Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 19:00:36 GMT
Two Hundred & Thirty–One
Mielke knew what ABOLITION meant for him: death. He would either die at the hands of his countrymen, be killed during the invasion or maybe hung after a show trial conducted by the Allies. The moment that he was told that NATO was invading East Germany, he at once knew that his time was soon to come to an end.
There was no other endgame that he could foresee apart from his own death.
The regime that he led and therefore him at the head of that were soon going to be brought down by the armies of capitalism that had started to cross the Inter-German Border with Berlin as their clear goal. He commanded no major armed forces of his own to stop those invaders and it was clear that the Soviet Army couldn’t do that either. The few briefings that Mielke was getting now from those sent by Marshal Ogarkov to see him were full of bluster and promises of a turnaround in military fortunes soon enough yet from his own sources, plus his own intuition, he knew that everything he had built here was doomed to fall soon enough.
The armies of America, Britain, France and maybe even West Germany would end up in Berlin and marching down the Unter den Linden before going on through the Brandenburg Gate. Following that would come the final destruction of the regime here and the enslavement of the people to the West with their bankers, free markets and money lenders. Everything the he and so many others had worked for would be crushed and, as the saying went, buried under the ash heap of history.
Propaganda in West was already depicting him in the same vein as Hitler and Mielke suspected that his name would afterwards be mentioned alongside that fascist for the rest of human history.
To know this and to not be able to stop it was suffocating…
…but then there came the offer of a possible salvation.
The KGB officer that the now departed Chebrikov regime had assigned to him refused to share the same sense of dread as Mielke did. Vladimir Vladimirovich had suffered the ignominy of being ignored by his fellow countrymen who wore military uniforms as the KGB had been brought down by Ogarkov, but Mielke had observed the man who had become his closest adviser take that better than he thought he would. Vladimir Vladimirovich had seen the top levels of the KGB cut down by the Soviet Army and suffered personal insults from such people but he remained with Mielke and carried on doing his duty. The man from Leningrad was faithful to the cause no matter what.
In addition, Vladimir Vladimirovich was also blessed with what Mielke regarded as exceptional cunning. He had a daring mind that sometimes would think the unthinkable and when Mielke would listen to the younger man he would always remain impressed at what went on there inside the head of such a man as his KGB adviser. There was nothing that Vladimir Vladimirovich didn’t think through to the end and have a solution for that would make sure that every angle was covered. He was, of course, sometimes burdened with the arrogance of youth, but that didn’t take away from the fact that behind that blind faith came logical thinking.
Mielke was sure that if a man like Vladimir Vladimirovich had been in charge of the Soviet Union instead of Ogarkov or even Chebrikov, then such a situation as this with the armies of capitalism crossing the border would never have occurred.
Vladimir Vladimirovich returned to the notion he had put to Mielke some time ago about a manner in which East Germany could avoid these troubling fears which the elder man had: possession by the regime here of their own nuclear weapons and the threat of using them to stop the destruction of what Mielke had built. Vladimir Vladimirovich stated that they still could be ‘acquired’ if the risk was willing to be taken in doing that and then it could be quite simply put to the West that they needed to stop their invasion or some of their cities would be destroyed. He added that if Ogarkov hadn’t been such a fool then the Soviet Union could bring to a halt offensive NATO operations which were destroying its military forces.
Mielke needed to do what Ogarkov dared not to and scare the West enough to bring an end to the war.
The strategy which Vladimir Vladimirovich put to Mielke was elegant and thus typical of what was expected from him.
Those thermonuclear warheads along with delivery systems for semi-strategic use would be stolen in a daring operation so that East Germany could become a nuclear power in one swoop. These would then be secretly deployed to hidden locations where they would be safe from attack and thus not be taken as a threat that could be countered. Messages would be sent to several NATO nations threatening the capital cities of their nations if the invasion didn’t stop; Vladimir Vladimirovich thought it best to threaten Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain as well as most-importantly West Germany. None of the nuclear powers in the West would face such intimidation just these nations which were part of NATO and especially in the case of West Germany key to that alliance’s invasion of East Germany. By that point, the West would know that Mielke’s regime had these weapons and would suspect that he would be prepared to use them to stop the toppling of East Germany without knowing it was all a bluff.
Mielke didn’t want to use such weapons for he believed that NATO would launch their own afterwards against East Germany and Vladimir Vladimirovich stated that if such a thing were to be done all that would be achieved would be slaughter on a global scale: Soviet forces in Germany would be killed by NATO nuclear weapons and Ogarkov would have to strike back. What good would that do in achieving the aim of keeping East Germany free from foreign occupation? No, instead, the threat had to be made to those nations so that political pressure would break apart the NATO alliance and bring a halt to the invasion.
Vladimir Vladimirovich assured Mielke that there were still many people of influence left within the Soviet Union who while not knowing about this beforehand would still go along with it afterwards. The two of them had nothing to fear from Ogarkov as he would be browbeaten into accepting this as it would ultimately favour his own goals of keeping the Soviet Union safe from invasion itself. East Germany would therefore force the NATO armies to leave first as their alliance broke apart and then the Soviet Army would go too without an enemy to fight. Mielke could afterwards concentrate on rebuilding all the damage which had been done. Nuclear weapons frightened so many in the West that in the medium- to long-term too, East Germany wouldn’t be threatened by a vengeful West. There might be talk about destroying the country but those would be hollow… as long as there were no nuclear attacks made first by Mielke.
Everything would depend upon those NATO nations accepting the bluff as a real threat but Vladimir Vladimirovich believed that they would. There would be arguments among themselves as the talk would be of stopping the war now after West Germany and Norway had been liberated and Denmark nearly so too with all the cost that such a thing had achieved in the terms of lives. The West Germans would fear the destruction of their cities in a nuclear conflict and wouldn’t allow an invasion to continue while the other threatened nations wouldn’t want to see their cities atomised too.
Faced with the alternative of his own death and convinced at the brilliance and cunning of Vladimir Vladimirovich, Mielke committed himself to such a proposal. He didn’t see that he had any other choice at all with all other options off the table following recent events.
There was just the small matter of acquiring those weapons but Vladimir Vladimirovich had what he said was a perfect plan for doing that to begin the process.
Two Hundred & Thirty–Two
The plan which General Demidov was meant to follow was for the heavy forces of the Austrian Army to be broken before Vienna and then the city to be surrounded by a drive around the outside of there to the west. Despite immense losses taken, the plan had initially been very successful and at the end of the second day’s fighting in Austria everything seemed on course for further victory.
But then troops under his command ran away and went on a rampage.
Those conscripts and reservists with his three combat divisions as well as the army-level support formations of the Soviet Fourth Guards Army lost their discipline through the night and broke free from their encampments. Towns around Vienna and the outskirts of that city saw hordes of angry men take out their frustrations upon those who lived within those. The men wanted women, they wanted drink and they wanted revenge for the deaths of their comrades. Junior officers who stood in their way along with the understrength field police units were cut down by the rioting soldiers who deserted en masse throughout the night.
Thousands of Austrian civilians anywhere near the scenes of the fighting during the daylight had fled as fast as possible from the advancing Soviet Army and those who had chosen to remain behind that night in their homes were to regret that decision. Wild gangs of men broke down doors into homes looking for the pleasures they would take from women as well as any alcohol they might find. No one could stop them, especially as these men regarded the Austrians as ‘Germans’.
Along with the rapes and the drinking came extreme and sometimes thoughtless cases of theft alongside destruction. Arson was the main factor in this wave of destruction that the soldiers would unleash but so too was the smashing of what appeared to be every window in sight and then looting of commercial premises. The men wandered everywhere they could doing their worst and far away from their encampments so that even if their superiors were able to muster a disciplined force to come after them and somehow make an attempt at restoring order, that would be impossible. There were soldiers everywhere moving mainly on foot but also in motor vehicles they stole in many other cases so that they could get far away and seek their pleasures elsewhere. None wanted to serve in the Soviet Army and being in Austria offered them a chance for escape.
Meanwhile, Austrian civilians suffered hell being unleashed upon them.
Demidov had been warned by the 254MRD divisional commander that there had been some outbreaks of trouble within the ranks during the latter part of the previous day, but he was in no way expecting what occurred and for it to be as widespread as it was. All of a sudden, Soviet soldiers everywhere just decided that they were going to do as they wished and desert. They took their rifles with them and some even attacked their fellow soldiers who wouldn’t desert with them as they departed. Whole formations simply became no more with up to eighty, even ninety per cent of the men in certain units no longer under the control of their officers and running loose.
A somewhat student of history, Demidov didn’t think that an army had broken like this ever beforehand and certainly not in such a short space of time. He could afterwards piece together many of the reasons why this had occurred though.
During their time in Hungary, the men of the Soviet Fourth Guards Army had believed that they weren’t going to see warfare and they had been glad of that. Rumours had come to them of the terrible fighting elsewhere that had taken so many lives while they had remained inactive and away from combat; when they were moved forward to the Austrian border they hadn’t been happy. Ogarkov had disbanded the KGB’s Third Chief Directorate right on the eve of the invasion of Austria and all of a sudden there was no external oppressive control being exerted. The KGB was feared but the men soon realised that they were gone and no one had replaced them while the only real authority above them now were their officers. Once in Austria, the conscripts and reservists had never expected such fierce resistance to be shown to them. So many of them had seen comrades killed by the Austrian Army in bloody battles along the frontiers. Their officers hadn’t stopped them from taking out personal revenge upon captive POWs and that had been a major error as the sense of discipline was lost there. Such things like this had happened in occupied portions of West Germany, Demidov had been told, when men went on the rampage murdering, raping and stealing alcohol after eyes were averted when they killed prisoners but those had been small affairs put down by KGB security units with harsh repressions.
Finally, there was all that Austria had to offer armed men if they deserted from authority. Much of the frontier area in West Germany had been abandoned by civilians before the conflict started there and even when the Soviet Army made great advances, there still weren’t that many civilians for them to capture, especially young women. There, teenage girls and women up to the age of thirty, even older, were not something to be found as they had heard tales from their grandmothers of what happened in eastern parts of Nazi Germany when the Soviet Army invaded in 1945. Austrian women hadn’t fled in such disproportionate numbers like they had in West Germany with many remaining in Austria to be taken advantage of. Drink was in greater abundance in eastern parts of Austria than it was West Germany and Demidov was actually suspicious of that fact as if it had been left in-place to be stolen and to therefore intoxicate his men.
When Ogarkov heard of sudden evaporation of the manpower strength of the Fourth Guards Army and therefore that Demidov would be unable to carry on with his advance during the third day of the invasion, there was an immense tirade delivered down the radio to him. Demidov faced a much greater problem after that long verbal onslaught he faced over the airwaves.
The news came that the Italians were about to hit the flank of the army that practically didn’t exist anymore which he was supposedly meant to be in command of.
The two brigades of the Italian Expeditionary Army sent in a northeastern direction rushing towards Vienna to relieve the paratroopers flown into that city reached the outer positions of the Soviet Army just before dawn. Helicopters – of which the Italian Army operated a substantial number – lifted small groups of lightly-armed Alpine soldiers ahead of the tanks and armoured vehicles on the roads in a leap-frogging fashion to cover them from highpoints above. Those men from the Julia Brigade assisting the Ariete Brigade came into contact with civilians fleeing southwards and were able to make sure that local Austrian authorities on the ground were able to re-direct traffic away to not hold up the advance. During some of those encounters between soldiers coming north and civilians streaming south during the early hours, the Italians heard some rather odd tales of Soviet behaviour in what appeared to be organised attacks on civilians taking place but they couldn’t make sense of that…
Regardless, they moved onwards eager to get on with their mission of reaching Vienna and the Folgore Brigade there before the Soviets completely surrounded the city.
Contact with the enemy occurred first at Neunkirchen and then very soon afterwards at Seebenstein just before daybreak. These were towns along the route which the Italians were following and were meant to be just outside the Soviet occupied area following their move from Sopron in Hungary up towards Vienna from the south. Neither town was a large urban area but both were ablaze as the Italians approached them with helicopter crews not wanting to operate in the dark near all of that smoke. Civilians were streaming out of both places and rushed past the Italians for the most part with the few who spoke to them through interpreters telling of robbery, rape and destruction going on.
As the Italians flooded into such places on the ground, their tanks and armoured vehicles sometimes met rifle fire but nothing more than that and certainly not in any organised fashion. Gunfire was returned and infantry soon deployed where they found that all they had heard was true. Everywhere there were mobs or individual Soviet soldiers on the rampage. They were doing as they wanted as an orgy of violence was unleashed.
The Italians put a stop to that where they could.
Trying to get the enemy to stop through threats wouldn’t work and so the Italians had to start shooting them. Their disciplined soldiers were forced to do this because their opponents couldn’t listen to reason when they were surrounded and would attack them either with their rifles or anything to hand. Some of the sights which the Italian soldiers saw moved them to violence of their own and their own officers had to be careful in dealing with that too.
The Soviets were over a wide area which could take a very long time to clear though spread out as they were. More infantry than was available was needed to properly stop what was going on and there was also the pressing need to maintain the advance. The commander of the Ariete Brigade made a radio call requesting assistance from the Carabinieri only to be told that the mobilised 11th Brigade was still on the other side of the Alps. The advance couldn’t stop though. A choice had to be made between fully stopping this wave of violence or getting on with the mission and that Generale di Brigata was glad that the Generale di Corpo d’Armata above him and in command of the Fifth Army Corps was the one who was responsible for the order for the advance to continue.
The much bigger town of Wiener Neustadt lay ahead and it was towards that communications centre the Italians advanced towards. Some of their military police remained behind along with a battalion-group of Alpine infantry to assist them, but the majority of the force headed towards that town where air reconnaissance conducted the night before had shown it to be the location of the service support elements of the Soviets driving on Vienna and lightly guarded by screening forces. The aim was to tear through that area and then go around the Soviets from the rear to reach Vienna.
Towns either side of the Autobahn were avoided in the push for the small airport at Wiener Neustadt and Soviet soldiers moving down the road engaged when they displayed aggressive actions but otherwise ignored in the race to push onwards.
Wiener Neustadt was in a worst state than the smaller towns further south had been. The Italians arrived there just after dawn after bypassing defences that were unmanned. Anti-tank guns and trenches were empty and so too were tanks as well. Instead, they found fires smouldering in the town and a lot of sleeping and drink-induced drowsy men everywhere they went. The Italians fast set about getting weapons away from such men before they had slept it off and also securing what else they could find of military value. Rocket-launchers, mobile air defence vehicles, fuel trucks and such like all got special attention as the Italians seized what they could get their hands on.
It appeared to be that this situation was going to repeat itself all the way to Vienna with the right flank of the Soviet Fourth Guards Army either asleep, in a drunken daze or dead all up the highway.
Much closer to Vienna, right on its southeastern outskirts, the Italian parachutists and Austrian reservists manning the hastily put-together Schwechat River line didn’t receive the early morning attack which they expected. During the night there had been suspected penetrations made towards their lines by individuals and small groups of men which they had opened fire upon thinking those to be infiltrators, but during the day it was realised that those men were deserters instead.
The two divisions arrayed before them had collapsed into anarchy like the 254MRD did. Those men in the 50TD and the 126MRD were reservists not conscripts but they still decided to desert during the night. Some had gone towards the Italian lines and been killed in the darkness, others had made foolish efforts to cross the Danube to their north – where Austrian small boats armed with heavy machine guns cut them down – but most of them had moved southwards through the countryside outside the city heading for towns and villages in that direction. Rape, robbery and arson occurred in these locations as the Austrian people suffered grave personal injustices.
Aware of what was going on just across the narrow river line from which they were defending against an attack which not looked very unlikely to occur, Austrian troops positioned alongside the Italians moved into the towns of Zwolfaxing first and then into the bigger Himberg. Their troops opened fire against all who resisted them and killed many Soviet soldiers who were not operated in a disciplined fashion and then withdrew once all civilians had been evacuated from such destroyed places back to Vienna.
Seeing the success which the Austrians had, the Folgore Brigade came back over the Schwechat River and then advanced towards the airport which they had abandoned the day beforehand. These paratroopers without any armour of their own were in theory advancing to conduct against a heavily-armoured numerically stronger force, but in reality found that the enemy was an empty shell of what it had been only yesterday. So many of the Soviet soldiers here yesterday were gone with only a thousand or so remaining now. There was some resistance from reorganised formations of men who had remained behind and would fight for their country yet such Soviet efforts weren’t strong enough at all to stop the Italian paratroopers.
Vienna International Airport came back under Italian control and there was much regret at the immense damage they had themselves done here the day before with their demolitions to key parts of it.
In a military sense, the invasion of Austria was over. However, there remained tens of thousands of Soviets inside the country and dealing with them would remain an immense task for the Italian forces who had ridden to the rescue of the Austrians. At the same time, those French and Canadian forces entering Austria from the west would now no longer have an enemy to fight here.
They would have to go elsewhere to see combat…
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 19:21:17 GMT
Two Hundred & Thirty–Three
Losses occurred by NATO aircraft engaged in operations throughout the European theatre came in many forms. Aircraft undertaking combat missions, preparing to go into battle, providing rear-area support duties, moving men & equipment about or being held back for a wide range of tasks suffered destruction from various means that didn’t always occur due to enemy action.
The USAF, fielding the largest force in Europe with the Allies, conducted a staff study a couple of weeks into the war into the circumstances surrounding the loss of its combat aircraft (excluding those necessary electronic support and transport aircraft as well as the few helicopters fielded). The result of this calculation was that five per cent of the losses had come from accidents when airborne not resulting to enemy action, eleven per cent from enemy destruction when on the ground – either commando raids, tactical missile strikes, bombing raids or when airbases were overrun (the latter in Denmark) –, seven per cent from regretful ‘friendly fire’ incidents of all kinds, twenty-eight per cent from airborne combat with enemy aircraft and then the remaining forty-nine per cent from enemy ground-based air defences of both a tactical and strategic nature.
That last figure was remarkably large and significantly higher than those air-to-air losses suffered; half of all aircraft destroyed were so due to enemy ground defences.
Other NATO air forces would see similar numbers in combat aircraft losses, with variations of course, but they didn’t look into such things with great detail as the Americans did believing instead in getting on with the fighting rather than navel-gazing. Perhaps the European NATO air forces were correct in that, but these numbers were regarded as important to know by the USAF so they could understand what was going on with the air war. What they also would have liked to have been aware of was what were those numbers for the Soviets too? Surely the Soviet Air Force and their Soviet Air Defence Force formations assigned were taking more losses in air combat than from NATO ground defences?
The extraordinary large commitment of American air power to Europe meant that the USAF didn’t want to see its aircraft and aircrews lost for no reason. The entire pre-war European-based assets had been engaged in combat along with most of the US-based tactical air assets of the regular USAF along with most of the USAF reserves and then large numbers of Air National Guard combat aircraft as well. Moreover, strategic bombers and then aircraft from AMARC flown by newly-raised units had followed as well. More than a hundred combat squadrons had been involved in the fighting through Scandinavia, across Germany and into Eastern Europe as well.
It was important to know why so many aircraft had been downed, especially when it came to enemy defences in the form of anti-aircraft guns and SAMs.
The most effective way of avoiding losses from ground defences was to evade them either physically or behind electronic interference. There were many USAF formations dedicated to their destruction while the majority of aircraft on combat missions carried weapons of their own to engage such defences as well in necessary self-defence. It wasn’t always known where such defences would be and this especially was the case as war went onwards with the enemy getting rather adept in some cases with hiding such weapons until the optimal moment for them to perform their task.
Pre-war studies had identified that large losses would be incurred from air defence systems deployed on the ground in a wartime scenario. The USAF operated aircraft such as the A-10 Thunderbolt designed to take a lot of damage from such systems and then fielded direct attack missiles for use against those defences as well as stand-off electronic warfare systems to defeat them. It was known how widespread the use of anti-aircraft guns and in particular SAMs were with Warsaw Pact forces and so these preparations were taken.
The USAF itself didn’t operate air defences of their own and had their airbases in Europe defended against by their NATO allies operating Hawk and Rapier SAMs. The US Army and the US Marines had invested heavily in such systems for defending themselves from the air on land and then there was the US Navy too with its missile-armed warships for air defence. Regardless of not operating air defences of their own, the USAF still understood how important they were especially to their projected enemies in the Warsaw Pact. The Soviets invested a great deal in such systems and there was much overlap in capabilities for air defence from the tactical level up to strategic use throughout their armed forces and those of their allies.
Throughout the Cold War, the USAF had understood the threat posed to their aircraft in a hot war from such air defences. The Israelis and then themselves tangled with Soviet-supplied systems over the skies above the Middle East and Vietnam. Aircraft were lost but much valuable intelligence was gained not just on such systems but also the strategy behind their use. There were intelligence coup’s as well to add to understanding Soviet-built air defences from defectors to smuggled copies of manuals to the capture of intact systems like in Grenada in 1983 and in Chad the year before World War Three erupted. Satellites and high-flying reconnaissance aircraft looking sideways could see some of the operations of such air defences with their peacetime deployments, how they moved in exercises and electronic information was ‘swallowed’.
True combat experience against such systems in a full-scale war was always going to be where the USAF learnt about how such defences would affect their missions and while it was anticipated that such lessons would be hard, no one had believed the scale of losses would be as great as they turned out to be.
Multi-barrelled anti-aircraft guns and older low-level SAM systems took their toll upon the USAF during the war by damaging and destroying many aircraft. Despite evasion tactics and pre-war knowledge of them, they were still formidable especially in how the Soviets deployed them in great number with many recent modifications to their electronic systems. What really hurt the USAF though – and contributed significantly towards that forty-nine per cent figure – was what the Americans soon started calling ‘double-digit SAMs’.
NATO code-named many Soviet weapons with an easy-to-use classification system. For surface-to-air missiles, those were given the prefix ‘SA’ (SA: surface-to-air) followed by a number with newer systems being assigned higher numbers and also a simple word as well to stop combat confusion by having both used together. By the time World War Three broke out, NATO was using classification for Soviet SAMs which required two digits.
There was the SA-10 Grumble in use by the Soviet Air Force & their Air Defence Force for strategic high-altitude defence; the SA-11 Gadfly deployed in the semi-strategic role for the Soviet Army; the SA-12 Gladiator / Giant with the Soviet Army for strategic air defence; the SA-13 Gopher tactical system for forward units with the Soviet Army; the SA-15 Gauntlet with the Soviet Army for battlefield anti-aircraft protection; and the SA-19 Grison system attached to the mobile gun/missile platform Tunguska. Meanwhile, the SA-14 Gremlin, SA-16 Gimlet and SA-18 Grouse were designations for shoulder-mounted SAM systems while the SA-17 Grizzly was a yet un-fielded upgrade of the SA-11. All of these missile systems had their own Soviet designations yet NATO relied upon their own classifications. In later years, the term ‘S-300’ for the SA-10s and SA-12s would enter the wider lexicon and so too in places would the Tunguska name as well though during the conflict between the Allies and the Socialist Forces the code-names were those by which such systems were referred to.
These newer SAM systems were deployed by the Soviets across Europe as well as on occasion by the military forces of their puppets too. Supported by some of the best Soviet radar technology available, communications links over which data could be shared and effective command-and-control procedures especially in the case of the strategic systems, the double-digit SAMs caused immense problems for attacking aircraft. The missile batteries moved around a lot and were very high up the list for priority resupply. They had well-trained crews who had been fully-briefed on known NATO air tactics. However, there was little initiative allowed among the missile crews when it came to breaking away from established operational procedures and their effectiveness would also be dampened during the conflict by chronic supply problems despite their status as well as NATO learning to adapt to them especially in the electronic warfare arena.
In tactical engagements against NATO aircraft, there were plenty of SA-13 systems available on their tracked chassis’ which were to take down many aircraft and the SA-19 missiles fitted to the Tunguska backed up by four rapid-firing guns was starting to replace the gun-only ZSU-23-4 systems when open warfare broke out. Only a few SA-15s were encountered and they weren’t always fully-functioning due to major technical issues, but when they did they were very dangerous as well for NATO aircraft.
At distance and in high-altitude engagements, the SA-10s, the SA-11s and the SA-12s made their presence felt. This missiles would lance into the sky and strike against NATO aircraft on strategic missions with great frequency and high kill rates. Some of their supporting radars systems had NATO code-names as they were known about yet others were not and neither did defence analysts in the West know about the specialist Polyana command-and-control system that linked together such missile batteries to make them as effective as they were. In addition, super-secret OTH radars operating from deep inside the Soviet Union itself provided assistance to strategic air defence missions which these SAMs were undertaking as several of the batteries with such weapons guarded politically-important sites inside Eastern Europe.
Patchy intelligence of the double-digit SAMs was available before the war started and once it did more became available to NATO. Once aircraft started encountering these systems during engagements data on them was available as well as the efforts of electronic warfare aircraft as well. Moreover, some SAM batteries were investigated on the ground when they ended in NATO hands during counter-offensives as well as commando activity in the enemy’s rear. This was regarded as the best way to defeat them especially after some of the successes which they scored.
The USAF was very upset when one of their F-117 stealth strike aircraft was downed when attacking Kaliningrad by an SA-10 and then two more were lost soon afterwards to another SA-10 and then a SA-12 when attacking targets in Poland and Czechoslovakia respectively. These aircraft were believed to be invulnerable to SAMs in Soviet service though that misconception was proved wrong. Other long-range strike aircraft flying with 3 ATAF on deep strike missions were hit by such missiles at great distance from hidden launch sites that rapidly moved afterwards. Double-digit SAMs accumulated many kills and really hurt the USAF along with the air forces of other NATO aircraft.
That study concerning losses which the USAF took came alongside requests from senior NATO people for something to be done to seriously degrade the capabilities of the Soviet’s most effective weapon against attacking aircraft. Electronic warfare was realised as being the key to this though it was put forward that an offensive strike needed to be done rather than passive means as previously used to counter those air defences on a strategic level.
In undertaking this, the USAF would heavily improvise upon an Israeli military operation in 1982 called MOLE CRICKET 19 but, of course, add their own spin to that… as well as giving it a better name.
Operation FLAME RAPIER commenced after darkness fell on April 1st. The USAF sought to destroy multiple strategic SAM sites throughout East Germany early in the operation using a little cunning and the follow that up with a big attack upon East Berlin that would make the CERTAIN VENGEANCE strikes look like pinpricks as well as hit some other targets of a political value inside the country as well.
The assets used in the mission were like before all from the USAF tasked to NATO usually but detached for this American-only mission that had political approval at the highest level back home.
Drones were launched to start the mission.
From specialised versions of C-130 aircraft came smaller remotely-piloted aircraft but there were also larger aircraft that lifted off from the ground too, aircraft which had once been F-100 Super Sabre fighters and F-106 Delta Dart interceptors. These aircraft were normally used in peacetime as aerial targets and they would be again fulfilling that role again this evening. Specialist electronic equipment was fitted to many of them from radar transponders to increase their size on enemy radar screens to electronic warfare pods whose capabilities it was believed that the Soviets knew about.
Those drones flew across from West Germany above the Inter-German Border and over enemy territory. Quicker than expected, they started to come under attack with SAMs being directed against them from the ground. They were at various altitudes and in groups that would resemble the strike packages normally used against targets inside East Germany. Once they came under attack, the operators of some of these drones would try to guide them out of the way to make their presence seem all the more realistic though most didn’t have real-time control exerted over them. Either way, many of these targets fulfilled their role perfectly and were shot out of the sky by SAMs coming up from the ground.
Soviet missile crews on the ground were having great success this evening and would claim countless kills.
While that was aerial destruction was taking place, back to the west it was being watched on radar screens by aircrews aboard several USAF aircraft in the skies tonight. AWACS aircraft on NATO missions were feeding data to Rivet Joint and Compass Call aircraft where battle-staffs for FLAME RAPIER analysed what they received. The drones were being knocked down due to enemy action while others would soon start to crash when they would eventually run out of fuel but for now they had the complete attention of the enemy. They were expecting such an attack like this and in the darkness had no idea that they were wasting their precious stocks of missiles as they were.
What the USAF was monitoring from its stand-off aircraft were communications between SAM batteries and higher control that they could detect (if not yet decode properly) as well as where those SAMs were being launched from. There was a window of opportunity for a strike to be made against such targets that was known from previous intelligence gathered on Soviet SAM operations. After firing, missile batteries as well as command headquarters would move to new positions. This wasn’t something that would be done in an instant with those systems even though they were mobile detachments.
F-111s and FB-111s flying from their bases across England were already airborne over the Low Countries waiting for the confirmation of many suspected sites to be confirmed and then orders were issued to them.
When the strike aircraft arrived over East Germany, some were unfortunately caught by surprise and lost. There were SAM batteries which hadn’t been detected or where the intelligence concerning them was faulty. Moreover, both the East Germans and the Soviets still had some of the elite interceptor units active and warnings made to USAF aircrews from AWACS aircraft weren’t always enough to save them from distant missile shots. Nonetheless, those losses to the strike aircraft were much smaller tonight than usual especially as most of the strategic SAM batteries were shutting down operations and in the process of moving location to somewhere else. Free-fall bombs as well as many television-guided models fell away from those aircraft and started hitting their targets.
SAM batteries are extremely susceptible to damage. There is always plenty of sensitive equipment attached from communications antenna to radar dishes. The missile-launchers themselves aren’t armoured and neither are the mobile power generation plants. Plenty of men are needed to operate them and they are needed to work outside in the open too. If they can be located, hidden as they usually are, they are targets where a lot of attack came be done in a bombing run.
All across East Germany, far back from the frontlines and especially in the south through Thuringia but also around Berlin, the USAF bombed these many of these sites in a coordinated attack.
There were B-52s assigned to FLAME RAPIER too and these flew over the North Sea first after coming out of their bases in Britain as well. US Navy fighters met them and escorted them above enemy-occupied Schleswig-Holstein though the focus of the US Navy at the minute was supporting the US Marines and the British in Jutland. Soviet fighters were engaged at distance there by Tomcats and then the massive B-52s started launching missiles. They weren’t going any further eastwards due to the results of the SAM strikes being unconfirmed but didn’t need to either.
AGM-86 cruise missiles of the newly-converted conventional warhead variant left the aircraft before they turned back around to head home. The cruise missiles continued onwards and hit airfields throughout the northeastern and the northern parts of East Germany. They slammed into runways, hangars and structures present with the aim of disrupting flight operations from these for some time to come. Many enemy aircraft were expected to be caught up in such attacks due to other 3 ATAF air activity ongoing over East Germany yet it was known that knocking the fighter force out flying from them for good was going to be too much to ask for now.
FLAME RAPIER continued through the night with F-117s making their appearances over East Germany too. They went deeper than the F-111s and the B-52s and flew lone missions with the Bandits still weary of SAM activity against them.
Strikes were made from these aircraft against high-value targets including suspected command posts, logistics points and several transportation links. Going after re-established crossing points the enemy had put up over the Elbe inside East Germany and the Oder on the Polish border were important to the overall war effort and bombs fell upon these too.
However, despite the reported excellent results against SAMs earlier in the evening, one of the F-117s was successfully engaged by an SA-10. The aircraft in question was hit by missile fragments along its port wing and suffered major damage. The pilot made an attempt to fly his aircraft back west so that he and his aircraft wouldn’t fall into enemy hands but this wasn’t to be. He soon had to eject when he lost control less he loose consciousness. He didn’t know it, but his aircraft would be near obliterated when it did hit the ground and enemy intelligence teams wouldn’t get much from it… although there had been a successful effort made with that by the Soviets in Poland with another F-117. Events would see that there was little significance in the future yet the USAF would still be rather disappointed.
F-111s again returned to the skies over East Germany before midnight. The remaining strategic SAM system wasn’t expected to have recovered and many airfields in the north home to interceptors were known to be still knocked out of action.
There were two mission goals with this final part of FLAME RAPIER. The first was a return to Berlin with three times the number of aircraft than beforehand against attacking regime targets. Those raced towards the city and avoided much defensive fire coming from the ground there before making their attacks from distance. During CERTAIN VENGEANCE there had been overhead bombing with the propaganda effect sought of having Berliners hear the aircraft above them. This time, bombs were delivered in the ‘lob-toss' fashion from distance so they were thrown at their targets rather than dropped from above.
The city was rocked by explosions across the eastern half while in the occupied western parts those suffering there under the Stasi administration heard the blasts over the wail of air raid sirens and the noise of hundreds of anti-aircraft guns firing. The fires from the blasts of the targeted buildings would in many place rage throughout the night and the whole of the city would know that despite what they were being told daily about victory after victory occurring, the West was still striking back right here in the capital of East Germany.
A small force of F-111s avoided Berlin and flew near the Baltic coastline on a course for Poland. They didn’t go that far but instead attacked a target close to the border and one of a political nature: the immense Schwedt oil refinery. This facility which was at the end of the Friendship pipeline crossing Eastern Europe was hit by many carefully-placed bombs designed to cause maximum damage and not just destroy operations there, but let everyone nearby know too. The fires caused would later be seen from Szczecin across the border while soon enough it was hoped that many people in East Germany would know about it too through word of mouth.
These attacks on Berlin and Schwedt were ordered by Acting President Bush and the NSC. The rest of NATO had been informed of them but they were taking part outside of the NATO command structure. Mielke’s regime in East Germany had been selected by the Americans to truly feel the force of US combat power. Schwedt had been targeted alongside Berlin not just for the effect on the war effort that would see a reduction in fuel supplies taking place but in what several European politicians would also speculate afterwards was something more too. With the destruction of such a facility there would be many problems in the post-war world with bringing oil from a reformed or reconstructed Soviet Union (or successor state) to Western Europe. When later questioned about this, the Americans would show ignorance at such a suggestion, yet Schwedt would be the first but not the last similar facility to be destroyed in such a manner by American hands alone.
Two Hundred & Thirty–Four
The task assigned to Lt.-General Andrew Chambers, US Army was one that most of his peers would have in public regarded as a golden opportunity but in private as a personal nightmare.
General Chambers had been ordered to create an army in the midst of an ongoing war ready to go off and finish that war off yet at the same time to see everything he needed being taken away from him as he did that. The US Third Army was meant to be hastily built within the United States and then deploy to Germany to win the war there. As he was trying to do this, General Chambers had to face the constant loss of men and equipment elsewhere as urgent needs overrode his own. This was a never-ending process from conception to final deployment along the frontlines ready to go into battle and it almost drove him to insanity.
However, finally, the US Third Army was ready. There were a lot of shortages and the already in-place US III Corps had gone charging off into East Germany the day beforehand when ABOLITION was authorised, but the US II & XI Corps were to be at last sent into battle as well.
National guardsmen from across the United States formed the lighter formations with the US XI Corps and those men were sent into the Harz Mountains. Their mission was to clear that area of enemy forces known to be dug-in there and such a mission was expected to be rather costly even with the generous supporting fire power assigned to them in terms of artillery and air support when needed.
Those men assigned were from ARNG formations home-based across New England and the wider North-East as well as the Mid-West too. Much training had been conducted with them since mobilisation occurred on the eve of war and there had been arguments that they needed a lot of heavier equipment yet General Chambers sent them into action. The Harz Mountains would rest on his left flank during the drive into East Germany and there were many Soviet and East German forces which had withdrawn into there. To leave them unmolested, even surround them for siege warfare, wouldn’t do due to their numbers and how that would leave them positioned to break out into not just his supply lines but those of the British Second Army to the north.
Such enemy forces needed to be destroyed… plus the US XI Corps needed to be bloodied somewhat to; a factor left unstated but understood by many. There were later planned uses for the four light-rolled divisions with that corps command and they wouldn’t be useful if they remained ‘green’. The Harz Mountains would provide them with a challenge yet one which would hopefully make them capable of undertaking more demanding tasks later.
US Third Army controlled independent units not assigned to its combat corps mainly in the form of combat support and service support units yet also combat formations as well: a pair of separate airborne brigades.
There was the brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division (1st/82nd Brigade) detached from that formation which had first seen action in Nicaragua before the conflict with the Soviets turned to shoots being fired and the paratroopers serving then being sent to assist the US III Corps in operations on the eastern side of the Weser. These widely-experience men had taken losses in Central America and Germany but remained combat-capable and were still regarded as elite. In addition to them there was the new 173rd Airborne Brigade. This second formation was like his US II Corps with recently retired US Army soldiers making up most of its numbers along with those coming towards the very end of their peacetime training becoming combat soldiers earlier than expected. Its component units were from the historic World War Two formations like the 501st & 506th Infantry Regiments with four battalions of paratroopers whereas the 1st/82nd Brigade had only three battalions.
There had been many voices calling for the two brigades to be merged together under a single command – the designation ‘17th Airborne Division’ had been touted – but nothing had come of that. General Chambers didn’t have the manpower to form a new divisional headquarters when he was already as stretched as he was nor did he want to assign supporting assets that he didn’t have available to such a new formation. The brigades were to be kept separate he had decreed, especially as the 82nd Airborne Division would eventually want back their men and they had plenty of influence throughout the wider US Army.
Manpower issues for staff roles and rear-area services were a major problem elsewhere with his command too, especially with the US II Corps. Like the 173rd Brigade, combat soldiers had been found and so to those in artillery, aviation and engineering roles as the US Third Army had been able to stop such people being reassigned elsewhere during the pre-deployment stage. Such ‘ring-fencing’ hadn’t occurred with others not undergoing urgent refresher training though and so many of his key people that would keep his fighting soldiers fighting had been taken away from him to replace men elsewhere with the US Fifth & Seventh Armys.
The US II Corps was able to field three brand-new divisions (a fourth assigned to the depleted US III Corps) and an armored cavalry regiment with a lot of older men and equipment yet their rear-area support services were much smaller than peacetime organisational structures. This was a big deal as logistics needs demanded a lot of manpower alongside transportation coordination personnel, military police, medical care teams and military intelligence staff. Of course this was understood throughout the US Army and it was known that the US Third Army was suffering shortages in this field yet the other two field armies had been engaged in fighting and had taken losses that needed replacing with urgency.
When General Chambers ordered the US II Corps forward this morning, he sent them effectively chasing the US III Corps so the former could get into battle alongside the latter. The expectation was for this to occur later in the day deep inside East Germany. General Saint’s command was fighting to cross the Helme River in the northern reaches of Thüringen east of Nordhausen; US II Corps was to join them in crossing there and then move alongside them in an eastern direction. The plan was to move deeper into enemy territory and head for less broken ground than originally encountered in the direction of Halle on the Saale River. There were phase lines already drawn up by General Chambers’ staff for the advances to be made for this to go alongside directives coming from SACEUR when it came to areas of operation inside East Germany.
The US Third Army had no official ultimate objective yet beyond Halle as the flank of the US Seventh Army was meant to reach nearby Leipzig eventually; leaving the US Fifth Army to as yet unspecified ‘other tasks’. Berlin was where General Chambers was expecting to go ahead of everyone else including the British who had designs upon that city too.
As the 14th Cav’ led the US II Corps racing into East Germany, ahead of them came an airborne assault to secure their line of advance and create chaos in the enemy’s rear. The paratroopers with the 1st/82nd Brigade were dropped at and around Allstedt Airbase with the 173rd Brigade possibly to join them at a later stage depending upon how matters worked out with that. This Soviet air facility had been badly damaged throughout the war and hadn’t contributed much to the war effort due to repeated NATO low-level air strikes. Last night, FLAME RAPIER air operations had done more damage and as dawn arrived so too did American paratroopers. There was a vicious fight at the airbase itself between its defenders and attackers with those men out to take it being soon afterwards joined by reinforcements coming in from flat parts of the nearby countryside.
The much-bombed facility was more than thirty miles from the most forward positions near Nordhausen but right on the line of advance planned for the US II Corps. It was half way to Halle and alongside the main highway running eastwards too. In taking it and then expanding operations from there, the aim was to divert immediate enemy attention towards it while also getting ready to use such a place as a helicopter facility for onwards advances too.
Allstedt Airbase came into US Army hands after several hours of fighting to root out defenders stubbornly holding on and work at once begun to start localised offensive operations from here with the paratroopers on the ground. There were some fears over being dropped too far ahead but news quickly came that the rest of the US Third Army was on its way and making fast progress towards them.
Like it was elsewhere, the US Army was now firmly establishing itself throughout many parts of East Germany. The border areas themselves had been secured in most places and advances deep were now being made. The enemy was yet in a position to stop them and was being either destroyed or pushed back almost everywhere it was encountered.
