Two Sides of the Iron Curtain

Two Sides of the Iron Curtain

Two Sides of the Iron Curtain
German Forces in World War III
with Wayne Turner

After its defeat in the Second World War, Germany was occupied by the victorious Allied Powers. The Soviet Union controlled the part to the east, while Britain, France and the United States occupied the part to the west and the responsibility for the security of Germany was left to the four occupying powers. The relationship between the democratic West (the United States, Britain, and France) and the communist East (the Soviet Union) soon broke down and an Iron Curtain was drawn across central Europe. Germany was divided in two.

At the end of World War II in 1945, the world breathed a sigh of relief. However, the face of Europe had changed dramatically and a new global political divide had been formed between the Communist East and Democratic West. The West formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949, and in response the Warsaw Pact was formed by the Soviet Union and its allies, including East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Poland in 1955.

Click here to learn more about World War III: Warsaw Pact...

World War III: Soviet 

Stuck in the Middle
The division of Germany in 1949 also created an unusual situation in Berlin. The eastern half of the city fell under Soviet control and it was made the East German capital in 1949. However, British, US, and French forces remained in West Berlin. All three Western nations keep a brigade-sized unit in their own sectors of West Berlin, which, if war broke out would be surrounded by East German and Soviet forces.

The main focus of a war would be the drive into West Germany, so the task of taking and clearing West Berlin was left with a variety of East German units and one Soviet independent Motor Rifle Brigade. The plan was called Operation Stoss (Thrust) and involved the Soviet 6th Independent Motor Rifle Brigade, and the East German 1. Motorisiertes Schutzen Division, one battalion of the 40th Air Assault Regiment, reinforced with artillery, engineers, and second-line troops like the border guards, police, and the Combat Groups of the Working Class.

Two Sides of the Iron Curtain

Facing these forces would be the three brigades of the British, United States, and France. The US had three Mechanised Infantry Battalions, one M60A3 Tank Company, one M109 Artillery Battalion, an Engineer Company and a special forces detachment.

The British Berlin Brigade also contained three Mechanised Infantry Battalions, a Chieftain Tank Company, an Engineer Company and a Military Police Company.

The French force was composed differently with just one Mechanised Infantry Battalion, an AMX30B2 Tank Battalion and a Military Police Company.

The East German plans for the conquest and occupation of West Berlin give rise to a variety of gaming opportunities in WWIII: Team Yankee, and with the release of WWIII: British, you can now pit the British Berlin Brigade against Soviet or East German forces.

Two Sides of the Iron Curtain

Federal German Republic
Initially, West Germany was forbidden from having a military by the Western Allies, but as tension with the Soviets heightened throughout the 1950s, the Allies invited West Germany to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), formed in 1954.

A major reason for West Germany’s incorporation into NATO was that without German manpower it would have been impossible to field enough conventional forces to resist a Soviet invasion. In 1950 a committee of former high-ranking Wehrmacht (the old German armed forces) Officers was formed to discuss and plan the rebuilding of the German
Armed Forces. Former General der Panzertruppen of the Wehrmacht and liberal politician, Hasso von Manteuffel, suggested the name Bundeswehr (Federal Defence) for the new forces, and the name was later agreed to by the West German parliament.

Bundeswehr personnel were a mix of conscripts and volunteers. Conscripts served for 12 months before returning to civilian life, where they went into the reserve and could be called up in times of crisis or war. These reserves would report to various muster points to be allocated out to bring mobilised units up to strength.

Two Sides of the Iron Curtain

War Strategy
During the 1960s and 1970s, NATO planning revolved around the early use of nuclear weapons against a massive Warsaw Pact attack. Unsurprisingly, the West German government was opposed to any strategy that would leave Germany a radioactive wasteland. There were doubts in NATO, especially among the West Germans, whether conventional combined arms operations could be conducted in nuclear conditions. However, NATO defensive plans continued to rely on nuclear weapons into the 1970s. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that NATO felt there were sufficient conventional ground and air forces in Europe to conduct an effective forward defence without the early use of nuclear weapons.

During the 1970s the Heer (the ground forces of the Bundeswehr) focused on the defence of the border area with forward-deployed combat units. Although depth was considered necessary, the forward-deployed units were to be the strongest. Counterattacks were to be smaller and more frequent, rather than larger and more ambitious in scope. This stance was taken due to lack of space to operate in, and the lack of reserve forces for such counterattacks.

Later, mobile defensive tactics were developed that emphasised phases of delay over a limited depth, followed by main defence with strong forces, backed with counterattacks by regrouped units from the delaying force and units withdrawn from less threatened areas. NATO forces grew stronger in the 1980s, but the tactical doctrine of holding out at the forward edge of the battle area still dominated West German Heer commanders’ thinking into the mid-1980s.

The Bundeswehr was the largest NATO army in central Europe with a strength of 495,000 regular personnel and about 1,000,000 reserves.

The Bundeswehr in WWIII: Team Yankee
The West German force has a comprehensive range of forces available to field in WWIII: Team Yankee. These are found in WWIII: West German, covering the Leopard 2 and 2A5 Panzer Kompanie, Marder and Marder 2 Panzergrenadier Kompanie and Panzeraufklärungs Kompanie Formations. You can field great equipment like the modern and powerful Leopard 2 main battle tank, the Panzergrenadiers mounted Marder infantry fighting vehicles and armed with Panzerfaust 44 rockets and Milan anti-tank guided missiles. The West Germans have an excellent array of light troops in the tried and true Leopard 1 tank, lightly armoured, but armed with a powerful 105mm main gun. The Aufklärungs troops also field the 8-wheeled Luchs (Lynx) armoured car and their own infantry mounted in the 6-wheeled Fuchs (Fox) APC.

Two Sides of the Iron Curtain

The old Panzertruppen booklet has also been rolled into WWIII: West German, which adds three more formations to the Bundeswehr arsenal. Now you can field a Leopard 1 Panzer Kompanie as found in many Panzergrenadier Brigades, or an M113 Panzer Kompanie mounting your Panzergrenadiers in the M113 APC, or a Fuchs Panzeraufklärungs Kompanie allowing you to field the infantry company of a Panzeraufklärungs Bataillon.

~ Wayne.