those trains weren’t meant to stop inside Poland unless it was absolutely necessary as there was a war going on; the soldiers weren’t sightseeing. Yet, circumstances would of course mean that they would and it was when they did that trouble occurred with the rebellious Poles.
Railway lines throughout most of Europe – both sides of the Iron Curtain – used the European Standard Gauge on their tracks with the result being that trains, passenger and freight alike, could criss-cross the Continent with ease between different countries. However, the Soviet Union used the Broad Gauge with their railway networks. While this at first glance appeared to be something minor – the difference in width was very small to the layman – for those involved in transportation it was anything but that. Trains couldn’t cross from European nations such as Poland straight into and across the Soviet Union due to different width’s being used upon the tracks. They had to stop and either the passenger & freight carriages be lifted onto new undercarriages in a time-consuming process even with automation, or everyone and everything aboard those trains needed to depart and load onto new trains using the different gauge. There were locations used on the main railway lines were newer systems were used and this Variable Gauge alternative was being made available elsewhere but that was a long drawn-out process.
This significant constraint in rail transportation between two allied nations had been in place since either was the modern country which they were today despite much talk through many years about making a change so that those railways in the Warsaw Pact countries would be compatible with those in the Soviet Union or, even better, making Variable Gauge available everywhere. Meanwhile, at cross-border locations along the frontiers between both nations there were multiple change-over points where trains either came to an end, they were lifted onto a new undercarriage with wheels and axles (a process known as a ‘Bogie Exchange’), or slowed down so that Variable Gauge could be put to use.
The Soviets were using all of the railway lines that they could as they moved across into Poland and the issue with the gauges came into play for them to a significant extent. Trains came to a stop or slowed down greatly in railway sidings inside Poland. These were far enough away from the frontlines that NATO aircraft hadn’t done damage to such places from the air yet on the ground there had been a few instances of sabotage beforehand from Poles trying to destroy this infrastructure. There was now a determination for that to not happen again and so Polish workers had been expelled en mass from such locations and Soviet railwaymen (who had been conscripted in a special category) operated such systems. For Soviets to replace Poles like this left the thousands of latter out of work and thus angry while the former struggling to operate systems that they understood yet were different from what they had expected.
The changing of gauges slowed things down to a great deal and then near several of those sites from where Poles had been expelled there were disturbances from unemployed workers who weren’t happy at ‘Russians’ taking their jobs.
Elsewhere in Poland, railway bridges over many of the country’s biggest rivers in the west had been bombed by NATO aircraft who often made repeated attack missions to make sure that if those structures above water weren’t destroyed the first time they would be bombed until they were. Those bridges above the Oder, the Warta, the Netze and parts of the mighty Vistula had been brought down and the rail connections cut.
Soviet-led efforts using their engineers and ‘encouraged labour’ on the part of local Poles had been made to construct new crossings where the old one were destroyed. There were temporary structures put in place and new air defences assembled to stop these being blown up like the ones which they replaced. Such hasty work mainly in the form of pontoon bridges over which track was laid was remarkable in its scope and the speed which these were constructed yet these were nowhere near as strong or as sturdy as those there beforehand. Heavily-laden freight trains couldn’t go over most of these new bridges due to their weight and so the solution that was the unloading of cargoes on one side of the river, the trains to go across and then the cargo – human and material – to be re-joined with the trains on the other side.
Everything possible was done to reduce delays where this occurred but of course something could also go wrong… especially with NATO aircraft knowing where the crossing points were and dropping bombs for disruption purposes over men and equipment exposed out in the open. Those on the ground waiting to get across rivers learnt to hate the sound of F-111s on their egress.
Trouble between Poles and Soviets flared at these locations when locals and ‘Russians’ interacted.
Elsewhere, there continued to be the arrival in Polish ports along the coast of ships bringing their wares from Soviet ports further along the Baltic. Warehouses with military equipment and stores throughout the Baltic States and the Leningrad area had been emptied and ships made the journey down to places such as Gdansk, Gdynia and Swinoujscie (the outer port for Szczecin) as this cross-water travel cut down on transport times. Replacing the dockworkers wholescale at such places was too much effort for the Soviets so they brought in plenty of their own supervisors and security troops to oversee the locals Poles.
Again, trouble flared in these locations as the Soviets treated the Poles like they were their slaves and their answers to any form of resistance was the barrel of a gun. Homemade bombs started to be used by certain Poles who had been pushed too far and there were also instances of arson and outright sabotage to answer the Soviet actions.