ABOLITION appeared to be turning into a rout, though everyone knew that this was a war far from over yet.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 19:28:53 GMT
Two Hundred & Thirty–Five
Likewise, the British Army was pushing forward too… still with mounting casualties that showing no sign of decreasing.
General Inge was driving his British I Corps across the Altmark region and towards Stendal. That town was a major communications centre with road and rail links converging upon there along with a nearby airbase. Past it was the Elbe and therefore General Inge’s orders were to secure the town so that a later advance could move that way. Moreover, taking Stendal would allow the British to be in a position to outflank Soviet forces to the south of them in the wider Magdeburg area holding up the Bundeswehr at the Inter-German Border.
Just as it was the case with the Americans to the south of them, the British had ultimate goals further eastwards… but first they needed to take Stendal against an enemy determined not to yield.
The Soviets understood the importance of Stendal just like the British did. To lose control of the town, the communications links around it and the wider area on the western side of the Elbe would mean wholescale defeat not just for the Soviet Twentieth Guards Army itself but for the whole defensive position in northern Sachsen-Anhalt as well.
Stendal couldn’t fall.
Unrecognisable from its pre-war or even RED BEAR organisation, the Twentieth Guards Army was tasked to hold on and blunt the advancing British. For more than a week, the British I Corps had been advancing eastwards despite all obstacles thrown at them. Now the Soviets were going to stop them for not doing so here would mean disaster.
The resulting clash that occurred throughout the day around Stendal left the region looking like significant parts of West Germany did. A mobile battle was attempted to be fought by two mechanised opponents but instead the fighting became one of static nature when such moves were checked by the other. The first move made by General Inge for a combined tank and infantry assault was met by an armoured counterattack that was only just detected in time; the British had learnt their lesson on the other side of the border. The counterattack was then met by a counter-counterattack which, inevitable led to a counter-counter-counterattack before stalemate started to ensue with mobile movements and infantry dismounted from their armoured vehicles.
For the casualty-averse British, this was the best outcome as their men were less likely to be killed on foot rather than in their vehicles. The Soviets had the men to spare and human losses were dismissed by field commanders, but they didn’t have the fuel to keep fighting on the move as they had tried to. Infantry started slugging it out at rifle range while tanks and artillery gave fire support.
Stendal wasn’t defended by the Soviets like elsewhere with extensive manmade fortifications consisting of trenches, strongpoints and minefields. They had wanted to keep their forces mobile to take on what were believed to be weaker British forces while at the same time the British had chosen this opportunity to use their mobility for once in a set-piece battle. When the casualties mounted for one side and the fuel started to run out for the other, the infantry battlefield was like it hadn’t been in some time for either side and they tried to take advantage of this. Dismounted soldiers were pushed forward by their commanders to keep advancing as there were little physical blockades only the gunfire of the enemy.
The fighting took place to the north, the west and the south of Stendal while the garrison town was blasted from the air. In peacetime, Stendal had the feel of a frontier garrison with the big Soviet Army base located nearby and then the military airbase in close proximity too. Today it became a battlefield when it was attacked from distance as the British struck at Soviet artillery located within the town firing from supposed cover and also to deny the use of roads crossing it to move around troops. General Inge secured some air support too from the 2 ATAF and aimed to have those roads blocked by falling bombs as well.
The East German authorities hadn’t allowed residents of the town to officially evacuate – there had been much ‘unofficial’ movement though – and immense casualties started occurring there as a result of the fire support the British were given. While there were some voices of caution among General Inge’s staff over the damage done to the town, the assumption was made that it would have been evacuated with it being so close to the fighting: why would Mielke want martyrs? Alongside civilians who the British unfortunately killed there were some members of the militia forming up even if they didn’t know about the presence of such men.
The battle for Stendal would see the first large-scale use by the East Germans of organised militia. Locals were press-ganged into fighting though there was nowhere near the expected level of opposition to this with the propaganda that East Germans had been subjected to throughout the conflict playing a major role in this. East Germany wasn’t Poland and while no one liked the Soviets, they weren’t seen as the enemy; the invading NATO armies were. As the day wore onwards, groups of militia were pushed towards attacking British units in multiple places. They were, of course, no match for fully-trained professional soldiers yet they ‘ate’ a lot of bullets and caused casualties of their own despite the massacres which their numbers would eventually suffer. These men wearing improvised uniforms, armed with old weapons and employing dubious military tactics were cut down in droves as they died for what they believed was a good enough cause, that being the defence of their country against what they were told were ‘imperialist aggressors’.
Troops with the Soviet Twentieth Guards Army remained the main organised force defending Stendal and it became clear eventually by the time the afternoon came that they weren’t going to fall back. General Inge had considered putting all effort into a push north of the town, past the airfield, and charging for the Elbe where he planned to drop his Portuguese paratroopers in a late-in-the-day airborne assault. The enemy was regarded as weaker in this section than elsewhere but his intention appeared to have been understood by the other side as they moved their own forces around despite all the destruction being done to them. He was forced to call off that planned heavy assault with his tanks as there were still far too many Soviet infantrymen around with man-portable anti-tank weapons and those were joined by the bigger gun and missile systems of the Soviets too.
Orders were issued for the British units out-front to make tactical withdrawals into defensive positions and to at once start to fortify them. They were told that if they were chased by the enemy in doing so they should rapidly turn around and strike back – just as the Soviets had been doing to them since the Luneburg Heath – but their ultimate aim was one of withdrawal for the time being. This was all to be done in a localised fashion to open up gaps between the two opposing armies so that artillery could come into play in a better fashion with fewer constraints to avoid friendly fire. General Inge had received permission from General Kenny to do this though given instructions that while his troops held the line through the rest of the day and the coming night too, he was to prepare to attack again tomorrow with a view to avoiding the tactical defeat suffered today.
For the Soviets, there wasn’t any time for any sort of jubilation. They hadn’t won a victory, just avoided defeat. Their successful defence of the Stendal position had come at an immense cost and for much of the battle there had been a fear that the British would realise how little fuel for manoeuvre there was available as well as the critical low supply of ammunition too. A lack of any more air defence missiles was one thing but to be running low on artillery and tank shells was something else entirely and of greater danger. The Soviet Twentieth Guards Army wouldn’t be able to hold off another determined attack and only the extensive use of ‘cannon-fodder’ today in terms of the East German militia sent off to die like they had had actually saved the situation. They started digging-in and therefore reversing the strategy that had been so effective today but only due to those limitations in terms of what they didn’t have to fight with.
When the British I Corps and the Soviet Twentieth Guards Army would meet again in battle, the fighting wouldn’t be anything like it had been today.
Two Hundred & Thirty–Six
For the Allies, April 2nd was regarded as the day that the Battle of Denmark was finally won as they established near complete control over the archipelago on land and in the a-joining waters. However, the Danes themselves wouldn’t regard the conflict to liberate their nation as coming to a complete close for several more weeks, but even they understood that the day was something rather special.
Troops from the United States, Britain, Denmark and Sweden – in conjunction with naval forces from those nations plus the Netherlands and West Germany – completed the final phases of the fighting in Denmark as BLACK PYTHON, PORTER and operations on Zealand came to a suitable conclusion. In addition, and also continuing to fight after April 2nd, the generally unorganised Danish Resistance played a major role too in liberating large areas of the country from hostile foreign occupation.
A major victory for the Allies, with NATO at the forefront of this, was achieved in the Baltic Approaches that opened up all sorts of geo-strategic opportunities for the future.
In Jutland, British forces and the US Marines overcame the final desperate opposition from the cut-off East German forces which they encountered and completed the liberation of the peninsula.
The decision to take their time and thoroughly engage the East German 9TD where they found them paid off for the British. There remained that temptation to rush forward and deep down through northeastern Jutland from the forward airhead at Aalborg, but the 6th Light Division was tasked instead in smashing apart their opponents in carefully-fought engagements instead. There was plenty of air support on-hand for the British and they needed this with the opposition being a tank division with a lot of armour. While many East German tanks were immobilised by lack of fuel, the T-72s encountered were still tough targets to eliminate. It was the same situation with the other armoured vehicles which the enemy fielded in number where again even though many didn’t manoeuvre to fight, they still had impressive firepower.
British Paras, Foot Guards and Royal Marines had countless small engagements against such armour and were also thankful that while the East German infantry they came up against could fight very well when they had to, such soldiers were really at a loss without their mobility. Vicious small-scale fighting between men on foot took place south of Aalborg as the British used the mobility which the East Germans no longer had to destroy their combat power as well as their will to keep resisting. That air support was there in terms of British Army helicopters and some Sea Harrier support yet the US Navy carriers offshore really made their presence felt for the British too even if they remained focused upon giving more aid to the US Marines. Furthermore, there was the constant assistance given by the Danish Resistance in the rear behind the East Germans which hurt them very bad as well.
During their fourth day on the ground in Jutland, the 6th Light Division overcame the immobile East Germans who they fought. They started to see small-scale surrenders taking place among their opponents and then were greatly helped by a flight of US Navy A-6 strike-bombers which blew apart the field headquarters of the enemy destroying what command-and-control was left. When enough of the 9TD was judged to have been destroyed, and accurate reconnaissance done, only then were selective units pushed forward fast like many junior commanders wanted to across the flat plains of Jutland and charging far away from Aalborg southwards. The East Germans during their invasion had used the terrain to their advantage for such moves and the British did this today with the port town of Arhus and the still-smashed Karup Airbase being reached by sunset. These were small detachments in helicopters which made such moves but found that there was no one to stop them taking such vital locations.
Britain’s light infantry forces achieved their mission goals as PORTER effectively came to an end.
US Marines with their 5th Marine Division ended the day on the eastern shores of the peninsula after focusing their attention on crushing their opponents before them as they drove across the narrow waist of Jutland. They reached the waters of the Little Belt which separated Jutland from the island of Fyn when men from RLT 27 took Fredericia unopposed. The Marine Riflemen were disappointed when they found the two big bridges down and would have to wait before going over to Middelfart on the other side… ‘Middle-fart’ as they jokingly called it would have to wait until the next day to welcome them.
The final stages of their advance, where there had previously been hold-ups due to tough fighting with the East German 7TD, had come following a late morning surrender ceremony at the town of Vejen. Inside that town, much of which still burning during the short meeting which took place there, the two opposing divisional commanders met and agreed to terms to allow the East Germans to surrender the fight for this part of Jutland and allow the US Marines to afterwards race down the highway to Fredericia on the Baltic side of Jutland. The 7TD’s commander had called the meeting after his division had been shattered in combat and were suffering from multiple serious problems such as a lack of ammunition & fuel, crippling losses and a terrible strategic situation. The US Marines signed an agreement to treat the POWs properly and accept responsibilities for the care of the wounded before then sending Marine Riflemen forward at speed in M-60 tanks, HMMWV light vehicles and helicopters to various locations not just to the east but south and north too; they were just beaten to Arhus by British soldiers with the Coldstream Guards arriving there an hour beforehand.
That East German surrender was localised and not authorised by the East German Fifth Army staff which remained across the border in still-occupied Schleswig-Holstein… but then the headquarters there with only two reserve divisions under command had bigger things to worry about like the French attacking them from the rear. As to the US Marines, they gained permission from the commander of the Allied Army Denmark across on Zealand yet that was no more than a formality due to the Danish general in theoretical command of all NATO and Allied ground forces in the Baltic Approaches being more concerned with matters there. Real excitement for the victory which was won in southern Jutland would be back in the United States where soon afterwards the Reagan Administration would be trumpeting the news for the world to hear that ‘the Socialist Forces occupying Denmark had surrendered’.
Jutland had been effectively liberated yet there would remain a lot of fighting to be done still. Soviet and East German rear-area security units who had held sway over many parts of the peninsula were still active and there would be selected East German Army units (part of the 9TD) which wouldn’t accept such an agreement. British and American troops would still need to engage such forces who remained combating the Danish Resistance and so there would fighting ongoing even after the big battles had settled most matters in Jutland.
Zealand mattered a great deal more to the Danes than Jutland did. This wasn’t something they were saying in public, but it was the reality. In addition, evicting Soviet and Polish forces from that island meant a hell of a lot to the Swedes too and that was where a good proportion of their army was located in fighting to free their neighbour’s sovereign territory.
The Helsingor Bridgehead had greatly expanded during the past few days and from there Danish and Swedish forces had been breaking out across Zealand. Copenhagen had been invested yesterday and drives made south and westwards across the island pushing their opponents back. The Soviet and Polish naval infantry which had almost taken the island were finally defeated today in open battles before they could make an attempt to get to the southern coast with hope of some sort of rescue. The Danish shoreline along Koge Bay, where the first landing had been made right at the start of the war, saw Swedish tanks present fighting retreating Soviets while the Danes liberated the important communications centre of Ringsted and tore apart Poles trying to hold that town. They were overrunning retreating occupying troops aiming to get away to the south aiming to make a run for the islands of Falster and Mon knowing that the weak forces there would be open to an easy defeat if they weren’t bolstered in numbers by naval infantry fleeing from Zealand.
When the Danes and Swedes retook control, they had found that the stories coming from previously-occupied parts of the island about the harsh control over the population brought in were certainly true. There had always been some who doubted the horror stories of the reprisals against civilians for the acts of the Danish Resistance, but there would be no more of that after what was seen through the eyes of soldiers and then cameras crews afterwards. Danish civilians had greatly suffered during the occupation and the evidence was everywhere.
Those occupiers who didn’t manage to flee rushed to be taken prisoner to escape acts of vengeance taking place. The Danish Resistance was out in the open now and then there were civilians too out for blood. It wasn’t a good time to be wearing a Soviet or Polish uniform at all. As to collaborators, only a very select few were encountered. Some of these had fled with the enemy while most had unfortunately been lynched by their fellow Danes. There had never been much collaboration, but those who had taken part in it – for what they claimed was the greater good of the Danish people though more often than not personal gain – had been dealt with. The professional soldiers were under orders to secure and protect POWs but had no instructions when it came to collaborators… and so looked the other way.
Copenhagen had been surrounded the day before and inside that city there had been a few thousand Polish troops at first trying to stop an uprising by the civilians trapped there. They hadn’t been very successful in that and had taken many losses making the situation untenable and with their senior officers plotting an organised surrender. However, the naval infantrymen themselves had then started to revolt as Poles had previously done in Germany and were now doing back home.
The senior officers for the most part ended up being killed by their own men and then the defenders on the frontlines facing the Swedes investing them started surrendering in droves. In an astute move, the Danes were allowed into their capital first with a small detachment leading the way while the larger Swedish units followed behind them. The Danes wanted to be seen to be liberating their own capital and it made sense for the swedes to let them do that.
By the day’s end, the Danish flag was flying from both the Amalienborg and Christiansborg Palaces. Gunshots would go on through the night as the city wasn’t ‘secure’ with Polish deserters causing some trouble which the Danes were very displeased with and the rest of the Allies were uncomfortable when they heard about as it didn’t fit their propaganda message, but Copenhagen was back in Danish hands.
The Oresund had been under joint NATO-Swedish control for some time now with the stretch of water between Zealand and the Swedish coast being used for movement of shipping both ways. Just to the south, the wider Koge Bay had been a no-man’s land for both Allied naval forces and those of the Combined Baltic Fleet with the westernmost stretches of the Baltic still seeing a strong presence of warships from the Socialist Forces. Their bigger ships had been defeated during the Battle of the Baltic Exits more than a week ago, yet there remained plenty of smaller warships, coastal submarines and extensive minefields too there.
For some time now, the plan had been to push a strong flotilla of warships through Koge Bay and into the Baltic proper but only after a strong and multi-capable force had been assembled. Moreover, external threats needed to be dealt with too in the form of enemy land-based aircraft and dangerous coastal missile batteries which threatened such a flotilla formed by the Allies to take the war into the Baltic.
The offending battery of brand-new Slingshot missiles which had sunk the battleship USS New Jersey had been eliminated by a naval air strike by the US Navy two days after that shocking event. Aircraft from the USS John F. Kennedy had found and bombed that battery with revenge being foremost in their mind and then later Royal Marines had led a NATO intelligence-gathering team to that location once they were ashore in Jutland. Physical evidence alongside intelligence gathered through radar detection had pointed to another battery being in operation with more missiles located elsewhere in Denmark and such a thing had afterwards been proved correct when further NATO vessels came under fire.
That second battery was pinpointed as being on Soviet-occupied Mon when there came two firings over consecutive days of Slingshot missiles from there towards the Oresund. On the first occasion, six missiles had lanced towards the West German cruiser Deutschland and an accompanying Bundesmarine frigate. Those two warships put up a lot of anti-aircraft gunfire but had little chance against such a supersonic missile attack of the nature they faced. The cruiser and its smaller escort were both hit and sunk after the strike against them with many casualties being taken. There was also a lot of apprehension afterwards throughout the NATO navies with the term ‘Slingshot threat’ gaining a real significance. Intelligence teams had gone to work in trying to locate where those missiles had come from and then a reconnaissance mission flown at distance from the carrier USS America had taken place over Mon. It was a small island and the EA-3B aircraft – the electronic reconnaissance version of the Skywarrior bomber – had all systems active to try to detect their prey. Unfortunately, the hunter became the hunted when a SA-11 Gadfly SAM shot up from the ground and blew the aircraft apart with all seven crewmen lost. There were recriminations afterwards with the defence that there had been no suspicion beforehand of such a capable SAM system there although at the same time accusations that more care should have been taken with lives and such an aircraft shouldn’t have been alone and so deep into enemy territory.
The Slingshot threat was getting out of hand and was keeping the Baltic in Soviet hands.
Then came the second missile firing as again cruise missiles lanced away from Mon and into the Oresund to strike at heavily-laden ships carrying Swedish military stores across to Zealand. The Swedes were furious when three vessels were sunk and this came on top of the effective ceding of the Baltic to the enemy allowing their southern coastline to remain at the mercy of the Soviets. However, at the same time, that second firing was a blessing in disguise. There were a pair of US Navy EP-3E Aries land-based aircraft active over the Baltic Approaches at that time – back in safer skies – and they picked up much intelligence before and during that strike. The missile batteries radars had become active only a minute before the firing and in what was determined to be acquisition mode; someone else was doing the searching for them either in the form of smaller ships closer to the Oresund or even men on the shore somewhere. Those radar signals were quickly worked on and the data shared far and wide.
There was some discussions over an Alpha Strike coming from the America or the Kennedy to send aircraft to Mon but the Slingshot battery was very mobile based upon trucks that would be camouflaged and in hiding places hard to spot from the air. Such aircraft would have to fly a long way and hunt from the air for such vehicles while under probable SAM fire and possible enemy air interference as well. That would involve too much risk and a lot of aircraft when the carriers were assigned to other tasks and the current weather situation in the rough North Sea was already causing them problems. Instead, the electronic intelligence was fast put to use in-theatre and externally.
On March 31st, the Dutch Navy’s frigate HNLMS Tromp, fresh from earlier war service in the North Atlantic, left the Oresund under orders to steam southwards into Koge Bay. The ship wasn’t to be sacrificed as extra defences were added and it was a capable vessel, yet NATO was seeing how they could respond to the Slingshot threat now they had made what they regarded as advances in the electronic arena. The missile radars were then detected again in acquisition mode pre-launch and the Tromp prepared to defend itself. At the same time though, several aircraft in US Navy and RAF colours to the north along with a mobile ground station in Sweden started combating those radars. The frequencies were fixed upon and immense jamming directed against them in a very targeted manner. Fast reactions came as the enemy tried changing things about and NATO had to counter that, but no cruise missiles came lancing at the Tromp. The victory won was more than just about stopping that attack though; the failed effort the Soviets put in to keep trying with their attack exposed them to more surveillance of their electronic capabilities.
Following the incident with the Tromp as well as some less dramatic events with electronic warfare against other coastal radar sites for older missiles that NATO believed it could counter, the flotilla staging for a while now to enter the Baltic did so on April 2nd.
There were destroyers, frigates, corvettes, missile boats, some specialist electronic warfare ships and a lot of mine warfare vessels – no cruisers, battleships or aircraft carriers made the transit through the Oresund. These ships on the surface were joined by submarines below the waves which were generally small vessels though the US Navy did deploy two large nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines that were carrying land-attack Tomahawk cruise missiles. There was still a threat to these ships from that Slingshot battery but it was one believed to be manageable. What concerned the NATO navies more were enemy land-based aircraft, smaller warships with missiles, submarines and minefields. These were all to be engaged in the western end of the Baltic in a forward maritime defence of liberated Denmark.
On land and in the nearby waters, Denmark and the Baltic Approaches were now back in NATO hands. They were on the attack too, especially at sea where they moved to challenge their opponents in an active manner.
Allied Army Denmark, the newly-created unified command for the ground forces in the country reporting to General Howlett in Norway as Allied Forces Northern Europe commander, had achieved its mission. Its components in Jutland of British and American light forces were basking in their glory even though they still had some work to do in securing that peninsula. However, there were soon to be calls for those forces to be transferred out of Denmark to be put to use elsewhere. These would be made by those senior people who were already trying to decide what to do with the US Army light forces leaving Finland and moving back into Norway (the trio of light divisions with the US XVIII Corps) as well as the released US Marines from the Caribbean as well.
There would be many thoughts as to where to send these forces with them having seen action (apart from those Marine Reservists from the Caribbean) where they performed well to be taken into consideration so that they wouldn’t be wasted on any sort of garrison duty when every available capable man was really being needed in continuing to take the fight to the enemy.
There were plenty of possibilities open elsewhere but of course in the Baltic too…
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 19:47:09 GMT
Two Hundred & Thirty–Seven
‘Power comes from the barrel of a gun.’
The (misquoted) saying was the mantra of Marshal Ogarkov as he now led his country during World War Three. As far as he was concerned, all that mattered was military might as only through force of arms could his country be saved from the destruction which it faced. Politics, diplomacy and economics would have to play second fiddle to the pressing military needs of the Soviet Union if it was to survive this conflict.
This was why he hadn’t set himself up in the Kremlin – or below it like Chebrikov had been – but rather was out in the field as the war raged. He had appointed bureaucrats to run things domestically and those men had no power base nor could they challenge the Soviet Army and therefore he saw no threat to the war he was waging from internal sources. Only external dangers could harm his country and he was out to combat them.
Since his seizure of power, Ogarkov had been on the move. His top advisers and key aides, all of whom were military officers mainly from the Soviet Army yet with some from the other uniformed services too, travelled with him across the western parts of the country first of all before they moved into Eastern Europe. There was a large physical security contingent as well and those armed men were at all times with him and his senior people as they travelled by road, rail and air from location to location for several days before arriving in Poland late on the third Saturday of the war.
Before reaching Legnica and the huge military command complex there – which had been visited by USAF bombers but with little overall damage done –, Ogarkov had been visiting various locations throughout his country. He had been to military sites and civilian installations taken over by the armed forces through the Moscow, Baltic, Belorussian, Kiev and Carpathian Military Districts. There had been a body-count left in his wake and while he had taken no personal enjoyment from that, he knew that the deaths which he had ordered as he moved around were truly worth having done.
Ogarkov hadn’t been killing enemies, real or perceived, but instead ordering the executions of senior officers or high-ranking staffers of theirs that were clearly deserving of such a fate. While men were fighting and dying in Germany to keep the Soviet Union free from foreign invasion, there were many safe back home profiteering from that conflict. Ogarkov was someone who could forgive a few personal vices that a man might have, but not interference with the war effort through theft. There were countless occasions where he visited a military site and the senior people there were accused of stealing ammunition, fuel or other military supplies to be sold on the black market. Some of those accused had been doing this for years while others had only done it once. Little evidence was needed against them for a short trial that usually lasted no more than an hour and then afterwards there would come a firing squad. Those who had taken what was sold to them – criminal gangs or greedy civilians – for their own uses or to sell onwards themselves were to face later justice less fatal than those in uniform who were committing what Ogarkov regarded as the ultimate act of treason though would be punished too.
Treason made Ogarkov’s blood boil.
While he was having people shot for theft, Ogarkov had gone to those locations to spread a lot of fear with his personal presence too. He had taken power and promised his field commanders that he would sort out the supply situation. Stealing was only a small part of the problem; what had been causing the crippling shortages was ineptitude, lethargy and laziness. There were too many fools in key positions with in the supply network for the men fighting and dying at the front, too many officers who were taking their time and too many personnel who clearly couldn’t be bothered to do their duty to the Rodina. Ogarkov hadn’t been having these people shot just stripped of their positions and demoted to the rank of private no matter what their time in service was nor their connections elsewhere.
He wanted everyone to do their duty!
When his party would arrive at rear-area supply bases everyone there would see what would happen to those stealing and those failing in their duties. At once, there would be a flurry of activity and Ogarkov made sure that the people left in charge after he left weren’t going to be the ones who would revert to the previous situation. He needed military supplies to get moving westwards to follow all of those new troops he had sent to Germany as the soldiers fighting needed ammunition, fuel, food and all the other necessary supplies that an army depended upon. So much had gone wrong in the past with the immense logistical network, especially back within the Soviet Union itself, but he had been out to fix it.
Ogarkov believed that his visits to those places would solve everything…
Arriving in Legnica by air, Ogarkov had no idea how he had diced with death by taking such a flight. He and his staff arrived aboard an Ilyushin-80 jet aircraft – a modified Il-86 transport fulfilling the strategic command-and-control role – escorted by a flight of four interceptors. The aircraft had come from Brest in Belorussia above Poland and flew high across clear skies. Far off in the distance, over Germany, an E-3B Sentry airborne radar aircraft with a USAF crew but on a NATO mission had detected the big aircraft escorted by fighters and special interest had been paid. The larger airplane was misidentified as an Il-86 Camber VIP-transport (the two aircraft were near identical) and the presence of an escort made the radar operators aboard that NATO aircraft believe that it was carrying someone important. Of course, there was no suspicion that Ogarkov himself was aboard but the thinking was that there would be important personalities being transported nonetheless. There had been a trio of F-15C Eagles available with fuel and weapons carried that would have allowed them to make a long distance interception all the way into Poland to engage that aircraft with Sparrow missiles at beyond visual range but then enemy air activity over East Germany unrelated to Ogarkov’s flight became more urgent.
Had those F-15s gone after those aircraft heading for Legnica and successfully engaged the big transport, things might have gone very differently with the war. Ogarkov had centralised control in his personal hands and the fall out form his death could have been very messy in a strategic sense. Alas, those F-15s were tasked elsewhere.
Legnica remained the rear-area headquarters for the West-TVD. Like the deceased Kulikov before him, Marshal Korbutov as Ogarkov’s commander at the front moved his mobile command post around all over East Germany yet Legnica was still important. Much staff work was done here from operations planning to intelligence work to trying to command the supply network. Before the KGB had had its wings clipped, that organisation had had a large presence here too keeping an eye on everyone and arresting military officers on trumped up charges of disloyalty, disobedience and defeatism; the Third Chief Directorate was no more and there were many of Ogarkov’s trusted people already at Legnica before he arrived.
Instead of treason, when he arrived in Legnica, Ogarkov instead found panic. He had been informed before he had arrived that there were immense civil disturbances going on in Poland but only once on the ground in the country – admittedly in an out of the way location where Soviet military personnel were in the majority – did he realise that full extend of that.
The Great Polish Rebellion was living up to its name.
Nearby Wroclaw was in full revolt, he was told, and the same was occurring in other Polish cities such as Krakow, Lublin, Lodz, Poznan, Szczecin, Gdansk and Gdynia. The situation in Warsaw was apparently under control but elsewhere the Polish people were rising up against their own government. They had engaged Soviet forces as well and that resistance to the Soviet war effort making use of their country was regarded as being more focused than the fighting against their own national authorities.
Ogarkov never had much time for Poland before the war as he didn’t rate the country very highly as it was one that had always allowed itself to be used by other nations, but throughout the course of the conflict he had come to regard the Polish people with contempt. First their soldiers had mutinied as they had done and then passive resistance had broken out across the country to the use of communications links. Now, they were killing Soviet soldiers trying their best to support their comrades fighting in Germany. Like he had had elsewhere when he was made, Ogarkov had what his staff called ‘an incident’ when he came to understand what was going on in Poland. They secretly feared for not just his health but their own well-being. He had a furious and explosive temper and was likely to take out his rage on those who brought bad news rather than those responsible for what had gone wrong.
It seemed like the whole of Legnica heard Ogarkov rage like a madman.
Ogarkov screamed that his orders when it came to resistance from the Poles were not being followed. He again declared that the most severe measures were to be taken even if those were arguably out of proportion. Anyone who stood in the way of the war effort was to be shot; there was to be no holding back with that. He declared that he cared nothing for any feelings of the Poles, not even General Jaruzelski who remained an effective prisoner in Warsaw anyway. The railways, the roads, the airfields, the ports, the rivers and the canals of Poland were all too important to lose control over. Without them being put to maximum use, the war couldn’t carry on being fought and the NATO armies stopped across in East Germany.
Red in the face and with spittle flying, Ogarkov demanded to know why his orders weren’t being followed and, more importantly, who was to blame?
Soon enough, Ogarkov himself decided who was to blame and started issuing orders dismissing officers he had recently appointed to command the security effort in Poland. His orders were sent from Legnica out to general officers across the country dismissing them from their post, demoting them to the rank of private and assigning them to a penal battalion at the front. As was his usual style since he had launched his coup, Ogarkov had his orders sent out un-coded so that the message would be understood far and wide. Those who would replace the men he dismissed were issued with the same instructions as their predecessors and reminded that Ogarkov really was quite serious in what he was saying.
Ogarkov hadn’t come to Legnica just to blow his top.
Korbutov flew in from East Germany in a heavy-lift helicopter with some of his key aides for a meeting between the two of them back in ‘safe’ Poland. Both understood that the commander of the West-TVD couldn’t be away from his headquarters for long with the ongoing situation across the border to the west and Ogarkov didn’t plan on keeping his senior field commander too long in his company.
A briefing took place between the two men in uniform and that concerned the current military situation. Ogarkov had previously had many briefings on what was going on with the war effort at the front though those had come from second-hand sources rather than the man himself he had entrusted to win the war. What happened in Germany would decide the war as far as he was concerned. NATO needed to be stopped there so that they could advance no further eastwards. Korbutov was the man tasked with undertaking this and Ogarkov wanted to know from him in person the situation as it was. He demanded no fluff, no false promises and especially no lies either.
Korbutov told him the truth.
NATO was still advancing. Their armies were still moving forward and winning victory after victory. At times they had been checked and even heavily-blooded, but they were still managing to advance every day. Now that the vast majority of previously-held West German territory had been recaptured, they were moving deep inside East Germany too. The aggressive defence which had been tried wasn’t stopping them and he was waiting upon the arrival of those extra hundreds of thousands of men now starting to pour into Poland.
Ogarkov asked whether Korbutov could hold back the armies of the West with those extra men and the answer – after a pause which Ogarkov was left uncomfortable with – was a yes… as long as Operation WOLF was pushed forward in timescale first. That was meant to occur when the mass of reinforcements arrived as a double blow against the invading NATO forces, but Korbutov wanted permission to launch WOLF early. He said he had the forces assigned to that ready to go and couldn’t wait any longer, especially with the delays occurring in Poland.
Consent was given and NATO would tomorrow find out what WOLF was in something both men hoped would be a very unwelcome surprise to them.
As the briefing came to an end, Ogarkov had a further question which he wanted Korbutov to give him an honest to as well: how was the situation in Germany with the East Germans? Were they still loyal or on the verge of acting like the traitors that the Poles were?
Korbutov truthfully answered that as far as he knew Mielke in East Berlin was still committed to the war effort like he always had been and would remain loyal.
How was he to know of the bombshell that Mielke was planning?
Two Hundred & Thirty–Eight
Cecil Parkinson had been tasked to manage Britain’s war effort and it was a task which he was determined to do to the best of his ability. The new Defence Secretary – who had previously turned down the offered role of Northern Ireland Secretary before Ken Clarke was appointed to Ulster – was only filling such a position until the end of the conflict yet in that time he set out to do everything that he could to make sure that what was done was done right. His Prime Minister had faith in him, the War Cabinet the same and hopefully Parliament would quickly come to understand that he was going to give the job everything that he had.
Having just returned from a late evening War Cabinet briefing beneath Whitehall, Parkinson soon afterwards met with the country’s senior military officers out at Northwood. A helicopter had flown him there out into Hertfordshire to meet with those generals, admirals and air marshals at the underground operations centre there.
The military officers all knew Parkinson well and he had maintained a working relationship with them throughout the conflict before he took up George Younger’s old post and Parkinson hoped that that would continue. There were some in the government who were still rather put out at the actions of these men during the alter stages of Transition to War when they had approached the government with what many saw as a worrying set of demands, but Parkinson had agreed with what they had done that and supported them. He never had any fears of the threat of a military coup… this was Britain after all, not the Soviet Union! Nonetheless, the views of those senior people in uniform were very important and they held great power even if they had no wish to use that.
The Defence Secretary understood that for him to successfully fulfil his role he needed to maintain a good working relationship with such senior officers.
When at Northwood, Parkinson found Admiral Fieldhouse and General Bagnall concerned about the day’s events at Stendal. They were unhappy at the casualties inflicted there as the British I Corps had failed to break the Soviet defences around that town. The Defence Secretary was brought up to speed on that operation and it was explained to him the strategic value not only of that East German town but the attempt to smash its defenders too. The advance in that area of General Inge’s combat command couldn’t continue to the Elbe, much less over it, unless the Soviets there had either been broken in battle or forced to withdraw.
The subject of wartime casualties had been a major talking point at the War Cabinet briefing which he had attended earlier. The PM and her senior ministers were very worried over the reported rates of losses occurring and feared that eventually there would have to be a reduction in commitment, especially on the ground in Germany, if such numbers of men killed, wounded and missing continued to rise. The political and diplomatic implications of doing anything like that were too terrible to contemplate so Parkinson had been tasked to find another solution.
Men died in war; he understood that and so did his fellow politicians. Everyone could understand that British servicemen weren’t being needlessly sacrificed and the best efforts were being made to stop casualties but modern warfare was just so bloody that immense losses were always going to happen. Faced with an inability to bring that to a halt – unless the government was prepared to do the unthinkable… which it certainly wasn’t – instead Parkinson had agreed with the War Cabinet’s instructions to find more troops.
Younger had previously told the PM that there were no more troops and the country’s senior military officers had said the same thing. Almost the entire regular strength of the British Army less the important garrison left in the Falklands and those deployed in either Northern Ireland or on Okinawa (the Gurkhas in the latter) was currently fighting in Germany and in Denmark. The TA had deployed its better-trained units to Germany and seen them slaughtered there while spread thin elsewhere deploying less-ready men to Ulster and Gibraltar as well as maintaining key security roles at home. With those latter TA units, it had previously been explained that they weren’t suitable for warfare in Germany and couldn’t be quickly trained for such a mission as had previously been suggested by the politicians. The majority of the British Army’s training forces had been rather hastily sent to Germany before the war broke out and what remained was needed training all of those young men mobilised as conscripts so they could later see service.
Parkinson explained to the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chief of the General Staff that he regarded them as looking at the situation the wrong way with the TA. Those formations which they were thinking of broken up as they were all across the country may have been not trained as a fighting force for modern warfare, but there were many men within them who had previous military service and would only – in his opinion – need a small amount of refresher training. Since taking office he had been briefed that when the 7th Armoured Division and the 29th Light Brigade were thrown together with the recalled soldiers to man them, TA men who had requested to join their old comrades had been refused permission to do that and ordered to remain in the units which they were assigned too on security duties. The threat to the UK at home from enemy commandoes and especially domestic armed insurgents had never really justified such a large number of men as had been committed at first and that threat had been lessened as the war went on. There were too many men, specifically those with individual high levels of experience, remaining on static guard duties inside Britain who could be put to use fighting in Germany.
His belief was that they should leave those units in which they served and deploy to Germany to act as combat replacements.
As expected by Parkinson, General Bagnall wasn’t happy with this and neither was General Chapple (C-in-C UK Land Forces) who was also at Northwood for the Defence Secretary’s visit. These were high-ranking British Army officers and practical men who well understood what he was saying. Their protests weren’t to do with pride, them being deliberately obtuse or anything selfish like that but rather at the breaking of unit cohesion with those TA units when the men Parkinson was talking of were deployed aboard. They also worried over whether the domestic security threat truly had decreased as the current belief was that it had.
The Royal Navy officer Admiral Fieldhouse had a wide-ranging understanding of military affairs being in the role that he had as the professional head of the UK Armed Forces. He could see the point being made by his two counterparts in uniform as perfectly logical but at the same time Parkinson was correct in what he was saying too. There were plenty of experienced soldiers sitting across the country on guard duty who would have had been in Germany if they hadn’t have been assigned to the wrong formation. Such men could fast replace many of the casualties and therefore, in theory, stop more from occurring by their presence. He therefore agreed with what the Defence Secretary wanted and reminded Generals Bagnall and Chapple that there was still the Home Service Force with those older volunteers now fully-deployed across the country on security duties. These soldiers were far from any sort of ‘Dad’s Army’ and when they had been tested during the conflict they had performed well.
Parkinson asked for and was to receive and extra six thousand soldiers released from security duties in the UK to fight in Germany.
Air Chief Marshal David Craig held the position of the Chief of the Air Staff and had been the chosen senior officer who had approached the government on March 5th with that ‘quiet intervention’ that would many years later become something of a talking point in certain circles. He was the most senior RAF officer in uniform and a former Vulcan bomber pilot; Parkinson had done his National Service with the RAF and got on well with the man whereas others in government hadn’t.
Questions were asked concerning RAF operations as well as the efforts being made to combat the losses which had been taken by Air Marshal Craig’s organisation. Those newly-arrived Phantoms from AMARC in the United States and the hurried training going on with aircrews for those multi-role fighters were discussed and then there came Parkinson’s queries over whether the RAF could direct any more of its UK-based combat aircraft towards missions over Germany.
There had previously been the transfer of the two squadrons of Phantoms tasked with air defence duties out of the 3 ATAF to the Continent-based 2 ATAF. What remained solely for that mission, the Chief of the Air Staff reminded Parkinson, were Lightning F6 and Tornado F3 interceptors as well as Hawk T1s. Those aircraft were far from suitable for such a tactical role above the battlefields of Germany though the Tornados were already assisting Buccaneer B2 naval strike aircraft over the Baltic Approaches. If there were any extra combat aircraft that could be sent, Air Marshal Craig would deploy them just as he was rather soon going to do with the new Phantoms in RAF colours.
As to the Royal Navy, Admiral William Staveley, the First Sea Lord, repeated what he had told Parkinson upon the Defence Secretary’s appointment that many of the RN’s ships from the North Atlantic were moving into the Baltic. The submarine threat from the Soviets was now rather minimal and the surface threat to the sea-lanes across to North America had long ago been dealt with. Destroyers and frigates were moving towards the Danish Straits ready to go into the Baltic while many submarines still remained in northern waters.
Losses for the RN earlier in the conflict had been crippling – especially those on the war’s second day when the Illustrious and the Ark Royal had been sunk in that raketonosets attack – but during the past week those had eased off to a large extent. The Senior Service had been hurt and Parkinson had been told that it would take years for them to recover from the losses taken in terms of vessels and trained sailors too. Admiral Julian Oswald, the C-in-C Fleet, wanted to talk about making long-term plans in case the war went on for a long time with regards to making emergency orders for warships but Parkinson had to direct the meeting away from that for the time being. To think of what Admiral Oswald was hinting at – building ships in a six months to a year period so that they would see eventual combat – was too much at the moment not even three weeks into the war.
The briefing moved on to the matter of supplies.
Britain had almost exhausted its pre-war stock ammunition. Bullets, shells and missiles were nearly all used up now in the fighting against the Soviets. There had been much sharing with NATO allies but apart from the United States, the rest of the alliance was in a similar or worse position with what they had previously had of their own stockpiled beforehand. There had been those warehouses across the North Atlantic that the Americans had emptied and shipped the contents of to Europe but from what the senior military officers Parkinson was meeting with knew those were running out too. Munitions expenditures had been like casualty projections: all very wrong indeed.
