The Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality. Part 5.

My ‘Cold War’ trilogy is complete. I enjoyed writing it and the empty space it has left will be filled with a new set of books, based on the outcome of a strategic nuclear exchange. An Apocalyptic trilogy, survival at its worst.

The Cold War era started very soon after the end of the second world war, when the communist east, led by the Soviet Union, and the Western world, led by the United States and its NATO allies, faced each across what became known as the ‘Iron Curtain’.

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The capital of Germany, Berlin, was divided into four Sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Zone of Germany.

Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. From 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.

Access was now restricted between Berlin and the West. A wall, 124 mile miles in length, was placed around the three sectors of West Berlin, cutting off the city from the rest of the world.

An Iconic picture of the face-off between the West and the East.  The Cold War truly starts – October 1961.

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I shall cover various aspects of the two opposing forces, providing the backdrop and background information for my three novels.

In 1984/85, the Warsaw Pact was already a significant force, the Soviet Union in particular. To counter this NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, assembled its own force of arms along the Iron Curtain. Not just as a show force against the communist ideals purported by the East, but because the likelihood of Warsaw Pact troops, led by the Soviet Union, crossing the Inner German Border was a real possibility.

Although SHAPE, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, was referenced to Europe for legal reasons, its activities were extended beyond those borders in 2003. SHAPE’s motto is Vigilia Pretium Liberatis, Latin for ‘The Price of Freedom is Vigilance’. In 1951, General Eisenhower signed the activation order for ACE, Allied Command Europe. The key subordinate commands being Allied Forces Northern Europe, AFNORTH, Allied Forces Central Europe, AFCENT, the commands I shall be covering in this and future posts, and AFSOUTH, Allied Forces Southern Europe.

 

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Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe – Emblem

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Allied Forces Central Europe.

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Allied Forces Central Europe, AFCENT, would have to take the brunt of any attack by the Warsaw Pact forces. With responsibility for Parts of Europe stretching from Denmark to the borders of Austria, it had three subordinate commands. The two key ones, Northern Army Group, NORTHAG, and Central Army Group, CENTAG. For this and the next Post, I will concentrate on NORTHAG.

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Northern Army Group Insignia. During the building of the Joint Headquarters, a Frankish battle axe was discovered and subsequently used as their emblem. They chose it because the Franks were a West-European tribe defending against attackers from the East.

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During the 1980’s there was a genuine fear that the Warsaw Pact would come storming across the Inner German Border.

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For the defence of the Federal Republic of Germany, NATO used a ‘layer-cake’ principle. The country was sectioned into layers, with a designated Army Corps taking responsibility for its defence.

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Northern Army Group consisted of four Army Corps; 1 Dutch Corps in the north, beneath that 1 German Corps, 1 British Corps and 1 Belgian Corps. NORTHAG’s area of responsibility ran from the North German Plains, south of the river Elbe, to the city of Kassel. Below Kassel was the responsibility of CENTAG and north of the Elbe was the responsibility of Allied Land Forces Command.

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Crossing the Inner German Border, the Warsaw Pact was expected to attack on possibly two key fronts. The ‘North German Plains’, ideal terrain for their particularly large tank forces, and from the ‘Thurungian Bulge’, punching through the ‘Fulda Gap’, Frankfurt a mere 62 miles from the Inner German Border at that point.

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In the 1950’s, NATO supported the ‘Rhine Defence Concept’, using the wide river as a major barrier to an invading army. The defence line would be along the Rhine and east of the Rhine would be used as a ‘delaying zone’, enabling NATO to pull in reinforcements and reserves. In the late 1950’s, the defence line moved closer to the Inner German Border, the concept of ‘Defence in Depth’. By the 1960’s, West Germany, by now more of an ally than a conquered country, had major concerns about German Cities being left undefended and open to Soviet Occupation. So, by the 1970’s, the concept of a ‘Forward Defence’ was born. Northern Army Group had a tough task. Each of their Army Corps would have a ‘covering force area’, where they would delay the enemy while they moved their forces into position, and  a ‘main battle area’, where the bulk of their forces would dig in. Behind them, in the Corps rear area, they would also have to find the forces to defend against Warsaw Pact Assault Brigades,  Airborne Divisions dropping behind their lines to secure bridges and attack key nuclear weapons stocks and communications centres. Not forgetting Spetsnaz activity.

