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> 50. The Romanian Air Forces on the Eastern Front
dragos
Posted: July 15, 2004 09:36 pm
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by Aurel Pentelescu

After the liberation of Bessarabia on July 26, 1941, the combat actions of the Romanian Air Forces continued uninterruptelly, suporting our troops during the crossing of the Dniester river, in the offensive towards the Dnieper river and also in the Odessa Battle. Within the interval between August 1 - October 16, 1941, the Air Forces registered one of the utmost intense period of activity on the Eastern front: 20,932 hours of flight, totalizing 12,260 missions in the enemy's territory (1,962 air reconnaissance missions, 2,223 bombing missions, 6,352 fighting missions, 1,732 junction missions). The results were remarkable: 153 air fights and 248 hostile aircrafts shot down. Other 110 aircrafts were destroyed on the ground and 91 aircrafts of the enemy) were shot down by the A.A. artillery's fire. In two months and a half only, the enemy lost 449 aircrafts, as a result of the figthing actions of the Romanian Air Forces, and that can't be neglected (about 7.8% from the total amount of losses previously estimated). In the Odessa Battle, Romanian fighting and bombing air squadrons participated with 223 aircrafts. To these forces we must add also 9 surveying air squadrons (109 aircrafts) and 2 reconnaissance air squadrons (17 aircrafts). Heavy air fights were carried at Dalnik, Tatarka, Odessa. Among the heros which died in the course of these battles was the commander of the 7th Air Combat Group, Wing Commander Alexandru Popişteanu (killed on August 21, 1941, while he was figthing against 10 aircrafts of the enemy, from which he shot down six).

After Odessa was conquered, the big air units were withdrawn to their inland bases in the country to be recovered. During October 16, 1941 - August 1, 1942, in the zones of operation from Crimea (Feodosia, Kerci, Sevastopol), in the areas Harkov and Don, the figthing actions of the Romanian Air Forces were limited, totalizing only 6,638 hours of flight, with 3,439 missions in the enemy's territory (1,380 air reconnaissance missions, 1,021 fighting missions, 1,038 junction missions). The losses of the enemy totalized 67 aircrafts, from which 7 were destroyd during air battles, 3 on the ground and 57 were shot down by the A.A. artillery's fire.

The aviation came back on the Eastern front after September 15, 1942, forming the Air Combat Group (commander: Air Vice-Marshal Ermil Gheorghiu), supporting the Romanian troops in the area of Don River's Bend, in the Kalmuk Steppe, in Kuban and in Caucasus. The reconnaissance aircrafts have early discovered the big grouping of forces of the enemy, which were preparing the counter-offensive, onNovember 1942, and the bombing aircraft stroke powerfully the agglomeration of troops which were preparing the crossing of the Don river.

Between November 19 December 31, 1942, the Romanian Air Forces' have totalized 6,170 hours of flight, with 4,019 flights in the enemy's territory (654 reconnaissance missions, 1,347 bombing missions, 2,018 fighting missions). During all this time, the enemy lost 170 aircrafts, from which 72 during 61 air fights. Being confronted with heavy difficulties, the pilots acted for discovering the encircled Romanian units, for supplying them with ammunition and food. Great heroical acts were performed in these circumstances by Flights Lieutenants Valentin Stănescu and loan Profir, by Flying Officer Jean Rădulescu, by Pilot Officer ® Eliade Popescu and others which were awarded the "Mihai Viteazul" Order.

From January 1,1943, the Romanian Air Forces on the Eastern front were grouped in the lst Air Corps, which was subordinated to the 4th German Air Fleet. Starting with June 16, 1943, the Ist Romanian Air Corps (commander : Air Vice-Marshal Emanoil lonescu) equipped with German combat materials, entered the fight. Its forces carried out heavy fights for supporting the operation of the Romanian and German land troops in various phases of the great defensive battle starting from Mius, Donetz river, Dnieper river, up to Moldavia, during a whole year of uniterrupted activity on the front. In the same time, other units of the Romanian Air Forces were defending the territory of the country (the oil region, the seashore in Dobrudja, the Trans-Dniestrian area). The activity of the lst Romanian Air Corps in this period totalizes 18,074 missions in the enemy's territory (6,006 fighting mis-sions, 3,869 assault missions, 3,644 dive bombing missions, 2,579 heavy bombing missions and 375 reconnaissance missions). An amount of 7,312.4 tones of bombs were dropped to the targets. The air victories raised at 401 (298 were achieved by the fighters). It's a remarkable fact that, initially, the lst Romanian Air Corps had at his disposal only 97 combat aircrafts. After a month, among these were ready for action only 53.4% from the initial amount. The situation remained unchanged (almost) until the Corps forces came back in the country, despite the fact that other 500 aircraft have been delivered in all this time 391 aircrafts were partially destroyed and other 109 assault planes were lost during the fights. The balance between the victories and the losses (inflicted by the enemy) represents 1/3.9, which means, after all, a very high efficacy. In this period, the lst Romanian Air Corps lost 26 officers (from a total of 88 ), 32 NCO's (from a total of 146), 6 technicians (from a total of 81).

The percentage of the losses for the personnel is 26%. All the time, the enemy disposed of a serious numerical superiority, mainly as concerns the fighters. The Romanian air fighters proved high professional qualities even exceptional ones. This fact was recognized, at the time, through Army Orders of the Day and the German Command did appreciate our fighter's value, too.
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