In Britain as well as through much of Western Europe, war damage and civilian strife had made sure that there couldn’t be any major arms manufacturing going on for some time despite the best efforts to try to do that. The bombing of munitions factories were on thing but supply chain problems were the main cause of that inability to manufacture ammunition for the NATO armies.
Parkinson reminded the men in uniform that factories in the United States and Canada were working flat out to address this and newly-produced munitions were already arriving. Moreover, other nations which formed the Allies were manufacturing ammunition too while there were countries such as Egypt and Israel which were semi-secretly shipping more to the Allies. General Bagnall asked about Australia and Japan where he had heard those two nations were engaged in large scale munitions manufacturing but such ammunition was apparently being kept in the Pacific where no ground fighting had yet to take place.
It was suggested to the Defence Secretary that maybe he might wish to talk to those countries, or better even the Americans, about such war supplies being sent to Europe as well as being kept for any fighting which may or may not occur in Asia. There was military fuel in the form of oil coming from the Middle East and being processed in refineries which hadn’t been damaged or destroyed by wartime action so with Britain’s share of that being available there was manoeuvrability, but bullets, shells and missiles were needed as well.
Finally, the briefing turned to strategy. Parkinson listed to Admiral Fieldhouse explain SACEUR’s aims with ABOLITION and what that meant for British forces fighting as part of that operation.
The British Second Army was to continue advancing into East Germany with reaching the Elbe currently being their task at the moment. This would put British troops closer to Berlin than anyone else and therefore in a position to reaching there first. That, Parkinson interrupted, wasn’t official at the moment but what he and the War Cabinet wanted. However, the current situation with Stendal and its defenders needed to be addressed first before that could carry on the Defence Secretary was told when the briefing got back on track. Moreover, General Inge’s troops there couldn’t advance all by themselves and would certainly have to have the Bundeswehr and the US Army right alongside them with support from the Belgian and Portuguese troops also in-theatre.
Supporting the British Army would be the remaining RAF presence in Germany with those assigned to the 2 ATAF doing so in a tactical role. There were also Tornado strike aircraft still with the 3 ATAF based here in the UK undertaking strategic missions within the NATO framework for ABOLITION.
In the Baltic Approaches, the war was being wrapped up now and those troops there with the British Army and the Royal Marines would join with elements of the RN assigned for further roles. Such a matter would soon be addressed by the North Atlantic Council when it met again, Parkinson told them, and he was then informed that the senior officers here with him at Northwood hoped that such a decision on that would be taken soon. There were a lot of capable forces in that region who couldn’t be left twiddling their thumbs.
Norway’s liberation meant that there was currently only a security role for the few British troops there; the RAF had moved its aircraft down to the Baltic Approaches. In the nearby seas there remained those submarines of the RN in the place of a major surface force with the submarines continuing their wartime missions in Soviet waters and making a major contribution to what was occurring there. The orders remained the same for enemy warships and submarines – what remained of them anyway – to be sunk with the war effort undertaken there to the full most like it was everywhere else.
Despite all of the problems that the UK Armed Forces were currently facing, chiefly in the form of casualties taken, they were still fighting and driving back their enemies. Parkinson got what he wanted from this meeting and afterwards would be very busy in addressing many of the matters discussed.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 19:55:39 GMT
Two Hundred & Thirty–Nine
Striking Fleet Atlantic had run out of viable targets to strike in the Kola Peninsula several days ago.
Those military bases hit when they first arrived had been attacked again for a second, even third time in some cases to destroy them rather than just knock them out of action as had been the case the first time. Aircraft flying from the decks of the three US Navy carriers were lost during the bombing runs made over the Soviet North-West yet those losses weren’t that great considering the scale of operations. Moreover, using a long supply line with ferry flights, many replacement aircraft had arrived to take the place of those lost. Naval bases, submarine yards, airfields, coastal radar & missile stations, communications posts and command centres had been attacked by the US Navy over and over again without the Soviets being able to stop those from occurring. What remained of the Soviet Navy’s Northern Fleet at sea didn’t have a home to go back to and there remained fewer vessels at sea every day as more and more of them had been hunted down too.
Eventually, there was little point in maintaining the presence in the southwestern part of the Barents Sea for Striking Fleet Atlantic. The threat to Norway and northern Finland too was gone for good as the Soviets couldn’t defend themselves let alone attack the Allies in Scandinavia. There had been a retreat southwards from the coast of their few remaining defensive forces of aircraft and SAMs and while such forces were still in range for US Navy aircraft, there were no more offensive warfare assets to target. Such a victory had come at a cost but it was regarded as worth the losses for the added political effects of making the Soviets abandon their previously heavily-defended coastal regions.
With no justifiable reason to keep the mighty assembly of naval power staying where it was when there were missions elsewhere, the grey-painted US Navy warships had departed. Many submarines, including several from the Royal Navy too, remained behind off the Kola coastline, but Striking Fleet Atlantic had gone further eastwards.
Vice-Admiral Jerome Johnson, the peacetime commander of the US Navy’s Second Fleet and currently commanding Striking Fleet Atlantic, had been tasked by Defence Secretary Carlucci to move into the eastern parts of the Barents Sea instead. In that direction lay further military targets of value that had so far been untouched by the war and the belief was that those too could be eliminated by Johnson’s aircraft as the air defences in this region had previously been stripped bare to support the doomed efforts made by the Soviets to the west.
To the east of the Barents Sea lay the island of Novaya Zemlya and then the Kara Sea beyond that: military targets in both were not to be attacked by Striking Fleet Atlantic. On that huge island and the enclosed sea behind it the Soviets had many strategic nuclear forces and they were to be left alone along with the defensive assets arrayed to support them. It was to the south of the Barents Sea where Johnson was tasked to send his aircraft next and in that direction lay the entrance to the White Sea. The cities of Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk were down there and full of further military targets that the US Navy was to destroy like they had done around Murmansk and Severomorsk.
Operating technically as part of the NATO through SACLANT headquarters at Norfolk in Virginia – which was a command equal to that of General Galvin as SACEUR –, Striking Fleet Atlantic was in reality undertaking missions now focused upon US-centric goals. Previous engagements in defence of NATO interests in the North Atlantic had been fought and won despite losses taken when the Roosevelt had taken near-fatal damage and then the Forrestal had been burnt out. With that earlier mission over with, Johnson had come up to the Barents Sea to perform a role for the geo-strategic interests of his own nation. The targets which he had been sending his aircraft against to the west and now those planned to be hit in the south would in many ways make it impossible for the Soviets to conduct offensive military operations at sea for many years to come.
There would be no functioning naval bases for their use in a post-war world, no support facilities for any raketonosets they might later bring into service and no civilian ship & submarine manufacturing centres left standing. These were political objectives of the United States and one which Striking Fleet Atlantic, now with only US Navy vessels present, were tasked to carry out.
Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk were at the mouth of the Northern Dvina River where that river entered the White Sea. The enemy defensive forces which had retreated from the northern parts of the Kola had fallen back as far as Kandalaskha but even then Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk were still further south. To get close to them to fully bring the might of his air power to bare, it would have been best to enter the White Sea rather than remain outside. Such a mission would have been suicidal though in such restricted waters. The air threat to Johnson’s flotilla was negligible and he believed that he could deal with coastal-launch missiles (Slingshots hadn’t made an appearance) but there would be minefields, small warships and coastal submarines there.
Instead, Striking Fleet Atlantic stayed outside the White Sea and the aircraft launched from the carriers had to take extra fuel with them at the expense of bombs and as much air-refuelling as possible had to be done.
Before dawn on the morning of Sunday April 3rd, Johnson sent his aircraft into battle again. There were Tomcats for long-range fighter missions, Hawkeyes for airborne radar duties, Prowlers for electronic support in a strike escort role and then Corsairs, Hornets and Intruders for attack missions. Multiple missions were launched against many targets from the carriers Coral Sea, Eisenhower and Saratoga.
One flight of Intruders was sent on a special mission as those bombers carried laser-guided munitions with them to be directed carefully against a specific target by men on the ground…
There had previously been a total restriction on the use of NATO soldiers entering sovereign Soviet territory on the ground. This had been decreed at the highest levels so that when Striking Fleet Atlantic had arrived off the coast of the Soviet North-West aircrews had been told that there would be now CSAR missions launched to rescue them should they go down overland. Such a thing hadn’t played well with the men who flew those aircraft, but the orders had stood. The decision to launch ABOLITION had changed things even though that concerned East Germany and Czechoslovakia – where some CSAR missions had been flown to rescue downed aircrews – with new orders coming into effect from Friday just gone. Only the Americans were flying aircraft over parts of the Soviet Union and at that point US Navy along the coast of the Soviet Far East before Johnson brought Striking Fleet Atlantic back into action.
The change in the rules over CSAR had also affected the US Navy in that permission had been sought for them to make selected incursions with fighting men on the ground to conduct commando missions along the Soviet coastline. Each mission would have to be approved high up and could be cancelled at any moment should it be decided that such a thing might raise nuclear tensions too high, but the go ahead had been given. Acting quickly once the previous restrictions had been lifted as they had been on stand-by waiting for that permission, a small team of US Navy SEALs had arrived on the shores of the Soviet Union along the White Sea. A team of these elite commandoes had come ashore from a specially-outfitted submarine and set about their assigned tasks near Severodvinsk.
The immensely-important PO SEVMASH submarine facility was where the SEALs deployed around ahead of those Intruders inbound. Before the naval bombers arrived they struck against a nearby SA-10 Grumble SAM battery assigned to defend the facility and then afterwards used hand-held designators to ‘light-up’ the industrial targets for destruction. It was a dangerous mission for them and there had been a lot of apprehension – often covered by bravado – but they were well-trained and their mission was planned with what they hoped with perfection.
GBU-16 Paveway-II bombs fell away from Intruders and the 1000lb high-explosive warheads went off where they were meant to. There had been no defensive fire from the military defences guarding this civilian facility as the SEALs had taken out command-and-control for those and then there was a second, smaller bomb blast after those which had come from the laser-guided bombs. The SEALs had placed an explosive device at the building housing the assigned damage control team for PO SEVMASH and killed several key people with that who were meant to be first responders to a major incident.
Quickly, the SEALs departed the scene and into nearby hides which they had so they could escape once darkness returned during the night. This would be for them the most nerve-wracking part of the mission as there later became a hunt for suspected saboteurs – the presence of the SEALs wasn’t expected – and they had to stay quiet and still, but they remained undetected and would later make their coastal rendezvous.
Behind them, the PO SEVMASH facility was left badly damaged and no submarines would be built or repaired there for a very long time indeed.
The SEAL mission had been codenamed Operation SMASH – a deliberate coincidence on the part of its planner at the tactical level – and directed by a US Navy Lt.-Colonel who had been meant to stay aboard the submarine from where the team involved operated from. The knowledge in that man’s head and also his age, not least the enemies he had within the US Navy’s hierarchy, were the reasons behind that order… yet he went on the mission anyway with the prepared excuse of a ‘communications mix-up’. It was an act of insubordination which he was willing to risk everything on but believed he would get away with because while he had many foes he also had a great deal of supporters too.
In later years, after post-war retirement from the US Navy, that SEAL by the name of Richard Marcinko would forge a more public career. Better known as ‘Dick Marcinko’ or ‘Rouge Warrior’ with his book Red Cell, his name would be well known in certain circles when it came to talk of SEAL’s and military special operations, though the US Navy itself would have much preferred that that wasn’t the case at all.
Two Hundred & Forty
The ‘surprise factor’ with Operation WOLF was nowhere near what Marshal’s Korbutov and Ogarkov hoped that it would be. Their offensive with the mass of combat formations which they believed to be hidden in southern parts of East Germany didn’t achieve the shock which they wished that it would and catch the NATO forces which those were unleashed against – those from the US Army and the Spanish Army – utterly unawares. WOLF remained something which hadn’t been foreseen occurring when it did and on such a scale yet at the same time it was an offensive which those it was unleashed against were mentally prepared for.
The aim with WOLF was to disrupt the Americans as part of the NATO invading forces so that their advance would be pushed back. This would create a large salient to the north of them where British, Belgian and West German forces were but, of greater significance, allow those fifth echelon forces soon to arrive in East Germany some breathing room to deploy and defeat the invasion. It was a good operational concept but one which was ultimately doomed due to ongoing battlefield reconnaissance efforts which removed that necessary surprise factor.
Throughout the conflict, reconnaissance efforts had been taking place by both sides in the strategic theatre and also at a tactical level. Warfare wasn’t just about direct combat and logistics: intelligence was a key element on par with those other two. To have an understanding of your own opponent’s current strength and deployments as well as what they were capable of in the medium- and long-term were of vital importance. It would do no good to ignore what was going on say ten or twenty miles from the front with enemy reinforcements moving forward and both opposing sides heavily committed reconnaissance forces at the tactical level to this effort. In addition, being able to understand what your reconnaissance efforts had seen was a vital part of military intelligence as well. When that failed, operations such as WOLF would be successful but when reconnaissance and intelligence combined effectively such offensive were destined to be unsuccessful.
Early in the conflict, NATO intelligence efforts had noted that Soviet divisions assigned to the first and second echelons of RED BEAR had been pushed forward until crippling losses smashing through fixed defences made them combat ineffective. Once losses went past the fifty per cent mark, or even higher, those formations had been pulled from the frontlines and withdrawn back into the rear. Such formations were crossed off the list (so to speak) of available enemy units and attention was focused upon those which replaced them in the third and then the fourth echelons too.
Standard Soviet military practice was to do this whereas NATO armies tried their best to keep adding reinforcements to their divisions unless far too many losses came at once and that formation was written off. Several Soviet formations were observed through tactical intelligence efforts as being withdrawn and condensed into brigade-sized formations during the conflict and when this observed NATO was surprised but not overtly concerned as those new units consisted of men who knew they had been beaten in battle and were shown when combat was met to have rather low morale. The brigades were numerous, but there still remained many divisions missing from the Soviet order of battle in Germany and the majority of those had consisted of Category A troops forward deployed across Eastern Europe pre-war and now replaced at the frontlines with other troops from inside the western reaches of the Soviet Union. Pinpointing where the remains of those divisions had been moved to so that observation could be made as to whether the Soviets would rebuild, disestablish or merge such formations was a priority task for NATO reconnaissance efforts yet at the same time there were many priority tasks.
Following the massive Soviet offensive during the first Friday of the war when the chemical warfare attacks took place and that third echelon of attacking forces broke through the frontlines in many places, those reconnaissance efforts lost track of where the broken divisions had moved to and what was happening with them. Finding out what was going on slipped down the list of priorities as strategic weapons reconnaissance became even more importance and also the near collapse of NATO at that point. Afterwards, attention was focused upon the Soviet fourth echelon forces and then the NATO counter-offensives. Still, there remained some efforts to find out about those divisions as there remained a great number of men and tanks with them and this increased as NATO prepared for ABOLITION.
Throughout eastern parts of Thüringen and into western parts of Saxony, there had been that heavy concentration of double-digit SAMs which had caused the loss of many aircraft on reconnaissance missions over those regions into the third week of the war. Suspicions were raised over what the Soviets were defending though there were many different viewpoints taken as to what that was ranging from super-secret wonder weapons to an immense series of forward rearming centres for Ogarkov’s fifth echelon forces about to come into battle. Quite a few intelligence analysts – still tasked with other duties though and not able to give this their full attention – maintained the belief that those earlier near-destroyed Soviet formations were concentrated in those regions getting ready for battle again in whatever tactical arrangement they might be. There were missing units in the current order of battle from the Soviet Eighth Guards & First Guards Tank Armys (as well as a few from the later committed Soviet Thirteenth Army) as well as East German units from their initially successful attack into northern Bavaria. Intelligence regarding the identity of units on the frontlines was always changing but there remained many formations not identified and those hadn’t been wholly destroyed down to the last soldier just heavily-decimated.
Therefore, there was an awareness on the part of NATO’s field commanders, especially those engaged in operations in the southern part of East Germany, that at some point there remained the strong possibility that such forces would be encountered. They might be met as individual units or massed together and at varying degrees of size and composition. These would be well-trained troops with combat experience who would be fielded good equipment. As to morale and the qualities of the leadership of such forces, those remained unknown too. Regardless, NATO was not going to be dumbfounded should such units make a reappearance in the enemy’s order of battle.
The US V Corps was right in the firing line when WOLF was unleashed. To their left the national guardsmen with the Fifth Army’s US VI Corps was also struck at and so too were the Seventh Army formations to the right of Schwarzkopf’s command with the Spanish I Corps and the US VII Corps. All four corps commands were in the way of an offensive launched against them by a total of thirteen Soviet and East German divisions nearly at full-strength (elements of the Soviet Third Shock Army were present as well) which had been rebuilt during the past couple of weeks. In comparison, these four commands fielded just short of that number of near equal size formations themselves between them and the attacking units were spread out rather than condensed.
The clash was decided not by numbers though but rather the lack of surprise on the part of those on the offensive. WOLF called for these forces to blunt the advances being made by NATO by hiding them with an attack while they were used to going up against those on the defensive, but the planners of that offensive hadn’t realised that their opponents were rather used now to spotting a Soviet-led attack before it came with their tactical reconnaissance assets.
Throughout the early hours of the morning, after midnight, all sorts of warning sights had been flooding in to the American and Spanish forces just inside the Inter-German Border and – in the case of the US VII Corps – just on the other side about what was coming their way.
Both the US Army regular corps in the way of WOLF had military intelligence brigades assigned to them pre-war which had fielded many elements including full-time long-range surveillance company’s designated as part of the 51st Infantry Regiment: E & F Companies with men trained in behind-the-lines patrolling to gain intelligence similar to the dedicated stay-behind teams but with a more ‘active’ role. D Company (with Vietnam-era heritage like the two others) had been created on the eve of war with reservists arriving in Germany, while the Michigan ARNG had send men from F Company with their 425th Infantry Regiment who were similarly trained as well; these further men had joined the regular soldiers. These elite men had seen much action throughout the conflict and taken plenty of casualties though combat replacements had made up their numbers even if those new men didn’t have all of the experience of those they replaced. Many of the surveillance detachments out front operating in the forward patrol role several miles up ahead of where the main body of troops were, ahead of the Cav’, had started to report-in during the night about gathering enemy armour where there previously had been none.
NATO aircraft on night-time attack missions reported some observations made from the heavy presence of anti-aircraft fire where those defensive assets would be with Soviet Army divisions to glimpses of large numbers of tanks and other armoured vehicles moving about. There was other intelligence too urgently transmitted to US Seventh Army headquarters from the USAF concerning coded signals which their electronic intelligence aircraft were gathering but couldn’t decipher yet bore all the hallmarks of those used by Soviet Army formations in the field. Wartime experience had erased many (though not all) peacetime delays when it came to sharing of intelligence between different branches of the US Armed Forces; what the USAF was gathering was taken note of especially when what was being observed on the ground came in too.
Knowing how the Soviet Army preferred to move with their offensives at first light and the time it took to collate all of this intelligence into a reasonable picture, there was only a few hours warning given to those on the way of WOLF. Of course this was better than no warning at all, but everyone involved on the NATO side surely would have liked some more time… maybe they could have launched a spoiling attack if they had had enough warning.
Out of the four corps commands which were engaged by these new/old Soviet forces, the US V Corps certainly weathered the storm better than the other three.
Schwarzkopf had been wrong about the type of surprise that the enemy had waiting deep inside Thüringen but he had had his subordinate commanders prepared to face an unexpected enemy move in whatever form it might have taken better than his peers. There had never been a belief in him that the Soviets were going to sit back and let the US Army roll in East Germany without making a real fight of it and he also knew how the Soviet Army liked to be what he called ‘sneaky bastards’ with their offensives; his extensive military education had taught him all about maskirovka.
Acting quickly, Schwarzkopf had his Blackhorse Cav’ elements withdraw from their forward positions out ahead. There were objections from the commander of what remained of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment who wanted to remain in the good positions which his men held, yet Schwarzkopf was concerned over losing such a force when the reported four enemy divisions hit them not just with tanks and infantry but with the expected barrages of artillery and rockets which surely would be coming too. The Blackhorse Cav’ didn’t fall that far back though, just far enough to get out of the worst effects of the suspected barrage coming their way. To join them in their fall-back positions, he had his newly-raised 191st Mechanized Infantry Brigade push forward from the rear with the infantrymen and anti-tank missile teams under that command set up new positions. The 191st Brigade was composed of former personnel from the 8th Mechanized Infantry & 101st Air Assault Infantry Divisions who had been liberated after short stays in enemy POW camps as well as wounded men returning to service from the war’s first few engagements and selected USAR individual reservists who had recently come from the United States. These men were well-armed, generally well-experienced and ready to go: Schwarzkopf pushed them into the new frontlines by dawn while keeping his three heavy divisions back.
The Soviet attack hit thin air.
An immense barrage of artillery and rockets came just like Schwarzkopf knew it would though that was a rather short affair with a lot of munitions being quickly fired before that barrage ceased. Supply difficulties, despite Ogarkov’s ‘interventions’, were still causing great harm to the Soviet war machine and that was reflected in an artillery strike that lastly barely ten minutes. Following this came the first appearances of Soviet armour rolling forward with the clear intention of hitting his own forces which were supposed to have suffered under that artillery barrage. Schwarzkopf didn’t intervene when the enemy did that and wanted them left confused by what was going on there but at the same time he had everyone else ready. His plan was to have his forward forces slow down the enemy when those met and then unleash some of his massed helicopters against them. There were more than a hundred Apache and Cobra gunships with the reinforced (from ARNG and USAR forces) 12th Aviation Brigade all with stand-off anti-tank missiles… then he would counterattack with his heavy forces quickly getting ready for that. This operational plan of Schwarzkopf, while thrown together with haste in the tactical sense, was part of the long-term strategic thinking by him and his staff to react to a major enemy attack against the US V Corps.
The plan worked perfectly.
Three Soviet and one East German divisions (US Army intelligence would afterwards designate them as the 27GMRD, 32GTD, 39GMRD and East German 11MRD) smashed into Schwarzkopf’s men along the high ground which ran through the central parts of the Thüringen Forest. This was extremely rough country for mechanised movement and across there the day before the US V Corps had been blasting away at dug-in forces defending natural strongpoints before reaching the highest points and starting to move down to the eastern side. Schwarzkopf’s ordered withdrawal meant that his men went back up high and allowed them to look down upon their opponents coming towards them when battle was joined. The movement of Soviet armour through this terrain and especially trying to climb upwards was immensely difficult for them to do. They ran into ambushes everywhere with the Americans firing down upon them from above; a terrible tactical situation to be in. The Blackhorse Cav’ and those men with the 191st Brigade were outnumbered but they were holding good positions which they put to use. Anti-tank missiles from vehicles and deployed by men on foot were used to a great extent with little actual tank fire taking place. TOW missiles repeatedly struck the Soviets and East Germans as they tried to advance with those weapons striking the top of their tanks and other armoured vehicles where the armour fitted was weakest. Soon enough, with the knowledge that medium-range anti-helicopter defences would be weak, Schwarzkopf ordered that the 12th Aviation Brigade join the fight too. Those gunships would pour in more TOW missiles though not follow up those attacks with their guns or short-range rockets for there remained a lot of defensive fire directed against them that had little success but when it did the Apaches and Cobras were in a whole world of hurt.
For more than two hours, Schwarzkopf let his forward troops and his helicopters do the work of stopping the Soviets from achieving their objective of getting up onto the high ground and then down the western side. The heights of the Thüringen Forest belonged to the US Army as far as he was concerned and he wasn’t prepared to see them surrendered. He spoke to General Otis at US Seventh Army headquarters and told his superior that he was going to hold and didn’t need any extra assistance offered; moreover, Schwarzkopf didn’t object when the West German Territorial 55th Brigade was released from US V Corps control to move to the north of where they were and assist the US VI Corps. Those reservists had fought extremely well during the conflict on multiple engagements with the US Army and Schwarzkopf would want them back with him but for now they were needed to help the national guardsmen who weren’t having the success which he was despite being hit with a smaller force and not all across their frontlines.
General Otis also gave permission for Schwarzkopf to unleash a counterattack too. There had to be an unfortunate delay until air support from the 4 ATAF could come into play in number but once that was available – including the first combat appearances in the conflict of F-105 Thunderchiefs alongside other aircraft ‘liberated’ from the AMARC facility in Arizona – then the V Corps could come down off the high ground and roll forwards. When that did commence, the 3rd Armored and 4th & 24th Mechanized Infantry Divisions went charging forward towards victory. There had been no change in the Soviet tactics during their own push despite these being rebuilt formations which had been used for WOLF. Once command vehicles were identified and taken out early chaos would reign in the enemy ranks with company, battalion and regimental commanders no longer there to give orders. Flexibility wasn’t evident as the enemy which the US Army faced didn’t know what to do when things went wrong. The US Army had been learning throughout the conflict and adapted to real world challenges as opposed to peacetime operational tactics but their opponents were still treating the war like it was the first day.
Schwarzkopf was able to set his trio of divisional commanders the objectives of reaching Gotha and Arnstadt as immediate goals with the aim of being able to reach Erfurt and Weimar being not too unrealistic either. These towns and cities were major communications points deep within the generally flat Thüringen Basin and on the way to the ultimate objective of Leipzig. Tearing through the battered remains of those forces assigned to WOLF to get that far was something which the US V Corps now set out to do.
The 107th Armored Cavalry Regiment as well as the 35th & 40th Mechanized Infantry Divisions, all ARNG formations with the US VI Corps, fared not as well as Schwarzkopf’s command. They were on the flank of where the Soviet forces with WOLF struck and in the northern reaches of the Thüringen Forest. An immediate withdrawal to allow the attacking enemy to hit nothing but empty positions hadn’t been ordered and the national guardsmen with the Cav’ from Ohio and West Virginia suffered greatly in this and needed to be rescued from the mass of Soviet armour which engaged them. Once heavier forces arrived and experience of how to break up the enemy’s armoured attack was brought to use, the US VI Corps was able to stabilise the situation when air cover came into play too. The assistance of the West Germans moving to support them wasn’t needed when it came to it yet for a while it had been a close-run thing indeed. General Schneider as US Fifth Army commander, who had taken a lot of criticism during the conflict, much of that unfair and due to unrealistic expectations of the forces he had available, would later that day be relieved of duty by SACEUR. The heavy losses taken by the US VI Corps which even when they stopped the Soviet attack were too great and further offensive operations couldn’t be undertaken by those two divisions. What Schwarzkopf did with the US V Corps to the right and then their fellow national guardsmen with the US IV Corps achieved on the left afterwards throughout the rest of the day meant that the Soviets would achieve nothing overall, but that wasn’t the point: the US Fifth Army again had been shown to be lacking and General Schneider would pay for this with his job. It was unfortunate as it could be argued that blame didn’t rest with him, but it was what ultimately his responsibility as the overall commander.
The Spanish reacted fast to the attack coming their way from three Soviet divisions just like the US V Corps. Quickly they withdrew their forward elements on the eastern side of the southern reaches of the Thüringen Forest which they held up into the high ground above. Unfortunately, hold-ups occurred with the shifting of forces and when the Soviet artillery barrage commenced many were caught out in the open. That barrage wasn’t very long but the Spanish were hurt by it. When engaging the enemy from above they fired MILAN missiles down at them and made good use of their artillery in the defensive role as well. A counterattack was launched once Schwarzkopf had his underway – there remained a large liaison effort between the Spanish I Corps and the US V Corps in-place before the Spanish had their corps activate and their troops had fought under Schwarzkopf’s predecessor – but it was rather limited in scale. Only the 1st Armored Division attacked and moved from their position in the rear at Ludwigsstadt up the Loquitz Valley towards Probstzella; this was the route of the important railway line linking East Germany with West Germany and that latter town had only just been withdrawn from in the haste to take a step back ahead of the Soviet advance. After Probstzella, the Spanish were aiming for the Saale Valley at Saalfeld to later continue their advance as part of ABOLITION.
The remaining four divisions assigned to WOLF – three Soviet and one East German – attacked the US VII Corps where it was fighting just inside West Germany. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment withdrew backwards and were joined by the 174th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (like the 191st Brigade, the 174th Brigade contained liberated POWs as well as some USAR men too) in making an identical stand like the V Corps did with a mass of anti-tank weapons. There was intense fighting as the Soviet storm was weathered across the very northern reaches of Franconia as the enemy struggled to get forward when aircraft from the 4 ATAF blasted away at their columns of armour waiting to deploy. The frontlines which the VII Corps held were far from linear and staggered so that flanking fire at distance, especially when the 11th Aviation Brigade joined in with their helicopter gunships, caused much damage to them. General Watts unleashed his own counterattack later in the morning using the 1st & 3rd Mechanized Infantry Divisions while keeping the 1st Armored Division back as the Old Ironsides were still not regarded by him as being fully up to strength with all of its wartime losses. The border area was reached by the afternoon and then crossed so the US VII Corps could join the US V Corps as having a presence inside East Germany. The Soviets were unable to achieve their aims here due to General Watts’ soldiers understanding how to fight them on the move without a change in tactics from the enemy. Reaching the town of Plauen inside Saxony, along the major highway which would take the US VII Corps towards Dresden under long term plans for ABOLITION, would be too much for the day, but the US VII Corps was on target to do this in the future as they had beaten back their opponents.
WOLF had been a failure. All of that rebuilt combat strength had been effectively wasted in attempting a surprise offensive detected before it was unleashed. Afterwards the Soviets would clearly pay for not only waiting to use such troops when their fifth echelon forces arrived, but also not fixing the inherent problems at a tactical level when on the attack.
ABOLITION had only suffered a minor delay.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 21:29:15 GMT
Two Hundred & Forty–One
The utter collapse of the Soviet Fourth Guards Army outside Vienna didn’t mean that the mission to aid the Austrians and the Italians by NATO forces coming down from Germany was a wash out. The French II Corps, with the attached Canadian 2nd Infantry Division under command, had entered Austria before that news came that Soviet troops had deserted in their tens of thousands and the orders had at first stayed the same for them to keep moving deeper into the country. There was at first the concern that maybe that news might have been overblown and then afterwards came the realisation that even with the stories from the east being true, there remained much for the French and Canadians to achieve by travelling through Austria…
…such as the open border with Czechoslovakia to the north of the Danube.
A small and very ineffective attack had come from out of Czechoslovakia into Austria when the invasion began with an effort to advance down to Linz halted early on and not far from the border between the two countries. The French First Army had been assigned the mission of invading Czechoslovakia as part of ABOLITION. Those French, Moroccan and Bundeswehr forces fighting in Bavaria were closing in from the west, but there was an opening to the south. Orders went out to General Zelicourt to change the axis of his advance.
The majority of those French troops which entered Czechoslovakia today were combat veterans who had seen action in Hessen stopping the Soviets from reaching the Rhine at Wiesbaden. The II Corps consisted of the 3rd & 5th Armored Divisions, two formations based pre-war in West Germany, and the 15th Infantry Division which had joined them after moving in from western France.
During the past week, France, like the rest of NATO and the wider Allies, had moved reinforcements into Germany for the fighting there and those extra men that joined the divisions with General Zelicourt’s combat command. France maintained a strong reserve force in peacetime with more than four hundred thousand soldiers and most of those were mobilised when the regular forces were in the lead up to the war; a significant portion of these were armour and infantry units alongside an extensive logistics commitment. The French IV Corps was created to go to northern Germany and join the French Second Army but many other reservists formed battalion-groups which joined those formations with the French First Army. Units such as those with the French II Corps were thus able to make their numbers back up following losses and while the reservists may not have been as well trained as those men which they replaced, they were still of good quality and saw some fighting before going to Austria to give them experience in combat. Moreover, when France had brought back to Europe the majority of its troops deployed overseas in Africa and the Caribbean many of these had gone to commands such as the French II Corps too with those regular troops further strengthening the formations tasked first to act as the reserve for the First Army and then as the corps detached for service in Austria.
Behind the French II Corps came the Canadians with their newly-raised formation ready to go into battle in support of their allies.
General Zelicourt had gathered his forces north of the Danube around the Austrian towns of Freistadt and Gmünd. The attack he launched today moved up to and across the Austrian-Czechoslovak border where the first engagements came with Czechoslovakian reservists. There were no border defences like those famous ones from the 1930s just plenty of fences and razor wire to keep Czechoslovak citizens inside and from escaping to the West. The twin axis’ of advance the French II Corps took would lead them towards their first objective: Ceske Budejovice, also known as Budweis.
Ceske Budejovice was a large manufacturing town famous for its breweries but also with other industries present too. Plenty of road and rail links converged upon the town and those running northwards headed towards the distant Prague. Taking the town would be an undertaking which the French believed that they could do with the forces available and place them deep inside the Czech part of this Warsaw Pact nation and right in the rear of Czechoslovakian efforts to defend their border with West Germany from the incursions which were already taking place there.
Once inside Czechoslovakia, the French smashed the light opposition forces thrown against them in what were hardly fair fights with the mass of tanks and other armoured vehicles which they put to use against generally dismounted infantry with barely a few heavy weapons. There was an expectation based upon intelligence that at some point, probably the next day or maybe even the following one, combat would be met with heavier forces though that wasn’t confirmed and again such units would be manned by reservists with older equipment that was anticipated to be issued with little in the way of fuel and ammunition. Militia was also expected to be faced from the moment that the border was crossed and organised by the Czechoslovak Communist Party with ‘stiffening’ from the StB security forces.
Those expected Militia were encountered, but not in the manner that had been foreseen. Instead, as French troops headed towards Ceske Budejovice they came across fighting taking place inside villages and small towns on the way. According to strategic intelligence reports, Poland was supposed to be up in arms, but it was found that it was in this little part of Czechoslovakia where the locals had risen. Militia units which had recently been formed in southern Bohemia as the French had moved towards the border had turned their guns on the authorities and civil strife had broken out. There was little organisation but a lot of killing taking place with so many men suddenly armed and far from happy at the ongoing war.
French forces met with these mutineers and assistance was given to both sides by the other in taking down all resistance to the ongoing advance. However, despite the vicious fighting which was starting to look like the beginnings of a civil war as those fighting the regime didn’t have the full support of the local population, these events didn’t speed up the French advance. There were many localised delays brought about in talks with armed parties who while not opposed to the French presence had their own goals. There was also a lot of anger from many Frenchmen when they witnessed massacres taking place in many places of what they were told were the ‘communist oppressors’ but what they regarded as unarmed local officials. It wasn’t thought that this uprising going on along their invasion route was taking place in other places through Czechoslovakia yet the French knew that if it was, then they would be witnessing a lot of bloodshed throughout the country as they continued their advance to liberate it when local civilians were already engaged in that process themselves in their own bloody fashion.
Away to the east, Austrian and Italian forces near Vienna and the Hungarian border were in a somewhat similar situation. They were dealing with localised issues on the ground that made sure that they couldn’t make lightning advances forward though there was a difference in the situation which they found themselves in.
Thousands of Soviet soldiers who had deserted their posts were still roaming across the Austrian countryside. There remained many acts of terror committed by them against the locals though at the same time there were many who actually now had decided that maybe they hadn’t made the best of decisions as they thought of their families back home suffering for their desertion. Without possession of maps and locals who were of course very unfriendly, the Soviet soldiers were lost in a strange land where they couldn’t talk the language. Many still wanted drink, women and treasure yet there were other needs too like food and shelter from the elements. At times some of these deserters banded together under leadership of a charismatic or outspoken figure who managed to draw his fellow former soldiers to him but such groups were in a crazy state of flux without real organisation and a struggle between those who wanted to lead and others who thought that they should.
Without organised opposition to stop them, the Italian Army moved fast to spread themselves across eastern Austria. They had now deployed all four corps commands inside their neighbouring country: the Fourth Army Corps was in the west and yet to see any fighting, the Fifth Army Corps remained closest to the enemy and then the Third & Sixth Army Corps’ were moving up behind them. A mass of helicopters was available to move around Italian troops along with plenty of light vehicles and they were undertaking what was in many respects a police action while still trying to get into position to see ‘real’ combat action too. Those thousands of troops had deserted and crippled the Soviet Fourth Guards Army but the command nucleus and much of the supporting elements of that field army remained in uniform inside Austrian territory. There were also the Hungarians who had crossed the border and while their advance had been checked and they were going nowhere fast, they still remained as an organised force even if the threat from them was minimal indeed.
The aim now was to throw the remains of the invaders out of Austria while making sure that all those engaged in rape, robbery and murder were stopped from doing so. It was a challenge but one which the Italians – supported by the shattered Austrians – could do. Afterwards there would be discussions about what to do next with regards as to whether a counter-invasion was on the cards though at the moment there remained a job to do here first.
Two Hundred & Forty–Two
General Hans-Henning von Sandrart was the high-ranking senior officer involved in the decision-making process which upset many divisional and brigade commanders within the British I Corps. The order came down from General Galvin above as SACEUR through von Sandrart’s headquarters as commander of Allied Forces Northern Germany and then to General Kenny before reaching General Inge and then those men who were unhappy at what they heard, but they unfairly focused upon the Bundeswehr general as he had been labelled recently in Western propaganda as the ‘Hero of Hannover’. He had been trapped there and led British and West German forces caught up in that pocket for some time before the relief had come with the British-led BLACKSMITH. Afterwards, von Sandrart had effectively had his responsibilities halved when his Bundeswehr comrade Generalleutnant Henning von Ondarza had taken upon command of Allied Forces Southern Germany – the whole headquarters had once been Allied Forces Central Europe – but there had remained much bad feeling directed against the Hero of Hannover due to a belief that he was taking all of the credit for the efforts made by the British Army.
This was all very unprofessional and actually quite unfair as von Sandrart hadn’t done anything wrong, but it was there.
Those orders which caused a lot of resentment concerned the axis of advance today for the British I Corps to change from their previous direction of eastwards to head southwards instead. Stendal remained in enemy hands and trying to take that town yesterday had cost a lot of men but the British were to go in the direction of the city of Magdeburg instead. The Bundeswehr and the Belgians needed assistance, those under General Inge’s command were told, in reaching there and therefore ridding the western side of the Elbe of strong Soviet forces. There was no actual insubordination, but there were many questions asked over whether the effort really needed to be made at the behest of a German especially when there was plenty of intelligence that the Soviet Twentieth Guards Army defending Stendal was on the verge of collapse.
Nonetheless, orders were orders and while von Sandrart’s name was unfairly cursed by many, those British officers did their duty. The 3rd, 4th and 7th Armoured Divisions moved south through Sachsen-Anhalt heading for Magdeburg while the 5th Infantry Division – along with corps’ reserve assets in the form of Paras – remained behind near Stendal.
Brigadier Mike Jackson had his men with the 32nd Guards Brigade deployed just east of Stendal near the Elbe rather than around the town like the rest of the division his command was attached to. The bridges over the river at Tangermünd were down and with recent heavy rains which had fallen the Elbe was certainly far too wide: there were no crossing operations taken place as part of a withdrawal across the Elbe. There were Bundeswehr forces off to the north and the squeeze was being put in the Soviet Twentieth Guards Army, so for now Jackson and his men had orders to maintain that pressure by their presence. There was no threat of any sort of offensive action taking place with all fuel stocks for the Soviets apparently spent and no more coming. Therefore, the day had been looking like it would be one of watching and waiting for Jackson.
Late in the morning, while artillery rumbled and created rubble, Jackson was informed of something important and what would change things by his brigade chief-of-staff: Major Frederick Viggers reported that there was a party of Soviet officers at the frontlines where the Coldstream Guards were who had approached under a makeshift white flag.
Jackson met with the trio of Soviets soon enough with Viggers alongside him and a US Army officer that his divisional commander had insisted attend too no matter what the enemy wanted to discuss. The American, who had turned raced to the scene in his HMMWV from nearby Gardelegen, who held the same rank as Jackson but was not in the same chain of command; it was the Briton who was in charge here in meeting with the Soviets today.
Speaking in Russian, Jackson dealt with the Soviets in a firm but courteous manner. They had asked those Coldstream Guards men who they met for a senior officer and Jackson explained that at the moment he was all they were going to see. The Soviets consisted of a full Colonel and two Majors. Viggers identified them as a regimental commander and his intelligence and supply officers. They appeared to be maintaining a façade as Jackson could tell with outward calm but a sense of fear underneath; he didn’t think that they were scared of him or being where they were, but of something else.