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Task Force Bravo, later re-designated 22 Armoured Brigade, its Headquarters in Bergen-Hohne, was part of 1st Armoured Division.

NORTHAG had four Army Corps in its lineup (1980’s).

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I (NL) Corps

Netherlands

1e Devisie (mechanised division).

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • Approximately 245 x Leopard  1v
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Infantry Battalions
  • 60 x M109A3

4e Devisie (mechanised division)

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 244 x Leopard 2A4
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 60 x M109A3

5e Devisie

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 140 x Leopard 1v and 104 Leopard 2A4
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions

101e Infantry Brigade (reserve)

  • 2 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions and 2 x Infantry Battalions.

1 (NL) Corps Artillery

  • 22 x M270 MRLS
  • 6 x Lance Missile Launchers
  • 48 x M110A2
  • 20 x M109A2

1 (NL) Corps also had integral reconnaissance and Air Defence units.

1 (NL) Corps, also potentially had the German 3rd Panzer Division as part of their Corps. 13 x Leopard 1A5 and 220 x Leopard 2. 5 x Panzer Grenadier Battalions and a Divisional Artillery Group. 18 x M110A2, 18 x FH-70, 16 x LARS and 16 x MLRS

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1 (GE) Corps

Germany

1st Panzer Division

  • 2 x Panzer Brigades and  1 x Panzer Grenadier Brigade.
  • 1 x Artillery Regiment
  • 261 x Leopard 2 and 13 x Leopard 1A5
  • 5 x Grenadier Battalions
  • 18 x M110A2, 18 x FH-70, 16 x LARS and 16 x MLRS

7th Panzer Division

  • 2 x Panzer Brigades and 1 x Panzer Grenadier Brigade
  • 1 x Artillery Regiment
  • 261 x Leopard 2 and 13 x Leopard 1A5
  • 5 x Panzer Grenadier Battalions
  • 18 x M110A2, 18 x FH-70, 16 x LARS and 16 x MLRS

11th Panzer Grenadier Division

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Panzer Grenadier Brigades
  • 1 x Artillery Regiment
  • 192 x Leopard 2 and 26 x Leopard 1
  • 7 x Panzer Grenadier Battalions
  •  18 x M110A2, 18 x FH-70, 16 x LARS and 16 x MLRS

27th Airborne Brigade

  • 4 x Airborne Battalions

Each 1 (GE) Corps Brigade, also had integral armoured reconnaissance and Air Defence. Also artillery,  in the form of M109A3G.

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1 (BR) Corps

Britain

1st Armoured Division

  • 3 x Armoured Brigades
  • Parachute Regiment Group
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 168 x Challenger 1 and 114 x Chieftain
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 3 x Parachute Battalions
  • 48 x M109A2 and 24 x Abbot

2nd Infantry Division

  • 2 x Infantry Brigades and 1 x Airmobile Brigade
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 15 x Infantry Battalions
  • 60 x FH-70

3rd Armoured Division

  • 3 x Armoured Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 224 x Challenger 1
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 24 x M109A2 and 48 x Abbot

4th Armoured Division

  • 2 x Armoured Brigades and 1 x Infantry Brigade
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 171 x Chieftain
  • 5 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 6 x Infantry Battalions
  • 48 x M109A2 and 24 x FH-70

1st Artillery Brigade

  • 3 x Heavy Artillery Regiments and 1 x Missile Regiment.
  • 24 x M107, 24 x M270 MLRS and 12 x Lance Missile Launchers.
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1 (BE) Corps

Belgium

1er Infantry Division

  • 3 x Armoured Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 120 x Leopard 1
  • 6 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 54 x M109A2

16de Panzer Division

  • 1 x Panzer Brigade and 2 x Armoured  Mechanised Brigades
  • Divisional Artillery Group
  • 160 x Leopard 1
  • 6 x Mechanised Infantry Battalions
  • 54 x M109A2

Corps Artillery

  • 36 x M109A2, 12 x M110A2 and 4 x Lance Missile Launchers.

