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Danube River Cold War


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Ive been looking at the greatest natural defensive barrier in the former West Germany and i know Nato believed their would be a build up of forces before a war but what if their wasnt, what if the Pact did attack right out of their barracks, if u look at all Nato troop placements their is only 2 Bde (WGERM) covering the whole of the Danube from Regensberg to the Austrian border, the Pact would have rolled right over the Danube without any problems. Does anyone know of any strategys Nato would have employed if the Pact attacked out of the barracks in this region and or were all the bridges on the Danube prewired and would have gone up on a seconds notice.

 

Aaron

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I am no expert at that time's OOB's but AFAIk defense of border mountains was percieved much stronger than a single Bde. Add to that that only few places were able to let big mech formations through and even small units can block these places for a long time and you get a different picture.

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I think much of this depends on how ready you are to believe that the Soviets, or in fact any military, could successfully pull of an "out of the barracks" assault -- in this case, I assume to mean an attack that provides less than 24 hours warning for NATO. I won't really get into the efficacy of it here, as that is not the point of the thread (and I'd probably end up using words like "fiasco" and "gridlock" too much).

 

With 24 hours notice, and more importantly the political will on the part of the West Germans, the bridges over the Danube would be either blown or wired for immediate demolition, unless they were seized ahead of time by Soviet air mobile/air assault forces.

 

Initially, the 4th Panzergrenadier division was based essentially along the Danube. In addition, VI territorial defense command had a large number of units in the area -- perhaps 8-10 territorial inf companies, and many Wallmeisters, tasked with infrastructure destruction and other delaying tactics. Finally, there are a number of battalions of border guards in the area – perhaps 4 or 5.

 

At the northern end of the region, the Wurzburg-Nurnburg-Bamberg triangle is chock full of units, particularly significant elements of the US VII Corps.

 

So the initial thrust would be by the 3 Soviet divisions of the Central Group of Forces (30th GRMD, 31st TD, 15th GTD), their air assault battalion, and perhaps (but not likely) a few higher-readiness Czech units.

 

Essentially, it would be a race -- the WP forces would have to seize crossings of the Danube more rapidly than NATO could reinforce them. Barring a failure to mobilize at all on NATOs part (a possibility, though highly unlikely), the odds would seem to favor NATO. The Soviet formations would have to cover the territory inside the Czech border, plus that through the gaps between there and the river, although air assault troops could do a reasonably job. They would also be fighting through forces they would likely not outnumber any more than 4-1. Coming the other way, it is possible that irregular Warsaw Pact forces (including the vaunted Spetsnaz) would hinder NATO forces, but they would have a far clearer path.

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And the terrain from the Czech border to the Danube is perfect defense terrain. "Red Thrust" by Steven Zaloga has all of its small actions in that region, and he describes the slow, delayed and painful way to the Danube quite believable. Even a non-fully mobilized II German Corps along with parts of the German Territorial Army could slug it out quite well there. IIRC even back in WW2 this was no easy way for the Americans into Czech territory.

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Hallo

I think that czechoslovak troops would be in the first line of warpac attack against southern WG becouse 1st CS army had its TD/MRD divisions in full numbers and near border while soviet divisions were positioned far away behind them.

 

Units at the highest readiness should have been able to abandon barracks in 30 minutes and reach combat positions in few hours but real experience show that although even whole regiments are able to achieve this soldiers then aren't in the best condition to start fightings. Many things were left in barracks because 30 minutes limit was priority. For example during some trainings some soldiers didn't take all equipment because after the end of training they went back to barracks and then there was large training with quick abandoning of barracks but whole unit was transferred to different part of the republic and now some soldiers had only clothes which they carry and nothing else. Air force had also high readiness status but if they wanted to pass limits they need at least one day more to prepare for such training (usually neglected by directors of trainings). So we can clearly assume that direct attack from barracks is nonsense (unless commanders accept reduced combat efficiency). Btw don't think that readiness of soviet units was any better. Soviets would face same problems with such operation.

 

Another problem was that some support units weren't on full numbers so logistical problems would be very big (I can imagine that chaos when some MRR reach its combat positions and now where are my neighbour unit, why we haven't contact with artillery yet, are we really on right place ... ). Not to mention that if something would go wrong then we haven't any ready reserves (may be if only three soviet divisions would be used for attack than there still was that soviet two-divisional army corps in Moravia and Slovakia as a relatively ready unit).