The Colonel explained that he and his officers, not just the two with him but most of his command staff and other officers within the regiment he commanded, wished to surrender themselves to the British Army as soon as possible. Jackson quickly picked up on the lack of comment over the fate of their men and that it was just officers who wished to surrender themselves and his belief came that they were fearful of their men. Standing orders were for any opportunities like this to be taken advantage of and promises made in such cases that couldn’t be met (as long as those weren’t outrageous) so that the war would be won as quickly as possible. With assistance from Viggers, Jackson set about arranging how that was going to take place while also informing his superiors up the chain of command of the situation he was facing with the commanders of a Soviet regiment wanting to surrender: a gap was clearly going to be opened in the enemy’s lines.
The American with Jackson and Viggers was Brigadier-General J. H. Binford Peay. This US Army officer had previously been the executive officer (operations) of the battle-destroyed 101st Air Assault Infantry Division. He had missed the destruction of the division which he had served in two weeks ago down in Hessen when those light infantrymen had gone up against Soviet tanks; he had remained back at the 101st Air Assault Infantry Division’s headquarters and had been quite upset since at the waste of lives then in a battle which the Screaming Eagles shouldn’t have fought in. Though he didn’t know it, Viggers had been in a similar situation as himself as the British 1st Infantry Brigade which he had previously served in had lost most of its men in battle (to nerve gas) while men like him in the rear with that formation’s command staff had survived. Had they had time to talk, they could have maybe found much common ground and even a bond. But, alas…
Afterwards, Peay had been reassigned to the recently-formed Allied Military Control Commission along with military officers from several NATO armies along with diplomats too. Such men as Peay were to administer East German occupied territory behind the frontlines and they had a very important role to play in future military control over civilians in East Germany from providing them with basic human needs to also getting rid of the organs of the dictatorship which Mielke in Berlin had inherited when his Soviet masters had put someone like him in power. However, as it turned out in this instance Peay was unneeded here as what was discussed wouldn’t need his direct assistance though he remained with Jackson. He was of course a bit put out by this but there was nothing to be done apart from the watch and learn how the British dealt with these surrendering Soviets here at Tangermünd.
During the period between the conclusion of the meeting where the Soviet officers had announced their intention to surrender themselves – therefore leaving the regiment in which they served with no one in-charge – and that taking place, there were some further exchanges between these gathered officers. None of the Soviets spoke English and only Jackson spoke Russian so the conversation was slow, but it was far from idle chit-chat. Jackson asked about the condition which the Soviets were facing with the war being as it was and gained answers that held some truth though there was also a stubborn pride displayed by those Soviets even if the midst of their surrender; they remained patriotic and proud of the Soviet Army… despite being about to desert from that organisation.
Peay had Jackson ask what these junior men thought of Ogarkov rather than questions directly relating to war itself.
‘Bonaparte’: that was what these men giving up called their leader. They were extremely contemptuous of him with one of those Major’s spitting on the ground at the mention of his name. Jackson, Peay and Viggers had all heard from intelligence reports that Ogarkov was widely admired throughout the officer class for many reasons not least getting rid of Chebrikov and smashing apart the KGB as he had done. They wondered whether this feeling was widespread or if what they were witnessing was an isolated incident…
The mechanics of this selected surrender were complicated. Those officers that wished to surrender had made the British aware, though in a roundabout manner, that they wished to flee from their men before those soldiers mutinied and Jackson had been told that he was to do everything in his power to allow that to happen. There would be chaos within the enemy lines when that happened but the orders came down that such a thing would be of an advantage for the future. Jackson requested further instructions as to what was to occur afterwards in particular was he to attack the enemy once they had lost their commanders, but was told that that wasn’t to be.
Those higher up were playing a ‘game’ which he wasn’t to be part of nor privy to the details to but he would follow his orders.
Twenty-three Soviet Army officers departed from their regiment from Lieutenants up to their Colonel. They fled their lines in a hurry and were unable to not attract the attention of those other officers they left behind nor the ordinary rank-and-file soldiers. Behind them, there was the expected chaos but those men got away with their lives with the fear that if they had stayed they were going to face death back there.
Jackson thought the whole thing a rather distasteful affair.
He could understand the strategic thinking beyond Tangermünd as news of what occurred – the truth but also exaggerated accounts, half-truths and even outright lies too – spreading for later effect, but he still hadn’t been happy to be part of it all. He didn’t consider those Soviet officers involved to have any honour. If he had been in the shoes of their Colonel, he wouldn’t have done that. Viggers and Peay both listened to Jackson as he explained that if the situation was reversed where he was serving an oppressive and illegal regime but too junior to do anything about that while taking part in a war where he was clearly on the current losing side, then he would have surrendered himself and made sure that his men were well looked after too. To abandon them as their officers had done here wasn’t something that he was pleased to have witnessed let alone taken part in. There would be the benefit to his career for the ‘successful’ incident and if this even in a small way helped shorten the war and cause less deaths then that was a good thing, yet it still gave him near nausea.
There would be other later incidents throughout the conflict where Jackson, among countless others, would feel the same way… but this was war.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 21:37:16 GMT
Two Hundred & Forty–Three
When later discovered through intelligence means, the events of the night of Sunday April 3rd near two small towns in eastern Saxony would be regarded by governments in the West as state secrets despite it not directly effecting them. All information was buried and no one who wasn’t privy to those details was meant to know. Even several years later, when it was thought that no harm could come from the public being told about what occurred at Bischofswerda and Koenigsbrueck and such knowledge would be of useful political value in the post-war world, it was all hushed up. Like the pre-war Ultimate Ultimatum concerning the nuclear threat made by Chebrikov to the United States before the fighting broke out, when it came to the nuclear incident which occurred there in Saxony, the public were kept in the dark about it.
Information would eventually emerge, first through some speculation and patchy details, before the Germans told the world, though that would occur in the early years of the Twenty-First Century and almost a decade and a half later. There were other secrets – again which probably would not cause any harm – hidden from the general public too for a variety of reasons as always had been the case with governments and wars which they fought.
What could have happened as a result of events at Bischofswerda and Koenigsbrueck caused this secrecy to occur and all knowledge of that to be jealously guarded.
Those two towns lay to the east of Dresden between that East German city and the Polish border. Garrisons of the Soviet Army lay around each and the formation which the men and equipment at both were under the command of was the 119th Independent Rocket Brigade. This was a Soviet Army unit under peacetime control of the Group of Soviet Forces Germany before being transferred to KGB control when RED BEAR commenced but in the days before an overt attack against the 119th Brigade took place all Third Chief Directorate personnel had been reassigned.
Plans made before the Moscow Coup in had been for the formation to be disestablished when the INF treaty with the United States was signed, yet Gorbachev – the ‘face’ of that treaty – had been deposed. The 119th Brigade had remained functioning with its men and weapons: the latter being a complement of twenty-seven TR-1 Temp-S intermediate-range ballistic missiles known to NATO as the SS-12 Scaleboard. Like the newer SS-20 Sabre and SS-23 Spider systems, these tactical weapons were regarded as a strategic threat to NATO due to where they were deployed geographically close to their presumed targets in Western Europe, the ability of their operators to hide their positioning at a tactical level due to mobility and the thermonuclear warheads which they carried.
The INF Treaty negotiations had seen an agreement where these Soviet weapons would be banned while NATO weapons such as the Pershing and the GLCM would suffer the same fate. Scaleboard missiles with the 119th Brigade were still in service during March 1988 though.
World War Three was a conventional conflict with the very limited use of chemical weapons and the lack of biological or nuclear weapons being deployed. With the latter, despite what had been said at the White House back before the first shots were fired, tensions remained extremely high with such systems. Aircraft, warships, submarines and silos all housed nuclear-capable bombs and missiles on both sides with four of the nations engaged in warfare – the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France – having their stocks deployed and ready to be put to use as soon as the other side used their first. The intentions of their opponents weren’t known, but the assumption had to be made that at any given moment the first nuclear detonations would begin.
To not be prepared for nuclear warfare when no one wanted such a thing would be foolish and potentially cause national suicide.
On both sides of the frontlines in Europe, there remained nuclear forces standing ready. There were warfighting assets engaged in tactical missions who had nuclear weapons stored ready to be loaded and used while there were too dedicated strategic platforms in-play too kept back from the fighting but close to it. On several occasions, nuclear weapons and their launch platforms had come under attack in what were officially regarded as accidental engagements where eagerness, carelessness or faulty intelligence saw platforms attacked by the other side. Most of these incidents occurred in the West with NATO systems being attacked by Soviet weaponry and there had been panicked moments on such occasions along with great suspicion from some that such ‘accidents’ were nothing of the sort. Twice there had been NATO attacks on Soviet dedicated strategic nuclear systems when aircraft on bombing missions deep into East Germany in the first instance and Poland in the second had bombed road-mobile missile platforms; the Soviets had been very apprehensive about those being accidents with a lot of drama occurring as well but nothing further had come from those air strikes in terms of missile launches.
The fog of war meant that neither side could ever be sure what the others intentions were when such incidents occurred yet other factors were taken into consideration when those happened and there hadn’t been an overreaction despite some close calls.
Those strategic missiles deployed across East Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Army were all mobile and travelled throughout those nations in a continuous fashion. They remained far back from the fighting and in ‘secure’ rear areas not moving too much of a distance away from their garrisons so that support for them wouldn’t be difficult but at the same time not tied to such fixed locations known to the enemy. This was a huge effort keeping convoys of missile launchers and supporting vehicles on the move day and night with irregular intervals between movements from one area where cover was sought to another. There was security in the form of armed parties travelling with the convoys – and decoy convoys too, just to confuse a potential opponent in an elaborate maskirovka – and reaction forces moving about as well rather than being fixed in one location less they too become a target for enemy action.
The coordination involved for this along with the manpower was an immense undertaking and quite demanding. The effort was made though when resources were tight everywhere else due to the strategic implications of failing to protect such weapons. The enemy would have to find them and then engage them and in doing so would have to expend a great deal of effort of their own.
The standing orders as to what action to take should these mobile missile platforms be attacked had been long-established: there was a launch-on-attack policy, what the West would call ‘use-them-or-lose-them’. Should the missiles when at their base or on patrol in peacetime or during conflict come under direct attack then they were to be fired against the priority target within their targeting database without waiting for further orders. There was a specific set of circumstances as to what form of an attack would justify such an action taken by junior commanders but it was standing policy that whether it be a military or civilian target which the missiles were aimed against at that time, should those weapons systems come under an air or commando attack then they were to open fire rather than see the missiles destroyed or fall into the wrong hands.
Such orders were part of a deterrence factor to make sure that the missiles were never attacked. The Soviet policy on this was that the West and NATO in particular were meant to be aware that mobile strategic missile systems deployed in Eastern Europe were operating under such guidelines and thus a safety net against attack was in place; unofficial contacts from diplomats to spooks had told the West this. Officially this launch-on-attack policy wasn’t regarded as a gamble, just a security measure but it certainly was a foolhardy risk. There had always been much caution on the part of many wearing the uniform of the Soviet Army as well as plenty of politicians that such a policy was very dangerous for if something went wrong and a mistake was made then a nuclear attack would be made without political authorisation. However, it was meant to ensure that the missiles weren’t to be engaged at all and therefore the policy wouldn’t have to be put to the test with the result being to accidentally start a nuclear war.
It was quite a gamble but one which had been in play for a long time…
…until Ogarkov seized power.
The new Soviet leader was not willing to allow such orders to stand to those missiles in Eastern Europe just like they were with submarines armed with SLBMs beneath the Kara Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk. He regarded the threat to such weapons systems from accidental encounters with the enemy as very real indeed and this had already been proven. On both occasions before he had taken power when mobile missile platforms in East Germany and Poland had faced enemy action there had been a refusal on the part of the officers involved with such attacks against them to follow procedures and open fire against their distant targets. If they had done so then the West German city of Bremen and RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire would have been blown to smithereens with the world then plunged into an accidental nuclear war. Those junior men had realised that the attacks against them were not of a strategic nature but rather aimed at their assigned air defences which had attempted to engage those aircraft involved. Such decisions were soon justified when it was realised what had occurred – there hadn’t been a NATO nuclear attack beginning – but mistakes had been nearly made and nuclear Armageddon had come far too close to occurring not once but twice.
As soon as Ogarkov had taken power, he had changed those orders.
Nuclear weapons were not to be used by Soviet forces anywhere without higher authorisation and certainly not at the judgement of junior men forward deployed under attack in a wartime theatre. Looking into the situation, Ogarkov had found out that Chebrikov had made the mistake there of thinking he was in-charge of such matters and had threatened the United States as he had without understanding how a nuclear war could very easily have been started without his say so… Chebrikov was dead now and Ogarkov had yet another reason to be pleased at the passing of such a man as that. The new orders were for strategic weapons systems such as the mobile missile platforms in Eastern Europe to destroy their weapons rather than launch a nuclear attack on their own whim in the face of enemy action. There was no ifs nor buts with that: Ogarkov issued that order and there was no one he was going to listen to telling him that maybe more options should have been given to individual commanders on the ground (or beneath the sea as it were with the Soviet Navy’s strategic missile submarines).
KGB Third Chief Directorate personnel who had previously been assigned to such weapons systems were all now departed and reassigned elsewhere on internal security missions within East Germany. Ogarkov had put his faith in the Soviet Army officers and soldiers operating such weapons and the support functions with them as these were what he regarded as his comrades not damn Chekists. Those who had been with the missiles had all been tasked far away from their previous duties as real soldiers were now doing their previous tasks. This was yet another security measure of Ogarkov’s as he feared an accidental nuclear war which would destroy the country he was trying to save… a possible ‘incident’ involving the KGB and those missiles was one of his fears as such people and their schemes had brought his country this close to ruin and he believed that they could only do worse should they be given the chance to.
However, he hadn’t taken into consideration that there might be others interested in those missiles.
Also to the east of Dresden and near where strategic missile systems with the 119th Brigade were currently deployed, soldiers of the East German Army had been gathering in secret for the past few days. More than two hundred paratroopers were assembled at a military base outside the town of Bautzen and these men had previously served with the East German 40th Independent Air Assault Regiment during its operations in the Baltic Approaches. Such men had all been carefully screened and removed from their regiment before it started fighting with the French Second Army near Lubeck. They were officially all wounded after combat at Karup Airbase and later at Arhus too yet none showed any signs of suffering from any injuries when in Denmark and could now have been with their comrades in Schleswig-Holstein.
Instead, they were in Saxony tasked to take part in a secret mission.
High-ranking senior officers from the East German Army briefed the men on their task… though it wasn’t known to the soldiers that these were actually personnel with the Stasi and the KGB instead; of the latter one a Colonel who had come from East Berlin. Regardless, the men were used to taking orders and their own regimental political officer was there at Bautzen. They were informed that a renegade Soviet Army unit had mutinied nearby and seized control of strategic nuclear weapons with dire consequences if those weapons were used. Many of the men involved had experience in dealing with such a situation in peacetime training exercises where they had taken part in practising seizing such weapons from the enemy in conflict. This would be a similar operation though a focus was to be on capturing such weapons and their supporting infrastructure intact rather than allowing any damage to come to any of it.
This mission, they were told, was authorised by Marshal Korbutov as the supreme commander of the Socialist Forces in Europe as well as Chairman Mielke. The paratroopers had the experience and there was much faith placed in them. They were to go into action where their task would be difficult but they were elite soldiers who had all operated under fire before and achieved their mission without failing in their duty. The renegade Soviet soldiers which they encountered would be traitorous scum and there was no need to take prisoners either; that point was hammered home to the paratroopers.
Late on the Sunday evening, just after the sun set, a collection of vehicles started to roll out of the barracks near Bautzen. There were passes for the convoy to get through traffic control points and their officers led them into battle in what they were told was a justifiable cause where they would do their duty. A few of the original paratroopers assembled – a couple of officers – were missing but no comment was passed on them. None of the soldiers knew that there had been some secret doubts raised and such sceptics of an outlandish story like this kidnapped before being shot during the pre-deployment stage of the mission.
This detachment of East German paratroopers headed towards certain areas of the Saxony countryside near Bischofswerda and Koenigsbrueck to do battle with the ‘traitors’ serving with the 119th Brigade. They went after Scaleboard missiles, TEL launch vehicles, missile-reload transport vehicles, trucks for engineering assistance & parts storage and command vehicles. Those who had sent them out to do this and who stayed behind were expecting that by dawn they, and thus East Germany, would have at the very least at least a dozen thermonuclear warheads and the means to launch them under their control while there would be only dead bodies left behind and plenty of confused Soviets.
There would be plenty of blood spilt tonight.
Two Hundred & Forty–Four
Three weeks ago, Colonel Alexander Ivanovich Lebed had been in Norway. He had jumped into Norway with the forward command group of the 76th Guards Airborne Division when Sola Airport was seized and even saw a little action there. A couple of Norwegian reservists had felt the power of the AKS-74U assault rifle which he had had in his hands and he had been very proud to serve his country in battle there.
Unfortunately, another Norwegian had shot Lebed soon afterwards during the small-scale fighting and the then First Officer of the 76GAD had been badly wounded. Against his will, he had been evacuated out of Norway back to East Germany where the division in which he had been the second-in-command of had staged from. There had come a short period of enforced rest at a military hospital near Potsdam after surgery to remove a bullet from his shoulder and all the while Lebed had argued that in his opinion he was fit enough to return to the fight which developed there in Norway when the British arrived to retake Sola Airport.
Later, he had been told that the 76GAD had surrender there in Norway and he had been mad at his comrades for doing that and dishonouring the fine traditions of the formation in which he had served. Actually, only one regiment of the division had officially surrendered and the rest fought to the end so his anger was misplaced, yet he didn’t know that.
Reassignment orders had come which had tasked Lebed to Marshal Korbutov’s headquarters staff and he had not been very happy at all to be what was in effect a glorified messenger delivering instructions in person to field commanders where it was thought necessary to do that. Others like him, often lightly-wounded combat veteran officers who had fast returned to duty, told him that this task was career-enhancing though Lebed had his career mapped out already in the Airborne Forces rather than a true staff role. Further new orders had come late last week re-tasking him to do the same role for Ogarkov like he had been for Korbutov. Lebed hadn’t met his new commander until the latter came to Poland this weekend just gone but he had done tasks as instructed by that man verbally giving orders to senior men in the field. None of this had filled him with joy as he only wanted to see action again.
This morning in Saxony, Lebed was fulfilling a different role for Ogarkov. As he was starting to believe was his unfortunate fate he was denied combat again though he did get to see some ‘action’.
Loud comments of ‘fucking German hooligans’ and ‘traitorous scum’ were heard by several Soviet Army officers with Lebed at Bischofswerda. These were military intelligence staff of a junior rank to the man who was now in command of the investigation as to what had happened here. That was something crying out for experience that could be brought by the KGB but instead there were just these Soviet Army officers with their foul-mouthed commander here in Saxony.
Lebed had been told that today was some sort of religious holiday for those in the West though he was sure that their fighting troops wouldn’t be stopping their invasion to celebrate whatever ‘Easter Monday’ was. He had work to do himself and had been busy with that since long before dawn. Having just emerged from a tent when an improvised field hospital had been set up on the edges of this woodland outside Bischofswerda, Lebed would swear again before he went over to the junior men with him on this rush assignment.
Those with him reported to him what they had found out here at the third site they had visited this morning and how that information went with everything else that they knew. Here at this location where elements of the 119th Brigade’s 1150th Rocket Battalion had been ambushed during the night the situation elsewhere had repeated itself: in the dead of night there had come a gas alarm and then dismounted soldiers had struck trying to kill those Soviet soldiers manning the vehicles which carried nuclear-armed missiles as well as supporting elements. Such an effort had been hastily and bloodily fought against but when the situation was on the verge of being lost, demolition charges were detonated destroying what the attackers had come to either destroy or take for themselves. Afterwards, the attackers had withdrawn leaving many dead bodies behind from both sides though also a few fatally-wounded men of whom questions were asked and identities established.
Those who had struck here had been East German paratroopers making claims that they were under orders to put down a mutiny.
Such a story, when first heard, sounded ridiculous yet with a little bit of contemplation it was one from which sense could be made of. Lebed had come to understand why that had been told and how it had worked too. There was plenty of physical evidence to support that in the form of bodies and the few men who had told such tales, like the young East German corporal suffering from soon-to-be fatal wounds which he had just seen, had been in no position to lie.
There were seven separate sites like this one where the remains of the equipment manned by the 119th Brigade lay smouldering while there were only bodies at an eighth where the defenders had fought off their attackers without resorting to destroying their equipment. Almost the entire combat strength of that strategic-armed formation had been lost along with several hundred Soviet soldiers either killed by a nerve gas agent or by bullets from soldiers meant to be on the same side as them. Overall, in terms of weapons fielded, the loss was minimal yet this wasn’t something that couldn’t be ignored or put up with. There was also a clean-up operation to take place after the destruction caused; the charges used by the brave men with the 119th Brigade who had faced gas fired by mortars and then gunfire in the dark had been effective in destroying the missiles as weapons but the warheads contained within needed safe removal. This wasn’t something which could be rushed even though the desire to do that was imperative.
Lebed wasn’t alone in believing that there would be a reckoning with those responsible, but he hoped that he would be the one to carry that out.
Other junior men under Lebed’s command were currently tasked by him on duties across this part of Saxony. They were talking to uninvolved personnel involved in traffic management and communications duties as well as field police troops. Wounded Soviet Army missilemen were being spoken with and then there was the officer in-charge of rear area security for this region as well. All of the details as to how what took place last night needed to be known to find out the useful knowledge to put to use to identify who was behind what had happened so that it wouldn’t be able to occur again. Lebed had been informed that other strategic missile systems across East Germany, not just in Saxony, were on alert as well unless another such attack was in the offing while there were also Spetsnaz soldiers under Ogarkov’s personal orders removing further nuclear weapons from two storage sites in Brandenburg that the East Germans previously had access to: Himmelpfort and Stolzenhain.
With the knowledge of what had actually occurred, Lebed now had the task of finding out the how and the why it had been done. Those attackers had been deceived by someone with very nefarious intentions indeed and whoever that was had managed to gain access to intelligence pinpointing where the missiles with the 119th Brigade would be located when they were attacked. Where had the nerve gas used in the attacks come from was something else which Lebed would have to discover along with where those weapons were meant to have been taken and by what means should the operation to seize them have been worked.
Knowing that men from the East German Army had been the ones who assaulted those locations which he visited didn’t mean that that shattered organisation was actually responsible for the killing unleashed. Most of their ranks were either dead or prisoners of NATO forces. Moreover, the East German Army itself wasn’t regarded as having the will to try to get away with something like this with Lebed believing that their men had been used.
Ogarkov had tasked Lebed with this duty during the night and told the younger man that his immediate suspicion – one related before many facts were known – was that the KGB were responsible. Ogarkov hadn’t said what had brought him to that conclusion, but Lebed didn’t need to understand the thinking there: it was clear that the hand of the Chekists was behind all of this. No one else would have dared do such a thing as this.
There were plenty of questions to be answered when identities were revealed and motives told and Lebed would have a lot of work to do. He had been trusted to lead this enquiry though and finish it to the end come what may so he set about doing just that. His first task would be to find out where those KGB men who had previously served with the 119th Brigade as Third Chief Directorate officers had ended up and who they had been involved with since then.
To him, this sounded like the best way to get started on finding out the truth of the whole affair. Lebed knew that it was going to cause a lot of trouble but he was ready for that and he wouldn’t be alone either… he had the guns of the Soviet Army behind him.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 21:45:57 GMT
Two Hundred & Forty–Five
“This is a summary of the headlines at midday on Monday April the Fourth from the B.B.C World Service.
Churches across Britain are reporting record attendances yesterday during Easter Sunday services. There were sombre gatherings offering prayers and reflecting upon the loss suffered by many during the ongoing war affecting the country, Europe and much of the world. A statement released by the Government announced that senior members of the Royal Family, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, attended church services too though further details there were not forthcoming.
Additional remarks by the National Government stated that the thoughts and prayers of the Prime Minister Missus Margaret Thatcher were with the families of service members and also those not in uniform affected by the war, in particular those who have suffered the loss of loved ones.
In other news, there are expected to be discussions again tomorrow between senior figures in the Labour Party not part of the coalition National Government. Members of the Opposition in Parliament will be holding a meeting at an undisclosed venue concerning their level of support with off-the-record statements promising a ‘re-evaluation’ of the role of the Opposition within the National Government. There are several reports that consideration will be given to formally expelling Members of Parliament from the Opposition Front Bench who formally joined the National Government last month from the Labour Party though these remain unconfirmed.
No comment on such reports has been made from the Labour Party itself nor those Ministers now serving with the National Government.
On the Continent, there has been an official statement made by NATO senior command that Erfurt and Magdeburg, two East German cities, have fallen to troops from the Allies with both of those locations seeing what was described as ‘moderate’ fighting to take them from the Socialist Forces. Further fighting during the advance into East Germany towards occupied West Berlin continues along with additional efforts to liberate West German territory in the north around Lubeck and the outskirts of Hamburg too with ‘severe’ levels of fighting reported in those places.
A briefing for the press in Whitehall this morning by the Ministry of Defence stated that British forces deployed in Germany with the NATO armies remained fully involved in the fighting. Efforts to liberate West Berlin as part of the commitment by the Allies to do so would continue yet there were no figures released upon the latest numbers of casualties suffered during that.
Mister Kazimierz Sabbat, President of the Polish Government-in-exile, issued a statement from London calling for the armed forces of the Allies to remember that Polish troops caught up in the fighting on the Continent were there against their will and were victims of the conflict too. The President asked that those men be in the thoughts of all along with those citizens of Poland now attempting to liberate themselves within their own country from oppression. He called too on the British Government, as well as those of the Allies, to recognise his long-standing government as the only legitimate representatives of the Polish people and for all assistance possible to be given to those fighting in Poland to free themselves.
There are reports that further rebellions have broken out within the territory of the Soviet Union itself in parts of Central Asia and the Caucasus region against the regime in Moscow. The National Government has made no comment with regard to this though there are unconfirmed reports that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is monitoring such events. News from these places within the Soviet Union has been hard to verify but there have been recognised sources within Turkey which state that fighting in the Soviet Republics of Georgia and Armenia along with many smaller Autonomous Republics in the Caucasus has been taking place; fighting there is said to have taken on an ethnic dimension as well as against the security forces.
Many rationing restrictions for food will be suspended this week across Britain with a widening of the lifting of such limits for domestic consumption that began last week. The National Government will make a statement later today confirming what will be freely available and families across the country can expect to benefit from this. This comes following the recent spate of arrivals of large food shipments into the country from South America and the National Government is reported to be keen to make such foodstuffs available at once to the public. There remain restrictions in-place with regards to alcohol and tobacco. Restrictions on the use of petrol will stay as they are due to wartime shortages while the moratorium on payment of electricity, gas and water bills will stay active. The weekend’s lifting of the night-time blackout is reported to be have been received well across the control and the National Government has announced that there will be no changes made there.
Protests in Yugoslavia continue with citizens of many of that nation’s constituent republics engaged in demonstrations against the regime. Access by the international press to cities such as Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana remains forbidden with many foreign journalists including those from the B.B.C having been evicted from the country following the start of the protests. There have been many reports that violence has erupted alongside these protests and away from the big demonstrations in the cities there have been observations made of violence occurring too in this historically violent region.
Discussions in New York at the United Nations are still ongoing concerning a motion put forward by several nations, Britain and the United States among them, to expel the Soviet Union and other countries of the Socialist Forces alliance from that international body. Such efforts have previously been rebuffed with strong objections made against such a course of action yet new diplomatic initiatives to gain support from further countries for such a move are underway. The National Government has repeatedly stated that it would be in the best interests of the world community to do such a thing though protestations from many Third World countries, including many within the Commonwealth, were instrumental in those past failures and reportedly show no sign of ceasing.
There will be another summary of the news headlines again in an hour at One o’clock.”
“Good morning, this is C.N.N broadcasting from Atlanta and we are here with the early morning international news headlines.
United States service personnel remain committed overseas to the ongoing war against the Soviet Union with what is now the largest series of simultaneous military operations ever conducted by those in uniform before. Official figures released show that the reintroduction of the Draft was responded to with immense positive results with less than two per cent of those called-up refusing mobilisation of America’s young men. Alongside these official figures, unofficial numbers point to thousands of women volunteers across the country joining their male counterparts in offering to serve themselves before the Draft came into place with many of those now preforming vital non-combat roles for the U.S Armed Forces.
Fighting continues to take place across the globe by American forces who are joined of course by those in uniform with many other nations defending freedom with the Allies. Liberating occupied portions of West Germany, Denmark and Austria remain key objectives for the war as stated by the Defence Department – relocated to an undisclosed location on a continued temporary basis – as well as ridding West Berlin of foreign occupation too. There has been confirmation that Norway and Finland were both cleared several days ago of hostile troops and major combat operations in most of Scandinavia have come to an end. Secretary of Defence Carlucci, in a statement made to the C.N.N and other elements of the American media, added that military operations continued ‘around the periphery’ of the Soviet Union but wouldn’t be drawn on where those locations were and what that combat involved only to say that it remained of a conventional nature.
Secretary of State Grassley, in a separate statement, announced that the ‘armies of democracy’ were on the move though and once again stated that the intention remained for a peaceful settlement to be reached with the Soviet Union and its allies which would bring an end to the conflict.
There has been little recent news concerning the health of President Reagan though it is known that he remains in a medically-induced coma at a location which is being kept secret. Friends and supporters of the President have asked for prayers for his health to continue and affirm the hope that those will be heard. Moreover, Acting President Bush mentioned President Reagan last night when he spoke to the American public and repeated that message as well as assuring his listeners that the very best medical care was being given.
Congress is due to start hearings tomorrow with regard to the conduct of the war and also events leading up to the Soviet and Cuban attacks. There has been strong words exchanged in public between many Congressmen and Senators from both parties offering different viewpoints and such antagonism is expected to be seen during closed sessions when they begin. Cuba’s attacks against Florida and the recent peace treaty agreed in The Bahamas are expected to cause tension during those hearings, which has stretched bipartisan support of the war to the limit, but so too are discussions concerning warfare in Germany and in the North Atlantic against Soviet-led forces.
Sources close to the Defence Secretary have stated that he is angry at such plans to call senior military figures before Congress when they are engaged in warfare with enemies of this country though there have been denials from figures within Congress that requests have been made to hear testimony from generals and admirals currently deployed abroad. Military set-backs early in the war within the so-called Fulda Gap and in the Norwegian Sea are believed to be the subject of such inquires where Carlucci isn’t eager to see those in uniform recalled home. Furthermore, F.B.I Director Sessions is also anticipated to be called before Congress to answer questions in closed hearing concerning the apparent lack of preparation to combat the many deadly terrorist attacks by foreign commandoes which have taken place against American citizens here at home.
Speaking from Havana, Grassley was met by large crowds yesterday when he unexpectedly visited there after signing the Treaty of Nassau in The Bahamas. The Secretary of State spoke of his ‘pleasant surprise’ at such scenes with ordinary Cubans out in the streets in their tens of thousands cheering his arrival to have closed-door meetings with Cuban military officials there. This morning has seen Cuba become the sixty-fourth nation to declare that it is in an active state of war with the Soviet Union; two other countries have already joined them earlier today bringing that number even higher as Egypt alongside the island nation of Antigua & Barbuda have become members of the Allies.
Full trading on Wall Street is expected to start tomorrow. The shut down during the first week of the war and the subsequent two weeks of partial trading will come to an end with what Treasury Secretary Baker yesterday stated would be a ‘sensible response’ to how the war is going. Other leading world markets are due to open soon but the New York Stock Exchange will be the first among them and setting the pace. Security measures will remain tight in a physical sense and there will be some S.E.C control over market trades made too; Baker is expected to meet with many figures from the financial markets to address their concerns regarding what role the S.E.C will play in the oversight of certain elements of trading. Stocks in defence industries but also other war-related industries are expected to rise heavily with investors reported to be looking forward to tomorrow morning.
Military and civil authorities in Texas, Virginia and Wyoming are urging citizens in those states to not try to assist in ongoing efforts to track down foreign commandoes on the run there. Deaths have already occurred as many Americans have taken it upon themselves to do their patriotic duty in defending their country and while gratitude has been expressed by many, including Acting President Bush, there have been warnings that such Spetsnaz terrorists are extremely dangerous and will not hesitate to kill. Texas State Guard troops, deployed by Governor Clements to support the military, have reportedly seen action in western parts of Texas combating such an extraordinary threat as this to ordinary Americans.
The F.C.C has confirmed that had recently met again with media outlets including C.N.N to discuss reporting restrictions regarding the war. There has been some controversy over First Amendment rights with accusations of attempts at censorship made, especially concerning the murder by suspected Spetsnaz terrorists on the eve of war of C.I.A Deputy Director Robert Gates. Gates, a long-term Republican figure with a record of public service, was killed in one of the first incidents of terror here in the United States before war broke out in an ambush against his motorcade that took the lives of five others too. News of this slaying didn’t break for more than two weeks with broadcasters and the print media respecting the wishes of the Reagan Administration here. Other protests have been lodged concerning journalists working abroad in combat zones where again agreed restrictions in the interests of national security were broken in places by figures high up in Defence Department.
Further credible reports have emerged overnight from inside Germany both sides of the now shattered Iron Curtain concerning atrocities committed there in the now infamous P.O.W camps that the Soviets and their allies had up and running there. Acts of tortures and massacres have been shown to have occurred along with disturbing stories of sexual abuse against female service personnel held too; C.N.N has been told that war crimes investigators are engaged in the process of gathering evidence. Further to this, we will have a special report Live after this news summary from one of our correspondents on the ground inside East Germany at one of those camps where viewers are reminded that many images of an unpleasant nature are likely to offend.
Now, we shall go over to East Germany and our reporter outside the town of Arnstadt for that special report.”
“This is the voice of the Radio Moscow World Service’s English language afternoon news.
The brave soldiers, sailors and airmen of the armies of the Socialist Forces continue to fulfil their Internationalist Duty in combating the war of aggression unleashed by the Capitalist, Imperialist, and Fascist powers. Foreign invasions against the Motherland through Eastern Europe continue yet there are strong efforts being made to defend the Democratic German Republic and the Czechoslovakian Socialist Republic from invaders on their way further east. The fighting remains a struggle but one which those upholding the moral duty to defend the people against enslavement will emerge from victorious.
Cowardly pilots from the air forces of the NATO powers – Americans, English, and Germans among them – have repeatedly bombed civilians across Europe as they unleash their war to conqueror the continent and attempt to approach the gates of the Motherland. The great cities of reunited Berlin, Warsaw, Prague as well as free Hamburg have been struck at with workers and their families slaughtered by merciless attacks. Heroic efforts have been made to save lives by the men charged with stopping this murder from occurring. The German city of Stendal has recently joined this tragic list where the blood of innocents has been spilt with countless casualties caused there among those who were unable to defend themselves against killers unleashing death the skies.
Those in the West are unapologetic for their actions and counter the truth with cruel denials, elaborate fabrications and vicious lies.
Military actions by French Government, who claim to be socialist but instead whose actions resemble those of a pack of wild hyenas, to join with the West Germans and the NATO powers betray the ideas of the French Republic and the wishes of its people. Protests against the regime there have been met with harsh reprisals that shame such a nation. The long-standing traitors hiding in London from the rightful justice of the Polish people – Sabbat and his cowardly cohorts – create lies about a nation which has no need of them. Counter-revolutionary activity in Poland is whipped up by those with perverted dreams of personal powers but the majority of the Polish people are working with their government and aided by their allies here in the Soviet Union to put a stop to that with earnest.
Across the developing Third World, nations who not long ago rid themselves of the shackles of Colonialism have been forced back into involuntary servitude by their illegal rulers who have no mandate from their people. Country after country across the Americas, Africa and Asia have had their allegiance brought by Western banks to make war too upon the Soviet people; rulers enrich themselves while their people starve. Chief among them is South Africa and the racist fascists in Pretoria who have declared war upon the native peoples of the continent. The West have allied themselves with these modern-day Nazis and do not care about the horrors that will be inflicted upon all those who stand in the way of Pretoria’s colonialist dreams of the Boer with his foot upon the necks of those from Cape Town to the Congo.
Marshal of the Soviet Union Nikolai Vasilyevich Ogarkov has again called upon the Soviet people to remain steadfast in their support for the war. He has reminded his comrades across the nation that the men in uniform at the front are fighting to save the Motherland from an invasion on the scale of Hitler’s Barbarossa; those at home need to do their duty to the state as well whether they be at the factory, in the fields or in their homes. Waste, idleness and ill-discipline behind the lines will only mean death to those in uniform with the ultimate consequences of failure being too terrible to contemplate for all.
Abroad, there are millions of progressive people who only want peace like the people of the Soviet Union and its many fraternal allies want too. These heroes reject the actions of traitors displayed elsewhere in the world and the morally-bankrupt policies of collaborators and are fighting as well to liberate the workers in their countries.
The Motherland stands with such righteous fellow comrades in distant lands and their sacrifices will not be in vain while their achievements will be celebrated.
Peace remains something which the enemies of the workers in the Motherland will not allow. Again and again they reject the most sincere efforts to work together to bring an end to the death and destruction. Marshal Ogarkov had declared that he will continue to work towards bringing an end to the war which was launched against the Soviet people by those cowardly murderers abroad yet at the same time with every breath he will fight to protect the nation the invasion which is being attempted again by those in the West.
The Soviet people have a message for those who wish to kill their valiant soldiers and enslave them in their own country: we will fight to stop you and we shall emerge the victors.”
Two Hundred & Forty–Six
British troops weren’t involved in the capture late yesterday of Magdeburg as that was left to Bundeswehr forces moving in from the west, yet their approach towards the East German city from the north had assisted in the collapse of enemy opposition there. Challenger and Chieftain tanks serving within the Tiger Division had reached as far as Wolmirstedt and the east-west running Elbe-Weser Canal just ahead throwing enemy efforts to contain the advance by the Bundeswehr VI Corps. Leopard-1 tanks of the recently-formed 16th Panzergrenadier Division had been advancing along the other side of that waterway running through the middle of northern Germany and physical contact was made with them afterwards, but the British I Corps stayed on the northern side of the canal.
Defined operational areas had been mapped out for ABOLITION and those were being stuck to with the result being that the West German VI Corps took control of Magdeburg. There remained pockets of enemy resistance inside the city where East German Militia units, abandoned by what Soviet forces had managed to flee towards the Elbe to try to cross that river, and those would be dealt with by the West Germans rather than the British.
The Elbe-Weser Canal became the southern boundary of the British I Corps area on the western banks of the Elbe and stretched northwards up as far as Stendal. Above there and along lower parts of the Elbe there was the Bundeswehr IV Corps manning the river line as far as Wittenberge. To the south, General Kenny had his Belgian forces deployed southwest of Magdeburg and pushing for the Saale.
The British Second Army was now fully deployed in combat operations inside Sachsen-Anhalt and had pushed enemy forces back against the Elbe with few of those managing to get over that wide river in an organised fashion let alone with their heavy equipment. There were scattered pockets of resistance everywhere in the rear and along isolated positions of the riverbank that were now the priority in combating before they could be further advances eastwards. Supplies and engineering equipment needed to be brought forward before the Elbe could be crossed in strength too and while that was ongoing the threat to those logistics links from cut-off small groups of the enemy was dealt with.
The best method that the British Army had found for dealing with stubborn enemy forces hold-up in surrounded locations was to blast them into surrender using stand-off weapons such as artillery and air support too, when the latter was available, before moving in with infantry to mop up. The Belgians copied the British approach as they too worried over the scale of the casualties which they had taken in this war so far, but the Bundeswehr believed in rooting out the problem on the ground with careful infantry assaults which while supported by artillery were done by hand. As a slowdown in forward operations came into play for the day ready for the next big advance, these different methods of dealing with the many enemy units surrounded in the rear were put to use throughout captured enemy territory.
Troops from the Royal Regiment of Wales’ first battalion (1 RRW) serving within the 20th Armoured Brigade and part of the Iron Division were deployed in the area around the smouldering Mahlwinkel Airbase located between Stendal and Magdeburg. The nearby village after which that captured facility was named along with many others in the immediate area had been bypassed during the push southwards yesterday but today there was an effort for the Welsh soldiers to smash the enemy forces which had retreated into them. The airbase itself was used as a base of operations for the British troops dismounted from their tracked vehicles and they struck out in several directions through the day.