The Soviets soon found that they couldn’t rely upon the Polish security forces to the extent which they should have and this was evident in the mass disturbances that took place in Warsaw throughout the night of March 31st / April 1st.
Pro-democracy campaigners inside the city had been for weeks now trying to organise a big march through the very heart of the capital city calling for free and fair elections to take place in Poland. With the war going on and attention focused elsewhere they had first believed that this would have been less difficult than usual but instead of just combating security agents from the Polish UB the Soviet KGB had been active in Warsaw arresting and even killing the organisers. It had seemed like the march would never take place as time and time again those trying to get it going were caught by their oppressors. Finally, though more and more people got involved in organising such an event and these weren’t the usual people too. The ongoing war brought out fears in many people and they were looking for an outlet for those… which they found in what was starting to be called the Warsaw Underground.
The weapons of the Warsaw Underground had before been illegal printing press but in reaction of the overtly brutal crackdowns made lethal weapons had been gathered and had been used in a few instances for self-defence purposes only. With the march which they arranged and then led, such people – all of whom considered themselves true patriots – kept their clubs, knives and pistols on them but out of sight as they tried to lead a peaceful march. There had been calls made over radio waves that may or may not have been created by the West for them to rise up and depose their government but such a thing wasn’t viable. Instead, the march through Warsaw was meant to make a big show and encourage more people to join their cause rather than at this early stage bring about true change.
More people than anticipated turned out for the march and there were nowhere near enough marshals to direct people as well as a crowd that wasn’t prepared to listen to those who were apparently in charge and with lofty intentions. The pro-democracy march became an unruly mob soon enough and then took on the character of a riot when security forces in Warsaw tried to break it up and start arresting some of those taking part. There were protesters everywhere though who were heading in all sorts of directions through the centre of Warsaw. The organisers had lost control and the Polish security forces were not strong enough to take on such an unpredictable mob who soon started committing acts of violence themselves.
Arson, looting and assaults occurred throughout the centre of Warsaw. Poles fired on Poles and Molotov Cocktails as well as paving stabs were thrown. Some security troops decided to stand aside after refusing to obey orders to shoot the mob and where these instances occurred there was often a break in the lines of the security forces through which the mob moved and attacked anyone in authority who they came across.
With the war going on to the west and the need to assist in the railway movements to the east, Warsaw wasn’t at that point a stronghold for the Soviets. Nonetheless, they did have a presence in the city as it was the Polish capital and when the violence erupted they took notice. There were fears that the government was about to be overthrown and also that Soviet building and personnel in the city might be attacked as well. What Soviet security troops could be quickly gathered up were assembled and sent against the mob to drive them right out of the heart of the city in lightning assaults using automatic gunfire of an indiscriminate fashion. The Poles themselves would kill more of their own people than the Soviets would, yet the method in which the Soviets did their killing was brutal but effective. They stopped the government from being overthrown and then let Polish security forces chase the mob out of the city centre into the suburbs throughout the night and into the morning.
The Battle of Warsaw had been a bloody affair and what happened there rather confusing to most of those involved and both factors would make sure that when other Poles heard about it the worst possible reactions would follow.
After the deaths in Warsaw, the Great Polish Rebellion was now truly underway and taking place while the Soviets were trying to move their armies through the country on the way to save the war from being lost in Germany.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 12, 2019 20:16:57 GMT
Two Hundred & Twenty–Nine
Drawing NATO air and ground forces into Austria rather than allowing them to focus upon Denmark, East Germany and Czechoslovakia had been Ogarkov’s reasoning behind invading the neutral country and NATO wasn’t foolish enough to believe that there had been any other reason.
Why invade with such small forces otherwise?
Clearly, the new Soviet leader hadn’t considered how prepared the Italians were to react and nor that NATO air forces would immediately launch the strategic air attack that was THUNDERSTORM, but, nonetheless, Ogarkov had sent troops into Austria so that NATO would do the same. Understanding that didn’t mean that such a game couldn’t be played though, especially not with ABOLITION underway and therefore the threat to the flank of the part of that operation that was the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The Italians had a large force moving into Austria and this would (roughly) equate to eight NATO-sized divisions when reinforcements were counted but those troops still had a long way to move. A gap opened up through which the French First Army in Bavaria could possibly have its flank turned and vitally important rear-areas put at risk unless that army group committed troops to the ongoing fighting in Austria.
