Battle of Dolzig: Holding the Bridgehead Sept. 8th Noon.
General-major Nagten surveyed the rolling ground south toward Markranstadt. A lot of German history had been written here; Leipzig to the east, Lutzen to the west, Jena even further west. Gustavus Adoplhus, Frederick the Great, Alte Vowarts had all campaigned here. Another battle was shaping nicely. His attack had shattered the covering force of 1st Gebirgsjager Division, destroying a panzer grenadier company and then catching most of a Panzer Abteilung trying to refuel from local stocks. Nagten’s guess was right; they were short of fuel and willing to sacrifice tempo to avoid running out. Oncle Harri had told of his Vater with 2nd Panzer - how the division had done all that was asked of them, and been destroyed by the Amis when they ran out of fuel. Nagten guessed the Amis were about to learn the same lesson; their Abrams tank, like the T80 the Soviet brothers refused to give to the VA, guzzled fuel like there was no tomorrow.
Polkovnik Barclay eyed the developing attack warily. “They are massing. I don’t care much to be caught in the flank.”
“Polkovnik, you have your orders. Drive directly west on both sides of B181, cross the Autobahn. After that you are on your own. One of my battalions will hold Gunthersdorf as a rallying point for you. It already has cleared the town. Half of my division is already across the Kanal. Your best bet is drive as far west as you can get on half a tank of benzin, and then return for more fuel. Fuel tankers won’t be safe beyond Gunthersdorf.”
“And if the Amis attack?”
“That is actually for the best, Barclay. It is much easier to kill them out of their holes. And once this brigade breaks, I will unleash hell against them in the form of 200 T55 tanks. They have fought their way here moving faster than their logistics support. They will either be in fuel and ammo deficit or rearming and refueling when I attack. I believe they are treating our operation as a spoiling attack and expect us to withdraw as soon as they show some teeth. For my part, I don’t intend to withdraw, and I think I can send the advance guard of one corps and the rearguard of another running back south. Their III Corps will be faced with unpleasant choices when the VII Corps and II Armeekorps prove to be broken reeds.”
Barclay shrugged. “Viel Gluck, Kommandant. Try not to expend my battalion uselessly.”
“It has already proven effective against the Leopard IIs. I won’t use it needlessly.
As Barclay rejoined his column, Nagten smiled thinly. Over the rolling ground, doubtless Ami and West German eyes could see the T64s heading west, showing their flank. They would come now, and come with what they had, hoping to catch an entire regiment from the flank, instead of waiting for the perfect moment, and perhaps counterattacking with a fresh brigade. They hadn’t had time to digest that he had two regiments over the Kanal, and that every inch of ground was crisscrossed with Spigot fire. Or that the 10th Motorisierte had regained its honor and its pluck this morning.
Battle of Dolzig, 8 September
Operation Save German Bacon. (BETRIEB SPAREN DEUTSCHE SPECK)
Headquarters, Task Force 7-6th Infantry, south of Dolzig
Major Fitzi was standing on top of his M113, looking north toward a town his map said was Dolzig, a bedroom suburb, if such was possible in the DDR, of the city of Leipzig. The new battalion XO, the former S1, was watching nervously, because if Fitzi caught an errant round, he would be CO. The S1 had a broken arm that the medics had set and swathed in plaster. The resupply convoy had blundered into a Spetznatz patrol and been shot up. The XO had been killed instantly and his dying reflex had put the HMMV into a ditch. The S1 had been thrown clear and crawled into some bushes before the Spetznatz had finished with the convoy. Torching ten truckloads of much needed supplies. Fitzi had given him the old CO’s Beretta and all his 9mm. He felt more comfortable with a long gun anyway.
TF 7-6th INF had rejoined 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored. In TF 7-6th’s absence, the 3rd Brigade had been the division’s blocking force, covering flanks and generally running interference for the two armored brigades as they made the big breakthrough, opening a path for III Corps. Naturally enough, the news reports filtering back to the troops mentioned nothing of VII Corps role in stopping the Soviets or leading the breakthrough.
TF 7-6’s even less noticeable role was a source of some irritation. The troops’ mood was sour. They had an epic escape out of the Regensburg sector and nobody had seemed to notice. Fitzi had written a couple award citations, but had little hope they would surface until after the war. He had obsessed with keeping copies, so when they had a mail pick-up he mailed them to a buddy currently riding out the war with a water-ski injury on the MILPERCEN infantry desk.
