2d Brigade / 3d Armored Div moves from Gelnhausen to Steinau (south of Fulda) as tensions and troop buildups continue.
Fearing surprise may be lost due to minor troop moves in the west, the Soviet attack is moved up one day plunging 3 divisions (6th Guards Tank, 27th Guards Motorized Rifle, 9th Tank) and supporting troops across the border. In the south the 6th Gds and Air Assault Bde move on Fulda but quickly become distracted by the close proximity of the US bde that had moved up in sector. In the center the 27th Gds MRD shoves aside a US cavalry troop and takes Bad Hersfeld, but is unable to gain contact with German units north and northeast of Bebra. To the north the 9th TD puts in the largest attack (tank regiment with a regimental artillery group - RAG) in trying to open the autobahn to Kassel. Heavy tank fire from rough terrain along the route repulses the Soviet advance with devastating losses and serves notice that the Germans will defend forward. For NATO, all combat brigades move up to a line from Fulda to Kassel, largely running northwest along the autobahn. Unfortunately several supporting units (helos and artillery), fail to initiate movement due to surprise, logistics issues & lack of clear guidance.
With units moved up and ready to assault, the artillery of both sides play their trump cards. Barrages and deep strikes disrupt 2 Soviet tank regiments southeast of Fulda while Soviet guns disrupt and destroy parts of 2 NATO armored battalions (1 US near Fulda and 1 German northeast of Kassel). NATO also pushed several attack helicopters forward, but lose 50% of them to AAA fire. Soviet follow-up ground attacks quickly pin and destroy the US armored battalion at Fulda and practically surround the city with the help of an air assault mission forcing the US to pull back (this move opens a 30km gap between the US 2d Bde / 3d Armd Div and the German 6th Bde / 5th Panzer Div). A push by the 27th Gds MRD in the center advances 15km, but fails to pin or destroy and combat units in it's area of operations. The 9th TD also fails to make progress as a disrupted panzer battalion holds the advancing units at bay while a second panzer battalion is able to wipe out the divisional artillery group (DAG). Under the cover of this fighting, the balance of German units fall back to Kassel and prepare to hold out.
The Soviet attack continues to make progress in grabbing terrain, but a fighting withdrawal keeps several of the advances from fully breaking out. In particular the 9th TD is again bested by the Germans where a disrupted panzer battalion holds off 2 regiments and then is able to pull back to Kassel.
To the south, the 6th Gds TD & the AA Brigade move northwest of Steinau to screen the US 2d brigade and keep it from interfering with the 11th Gds TD. Pushing hard, the 11th takes Lauterback and looks to make a long raid march southwest to Nidda – also the final destination of the US 1st Bde / 3d Armd Div. The 27th Gds Motorized Rifle Division, spread out, pushes down the autobahn toward Alsfeld as well as opening the gap between the US and German forces to over 50km.
At the close of the second day of fighting, the Soviet attack is showing surprising signs of stalling. Around Kassel the 9th TD still can’t make inroads against the defending Germans (34th Bde / 2d PzGr Div) and has lost over 50% of its combat power. At Alsfeld, the 27th Gds MRD, covering a wide front, can’t concentrate enough combat power to move around or push through 2 German brigades . The third division to stall – 6th Gds TD is heavily disrupted by air and artillery strikes, but has at least extracted heavy losses on the American attack helicopters. Regardless, sensing the pressure, the US pulls out of Steinau and moves back to Bad Orb. The US is able to just beat the Soviets into Nidda, but the rush becomes a meeting engagement as the 1st Bde / 3d Armd masses and destroys a Soviet tank regiment from the 11th Gds TD. At the same time the West German 13th Bde / 5th Pzr Div closes on the 11th Gds TD’s right flank (northwest of Nidda).
Fighting picks up east of Bad Orb as the 2d & 3d Brigades counterattack the stumbling 6th Gds TD, quickly gutting a tank regiment then repositioning to meet the 7th Gds TD trying to bypass the defenses and drive on Aschaffenburg. Around Alsfeld and Kassel, the Germans continue to parry and harass Soviet advances even while under intense air and artillery attack.
Two aggressive probes by the 1st and 13th Bdes of the 5th Panzer overrun a Regimental Artillery Group near Alsfeld and push several tanks units back after they had been disrupted by NATO air and artillery attacks.
Lack of progress and gaps in the line combine to halt most Soviet pushes. The 27th Gds MRD and 9th TD have burned themselves out attacking with no real gain. Several pushes by the 7th Gds TD & some supporting units from the 6th TD push US units from Bad Orb – both sides pay heavily in the fighting (2 US mech battalions vs a Soviet tank regt and RAG). Northeast of Nidda NATO counterattacks are nothing short of lethal : two exposed battalions of the Air Assault brigade are crushed and a tank regiment (out of command with parent units) is routed and eliminated by two attacking West German brigades. The only high mark for the Soviets – the 15th Gds MRD destroys a German panzer battalion in Alsfeld opening the road to Giessen.
With nothing else to commit, the Soviets plan a maximum attack. IN the south, Soviet columns are blocked short of Aschaffenburg as well as outside of Gelnhausen. Attacks by US AH64s wreck the last of the 6th Gds TD but lose 50% of their committed helicopters. A quick sidestep of the 1st Bde / 1st Inf Div allows the US to hold Giessen, but is unable to also hold Marburg, Success there may be fleeting as 3 US and West German brigades attack, pocket, and destroy the 11th Gds TD about 20km southwest of Lauterbach leaving a huge gap in the Soviet line. Long stable, NATO and Soviet lines show no signs of shifting around Kassel or Alsfeld.
Failing in their drives, 3 Soviet division commanders are visited by “political officers” and removed from the front. For the time being, both sides sit quietly exhausted after 4 days of combat.
VPs : 51 (NATO substantial victory)