Hof Corridor Operations
In the early days of the Cold War, Western intelligence agencies identified three primary avenues through which an invading Soviet force might advance into USAREURís sector. One principal avenue of approach funneled through the Hof Corridor, which began about one hundred miles east of Frankfurt and ran west-southwest from Nuremberg through Heilbronn and Karlsruhe. Although it was farther removed from the large Soviet army group in East Germany, it was readily accessible by smaller satellite forces in Czechoslovakia. The Seventh Army positioned the VII Corps, the smaller of the two, to defend this more indirect approach. Although the regionís well-developed system of east-west highways and generally favorable terrain offered an attacker excellent mobility, the analysts noted that the areaís forests and high ground gave defenders good observation and fields of fire.
Terrain and force deployments made three general areas of Pact attack the most likely: the North German Plain, Fulda Gap, Hof Corridor. The North German Plain, lying in large part within the British and Belgain sectors of responsibility, is less hilly than the approaches to the south, but with heavy vegetation. It is separated from less densely populated areas to the west by a relatively narrow, densely settled band near Hanover.
The Fulda Gap and Hof Corridor, lying predominantly within the U.S. sector of responsibility, had more of the kinds of manmade structures which inhibit the rapid movement of armored forces. The Pact could build a local force edge of up to 12:1 in areas like the North German Plain, where NATO's forces are relatively weak. In general, attacking tanks in the North German Plain would be less restricted in their movements, yet more screened from the view of defenders. A Pact breakthrough there would sever the main line of communication to the U.S. and German forces in southern Germany.
Tne invasion route is assumed to be anywnere along the frontier north of Gunsleben out south of the Mittelland Canal. Here there are ground elevations whicn may approach 100 m above sea level but soon the terrain becomes very low (elevations less tnan 30 m) and quite flat except on the extreme left flank of the invasion route where the elevation and roughness increase witn proximity to the central Iighlands. Immediately south of Minden the northwest extension of the Wesergebirge provioes some higher ridges (generally running approximately from east by south toward west by north). Forested areas extend to the east and west of Mincen southerly of the Mittelland Canal. Extensive farmlands are located to the south of these forestec areas and would seem to be a logical cnoice for tne invasion route through tnis region.
In the southern portion of the Seventh Army zone, the VII Corps defended against an advance through the Hof Gap toward Nuremberg and then straight west toward Mannheim. Battle plans indicated an objective of delaying, neutralizing, and destroying enemy forces along their main axes of penetration in order to create conditions necessary for a NATO counteroffensive.
The terrain in which the Hof-Nurnberg routes are located is predominantly richly forested highlands. In generai, little soil overlays the rock. A notable exception borders the region to the southeast where a tongue of river-depositea alluvial soil descends from Weiden to tne Donau River around Regensburg. Agricultural activities are not extensive. Grains predominate among tre crops and rye among the grains. A lesser amount of land with wheat is found and the land's productivity tends to increase to the south toward the Donau.
In a 1984 article in International Security, the Harvard University publication on military issues, Prof. Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard called for a new element in NATO strategy, "conventional retaliation". He suggested that if the Soviet Union embarked on an offensive into Western Europe, NATO should retaliate with an offensive into East Germany and Czechoslovakia. The retaliatory offensive Huntington suggested could be launched by American and West German forces. The main thrust of such a drive would be through the Hof corridor toward Jena and Leipzig in East Germany. A second drive would push into Czechoslovakia to Karlovy Vary and Teplice. Huntington asserted that an invasion of the East would exploit a prime Soviet military weakness - that the Soviet military would be much better at executing a detailed plan of attack than it would be in adjusting to unexpected circumstances resulting from a NATO counter-attack into the East. Some analysts believed the Gottingen corridor running through the German III Corps sector just north of the Fulda Gap was more attractive as a third choice than the Hof corridor, which is a bit narrow. The first three corridors are roughly 50 km wide, the fourth perhaps 20 km wide. The rule of thumb was that one brigade can hold a line 7 to 15 kilometers long. The terrain that an attacking force would have to traverse in this region is considerably more obstacle-ridden than that along the other axes. Moreover, Stuttgart is a far less attractive target than either Frankfurt or the Ruhr. The North German Plain is considered the most likely main attack axis because its rolling farmland is highly conducive to tank operations, and because it is defended by what many consider to be NATO's weakest forces. The Fulda Gap and Hof Corridors are defended by West German and American unit. ; the terrain is hilly and forested, which is conducive to channelization and ambush. Organizatioaily, the American forces were broken into one Army (7th U.S.) and two subordinate Corps (V and VI1. Located for the most part in central and southern Germany, this force comprised the make up that is the Central Army Group or CENTAG. Utilizing "Forward Defense" or defending as close as possible to the Inter German Border (IGB), these two Corps could defend against an enemy in depth. Using both air and ground reconnaissance forces the U.S. fores could first find and fix the incoming enemy forces in the Covering Force Area. The Armored Cavalry Regiments in each Corps were superbly tailored for this Covering Force mission.
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