 

Attack against WG demanded both czechoslovak armies but most units of 4th army were on reduced numbers so possibility was to use three soviet divisions instead of the 4th army. I don't know if such variant was planned. Anyway if there would be time for mobilisation than soviet units would be second echelon of attack after 1st and 4th army which would invade WG together.

 

Still some czechoslovak general said that terrain is hostille to such invasion because any small enemy unit can block some mountain pass and than the whole plan would be in ...

 

And for the end: It is questionable if czechoslovak soldiers and officers wanted to die for soviet empire even after that massive purges during "normalisation" (1969-74).

 

Regards

 

(may be air force had better chance to act against enemy than ground forces here without nukes ... )

Edited by Pavel Novak
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Hallo

I think that czechoslovak troops would be in the first line of warpac attack against southern WG becouse 1st CS army had its TD/MRD divisions in full numbers and near border while soviet divisions were positioned far away behind them.

 

Units at the highest readiness should have been able to abandon barracks in 30 minutes and reach combat positions in few hours but real experience show that although even whole regiments are able to achieve this soldiers then aren't in the best condition to start fightings. Many things were left in barracks because 30 minutes limit was priority. For example during some trainings some soldiers didn't take all equipment because after the end of training they went back to barracks and then there was large training with quick abandoning of barracks but whole unit was transferred to different part of the republic and now some soldiers had only clothes which they carry and nothing else. Air force had also high readiness status but if they wanted to pass limits they need at least one day more to prepare for such training (usually neglected by directors of trainings). So we can clearly assume that direct attack from barracks is nonsense (unless commanders accept reduced combat efficiency). Btw don't think that readiness of soviet units was any better. Soviets would face same problems with such operation.

 

Another problem was that some support units weren't on full numbers so logistical problems would be very big (I can imagine that chaos when some MRR reach its combat positions and now where are my neighbour unit, why we haven't contact with artillery yet, are we really on right place ... ). Not to mention that if something would go wrong then we haven't any ready reserves (may be if only three soviet divisions would be used for attack than there still was that soviet two-divisional army corps in Moravia and Slovakia as a relatively ready unit).

 

Attack against WG demanded both czechoslovak armies but most units of 4th army were on reduced numbers so possibility was to use three soviet divisions instead of the 4th army. I don't know if such variant was planned. Anyway if there would be time for mobilisation than soviet units would be second echelon of attack after 1st and 4th army which would invade WG together.

 

Still some czechoslovak general said that terrain is hostille to such invasion because any small enemy unit can block some mountain pass and than the whole plan would be in ...

 

And for the end: It is questionable if czechoslovak soldiers and officers wanted to die for soviet empire even after that massive purges during "normalisation" (1969-74).

 

Regards

 

(may be air force had better chance to act against enemy than ground forces here without nukes ... )

 

Thanks for the reply, Pavel. Good information. I didn't mean to imply that the Czech units were markedly less ready than the Soviets; instead, I think that in such a scenario (24 hour notice) the Soviet units would have been preparing to move for at least 6-8 days (in non-obvious ways, mainly, until the last 48 hours), but the Czechs would have had significantly less notice. The assume I think most had/have over this sort of situation is that the Soviets (with good cause) really didn't trust the loyalty of those in several of the WP armies, and felt (probably accurately in some cases) that telling them to get ready for war was pretty much the equivalent of telling NATO.

 

Pat

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Setting up long-range comms needed for operation will for sure take longer than 24 hours and the comm stations would be extremely vulnerable. Theory called for every relay station being guarded by a MR platoon, guess how many times it was tried (atleast with my father's unit - and he spent there quite a long time and quite many exercises) ;)

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According to Czech generals interviewed after the Cold War (http://www.php.isn.ethz.ch/collections/coll_czechgen/after_1968.cfm) the Czechs were the first echelon - certainly before 1968 (when there were no Soviet troops allocated to the theatre from the Carpathian Front within several days' march), and likely after 1968 as well.

 

According to General Zachariáš the plan was to advance 30km on the first day, and clear West German territory by the 8-10 day mark.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I lived in Deggendorf on the Danube, which is about halfway between Regensburg and Passau, and got to know the area quite well. (I was looking for traces of the Hungarian Army from WWII).

 

As has been mentioned the terrain between the Czech border and the Danube is mountainous and heavily wooded (the Donau Wald), with numerous winter resorts and ski areas. Also hilly, curvy, narrow roads. In fact, there are no four-lane (dual-carriageway) roads through this area. The nearest Autobahn is the A3 (E56), which runs parallel to the Danube, from Nürnberg – Deggendorf – Passau. The Danube in this area flows about 50 - 60 kilometers (measured by road) parallel to the Czech border. There are not too many bridges across the Danube in this area.

