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Click here to view this topic in its original format Forum > Romania in World War II 1941-1945 > 15. The Battle for Cernauti

Posted by: dragos January 07, 2004 07:08 pm
by Vasile Pricop

A significant part in the 3rd Romanian Army's offensive to liberate Northem Bukovina was played by the fights carried out with a view to drive away the occupants from the town of Cernauti. By having a central position in the army's offensive line and being situated on an important natural obstacle - the upper cours of the Prut river - the town of Cernauti was in the focus of both the 3rd Army force's offensive operations and the enemy's defensive operations. A prolonged resistance in the town would have made the entire operation for liberating Northern Bukovina more diffcult and would have given the enemy an extra oportunity to withdraw across the Dniester.

The task to drive the occupants away from Cernauti was assigned to the Mountain Corps, an operational strategical big unit, the main element of the 3rd Romanian Army's operational line in which the main part was played by the 1st and 4th joint (mixed) Mountain Brigades, the former under General Mihail Lascar's command, the latter under General Gheorghe Manoliu's.

The conditions under which the two Mountain Brigades engaged in battles differed. While the 1st joint Mountain Brigade launched the offensive in direct contact with the enemy, to the direction: Vicovul de Sus, Storojinet, west Cernauti, the 4th joint Mountain Brigade launched the offensive after a 180 km. march, striking to the direction: Vicovul de Sus, Patrauti, Cuciurul Mare, east Cernauti.

The two Mountain Brigades assumed the offensive in the morning of July 3, 1941. By the end of the first day, the lst joint Mountain Brigade had advanced vigorously, reaching the Siret river at Storojinet; the 4th joint Mountain Brigade succeeded in reaching the Little Siret river, between Patrauti and Dobrova.

For July 4, the Mountain Corps' commander, General Gheorghe Avramescu, had ordered the two mountain brigades to advance boldly, "without being concerned with the continuity of the front", in order to reach the Prut river as quickly as possible, and to crush enemy's resistance. His order was based on the fact that the enemy was retreating northward, still putting up resistance with strong rear guards on the communications and towns, causing significant damages and fires. Consequently, the two mountain brigades forces pushed their advance in the ordered directions. The Mountain Corps' operations diary mentions: "The strong, energetic operation of July 4, carried out with unmatching vigour by all units, as they had to cross on foot through the deep waters of the Siret forced the two enemy's army corps from Bukovina to hasten their retrat north of the Prut river".

The Mountain Corps commander, perceiving the enemy's manoeuvre and seeking to conquer the town of Cernauti on the move, ordered the 1st joint Mountain Brigade to bypass west of the town and the 4th joint Mountain Brigade east of Cernauti. Therefor, for increasing the advance speed, the 1st joint Mountain Brigade commander created two detachments; the first, commanded by Colonel Leonard Mociulschi – deputy commander of the 1st joint Mountain Brigade, was composed of the 1st, 2nd, 23rd Mountain Battalions, the lst Howitzer Mountain Batallion, 1 mountain guns battery, 1 A.T. company and the 1st (Mounted) Mountain Squadron, and advanced to the direction: Storojinet, Mihalcea, Cernauti; the second, commanded by Colonel Focseneanu, was composed of the 3rd, 24th Mountain Battalions and 2nd Mountain Guns Battalion, and advanced in the direction: Storojinet, Bila (west of Cernauti), Sadagura. The remaining forces of the brigade were heading the direction: Storojinet, Revna, then Toporauti (north-east Cernauti). The 4th joint Mountain Brigade was advancing in the direction: Mihuceni, Ostrita (east of Cernauti), Rovancea.

In the afternoon of July 4, in the night of July 4/5 and on July 5, the two brigades' troops fought fierce fights and carried out combined manoeuvres (Colonel Mociulschi's Detachment behind the enemy's resistance points in front of the 4th joint Mountain Brigade etc) and succeeded, on July 5, to reach the Prut river, west and east of Cernauti. The 3rd and 23rd Mountain Battalions were directly oriented towards the town. The Mountain Corps' operations diary writes: "The town of Cernauti was passed both in west and east, by the 1st and 4th Brigades and the effect was the liberation of the Bukovina's capital, where the enemy was forced to retreat in a hurry without having enough time to cause great damages but leaving behind a large amount of equipment and combat material".