The French II Corps had been chosen to be hastily redeployed and these troops had come from victories in central Hessen when operated under American command down through Bavaria heading southwards at speed. There were three combat divisions with this force though each formation was might have been named as such yet was in reality a large brigade that had taken many losses engaging the Soviets beforehand during several weeks of fighting. Their orders were to get inside Austria and head along the Danube Valley from the Passau area to link up with the Italians and what Austrian forces remained still operating around Vienna. Czechoslovak reserve forces operating from their territory had been very ineffective in attacking Austria also heading for the Danube Valley and Linz in particular and the Soviets were far away outside Vienna. General de Corps Jacques de Zelicourt was tasked to move with caution but speed deep into Austria and do battle with the Soviets there as far to the east as possible.
Entering Austria alongside the French II Corps was the Canadian Army’s reformed combat force in Germany.
Two weeks ago, the Canadian 1st Infantry Division had been near-destroyed at the Battle of Ludwigschorgast when fighting as part of the US VII Corps in Franconia. They had gone up against a much stronger opponent in a mobile battle and misjudged what should have been a flanking attack against an unawares enemy to turn that into a head-on engagement where the Soviets also had tactical air support available in number. The majority of the professional strength of the Canadian Army had been lost in that fight and a lot of bad feeling had remained with those few survivors which managed to escape from what became a massacre. Afterwards, those elements not destroyed in that battle – one which ultimately didn’t mean anything to anyone but those involved – had been pulled back from the rest of the fighting in Bavaria and kept as an infantry reserve first for the VII Corps and then the US Seventh Army.
The following week had seen some Militia units arrive in Germany and fight with the national guardsmen that formed the US Fifth Army yet those troops had only consisted of two light infantry battalions and their efforts again arguably didn’t make much of a difference to the war effort. Canada was committed to NATO, and the Allies too, and there had been a political decision made in Ottawa straight after that defeat on the battlefield that the country’s armed forces would continue to pull their weight. At sea in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Canadian naval forces made a significant contribution while there were still many Canadian combat aircraft (capable Hornets and older Freedom Fighters) operating in Germany. As to the Canadian Army, the substantial rear-area logistics network in Bavaria that they in-place remained assisting American, French and West German forces which remained fighting.
Regardless, the Canadian Army still wanted a return to the fight and to get some measure of revenge as well as restoring some national pride. Forty years ago, Canada had deployed a full field army to Germany in the closing stages of World War Two and to be left out of this conflict on the battlefields just wouldn’t do.
The 2nd Infantry Division had been formed up in Germany so that Canada could get back into that fight. Regulars from Alberta that had at first moved to Alaska pre-war were transported all the way to Germany along with their equipment and the 1st Brigade became the first standing unit of the new division. Two other brigades were formed up alongside them – the 2nd & 3rd Brigades – using the few troops which remained in Germany and Militia units already in Europe and coming from Canada itself. With those Militia formations, several of the more prestigious units were chosen (with furious infighting going on between regimental supporters back home) to be the building blocks of combat units with reservists from others which wouldn’t go to Germany adding to their number. Canada didn’t have a large standing army but it did have many former professional soldiers either in the Militia or recently retired from active service.
The combat equipment used by the Canadians was second-hand in the form of Centurion tanks from British stocks (Canada had sold most of those previously operated to Israel), French light armoured vehicles and American personnel carriers & artillery. What little armoured vehicles the Canadians had themselves were put to use and so too were many French trucks as well. Therefore, while having some tanks and other armour, the Canadians were far from a strong force in terms of combat power and would face even greater danger on the battlefields of Germany than they previously had when going up against the Soviet Army or even the ground forces of their Warsaw Pact puppets too. The lesson with that had been learnt the hard way indeed and during the creation of the 2nd Infantry Division this had been something thought about to a great extent. Ammunition stocks for the Canadians came from their own and then some of that recent Italian delivery had been diverted their way especially with the Canadians being located where they were when it arrived in Germany.
The original idea had been for the 2nd Infantry Division to operate in northern Germany with the French Second Army there and for the Canadians to maybe even see action near Hamburg or in Schleswig-Holstein. Such a concept had come from NATO higher-ups though and wasn’t what the Canadian Army wanted at all. Their supply base was still in southern Germany along with what troops the rest of the division was to form-up around and such a move to the north didn’t make sense. Staying with the French was still considered key with language and logistical links so Bavaria it was and Munich in particular.
