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> 38. Heading for Stalingrad
Posted: March 31, 2004 03:56 pm
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by Gheorghe Tinca

After a brief period of reshuffling and recovering its forces west of Izium in the Sememorka and Cepel district, the VI Romanian Army Corps was subordinated to the "Strecker" Group from the German First Armoured Force, which had been assigned the mission to cross the Donets and secure a bridgehead east of the river in the area of the wide bend the river made at Izium.

On June 22, 1942 at dawn, after a brief artillery preparation, the VI Army Corps the crossed by surprise the Donets. On June 27, after fierce fighting, it reached the western bank of the river Oskol, where it articulated the disposition between the Donets and Pristin, in the area of the 384th German the Infantry Division which was assigned another mission.

Starting the 8th of July the VI Army Corps (except the 2nd Infantry Division, temporarily reattached to another command) in cooperation with the forces at the right flank of the XXXXIV German Army Corps embarked on the offensive, crossed the river Oskol and advanced towards Svatovo (with the 1st and 20th Infantry Division) and towards Karpovka (with the 4th Infantry Division). After two days of fighting, they succeeded in getting hold of the height east of Mastki and in compelling the Soviet troops to withdraw. During the next days, the Romanian big units (since July 19 subordinated to the German Fourth Armoured Force) closely followed the enemy's heels.

During very hot days, with high temperatures, the troops marched 25-30 km a days, so that on July 27 they reached the Don river, where the 2nd Infantry Division (which had been reincluded in the combat disposition) established a bridgehead at Zimlianskaja and kept it in spite of the great number of attacks and counter attacks delivered by the Soviet troops. Later on, after eight days of rehabilitation, the 2nd Infantry Division occupied a temporary defence disposition along the Don river banks, between Chimbiansk and Potionkinskaja.

After covering the shifting of the German Fourth Armoured Force south of the Don the Romanian big units were assigned the mission of further backing the German armoured advancing along the railway to Stalingrad.

At the same time with the north-eastward advance west of the Remontnaia-Stalingrad railroad the 2nd Infantry Division, in cooperation with the German 29th Mountain Division, mounted an attack eastward, with the goal of "turning" the Soviet defence along the Don.

In early August the Soviet troops were compelled to withdraw. The VI Romanian Army Corps advanced again and during six days of sultry heat covered about 130 km of barren land so that on August 6 it reached the Jessulavski Aksai valley, the bulk of the forces being deployed between the railway and Sasono.

With every passing day, however, the Soviet troops put up a stauncher resistance, and on August 12 managed to halt the advance of the Romanian troops along the Musenkovo valley. During the week that followed (august 13-19) the VI Army Corps repulsed the Soviet attacks and made preparations for resuming the offensive on August 20.

On August 29, fighting beside the German armoured troops, the Romanian divisions reached the outer defence belt of Stalingrad. In the first days of September, the VI Army Corps, south of Stalingrad, deployed on the line Sarpinskaja, east of Tunguta, south of Malie Derbeti, covering the right flank and the rear of the German forces that were attacking the city on the Volga.

The new mission entrusted placed the VI Army Corps Headquarters in a predicament. Purposing to attack with superior forces in the offensive direction of its own troops, the German Command forced the Romanian troops to fight covering a very wide battlefront (about 125 km in width), which was beyond the combat capacity of the three Romanian divisions, which moreover, had no sufficient reserves to mount strong counterattacks and to support the right flank, the 100 km which represented the distance to the German unit (the 16th Motorized Infantry Division) being surveilled only by patrols. In spite of this, the VI Army Corps managed to repulse the numerous Soviet attacks and to limit, generally, the enemy breaches during the offensive of September 28-29 performed by armoured and mechanized infantry. They also managed to reestablish cooperation with the 14th German Armoured Division. Referring to the bravery and firmness of the Romanian troops, the Army Corps General Corneliu Dragalina, the commander of the VI Army Corps, pointed out:

"It is a great honour that these units, which have been ceaselessly fighting for so long with so little effectives and combat capacity, have had such a high morale. This proves the strength of the Romanians and contradicts any ulterior assertions".
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Posted: April 04, 2004 07:49 pm
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My grandfather told me how in that end of Summer 1942, sometimes the Russian forces withdrawn faster than the Romanian advance! There were days when they did not see Russian troops at all, and the only sign of the existence of an operational Red Army was abandoned equipment: heavy piece of artillery, defective trucks and AFV's, etc.

For the advancing Germans and Romanians, the picture looked better than in the Summer and Autumn of 1941. My grandfather told me how in those hot days of Summer 1942 they thought: "That's it... Russia is over."

However, the picture looked different to OKW, compared with the field troops. Hitler was happy about the fast advance, but he was concerned for not capturing a huge numbers of prisoners, as in 1941. As known today, Stalin eventually approved his generals to carry the war the way they wanted: give space for time; save the troops, not the land.
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