On the face of it, quite a significant force. Over 2,000 tanks. There were also light tanks for reconnaissance and anti-tank systems in support. But, when you consider that NORTHAG could potentially be up against 3 Shock Army and 20 Guards Tank Army, the 1st Strategic Echelon of the Soviet Union from the Group of Soviet Forces Germany, which had over  2,000 main battle tanks, it would be a testing time. Then you would need to consider the 2nd Strategic Echelon, followed by the Strategic Reserves. On top of that, NORTHAG would probably have to contend with at least 2 Airborne Division drops behind the lines and numerous Airborne Brigade Assaults, along with numerous Spetsnaz operations. But, don’t forget the other Warsaw Pact members, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland.

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I shall cover the Chieftain Main Battle Tank for the rest of  this Post, but future Posts will look at more of 1 BR Corps, CENTAG and the Group of Soviet Forces Germany. Although Challenger 1, was slowly being introduced, the Chieftain was the mainstay of the British forces for most of the early to mid 80’s.

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Chieftain Mark 10.

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The L11A5, 120mm, high-velocity rifled tank  gun prominent.

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The fume extractor can be seen half way down the barrel which is also wrapped in thermal sleeve to minimise distortion of the tube. Otherwise, loss of accuracy would occur at long ranges due to the differential heating or cooling.

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Hortsmann suspension with 12 pairs of twin wheels in six bogies.

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The tracks are Dry pin, rubber padded with 96 links per track.

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The Mark 10/11 had stillbrew passive armour added to the frontal aspect of the turret and around the driver’s position. It gave added protection against Hollow Charged Weapons such as the Sagger Anti-Tank Missile and the RPG-7, but with very little additional weight for the already 56 ton tank.

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On the right hand side of the turret, as you are facing the tank, and on the left in this picture, you can see part of the TOGS, Thermal Observation and Gunnery System.

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The upgraded Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) Filtration system can be seen on the back of the turret.

 

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Steel towing cable lashed to the side.

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Stillbrew armour clearly visible on this Mark 11.

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Twin wheels in six bogies.

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The Leyland L60 Engine power-pack for the Chieftain 

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6-cylinder (12-piston) liquid-cooled two-stroke, multi-fuelled engine producing 750bhp at 2100rpm.

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The multi-fuel element, a NATO directive, meant that the engine was complicated and difficult to maintain. It was plagued with problems in the early days.

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Smoke projectors, six each side of the turret.

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Weighing in at 56 tons, it could still reach a speed of 20mph off road and 30mph on road

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Mark 11 on the left and Mark 10 on the right.

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The Chieftain carried 64 rounds of 120mm and  6,800 rounds of 7.62mm.

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The L11 series 120mm rifled tank gun could fire a variety of projectiles, including the L23A1 ADFSDS-T (Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot Tracer) and L31 HESH (High Explosive Squash Head).

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The Glacis armour was 120mm thick.

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Chieftains in motion.

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my research and experiences with you.  This is the fifth of my new ‘Cold War’ series, supporting the writing of my new ‘Cold War’ series of novels, covering the hypothetical invasion of West Germany by the Warsaw Pact in the 80’s. ‘The Red Effect’.

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HarveyBlack-Red Effect150313

The equipment Photographs and Blog are copyrighted to Harvey Black

The Cold War Years. A Hot War in reality Part 4.

My  ‘Cold War’ trilogy is complete. I enjoyed writing it and the empty space it has left will be filled with a new set of books, based on the outcome of a strategic nuclear exchange. An Apocalyptic trilogy, survival at its worst.

The Cold War era started very soon after the end of the second world war, when the communist east, led by the Soviet Union, and the Western world, led by the United States and its NATO allies, faced each across what became known as the ‘Iron Curtain’.

.

.

The capital of Germany, Berlin, was divided into four Sectors. The consequence being, that the three Western Allied powers now controlled territory deep within the Soviet Union Zone of Germany.