When the order came for the French II Corps to move into Austria, the Canadians went with them. They travelled via Autobahn-8 to Salzburg and entered Austria at that point… just ahead of the French Army crossing the Inn River and the Danube at several points near Passau. It was believed that the Canadians would have much better luck in Austria than they did in Franconia with experience that could only come from such a defeat as they took as well as operating alongside heavier forces of the French and Italian armies.
There was still a distance to travel of almost two hundred miles for the Canadians from Salzburg to Vienna – as the crow flies and therefore much longer by road – and it was going to take some time for them to arrive where the fighting was.
Meanwhile, over to the east, Italian and Soviet forces were now engaged in combat near Vienna.
Two Hundred & Thirty
Almost without exception, those countries actively involved in World War Three felt the presence of traitors within them. Moreover, there were many nations not involved in the war whose citizens which chose to betray their country adversely affected them too. Treason crossed all ideological lines and those of age, race and gender too in a global fashion.
People betrayed their countries of birth for a plenitude of reasons.
There were those that did so because they wanted to and those that had no choice in the act. Some were motived by hating their nation or its system of government and wishing to see the end of that, and then there were those who thought that they were the only ones could better their nation. Others were coerced with the act of blackmail into treason; along similar lines, trickery was often used with clever third-party, false flag deceptions facilitating betrayal. There were traitors who wished for pleasures, riches and power of their own which they believed they deserved. Treason came in the form too of those with the belief that they knew best and they were doing the right thing. And, of course, there were those who betrayed their own nation because they could and therefore they would.
Traitors had been despised throughout history often with the same level of contempt reserved for military deserters or in the modern era those who abused children. Even those who history proved were doing the right thing were vilified for what they had done. Arguments were made that no one had the choice of where they were born and so treason against their country of birth as a concept was wrong but such excuses of a supposedly moral nature weren’t given the time of day. Only those who successfully got away with treason with few people or even better no one knowing came away from the act as a winner for public perception of treason was always one of disgust.
Britain suffered the consequences of the actions of traitors acting against the nation during the conflict due to various reasons with some managing to remain undetected in their treason. Yet, at the same time, there was much success against such people who were betraying the UK as well.
Fenton–Smyth came from a familial background of privilege yet at the same time much expectation. He was well-educated and had many connections with the elite within Britain. A servant rather than a leader, his position in life meant that he still had much personal power through influence.
With his background, Fenton–Smyth had long ago secured himself a role within the Establishment as a supposedly loyal and trusted aide to members of the Royal Family. His duties were extensive yet hardly arduous where he provided administrate tasks and was always available to offer advice should it be requested. After spending many years working for the Queen Mother, Fenton–Smyth had for the past two years been with her eldest grandson and the heir to the throne. There were plenty of secrets about both the Prince and the Princess of Wales that he knew yet keeping such things to himself was what was expected of a man like Fenton–Smyth as his duty was to them rather than to anyone else.
He had secrets of his own though and wished to maintain for if those were exposed he would face public humiliation, the loss of everything that he had and quite probably a stiff prison sentence too where someone such as himself certainly wouldn’t enjoy. Last year a foreign man had referred to those as ‘unspeakable acts’ when the process of the treason which Fenton–Smyth would undertake first begun. No one would ever find out about these nor see the evidence of those, Fenton–Smyth had been told, as long as from time to time some requests which were asked of him were fulfilled.
During Transition to War, the Prince of Wales and his family had departed their usual residence at Highgrove and been whisked away to a hideaway in North Wales; specialist policemen, an MI-5 officer and a detachment of soldiers had gone with them along with a few indispensable aides like Fenton–Smyth. That movement along with the location of where they went was meant to be a secret from almost everyone.
However, during the tensions in the early part of the year, those who blackmailed Fenton–Smyth had instructed him that if such a thing were to occur in a situation where wartime precautions were taken, he was to act to give information as to such a location. He hadn’t wanted to think about why those who held sway over his future wanted to know that for the Royal couple and their two young children would certainly in grave danger in such a situation. Nonetheless, when that happened and the move made to the theoretically anonymous Caerwys Rectory took place, Fenton–Smyth had recalled those threats being made and made a telephone call from a private residence within the village to an unlisted number somewhere in London. Nothing was said during that call, but two days later there had been a shooting incident within the grounds and a pair of bodies afterwards recovered.