 

Assuming the WP forces do reach the Danube, there are many places where amphibious vehicles can enter and leave the river. Much of the A3 (E56) is on the east side of the Danube, but crosses it several times. Also, there is the A92 (E53) which runs from Deggendorf straight to Munich.

 

Cheers

Leo

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Hallo

I think that czechoslovak troops would be in the first line of warpac attack against southern WG becouse 1st CS army had its TD/MRD divisions in full numbers and near border while soviet divisions were positioned far away behind them.

 

Units at the highest readiness should have been able to abandon barracks in 30 minutes and reach combat positions in few hours but real experience show that although even whole regiments are able to achieve this soldiers then aren't in the best condition to start fightings. Many things were left in barracks because 30 minutes limit was priority. For example during some trainings some soldiers didn't take all equipment because after the end of training they went back to barracks and then there was large training with quick abandoning of barracks but whole unit was transferred to different part of the republic and now some soldiers had only clothes which they carry and nothing else. Air force had also high readiness status but if they wanted to pass limits they need at least one day more to prepare for such training (usually neglected by directors of trainings). So we can clearly assume that direct attack from barracks is nonsense (unless commanders accept reduced combat efficiency). Btw don't think that readiness of soviet units was any better. Soviets would face same problems with such operation.

 

Another problem was that some support units weren't on full numbers so logistical problems would be very big (I can imagine that chaos when some MRR reach its combat positions and now where are my neighbour unit, why we haven't contact with artillery yet, are we really on right place ... ). Not to mention that if something would go wrong then we haven't any ready reserves (may be if only three soviet divisions would be used for attack than there still was that soviet two-divisional army corps in Moravia and Slovakia as a relatively ready unit).

 

Attack against WG demanded both czechoslovak armies but most units of 4th army were on reduced numbers so possibility was to use three soviet divisions instead of the 4th army. I don't know if such variant was planned. Anyway if there would be time for mobilisation than soviet units would be second echelon of attack after 1st and 4th army which would invade WG together.

 

Still some czechoslovak general said that terrain is hostille to such invasion because any small enemy unit can block some mountain pass and than the whole plan would be in ...

 

And for the end: It is questionable if czechoslovak soldiers and officers wanted to die for soviet empire even after that massive purges during "normalisation" (1969-74).

 

Regards

 

(may be air force had better chance to act against enemy than ground forces here without nukes ... )

 

 

 

Some years ago I talked with former officer of Polish 20th armored division, which in '80s was high combat readiness unit. He said that his regiment (49. Mech. Rgt) had 1 hour after unexpected alert to leave the barracks, disperse and hide in nearby forest. Later they had to create march columns and make their way along secondary roads towards East Germany. He said they practiced such sudden departures many times, but they always had problems to achieve it smoothly. They always fell in huge mess, especially with their logistics units. He also said that pulling whole armed, equipped and ABLE TO FIGHT regiment out of barracks in organized way in less than a few hours after unexpected alert was a big problem.

I know that we have to tell quick but well-prepared departure in march formation from a bit chaotic abandoning the barracks after unexpected alert in order not to be bombed by air raids or missiles. But, despite this, I think that even prepared but too hasty departure would create really great mess.

Moreover, I suppose there was no possibility to avoid detection of such large-scale preparations in all WP units by NATO intelligence, so I agree with Pavel that direct attack from barracks would be nonsense because in that case the chaos introduced among - being in terrible hurry, probably at night - WP units would be in fact greater than NATO's surprise.

I think that better opportunity for a sudden attack would be during big international WP exercises, when many units are outside their barracks, dispersed on training areas, en route to training areas or preparing to departure. At that time NATO also wouldn't be surprised (higher combat readiness level in NATO during such exercises) but WP would easier conduct preparations and control movement of its own units.

 

BTW: Polish soldiers' eagerness to fight for soviet empire was also more than questionable but it's a quite different topic.

 

 

Michal

Edited by Michal
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Interesting. One wonders if the 'fall out and deploy in 1 hr' relates more to the NATO/WP confrontation or some deep seam running through Red Army doctrine derived from the disaster of June41.

 

I recall US intell estimating c.late 70s that the Polish Army was rated as one of the more reliable WP nations, but then again it was not consigned to leading wave fodder as were the DDR and Czech forces.