Now this. This operation had disaster written all over it. 1st Gebirgsjager Division had been attached to VII Corps to make up for casualties. It was by no means a fresh division, having about two thirds authorized strength according to the rumor mill. Worse, it was a mixed division, with one panzer brigade complete with a single battalion of Leo IIs, a panzer grenadier brigade with Leo Is, and a mountain brigade with no tanks at all, riding in about 300 of the German heavy trucks. The corps commander had pulled the 24th Panzer Brigade as his reserve, leaving the presumably furious 1st Gebirgsjager commander with a single company of Leo IIs. This had been attached to the 22nd Panzer Grenadiers, who had further assigned a platoon to each of his battalions.
By some strange German logical weirdness, the 1st GBJ’s brigades were numbered like it was the 8th Division in the Bundeswehr.
Fitzi shrugged off the puzzle. Away to his right, or eastern flank, the 23rd Mountain Brigade was attacking into the western suburbs of Leipzig, seeking to seal off escape over the rivers and swampy ground that traced the line of the Alte suburb on the east bank. They had run into a hornets nest. There was some sort of military installation, probably a copy of the old kasernes that the US Army had expropriated when it occupied western Germany. Reports said kids from a military school were defending it. The Jagers were taking casualties, and had discovered that pushing in with the handful of tank destroyers assigned to the mountain brigade was an expensive waste of equipment. Now they were sniping with their Milan missiles, and shelling with their considerable inventory of 120mm mortars.
To his north, he could see Dolzig and see fresh earth. Somebody had been busy digging in. The 221st Panzer Grenadier had occupied Dolzig this morning, and lost it in a sudden attack. An attack that cost them an entire panzer kompanie and most of a panzer grenadier kompanie. 3rd Brigade had been detached from Division Reserve to augment 1st GBJ, effectively replacing the missing panzers. At least on paper. In its reduced state, 3rd Brigade was effectively a reinforced battalion, with 3-35th Armor fielding a whole 23 Abrams and 10 more attached to the two infantry battalions. There had been twelve with the infantry this morning, but then two of Fitzi’s had broken down during the speed march to get here.
Fitzi’s command was pathetic. He had, as a battalion commander, 4 Abrams from C/3-35, and A, B and D Companies, each with 35 effectives out of a normal strength of 150. Seven ITVs. One surviving scout track from battalion scout platoon. Three M109s attached for use as assault guns. Or artillery. The FAS-V for the three guns were down to 30 rounds each, mostly smoke and straight HE. There were some Copperheads. One fire mission, maybe two short ones with DPICM. The Redleg lieutenant was almost apologetic – they were driving northeast so fast the S&P trucks and container trucks loaded with ammo couldn’t keep up.
TF 1-54 Infantry had four ‘companies’ and most, thanks to somewhat lighter casualties, stretched all the way to 70 men. It with its 6 tanks was brigade reserve. TF 3-35 Armor had one company from 1-54 with 70 infantry and 9 tracks. TF 3-35 was attacking on Fitzi’s left, and his right was covered by 22nd Panzer Grenadier Brigade, attacking with its two ‘pure’ Panzer Grenadier Battalions, both in Marders. Fitzi had heard that the 22nd was allocating a company of 8 or 9 ‘LITTLE CAT’ Leo Is to support each of their infantry battalions.
It sounded good. But it all depended on what was across the Kanal. If this was a spoiling attack, executed by a German Motorisierte Regiment – why couldn’t both German armies use the same names – they would either run or be defeated. 30 aging T55s against 31 Abrams and 16 LEO Is was no contest.
Then he saw what appeared to be 10 T64s hustling west on the B-category highway 4 kilometers away. Then 10 more. Then 10 more. The radio crackled. “This is 3-1 actual. They’re showing us flank! Get in there now! Attack now, goddamnit, now!”
TF 7-6th INF, 10 klicks south of Markranstadt
Fitzi studied the map. They had been driven back twenty kilometers. He would always wonder if the sudden bugout of the 10th Motorisierte on August 7th had been a carefully planned trap. At CAS3 the instructors had emphasized how the Russian tank doctrine was based on Mongol cavalry doctrine, and the feigned retreat was a recognized steppe horsemen stratagem as soon as horses had been tamed.