Over time, the tensions between the four Allied powers increased, eventually resulting in the Berlin blockade in 1948, when the Soviets attempted to starve West Berlin into submission and force the other three Allied powers out. This failed and the Soviets eventually relented, but an ever-increasing number of East Germans fled to the West; between 150,000 and 300,000 a year during 1951-1953. As a consequence restrictions were placed on movement between the divided country. From 1961, the border was closed and Berlin completely encircled, first by barbed wire, then bricks and finally a concrete wall, along with the infamous ‘death strip’.

Access was now restricted between Berlin and the West. A wall, 124 mile miles in length, was placed around the three sectors of West Berlin, cutting off the city from the rest of the world.

An Iconic picture of the face-off between the West and the East.  The Cold War starts – October 1961.

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I shall cover various aspects of the two opposing forces, around the period of 1984, providing the backdrop and background information to support my Cold War trilogy.

In 1984/85, the Warsaw Pact was already a significant force, the Soviet Union in particular.

Although the key strategic Nuclear Forces of the Soviet Union and NATO, were either land based or submarine launched, supported by Tactical, Theatre, Nuclear weapons, they also had the use of the Air Force to deliver a nuclear strike.

Soviet Union.

Long Range Bombers – 100 x Tu-95 (Codename Bear). Unknown number of Bear H in production, capable of carrying an air-launched cruise missile.

Medium Range Bombers – 220 x Tu-16 (Codename Badger), 125 x Tu-22 (Codename Blinder) and 130 x Tu-22M (codenamed Backfire).

Tu-160 (Codenamed Blackjack).

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Tupolev Tu-95. (NATO Code Name: Bear). Claimed to be a reverse engineered B-29, Super-fortres. A long wingspan of 164 feet.

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 Maximum speed of 575 mph with a range of 9,400 miles. Armament of 2 x 23mm AM-23, radar-controlled auto-cannon. 15,000 kilogram payload.

The Tu-95MS variant carried the Kh-55, air-launched strategic cruise missile family, one with a 200 kiloton warhead.

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Tu-22 Blinder.  A supersonic, swing-wing, long range strategic and maritime strike bomber.

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Tu-22. Speed of 1,240 mph with a combat radius of 1,500 miles. 1 x 23 mm GSh-23, remote-controlled cannon in tail turret. The Kh-55 nuclear cruise missile has been tested on this aircraft, but no confirmation that it is in service.

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Tu-160 (Codename Blackjack).  Swing-wing, with a max speed 1,380 mph and a range of 7,600 miles, without in-flight refuelling. Can carry 12 x Raduga Kh-55, nuclear cruise missiles or 12 x Raduga Kh-15 short-range nuclear missiles.

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Kh-55 Cruise Missile.

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United States of America

Long Range Bombers – 90 x B-52H and  84 x B-52G

Medium Range Bombers – 56 x FB-111A

On order – 18 x B-1B bombers (100 planned.)

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Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, with underslung drones.

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Lower deck of the B-52, dubbed the battle-station.

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B-52H. Payload of 31,500 kilograms of mixed ordnance. 1 x 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon mounted in remote-control tail turret. The B-28 nuclear bomb could be set for an air or ground burst with a yield of up to 1.45 megaton.

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Maximum speed of 650 mph, with a range of 3,980 miles.

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FB-111A, long range bomber. It could carry the AGM-69 SRAM, Short Range Attack Missile (Nuclear). Speed of 1,650 mph with a range of 1,160 nautical miles.

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Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a four engined, variable-sweep winged strategic bomber. The planned replacement for the B-52. Maximum speed of 830 mph, with a range of 7,456 miles. Can carry 24 x B61 (Max 340 kilotons) or B63 (Max 1.2 megatons) nuclear gravity bombs.

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B-28 nuclear bomb.

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United Kingdom

Strategic Long Range Bombers – 130 x Avro Vulcan.B2

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1024px-Avro_Vulcan_XH558_Duxford_Airshow_2012_(7977149648)

Delta Wing Strategic Bomber

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Armament: 21 x 454 kilograms of conventional bombs or 1 x free-fall nuclear bomb/1 x Blue Steel missile (1.1 megaton).