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I served in Bosnia alongside 6 Czech Mech Bde in the mid 90s. Over a coffee they told me that some of their advance elms had worked as long distance lorry drivers so that they knew all the roads on the german side of the border. Well that's recce in depth for you.

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I would say it was a bit of leg pulling there, or maybe a move by the Bde commander to put lorry drivers from the Reserves into recon units, but even then, the lorry drivers were restricted to a limited number of border crossings and they had schedules to meet, so they didn§t have time exploring all those roads on German side of Böhmerwald ;)

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And there was not that much traffic before the cold war ended either. I remeber being on holidays in the late 80ies in Bavarian Forrest directly near the Border and you could count the trucks passing the border easily. And most of them had West German number plates.

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I think any driver worth its salt driving some time there, will get a good idea of the area, which definitely would help in case of war ... Only there was not so much Czech transports, at least not before ´92, IIRC.

 

One problem would be if the Soviets also attacked Austria, driving ALONG the Danube, to the flank of the German defending forces! And south of the Danube there is perfect tank country ... ( thinking south of Deggendorf, Straubing area )

 

Hermann

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I think any driver worth its salt driving some time there, will get a good idea of the area, which definitely would help in case of war ... Only there was not so much Czech transports, at least not before ´92, IIRC.

 

One problem would be if the Soviets also attacked Austria, driving ALONG the Danube, to the flank of the German defending forces! And south of the Danube there is perfect tank country ... ( thinking south of Deggendorf, Straubing area )

 

Hermann

 

Once you get Austria involved, you might just be multiplying WP problems. I'm not saying that the Austrian were a major military power -- but they were rather well organized to defend their territory. More accurately, they were well organized to prevent anyone else from controlling it. Sure, you could probably drive a couple of Tank/MR divs through the area with only moderate losses if you bypass most or all of the built up areas, but you better have a lot of troops behind them to keep their supply lines open. Local defense forces may not be great for stopping a major armor thrust short, but they're damn good at shooting up truck and light vehicle convoys.

 

Pat Callahan

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  • 13 years later...

My memory of exact times is somewhat hazy. FWIW 


In the late 60s / early 70s, I was stationed in Germany with the US 130th Engineer Brigade. One of the missions of this brigade was to maintain contact and liaise with the local reserve / territorial engineer forces. A US Army team would occasionally ride with the small German teams, consisting of several senior engineer demolition warrant officers who lived in the area. These Bundeswehr teams frequent inspected built-in chambers for explosives in all the bridges as well as checking the dumps for explosives used to fill these chambers. The engineer regiment in our area (Rhine-Main) could issued, transport, and emplace their loads within 3 hours "Im Verteidigunfsfall". (Mind you, the rest of the territorial engineer regiment would take a LOT longer.) I am sure this would have also been the case for the rivers in the south-east of Germany.

--
Leo

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1 hour ago, Perun said:

Austrians had small active army, one armored division around Wiena and the rest was mobilisation forces

Plus a number of small fortifications that used turrets of decommissioned tanks.

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10 minutes ago, Leo Niehorster said:

My memory of exact times is somewhat hazy. FWIW 


In the late 60s / early 70s, I was stationed in Germany with the US 130th Engineer Brigade. One of the missions of this brigade was to maintain contact and liaise with the local reserve / territorial engineer forces. A US Army team would occasionally ride with the small German teams, consisting of several senior engineer demolition warrant officers who lived in the area. These Bundeswehr teams frequent inspected built-in chambers for explosives in all the bridges as well as checking the dumps for explosives used to fill these chambers. The engineer regiment in our area (Rhine-Main) could issued, transport, and emplace their loads within 3 hours "Im Verteidigunfsfall". (Mind you, the rest of the territorial engineer regiment would take a LOT longer.) I am sure this would have also been the case for the rivers in the south-east of Germany.

--
Leo

I suspect you wanted to post that on the Cold War fortifications thread?

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1 hour ago, BansheeOne said:

I suspect you wanted to post that on the Cold War fortifications thread?

Well, this title of this thread is "Danube River Cold War", and a part of the Danube is in south-east Germany, which can be a decent barrier to hostile mobile forces.

Of course, if you feel I am wrong, you could always post a copy in the Cold War Fortifications thread ...

--
Leo

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Cost me nothing to ask on interesting topics and there is allways someone who knows a lot like in this case Leo 😊

Edited by Perun
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Czechoslovak army wasn't particularly eager to invade Austria. If it had to happen then only with two mobilized divisions which were not part of invasion force against West Germany and which in case of Austrian neutrality would cover austrian border.

But Hungary and soviet forces here had free hands.

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