Fenton–Smyth was soon airlifted out of the area along with the Royals by helicopter and to an even more secluded location elsewhere while the presence of two armed intruders at Caerwys Rectory – one male, one female and both unidentified – had become something of a mystery to everyone apart from him. There was no way that he could contact his blackmailers after arrival in Cumbria with the far more intensive security precautions taken there. Fenton–Smyth was also left in a troubled state that he desperately kept to himself with the thoughts of what could have happened had those men from the Scots Guards not been so alert but at the same time every day waiting upon the confrontation that would come following the release of his own secrets.
Of course he thought of suicide on many occasions and running away too… though never of giving himself up and admitting the truth.
Throughout the course of the war, the treason which Fenton–Smyth had committed would remain undetected.
Dear was a Wing Commander with the RAF. This mid-level staff officer had a long and distinguished career with that organisation and had served his nation well in many peacetime roles during that time. Approaching the end of his career, Dear was assigned a senior role at the MOD where he commanded fellow military officers as well as civilians in a wartime planning role so that the RAF would be able to fulfil its NATO role. It was a desk job that required a lot of work to be done and also many secrets to be kept.
Dear betrayed his country for money. He had many years ago now come into contact with the KGB and it was him who offered them access to intelligence that he would steal for a fee. The Soviets were rather tight with money, Dear had always found, yet they were rather professional in their dealings with him and he believed that unless something very serious went wrong he would never be caught. The money which he gained from them was used to help him maintain the lifestyle he wanted and kept him and his family comfortable. What he gave to the Soviets was what he chose, not what they asked for, and his belief was that war between Britain and the Soviet Union never would erupt due to the nuclear arsenals of each so what did it matter if he gave the KGB some information which they would never put to use? It was only technical data that he handed over, much of it what the layman wouldn’t understand, and intelligence that he was certain wouldn’t harm his nation for there would never be a war where the possession of it by the other side wouldn’t harm his fellow RAF comrades nor his country.
Then NATO mobilised.
Those radar frequencies, radio codes, deployment plans, weapons capabilities studies and such like which Dear had long been handing over to the KGB were now in the hands of the other side – Dear never thought of the Soviets as ‘the enemy’ – and could be put to use if the shooting started. The certainty that Dear held over war never occurring was shown to be false as every day following mobilisation there came more and more warning signs that it was about to happen. He came to realise that everything he had handed over did actually mean something and would harm a lot of people. Dear cut off any form of communication with his contacts and hoped that MI-5 had rounded up such people but his concern was of what he had done, how he had harmed others rather than anything else… though he wasn’t about to turn himself in.
Unfortunately for Dear who always believed that he was in control, he really wasn’t. His main GRU contact in London, to whom he passed all of that information to, had decided to defect to Britain after deciding that he didn’t like the new form of government in his nation: Dear was one of several people whose names he gave to his MI-5 interrogators.
When they came for Dear, the Security Service took him away and presented him with the GRU officer who had told them about him as well as details of his treason. Dear defended himself by telling MI-5 (and the Defence Intelligence Staff personnel brought in too) his reasoning behind his treason and dismissing the counterpoints over how he had only done what he had for financial gain. He believed that he could get away with what he had done by explaining how sorry he was and how he really hadn’t meant any harm to his country nor those who wore the same uniform as him.
Before the war was over, while being held in a specialist detection centre, Dear would have ‘an accident’ where he slipped over when at the top of a flight of stairs and fell down them. He had multiple head injuries and those were more than he should have had with such a fall, yet no one in authority ended up losing any sleep over such a minor detail in that autopsy report. Much worry instead had been over repairing the damage that Dear had done rather than what became of the arrogant traitor.
Vaughn had long ago served in the Royal Engineers and spent many years as a British Army NCO. He was approaching fifty years of age when mobilisation for war came yet he wasn’t called up due to that age and an injury to his one of his hands which he had suffered many years ago while on active service that left him with the use of only one of those. His duties when in uniform during peacetime had been in the field of explosives for demolition purposes and since he had left the British Army he had maintained a strong interest in such a thing.
There had come anger to Vaughn after his injury and the small payment he had received to assist him after he left uniformed service along with the pathetic excuse for a pension he received as well. There was no work available for a man like him with the use of only his left hand and he wasn’t the sort to take offered charity either therefore leaving him without much to do since retirement. He stewed and plotted revenge upon those who had betrayed him by leaving him in the situation he was in.
