After Action Report– August 9, 06:30

Following the failure of the opening attack, the Lt. Colonel of 1st Battalion (69th Armored Regiment) relieved Company A’s Captain from duty. He placed 1st Lieutenant Hillston (of 2nd Platoon, Co. A) in command of the task force’s second assault of the bridges over the Mittelkanal.

[To aid readers unfamiliar with military jargon and modern weapon systems, I will use different colored text for Soviet and American units.]

The assault was preceded by an A-10 Thunderbolt (“Warthog”) attack run and artillery bombardment. The A-10 acquired and deployed cluster bombs against a platoon of BMP infantry carriers and BRDM-2S Sagger ATGW carriers in the tree line south of the central bridge.

At 06:30, 9 August 1985, Co. A and Companies G & H (2nd Battalion, 8th Mechanized Infantry Regiment), having regrouped, advanced from the vicinity west of Aspel. Smoke was deployed by artillery to cover the gap between the woods south of the canal.

All six artillery batteries at the task force’s disposal concentrated fire on the tree line at the last known location of a of T-72 tanks near the Birkenfeld bridge. All four T-72s of 2nd Platoon (Company J, 4th Tank Battalion, 40th Guards Motor Rifle Berlin Regiment) were neutralized and unable to return the M1 Abrams’ fire as Co. A emerged from the smoke screen.

Co. H’s M901 TOW ATGW carriers went through the woods east of the smokescreen and engaged the BMPs of 3rd Plat. (Co. E, 2nd Battalion, 40th Guards Motor Rifle Berlin Regiment) and the platoon of BRDM-2S’s . The M113s of Co. G followed through the woods behind.

After dispatching 3rd Platoon’s T-72s, Co. A advanced towards the middle bridge, where 2nd Plat. Co. A engaged 1st Plat. Co. J. Two M1s and all five T-72s were destroyed in the exchange. The BMPs knocked out two M901s and then retreated through the woods back towards the bridge. After the loss of a BRDM-2S, the rest of that platoon also retreated through the woods towards the easternmost bridge, and on to Ritterbruch.

The American task force then split up. 2nd Plat. Co. A and 1st Plat. Co. G assaulted the west (Birkendfeld) bridge. 1st Plat. Co. A and 2nd & 3rd Plat. Co G assaulted the central bridge. The M901s of Co. H approached the east bridge, engaged and destroyed the BMPs of 2nd Plat. Co. E.

 South of Birkenfeld, the Soviet BMPs and infantry were overwhelmed by the M1 cannons, dismounted infantry and machine gun fire from M113s.

 American artillery fire concentrated on the central bridge. The BMPs morale broke and they fled to Ritterbruch, leaving their infantry on the north side of the bridge. The American infantry of 2nd and 3rd Platoons dismounted and successfully assaulted both bridge on foot, suffering some losses.

The American tanks and M901s then crossed the bridges, and engaged the final Soviet units in Ritterbruch. One M1, a number of M901s and the last platoon of T-72s perished. The few remaining Soviet units retreated north through Ritterbruch. 

 As the American forces assaulted the bridges, the A-10 came back for its second attack run. It failed to acquire any targets in Ritterbruch, and previously acquired Soviet units had been destroyed or routed, so it released no ordnance. 

Two SA-9 Gaskins and two Zsu 23/4s of the 2nd Air Defense Battery, 359th Guards Anti-Aircraft L’vov Regiment, on anti-aircraft overwatch engaged the A-10 as it passed overhead. The quad-autocannons on the Zsus were ineffective, but the rockets of both Gaskins hit and destroyed the A-10.

At battle’s end, the Soviets had lost an infantry and a tank company. A handful of units escaped north, and a single Soviet infantry platoon continued to hold the easternmost bridge. The Americans lost three M1s, most of the M901s of the anti-tank company, a couple M113s and associated infantry, and the A-10 Warthog.

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