Saturday, 2 March 2013

Across the Weser...

Ten days after the outbreak of a rebellion in East Germany and six days after an exchange of fire across the Inner German Border between nervous Soviet armoured troops and a West German Panzer Grenadier formation full scale war has broken out in Europe.

By nightfall on 4th May 1981, the Soviet leadership had authorised its armies in East Germany and Czechoslovakia to invade West Germany in response to what it perceived as a NATO offensive taking advantage of the unrest across the Iron Curtain.

Soviet airstrikes quickly established local air superiority in the first 24 hours of the invasion, but the ground attack did not go according to plan. The East German Army had collapsed as disorder spread through the DDR and six Soviet divisions of Group of Soviet Forces Germany were fully occupied in suppressing the unrest and securing supply lines.

Consequently the planned blitzkreig by 2nd Guards Tank Army and 3rd Shock Army across the North German Plain had degenerated into a confused slugging match. The Soviets had establised a foothold in the eastern suburbs of Hamburg and had finally taken Hanover after two British divisions of BAOR had been destroyed in a brave but hopeless counter-attack.

NATO forces had retreated to the line of the river Weser which was only forced after the Soviets used airborne forces to establish bridgeheads behind the British and West German positions.

Further South, the US V Corps had managed to hold the Fulda Gap and VII Corps had delayed a Soviet thrust aimed at Nuremburg although at least one US armoured divsion had been wiped out by a series of hammer blows from Soviet mechanised and airborne forces. Nuremburg remained in NATO hands however, held by a brigade of the West German territorial forces, and a line had been established by the Bundeswehr along the Danube with the assistance of French troops.

To date, neither side had employed nuclear or chemical weapons and the advantage in the air war had see-sawed from one side to the other. Frantic attempts to broker a ceasefire had proved fruitless, NATO ground troops were under strict orders not to cross into East Germany although their air forces were making every attempt to hammer the Soviet supply columns across the border.

Soviet losses were heavy but not precisely known, and whilst no Polish or Czech troops had been encountered fighting alongside the Russians, at least three Hungarian divisions had been postively identifed by NATO.

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