Italian-built Mod-56 guns – designated the L5 Pack Howitzer in British service – had been taken from storage and used by the British for behind the lines operations when artillery support was needed for the past week. Self-propelled guns and newer towed artillery like the L118 was being utilised in the frontline role but the old L5s were still very useful. 1 RRW conducted small-scale operations around the edge of the cordons which those guns fired inside of with aggressive patrolling and sniping to assist in wearing down the enemy. The guns kept up a good rate of fire though of course there were problems with them which had brought about their removal from frontline service some years ago and the artillery fire wasn’t always as effective as it should have been. Explosions ripped through the villages which Soviet troops and East German irregulars had barricaded themselves in while the British infantry outside waited for the right moment to strike.
Bertingen was attacked first with a full company attack taking place there. There were some Soviet soldiers present there but mainly East German Militia and the village had been identified early on as somewhere open to attack. A distraction effort was made by one platoon of 1 RRW before the other two made the main effort which came up the road from the south and not from the open fields to the east or the woodland to the west. There was plenty of initial return fire from the defenders who hadn’t been wholly broken by all of the artillery unleashed against them, but their resistance was brittle and they couldn’t deal with the effective fire and manoeuvre tactics put to use by their opponents. This was something which the British Army excelled at – small-scale infantry fighting tactics – and they took down their weakened opponents fighting at first on the edge of the village and then inside it. An improvised casualty aid station was found that the East Germans had been using to treat their large number of wounded and the Welsh soldiers made sure that help was sent there before moving through buildings that weren’t on fire and around ones which were seeking out the last remains of resistance. Rifle shots came out of windows often down towards them and the soldiers here were glad that they had recently had a deployment to Ulster – which hadn’t been enjoyable at the time – so they could deal with that. Here the rules of engagement were different and hand-held rocket-launchers were used to put a stop to such sniping though they did go inside such places afterwards to make sure that the enemy there was dead. Soviet troops inside Bertingen surrendered once the 1 RRW were inside the village and while there weren’t many of them this was a happy occurrence as they were better trained than the irregular East Germans who couldn’t bring the attack to a halt.
There were losses taken by the 1 RRW by the end of the engagement, but these would be regarded as minimal and a great deal lower than they would have taken had they had not been given the artillery support they had which had done so well in softening up the enemy first.
Cobbel and Uetz, two nearby villages, were attacked in the same fashion. A couple of hours of artillery barrages then a company-sized infantry attack brought the crushing of opposition at both. Again there remained stubborn resistance from highly-motivated Militia forces organised by the East Germans but those men armed with nothing more than assault rifles and with the bare minimal training couldn’t compete with what was thrown against them. Soviet soldiers in those villages were rear-area men who quickly realised that they too couldn’t stop the attacks coming against them and they gave up the fighting quickly than the locals who they certainly didn’t want to die with.
Mahlwinkel was bigger than the trio of smaller villages and the British knew that it would be tougher to take.
Yesterday, armour with the Blues & Royals had rolled through this location on the way southwards and fought on the move against ineffective sniper fire and also plenty of RPGs fired against their Challengers too. They had continued on afterwards but done much damage there before barricades were assembled by the defenders who stayed in the village. These were mainly Soviet military personnel from both the Soviet Army and Air Force cut-off but believing that they could follow orders and hold out; there weren’t as many East German Militia present.
There was a crossroads at Mahlwinkel and a major if quite wrecked railway line ran alongside it. Civilians had been seen leaving the village before the artillery started and the 1 RRW was glad of that following rumours that had recently swept through the battalion that in other East German towns and villages many innocents had recently been killed. Soviet soldiers and East German Militia were fair game but no one liked knowing that they were responsible for the deaths of women and children. The use of heavier weapons than just the assigned battery of guns manned by Royal Artillery reservists had this been authorised.
A pair of French Mirage-5F attack-fighters – originally built for Israel but due to diplomatic reasons in the late Sixties now in Armee de l’Air service – commenced a low-level air attack against the village moments after the British guns had ceased fire. They dropped many high-explosive bombs upon the village with the particular 500lb bombs used chosen due to the lethality of their fragments. Plenty of enemy troops would hopefully be caught in the blasts of these and this was the signal for the afternoon attack to begin.
All three rifle companies with the 1 RRW were used in the operation against Mahlwinkel with the fire support company as well bringing dismounted weapons. The threat to armoured vehicles moving slow among buildings remained high and the FV432s were all being serviced for planned operations tomorrow, so the Welsh soldiers moved on foot like they had at Bertingen, Cobbel and Uetz. Their machine guns and mortars were used to great effect during the warm-up to the assault and then MILAN missiles were fired against observed enemy strongpoints on the village’s edges which had returned fire. These blasts tore holes in those defences and the infantry were quick to take advantage of that. The Soviets weren’t expecting the British to come at them so quickly.
The first move by the 1 RRW was a feint to the northwest and designed to draw attention. It certainly did and the Soviets rushed to counter if before the two main attacks came from the southwest and the east. Outer defensive lines fell with the latter two attacks though there were rapid withdrawals made further into the village. Many buildings were fortified with hasty work done to them and the Soviets trying to make each one a strong-point that could give flanking fire to others engaged. This was something that the British weren’t prepared to carry on with as their intention was not to suffer mass casualties fighting a battle which the enemy was prepared for.
Corrected artillery fire was called down upon many building from where the stiffest defences was coming from as the 1 RRW had its men draw back. Those Welsh soldiers watched as houses and public building crumbled and burnt. In a few cases men would emerge from them with weapons in hand and shots were taken at those though in most cases the survivors of careful attacks like this were hurt or even on fire and were left alone. More MILAN missiles flew against other buildings during the lull in the artillery barrage as guns changed position just in case counter-battery fire was being organised against them and during that time there came the first few instances of surrenders.
Soviet troops started emerging from undamaged buildings without weapons and with their hands in the air. On their guard, the Welsh soldiers would let such men come to them while keeping them covered in case of an elaborate trap, but they instead found men willing to give up who knew that they were beaten. Quickly the few surrenders turned into a flood as more and more Soviets gave themselves up. A few did keep firing and complicated matters so that artillery and missiles had to be used again to kill die-hards who wouldn’t quit, but eventually all organised resistance came to an end.
There were still some East Germans who weren’t going to play along though.
Intelligence reports had filtered down throughout the NATO armies engaged in ABOLITION about expected strong resistance from East German Militia and almost everywhere they were encountered they put up a hard fight. To NATO soldiers the determination which was shown would have been something to be respected from ill-trained fighters if they weren’t aware of atrocities committed by Mielke’s regime against captured POW’s but West German civilians too during their occupation on the other side of the Inter-German Border. British troops especially who were based in Germany generally had strong feelings as they lived among the latter in peacetime while were of course very upset at what had happened to their fellow solders when held prisoner. If East Germans wanted to surrender then that was all well and good, if not…
Assistance was given by some captured Soviets in showing access to strongpoints manned by East German Militia and those were attacked with grenades and bayonets fitted to rifles after artillery strikes had done their worst. Tough fighting hand-to-hand ensued and there were some gruesome incidents.
Mahlwinkel was secured before sunset.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 21:54:24 GMT
Two Hundred & Forty–Seven
POW camps set up by NATO were located all across Western Europe and far back from the frontlines. There was a desire to keep prisoners taken as far away as possible from possible liberation by the enemy in the face of a counterattack but no desire to spend too much effort shipping them overseas. Belgium, France and Spain were the locations where the majority of these camps ended up being located though there were some inside Norway and Sweden too: no POW camps were set up in West Germany even on the western side of the Rhine.
Decades worth of staff planning had gone into POW camps through the NATO framework though also conducted individually by the armies of the West. Staff officers had spent much time on such a task with reviews of old plans and new ideas regularly undertaken. There had been exercises too were the construction of camps along with filling them with ‘the enemy’ had been practised and much of that had been rather realistic too. Military police units, regulars and reservists, had been tasked that in wartime they would run these camps with intelligence officers assigned too. How to feed, clothe and provide medical care to POWs taken as well as to guard them had been gone over time and time again.
However, there couldn’t be an accurate assessment made of how this would all work out in wartime. NATO had no idea as to how long such a war would go on nor whether it would stay conventional. The willingness of Soviet and Warsaw Pact troops to surrender could only be guessed at and so too how they would react once inside camps. Numbers in terms of prisoners and thus guards were something which NATO armies would only find out when conflict came.
Caen in Normandy was the site of one of the many POW camps established by NATO in northern France. It was manned in the main by Frenchmen though there were some American and Canadian personnel assigned in staff and intelligence roles. It was located outside of the city where much fighting had occurred during the latter stages of World War Two but judged to be very far away from any conflict during World War Three.
This POW Camp was what was deemed ‘Category P2’ by NATO meaning that it was for political officers serving within the armies of the Socialist Forces with low and medium ranks. There were no enlisted men here nor officers from the regular armies of the enemy, just those from the security services captured during the fighting. Soviet KGB personnel, Stasi officers and a few Polish and Czechoslovakian prisoners were here and they had been treated rather well with two separate visits made from international observers from the Red Cross after such people had been to visit other POW camps in Normandy with E1 and O2 ratings: those for non-commissioned officers and lower-ranking officers respectively.
Life at Caen-P2 was rather unexciting for those held there and those who guarded them. Normandy was a very long way from the frontlines and little news trickled in from the war. The prisoners didn’t cause any trouble though they had little to do about worry over what their futures might be. NATO intelligence officers had spoken to them but not been overly aggressive with them despite the fears by these men of what might be found out about their activities. The guards themselves manned the camp that was built next to a quiet and out of the way military base with the belief that if some of the POWs managed to find a way to escape they wouldn’t get very far nor achieve anything much.
The political officers held had either been recognised by their uniforms as being what they were or denounced by conscripted men under their command. Some of their colleagues had even been murdered during the stages of surrender by such men and the political officers were all glad to be alive. The crimes which had committed under their watch, sometimes with their involvement too, were what they worried about and the repercussions from possible war crimes proceedings. What they were asked, usually in cursory manner, about their roles in maintaining political control over the fighting men captured with them was barely a worry when in comparison with that other knowledge which they preferred to keep secret.
Some among the number of POWs here at Caen-P2 had turned on their fellow prisoners for their own benefit. They had told those with all the questions about things they knew when it came to others so as to benefit themselves; NATO intelligence officers had been looking to play that angle and it was easily done. Such people were promised much for their cooperation even if it was suspected – as it was the case – that this was done to protect their own misdeeds. A few of those gave themselves away to their fellow prisoners by accident and then there were a couple of isolated incidents were the deaths of those men occurred and no one would confess knowledge of what happened. The Frenchmen guarding them didn’t appear to give a damn and these crimes went unpunished for the time being.
Against this backdrop of secrets, lies and murders, POWs continued to arrive from the frontlines. These men were trucked-in after coming from Germany and in some cases Denmark too with those political officers quickly joining the ranks of their fellow countrymen inside Caen-P2. What news of the war was asked of such men but there were also rumours that came with them. The POWs at the camp in Normandy heard a story that took hold among them: all political officers were going to be handed over to the West Germans who would at best have them clearing minefields or at the worst have them all shot in revenge for the invasion of West Germany. The story didn’t have to be true – and it certainly wasn’t – but it was something that very many of the prisoners soon started to believe.
Caen-P2 erupted in a riot. The usually docile and frightened political officers here suddenly turned on their guards and killed several with makeshift weapons with a large attempt escape being made. Where the men were planning to go and plans after getting free weren’t something made, they just wanted to make sure that they weren’t handed over to the West Germans as retribution.
The riot would end in further bloodshed as the French eventually put a stop to it with shots being fired at those trying to escape and control retake of the camp using further gunfire to go in and break up the trouble. Identified troublemakers were to be moved elsewhere and the bodies of the dead buried. This was all rather unpleasant and many questions were asked afterwards, but the French had no choice to act in this manner and it was the only solution. Life at Caen-P2 would afterwards return to ‘normal’ and the worst fears of the surviving POWs weren’t to be met.
Across in Belgium, NATO had establish an O1 POW camp near Kortrijk. Senior military officers captured in battle were held here outside the city where a camp for them had been constructed at an unused industrial site.
NATO intelligence officers from several nations visited this facility and attempted to question the men who held the rank of Colonel and above held here who served in the armies and air forces of the militaries of the Soviet forces. These men would know a lot of things, much of which would be time-sensitive, that NATO wanted to understand. There weren’t any visits by outsiders to Kortrijk-O1 despite no laws being broken here with regard to how POWs were meant to be treated. There had been some discussions higher-up among senior NATO intelligence staffs about ‘certain ways’ to interrogate these high-ranking prisoners but political orders were for no such thing to take place and even then there was a feeling that those tasked to do anything like that would refuse on moral grounds. Psychological pressure was thus used here along with many instances of deceptions being made against the captured officers to tell them things that certainly weren’t true so that they would talk.
Some intelligence did come from these efforts though it honestly wasn’t that great and none of it was any value in terms of unlocking key secrets of allowing war-winning strategies to be used on the battlefields.
These Soviet officers had a lot of concerns regarding their futures that were along similar lines to the political officers at Caen. They worried that they were going to be shot when they returned home by their own side rather than the Germans; surrender during wartime was punishable by that mean especially in their case. In the heat of battle, these men had done just that with thoughts then of the immediate consequences rather than what would occur later. Even with Ogarkov’s seizure of power, it wasn’t like the organs of the state had disappeared and everything had changed back home. These officers all expected that they would end up in an unmarked grave but couldn’t see a way of avoiding that.
At Kortrijk-O1 the men here waited for the eventual return to the Motherland which would come at the end of the war. Some would take their own lives while here in Belgium while others would make efforts at beginning the stages of defection; most though just waited for their fate at the hands of their countrymen when they returned home as they didn’t see any other choice.
POWs held by NATO and listed in both the E1 and E2 category were separated by nationality as military officers were but unlike political officers. It was thought best that control over such groups of men would be better undertaken in doing things this way with Soviet, East German, Polish and Czechoslovakian enlisted men kept apart from others. Most were conscripts of NCO rank though there were many technical enlisted men who had stayed in the armies of their country after their conscription was up and were making a career such as it was; the latter all went to E1 camps. Most of these camps were for E2 prisoners though, men which had no choice but to wear the uniform of their country. The numbers of these men far outweighed all others and that was reflected in the number of facilities for these POWs.
Pau-E2 camp was located on the slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains that separated France and Spain. Military police reservists from Portugal assisted the French here in guarding these men as French numbers were stretched thin elsewhere and the Portuguese were committing a large effort to the war even if the number of men which they had on the frontlines in Germany wasn’t that large.
There were Polish enlisted men at Pau-E2 and these were men captured early in the war fighting in Germany and then later with many coming from southern Norway too. A lot of cooperation took place between the POWs here and their captors but also a few deaths of prisoners too killed by their own countrymen not for assisting NATO intelligence efforts but rather for trying to hinder those. The Polish here were very cooperative even if they couldn’t offer much in the way of information that would be useful to those holding them.
When news reached the men here in the south of France about the Great Polish Rebellion, their guards were glad that there had been segregation by nationality across POW camps and no Soviets – or ‘Russians’ as the Polish called them – held here too or the security situation would have fast got out of hand. The prisoners were very angry at what they were hearing about how the Soviets were treating first their fellow comrades in uniform and then later Polish troops at home.
At first there had been a flood of arrivals of men at Pau-E2 but the numbers stopped growing a few weeks into the war. The guards were asked by some of their captives as to why no more of their countrymen were arriving when their appeared to be room for more POWs. Answers weren’t forthcoming and the captive men, bored and with nothing to do but worry, invented their own reasons why no more Poles came to the camp. They decided that the Russians were killing Poles and that was why no more were being taken prisoner by NATO forces on the frontlines. In reality, there were very few Polish troops left fighting NATO and what captives were being taken were sent to other POW camps closer to the fighting to save upon stretched transportation, but those at Pau-E2 didn’t know that and suspected the worst.
Elections had already taken place among them – a show of hands rather than anything that would suit international election observers – for leaders and these approached the guards asking to speak to senior NATO people. A Canadian Brigadier eventually showed up with the management of POWs being a multinational affair and he spoke Polish, with that officer being informed by the representatives of the prisoners that they wished to form a volunteer army to fight for NATO. Their enemies would be the Russians and they would need arms, supplies and equipment, but they would be loyal and would fight as bravely as possible.
Tactfully, the Canadian officer made them aware that such things would take a lot of time to organise and be dependent upon political factors. He promised to take their case higher up the chain of command and to offer his support to it though cautioned that the Poles at Pau-E2 might have to wait a very long time indeed. As can be expected, there was a lot of disappointment in that response though the Poles felt that at least they had been listened to and treated with respect. They started organising themselves as best as possible ready for the one day when they marched alongside new allies and would return home with their heads held high… and guns ready to shoot Russians.
Thirty POW camps were opened within the first two weeks of the war with that number doubling a fortnight later. NATO manpower to guard those prisoners was being stretched even with nations as part of the Allies who weren’t committing large numbers of fighting troops helping out; countries such as Ireland, Portugal and a few South American nations. There was also the issue with suitable locations running out with Britain and the Netherlands not wanting any POW camps, a decision made not to ship or fly such men across the North Atlantic and the Scandinavian countries not willing to take any more as in the case of Norway and Sweden with Denmark still under partial occupation.
West Germany was thus chosen as a location to open further POW camps. The fighting had moved far to the east and soon inside East Germany and Czechoslovakia so the risk of such captives being ‘liberated’ was very low. There were sites identified in the Rhineland and guards were to be provided by the West Germans themselves. Many Territorial Troops who had been engaged in rear-area security duties during the early stages of the war, and seeing plenty of action in many places, had already been formed up into the new formations stood up as the Bundeswehr expanded but there were still many men available that could be used at POW camps following the immense scale of mobilisation by the West Germans.
Some questions were asked about the diplomatic effects of Germans guarding POWs but those were regarded as uncalled for by many and rather insulting. POW camps were to open throughout the Rhineland ready for further surrendering enemy troops and while NATO intelligence officers would assist in operations at those and food would come in from elsewhere, West Germans would guard the men.
NATO remained working together on this and old prejudices were being pushed aside with so much shared experiences during the conflict of blood being spilt.
Two Hundred & Forty–Eight
Three army-groups were being currently fielded by the US Army for operations in East Germany with ABOLITION operations. Each of these consisted of a trio of corps with seven of those being American-manned. Hundreds of thousand combat soldiers were within these with regulars based pre-war in West Germany and the United States as well as national guardsmen, reservists and discharged soldiers alongside them. They had a difficult task of fighting to invade the homeland of the enemy facing strong opposition across much difficult terrain.
Current plans were to soon rearrange the structure of American forces involved in the invasion. The US Fifth Army would be removed from frontline operations with many of its combat and combat support forces being reassigned to those with the US Third and Seventh Armys as well as the bulk of the service support elements too in the form of supply, transportation and communications units. US Army forces within the US Fifth Army were almost exclusively ARNG units and they had been roughly handled during the conflict. Their deployment to Germany in the midst of the conflict had been far too rushed with more expected to be done by them than they were capable of. At times, they had even done more than they should have but the cost had been terrible too.
Such plans for this large-scale reorganisation were ongoing and not yet ready to be put into play. There was much fighting going on meanwhile as commanders and staff officers prepared to move around as the US Army raced as do what the British and West Germans had been doing to the north of them in getting so far deep into enemy territory. There was plenty of reconnaissance ongoing as to watching the newest wave of Soviet troops rolling westwards through Poland and therefore the further into East Germany the US Army got the better to meet them there.
The objective of the US Third Army was the city of Halle and the River Saale.
National guardsmen operating on the flank remained fighting in the Harz Mountains where enemy resistance to be blasted out of defensive positions persisted but the main effort was to break out of the Helme Valley. The US II Corps had caught up with the US III Corps during the night, and expanding upon the airborne assault which had taken Allstedt airbase yesterday, that pair of combat commands with their heavy forces set about achieving the objective set by General Chambers today.
That operation against Allstedt had allowed for the movement of the heavy forces to come in from the west as Soviet positions had been taken from the rear but the US III Corps had yesterday failed to get much further eastwards approaching Halle directly. General Saint had pushed forward but faced strong dug-in defences which needed to be carefully pounded before a major advance could take place. Guns had fired throughout the night against the villages of Bornstedt, Osterhausen and Farnstadt with six- & eight-inch shells while rockets from new MLRS systems were used too. Much of that artillery fire was directed against Soviet air defences on the ground ahead so that air power could come into play with shells fired from howitzers being just as effective as specialist anti-radar missiles fired from aircraft. What air defences remained free of artillery barrages soon ran out of ammunition and with that jets and attack helicopters came into play so that in the morning the US III Corps could move forward into battle.
The 2nd Armored & 5th Mechanized Infantry Divisions, veteran formations now, waited behind the new 6th Armored Division which was assigned to lead the attack through battered enemy positions. Major-General Fred Franks – another officer like US II Corps commander Lt.-General Gordon Sullivan removed from a training command to serve in this war as so many US Army senior officers were – conducted a careful attack that made slow progress at first but found that the defences his troops faced were brittle. They couldn’t stand up to an assault like he unleashed upon them with fixed positions useless to tanks and mechanised infantry manoeuvring around them under heavy covering fire and then the mobile counter-attacking forces which the Soviets had being engaged too. US Army gunships worked under close supervision spotting enemy armour and distance and engaging those first before heavy forces on the ground could move from ambush positions. The Soviets would have interfered which such moves with greater effect than they did if they had strong mobile air defences or even better air support but they had neither and paid the price. Soon enough the two following divisions were moving forward to exploit the gains made by the 6th Armored Division in the lead.
Breakout came in the late morning. A three-division attack commenced with those led now by the 116th Armored Cavalry Regiment with highly-trained national guardsmen from Idaho and Oregon. There was some bypassing of opposition which the Americans knew they were going to have to deal with afterwards as such forces couldn’t be left in the rear but the main line of enemy defences had been broken and they drove on Halle. The tanks and armoured vehicles fielded crossed the countryside and went down roads with hold-up mainly occurring when they met anti-tank ditches and minefields; the former crossed with assault bridges mounted atop armoured vehicles and the latter having safe-passage lanes blasted through them by specialist engineers working quickly so the advance wasn’t slowed down.
Soviet dismounted missilemen hurt the US III Corps though and so did the repeated appearance of hidden anti-tank guns and snipers firing at short-range. These methods of defence by the Soviets in eventually breaking up the momentum of the US III Corps had been faced before but their presence was still felt and they brought a slowdown. Halle was just too far to reach before the daylight started to fade as those efforts to stop the US Army on the move didn’t halt them but did make their mission goal for the day just too much to achieve. The city was left beyond grasp with immense defences observed around it that would have to be dealt with – the plan was to move around the city’s flanks rather than go through the centre of it – at the same time as the Americans would have to clear out the bypassed forces in their rear.
Nonetheless, US III Corps still emerged the victor from the day’s battles with intelligence pointing to the remainder of the Soviet Thirteenth Army being unable now to conduct any more mobile operations and any hope of any further offensive action, even localised, gone for good.
US II Corps conducted a left-hook manoeuvre on the northern side. Sullivan had his men strike across hilly ground moving northeast through the eastern slopes of the Harz Mountains and across the line of retreat where Soviet forces avoiding the attacks of the US XI Corps were moving. The formations under his command had been bolstered by a few veterans of the US III Corps recently joining but mainly consisted of those former US Army soldiers recalled to service on the eve of war.
The advance here to the Saale had caught their opponents off-guard and certainly not set up to try and stop them with the usual defences encountered elsewhere. Again during manoeuvre warfare the Soviets fought in the manner which they had throughout the conflict. Their tactics remained the same, their command structure was inflexible and their fire support was too tied doctrine as well. When combined with the shortages which they suffered and the ability of the US Army to keep their own high, this was fatal. The US Army knew exactly how to defeat the Soviets as they had learnt and adapted on the battlefield.
Around the town of Eisleben came one of the fiercest clashes of the day. Hundreds of Soviet tanks, similar numbers of armoured vehicles and thousands of infantry were left strewn across the battlefield. Smoke from burning wrecks rose into the air afterwards after poisoning the lungs of those on the ground who breathed it in first while below there came the screams and moans of those who lay dying across the fields and along the nearby roads. This was a battle fought by the 23rd Mechanized Infantry Division which had spent only a short time training for such an engagement like this but when it came to fighting a real-life opponent they did an excellent job. The formation had a famous history and those who had been thrown into making the unit come alive again when forming up in California and Colorado would add another battle honour to the Americal Division which had fought glorious battles on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Leyte and in Vietnam. A major enemy attack which the Soviets had considered to be an ambush on the move using concealed marshalling of heavy forces had been detected through aerial reconnaissance and electronic eavesdropping and then smashed to pieces as it got going.
The Battle of Eisleben would in later years be something studied in detail at Leavenworth and other military staff colleagues worldwide.
The Saale north of Halle was reached late in the day and a couple of daring thrusts by elements of the 14th Cav’ took several bridgeheads over that by steaming through retreating enemy units trying to flee. These were temporary bridges built by Soviet engineers and conscripted East German manpower in response to the destruction of permanent crossings by NATO air power, but the 14th Cav’ was able to take them and establish positions on the eastern side of the river. Units from the 4th Armored Division soon reinforced them at these locations and while stopped from getting much deeper before darkness, the Saale had been crossed near Brucke, Friedeburg and Wettin. The plan was for advances to be made from those crossing sides tomorrow when the advance would continue.
Bundeswehr units with the US Fifth Army had been withdrawn from the frontlines pending transfer northwards while the national guardsmen who formed the remainder of the command spent the day consolidating what they held and eliminating previously bypassed opposition from the day beforehand. After Schneider had been sacked from his command role his deputy had taken over before a new man was named and those consolidation efforts were made.
The US IV Corps – with the 42nd Mechanized Infantry and 49th & 50th Armored Divisions – had avoided yesterday’s WOLF attack and fought near the town of Muhlhausen. East German Militia units had harassed them through the night operating from there and today those were engaged in daylight with the predictable results of when untrained irregulars went up against heavily-armoured real soldiers. Soldiers with the New York ARNG afterwards moved against Muhlhausen in an effort to test the waters as to what defences remained strong in the town and found that there were very few defenders there no longer with ammunition stocks to put up a fight to stop it being captured.
Further national guardsmen under command with the 49th Armored Division, part-time soldiers from Texas and Louisiana, struck to the south during the day concentrating on eliminating Soviet troops active in the area around Bad Langensalza and along the nearby upper reaches of the Unstrut Valley. Most of the encountered Soviets were on foot with machine guns mounted on M-60 tanks and M-113 personnel carriers making short work of them. Often times RPGs would lance back at the vehicles which fired upon them which didn’t even dent the tanks but would sometimes cause casualties within the tracked personnel carriers. Reaction times among crews of those latter vehicles varied with those who had faced similar attacks before being better prepared. Such losses were very hard on the national guardsmen and they quickly learnt to be far more cautious in advancing where there might be enemy armed with such weapons and ‘hosed’ such areas first with heavy weapons. As to fixed positions where enemy forces were fighting from, these were few and far between in this area with concealment efforts not that effective to those on the ground as opposed from the air. Tank guns opened fire on these and so too did missiles fired by dismounted national guardsmen to blast them apart. Throughout the day, fighting would continue in this region with both sides taking a lot of losses and some, particularly on the American side, asking whether it was all worth it due to the overall strategic situation.
The US VI Corps had been hurt yesterday when hit by that sudden Soviet offensive that had come from nowhere against them and if the successes of WOLF against them had been repeated elsewhere then then most of the US Army in Germany certainly wouldn’t be having their current triumph. The majority of the losses taken had occurred with the 107th Armored Cavalry Regiment being almost completely destroyed along with elements of the 35th & 40th Mechanized Infantry Divisions suffering grave wounds too. Immense efforts by those two divisions had weathered the storm unleashed and pushed the attacking Soviets back therefore breaking them but as well as the American committed units too. Those forces involved remained today where they were along the Horsel River engaged in near static combat with each other following the previous day’s excursions.
The town of Eisenach also sat along the Horsel and into this historic location many Soviet forces pushed back yesterday had retreated into to join a major East German Militia presence there. US VI Corps intelligence pointed to a number approaching seven thousand, maybe more armed enemy soldiers here and with other advances being made elsewhere in Thüringen such a force couldn’t be left in the rear even if it was cut off. Ammunition stocks in the town were high too with missiles, shells and small arms; short-range SAMs in number were launched against NATO aircraft and US Army helicopters flying nearby.
Orders were sent for the 29th Light Infantry Division to move against Eisenach. This formation was composed of national guardsmen from Virginia and Maryland with a noted history before them when during World War Two the ‘Blue & Gray Division’ had stormed the beaches of Normandy. Eisenach wasn’t Normandy though and there wasn’t going to be a repeat experience of that epic struggle here where so many lives were lost. Perimeter defences were set up with engineers working to lay minefields to block such a force inside so that when darkness came parties couldn’t launch forays outwards. A battalion of light troops from Virginia’s 116th Infantry Regiment went up into the high ground of the nearby Thüringen Forest alongside artillery units with lightweight guns. Soon enough Eisenach came under barrage from careful fire directed by experienced gunners looking down upon their targets. They aimed for hidden artillery and missile positions within the town and found those for the shells that came from their M-101 howitzers. Wartburg Castle escaped the artillery fire as the East Germans hadn’t sited any defences there but there was a lot of damage done to other parts of the town with a lot of history to them. In addition, a battery of M-198 guns with longer range and bigger shells under divisional command was given a mission order from higher command which turned out to be from the very highest levels indeed: they opened fire against an industrial facility that was VEB Automobilwerk Eisenach, a major car manufacturer. The gunners involved did their duty in destroying that target before they moved on to other tasks and weren’t aware of the significance as yet another important piece of East Germany’s economic infrastructure had jet been destroyed in a deliberate effort to meet political objectives.
As to the rest of Eisenach, with the defences being currently so strong, the intention was to keep it surrounded and attack from distance to avoid needless casualties for now.
General Otis as commander of the US Seventh Army remarked during the day that his forces were a magnet for stronger Soviet opposition to ABOLITION with more attention being focused upon them than others. This was due to yesterday’s events with WOLF being unleashed against his troops and then today’s increased air activity to try and stop them too. The daytime skies were filled with Soviet aircraft which became targets for NATO fighter pilots raking up kills as those tried to make strong air attacks against the US Army on the ground. Aircraft wreckage would litter the ground after such engagements with the Soviets being on the losing side though managing to take some of their opponents with them too. Despite all efforts there was still much effort being made by double-digit SAM units as well yet once such systems were identified after announcing their presence with launches they were attacked either physically or with electronic means.
Aerial engagements took place in great number through the morning but eased off come lunchtime and into the afternoon. Following that General Otis took the opportunity to make his first crossing over the Inter-German Border to visit his new forward headquarters being set up near Suhl in the middle of the Thüringen Forest. His staff rated the risk of even an escorted helicopter flight being too dangerous not just from enemy fighters but also Soviet stragglers left behind armed with shoulder-mounted SAMs hidden in that high ground so he went by road instead. That apparent ending of Soviet air activity was only a lull though and it suddenly recommenced while the US Seventh Army commander was on the road. An air strike upon his convoy where an already-damaged Sukhoi-25 Frogfoot attack-fighter came out of nowhere at low-level despite much aerial surveillance taking place would take his life less than an hour after he had entered East Germany for the first time. Blame would come afterwards as to the lack of security and the careers of many of his headquarters staff would suffer while at the same time others would argue that such things happened in wartime.
Meanwhile, the trio of corps’ under his command spent the day doing what they had been doing yesterday: pursuing a beaten enemy. On the left was the US V Corps, in the centre came the Spanish I Corps and on the right, moving into Saxony rather than further into Thüringen, was the US VII Corps.
Coming down from the highest reaches of the Thüringen Forest, Schwarzkopf had his troops advance upon the twin targets of Erfurt and Weimar yesterday. His forward spearheads had reached the former yesterday and got mighty close to the latter. There were smashed Soviet formations, patiently rebuilt, left in his wake as he drove his forces onwards through them. The lower ground was perfect tank country for a heavily-supported heavy-armour advance and Schwarzkopf revelled in such a chance to go at the enemy like this. Hesitation from his subordinates wasn’t encouraged only carefully-planned daring to get far forward and right into the rear of the Soviets.
Today, Schwarzkopf set his commanders the task of striking further to the northeast and to the edges of Thüringen. The lower reaches of the Unstrut and the garrison town of Naumburg were the stated objectives with the desire to be halfway to Leipzig by the fading of daylight. The lower ground of the Ilm Valley was to be used with a flanking attack made through high ground on the left-hand side. Enemy aircraft were engaged as the advance got going by his air defence assets which travelled with the US V Corps and Schwarzkopf was pleased to see his tracked M-163 Vulcan anti-aircraft guns back in their traditional role of engaging aircraft (this was an art) instead of how they had recently been used against East German Militia when the multiple-barrelled 20mm guns had been called in to assist there. Stingers mounted by missilemen and tracked Chaparral SAMs were put to use too and Schwarzkopf wondered whether any of the new Avenger systems – HMMWVs with missiles and guns carried – would reach his command soon.
Away from the air threat, there were the usual dangers on the ground that the enemy liked to put to use against his advances today. From his travelling command post, Schwarzkopf issued repeated instructions warning of dangers from underestimating the Soviet Army even as it was being smashed to pieces. They still fielded high-quality lethal military equipment in number that was capable of doing a lot of damage to his command and killing many men. Speed was what he believed in but so too was taking care not to miss dangers that those subordinates of his needed to be aware of.
By sunset, Naumburg had been entered and the garrison there a ghost town after everyone present had been issued arms and called to the fight while at the same time the Unstrut River was crossed too. Schwarzkopf had his forces on both sides of the Saale and would be able to make an advance tomorrow unopposed by terrain against Leipzig as his orders from on high were. Then came the news that General Otis was dead and while saddened – he had got on well with his superior since his sudden thrust into a combat command role – Schwarzkopf couldn’t help thinking that the death of that man would mean opportunity for himself. It was a sad but true fact that wartime would bring promotion and he certainly knew that he would deserve such a position as commander of the US Seventh Army. He made sure that his staff was engaged in plans for further offensives while waiting on word to come.
The Saale Valley was also important for the Spanish. After beating back the attack against themselves yesterday morning that had followed the course of that river as it wound its way northwards with strong forces moving across hilly terrain to the east of there too. Enemy forces up high needed to be engaged and destroyed as their positions not only looked down upon the combat forces closing in on the city of Jena but also threatened the supply columns that moved up the Saale Valley behind the advancing troops. That fighting on both fronts continued today with the Spanish taking losses but giving more damage to a beaten enemy which was withdrawing time and time again as the Spanish Army – well versed now in all arms warfare in Germany – beat them back.
South of Jena, the Spanish sent several battalions of their Parachute Infantry Brigade into action with an airborne drop followed up by an airmobile assault (Schwarzkopf sent some helicopters to assist them) into Goschwitz. This village lay at a crossroads where road and rail links met and an area where Soviet defensive forces were in-place facing the approach of heavy forces coming towards them. Those troops landed in the high ground to the immediate west in an area probably not the best for such an assault as the hills that looked down below were very steep, but when the Spanish did get established following losses taken during the landing from the terrain they were able to focus on the enemy below them… with the Soviets below distracted by their presence too as the Spanish shot down at them and also guided-in close air support.
That move to distract the defenders of Goschwitz paid off for the Spanish with a successful ground attack being made against there against incomplete defences and then the final drive being made upon Jena. Outside that city during fighting there through the evening the Spanish took part in fierce fighting with dismounted Soviet soldiers and East German Militia but there were no tanks or heavy armoured vehicles present. They ended up taking about half of the city and pushing the defenders back in disarray to the north where they would be engaged through the night by small infantry teams but now the Spanish would focus upon following instructions from above issued earlier (one of General Otis’ final acts) for them to re-orientate their advance northeast tomorrow for continuing directly northwards would bring them into Schwarzkopf’s operational area rather than moving into open space to the right as he instructed them too.
General Watts had his US VII Corps divisions bypass Plauen but sent his 174th Brigade into there to clear out the strong opposition which had been withdrawing into the town since yesterday. Plauen was right at the base of the Autobahn that he planned to use as the axis of his advance moving deep into Saxony and up towards Zwickau, Karl-Marx-Stadt and then ultimately Dresden and couldn’t be allowed to be left unmolested alone. The fighting there was to be fierce with the now depressingly usual foolish attacks made by East German Militia who didn’t stand a chance and the losses suffered in taking it regretted, but there was no other choice available due to Plauen’s strategic geography.
The main advance went up that highway where construction started in the Nazi era had never finished linking Bavaria to Saxony and towards Zwickau. Heavy fighting took place along its length inside East Germany and throughout the countryside and villages that lay nearby. Encountered Soviet units made good use of terrain but couldn’t operate on the defence in a mobile fashion just like they failed in the static role. The 1st Armored Division along with the 1st & 3rd Mechanized Infantry Divisions – manned by combat veterans now joined by replacements – showed just how well-versed they now were in defeating the Soviet Army in open battle. Air attacks came with tactical strikes that sometimes got through and Watts was furious with his 4 ATAF liaison officers who could only respond that their pilots were still doing a mighty fine job in stopping the majority of the attacks from taking place.
Zwickau was an important mining and industrial city along with major communications links. Taking it was vital for Watts’ mission in Saxony while holding it had been deemed of the highest priority for the Soviets. Their troops here were survivors of a long retreat all the way from Hessen with attachments gathered up as they withdrew – certainly not forces which could be called reinforcements with any truth – and beaten too many times in ongoing battles. Right outside Zwickau, as three US Army divisions conducted a full corps attack over a wide area with plenty of fire support, the Soviet Third Guards Army came apart. Some men mutinied and started killing their officers while others abandoned their positions to flee forwards or to the rear. There were no KGB security units present with the Third Chief Directorate being disbanded last week and rot had set in with men who had had enough. Tankers, infantrymen and gunners just gave up and stopped engaging the attacking Americans who rumour had it were unstoppable. Over the space of a couple of hours in one afternoon a complete field army just dissipated as a fighting force seemingly in an instant.
Watts had his tanks drive onwards while his military police units rushed into collect prisoners and infantry units engaged die-hards who weren’t giving up. Strategic reconnaissance reports had pointed to Karl-Marx-Stadt up ahead as having a major concentration of enemy intelligence activity going on at many facilities there and Watts’ own military intelligence staff raced to catch up with his lead elements. Surprising everyone, tanks with the Big Red One reached there by nightfall… Dresden wasn’t that far ahead either.
April 4th 1988 was a day that was going to enter the annals of US Army history as one of much victory but there was a strong suspicion among many that there were going to be plenty more days like today here in East Germany.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 13, 2019 22:02:32 GMT
Two Hundred & Forty–Nine
Britain’s war wasn’t just fought on foreign battlefields between recognised combatants; there were fights at home in the political arena where the fights commenced with as much ruthlessness as lives were taken in battle.
The National Government, established during the political chaos of Transition to War, lasted twenty-eight days before it collapsed. Those members of Kinnock’s Labour Shadow Cabinet who had joined a unity coalition for what they believed was a greater good all decided to leave their posts as Minister’s Without Portfolio due to the immense pressure which they were under. Those five politicians couldn’t any longer serve within the National Government and their departure came after a late night meeting at Downing Street on the Monday night at the beginning of the war’s fourth week.
Denzil Davies, Donald Dewar, Frank Dobson, Bryan Gould and John Smith would all return to the Opposition benches in the House of Commons when it met again tomorrow morning and would face a tough time back with their colleagues. There had been plans afoot to publically expel them from the Labour Party as that organisation took a lurch to the left despite under it centralist leader Neil Kinnock who at that point was unawares as to the ground shifting beneath his feet.
The Prime Minister was saddened to see the collapse of the National Government – David Steel with his Social & Liberal Democrats remained yet infighting among them too made their presence rather embarrassing and the whole coalition a moot point without those from Labour – but was very understanding of the situation those MPs had been in as their colleagues turned against them with the venom that they did. Dewar and Smith had been especially effective in serving their country in helping to at first calm down the domestic chaos that had overtaken the country and then afterwards working to help heal wounds. Detractors of Thatcher would in later years claim that she had schemed and plotted to keep them with the National Government to weaken the Labour Party for many years to come in fractures and recriminations though in her memoirs those allegations would be rubbished… but still the claims would be made and those who believed them weren’t about to believe her word over their own deeply-held beliefs.
