Romanian Armies III and IV,
the weakest links of the front line
In World War II, the Romanian Army participated both in alliance with Axis, between June 22, 1941 and August 23, 1944, and with the Allies, between August 24, 1944 and May 8, 1945, Victory Day in Europe, when has entered into vigor the capitulation of Nazi Germany. In the case of leaving the Axis in the presence of tanks of Moscow on the territory of their country, were, especially, armies from Finland, after September 4, 1944, from Bulgaria, after September 8, 1944, from Hungary, after January 20, 1945. In the same situation, but in the presence of american tanks on the territory of its country, was the army from Italy, after October 13, 1943.
During the battles, the Romanian Army suffered heavy casualties; there were killed 91,022 Romanian soldiers, of which 72,291 on the Eastern Front and 18,731 on the Western Front. Of the 72,291 deaths on the Eastern Front, 4,271 fell on the space between the Pruth and the Dniester, but the rest, of 68,020, on the Est of the Dniester.
It is to note the sad truth that the greatest tribute of human lives paid by the Romanian Army, was in the battles from the East of Dniester, putting, thus, in question at least three aspects: the fighting equipment, the morale of soldiers, as well and the military genius of the generals.
The equipping of the Romanian Army has proved to be in insufficient quantity and quality. The deficiencies in the Romanian Army have been felt particularly acutely in the battle of Stalingrad, in particular by the relatively small number of antitank guns, as artillery pieces or mounted on tanks, with a caliber of more than 50 mm, capable to pierce the armor of 45-63 millimeters of Soviet T34 tanks, which, also very important, had had mounted on them guns of caliber 76,2 millimeters.
The arming of Romania was based on its production, and on imports, especially from Czechoslovakia, France and Germany.
By the Decree – Law on February 18, 1941 were militarized state and private enterprises. By the Decree – Law, on October 2, 1941 were suspended vacations and daily duration of work rose from 8 hours to even 12 hours.
The import was affected by a number of international events. On October 10, 1938, the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia was invaded by German troops. Impatient, Carol II had a meeting with Hitler at Obersalzberg, on 24 November, 1938. Then they discussed a Romanian – German cooperation. The speeding of it by the Romanian part was made after a series of events: on March 14, 1939 it was formed the Slovak Republic and on March 16, 1939 it was proclaimed the Protectorate of Bohemia and the Moravia as part of Germany. Thus, the Economic Treaty was signed on March 23, 1939, and the Oil Pact on May 29, 1939. By the Oil Pact was established to supply a mutual exchange of commodities: oil from Romania, weapons from Germany.
On July 21, 1941 was completed the pipeline to carry oil between Ploiesti and Giurgiu, from where, on the Danube, this stock has reached more rapidly Germany.
In exchange for oil, Romania has received weapons from Germany, directly at the gates of factories, but also from that which was looted from Poland.
The other major arms supplier of Romania, France, capitulated to Germany on 21 June, 1940. Thus was halted imports from former basic supporter of Romania.
About how much has lowered the morale among the Romanian Army, after it crossed the Dniester, on August 1, 1941, it can get an idea by the fact that was introduced corporal punishment of 25 lashes imposed on those who err seriously about soldierly obligations; this punishment appeared on the Order of August 14, 1941 issued by General Iosif Iacubovici, the Minister of National Defence in the period January 27 – September 22, 1941.
About “military genius” of some generals, the notorious example in this regard is General Ion Glogojanu, about whom, even his superior, Marshal Ion Antonescu, arrived at his tomb, made the following statement: “You fought like a hero for Odessa and died in Odessa like a silly”. On October 22, at 17.45, blew up the building on the street Friedrich Engels, number 40, which has became the headquarters of the Military Command in Odessa. Ion Glogojanu was informed by Mayor Gherman Pantea that was learned from a Russian woman that the building was the seat N.K.V.D. and that, before leaving, the Soviets had mined it, but the general did not do proper researches. As a result, 79 died and were wounded 43 troops. Even military commander of the Military Command in Odessa, Ion Glogojanu died in the explosion.
On October 15, 1942, at the request made by Adolf Hitler to Ion Antonescu, the Army III, led by General Petre Dumitrescu, and the Army IV, led by General Constantin Constantinescu-Claps, took positions shared by the German High Command on the front line of Stalingrad, with a long sector of 110 kilometers, on the northern arm of the Don’s Elbow, between German and Italian sectors of the front line, respectively, a sector long of 200 kilometers, after the German sector, at the end the southernmost front line. The Army VI, led by Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus, was located in the isthmus between eastern arm of the Don’s Elbow and the western arm of the Volga’s Elbow, at the outskirts of Stalingrad from the right bank of Volga. Army IV, of Pantzer tanks, led by Hermann Hoth, was located on the south of the German Army VI.