Sometimes his anger was again the military brass while other times he hated those bureaucrats at the MOD who had forced his retirement. Then he would silently rage against politicians before turning back against senior generals with their rank and privileges. He was never confused, of that he was sure, but he was always angry and wanted revenge.
Vaughn didn’t have any secrets and then the idea of treason was something that made him angry too. He wanted to do something though, something to get back at those who had forgotten all of his years of loyal service. When war came to Britain, Vaughn had a large stock of illegally-gathered military-grade explosives in his possession and knowledge in his head. He had an idea to hit back for revenge and also show that he could put all his skills to use despite being classed as ‘disabled’ by the MOD.
On the war’s second day, Vaughn blew up a major section of an underground pipeline providing aviation fuel to military airbases in Southwestern England. He knew where the pipeline ran as it cut through the countryside and where there were access points for maintenance. Such places weren’t physically guarded and he got access so that he would place a lot of explosives and then flee before almighty explosions made the ground shake afterwards. Vaughn’s bomb had a greater effect than he anticipated and caused epic amounts destruction.
The Security Service afterwards were on the hunt for the perpetrator of his attack but they never came across Vaughn. The thinking was that a GRU agent had been responsible and probably working with the Soviet Spetsnaz team active at that point in the region, not someone like him. His treason would never be revealed and the blow that Vaughn had struck to those in the military hadn’t killed anyone but he shown that he could have still be useful had he not been as unfairly cast aside as he had been.
Cutting had for many years worked for the Security Service with their counter-espionage department. He had been a career spook keeping his country safe from those of a foreign nature who wished to do Britain harm. At the same time, he had been actively betraying his nation and handing over state secrets to the East German Stasi. He had kept his long-held socialist beliefs to himself all of the time he was with MI-5 and eventually starting assisting the Stasi so that he could help bring about a better future one day for his country and his fellow Britons.
He understood socialism better than anyone he worked with and knew in his heart that for all of its faults, the British people would be much better off with such a system of government.
Three years ago, Cutting had come damn close to getting caught in the act of passing information to the Stasi by counter-intelligence people from his own organisation. They had moved too quickly though and he had just avoided being caught in the act. What evidence there was against him was circumstantial and not physical so he didn’t face prison just the termination of his employment and the knowledge that MI-5 knew.
Cutting had left the country afterwards and moved through France, Italy and then Yugoslavia. There was a local girl in Croatia to whom he got involved with and maybe he would have ended up spending the rest of his days there… until the Stasi showed up. They had at first thought of taking the girl hostage but instead had talked Cutting into returning to Britain and doing their bidding. He had returned home to the UK using a different name as one of the many Britons who came back to the country from abroad on the eve of war and managed to not be recognised when coming back. Once he had made that journey, Cutting had gone to a location on the edge of London and met up with the people the Stasi sent him too: a detachment of specialist East German commandoes hiding out waiting for a radio signal.
The reason behind Cutting being sent to link up with these well-armed East Germans was so that he would assist them in assaulting the Security Service’s headquarters once war was imminent. Cutting knew the lay-out of the building and was meant to guide the commandoes as they moved through the complex moving down anyone who stood in their way with their assault rifles and grenades. It was to be a quick raid to kill as many British intelligence officers and their staffs as possible before Cutting was supposed to help them get away afterwards.
Back in Zagreb, this had all sounded something that Cutting thought he could do. There were people there at MI-5 headquarters who were only doing their jobs and didn’t deserve death yet he believed that the organisation was morally corrupt as a whole and needed to be destroyed so that socialism could come to Britain. Not a fool, Cutting knew that it would take more than just that, but he would be playing his part. When back home though, his view had changed. He knew that the protection of such a place wouldn’t be that strong as it sat outside the Ring of Steel thrown up around the very heart of Central London (the Security Service’s main building was just south of the river) but it did sound like a suicide mission. He understood that he wouldn’t be coming out of there alive and, in addition, before he died he would be responsible for the deaths of many innocents.
Cutting again committed an act of betrayal as only hours before the attack was meant to take place, right on the eve of war, Cutting made a telephone call to a certain number. There was some incredulity on the other end of the phone to the person he was talking to – another former MI-5 man who had left the organisation in much different circumstances than his own – but Cutting had made the man believe him. Afterwards, Cutting had fled from the East Germans and their hideout and made a run for it. He still had his false identity and the Stasi was going to be very busy with the war.