Regardless, there was still an effective British Government left governing afterwards. Reshuffles didn’t have to be made as none of the departed Labour MPs had held ministerial briefs. Rioting was no longer tearing the country apart either following assistance giving in calming the situation and unless the war took an unexpected terrible turn for the worst, the nation wasn’t on the verge of internal collapse as it had at certain points looked like it had been before the National Government came into effect. Other members of Thatcher’s government were glad that the coalition was over with as they had had to hold their nose when working alongside those from Labour, Dobson and Gould especially, due to serious ideological differences.
Most of the wider Cabinet met in Downing Street afterwards in preparation for the House of Commons sitting in the morning in another closed session. Many of these ministers had spent a great deal of time in dispersed bunkers throughout the country during the first weeks of the war preparing to govern what remained of the country in a post nuclear attack scenario. Nerves had been frayed in the tension of that and they had afterwards returned to London when the judgement was made that such a threat of thermonuclear holocaust was now a remote possibility.
In their absence, the War Cabinet had been running the country following what amounted to Royal Decrees authorised by orders-in-council during TtW. Cabinet government and Parliamentary democracy had been side-lined due to the grave dangers perceived in those difficult times, yet the missiles hadn’t come and the country was still standing. There were now issues that certain members of the Cabinet wished to see addressed when they couldn’t be beforehand and these were discussed this evening in what many would deem ‘lively debates’. Thatcher didn’t face a Cabinet rebellion but there was a lot of tension between several members of her government over what had been done in their absence.
Economics dominated the Cabinet meeting.
Emergency Treasury reserves had been spent in the pre-war LION mobilisation and then there had come that massive secret loan from the United States which while interest free would eventually have to be paid back. Tax revenues at the minute were exactly zero and even if the government had been willing to sell off the nation’s gold reserves – something which no one would want to do except if Britain was in the most dire straits – there didn’t look like there would be a buyer for those at a price the country would be willing to accept. West Germany had done that with its gold reserves being sold on the open market and the embattled Bonn government would regret the prices they accepted when their gold bullion was moved their areas of safe storage in bank vaults below New York across those underground facilities to the areas where other nations stored their gold. Without the knowledge of the public, saving accounts had already been raided with bonds issued in their places as every penny and pound that could be found to support the war effort was currently being spent. Private enterprise nationwide had almost ceased to exist and international trade was only just starting up again into Britain with all of that being war-related whether of military goods or food supplies to keep the country fed.
The war had brought about an economic disaster of unimaginable magnitude all so that that Britain could keep fighting. Nationalisation had occurred reversing dear-held Conservative policies and the financial market in London which had been booming pre-war remained closed for fear of what would occur there should it reopen and the truth unfold. As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lawson had overseen the destruction of the national economy so that Britain could fulfil its role in defending itself and Western Europe during those dire days but now, as the situation had been reversed with military victories occurring on the battlefields, it was time to look at what the future might bring.
There were moments were Cabinet members held their head in their hands when they fully grasped what had been done to finance the war. They had been told that military equipment and supplies had been shared between NATO and the Allies without costs in terms of purchase or rent with every nation chipping in with what they had so that others could use. While that was true, what hadn’t been understood was that other things had to be paid for. Britain’s domestic energy production had been attacked directly by enemy bombs and so too its oil refineries. Coal and fuel for tanks, ships and planes had to be brought on the world market where even deals made with nations supporting the Allies still had come with a cost even at ‘friend prices’ invoked. It was the same thing with food to keep stomachs full and a lot of construction equipment to make hasty repairs and build new facilities at speed. This all cost a great deal while paper money could be printed for domestic use those overseas wanted ‘real’ money.
If this hadn’t been done though, it was asked in response to exasperated comments, what state would the country be in now if defending Britain hadn’t been given the highest of priorities above everything else?
The realisation of the cost in financial terms overshadowed other aspects of that late evening meeting where further news from the war came to do with how it was being fought abroad. Even the latest casualty figures, when added to those already incurred, didn’t have the same sort of effects. Clarke spoke of the vastly-improved situation in Northern Ireland and Hurd of how great strives were being made to combat domestic crime rates. King was away on a visit to the United States with the intention of seeing Bush there so Mellor standing in for him at Cabinet spoke of continuing successes in foreign relations.
However, the minds of those in the Cabinet were on the economy. They worried over how a solution to all of this mess created was going to be found and whether anything would work. Tomorrow’s session in the House of Commons was pushed to the back of their minds with what the Opposition having to say when they were expected to attack the government’s conduct during the war being regarded now as of little consequences with a country that was in effective not just broke but likely to be in serious debt for decades to come. Depression hit many of them as they finally understood the financial consequences of this war for their country.
Two Hundred & Fifty
The first elements of Ogarkov’s fifth and final echelon of combat armies arrived on the Polish–East German border during the early hours of April 5th. Trains and road convoys laden with mobilised troops from across the western and even central and southern parts of the Soviet Union came upon the Oder and Neisse Rivers that separated the two countries and prepared to start their crossing operations over what turned out to be – due to external factors – a formidable water barrier for them.
There were forty divisions in total and combined with all the necessary supporting elements more than six hundred and fifty thousand men who should have now been moving into East Germany (along with eighty-six hundred tanks) to put a final stop to NATO’s invasion going any further. This was meant to be the final hurrah of Soviet arms on the battlefield and would be too… just not in the manner which Ogarkov thought it would be.
Less than half of the number of men who were meant to reach East Germany to stop that country falling would make it to those rivers along the border instead of all of them as planned.
A quarter of a million Soviet Army reservists didn’t answer the call of mobilisation and make an appearance when they were supposed to. There were some of those who managed to wrangle semi-official approval for not showing up as they were engaged in ‘vital war-work’ that would mean they had to stay at home but in the overwhelming majority of cases there was just the non-appearance of such men at the mobilisation centres across Soviet cities and towns. The totalitarian state that was the Soviet Union had failed in something which its very foundations were built upon: having its citizens too frightened to oppose official decrees. Letters were sent to homes and broadcasts made over the news calling up these men but they simply didn’t turn out. There were worries over the consequences for those involved but not outright fear that would force them to obey official instructions to do their duty for the Rodina.
Another hundred thousand men meant to be serving in those divisions and field armies supposed to roll into East Germany in a tidal wave of hardened soldiers and overwhelming armour didn’t get from their mobilisation stations to the Oder-Neisse. There were transportation delays on the way though the Soviet Union and men deserted in droves at every given opportunity as the thought of what lay ahead of them at the end of their journey wasn’t something that they wished to see. Others were caught up in the violence with the Great Polish Rebellion and either ended up engaged in fighting civilians there or re-tasked to guard important locations; desertion rates when within Poland were low and also fatal to those who tried it.
Ogarkov had no idea as to these numbers. He had been made aware of the failures in mobilisation where speed was considered necessary over getting everyone ready in-time but believed in was in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds. In addition, the scale of desertion rates during transit was again something he wasn’t aware of. When he would much later find out and hear excuses about delays in confirmation of numbers he wouldn’t be best pleased to say the least.
‘The plan’ had been for the ten field armies to cross into East Germany between Frankfurt-an-der-Oder and Gorlitz north of the Czechoslovakian border. They would have moved as one westwards to link up with those reorganised Soviet Army forces in the southern parts of East Germany and defeated the Americans from penetrating any further than they had at that point been just past the Inter-German Border. There would have been the last air reserves unleashed too along with air defence provided by the latest-model SAMs on the ground. Once the Americans were pushed back over the border the fifth echelon would have turned to the north to deal with the British and the West Germans after striking against the strongest opponents first before going after those rated as weakest. However, delays to them and then the NATO advances had seen the air defences ruined, the reorganised troops already in East Germany fail with WOLF and then air reserves committed early. The fifth echelon therefore wasn’t on its way to meet friendly forces waiting for it far to the west as planned and nor with external support too already in-place. When the armies started to reach the Polish-East German border although they approached it in the planned location, they were far from one coherent force either with units stretched all the way back across Poland.
Ogarkov’s grand strategy to win the war using these troops had been doomed before it even got started.
NATO military strength was also purposefully put to use to make sure that ABOLITION wouldn’t be interfered with by those hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops which were meant to be riding to the rescue. Their movement across Poland had been watched by satellites and reconnaissance aircraft as well as electronic snooping too with the resulting chaos that was caused there. Fighting those troops as far to the east as possible was desired but even better would be to make sure that as few as possible reached East Germany and those who did get that far wouldn’t be in a fit state to combat those NATO forces moving further forward every day.
The 3ATAF had been on standby to change the focus of its air attacks from strategic targets across East Germany and into Poland – in the latter case many of the transportation links near the border – to stop the onrush of Soviet reinforcements. Crossings over the Oder and the Neisse from the very few original structures still standing to all of the newer temporary ones, along with the defences around them, were to be targeted again and again once the moment occurred that they were reached by Ogarkov’s fifth echelon.
In the early hours of this morning, with all intelligence pointing to the time being right to act, RAF and USAF aircraft with the 3 ATAF went into action against tactical targets along the banks of those rivers.
The large swathes of East German territory now in NATO hands after being captured in recent days meant that the areas where aircraft with the 3 ATAF struck at were not that far from friendly airspace. What once would have been deep strike missions to fly though a hundred or more miles of enemy airspace before making the approach to the target were now considered to be at medium-range. The 3 ATAF was still based in southern and western parts of Britain but forward refuelling could take place over East Germany itself now rather than far back over the Low Countries or the Rhineland meaning that more weapons could be carried and there were shorter periods where the aircrews faced high levels of risk. Ground-based air defences had been overrun in great number during the past day especially and while there had been a boon in intelligence gathered from on-the-ground inspections made by NATO air officers travelling with the ground forces that also meant that there were fewer defences between the frontlines and the targets… with the possibility that the enemy wasn’t going to get a chance to repair their SAM network either too especially if the border between Poland and East Germany could be shut.
Tornado GR1s, F-111 & FB-111 variants in strike packages, F-117s on lonely missions and formations of B-52 bombers were also joined by more Tornados and plenty of F-16s too on temporary assignment from the 2 ATAF and the 4 ATAF to strengthen their efforts due to those factors changing how NATO air power was to operate this morning. Crews had been on stand-down through the night with the hope that the enemy wasn’t aware of this morning’s plans and when the aircraft started filling the skies laden with weapons and meeting tankers, there was no surprise ambush waiting for them just targets… plenty of those.
There were road and rail crossings all along the river with more than fifty confirmed as targets for air attack this morning along with the defences around them. Most bridges had recently been constructed in a temporary fashion with the wrecks of others put in-place before them very nearby. These couldn’t carry the weight of those which they replaced and there were always going to be bottlenecks around them of trains, vehicles and men who were secondary targets to the crossings themselves. Defences would consist of guns, missiles and even aircraft expected yet none of that would come as a surprise to NATO as these had been met beforehand.
At three o’clock in the morning, hundreds of NATO aircraft flew towards these.
The East German town of Forst sat just back from the Neisse. This was a small manufacturing centre with state-controlled textile industries dominating the employment sector. Young men had gone off to war and plenty of those in their late Twenties and early Thirties had too though not as many as had might been had the East German’s been more cooperative with Soviet efforts to mobilise East German manpower. Factories across the town had been forcibly made to produce uniforms for soldiers in recent weeks. The Stasi had a presence in the town here to keep the people in line though the locals were glad that there were few Soviets to be seen. Nearby at the river, the big railway bridge and the small road bridge providing connections to Poland had been downed in fantastic night-time explosions early in the war though no casualties had been caused within the town. That was the way that the inhabitants of Frost would rather have the war and when they heard on the radio that the ‘evil American and English Imperialists’ were on their way eastwards invading East Germany there didn’t worry themselves greatly over that; it was better than having the Soviet Army back again like in 1945.
The townspeople weren’t aware that a complete Soviet field army of mobilised reservists from the eastern reaches of Siberia was due to be moving through Forst later today. They were enjoying a night’s sleep when the screams of air-raid sirens pierced through the silence of dreams and then came the sounds of anti-aircraft guns that drowned out those.
Above came a flight of four RAF Tornado strike-bombers which flashed over the town at low-level. A last minute change of routing had come due to enemy short-range SAMs being present along their projected course with the diversion made over Forst out of necessity. There was the almighty roar of their engines that then masked the noise of the guns firing blind up into the sky at them after those had silenced the air-raid sirens. Windows rattled and a few buildings shook; East German citizens woken in the night didn’t know what was going on with some thinking that they themselves were under attack!
‘This is the R.A.F wishing you an early good morning.’
Then the explosions came, just to the east along the river. Blasts that would wake the dead thundered one after another for what seemed like an entirety though in actuality for less than a minute. Warm gusts of air would blow across the town afterwards with the concussion effects from the blasts with more windows rattling and again a few less-sturdy buildings shaking.
Those Tornados were from No. 14 Squadron, a formation assigned to the 2 ATAF in the tactical role which had started the war with a dozen aircraft and then had a few replacements added but was now done to only eight combat-capable strike-bombers. Those four on this mission – the others were tonight sent again targets further north – had carried a heavy load of ordnance with them tonight each consisting of a pair of air-to-air missiles for self-defence, shells for the 27mm cannon and five 500lb high-explosive bombs. They had conducted their attack against four of the bridges in the Forst area aiming for the two temporary railway bridges that replaced the downed heavyweight crossing providing a major link and two of the three identified roadway crossings as well. Some bombs fell astray and missed their targets either falling into the river or to the ground though those of the latter that smashed into Poland struck military targets there with trains and trucks present. Anti-aircraft guns had fired at them but that was wild and the Tornados got away without damage.
There came two more attacks made against the crossings over the Neisse near Frost during the early hours with the second of those striking against alternate targets just inside Poland when intelligence showed that the bridges were down. Four USAF F-16Cs with the 4 ATAF arrived less than a quarter of an hour after the RAF and put more bombs onto those bridges already hit plus the untouched fifth structure too. Further explosions shook the town and there was also a lot of anti-aircraft fire. One of the USAF took major wing damage when 23mm shells smashed into that F-16 and the pilot diverted to an alternate strip in occupied East Germany for an emergency landing there rather than the bailing out over enemy territory; he made it but the night-time touchdown at an airfield he had never been to before when damaged caused his aircraft to be written off with him only just escaping with his life from the wreck.
The RAF and USAF had conducted low-level strikes near Forst yet the pair of Belgian F-16s which made the third attack came in over the area at medium-level and above anti-aircraft gunfire. USAF F-15s firing from distance had downed a pair of enemy MiG-23s coming towards them and they then took their time in lining-up an attack against the collection of trains and trucks on the eastern side of the river. Bombs fell away from their strike-fighters and fireballs erupted below with the expectation that they had hit fuel trucks. A huge conflagration would be left behind them across in that part of Poland and much damage was assured to have been done there like those who had come before them tonight had done to the bridges.
Forst was a good example of the successes had all along the borderline where that followed the rivers separating Poland and East Germany in what had been deemed Operation HAMMER. There were some costly partial achievements won in a few places elsewhere, but in the main the air strikes did what they were meant to do in smashing the crossings before they could be put to use and also attacking forces waiting to use them too. A massive B-52 raid in the Gorlitz area was a good example of victories like Forst and so too were a devastating (but costly with seven aircraft lost) when F-111s hit the crossings south of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder.
Steel structures fell into the water everywhere and even those still standing were more often than not unusable due to giant holes in them that betrayed their now instability. Fires raged on the eastern banks though in a few cases on the western side of the rivers too.
This wasn’t a one-off series of air strikes. NATO aircraft would continue to strike throughout the morning with plans to keep this up as long as necessary. There wouldn’t be as many aircraft involved as in the first attack yet there wouldn’t have to be either. Post-strike reconnaissance would show where further attention needed to be paid and then there would be air strikes aimed at engineers trying to make good the damage done. Moreover, behind those downed crossings would come further targets of enemy troops being held up ready for the crossings to be reopened and therefore further worthy targets for air attacks. Ogarkov’s fifth echelon would be stuck in ‘friendly’ territory unable to move as further formations joined those already unable to cross the Oder and the Neisse making redeployment impossible.
There was a certain feeling that even with some leakage, a dam had now been created that would be impassable. The war was now NATO’s to win to the west of that across East Germany with the enemy forces there effectively cut off with no supply, no reinforcements and a victorious army soon to complete ABOLITION.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 15, 2019 18:54:28 GMT
Two Hundred & Fifty–One
There never had been any doubt as to who would assume Otis’ role as commander of the US Seventh Army following his untimely death due to enemy action; Schwarzkopf was the immediate and only option as far as those who would make the decision mattered.
He had taken on the role of US V Corps commander in an emergency and done exceedingly well there in leading them back to the Inter-German Border, across it and then deep into East Germany. There had been other factors of a strategic nature in play yet it was determined that his aggressive leadership style and the daring that he encouraged among his subordinates had made that possible. Schwarzkopf had worked hard to assist the propaganda war with his deft handling of the media and worked extremely well with allies too, especially the West Germans and the Spanish. His pre-war Pentagon role was not just a desk job but a stepping stone to higher things after he had previously served as the commander of the US I Corps based in the Western United States with Schwarzkopf being talked of for promotion at that point from a three-star Lt.-General to a four-staff full General to assume command of either US Southern Command or Central Command.
Most of his military career hadn’t been on deployment in Europe like his peers within the US Army yet he had served in West Germany for a short period of time before in addition to service in Vietnam, Alaska and the mainland United States. There had too been his appointment to be the deputy commander of URGENT FURY in Grenada five years ago where his star had shone and those of others had faded.
With the NATO command structure as it was, the appointment of a new US Seventh Army commander was General von Sandrart’s to make with that Bundeswehr officer being next in the chain of command. General Galvin as SACEUR was de facto the man to give the order for Schwarzkopf to assume the duties of the deceased Otis but he deferred to those above him. The role that the US Seventh Army had in this war was something of political significance and so its commander was chosen back home among the senior brass and the politicians. Acting President Bush, Defence Secretary Carlucci and US Army Chief-of-Staff Vuono all wanted Schwarzkopf in-place at once. They agreed with SACEUR that there was no one else who could fulfil that role that they wished to see the US Seventh Army’s commander doing.
von Sandrart, someone who had made himself unpopular with many in the British Army, risked making enemies in the US Army too though with his actions. As C-in-C Northern Germany, he was controlling the five army-groups (soon to be four though) of NATO forces invading East Germany and also operating in the far northern parts of occupied West Germany. A week beforehand he had been welcomed Lt.-General Edwin Burba to his headquarters with that US Army officer preforming what many would regard as a ‘spare heir’ role. Burba was a widely-experienced career officer who knew the business of soldiering and had been sent to Europe to stand ready to replace senior US Army officers killed in battle or otherwise leaving their command. The thinking behind this was that Burba would be up to speed on all aspects of the war here in Germany with knowledge of those operations and NATO personnel here rather than should someone like him be needed such a man wasn’t coming across the North Atlantic at short notice into an unfamiliar environment. Burba was attached to von Sandrart’s headquarters as his top-level liaison with the US Army in an unofficial position where he was effectively waiting for someone to die.
Burba was put forward for commander of US Seventh Army by von Sandrart for SACEUR’s approval the moment that it was confirmed that Otis had been killed; Burba was asked whether he could fill that man’s shoes and confirmed that he could as he was doing the duty of a soldier and obeying a senior officer. General Galvin hadn’t been made aware of this though and when he was given the affirmative from the NSC to have Schwarzkopf appointed there were now two men who the same job had been given to. The reasoning of von Sandrart in acting fast and entrusting such a role to someone well-experienced and who had a good personal relationship with (they had spent much time together in the past week) was perfectly correct and the NATO command structure meant that it was supposed to be his choice; Burba was also someone who was regarded as capable too.
Yet… he wasn’t Schwarzkopf and wasn’t chosen by the highest levels of the US Government either.
Keeping in mind how to act in an honourable fashion as was expected of officers with the US Army, General Galvin visited von Sandrart’s mobile command centre located at that time near Paderborn. He saw the Bundeswehr general and Burba there and told them that his wishes were for Burba to take over from Schwarzkopf leading US V Corps with Schwarzkopf then replacing Otis. There were no raises voices, no disagreements and that was the matter solved with everyone seemingly coming away from that meeting happy enough. Many years later, one of SACEUR’s personal representatives at the time in the form of then Major David Petraeus would mention that meeting in his memoirs that covered his service in World War Three and other conflicts afterwards and give a different take on how that meeting went, especially when it came to how von Sandrart reacted as his wartime authority being overruled for what he saw as political interference.
While officially not related to what Petraeus would call the ‘Paderborn Showdown’, immediately following the Third World War the US Congress would enact laws that went alongside long-term feelings that US military forces abroad would not be subservient to the wishes of foreigners in a combat situation, even close allies.
Not present at Paderborn but rather inside East Germany, Schwarzkopf received word of his new appointment during the night and relinquished command of US V Corps temporarily to his deputy (waiting on Burba) and travelled to US Seventh Army’s forward headquarters. He quickly reviewed the status of his new command from the positions they maintained to the available strength to the supply situation. He held quick meetings with foreign liaison officers and personnel from intelligence agencies who had operatives with the US Seventh Army. Then was too a military intelligence summary and then an operations plans meeting that Schwarzkopf had attended during his first night in charge; his appointment came at a very busy time.
When reviewing what Otis had planned for the next stage of operations during ABOLITION, Schwarzkopf had decided that while he had no disagreements with what continuing operations were planned, he believed that there needed to be more done for the US Seventh Army to undertake its mission properly. SACEUR had expressed much faith in him and stated that the NSC back home was expecting that the US Seventh Army lead the way ahead of the rest of NATO in conquering East Germany. Schwarzkopf had thus decided that several planned operations which had been put on stand-by but with forces assigned ready to go, were to take place during the following day.
Early on the Tuesday morning, as NATO aircraft closed the Polish-East German border, the new US Seventh Army commander made a couple of gambles with offensives he ordered though the risks had been calculated and judged to be worth taking.
Just before dawn broke with the skies still being dark but only in moments about to lighten, US Army helicopters arrived at several points along the Weisse Elster River with Blackhawks, Chinooks and Hueys all touching down along both banks and air assault troops rushing from these before the helicopters flew off again. This waterway ran through the East German countryside south of Leipzig and right across the operational areas where the US V Corps and the Spanish I Corps – on the left and in the centre of the US Seventh Army – were meant to advance now as they turned to the east rather than heading northeast as before. The urban centre of that large city was to be left alone and so too were the operational areas slated for the US Third Army advancing around Halle as per orders from above and this waterway presented a barrier up-ahead. Otis had planned to have it attacked from the ground and its defenders engaged there but Schwarzkopf had seen intelligence pointing to its weak defences against an airmobile assault and decided that it wouldn’t be a barrier any more.
Apache and Cobra gunships had travelled with the transport helicopters and poured fire onto Soviet troops in blocking points at the three locations where a battalion of air assault troops landed at each of those. These US Army soldiers had recently arrived in Germany from Korea and served with the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade but were now with the 82nd Airborne Division. Similar missions like this, though not on the same scale, had been planned for them in Korea should the stand-off with the North turned to war there and so they had the training for an airmobile attack like they were thrown into. Those battalions – 1/503 INF, 2/503 INF and 1/506 INF – were at once engaged in fights to take temporary bridges built by the Soviet Army over the Weisse Elster. These were just like those being destroyed over the Oder and the Neisse off to the east with demolition charges being in-place too. Vicious combat erupted as they tried to seize as many of the pontoon and assault bridges over the narrow waterway as possible before they were blown up by defenders taken by surprise but who fought back with much bravery.
Both the US V Corps and the Spanish were soon making their advances to meet the airmobile troops fighting through smashed enemy units to make the link-up before those exposed light units took too many casualties in seizing bridges to be used.
Beyond the Weisse Elster lay the flat and fertile Osterland region which was south of Leipzig. Schwarzkopf was sending his forces towards there with the intention of rounding the city to the south and then moving back northwards again tomorrow heading for the Mulde River and then the Elbe too; there were many water barriers that crossed his planned line of advance. Another river lay in that region and again across his line of march with bridges assembled in wartime across that that too were guarded and wired for demolition.
More of his light troops, this time paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s two regular brigades, were sent in a simultaneous operation to seize them to. Twice as many troops conducted four air-drops over targeted locations along that river too with landings made on both riverbanks. The assault on the Weisse Elster was a tactical operation just ahead of his troops but the planned seizure of the crossings over the Mulde took on a more strategic fashion with the paratroopers here being committed so far forward. There was the chance that they wouldn’t be relieved until the late evening, maybe even the next day, yet Schwarzkopf knew that to construct his own bridges would take a lot of time and these already in-place would certainly be destroyed once the enemy realised what was going on with the US Seventh Army striking like this.
Fierce battles again erupted for control of bridges south of Leipzig when the paratroopers arrived in small-scale fighting where everything was at stake for those involved.
Schwarzkopf took another gamble to the south with the US VII Corps already deep inside Saxony. Zwickau had fallen yesterday and the edge of Karl-Marx-Stadt reached when the majority of the Soviet Third Guards Army’s fighting strength had collapsed and Schwarzkopf ordered the advance to continue aiming for Dresden even without stopping to engage what few organised enemy forces remained. To reach that city would put US Army troops very close to Poland itself, shut off communications between East Germany & Czechoslovakia and achieve a political victory that his appointment was meant to fast bring about. Watts was ordered to make a rush for Dresden to reach there today and if not then get very close to it.
As was his style, Schwarzkopf made the US VII Corps commander aware that he was to take all necessary measures to defend his flanks as long as those went hand-in-hand with the desired result of reaching Dresden. He had seen the reconnaissance reports and the intelligence summaries showing what scattered and weak enemy forces there were in Saxony and expected the US VII Corps to act accordingly. However, very quickly it became clear that there were some who didn’t share Schwarzkopf’s understanding of how he thought warfare inside East Germany was to occur. The enemy was in in disarray and was to be treated as dangerous but on the retreat and without central command-and-control not like they were at the beginning of the conflict.
Colonel Eric Shinseki – a brigade commander within the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Division – incurred Schwarzkopf’s ire during the day and learnt the result of that. Orders went down for Shinseki to be relieved of duty for ‘indecision’ and ‘ill-haste’ for actions when that colonel was leading the advance behind the 2nd Cav’. Fights with Soviet forces making a stand in the area around the town of Hainichen had distracted the drive up the Autobahn towards Dresden and the delays caused by by-the-book methods to deal with enemy tanks and armoured infantry there rather than bypassing them meant that bridges further up ahead were blown up before they could be taken and that city reached. There were arguments made that even without the fighting around Hainichen where what amounted to a regiment-sized force of the enemy was smashed apart wouldn’t have mattered as the Soviets were always going to blow those bridges… but Shinseki was still relieved of duty.
Dresden wouldn’t be reached today.
Everything about the command style employed by Schwarzkopf was different to how things had been done before. He was brash with those who disagreed with him and short with subordinates who he told were still in a peacetime state of mind. He wanted results and results fast. When those come those who achieved them would enter his favour and would be rewarded with more responsibility.
Some unfortunate instances aside, Schwarzkopf very quickly won over everyone he worked with. The US Seventh Army had done exceedingly well beforehand in holding back the Soviets – but only just – and then counter-invading East Germany. With Schwarzkopf in command those who served within it very quickly came to understand that he aimed to have them win the war rather than other parts of the US Army or NATO forces also taking part in ABOLITION.
During the day as Schwarzkopf was making his mark, he was visited by further intelligence operatives regarding activities around Karl-Marx-Stadt. East German Militia units, based around their KdA paramilitary, were within that city in number alongside some Soviet forces of lesser number; they had been bypassed with US VII Corps striking elements moving away to the northeast rather than going into that city. Schwarzkopf was told that there was plenty of strategic intelligence that Karl-Marx-Stadt was home to many enemy intelligence activities and while many personnel with the KGB, GRU and Stasi had fled expecting the city to become a battlefield others remained. There were offices and other facilities there along with special prisons were high-value captives had been taken to during the conflict and were reported to still be held. Asked what they wanted from him, Schwarzkopf was told that a major effort was needed to take the city so that such facilities could be seized and prisoners released.
As expected, such a request didn’t go down too well with Schwarzkopf. He was being asked to assign forces engaged in forward operations as part of ABOLITION to attack an urban target in the rear where heavy and strong resistance was expected. The information he was given on the ‘intelligence sites’ was patchy and his own military intelligence people doubted the veracity of much of those estimates. It sounded to him like a way to see thousands of his soldiers killed for what could be very minimal gains. At the same time, Schwarzkopf realised that he couldn’t not act against such enemy activities of an unconventional nature going on in Karl-Marx-Stadt.
He asked that the spooks come back to him with a real plan that contained better intelligence than what they had given him while he also moved to seek guidance from SACEUR on this issue.
Meanwhile, all across southern parts of East Germany, the US Seventh Army would spend the day advancing as more and more of that country fell under the occupation of the Spanish Army and the US Army.
Two Hundred & Fifty–Two
The Allied Military Control Commission (AMCC) grew very quickly during the war beyond the size and task that it had originally been planned to perform. What begun as nothing more than a tidying-up exercise to establish an organisation to deal with the planned occupation of East Germany after the Brussels meeting decided to launch ABOLITION increased multiple times in scale and mission. The West Germans had forced the AMCC on their NATO allies with the intent that they shouldn’t alone have to deal with the burden of East Germany and the responsibilities of occupation were thus shared.
Providing food and medical care for East German civilians as NATO armies moved through their country increased to assisting the internal refugee problem inside the areas under occupation – the latter not foreseen and especially not in the numbers that eventually were. Disarming East German Militia units became another function and the occupation authorities then had to deal with a crime wave that took off where theft, mindless destruction, violence and murder occurred with alarming frequency throughout their rear areas. Furthermore, the AMCC would be tasked with overseeing war crimes investigations as well in a combined NATO effort rather than at first attempted by individual nation state armed forces.
What was first agreed in Brussels as what many thought was a very small exercise became a burdensome mission equal to the invasion very quickly.
NATO – and the wider Allies too – had a moral obligation as an occupying military power to care for civilians of their battlefield enemy that fell into their care. Soviet, East German and other Socialist Forces occupation authorities had failed in that duty but there had been a determination to not do the same with East Germany and also Czechoslovakia; possibly Poland too. While a military organisation, the AMCC was staffed with many civilians as well from NATO nations and these were not in East Germany to act like the occupiers had done in West Germany. Volunteer organisation from many Allied countries submitted themselves to overall control of the AMCC later and there were many official observers attached as well; the AMCC was kept ‘honest’ by this as well as continued West German reminders that those in East Germany were ‘Germans too’.
As expected, there were many voices of influence calling for harsh rule to be imposed upon those in East Germany who fell under NATO control but such people were ignored. War criminals were hunted down, the illegal authorities there disbanded and the destruction of the dictatorial regime sought but at the same time the people were cared for too. Those who wanted to initially fight were dealt with by military units engaged in combat missions but as the AMCC did its work there was found to be no basis to the assurances from naysayers that there would be deadly domestic resistance to ‘invaders’… and therefore best to treat everyone encountered like an enemy. Nations of the West had fought many wars across the world where they failed to make that distinction on the ground between enemy combatant and soldier and turned the native population up in arms against them.
Popular opinion would in later years credit the influence of Sweden, the Low Countries, Ireland and various international NGOs in making the AMCC the success that it was though at the same time the role of the United States was largely forgotten (much to American chagrin) despite all their efforts in terms of manpower, food and medical supplies.
The humanitarian objective went hand-in-hand with military goals too. NATO did not want to have to face extensive civilian-based attacks on their military forces still engaged in wartime operations with an insurgency being regarded as the worst possible outcome for ABOLITION. There was plenty of opposition from semi-organised East German KdA irregulars but to face true guerrilla warfare inside East Germany was not in any way wanted. Doubts over what the AMCC could do were there and plans were made to deal with other outcomes though when initial successes were met the support given to the AMCC was increased and the role that organisation had planned for it expanded.
Events which occurred in the early stages of the invasion of Czechoslovakia – where the AMCC at first played a very limited role due to initial French resistance to their presence (even though they signed an agreement in Brussels) – showed what could have happened in East Germany and the thinking was that it could have been much worse in the latter with its larger population and better access to arms for civilians.
A lot of careers for civil servants and soldiers would be made within the AMCC and their time spent with the organisation would see their personal futures brightened. Meanwhile, East Germany’s civilians during the occupation would have food in their bellies, shelter from the elements and not run the daily risk of being killed.
NATO military officers with the AMCC would be mainly tasked with security assistance and logistics roles: it was the Allied Military Control Commission after all. There were other duties that those in uniform preformed though that didn’t make it into the propaganda efforts undertaken to show how magnanimous in victory NATO could be.
AMCC military personnel were present where surrenders of Soviet forces occurred making sure that the interests of the interests of the Allies were always maintained with such men involved in the details of such battlefield agreements. This was in the main an administrative function though with the unspoken agenda of making sure that everything was always kept above board. Countries were fighting alongside each other across East Germany yet the fact was recognised that selfish interest could come into play if there wasn’t an outsider present just to make sure.
A more overt role was the presence of AMCC personnel to detain ‘personalities’ who fell into the custody of NATO troops during their combat operations. Acting in conjunction with operatives from various national intelligence agencies, these military officers were tasked to make arrests before high-value prisoners of a political nature were transferred to the custody of spooks. Personalities such as important East German politicians and regime officials were those of interest who while technically civilians couldn’t be treated as military POWs to be sent to camps across Western Europe. AMCC officers were the ones who took the former high-ranking East German politician Egon Krenz – Honecker’s former deputy before the after-effects of the Moscow Coup caused the fall of the old guard and the rise of Mielke – from the custody of Spanish troops in Jena where they had come across him before West German security services then took him away for detention. They were there too when US Army medics tried desperately to save the life of the former spymaster Markus Wolf from a self-inflicted gunshot with the intention of him ending up with CIA personnel on the way; unfortunately for the spooks Wolf and the secrets in his head were lost when he died in the back of an ambulance version of the tracked M-113.
War crimes investigations were not assigned to the AMCC upon creation but soon became a major area of their activities. These took place on both sides of the Inter-German Border – leading to some initial difficulties with West German authorities until political discussions occurred – and would spread far from East Germany into Scandinavia, Denmark and Austria as well as Czechoslovakia when the French became more amenable. Many NATO reservists who were civilian police officers in peacetime would assist in this and there would in later stages come the aid of FBI expertise as well though the AMCC remained the sole investigating authority.
There were POW camps and bodies dumped near battlefields (when soldiers were shot after surrendering) to be combed over looking for clues as to perpetrators with in the latter many unfortunate results attributing blame to NATO units showing ill-discipline as well; such enquires were political dynamite when NATO troops were accused of shooting men who had surrendered but evidence was there to attest to that in many cases. Civilians had been killed in areas occupied by Soviet troops and those of the Socialist Forces and their murders needed investigation along with evidence pointing to organised mass rapes and even torture for tortures sake. West German civilians who had fallen into the hands of East German organised occupation had suffered gravely with many of those later being transferred into East Germany too. Soviet reprisals in Denmark against civilians for the actions of the Danish Resistance would see a lot of investigation being done yet, at the same time, the re-established Danish authorities would actively block enquiries made as to some of the actions undertaken by civilian volunteer ‘patriots’ against the occupier there that were argued by some in the AMCC to be war crimes too. Furthermore, the chaos unleashed by Soviet deserters in Austria was another big task to clear up with diplomacy having to come into play when the Austrians wanted to themselves deal out their own version of justice instead of the AMCC taking charge.
Perpetrators of the war crimes investigated would see many different fates. The majority couldn’t be identified by name and instead commanders would be blamed for their actions of their men with varying degrees of guilt assigned depending upon circumstances. Those who were identified and could be detained were placed under the control of the AMCC; there were plans to try them in military courts or the civilian justice systems (domestic or international, again depending upon the circumstances) afterwards for their crimes. Some of those named were dead or missing and would thus escape the justice which the AMCC was charged to bring like all of those whose identities remained unknown.
What the AMCC was able to do was to provide answers and while justice would have been preferred, this was what was able to be delivered. Sometimes mistakes were made or there was deliberate interference in their war crimes investigations but there was far more success than failure and at least those who lost their loved ones in the war either in uniform or not to illegal activities would stand a very strong chance of finding out what had happened and maybe even see those guilty punished in certain cases too.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 15, 2019 19:00:41 GMT
Two Hundred & Fifty–Three
NORTHAG had always been a true multi-national organisation during peacetime and its wartime successor the British Second Army was just the same. Despite the name and the British commanding general, more Bundeswehr personnel manned the formation that those from the UK. Politics had decided that this wasn’t to be a German field army though and so General Kenny led the command with staff, soldiers and support personnel from not just NATO nations but other members of the Allies now adding their men too. The pre-war structure remained in part but in other ways the British Second Army didn’t resemble the formation which had started the war.
The Dutch had gone from fielding a full corps to now just a lone combat brigade that was composed of survivors from many smashed units. The Belgians had reorganised their corps command several times and had now grown substantially with the addition of many reserves not just at the frontlines but with a major role played in the rear-area logistics network. The Bundeswehr’s IV & VI Corps were wartime creations with the old West German I Corps disbanded; those new commands had more than a third of their combat strength from wartime-raised formations plus an Anglo-Portuguese division attached as well. As to the British, their corps command had seen much internal change with many new additions arriving to replace so many men lost in earlier battles. American and French units which had joined the British Second Army during the conflict had transferred back out along with some of the support links they had provided too bringing changes that required extra assistance to be sought. There were soldiers from the Irish Republic on lines-of-communications duties and Portuguese paratroopers who had seen action. Both Brazil and Chile had promised aid in terms of manpower and while that was taking some time to arrive, such extra forces would be welcomed as both countries were making sure that those men they sent to join the British Second Army were the best-trained and best-equipped that they had.
After suffering major reverses where it had been driven back to the Weser and also faced the pocketing of major forces in the Hannover area, the British Second Army had struck back and driven the enemy to its starting lines at the Inter-German Border… then beyond. Now deep inside East Germany, General Kenny had his command inside the enemy’s homeland ready to go even further. Today was the day where his left flank and those in the centre would cross the Elbe after preparing the way ahead while his troops on the right were to link up with the Americans; that latter move by the Belgians would seal the fate of more than a hundred thousand of the enemy who had failed to withdraw from West Germany fast enough and gone through the Harz Mountains.
The logistics network that the British Second Army operated itself was connected to the immense supply grid which supported NATO forces operating across the Continent. NATO and Allied rear-area services were inter-connected throughout West Germany and back into the Low Countries and France with further expansion down to Iberia but in the main across the seas to Britain, North America and the rest of the world.
Fuel pipelines and their associated pumping, loading and unloading facilities snaked throughout the rear areas providing the petroleum that tanks, armoured vehicles and every other moving vehicle used at the frontlines but also throughout the rear used. At times civilian facilities not destroyed during the war were put to use but this was in effect something established during the conflict in an ad hoc manner and constantly expanding. Oil from the Middle East, the America’s and now too from parts of the North Sea as some war damage was repaired was transported to refinery facilities and then moved onwards to those who needed it to keep the business of war ongoing.
There were communications cables strung that also criss-crossed the rear-areas behind those fighting at the front. NATO forces didn’t just rely on radio links to communicate but also more secure fixed links too. Civilian radio-telephone links had suffered massive destruction during the fighting and those which remained where not regarded as secure. In addition, there were broadcast antenna erected too for radio broadcasts to take place along with the fixed links as well.
Medical stations and field hospitals were in-place throughout the rear along with the support network for ambulances. Casualties from the fighting were transferred through these and treated at various points depending upon need. Those who would require long-term care went further westwards with those who had suffered injuries which wouldn’t need such attention kept close to the frontlines so they could return to their units as soon as possible. Many civilian hospitals had been damaged or destroyed during the fighting and those that remained had reverted to use by civilians so NATO was operating their own now here on the Continent while making use of non-military ones far away from the frontlines.