For more precision, on November 18, the front line included the following sectors, from south to north: the Army IV, led by General Constantin Constantinescu-Claps, the Army IV, of Pantzer tanks, led by Hermann Hoth, the Army VI, led by Friedrich Wilhelm Ernst Paulus, the Army III, led by General Petre Dumitrescu, the Army VIII, led by Italo Gariboldi, the Army II, led by Gusztáv Jany, the Army IV, led by Hans Kurt Eberhard von Salmuth.
The Soviets chose to start counteroffensive, known as “Uranus”, not at German sectors, not at Italian sector, not at Hungarian sector, but at Romanian sector, but not at only one, but at both, in two days, one after another. Why? Were they considered by Soviets as the weakest links of the front line?
On November 19, 1942, the Army III, with an effective of 152,492 Romanian troops, has been overwhelmed by the Soviet attack, led by Nikolai Fyodorovich Vatutin, being sprayed and thus the northern flank of the Army VI remained uncovered.
On November 20, 1942, the Army IV, with a staff of 75,580 Romanian troops, was also overwhelmed by the Soviet attack led by Andrei Ivanovich Eremenko, leaving uncovered the southern flank of the Army IV, of Pantzer tanks.
With flanks discovered, the encircling of the Sixth Army by the Soviets was accomplished in a very short time, on November 23 at Kalach, the locality situated at west of Stalingrad, at a distance of 80 kilometers.
The German attempts to get out from the encirclement, which was attended and by numerous Romanian troops, failed, only a large part of the Army IV, of Pantzer tanks, escaped and formed the Hoth’s armed group.
Although on January 30, 1943, Hitler promoted him as “generalfeldmareschall” (n.a. field marshal, the second highest level after “reichmareschall”, marshal of the empire, in the German Army between 1935 and 1945), Paulus surrendered the next day, Soviets taking as prisoners 24 generals, 2,500 officers and about 107,000 German soldiers.
But, as at the failures there is always the desire to look for guilties, this disaster at planetary scale led to a series of furious accusations of Adolf Hitler, “der Führer und der Reichkanzler” (n.a. Conductor and Chancellor of Empire) against Ion Antonescu, Conductor and President of the Council of Ministers, on January 10, 1943, during the visit of Ion Antonescu to “Wolfschanze” (n.a. Wolf Den, the headquarters of Adolf Hitler on the eastern front, in the town of Rastenburg, now Kętrzyn, in the north-eastern Poland).
The peak of paradox is that the greatest Romanian military disaster and, also, with the greatest echo in the world of an action of the Romanian Army, was attributed to Ion Antonescu, the only one with the highest military rank in Romania, that of Marshal active (n.a. this degree was withdrawn on May 17, 1946, by the People’s Court in Bucharest when, in the same time, Ion Antonescu was sentenced to death for war crimes, sentence confirmed, with some amendments, on December 5, 2006, by the Court of Appeal in Bucharest, later, on May 6, 2008, reconfirmed definitively without amendments, by the High Court of Cassation and Justice).
However, it should be noted that the Army VIII (n.a. named in Italian as “Ottava Armata”, and also “Corpo di Spedizione Italiano in Russia”), led by Italo Gariboldi, was in its turn sprayed by the Soviet counteroffensive, called “Little Uranus”, also in one day, December 16, 1942.
Also, the Army II (n.a. named in Hungarian as “Második Hadsereg”), led by Jány Gusztáv, was in its turn sprayed by the Soviet counteroffensive, called Voronezh – Kharkov Strategic Operation, in one day, January 13, 1943.
At the question put previously, the answer given by most specialists in the field is affirmative: the two Romanian sectors were the weakest links of the front line, at Stalingrad, that changed the course of the war, and thus, implicitly, the fate of hundreds of millions people, in particular, from the Central and Eastern Europe.
This historical truth is passed under silence by many Romanians, in particular, by the nostalgics for the legionary, fascist regime, or by the nostalgics for the communist regime (n.a. both communism and fascism are dictatorial regimes, with one party), thinking that, in the otherwise case, they would not be patriots. This way of falsifying the history by omission, does conduct that we, Romanians, to continue to live in lie, the propaganda began and developed “on the highest peaks” during the “dejisto – ceausist” communist regime, to not learn the proper lessons from the history and to repeat the past mistakes.
The text is part from the volume in course of translation “Files from the Whispering History of Romanians”
(The translation from Romanian and the adaptation are realized by the author himself)