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> 20. The Liberation of Kishinev
Posted: January 07, 2004 07:19 pm
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by Gheorghe Tinica

The main operation to be carried out by the Romanian and German troops after the Soviet forces were defeated in the Cornesti Mountains Chain was to liberate the town of Kishinev, an important economic, political and communications center.

The 1st Romanian Armoured Division launched its assault on July 16, at dawn, at 03:30 a.m., conducting its "fire only at sight against the enemy", to prevent "the unnecessary destruction of the town or the strikes against Romanian population".

Colonel Nistor Constantin's "West" Tactical Group, strengthened with Major Spirescu Gheorghe's Combat Vehicles Battation, attacked from north-east. By 08:00 a.m., they conquered the localities of Posta Veche and Cheltuitori.

The speed of the Romanian troops surprised the Soviet units which still succeeded in blowing up and setting fires on the main institutions and buildings of the town (the City Hall, the Metropolitan Church, the main Railway Station, the Barracks etc.). But, by 08:30 a.m., the Romanian armoured units broke into the town and without any infantry or artillery support, initiated the operation for the complete defeat of the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Otto Benedict, a Staff officer, penetrated in the town with Captain Grabinschi's 3rd Combat Vehicles Company, surprised and destroyed a cavalry squadron and a heavy artillery battery in the vicinity of the Metropolitan Church and the Central Park.

Meanwhile, Second Lieutenant Marinescu hoisted the Romanian tricoloured flag on the St.Trinity Church steeple, in the presence of the people who had come to meet them.

General Ioan Sion, commander of the Armoured Division, decided, by 02:00 p.m. when he reached the northern gate of the town, to completely clear it up. He was supported by th inhabitants of the whole town, who voluntarily offered to report him about the “measures taken by the Soviet troops”, their retreat, about the mined building, partisan nests or small units remained open fire on the Romanian forces. By 06:30 p.m., the 1st Armoured Division and the forward elements belonging to the 72nd German Infantry Division broke into the town, with artillery support, and annihilated the last Soviet resistance in the south-east of the town. That evening, General Erik von Hansen, commander ot the LIV German Corps, showed his appreciation by sending a radiogram where mentioned: "I congratulate the Division for its wonderful success in conquering the Capital of Bessarabia and I will report this to the Leader of the State".

At the left flank of the 1st Romanian Armoured Division, Colonel Petrea Gheorghe's "East" Tactical Group, supported by the 1st Combat Vehicles Battalion (commanded by Major A. Marinescu) successively conquered the Rascani Hill, the farms south of Slobozia and Cojocna and intercepted and interdicted fire on the Kishinev-Tighina highway and railway.

The liberation of Kishinev concluded the first stage of the war waged for the liberation of Bessarabia. The entire Romanian press covered the event with articles suggestively entitled: "Kishinev, the Capital of Bessarabia; liberated by successful Romanian troops" ("Cuvantul"), "Bessarabia's strategic key is in our hands" ("Universul"). It also had a great impact in world press: "Kishinev, which circumscribes in its name all the pains and all the sadness of the misfortunes of the Bessarabian Romanians, was liberated last evening by General Antonescu's forces" ("Giornale d'Italia"); "This is a successful victory which, for the last three days, illustrated the Romanian General Headquarter's maturity and showed once more the greatness of General Ion Antonescu's strategic plan" ("Popoli d'Italia").
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