Supply trucks moved throughout Western Europe between coastal ports deep into occupied parts of East Germany and everywhere in between. The supply links for ammunition, food & drinking water and replacement equipment were staggering in their complexity. There were way stations and distribution centres located in countless locations to handle the movement of goods forward and also backwards too operating on the tactical and strategic level. Experts in this field were supported by the inexperienced with the manpower involved far outnumbering troops at the frontlines. The constant movement of supplies going where they were supposed to and on time with the correct loads was key to keeping those fighting the war inside the enemy’s homeland supplied and this was no small undertaking. NATO knew that this was where the Soviets had seen extreme chaos and they were determined that their supply system wouldn’t meet such failures.
West Germany had been fought over by armies numbering in the millions. There was damage done on a scale that was unimaginable in-places while in other the fighting had been so brief that the infrastructure seemingly remained untouched. Overt sabotage to deny what was there in terms of communications and supply links had taken place to keep such infrastructure from the hands of the enemy but at the same time the business of war had caused destruction. Soviet air, missile and commando attacks had taken place into the Low Countries and France as well smashing apart bridges, railway lines and utility links as well. There was unexploded ordnance, minefields and other discarded weapons of warfare everywhere from crashed aircraft to burnt-out tanks. Buildings had been brought down, rivers blocked and forests set alight. Clearing up this destruction would take years and cost a fortune. In the meantime though, the logistics network needed to be maintained and that took priority over the wishes of civilian authorities to commence clearing and repairs. Roads and railway lines needed urgent repairs and temporary bridges were constructed over rivers and canals. Civilians were put to work – often just for food and shelter – in assisting engineers in doing this with the focus on keeping fuel moving, communications and medical services functioning and those supply trucks shuttling goods back and forth.
Without all of this important ongoing efforts in the rear, no one would be going about the business of war at the frontlines inside East Germany.
Dawn on Tuesday April 5th came with a massed attack over the Elbe from up near Wittenberge down as far as Schonebeck along with the move south of that latter town to link up with the US Third Army along the Saale. General Kenny pushed his troops forward in Operation ANVIL after a day and a half of preparation in terms of artillery barrages, stockpiling of immediate supplies and the marshalling of his forces ready to strike.
The Bundeswehr IV Corps went across the river in three divisional-sized crossings between the Wittenberge and Stendal areas. They tore through enemy efforts to establish blocking positions that were only partially complete and drove eastwards with the 17th Panzergrenadier Division on the right being assisted by fallschirmjager paratroopers (a battalion-sized units from the remains of the 27th Brigade gutted when defending the Weser was used in place of a request for the Portuguese here) in also taking bridges over the lower reaches of the Havel River near Rathenow as well. Soviet troops and East German Militia fighting from fixed positions which had been pounded beforehand put up furious fights in many places but crumbled in others. The British 1st Armoured Division, with its integrated Portuguese brigade as well as many TA men, fought near Havelberg and the flooded areas around that town where the Havel met the Elbe and the Schleusenkanal all combined. Water covered much of the ground and slowed down their advance yet localised flooding also hampered the defenders too. Bloody clashes took place and Havelberg was not a battle going to be forgotten after the war. With the 17th Panzergrenadier Division to their south and then the actions of the 7th Panzer Division at Wittenberge who quickly struck east, the British here faced being left behind before surrenders started taking place among their opponents with Soviet soldiers throwing their hands up and weapons down while KdA irregulars also realising that they had been beaten. Nonetheless, Havelberg was one hell of a fight for those involved which left many bodies behind.
General Inge moved the British I Corps over the Elbe alongside the West Germans. He took advantage of much weaker enemy opposition on the other side to send armoured spearheads pushing forward throughout the day to reach further stretches of the Havel downstream and push for the important town of Brandenburg too. Elements of the long beaten Soviet Twenty-Second Guards Army were present though where some of the legendary Taman Guards and men from the Kamtemir Division were met in battle these were not in fighting shape. The Americans had ripped such prestigious formations apart last week in fighting inside West Germany and here in East Germany the survivors were a shadow of their former self… without any decent stocks of ammunition left too. Their efforts at armoured counterattacks were regarded as half-hearted at best and when the Soviets tried to fight from fixed positions these were overcome too. Lake Plauer sat between Brandenburg and the right-hand elements of the British I Corps but General Inge sent the Iron & Tiger Divisions to reach crossing points over the Havel to the north of there at Premnitz and Pritzerbe before they lanced down in a move with a southeastern orientation. Many anti-tank guns opened fire from defences around Brandenburg and minefields were encountered especially to the west of there, but the British I Corps closed in upon the town before sunset and surrounded it to the north, east and southwest leaving few access routes for any evacuation or hypothetical reinforcement to come. The river barrier that was the Havel, sitting ahead of their line of advance at dawn, had been turned and General Inge had his men halfway to Potsdam now…
West German troops with the Bundeswehr’s VI Corps crossed the Elbe either side of Magdeburg and raced forwards to the east. The terrain which they rolled across was generally flat and open while opposition was very weak once clear of the riverbanks and those blasted defensive positions there. The town of Burg on their left flank was bypassed as enemy forces fell back into there and the newly-raised 13th Panzer Division had lots of luck catching Soviet tank forces preparing for a counterattack around the crossroads at Ziesar; a fantastic victory was won here with the Bundeswehr men left grinning ear to ear and not worried over later comment that those T-64s and T-72s had barely enough ammunition for a fight. Zerbst Airbase was taken by the 1st Panzer Division – survivors of the Hannover pocket – as they struck to the southeast securing the flanks of the West German VI Corps advance and reaching the eastern banks of the Elbe north of Dessau at Rosslau before the Americans could get there as was the desired outcome of SACEUR with operational areas. By the end of the day, the West Germans were ahead of schedule and their forward spearheads were further east than the British at Brandenburg with nothing to stop them going much further east tomorrow apart from orders which would come directing them to take a turn to the northeast.
The Belgian I Corps did as instructed and slammed the door shut behind slowly retreating Soviet troops trying to get out of the Harz Mountains and away from the US national guardsmen there driving them back. Leopard-1 tanks supporting mechanised infantry ripped through retreating units that were already harassed by air power and also falling back in the Magdeburg direction unawares that that was already NATO-held. There was a significant number of troops who refused to believe that they were beaten who were squeezed between the Belgians and those men from the US XI Corps coming from the west. Stubborn refusals to surrender from the enemy were met with heavy and well-aimed fire to smash resistance apart from Soviet formations long ago beaten in open battle but with commanders living in false hope that they would make something of their terrible situation. The Belgians attacked from distance rather than take casualties up close as this was regarded as foolish when faced with a retreating enemy like who they faced and especially one who now posed no threat to the course of the war. By the end of the day, the business here would be almost done with just a few hold-outs remaining that the national guardsmen were coming down from the high ground to deal with and therefore freeing up the Belgians for their planned redeployment with the British Second Army elsewhere.
General Kenny still had designs on getting to Berlin before anyone else despite what the higher-ups were currently saying about a multi-army advance with a combined set-piece attack. The Americans with their US Third & Seventh Armies were still very far away to the south while his forward elements were at Brandenburg.
The race for Berlin was still on as far as he was concerned.
Two Hundred & Fifty–Four
NATO’s invasion of Czechoslovakia was meant to go exactly like that of East Germany though with ABOLITION operations taking place in this Central European nation being limited by geographical factors to the Czech Socialist Republic (Czech SR) rather than the whole country. Prague was the immediate goal with long-term aims being set at reaching the internal border with the Slovak Socialist Republic, but at the same time an acceptance that maybe taking Bohemia and reaching the edges of Moravia might be enough. Far fewer NATO forces were assigned to the mission which was to be conducted by the French First Army – an army-group with several component corps and multi-national in character – yet that didn’t mean that there was any less importance assigned; weaker opposition on the ground was expected.
With hindsight, NATO forces would have been much stronger due to the situation on the ground brought about during the invasion where larger numbers of men were really needed to commence immediate occupation duties.
Entering the Czech SR from the west and the south, NATO troops found that their arrival brought about the instigation of a civil war. Ahead of, around and within the areas held by their occupying troops various groups were set against each other in armed opposition to the other. Militia’s had been raised at the last minute in haste and these struck first against organs of the state attempting to liberate themselves from communist rule while there were violent repression efforts made against these guerrilla-type groups. Soviet and Czechoslovak troops fighting to oppose the invasion were drawn into this conflict at once and distracted from their assigned role of stopping NATO troops from striking deep into the Czech SSR. Disorder reigned especially due to the disorganised fashion of what NATO intelligence officers first called the ‘Czech Resistance’ – something which when heard of by their political masters instructions were given to support – and then different attempts made to stop this resistance from the authorities ranging from pleas for calm, appeals for patriotism to outright armed engagement.
It was civilians who fought in these battles at first but then came the intervention of the retreating Soviet and Czechoslovak Army’s; when those better-armed organisations intervened the bloodshed became far worse than it was at first with their greater reliance on heavy weapons. Militia groups, rebels and those supporting the authorities, had access to light weapons yet then came the use of tanks and heavy artillery. The beaten armies of the Socialist Forces formations pulling back were given orders to fight to secure their line of retreat and anyone who got in their way was to be treated just like their NATO opponents. As can be expected, there were many Czechoslovak troops – especially those who were Czechs – who then rebelled against such orders and added to the number of different actors engaged in fighting the civil war.
Those who lived in the Czech SR, especially its western and central regions which formed the historic Bohemia, had faced NATO air power unleashed against them during the war. Air strikes launched by those with the 3 ATAF on strategic missions had done a lot of damage and caused many civilian casualties which had first helped official propaganda be believed that the Socialist Forces held the moral high ground in the conflict. However, Soviet reactions to having their logistics links to the east severed and therefore taking whatever they wanted from the local population had soon reversed much of that. Many Czech civilians had their personal property stolen or found themselves forcibly conscripted into backbreaking construction work while local authorities looked on helpless and wondering why their leader Vasil Bilak didn’t come to their aid. When news came that NATO troops were invading from out of West Germany and then from Austria as well, Czechs who were close to the borders of those countries were faced with the prospect of war affecting them even more than it already had done so. Some revolted, some fled, but many just stayed where they were in their towns and villages not wishing to go against the state but at the same time frightened of what was to come.
There were Bundeswehr, Canadian and Moroccan troops alongside French troops with the French First Army. These formed four corps commands with most of the men having seen much fighting inside Bavaria already in holding back the Soviet-led RED BEAR offensive and then pushing those attacking troops to where they had come from. They were chasing a beaten enemy whose combat strength had been smashed apart with reports of low levels of supplies and certainly terrible morale.
The French I Corps had crossed the border Czechoslovak-West German border in the northwest moving from the Franconia region of Bavaria into Bohemia there. The town of Cheb had been taken to the left but the main effort was made heading for Plzen instead of initial plans to head for Karlovy Vary (also known as Carlsbad) and areas along the Czechoslovak-East German border. This was a tank-heavy force which the French were using here and its drive towards the city of Plzen was aided by the French VI Corps – with lighter French forces plus the Moroccans – assisting to the south.
The West Germans with their Bundeswehr II Corps were moving through the Bohemian Forest in a northeastern direction deep into the Czech SR and aiming for the trio of towns of Klatovy, Strakonice and Pisek as immediate goals. However, they were ready to change the direction of their advance as needed either north to aid the attack upon Plzen or east to support the French II Corps.
That initial fast-moving incursion into Bohemia from the south towards Ceske Budejovice by the French II Corps had slowed down somewhat but was still underway. Canadian troops were fighting alongside their French allies here in trying to reach that important communications centre against last minute strong opposition.
In the skies above the French First Army there were many aircraft now flying under command of the 7 ATAF which were undertaking in the main tactical missions though sometimes those of a semi-strategic nature as well. Hundreds of NATO aircraft here had scoured the skies of opposition from an enemy which was now focusing everything left that they had in their aerial arsenal in (failing) operations above East Germany. Only SAMs threatened aircraft with the 7 ATAF over the Czech SR and most of those could now be handled rather well.
Throughout the day, the French First Army drove onwards. Plzen was approached and battles commenced around that city with a major engagement fought near Dobrany Airbase and also intense fighting taking place in the southern part of the city where many industrial areas were located. Czechoslovak troops were few here and it was mainly retreating Soviet Army elements that the French combated though there were militia units too who remained loyal to the regime.
Moroccan troops on the march to Plzen found themselves caught up in the middle of armed civil disturbances around the town of Stod which soon spread to nearby villages there: Hradec and Strelice. Following orders, the Moroccan troops pulled back and then pushed onwards to take part in the effort to seize the city not knowing that in those small villages massacres were occurring as government forces there defeated rebels and killed hundreds who had fallen back from Stod and been surrounded. Only afterwards did what happen at Hradec and Strelice become known but by then the conventional war had long moved on away to the east and these acts of the civil war were not regarded as holding much immediate importance.
Further south, where the Canadians were assigned to assist the French II Corps, a light armoured detachment with the Fort Garry Horse rolled into the tiny village of Lhotice on their way to secure a major crossroads north of Ceske Budejovice. There was a massacre ongoing there where rebels had the upper hand over government forces and were lining unarmed civilians up to shoot them. Canadian troops put a stop to this and tried to disarm the militia units they encountered here only for resistance to be met. Several soldiers were shot and a couple of up-armoured jeeps blown up with petrol bombs… with questions there asked as to where the locals got the fuel from for such weapons. The six-wheeled Cougar armoured vehicles that these reservists from Manitoba fielded returned fire with their big 76mm cannon and machine guns to eliminate their attackers in a furious response from the Canadians here only trying to liberate such people. Further Canadian soldiers, reservists with the Black Watch of Canada, quickly flooded the area after arriving in trucks and distracting the parent formation of the 2nd Infantry Brigade from its mission.
No one in NATO was interested in taking sides in the ongoing civil war apart from instructions given to not stop the destruction of the communist regime, yet soldiers on the ground were seeing things that they were unhappy with and the Canadian experience at Lhotice was just one of many examples of that.
Ceske Budejovice would join Plzen by the end of the day in being in NATO hands while the Bundeswehr had reached their objectives as well; their new orders were to head towards Pribram and support French forces either side of them in heading for Prague. As this conventional fighting continued, messages were being sent up the chain of command as to the situation in the Czech SR with what was being observed with questions asking for clarifications on earlier orders about ignoring what was witnessed and driving onwards with the advance. Those taking part here in ABOLITION were not happy to be what many regarded as accomplices to acts of slaughter taking place against the helpless… not when their official mission was to liberate Czechoslovakia.
Italy had entered the war to secure the defence of their country by stopping the Soviets from taking Austria and therefore being in a position to later advance over the Alps. That war aim of the government in Rome had been stated several times in public as well as private to their erstwhile NATO allies; Italy had to think of itself and wasn’t interested in goals such as ABOLITION or the complete destruction of the Soviet armed forces.
There were now Italian troops all across eastern parts of Austria engaged in pushing the Hungarians back home and eliminating what few organised Soviet troops were in the Vienna area as well. Those thousands of deserters from the Soviet Fourth Guards Army were being rounded-up as well in support of Austrian efforts to rid the countryside of those bandit-type groups which had sprung up as well as individual ‘maniacs’, as the Austrians deemed men roaming the countryside on their own causing mayhem.
Victory in Austria had been won with what turned out to be ease though helped out by other factors too. The question now was what to do next…?
There remained much hostility with regards to Italy from several other nations at the neutrality declared at the beginning of the conflict. France had sent troops to the Alps and the United States had prepared mission orders for aircraft to bomb military targets within the country. This had come from what Sir Dereck Thomas – the British Ambassador in Rome – stated was a ‘with us or with them’ attitude taken early in war and something he reported back to Tom King at the FCO as being ‘unsurprisingly unhelpful’.
Once Italy entered the war and engaged Soviet forces in Austria first in the air and then on the ground that hostility only somewhat eased. Italy sent immense stocks of ammunition across the Alps and into West Germany for use by NATO forces there after factories within the country had been busy working twenty-four hours shifts under government orders (with all the resulting problems that caused the Italians) to manufacture bullets and shells ready to be loaded upon trucks and trains. Food had been sent to help German civilians too along with tents and blankets for the homeless. Such gestures were regarded as a cynical attempt at blackmail by many to win favour after what was regarded as a betrayal when war erupted.
The West Germans had been supportive of Italy at the Brussels summit last week but other nations had refused to change their tune. Some called this short-sightedness while others would declare that the Italians couldn’t be trusted. Italy remained outside of the NATO central command structure after the Brussels meeting and while there were some co-operation efforts in Austria, in the main to do with air tasking, those were cordial at best. Italian-Austrian relations were now immensely strong with much distrust in Italian-NATO relations.
Italy didn’t therefore consult with NATO about it follow-up actions after securing Austria although NATO was made aware of what they had planned.
Counter-invading Hungary wasn’t seen as a viable course of action for the Italian Expeditionary Army to take. Hungary’s best troops had been beaten in battle on Austrian soil but behind them lay many reservists rushing to man long-established border defences with more of those going up with speed. The Hungarian countryside within twenty miles of the Austrian border was being torn up with anti-tank ditches, blockades and minefields all put into place to make an invasion extremely costly. There was much propaganda being put out by the Hungarians too that was judged by the Italians to be enough to make sure that a real fight would come from a clash on that border with casualties expected to be high.
Moving into Hungary would mean committing almost all of the Italian Expeditionary Army too and that was now not something that was deemed the wisest of moves with what was occurring in neighbouring Yugoslavia. There were civil disturbances and political dramas going on there at the moment and Rome wasn’t sure how that would work out. Warships from the Italian Navy were already secretly in-strength throughout the Adriatic though it would be troops and aircraft that would have to be put to use in Yugoslavia should the very worst happen there – fears of civil war with an ethnic dimension were high on Italy’s list of the ‘very worst’ – and therefore they couldn’t be committed to Hungary where an invasion would be a major undertaking.
Instead, it was decided that a limited operation would still take place in Central Europe to maintain the security doctrine of securing Italy’s northeastern borders in the long-term. Elements of the Fifth Army Corps around Vienna with their tanks and paratroopers were issued with orders to make the short journey from there to Bratislava.
The Italians were going to find out if those earlier reports that the Slovaks were ready to rise up in revolt like the Poles were true and such a manpower commitment on the part of the Italians wasn’t expected to be too large.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 15, 2019 19:16:50 GMT
Two Hundred & Fifty–Five
My War; The Heroic Deeds Of A Soldier, by General Alexander Ivanovich Lebed.
Part 14: That Fateful Day
I came to realise during that fateful day, April 6th, as I undertook my duties, that the war was lost. Others claim that they knew beforehand yet I maintain that at the mid-point through the fourth week of war that the signs finally became clear for all to see that the Soviet Army had been defeated and the war could no longer continue… even though, to my immense disappointment and for the sons of the Rodina, it would carry on. We had been defeated in battle and there was no turning back now for our adversaries were in the ascendancy with no hope of stopping them.
The night beforehand I had been busy in the city of Dresden engaged in further investigations due to the events of several days ago in the forests near there. There were Chekist personnel who had faced reassignment from their past duties and who had knowledge that I needed to undertake the tasks assigned. As was the case whenever I dealt with such people, there was hostility but it was on both sides.
A Chekist always thinks that he is a better man than a soldier yet every soldier knows that a Chekist is nothing more than toilet scum.
I needed answers and gaining those took much of my time. I had rested for the night in a simple barracks with bare comforts and my sleep was broken due to bombing attacks made by Western aircraft. I had to return to Zossen [Author’s Note: A major Soviet military facility south of Berlin taken over from the Nazis post-1945] for further duties there to collate information gained with my subordinates. To take a flight was far too dangerous and therefore I travelled by road. My driver had been informed that because of enemy air attacks the shortest route – north along the Autobahn – was out of the question but a diversion was to be taken.
The nearest bridge over the Elbe open to northbound traffic that morning was at Torgau. I could have misused by high-priority travel pass as a representative of STAVKA and crossed that river at an earlier point yet I chose to do the honourable thing and trust my driver to reach Torgau where afterwards I could make my return to Zossen.
Panic was evident everywhere from what I could see out of the windows as we headed along roads following the course of the river. At towns such as Meissen and Riesa, locations I had only known on the map as being along the Elbe, smoke bellowed into the skies around them that morning following bombing attacks not just against bridges but at traffic jams where the Soviet Army had been held up from movement across too. Cowards and miscreants had fled and were being hunted down nearby for deserters cannot be allowed to go unpunished in wartime; this justice I approved of as I passed it by. What alarmed me was the actions of officers with the army which I served who I found reason to talk to when we needed to stop. No one was following their orders correctly. I asked many who gave them orders to withdraw back to the river as I saw them doing when the American Army was in the other direction. I inquired of others as to why they were abandoning their wounded. Discipline was gone and maybe I at that point regretted for a few foolish moments how the Chekists had been drummed out where before they would have put a stop to that…
…yet I knew too of all the lives of good, loyal officers they had taken in acts of murder when they claimed they were only inflicting discipline.
Torgau was another location where there was panic and disorder. No one there was following orders and the focus was on self-preservation rather than the fates of their comrades-in-arms. I was horrified at what I saw there with cowardice and lies being the order of the day. Traffic jams went far to the south of the town and I was forced to finally use my pass giving priority to my duties there to get ahead of many vehicles. I spoke to a senior man with the Commandant’s Service [Author’s Note: The Soviet Army’s military police force] and explained my duties with STAVKA and he was happy to let me pass; I felt compelled to inform him that there were many private automobiles in the queues with what I suspected to be East German civilian officials mis-using travel authorisations to abandon their posts ahead of the Western invaders and he promised to address that issue.
Arriving in Torgau at that moment nearly took my life. A daylight air attack commenced against the town with its bridges and the military traffic thus being the targets. There were American tactical bombers in the skies above that morning – F-111 Aardvarks I was later told – dropping guided bombs at low-level. The best decision was to abandon our vehicle and so my driver and I did so while keeping out weapons with us in the hope that maybe we could be of help: we both joined hundreds of men in firing up into the sky though, I must regret, that of course no one at the time realised that what bullets are fired skywards must always fall back down somewhere and there will always be those unlucky caught up in that.
In daylight, those American aircraft with their swept-back wings were like vultures. They killed men by their hundreds below them with their bombs and even sheltering as I was forced to do so I could see the damage which they wrought. River crossings assembled during the conflict to replace earlier permanent structures were destroyed one by one with the steel falling into the river below taking trucks and soldiers with them. In my short tenure on Marshal Korbutov’s staff before reassignment I had learnt how maskirovka efforts had kept such bridges from being destroyed by night-time air attacks and been impressed. Here in daylight such concealment efforts meant nothing. Four separate air attacks came in, one after the other, and the bridges all went down closing these vital crossings over the Elbe that morning.
Where were the defences? I witnessed no anti-aircraft guns firing nor rockets lancing skywards chasing those bombers. There was a series of attacks on nearby hilltop positions, generally on the northern side of the river a few miles away, that I assumed where defences were meant to be located yet there was no protection offered from those. It occurred to me then that the defenders of Torgau had no ammunition because I was certain that they hadn’t abandoned their posts less they would not have been attacked as they were with such violence.
Torgau was very important to keep open as a crossing point supplying the troops fighting against the invasion coming from the Americans but those bombers had been unmolested. I realised at that point that the aircraft of the invaders were doing as they wished and there was nothing to stop them anymore.
Only by the late evening did I reach Zossen. I had contacted my staff during the delay to inform them and relay the information that aircraft were roaming at will with news relayed back that it was the case elsewhere too and not just along the Elbe. As I would discover airfields across East Germany were finally being closed due to targeted enemy action and ground defences running out of their final stocks of ammunition… and they were not going to reopen to our comrades in the Air Forces at any point.
My duties remained the same since they had been when issued two days previous: find out exactly who had been behind the attempt at the seizure of the special weapons in Saxony and killed so many Soviet soldiers while doing so. I knew that it had been the work of Chekists though the identities of the masterminds behind such an infamy were hard to acquire. It took much hard work to get those who knew the truth to talk and those who knew anything only knew some. I had come to believe even at that early point that there was one man at the top of such an infamous, treasonous conspiracy and he would be ultimately found in Berlin.
As I talked with my loyal subordinates – all patriots like myself fighting against traitors and their schemes to enrich themselves – we discussed Berlin among ourselves. Zossen along with Wunsdorf, Sperenberg and Juterbog [Author’s Note: Further Soviet military facilities of great importance and which would remain so throughout the later stages of the war in East Germany] were all far from the fighting at that time and away from Berlin and what was going on there.
The Hitlerite and his Gestapo – Mielke and the Stasi – were starting work on their immense ‘ring of mud’ around the city to the west and south. I was told how they were constructing with slave labour from West Berlin immense barriers that could block access to Berlin. It had been going on for several days but that was when I first heard of it. I remember cradling my head in my hands when I was told.
Nothing done beforehand had stopped the invaders even trying to steal special weapons from us. But there was that fool in his bunker – just like the fascist forty years before – with his foolish dreams that he could stop the inevitable. It was the Soviet Army that had been the guarantor of his regime and we had been defeated in battle; his latest crazy plan would come to nothing.
That Hitlerite was who we had allied ourselves with and allowing him to do that was the last desperate straw. I knew that the end was coming but no one else did… at that point anyway.
Two Hundred & Fifty–Six
HMS Bristol entered Rostock’s inner harbour through the Seekanal in the mid-morning sunshine.
Upon calmly making her way inside without the benefit of so much a harbour pilot, there was no effort to hide or disguise her identity apart from the lack of pendants bristling in the wind. There were weapons trained upon the Royal Navy ship as she slipped into the inner waters of a major East Germany Navy – Volksmarine – facility here on the Baltic coastline, but none of those opened fire upon the destroyer.
Like his crew, Bristol’s commanding officer, Captain Alan West, was more than a little nervous. At any moment something could go wrong. Maybe they’d strike a mine or the harbour bottom if the charts he had been issued with were a little bit wrong. Someone on the shore could disobey orders and revert to patriotism with a cannon or missile fusillade instead of letting the British warship arrive unmolested like this. Perhaps word had got out and the Soviets knew what was going on here and right now they had aircraft heading this way? The Bristol was near-defenceless making this approach and the loss of life could be appalling if the worst occurred.
There was no resistance though, just unarmed men that Captain West observed from his position up in the bridge ready with towlines along the nearest quay. Bristol was going to peacefully dock here and behind her were coming other ships too but those and other NATO forces would have to wait for now until confirmation came that the offer of ‘neutrality’ was real…
…that would only come after Captain West had Admiral Theodor Hoffmann, commander of the Volksmarine, aboard his warship.
The need for operational security and the safeguarding of intelligence meant that Captain West nor his crew were told of the specifics surrounding what had occurred with the East Germans making contact.
When the order came earlier this morning for the Bristol to depart from her assigned operations in the Koge Bay and race southwards, there was only a little information given and just enough for the job to be done. The commander of the Volksmarine, Captain West had been briefed, had made contact and wished for NATO to be aware that what remained of his command were declaring their so-called neutrality in the conflict between NATO and their own masters in Berlin. As a gesture to show their good faith, military facilities under the command of the Volksmarine along the Baltic would not put up any resistance to use by NATO forces; Admiral Hoffmann would come aboard the first vessel to arrive in Rostock to arrange this in person.
It had been decided that the Bristol was to be used to find out if this offer was genuine: Captain West and his crew would probably pay with their lives if it wasn’t. The one-of-a-kind Bristol had only recently arrived in the western stretches of the Baltic after spending the pre-war mobilisation and then the early stages of the conflict in the English Channel not far from her homeport of Dartmouth. With few armaments fitted and a crew of reservists, the Bristol had been undertaking patrol duties that weren’t that dissimilar from her peacetime training role… though with the danger of sudden attack which could have come at any moment even in the English Channel. The need to replace losses in earlier combat as well as the build-up in the Baltic had then brought the destroyer into a much more dangerous war-zone such as the waters to the north of East Germany were.
What hadn’t been stated was that the Bristol was expendable if something went wrong. Captain West did understand and followed his orders even if he didn’t like the idea of that. Should things go wrong he would try and fight his way out of here even if that might prove as naturally feared rather impossible. He had seen his ship sunk from under him beforehand when in the Falklands – he had commanded the unfortunate HMS Ardent during the conflict in 1982 against the Argentineans – and if that happened again at least this time he would get some payback. Moreover, there were Sea Harriers from HMS Invincible not that far away on-call as well, just in case.
Two helicopters had brought senior NATO officers aboard along with some translators during the approach to Rostock and those officers were to meet with Admiral Hoffmann with Captain West’s duties to get them there. If everything went as planned, he knew that he would eventually get his own rewards in time for this would be a high-profile mission – after it was over – as he had the eyes of many senior people upon him.
The Volksmarine officer was escorted aboard and he came with a couple of aides and one of those spoke for Admiral Hoffmann when the East Germans boarded. Captain West gladly accepted the kind words spoken about the seamanship of his crew in bringing the Bristol into Rostock without a pilot and by avoiding the mines that NATO had been informed about. Before handing over discussions to the senior people also aboard, Captain West was able to observe his ‘enemy’ briefly and how he carried himself.
The war had seen the Volksmarine smashed to pieces alongside the naval forces of the Poles and the Soviet Baltic Fleet. They had inflicted many losses upon NATO and Swedish forces themselves, but had ultimately suffered defeat when they couldn’t control the air situation and their last-ditch land-based missile defences had been countered by electronic warfare. Nonetheless, Admiral Hoffmann didn’t look like a defeated commander and held his head high with his uniform carefully pressed and his boots & buckles shinning. He was committing treason as far as Captain West was concerned in doing what he was even though the official line was to not mention that and go along with this façade of ‘neutrality’. Naval anchorages like this one at Rostock but also much further to the east at Peenemunde were apparently covered as well as the civilian harbours currently under Volksmarine control again at Rostock, at Wismar and at Neustadt in occupied West Germany. Moreover, from what Captain West understood, Admiral Hoffmann shattered command controlled the airfields at Laage inland from Rostock and the big facility near Peenemunde as well.
All of this was suddenly about to be handed over to NATO without a shot being fired and also without the knowledge of the regime Admiral Hoffmann’s served nor the Soviets.
Captain West knew that for several days now NATO forces had been preparing to make a move against the East German coast. There were light troops coming down from Norway along with marines – both from the Royal Marines and the US Marines – that were meant to be soon conducting a landing operation somewhere that he hadn’t been told the location of yet. A forced landing like that would have required the support offered by the Bristol and everyone was expecting such an operation to be very bloody indeed. Now the gates were being opened before them by those who held all the keys.
With the Bristol being part of the RN’s Dartmouth Training Squadron, there were facilities aboard where compartments had been turned into classrooms after the destroyer had left her active role to go into standby as she was before LION called for all available assets to go to sea. Captain West remained on the bridge while talks took place in several of those and once those were finished he was given orders to send a pre-arranged signal to other NATO forces offshore that that dialogue commenced aboard had been successful. He quickly bid farewell to Admiral Hoffmann through the translator and saluted the man too upon the prompting of one of his own service’s senior men; Captain West had been unsure whether it was the correct thing to do seeing as the RN and his country were still at war with the East Germans but again did as he was instructed to with that.
Within thirty minutes the first of the ships following the Bristol arrived and Captain West watched its progress following his lead.
RFA Sir Lancelot had nearly been sunk three weeks ago in the Vestfjorden but the landing ship had been very lucky and avoided torpedoes from that Soviet submarine in those constricted Norwegian waters that knocked her sister-ship RFA Sir Bedivere out of the war. Fortune had again smiled upon the ship when in the Skagerrak supporting PORTER and the Royal Marines landing in Jutland when avoiding mines there though this morning’s run following the Bristol could have been fatal had last-minute intelligence upon further mines not been given by Admiral Hoffmann before the heavily-laden vessel came into Rostock. Without damage and with a Volksmarine pilot who came out to bring her in, the Sir Lancelot docked at a quay in the civilian part of Rostock a short distance away from Captain West’s vessel in the naval anchorage.
Royal Marines but also amphibious-trained Royal Engineers from the British Army were fast off the vessel and all over the harbour area which had seen several wartime visits from NATO aircraft on deep-strike missions. They went to work in assessing damage done from bombs and removing demolition charges too after those were pointed out to them. As to the Bootnecks who came with the engineers, those soldiers had many duties. There were two full companies of them from 40 Commando as a forward security detachment with duties ranging from over-watch of the Royal Engineers to also taking charge of prisoners. NATO hadn’t been aware until those senior officers who had come in with the Bristol were told that fighting had taken place in Rostock during the night when Volksmarine personnel engaged Stasi and Soviet Navy forces there. The armed men under Admiral Hoffmann’s supervision had struck hard and with much violence to disable communications first and then disarm their former comrades-in-arms. Most of those who had found that their former allies suddenly turned upon them had died, taking many of their attackers with them, but some prisoners had been gained too: the East German sailors wanted rid of these people as quick as possible.
Captain West had meanwhile pulled his destroyer away from its temporary anchorage leaving it afloat in the shallow waters of Rostock’s inner harbour known as the Breitling. He left the bridge and went down to the command centre – within an internal compartment – were he monitored other events on the radio and from information gained by radar. Though not party to the overall plan, he understood that as fast as possible other ships were moving this way while helicopters would be in the sky bringing in men. He believed that Laage Airbase, some distance to the south, would very soon be seeing troops arrive there and the beach at nearby Warnemunde would too. Furthermore, he could only speculate on other operations elsewhere possibly involving Wismar and Peenemunde too. Operational security remained tight especially if everything had gone wrong upon arrival here and he and his crew had fallen into the hands of the enemy.
He was waiting now for the first sign of the enemy reacting. How long the Soviets would take to find out he didn’t know, but he didn’t believe that the rest of the time he would spend here would be very dull.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 15, 2019 19:23:18 GMT
Two Hundred & Fifty–Seven
The role of SACEUR meant that while General Galvin was the ultimate commander for all NATO and Allied forces involved in the Third World War within Europe – on land, in the air and at sea in a-joining waters – his was also a political position with policy and diplomatic functions to perform. There were subordinates to carry out the tasks he set as he made the major decisions on the conduct of the war yet at the same time he wasn’t involved in every single action undertaken. He spent his time far in the rear and away from danger often meeting with politicians and diplomats as well as the media on occasion fulfilling the role needed for a supreme commander.
Therefore, a lot of trust had to be placed in his subordinates so that the war was fought along the guidelines that he set. Many times when problems arose he had personally intervene to solve them and these would often occur through personality clashes – especially among those of different nationalities – though also when those junior in position to him within in command structure in-place failed to obey instructions. He also had to smooth over issues where political decisions made at a national level interfered within the chain of command too as one country did something for their own benefit which affected others as well as the overall conduct of how the war was being fought.
This was not a job for just any soldier and there was of course the ‘legend’ that was his immediate predecessor General Bernard Rogers; someone who was a favourite of many European military officers and politicians before he had run afoul of the Reagan White House last summer. General Galvin was not General Rogers and would never be despite the wishes of some in Europe that he was.
At the outbreak of war, SACEUR’s mobile headquarters, on the move in a rapid fashion across the Low Countries and parts of the Rhineland to avoid enemy targeting efforts, had been on constant alert for a simple code-word to be flashed to them: ALPHABET. That would have indicated that a nuclear attack was underway meaning that all efforts made ready to fight a conventional war had been rendered moot. Such an alert hadn’t come and instead had come several weeks now of conventional conflict between massed armies fighting across Europe and SACEUR’s area of operational responsibility from the North Cape to the Turkish Straits.
Battles had been won and lost in sometimes epic struggles. More and more countries had joined in the fighting here in Europe with their armed forces submitting to his command as well though in a few cases having much stronger national government links than others, further complicating his task. His forces had seen several waves of reinforcements raised domestically within Europe and coming from overseas – in the main from the United States mainland – but at the same time numbers thinned after being committed to action. There had been several moments when things had gone wrong and SACEUR had been worried that he was about to see the ultimate failure occur and the enemy win, especially during the first Friday of the war, but his forces had prevailed eventually and fought their way back from what had on occasion looked like doomed positions.
His role meant that every loss suffered was ultimately down to him as every success was too. Those fighting the war here in Europe were all under his command and so he had to accept responsibility for all that happened: claiming credit for success wouldn’t come without accepting the blame for failure too.
Being heavily involved in the political side of the war as he needed to be dealing with the North Atlantic Council, talking to the NSC back home at least once a day and also meeting often with diplomats from various nations meant that not every decision was made by him. His two deputies – the Briton General Akehurst and the West German General Eimler – fought the war on his behalf through the regional commanders in Northern (Scandinavia), Central (Germany) and Southern (Turkey) Europe with General Galvin overseeing those. During the conflict he would also issue orders directly at times to commanders of his field armies and the big multi-national numbered air forces as well.
Staff officers with SACEUR’s mobile headquarters, sometimes called in jest ‘the travelling circus’, often decided what information he saw and what he didn’t need to have brought to his immediate attention. This was a very important task with judgement calls having to be made with the possibility of grievous errors being made; those on SACEUR’s staff were chosen well and knew that doing their duty even in a minor role correctly would see them follow an excellent post-war career path.
Colonel Dair Farrar-Hockley from the British Army and Major David Petraeus with the US Army were two of those on General Galvin’s staff. These two staff officers were tasked as official briefers and personal representatives to SACEUR with the burden of assisting in making sure that the supreme commander wasn’t overwhelmed while fulfilling his role but making sure nothing important was left out either. Their days and nights were full of ‘excitement’ and a lot of travel too as they were sent all across Europe to talk with officers in the field and observe ongoing matters of interest to SACEUR as well as trying to nip potential troubling issues in the bud.
Both men – along with other officers like them also attached to SACEUR’s staff from other armies – often found themselves in situations were there was an opportunity for them to use their own military experience to intervene where they saw something being done wrong or an officer in a position that they could fill needing replacement. Their duty to General Galvin’s staff remained though and they had to fulfil the tasks given to them as there were many others just as capable who would do what was needed.
Late this evening, SACEUR did what he usually did at the end of daylight hours and assembled his key staffers for a briefing on the day’s fighting before later issuing overall instructions for the next day. His rolling convoy had come to a stop and tents were set up while security teams spread out to secure the area. Officers with roles in operations & plans, intelligence, logistics and co-ordination with allies were gathered before General Galvin.
Farrar-Hockley led the briefing and did what he always did in going through the day’s military events. The now relatively minor action (compared to elsewhere) taking place in in the far north of and to the southeast of Europe was covered by the British Army officer with input given on occasion from others. Germany and the western half of Czechoslovakia dominated current military operations taking place though.
Operation CROWN had started out just as planned meeting the initial set goals and showing all the signs of further success. The game of ‘neutrality’ that the East German Navy high command was playing had meant that access points into East Germany through the Baltic were open. There had been naval and airmobile landings at several points now with troops and equipment flooding ashore and measured thrusts taking place to move inland away from the coast but not too far yet before strength was built up. British forces had come ashore at Rostock with the US Marines to their left at Wismar and on their right the victorious US Army’s XVIII Corps – fresh from their fights in Finmark and Lapland – were at Peenemunde near the Polish-East German border. There were Swedish troops ready to move in behind the NATO forces ashore with airbases being established as well to house combat aircraft. Soviet resistance had come in the form of air attacks and tactical missile strikes but those had been far from effective. As to enemy troops there were few nearby as all attention had been focused elsewhere responding to threats coming from the west and the south.
The British Second Army was now operating within the Havelland: the region between Berlin and the Elbe. This was an area were marshes and lakes were aplenty with canals and small rivers as well as forests. Brandenburg remained a centre of strong resistance and while now surrounded had yet to be subdued with Bundeswehr troops moving in to take it after an aversion on the part of British troops present to get involved in direct fighting inside the town. Across the rest of that region there was sporadic fighting ongoing with Soviet rear-area troops making stands and being eliminated. As per orders, at the moment there were no daring thrusts forward due to the terrain being an ideal spot for sustained resistance by bypassed enemy units and so the focus remained on clearing those out slowly and with much firepower. The edges of occupied West Berlin remained not far away though and almost within reach.