They had certainly been back with a vengeance today. Dug-in, with their front line studded with mines laid out on the surface to channel the NATO attacks – big, easily seen antitank mines – they could have been mostly plywood dummies for all anyone knew – they had been very tough. In front of obvious tank approaches the line had been set back so dug-in missile teams were keyholed for firing on actual flanks, while the big missile launchers overwatched from hull down positions a klick beyond the main line. TF 3-35 Armor had run into a SOVIET T64 battalion and been mauled. Brigade S2 belatedly admitted that the East German Divisions could be braced up with Soviet T64s from independent tank regiments or brigades. T64s firing from hull down positions against Abrams in the open would have been an equal contest had that been the only factor in the equation, but swarms of missiles launched from missile carriers to the front and infantry teams on the flank had added to the carnage. A hasty attack by a reinforced brigade – the peacetime equivalent of 3rd Brigade’s strength combined with 22nd Panzer Grenadiers – against a division was just a complicated form of suicide. And so it had proved.
The only good news had been air support – for about 30 minutes, the Brigade had the support of 8 A10s and 8 AH-1s. Fitzi had followed orders, concentrating his fire on AA vehicles when found, and the A10s had caused a couple massive explosions out of sight from his command post. On the down side, his own AA had been smashed in the opening moments after driving away two Hinds, and two more Hinds had mauled his artillery support and then started on his ITVs. Fitzi had seen two A10s retreat with smoke trails, and the rest had disappeared west with their ordnance expended. Four had been back at 1600 only to be chased away by massive flak, with one actually pancaking in about 2 klicks away. By then the Third Brigade was in full, disorganized retreat, trying to stay ahead of nearly a hundred T55s that were moving forward by bounds.
The AH-1s had suffered more; from his vantage point on the only high ground in the area, Fitzi had seen four actually shot down and two retire limping. They had been absent from the afternoon retreat.
The attack had faltered in less than thirty minutes. Then the counterattack began, spearheaded by the T55 regiment that had chased them all afternoon. The Germans had suffered the worst – the ambush there had included at least a battalion of T55s, and the East Germans had systematically smashed the Panzers and Panzer Jagers in a couple volleys, and then rolled out of the woods, chasing retreating Marders. The T55s had dropped a half-dozen tanks before BTR-60s accompanying them had shredded the stay-behind infantry. Then the bugout began. Fitzi found himself the only person able to talk to the TOC – later they would discover the Colonel’s tank had been lost, and the XO’s 557 smashed. Fitzi told the Brigade Three – another acting-jack major – to call the attack off. The leading ‘battalions’ had next retreated behind TF 1-54, also led by a another acting-jack major, tried to make a stand against the tank regiment, and quickly discovered other T55 battalions cutting through the wrecked Panzer Grenadiers like butter.
From then on it had been shoot a little bit, drive like hell, shoot a little bit, drive like hell. They had expended all but one TOW in each ITV. Damaged vehicles had been abandoned. The Brigade had shrunk to 9 Abrams, 22 troop tracks, 3 scout tracks, and 4 ITVs and 6 M109s with 12 FASVs. The FASVs were mostly empty; they had used the trusty old M107s like water to make the PACT guys deploy a half dozen times.
Fitzi chewed a piece of cold wurst he had found in the command track, wondering absently if it would make him sick. That might be helpful; the steady diet of C’s was constipating him. He wondered if they would get a fuel truck. Not that they needed a lot of fuel – TF 7-6th INF was down to 3 M113s, 2 ITVs, an M577 command track, one lonely M109 and two FAS-Vs. With the wounded crowded inside the carriers, and his remaining 47 infantry riding atop them, along with twenty or so Gebirgsjagers he had picked up, the unit looked more like a gypsy caravan than a military unit. He had a half-dozen CUTV he had picked up when he encountered the remnants of the battalion’s support echelon.
A HMMV picked its way through the circus. The driver was in starched BDUs. “Looking for CO of 7-6th.”
The XO-S1 said, “You found him.”
A Colonel in starched old-style fatigues hopped out of the passenger side of the vehicle. “You’re in a heap of trouble, son! You retreated without orders.”
“Begging your pardon, Colonel, but with no disrespect intended, I was the senior commander left in the Brigade, and from that point on, I WAS giving the orders.”