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Maximum speed of 607 mph with a range of 2,600 miles.

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Blue Steel – Air Launched Cruise Missile.

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France

Supersonic Strategic Bombers – 28 x Mirage IVA

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Maximum speed of 1,454 mph and a range of 775 miles. Carries 1 x AN-11 or 1 x AN-22 nuclear bomb (70 kilotons).

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AN-11 Nuclear Bomb

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There were also the conventional forces lined up along the Inner German Border, the visible barrier between the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or better known as West and East Germany. I shall be covering their organisation and equipment over the coming months.

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M-60, or Patton Tank.

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Maximum speed of 30 mph

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A first generation Main Battle Tank.

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Main armament is the British 105mm, M68 gun.

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45 tons with an armour thickness of 155.6mm.

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V-12, air-cooled Twin-turbo diesel engine.

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Top speed of 30mph.

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Introduced in 1960.

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Saw service in the Gulf War.

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M-60 Patton,  over 15,000 built.

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M-60

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Carries a .50 calibre gun

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M-60

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M-60 on the move.

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my research and experiences with you.  Also to support  ‘Cold War’ trilogy, covering the hypothetical invasion of West Germany by the Warsaw Pact in the 80’s.

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HarveyBlack-Red Effect150313

Photographs and Blog are copyrighted to Harvey Black

Bundeswehr – Fallschirmjäger.

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The Fallschirmjager qualification badge, WW2.

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I have just finished writing my third novel in the Devils with Wings series, Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun. The Fallschirmjager, after their successful battle taking Crete in only 10 days, are shipped to Poland to partake in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Leaving temperatures in excess of forty degrees to be used, not in an airborne operation, but as a fire brigade, plugging gaps in the line around Leningrad, particularly along the banks of the River Neva. They were Army Group North’s strategic reserve.  They were quickly placed into the fray, fighting along the River Neva, where temperatures dropped to below -30 degrees, sometimes as low as -40. They were successful at plugging the gaps and preventing the Soviet Union from exploiting their bridgeheads over the River Neva, but at a price. Some units suffered up to 75% casualties. Many who had survived the assault on the Fortress Eben Emael, (Devils with Wings) and the fierce fighting on the Island of Crete (Devils with Wings: Silk Drop) met their fate in this bitter struggle with the atrocious weather and the never ending Soviet hordes.

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The Fallschirmjager’s distinctive WW2 parachute helmet.

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The Fallschirmjager were formed under the command of General Student before the start of the second world war.

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Junkers Ju-52, one of their modes of transport. Known affectionately as Tante Ju – Auntie June.

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The Fallschirmjager were reinstated after the end of the second world war, and during the Cold War Years were a key part of NATOs strategic assault force.


Paratroopers beret badge of the Bundeswehr Fallschirmjager. The present day German army paratroopers. 

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T.10. Round cap Parachute.

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Close up of a Fallschirmjager gliding with a round parachute.

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Paratroopers of the Division Spezielle Operationen – Special Operations Division, jumping off a CH-53.

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The German Fallschirmjager using modern canopies.

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Bundeswehr – Fallschirmjäger.

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Fallschirmjager of the 26th Air Assault Battalion at the Bastille Day military parade, 2007.

Back to the original Fallschirmjager, who conducted the first ever glider landing assault, when they attacked the impregnable fortress of  Eben Emael.

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An aerial photograph which shows Fort Eben Emael alongside the Canal west of Maastricht.

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A DFS-230, the type of assault glider used by the WW2 Fallschirmjager to land the 79 paratroopers on top of the fort.

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The main entrance of Fort Eben Emael as it stands today. Well worth a visit.

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One of the retractable turrets that were put out of action.

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One of the Maastricht casemates, that housed three, 75mm Guns.

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Re-enactors re-living the Fallschirmjager assault on the fort.

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The first novel in my Devils with Wings Series.