His conscience was clear afterwards and Cutting believed that he had done the right thing.
The Donaldson Gang was the name later given to a group of seven radicals active in Gloucestershire who committed treason in a spectacular fashion. Led by a woman after which they were named, these traitors to their country undertook an armed raid against a military facility in the region with the belief that they would be aiding their view of ‘the war effort’ by their actions. Support for them pre-war came from a GRU officer living undercover in Britain with a legend who helped arm them and structure them into the tight cell-like organisation which they became. Members of the Donaldson Gang were known radicals supporting a rather disturbing anarchist agenda but the GRU had them doing their bidding and also staying out of sight in the pre-war period.
The war which the Donaldson Gang believed they were taking part in was one against the oppressive military-industrial complex as exemplified by the presence of American military aircraft at RAF Fairford in the form of B-52 bombers. They knew that those aircraft would be carrying nuclear warheads ready to kill innocent Russian civilians and the belief was such weapons of war needed to be destroyed. Their leader had taken all assistance given by the Russian who had assisted her in planning the attack against RAF Fairford while at the same time despising him and planning to have a reckoning with him too as the KGB (who she thought he was part of) was almost as bad as the American military. The guns were taken first and so too were the specialist maps showing defences at that facility, but the leader of the Donaldson Gang had it in her heart to kill that Russian as well afterwards…
For seven people in two vehicles armed with AK-47s to try to take on the security force guarding RAF Fairford during the first week of the war was rather foolish. Such an attempt didn’t actually get anywhere near the base as they were spotted several miles away moving off-road through the countryside. The base was on alert for Spetsnaz and thus the reaction against the Donaldson Gang was therefore justified in a military sense.
The USAF had the regular 7020th Security Police Squadron assigned to RAF Fairford in peacetime and the 7026th Squadron had joined them there in the build-up to war when assets deployed to Greece had left that country. These men and women were all armed and fielded some good equipment including heavy man-portable weapons like mortars and heavy machine guns as well as four-wheeled M-706 armoured cars. It was a pair of the latter which engaged the Donaldson Gang before they could reach the perimeter wire with their machine guns blasting apart the vehicles used by what the USAF deemed terrorists.
Such was the end of the Donaldson Gang and their ideas of saving the world from nuclear apocalypse by blowing up those American aircraft based in Britain.
Henry had had no idea that be been betraying his country. Up until the moment he died, he had thought that he was helping his country. He had always known that he was never the smartest of men and people thought of him as maybe a bit simple, but there was no malice in him. He had always tried to be a good person and wanted to do the right thing.
When his parents had died, they had left him the family business: a small rural petrol station in Suffolk that came with a garage for fixing cars. Henry knew about cars if nothing else and could repair any old banger. Hardly anyone ever stopped for petrol anymore since a new main road had been built several miles away as part of a bypass but he still did some business fixing cars plus there was plenty of money left to him too. He never read newspapers and hardly watched the television so his understanding of world affairs was from second-hand knowledge yet when Transition to War had come he knew there was some danger to Britain. Henry had a long-term friend though who told him about what was going on and explained things to him, a friend from Ipswich in the used car trade who often brought vehicles by for Henry to repair. They would talk and drink tea in the flat above the garage where Henry fixed vehicles and Henry’s friend, who was well-travelled, would tell him about what was going on overseas in places that fascinated Henry.
War with foreigners meant grave danger could come and Henry’s friend had explained to him that there were some people in more danger than others. These were people protecting Britain against all sorts of dangers and they needed a place where they would stay safe. Henry had been asked to help and he surely did that.
The ‘peace activists’ from abroad arrived and Henry’s friend stayed with them in the garage premises. No petrol supplies had come to the business Henry ran and the garage remained closed too so that those people he was protecting stayed safe. Henry was told that it was best that he didn’t know, but he understood that: protecting the country was more important than his curiosity. He fixed up several vehicles that that Henry’s friends were going to use for their ‘peace mission’ and made sure that they were left alone to do what they needed to do, whatever that was.
And then the night before the Spetsnaz team raided RAF Mildenhall Henry’s friend snuck into his room and cut his throat with a bayonet. Henry had no idea why he was killed by his friend while one of the peace activists looked on. He had done everything that they asked of him and given his friend so much help in doing what was right in protecting innocent people elsewhere yet they butchered him like they did.
Henry died not understanding how he had been taken advantage of as he had been.