The situation in Frankfurt had been going back, and forth for weeks. CENTAG’s sense of the situation was that the Soviets were building for something big, but what? Aerial reconnaissance showed the presence of “recovering units” in the vicinity of Schweinfurt, but Allied deep strikes were repulsed by high concentrations of enemy AAA and interceptors. The only possible option left, was a good old reconnaissance in force.
Back at BMVg, the Germans didn’t have much left. Generalleutnant Kubik shared with Brigadier General Klute that most of 5th Panzerdivision and its assets had been expended. He had ordered them all the way back to Trier. Perhaps it was time to call up elements from 12th Panzerdivision (Sigmaringen) as it was evident that the WTO would pose no serious threat to Munich in the next week? Kubik got on the phone to Oberst Schneider, in charge of the surviving elements from Panzeraufklarungsbataillon 12 (Ebern).
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Klute was getting pressure from his West Point classmate, Colonel Frank Butler, to get the American 3/8th Cavalry back in to the fray. The Reds most fearsome penetrations had come down the parallel Autobahn lines 5 and 66. They’d gotten to the Frankfurt suburbs of Hanau and Bad Homburg, and the 3/8 had acquitted itself well outside of Hanau before being pulled back to Aschaffenburg. Autobahn3, by contrast, was a cratered but relatively open line of communication between Aschaffenburg and Wurzburg, and it offered more clandestine approaches in the forested hills above the Main valley. Klute wanted to make sure the opportunity wasn’t wasted, and urged Butler to join up with Schneider’s forces creeping up the Main vally through Lohr am Main.
When Butler caught up to Schneider at Rachtenbach, Schneider informed him that the 26 East was a dead end. Russian and East German scouts out of Hammelburg were as far West as Karsbach, and likely to the northeast at Gräfendorf. The 276 out of Lohr was also hairy, as it was a direct route to Autobahn 66. The Lorhbach, however, offered a nice open valley that spilled out to the east on the 276. Schneider had camped there once as a kid. It was here he encouraged the two men to roll the dice, on the outskirts of Wiesthal. Aerial recon that night confirmed little WTO presence in the area, and so Butler began to move in.
Butler moved fast, deploying the majority of his forces in the Grimmenwiesbach basin and campground, while his AirCav followed his scouts into some woods covering the Lohrbach rail line to the west. Schneider held most of his forces in reserve in the heights south of the Grimmenwiesbach, but loaning Butler his powerful Gepards for air defense.
But the Americans weren't the only campers that morning! As Butler's Blackhawks flew off after deploying their passengers, they reported a strong Russian presence bivouaced in the brush covered heights south of Wiesthal station. They'd apparently even commandeered a local beer wagon!
Seeing the American deployment, the Russians moved quickly to secure their flank by occupying the southern portion of Wiesthal. Their heavy assets, including a company of T-64s, covered the advance from the heights.
Sensing that time, and the odds were on his side, Butler ordered his M60s forward to engage under the cover of Schneider's Gepards! The American rifle platoon fired on the advancing infantry, bailing a couple BMPs. Given the engagement range, Butler's M60s weren't as lucky, bailing and burning only one T-64 apiece.
Comrade Suvorov was ready with a response. His T-64s opened on the lead M60 Cav platoon, and finished them off with a sortie from waiting Frogtfoots. The damage made up for the fact that his BMPs did not have effective lines of fire.
Sensing he wouldn't be able to hide from the BMPs for long, Butler took advantage of the fact that the T-64s had ducked for cover, and engaged the BMPs with his remaining M60s while his scouts and AirCav rifles took on enemy AAA and some more BMPs. The BMPs were weakened, but not out.
It was now that Suvorov sprung his trap. His scattered reserves, more T-64s, arrived just where they were needed on the flank of the American advance. Though his BMPs did little damage, the newly arrived T-64 Company took out another Platoon of the cavalry's M60s with brutal ease!
Butler knew when he was beaten, and he ordered his M60s to fall back, burning last BMPs as they did and causing remainder to flee. Schneider's Gepards followed suit, and scampered for cover behind Lohrbach heights. Sadly, Schneider's Leopard Is could not get into position to engage, yet.
Suvorov could sense victory, but was a patient commander. He brought another Company of T64s to support his immanent offense on to the East of the Wiesthal suburbs, while his remaining T64s and Shilkas advanced into position and took out one of the remaining M60s before delivering the coup d'grace.
But Schneider had an Ace up his sleeve! Suddenly, from behind the heights, four PAH arrived and managed to deliver a volley of fire on the T-64s still in the heights, burning one.
Losses were all part of Suvorov's plan, as he knew he had the advantage in tanks now. His T-64s pushed on, killing last two M60 CAV, while his Gaskins arrived in hopes of making making the environment more hostile for the German PAHs. Sensing a chance to finish this, his Shilkas moved up too, and engage Gepards, but killing only one.
Now it was NATO's turnt to spring a trap. Schneider moved one of his Leo I platoons onto the heights above the Grimmenwiesbach and opened up on the Gaskins while his PAHs took on the T-64s. Their fire was more effective, but not enough to drive off the Company. He could take greater pride in the effect of his Gepards, which shredded the Shilkas, bailing all four! Meanwhile, Butler ordered his AirCav to mount up, and head for Wiesthal!
Butler's AirCav gave Suvorov pause, but only for a moment. He moved his infantry back to their encampment on the heights, and his T64s keep pushing and burned all but one Leo I covering his approach.
When Butler's AirCav landed east of Wiesthal, the door gunners tear up Soviet infantry scrambling to protect the beer wagon, leaving them pinned. Back on the heights, the Gepards and Leos finish off the Zsus, but the PAHs missed the weakened T64 company once again.
Just when (and where!) he needed them, Suvorov's Russian reserve BRDMs and Spandrels arrived east of Wiesthal. With a Blitz move they are in position to kill helos and scouts turning flank to seize objective. In the final moments, the Russian T64s took out last of the Leo Is on the hills. Schneider was forced to withdraw, leaving Butler to watch the tragedy of his AirCav rifles from afar.
Butler chawed on his cigar. They'd found the Russian forces, and both sides had paid dearly. He wasn't concerned, however. There would be another battle here shortly, and he and Schneider would bring their big guns this time. He found himself repeating the words of his more famous great grandfather...