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The qualification phase to become a paratrooper consisted of 6 jumps. The first would be a t height of around 200 metres, the next two at 150 metres, but in a stick of six trainees. Their fourth jump would be from the same height, but at dusk or dawn and as part of a much larger stick, of perhaps 10 men. For the fifth jump they would be part of a Kette formation, a V-formation, a Chain of three Junkers JU-52. The final jump would be made under simulated combat conditions, up to nine aircraft flying at little over 125 metres in height.

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Fallschirmschutzenabzeichen, parachutist badge.

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Devils with Wings

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The Parachutist’s “Ten Commandments”

The Fallschirmjager had ten commandments that they lived by as elite soldiers.

Number 5.  The most precious thing in the presence of the foe is ammunition. He who shoots uselessly, merely to comfort himself, is a man of straw who merits not the title of Parachutist.

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Devils with Wings- Clip by Nick Britten

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My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and information with you and help set the scene for my series of novels.

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Blog is copyrighted to Harvey Black

 

Fallschirmjager, Grüne Teufel, Green Devils. Part 4.

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The Fallschirmjager qualification badge.

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I have just finished writing my third novel in the Devils with Wings series, Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun. The Fallschirmjager, after their successful battle taking Crete in only 10 days, are shipped to Poland to partake in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Leaving temperatures in excess of forty degrees to be used, not in an airborne operation, but as a fire brigade, plugging gaps in the line around Leningrad, particularly along the banks of the River Neva. They were Army Group North’s strategic reserve.  They were quickly placed into the fray, fighting along the River Neva, where temperatures dropped to below -30 degrees, sometimes as low as -40. They were successful at plugging the gaps and preventing the Soviet Union from exploiting their bridgeheads over the River Neva, but at a price. Some units suffered up to 75% casualties. Many who had survived the assault on the Fortress Eben Emael, (Devils with Wings) and the fierce fighting on the Island of Crete (Devils with Wings: Silk Drop) met their fate in this bitter struggle with the atrocious weather and the never ending Soviet hordes.

The German Army, and the Fallschirmjager, were soon to experience the hostile Russian winters.

The airborne operation against Crete inflicted severe losses on the Fallschirmjager Division. At only a third of its original strength, there were far too few qualified troops available to conduct any large scale airborne operations at the outset of Operation Barbarossa. The Luftwaffe had also suffered considerable losses in transport aircraft and gliders. So, rather than initially being involved in Operation Barbarossa, 7th Flieger Division remained in Germany to rest and refit. But, they weren’t left out of it for long.

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Fallschirmjager helmet, M38 Model Fallschirmjagerhelm.

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The front cover of Hauptmann Piehl’s Ganze Manner, the 1943 first edition, with a foreword by General Kurt Student.

The German Fallschirmjager in WW2.

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On the 22nd June, 1941, Operation Barbarossa was launched, the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Nearly 4 million Axis troops invaded the USSR along a front that extended nearly 4,000 kilometres.

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Destroyed Russian ranks.

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The German Army deployed three Army Groups, North, Centre and South. Army Group North’s ultimate goal was Leningrad. The commander of Army Group North, Ritter von Leeb, had three armies at his disposal. 16th Army, 18th Army and the powerful 4th Panzer Army, fielding 29 Divisions between them.

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Initially progress was good.

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German troops advance quickly and deep into the Soviet Union.

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Although the Russians fielded the infamous T-34’s, they were unable to stop the German onslaught.

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The T-34’s came as a shock to the German Army, unaware of their existence until they met them in battle.

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The Russian airforce was no match for Army Group North’s Luftwaffe support provided by Luftlotte 1.

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On the first day, Panzer Group 4’s 600 tanks crossed the River Neman and penetrated up to 80 kilometres.

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Horse drawn supply wagons.

Although supposedly a mechanised army, the German forces were heavily dependant on horse drawn wagons for their supplies and very quickly ran out of fuel and ammunition. By the end of the 22nd June, the German armour had penetrated 80 kilometres in their drive towards Leningrad. On the 23rd June, near a town called Raseiniai, the Soviets counter attacked. It was here that the German panzers came across the KV heavy tanks for the first time. The Panzer 35(t)’s and anti-tank weapons were practically ineffective against them. The Pak 37, 37mm anti-tank gun earned the nickname of ‘door knocker’ because it couldn’t penetrate the thick armour.