The US Third & Seventh Armys had travelled a greater distance through East Germany than their allies to the north of them but were fast catching up. They were closing in on the stretch of the Elbe ahead of them with it being not so much a defended barrier to their advance but instead acting as a barrier to enemy movement to escape across it which was hindering their own movement. Current estimates put crossings to be made by late tomorrow once disorganised Soviet resistance could be crushed and that river reached. This would allow both field armies to then make their approach towards Berlin from the south. Major urban areas around cities such as Dresden and Leipzig as well as the big towns of Dessau, Halle and Karl-Marx-Stadt would remain unoccupied behind those advances done and planned. As had been seen at Magdeburg where the West Germans had pushed into that city to capture it, losses would be very heavy in such engagements. East German irregulars were generally well-motivated when defending their homes and wouldn’t easily give up.
In the maps that went with the briefing, SACEUR and his staff were reminded of the operational zones that the major subordinate corps and army commands inside East Germany were meant to stay within. Boundaries either side of their advance weren’t meant to be crossed apart from in a tactical manner so that the advance wouldn’t get bogged down with units cutting across the advance of another. There were friendly fire concerns with this but also keeping logistics links flowing as planned. There had already been some negative reactions to this but such was the plan that was to be followed to keep the advance going.
Also on those maps were other areas of interest within East Germany away from the fighting. There was the easternmost parts of the country behind Berlin and along the border with Poland where air interdiction continued to keep Soviet fifth echelon armies stuck on the other side. There had been some leakage of the line drawn that they weren’t supposed to cross yet no major Soviet force above division size had crossed and even then such formations appeared to be very much understrength with old equipment and out of shape men too. Bombs continued to rain down upon crossings forced over the river and at enemy formations trying to get across the Oder and the Neisse.
Down in the southeastern corner, behind Dresden in a triangle-shaped area defined by that city, Cottbus to the north and Gorlitz on the border there was an area of interest too that was mentioned at this briefing. There had been ‘incidents’ there late on Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday that SACEUR had been made aware of via several intelligence assets to do with Soviet nuclear weapons and an attempt by what he was told renegade Soviet KGB forces to seize some of those. Such a thing had given him and many others visions of a nightmare scenario but it appeared that nothing had come of that. Petraeus spoke now of all intelligence pointing to a gathering of Soviet tactical nuclear forces in that region with mobile missile-launchers and possibly artillery shells and aircraft-delivered bombs with thermonuclear warheads as well. There were already very strict limits attacking targets suspected of being of a nuclear nature for NATO pilots on strike missions through the enemy rear but now there was a concentration of those in one region. It appeared that an effort was being made to withdraw them from East Germany but whether that was into Poland or Czechoslovakia was not yet known.
SACEUR made a firm statement that this situation needed to be monitored with all available means and pilots were to be reminded of their rules-of-engagement again.
When Farrar-Hockley returned to his brief, he spoke next of Czechoslovakia and what was occurring there. The main effort of the French-led invasion as part of ABOLITION there was to reach Prague with – as it was with Berlin – moves from the west and south. The civil war underway there on the ground with several actors involved was slowing that up at the moment rather than enemy action. Delays in advancing didn’t mean a halt to those, far from it, just that the timetable was slipping some. There was also the attack made yesterday from Vienna into Slovakia by the Italians: they had taken Bratislava in a bold move. Little resistance had been met and there was nowhere near the level of civil infighting going on in that region compared to what was being witnessed in the Czech parts of the country. The presence of the Italians there would have clear significance in future events in Czechoslovakia, hopefully for the benefit of the Allies. Indications were that effective organised resistance was soon going to come to an end with the final battles being fought for Prague but the Czechs would meanwhile carry on killing each other.
Satisfied with what he had heard when it came to operations, SACEUR listened to other briefers concerning intelligence and then logistics too.
What forces remained opposing his own throughout East Germany and Czechoslovakia were covered in detail with the best information available being that those were beaten units at the end of their retreat now. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers were still all across the two countries – along with some East German and quite a few Czechoslovak soldiers – along with thousands of tanks and other armoured vehicles. They were running out of ammunition, fuel, food and everything else that they needed though. Their air defences were minimal and air support coming to an end. Surrenders were taking place in many places though other troops still made desperate stands even ready to foolishly try to fight hand-to-hand when it came to it but faced with NATO armies fully supplied with ammunition. Civil disorder and defections of figures of authority were taking place with a regular fashion now with military intelligence officers as well as spooks gaining much from events like the latter. Both Berlin and Prague would be the next big battlegrounds, especially the East German capital. There were numerically strong enemy forces gathered around both cities with various estimates on their real fighting strength in terms of ammunition and morale; those would clearly be the deciding battles of this conflict.
As to his own supply situation, there remained a constant supply of almost everything that was needed arriving in a timely fashion to those engaged in conflict under SACEUR’s command. Problems would often crop up with delayed deliveries due to destruction – stocks of refined aviation fuel for air operations were always an issue with so many specialised refineries hit – but those could always be worked around. Now there was the matter of feeding and caring for civilians inside enemy territory which while a task for the AMCC still affected General Galvin as that organisation used his logistics network. He made sure that his best people were on top of that and reminded them at the end of the briefing that just as the Soviets had learnt the hard way, no matter what brilliance was done in strategy and how many troops you had, keeping them supplied was really all that mattered at the end of it all.
Done with the necessary briefings to guide his decisions, SACEUR now set about issuing instructions for what was to be the next day’s operations as ABOLITION continued.
Two Hundred & Fifty–Eight
George H. W. Bush had wanted to be elected to the office of President of the United States this coming November and to be inaugurated in January. He would have had the full support of outgoing President Reagan and had aimed to have the vast majority of the Republican Party behind him. The break-down of relations with the Soviet Union had commenced just as he was in the early stages of his campaigning to gain the Republican nomination though and he had been forced to unofficially suspend his run. The stroke that incapacitated Reagan meant that he had to do his duty and step into that man’s shoes for the sake of the country. Of course, there had been no hesitation in him to become Acting President yet immense demands were placed upon Bush as he now led his nation and, in effect, most of the globe in World War Three.
In addition, there was also a lot of hostility against him too. He was the personal face of the war against the Soviet Union with all the responsibilities that that meant but he also faced all of the criticism that came with that.
Throughout the past thirteen days, with Reagan still in his coma under medical supervision, Bush had been fulfilling his Constitutional role as Acting President. He had plenty of support behind him domestically and internationality and a willingness to do as Reagan was doing and fight this war through to the end where the United States would emerge victorious. It was a conflict that had not been sought and the country had faced harrowing unprovoked attacks that had cost a great deal of lives, but one which was being won. At the same time as victory was being won on the military and diplomatic battlefields, there were many difficulties that had to be faced and dealt with at home.
The United States was currently unified as a country as much as it had been in the early days of World War Two. There was only a very minor vocal opposition to the war – sometimes from surprising sources too – with near non-existent public support for any move to withdraw from the conflict. Public support for Bush was often strong though it was far from universal. There remained many critics of the war and those people focused upon how it was being fought rather than American involvement; a difference not always understood. Some opposition came against Bush’s handling of the conflict, others criticised particular military efforts and then there was disapproval of foreign policy acts undertaken by the administration.
As a democracy, this was all welcomed in theory but it was rather distracting. Attempts were made to influence the course of the war from politicians and civilians as well as some in business and retired military officers. Bush and his senior people were cut off from most contact due to wartime security needs but Congress was still in session and most efforts came through there. There were calls made to be tougher against America’s wartime opponents while others said that restraint was needed due to the ever-present dangers of nuclear war. Certain military strategies were suggested by others while the cost in lives was criticised too. The relationships with countries involved and uninvolved in the conflict to varying degrees was supported by some and decried by others. Supporters and opponents had their own agendas with others unaware that they were in effect acting for the interests of others even if they were sincere in what they believed themselves.
When it came to foreign affairs, there remained opposition to Bush’s decision to negotiate a treaty with Cuba without seeing that country punished as many thought that it should be. Cuba had attacked the United States on its own soil worse than the Japanese Empire had even done and appeared to have gotten away with it to many even if that wasn’t in any way true. South Africa being a major ally of the United States through the role which they were playing in material support for the Allies was another foreign policy headache for the Acting President especially when news came that not only was Namibia and southern Angola under their occupation but that the Pretoria regime now had soldiers in parts of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well in what looked like an attempt to build an empire down there in conjunction with their crushing of internal opposition… any Black African political organisation that voiced any protest met waves of bullets. There were objections to how Taiwan had been brushed aside during the war in favour of what was regarded as keeping China sweet and neutral with that smaller, breakaway country having many friends in the United States but having their offer for military assistance denied so as to not upset the communists in Beijing. Moreover, there was the pre-war invasion of Nicaragua to consider as well as that had involved the Contra resistance with political fall-out from events in previous years still a factor.
Terrorist attacks had rocked the United States on the eve of war and in its first days too with Soviet Spetsnaz later found to have committed many of the more lethal of these strikes. Such commandoes had made further assaults, more of a military nature than against civilian targets, as the war progressed and a lot of effort had to be expended in hunting them down. The US Government was blamed for allowing these acts to take place with criticism coming that there should have been better preparation for them combined with later calls for better efforts to be made to finally eliminate such foreign soldiers. There was plenty of negative response when it was announced that as Soviet soldiers, any captured Spetsnaz were entitled to POW status; there had been calls for them to be shot or at best tried in court. No draconian measures had been enacted in the United States to deal with suspected subversives such as had occurred throughout Western Europe and there hadn’t been an ideologically-driven effort to arrest left-wing figures of influence either. That hadn’t stopped outspoken comment from some figures – on both sides of the argument – calling for such an effort on one hand and others protesting against such a thing without it even being done. Those that were taken into federal custody at once found that they had plenty of friends who were willing to defend them even without knowing any of the facts apart from that the US Government had arrested them due to their the foreign national status or very strong evidence that they were about to commit violent acts against the country. So-called military experts put forth their own plans for how the war should be fought and attacked those undertaken by the administration. There were some outlandish suggestions – dropping the 82nd Airborne Division over Warsaw to aid Polish rebels or sailing up the Gulf of Finland to capture Leningrad – but of course reasonable and often wise ideas too. Because Bush wasn’t doing what was wanted from those outside of the administration he came under attack from them and while it was occasionally in public often private rebukes were worse as his character was heavily criticised.
Many of these issues Bush inherited from decisions made by Reagan and the NSC early on though Cuba was something that he faced a lot of attacks for with the settlement there being a cause for strong domestic opposition. He could point to the benefits of allowing peace in the Caribbean so full attention could be focused on Europe and there were other intelligence-related matters as well, but still there was major opposition to that decision to terminate hostilities for good there and thrash out a treaty with the generals in Havana. Certain congressional figures were briefed on just how many hostile espionage efforts came to an end with Cuban assistance when information from the DGI was released: especially a Soviet effort to mail letters and videos to families throughout the United States of their loved ones in KGB captivity with those prisoners pleading for peace. Still, the anti-Cuba efforts remained and dogged him with attacks becoming more and more personal and claims that he was unfit to fill Reagan’s shoes.
As he had being doing when Vice President, Bush made morale-boosting visits to a few locations as he travelled away from Mount Weather and Greenbrier as often as he possibly could. He went to the naval shipyards at Norfolk and Philadelphia where damaged warships were being hastily repaired to visit the workers there. Bush also visited factories in several locations throughout the Mid-West where the war effort was seeing a sudden increase in manufacturing not just of tanks and aircraft but other less high-profile military supplies too. These trips were made with a lot of security and were satisfactory on the ground though overall there was a worry that they weren’t having a great effect overall for him personally with claims from some opponents that the American people would support any President in wartime evening a ‘temporary’ one like he was. Bush didn’t go to the big cities across the nation, especially the economically-depressed ones of many of them where there had been riots, looting and other civil disturbances following waves of panic on the eve of war. It had taken time and a lot of effort to bring to a stop such violence; not everyone had responded to calls for patriotism when they had been acting as if nuclear war was about to come and therefore it was time to steal the latest stereo system or murder their neighbour. Many Americans were ashamed that those events had happened and blamed their government for it all when the truth was that every effort had been made to calm people and then afterwards deal with those committing acts of violence as did they.
Facing the tough challenges that he was at home in the United States had been why Bush had been so clear in his intention to fight the war to a decisive conclusion abroad. ABOLITION hadn’t been his idea, of course, but he was the one who made the decision to sell it to America’s allies and have it implemented. The complete destruction of hostile regimes in Eastern Europe and the smashing of Soviet military power was what he saw as his duty as Acting President but also something that would repair some of the damage done to his own public perception. He was a patriot but he was a politician too and couldn’t ignore the fact that there was going to be an election this November even if everything didn’t go to plan and it had to be fought with a war going on aboard.
Bush had also inherited Reagan’s Cabinet and the top-tier people at the highest levels of the US Government. They were all appointed by his comatose friend and colleague and Bush kept them all on because his role was still a temporary matter; officially everyone was on stand-by for Reagan to return to his duties despite the growing unlikelihood of that occurring. Not everyone was to his liking on a personal level while he regarded others as being incompetent. There were enemies within the Reagan Administration that he had made behind the scenes as Vice President with several key people being aware before the war that should Bush become President they wouldn’t have a role in his administration.
Doing the right thing with this was very difficult. Chuck Grassley had been plucked from seemingly nowhere to become Secretary of State after George Schulz had been assassinated and was doing a fantastic job in working with America’s allies. Bush found himself surprised at how well the man was doing and certainly wasn’t going to replace him in the midst of the war. There were other figures though who believed that Grassley had ‘jumped the line’ with whispered criticism from White House figures. Many of those Bush had been forced to at first remove from the Doomsday Plane when he had taken over there and certainly kept away from Mount Weather; they had gone back to the Washington but still remained in office fighting their political battles against usurpers with Bush becoming another target for them all because he had stuck with Grassley.
James Baker and Colin Powell were other important NSC members like Grassley who Bush was working well with. His fellow Texan who was Treasury Secretary was a key ally before Bush became Acting President and remained so; Powell as National Security Adviser was regarded by Bush as extremely professional and someone also there with calm and apolitical advice.
In opposition to such people Bush was working well with there were those like Frank Carlucci and John Negroponte. The Defence Secretary and Deputy National Security Adviser caused him a lot of grief with how they responded to Congress and also the media too. Bush hadn’t minded one iota when Carlucci had set himself up at Raven Rock and taken Negroponte with him. These two had been conducted what he regarded as self-grandiose measures during the conflict and provided a negative contribution to the war. Carlucci at first had ‘played nice’ but had questioned Bush’s judgement on a many matters – not to his face though – and then seemingly on purpose upset Congress where Bush had to take the flak for that.
Out at Mount Weather, Bush held his NSC meetings with others in attendance over the telephone when needed. There were other gatherings too where not all of his national security team were present and instead Bush was free from many of the political power plays that even in wartime were being undertaken. Baker and Powell were quite often present but so too were some Congressional figures – from both parties – as well as other political figures not in office that Bush knew from his long years in public office. Brent Scowcroft, who Bush knew from the Seventies when both were in office during Ford’s Presidency (the former as National Security Adviser and the latter as CIA Director), was one of those who made regular visits. This evening – night-time in Europe – Scowcroft brought along an academic that he knew well for discussions to do with the war and in particular the Soviet enemy.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice was an associate professor at Stanford University in California. She was a well-known expert on the Soviet Union with excellent credentials within her field and from those from the outside such as Scowcroft who had come to know her. Arriving at Mount Weather was a little intimidating for any civilian with all of the immense security but she adapted fast to her surroundings. The meeting with Bush was an unofficial affair with few formalities and when speaking with her Bush was immediately impressed with the young woman from Alabama and Colorado.
Rice was present to talk about the Soviet Union not herself though and she spoke to an audience of the Acting President, Scowcroft and Powell. There had been a classified briefing given to her beforehand to allow her to understand what was going on with how the war was affecting that country and she was able to combine that with what she knew to talk about what she believed the future would bring.
Not since the Bolsheviks seized power had there been a situation like the Soviet Union was now in. From all the information available, it was clear to see that the country which had chosen to become an enemy of the United States was in the worst possible situation. Their armies had been beaten on the battlefields of Europe in a series of defeats with more of those imminent. Previously subservient allies were betraying them and rebelling with alarming frequency. Their once all-powerful security services which acted so aggressively abroad had been decimated when the heads had been cut off. Foreign trade was no longer active in any manner nor were there any friends of significance left for the regime elsewhere in the world. At home there were rebellions taking place across the reaches of the empire controlled from Moscow through the Caucasus and Central Asia with recent reports of trouble in the Baltic too. Security troops inside the Soviet Union were fighting pitched battles against rebel forces with those in rebellion slowly gaining access to more and more arms and organising better too. Mass mobilisation had failed in its latest attempt showing that repercussions weren’t as feared as they needed to be for a country like the Soviet Union to survive.
Leading the nation was now a military officer who had seized power just like those who had taken it themselves not long ago; past flirtations with the ideas of a military dictator had never got anywhere because it was not something in the Soviet character. Treachery and betrayal were taking place too an alarming degree there against the regime but it was regime figures which had set the example with that in the first place the moment that Gorbachev was deposed.
Rice believed that the Soviet Union was about to fall apart. Things were moving too fast there for the rot to be brought to a halt even if massive intervention was tried. The Soviet Army had been beat on the battlefield and everyone knew it. Ogarkov had no support with even his fellow military officers despising him if the tales of defectors were to be believed. No one could come to the rescue now either internally or externally. Control over the satellite states in Eastern Europe would be lost and also parts of the empire itself.
What did this mean in the long run?
Here Rice was forced to speculate and this she told her small audience she was doing rather than basing everything else upon facts. Ogarkov might survive but otherwise another strongman would emerge. The Soviet empire would fall part due to all of the pressures being imposed upon it and what would be a Russian successor state would emerge; it might have a different name, but it would be Russia-based after many outer regions would escape the grasp of Moscow with the bloodshed that would come from that. Not for a very long time indeed would Russia be able to pose a threat after all the turmoil that would take place inside the remains of the Soviet Union.
Other factors could have to come into consideration though, not least the nuclear arsenal that remained intact and unaffected by the war. No willingness had been shown to use it and intelligence pointed to a tight control being maintained. Rice echoed the sentiment of others who had previously said that the Soviets didn’t believe that nuclear blackmail would work with the United States and there was also the worry that they had that maybe their nuclear arsenal would fail when put to work like their conventional military arms. It was still there though and a force to be reckoned with to make sure that whoever emerged leading a beaten, broken Soviet successor state wouldn’t face complete destruction from abroad. Using it would mean the end of all hope inside any form of a new Russia but having the arsenal intact – even if it was flawed in many ways with suspected technical issues – would mean that no troops from the West would march through Red Square. Pressing the Soviets even harder than they were on a conventional level and letting them fall apart wouldn’t bring about them using their missiles to stop that because it would mean their own destruction, which they were going to painfully do to themselves.
Unless a miracle arrived, Rice finished her briefing by saying, the Soviet Union would soon be no more.
Squadron vice admiral
Post by James G on Aug 15, 2019 19:30:17 GMT
Two Hundred & Fifty–Nine
The first of this morning’s reconnaissance flights made over the Berlin area was conducted by an RAF Jaguar GR1 flying from Rheine-Hopsten airbase back across on the other side of Germany. The strike-fighter from No. 54 Squadron – home-based in Norfolk but flying from West German bases during the conflict – flew a lone mission over friendly territory at medium-level before making a low-level run once it approached the Elbe and then headed for enemy-held territory. A safe-passage lane had been followed through air defence zones manned by NATO ground forces with several moments of concern for the pilot when he was lit-up by fire-control radars with the hope that he was just being used for practise and nothing more sinister. No missiles were launched or guns opened fire but it still wasn’t the best of experiences.
Less air defences were encountered over the Havelland despite the presence of the enemy there. The flight plan took the Jaguar around known positions of what SAMs were active and the altitude taken meant that most radar coverage that survived in the face of the mass of stand-off jamming occurring was avoided too. Heading as far east as Neuruppin, the Jaguar then took a turn to the south on a new course heading for the very western outskirts of the traditional capital of Germany.
Several times the threat receivers went off and the jamming pod that hung beneath the aircraft was switched to the active mode to deal with those directly. Air-search radars for SAMs were trying to gain a fix on the low-flying aircraft as it raced towards Potsdam all the while trying to hide between terrain features. There was a SAM launch detected at one point but that was classified as a man-portable SA-14 Gremlin and believed to have been fired blind with hope rather than guidance.
The Jaguar was flown by a very-experienced pilot who had made many reconnaissance runs throughout the conflict against much stronger defences than what remained now near Berlin. He had a camera pod also carried and engaged that went approaching several different areas of marked interest as his course took him on several diversions from his generally-southern course getting low-altitude sideways shots as opposed to overhead images taken by other aircraft flying high through the night and also some satellite imagery too. The fixed defences being hastily constructed by the East Germans to guard their own capital and especially occupied West Berlin were what his camera was aimed at so intelligence analysts could look over the minefields, the anti-tank ditches, the earth barriers and the fortified strongpoints.
Opposition to the Jaguar’s reconnaissance flight came again from an attempted SAM launch when the fire-control radar of SA-15 Gauntlet battery tried to lock-on to the RAF aircraft in the Elstal area. In addition to the jamming and camera pods the Jaguar was also carrying a pair of Sidewinder air-to-air missiles as well as two ALARMs. One of those anti-radar missiles was fired at that radar as the electronic warfare equipment was targeted against it too with the pilot hoping that one or both measures would stop a launch; thankfully for him, a SAM didn’t leave that battery this morning.
Images were captured at the end of the reconnaissance run of more defences around the series of lakes in the Potsdam area including areas where it was thought that anti-tank guns would be set up in strength. Then it was time for the Jaguar to turn back to the west and towards friendly airspace. For the pilot, there was danger in this as he was coming straight towards NATO troops on the ground at low-level in what would look to many like a penetration run to attack them. He activated his IFF at this point and kept in mind that they were meant to be aware of his approach. Again, success was met in crossing back over the frontlines and the Jaguar would head back to Rheine-Hopsten where technicians would be waiting to remove the film for fast developing and transfer to intelligence specialists.
Not long afterwards, a RF-4C Phantom reconnaissance-fighter flown by a Nevada ANG aircrew was making a reconnaissance run towards Berlin from a southern direction when the two national guardsmen didn’t have as much luck as that RAF pilot.
They were heading for the centre of Berlin itself to make a low-level run capturing images of enemy-held airports in West Berlin as well as seeing what shape the fixed defences were to the south of the city when an unexpected air-to-air engagement came. There came the alert too late from a distant AWACS flying to the south over Thüringen that enemy fighters had been detected coming up out of Sperenberg airbase for the Phantom to avoid those; a pair of F-16s on counter-air duty on the southern side of the Elbe were sent racing to help but they wouldn’t arrive in time.
Unlike the majority of usually-unarmed RF-4C Phantoms flown by the USAF and the ANG, those with Nevada’s 192nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (as well as an Alabama ANG unit) were armed with and trained in the use of Sidewinders. The odds were against the national guardsmen yet they saw that they had no choice but to try their luck and turned to engage the MiG-23s. Unfortunately, by that point the Soviet fighter pilots had fired first and the Phantom was struck by one of their missiles. The aircraft then crashed near the town of Trebbin with the aircrew ejecting first and then their parachutes bringing them to the ground… where they could have to wait and see whether a CSAR mission was launched to rescue them.
The shoot-down here and the arrival soon afterwards of those F-16s too late to save the downed reconnaissance-fighter would attract NATO attention’s on the sudden upsurge in air activity that was taking place starting from this morning. Air facilities in the area were to suddenly see a rapid increase in activity and further reconnaissance flights would be flown, though with escorts provided after the doomed mission of that Nevada ANG Phantom.
The defences being constructed around Berlin that the Jaguar managed to get a look at but what the Phantom failed to see were what were planned to be a colossal series of fixed positions where a counter-invasion of West Berlin would be stopped from. Huge efforts were going into building barricades to bring to a stop NATO armies approaching the city and this was undertaken by the East German regime with the hope that these would succeed where every other attempt made to bring ABOLITION to a halt had failed.
The Berlin defences were the work of the East Germans, not the Soviets.
Manual labour was sought from West Berlin to work on the defences overseen directly by KdA personnel and with those monitored by the Stasi. Men, women and children above the age of thirteen were tasked with building those defences outside of the city with hand-held tools; there was no personal safety equipment and no heavy machinery. Huge fortifications of earth banks needed to be constructed while wide anti-tank trenches were to be dug. Medical care for those tens thousands of civilians forced into the work was non-existent while food and water were given sparsely. Discipline was harsh and ruthlessly enforced despite the abilities of many to physically do the impossible which was demanded of them. Beatings with improvised clubs were routine but so too were on the spot execution with rifle bullets.
Not in their worst nightmares had the citizens of West Berlin ever dreamed that they would end up in a situation like this slave labour they were forced to do. As can be expected, as a result of the working conditions and then the methods used to ‘encourage’ those civilians to work harder an immense death toll was soon occurring while the actual work undertaken was wholly incapable of preforming the role planned for these so-called defences. One high-ranking Soviet Army officer who had seen much fighting during RED BEAR told the East Germans that NATO explosives would make short work of those defences and they wouldn’t last minutes, but he was ignored.
The construction work would continue until the defences were completed… or all of the workers were dead.
Mielke had paid a visit to a portion of those defences of Berlin when he had left the city late yesterday. Near Ludwigsfelde, located to the south, he had seen work being undertaken by East Germans rather than West Berliners building concrete fortifications and laying minefields along with well-armed Militia troops settling into fighting positions. He had given a short speech and then left with lies later to be told that he knew nothing of what was really going on with the immense loss of life involved in his grand plan to defend the city; there would be documents signed in his own hand detailing his personal instructions on what was to be done.
There were several below-ground structures – what were in effect ‘leadership bunkers’ as American military targeteers like to call them – located below East Berlin yet Mielke had opted not to go down that route of securing himself in a bunker. His enemies were closing in upon him and to many it would seem that the end was coming but he was determined not to do as Hitler had done and disappear beneath ground. Of course, he didn’t have a cavalier attitude to his own fate and believe that he wouldn’t be targeted by NATO: the solution he chose was to stay above ground in West Berlin. He held court in multiple structures within the occupied part of the city preferring the previously French-controlled northwest over the once British and American sectors.
The regime which he now led was in effect just him at the top with no one else of any seniority or significance. There were long-term Stasi men he knew personally as well as bureaucrats running the country though with now half of it under foreign occupation and NATO attacking from their air seemingly at will there wasn’t much need for civil servants apart from those in-charge of security and military defences of Berlin. Foreign diplomats had long since departed so there was no need for external relations, schools were closed so education administrators weren’t needed and hospitals & clinics nationwide had no high authority overseeing them anymore. The business of government here in East Germany was now all about the war and stopping what most feared was the inevitable.
The failure of the attempt to seize Soviet nuclear missiles and their warheads had hit Mielke hard. He had believed that the plan devised by his once-trusted KGB aide would work and the future of the regime would be assured by blackmailing certain NATO states into ending their support for the fighting, West Germany chief among those planned targets of that attempt. The soldiers sent to do that task and then killed meant nothing to Mielke: his only concern was that the Soviets would find out. Vladimir Vladimirovich had assured him that even with failure there were still many KGB operatives willing to cover up all traces of East German involvement and that maybe another attempt could be tried with a different approach. Time was running out though and then Mielke had heard that the Soviet Army was on the hunt for what they regarded as traitors. Again, Vladimir Vladimirovich had showed no outward signs of worry claiming that he could put a stop to that but Mielke had realised that there was a chance that the Chekist was wrong.
As the long-time head of the Stasi, Mielke knew that those who plotted and planned treason always thought that they would never be caught before there came that knock on the door in the middle of the night.
Mielke had in recent days been manoeuvring himself away from what KGB elements remained in Berlin and instead focusing on making sure that his capital wouldn’t fall. There were propaganda efforts to be made to make sure that the people fought to defend their city and he was of the belief that he himself was the one who could talk them into giving everything that they had to saving the East German regime from the imminent destruction that he knew almost everyone feared. In his view of the situation, the West wouldn’t want their soldiers and all of those civilians who remained inside West Berlin to be killed in what would be a mass slaughter trying to take this city. They hadn’t gone into Dresden nor Leipzig, he had been told, for fear of the casualties, and so as long as the defences here could hold, then eventually there would be a chance to bring this conflict to a halt and for him to survive.
Not very far away from where Mielke would make his first series of ‘inspirational’ speeches this morning, a KdA paramilitary soldier standing guard over further civilian slave labourers being assembled to be marched out of West Berlin to add to the ranks of those already dying to build defences rubbed his belly. The man from East Berlin’s Militia tried to remember when he last had a decent meal…?
Two Hundred & Sixty
The US Third Army was still spread over a wide area without a concentration of force nor all assigned forces operating on the same axis of advance. National guardsmen with the US XI Corps remained back to the west finishing up their operations in the Harz Mountains while the newly-assigned Bundeswehr troops with the West German V Corps (having left the US Fifth Army) were in the rear playing catch-up. Only half of the combat strength of General Chambers’ command was now approaching the Elbe yet those were strong forces with assistance already given to going over that water barrier by West German units with the British Second Army which had already seized some crossing sites from the other side.
The US II Corps was operating on the left approaching the Dessau area after coming up from Halle while on the right was the US III Corps. Both moved today to finally get past enemy units retreating in disarray which were slowing their advance and get over the Elbe to concentrate on their mission of closing-in upon Berlin from the south. Organised opposition was few and far between with those which had unit cohesion and especially sufficient stocks of ammunition to put up a real fight causing any real problems. Instead, US Third Army units were running into combat formations which couldn’t defend themselves who were retreating alongside rear-area support elements as well. There appeared to have been a general order given for the Soviet forces present on the southern side of the Elbe to fall back to that river as fast as possible with little clear thinking as to how to achieve that.
The US Army was making that decision a fatal error for all enemy units involved.
It had been at Fort Knox in Kentucky where the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment had been recently stood-up. Equipment left behind when the unfortunate 194th Armored Brigade had deployed by air as part of REFORGER had been used in part along with other armaments from storage elsewhere. Many of the men who manned the 14th Cav’ came from training units at Fort Knox’s Armor School with other cavalry regiments (parts of the 12th, 13th and 15th Cav’) though most were recently discharged soldiers who had served in other units on active duty such as the 2nd, 3rd and 11th Cav’. The designation for their unit had come after some consideration with the 14th Cav’ being chosen due to sterling historical service during the later stages of World War Two plus recent NATO duty in West Germany too before disbandment in 1972. There was a trio of battalion-sized squadrons of armoured units along with a squadron of armed helicopters and combat support elements in the form of artillery and engineers.
The 14th Cav’ was used during the invasion of East Germany to lead the advance forward with its squadrons functioning sometimes together, other times independently and on occasion directly attached to the divisions of the US II Corps. Their individual numbers ran from the 2nd to the 5th Squadrons due to the 1/14 CAV having been stood-up in Bavaria earlier in the war from a mixture of separate units to assist the US VII Corps there. Caution was the watch-word within the ranks of the 14th Cav’ with their advance as they sought to make sure that they were not caught out by the enemy by not paying enough attention. Just because one unit was unable to fire off more than a few rounds of ammunition that didn’t mean that the next unit encountered was in the same shape. Many Soviet formations which they ran into were veterans of the fighting on the other side of the Inter-German Border and certainly knew how to fight on the modern battlefield… but so did the 14th Cav’ as well especially with the Soviets still glued to their old way of doing things despite all the reverses suffered.
During the late morning of April 7th, 3/14 CAV, operating out ahead of the 5th Armored Division (formed up in Georgia at Fort Benning and Fort Stewart), ran into opposition which it didn’t expect. Coming out of Dessau and trying to head east away from there were more than a thousand automobiles that blocked the roads. For reasons unknown to the 14th Cav’, the citizens of Dessau had decided to abandon the city and flee with no control over this by the local authorities. There were Trabants and Skodas everywhere with families packed inside them as well as many loaded with belongings attached to the roofs and rears of those cars. The section of the Autobahn which ran to the east of Dessau towards the downed highway bridge over the Elbe was full – on both sides of the roadway too! – of vehicles that weren’t going anywhere due to lack of fuel, collisions and the way ahead long since blocked when that bridge had been brought crashing down. It had been raining all morning with furious downpours turning the ground away from this paved road and others into mud through which the 3/14 CAV had sent their own vehicles but while that stretch of the Autobahn wasn’t planned to be used, it did run right across their line of advance.
There had been stories that the men of the 14th Cav’ had heard that during the early stages of the war across in West Germany, incidents had occurred like this – though on a much larger scale – where sections of Autobahns close to cities near the frontlines had been blocked by West German civilians trying to flee at the last minute. Coordination efforts had broken down and people had taken their cars to the highways only to find that those were unable to be used due to war damage blocking sections of them. In the midst of such chaos had come advancing Soviet forces or counter-attacking NATO troops who had suddenly found their way blocked by such civilian activity. Sometimes there had been efforts to try to clear the civilians before combat was met yet that hadn’t been very successful when tried. Even with the people being forced out of their cars the roads would still be blocked with those vehicles remaining behind and while it would seem at first glance to be possible to run over vehicles with tanks this really wasn’t possible; nor could they be simply pushed off the road with dozers fitted to several heavy armoured vehicles due to their mass as well as sturdy guardrails. Horribly bloody incidents had occurred where civilians had been killed when caught up and effectively trapped between armed clashes while at other times such a mass of people and vehicles had forced combat units from both sides to take detours around such blockages along major routes.
It was armed helicopters flying with 5/14 CAV which first spotted the mass of vehicles with civilians inside them though also people walking through the rain alongside those cars not going anywhere. From what the aircrews could see from above panic was met once those civilians saw the helicopters which could certainly not already help the certain tense situation on the ground there. At the 3/14 CAV’s mobile command post – a couple of tracked M-113s – it was initially believed that maybe shots could be fired into the air to get the people to scatter and tank fire could be used to blast passages through several points so crossings could be made over the Autobahn for the advance to continue. There was a hurry to get to onto identified crossing sites near Coswig where the 5th Armored Division would cross the Elbe to avoid the whole of the US II Corps being bunched up directly north of Dessau. Yet that first idea as to how to clear the blockages across the line of advance was discarded once a little thought was put into the practicalities of it.
The civilians inside those vehicles might not take heed of the warning shots: they might stay in their vehicles or even shelter underneath them. There would be small children and the elderly that were unable to move as well. Moreover, should blasting civilian vehicles out of the way succeed the wreckage would be something which tanks and tracked armoured vehicles could roll over but the following supply vehicles, not least those of the trailing 5th Armored Division, would have difficulty doing that. Dessau had been not fought over with the US II Corps rolling through there unmet by expected East German Militia resistance: no one with the 14th Cav’ was in the mood to treat these civilians as potential enemies.
Faced with such a situation where issues of practicality joined with those of morality too, the 3/14 CAV squadron commander was forced to report that the way ahead was blocked and that the 5th Armored Division would have to go through the Rosslau crossings north of Dessau rather than move to the east as planned. There was no other choice. The Elbe was still to be crossed yet the US II Corps was going to take longer to do it.
There had been no other choice available though.
Schwarzkopf’s US Seventh Army had taken under command the national guardsmen with the US IV Corps and those men previously with the US Fifth Army were moving up behind the forward elements of his command during their own drives to get over the Elbe and finally be free of major river barriers slowing them down.
Crossings would be made by the US V Corps around Torgau with the Spanish I Corps going over at Riesa and the US VII Corps instructed to abandon their direct drive upon Dresden and instead reach the Elbe at Meissen instead. Like the US Third Army, Schwarzkopf’s command still faced a mass of unorganised enemy resistance to the south of the river which was to be torn through before there was a chance it could withdraw ahead of them and establish strong blocking positions up ahead.
CNN’s correspondent Bernard Shaw, who had been with the press pool attached to US Seventh Army’s headquarters throughout the conflict and had extensively covered the fighting from the rear, was today given an opportunity that he just couldn’t turn down. His colleague Christiane Amanpour had been killed back when the fighting was in West Germany and he himself had been with a headquarters convoy which had run into Soviet Spetsnaz, yet the offer to accompany the US Army on the advance – truly reporting from the frontlines – was one that he seized despite knowing the danger. Brigadier-General Barry McCaffery acting as the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division’s second-in-command allowed Shaw to travel with his forward command column from Wurzen on the Mulde River all the way to Torgau.
Whilst REFORGER had been ongoing during the last days of peace, one of the airliners tasked to lift the men of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division had crash-landed when touching down at Rhein-Main Airbase. That Boeing-747 in American Airlines livery had been federalised along with most civilian airliners capable of international flight by the US Government and a failure with landing gear at the last possible moment had caused a terrible crash there near Frankfurt taking the lives of more than five hundred men from Fort Stewart; many of which belonged to the command staff of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division. McCaffrey had been reassigned from his position with the Infantry School at Fort Benning to replace one of those lost officers aboard that doomed aircraft and joined the rest of the 197th Mechanized Infantry Brigade when it left Fort Benning as well to become the third brigade of the formation which he now served within. Weary of the media as most US Army officers were following Vietnam, he obeyed instructions from Schwarzkopf to effectively trust certain journalists to give accurate reports on the fighting as long as they were kept under control: Shaw had been among these who gained plenty of access where most of their colleagues were frozen out and kept far away from the frontlines.
Operating on the left flank of the US V Corps drive to the northeast, the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division made a mad dash across the rolling German countryside. The drama of this attack through weak enemy units to charge for the Elbe was something that Shaw was able to capture for the viewers of the CNN report later shown back home. There were images captured on video from a distance of air and artillery strikes supporting the advance and then close-ups of the damage wrought to Soviet armour caught in those afterwards. Images of surrendered Soviet soldiers furthered the broadcast when made and so too did confident summaries given by McCaffrey of the fighting. Many would later call such reporting as this propaganda but it was certainly something worth watching.
Torgau, Shaw would remind viewers when images were broadcast of there, was where American and Soviet troops advancing into Nazi Germany had met right at the end of World War two and shook hands: Elbe Day. Today there was a last stand put up by soldiers fighting for the Soviet Army to stop the US Army from capturing it along with the bridges over the river which had only recently replaced others knocked down by NATO air strikes. The driving over those bridges by M-1s, M-2s, M-113s and a whole lot of other US Army vehicles was covered in the final stages of Shaw’s report along with the rapid work done by combat engineers to put more crossings over the river here. What he wasn’t able to see was the fighting up close and personal for the town itself when it had been wrestled from its die-hard defenders in the form of KdA units but Shaw did speak to McCaffrey after that had occurred and capture comments from the Brigadier-General about the actions of such Militia.
No journalists were with the US Seventh Army units which moved during the day into parts of Leipzig, Halle and Karl-Marx-Stadt. These urban areas in the rear of the forward advance were entered by small detachments of special forces throughout the day using clandestine methods of entry through outer defensive lines around them. East German Militia forces were known to be very trigger-happy, yet they also had shown much weakness in establishing secure perimeters around the areas which they controlled. After a period of watching the defenders, and testing them too, there came the entrances made into the trio of cities during the morning.
Green Berets teams in Leipzig and Halle went after identified command centres for the KdA. Radio transmissions had been monitored and the sources of those where haphazard control originated from could have been hit with air power but instead soldiers were sent into disable, kill and capture whoever they found there as well as wrecking all the equipment they could find. Upon entry they struck hard and as silently as possible to strike a telling blow against the Militia commanders.
Karl-Marx-Stadt was assaulted by twice as many teams with missions against Stasi and KGB facilities there responding to requests from the US Intelligence Community. Several intelligence operatives from a military background went with the assaulting troops conducting missions against these locations where there were reported to be high-value prisoners of many nationalities held and also document storages. Again, utmost violence was used during the final assaults against hostile forces yet at the same time efforts made to keep the ‘action’ quiet so as to not rouse Militia forces from across the whole city.
These missions met with a lot of overall success due to the planning put into them yet at the same time there was some failure as well, in particular with several of the efforts made in Karl-Marx-Stadt. As believed, the urban areas behind the lines were going to be tough to take with many defenders now entrenched in them not willing to give up yet and surrounded by civilians kept in-place as effective human shields. Orders came afterwards from an unhappy Schwarzkopf that as he originally wanted before he had allowed himself to be pressured into doing the opposite, such places were to be surrounded for the time being and left alone until the defenders had some time to suffer the effects of being cut-off from all outside assistance and realise that their cause was hopeless.