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KV heavy tanks. The later Pak 40, 75mm anti-tank gun was given a priority as they were badly needed to stop these new tanks. One tank in Raseiniai held the advance up for 24 hours.

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The advance continued with thousands of Russian prisoners being taken.

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Long columns of Russian prisoners were marched to the rear, guarded by only a few german guards.

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The Russian troops were demoralised, badly led and beaten.

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But it didn’t all go the German Army’s way. By the end of September 1941, Army Group’s North, Centre and South, ground to a halt. The worsening mud of the Russian Rasputitsa and stiffening Russian resistance ground the German forces down. Although Army Group North had surrounded Leningrad to the south, east and west and the Finnish closed the ring to  north, they made little headway.

The Russian Army was desperate to penetrate the ring of steel that isolated them from the rest of the soviet Union and fought hard to break out. They managed to get two bridgeheads across the River Neva, the German army struggling to restrain them.

The only German Strategic reserve that could be thrown into battle to stem the flow, was the 7th Flieger Division.

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The 1st and 3rd battalions of the 1st Parachute, Fallschirmjager, Regiment and the 2nd battalion of the Luftlande-Sturmregiment were dispatched to the Leningrad to fight alongside 18th Army. They were to be the Army’s fire brigade.

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Deployed east of the city, along the River Neva.

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Fallschirmjager Granatwerfer, mortar team in action.

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In mid-October, just as the Russian winter was setting in, the 7th Flieger’s Divisional Headquarters arrived at the front.

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The Fallschirmjager now had much better support under the command of their own division rather than the Wehrmacht.

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The soviets battered the Fallschirmjager troops relentlessly, desperate to escape the trap, but to no avail. The Fallschirmjager, reinforced by the Parachute Engineer Battalion, held their ground. The troops held the Red Army soldiers from the Volkhov front back, some units suffering up to 75% casualties. The weather, dropping to lows of nearly -40 degrees, also took its toll on the paratroopers.

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Although the Fallschirmjager were heavily involved in the defence of the River Neva, they weren’t involved in any attacks on Russian military armoured trains. Bearing in mind my books are novels, i have included a section where my characters do just that. Some of the armoured trains they were involved in are shown below.

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MBV2 – Russian Armoured Cruiser. Details given in Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun

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MBV-2 Armoured Cruiser

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MBV-2 Armoured Cruiser. Some were built in Leningrad and were given names.

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Anti-Aircraft guns – 4 x interlinked, Vickers water cooled machine guns

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PL-37 artillery wagons. Information can be found in Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun.

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High explosive torpedo on a battery powered rail trolley.

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T-34.

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T-34.

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T-34.

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Fallschirmjager.

The qualification phase to become a paratrooper consisted of 6 jumps. The first would be a t height of around 200 metres, the next two at 150 metres, but in a stick of six trainees. Their fourth jump would be from the same height, but at dusk or dawn and as part of a much larger stick, of perhaps 10 men. For the fifth jump they would be part of a Kette formation, a V-formation, a Chain of three Junkers JU-52. The final jump would be made under simulated combat conditions, up to nine aircraft flying at little over 125 metres in height.

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Fallschirmschutzenabzeichen, parachutist badge.

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Rein-actors at the Bovington Tank Museum Tankfest.

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Rein-actors at the Bovington Tank Museum Tankfest.

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Devils with Wings: Frozen Sun by Nick Britten

Devils with Wings: Silk Drop

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The Parachutist’s “Ten Commandments”

The Fallschirmjager had ten commandments that they lived by as elite soldiers.

Number 4.  Be calm and prudent, strong and resolute. Valour and enthusiasm of an offensive spirit will cause you to prevail in the attack.

My intention is not to portray a particular message, but just share some of my photographs and information with you and help set the scene for my forthcoming novel. The next post will cover the Fallschirmjager in Russia.

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 Blog is copyrighted to Harvey Black

 

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Third novel in the Devils with Wings series