Carried out on July 4 and 5, 1941, the Battle for Cernauti was a success due to the contribution made by the 1st and 4th joint (mixed) Mountain Brigade, which illustrate the ability of the two big units leadership in conducting complex combat operations, of quickly responding to the concrete situation on the battlefield. It also showed the mountain troops' capability of carrying out fast and vigorous operations which made the enemy incapable of opposing resistance. The mountain troops' energy and boldness in their fights to free Bukovina's capital speak about their belief in the just cause of their fight for freeing their ancestors' land and their Bukovina brethren from under the yoke impossed by a perfidious and bloody invader.

Posted by: mabadesc January 07, 2004 07:46 pm
Thanks for posting these interesting articles, Dragos. I've been looking for a while for accounts of the liberation of Bukovina, but I haven't been able to find much. Most books and historical accounts about the offensive of June '41 focus on Bessarabia (Moldova) and Odessa, omitting the battles for Bukovina.

I'm curious, where and how did you find these articles? Also, do you have any figures about casualties and prisoners taken in the region of Cernauti, Hotin, etc...?

Also, the article briefly mentions the Mountain Corps's operation diary. I wonder where this journal is kept now (in which archive), and whether it is accessible for readers/researchers.

Posted by: dragos January 07, 2004 08:10 pm
They are from the book "Romania in World War II 1941-1945",
ISOSIM, Bucharest 1997.

user posted image

Also, do you have any figures about casualties and prisoners taken in the region of Cernauti, Hotin, etc...?

I'll have to search...

Posted by: dragos January 07, 2004 08:38 pm
An impressive description of the battle carried by 2nd Mountain Brigade, on 3 July 1941 at Dealul Bourului, as seen by captain Petru Ceausu. I hope someone translate it in English.

De mult astepta romanul momentul intrarii in drepturile sale. La tragerea rachetei am pornit ca la orice aplicatie tactica ca niste nebuni. Am coborat de pe Pietris, in fuga, scapand de focul inamic, am intrat intr-o sa si am inceput urcusul pe Dealul Bourului. Panta era lina la stanga si accidentata la dreapta. Cu cat ne apropiam mai mult, cu atat focul devenea mai puternic. Oriunde incercam sa patrundem, eram intampinati cu focuri de pusti, arme automate si aruncatoare. Am reluat atunci inaintarea pe tot frontul companiei. Ajunsi la 300 metri, incepe iadul adevarat. Panta lunecanda spre sud-est este acoperita cu iarba, dar destul de intinsa pentru a fi rasa cu foc de inamic. Din adaposturi bine ascunse, inamicul tragea bine. Armele noastre automate erau imediat reperate si incadrate cu foc. O grupa de mitraliere data ca insotire si-a schimbat de trei ori pe tragatorii de la mitraliere, raniti pe rand. Una din mitraliere era acoperita cu sange peste tot. Si valul nostru inainta mereu. In toti ardea dorinta de a merge mereu inainte. Din cei 12 tragatori la pusca mitraliera ai companiei au fost raniti cinci si morti doi. Rusii trageau bine si alegeau obiectivul important. Asaltul s-a dat pe grupe, incepand cu grupa plutonului 3 (dreapta). La grupa din dreapta mea cade ranit fruntasul Ilea Iordan: "Sunt ranit, luati pusca mitraliera, luati munitia". Caporalul Munteanu, comandantul grupei, se repede intr-un salt la pusca mitraliera, o ia si devine tragator. "Ce fac cu pusca domunle capitan?" ma intreaba el. "Da la mine", zic eu. Si asaltul continua. Caporalul Munteanu, cu grupa imputinata, improasca din mers moartea in inamic. Tot frontul companiei urca ondulat, mereu inainte. Linia I-a de rezistenta inamica era cucerita; am simtit asta dupa tacerea in foc a inamicului. Nu trecusera decat 40 minute de cand porniseram la atac si eram stapani pe linia lor de rezistenta. Si atacul continua catre luminisul din padure, ducand peste granita blestemata speranta romaneasca.

Posted by: dragos January 07, 2004 09:42 pm
The operation of the 3rd Army in Northern Bukovina was one of the most successful in the overall plan, being accomplished in short time and with minimum of human and material losses. The 3rd Army lost 871 men (dead, wounded and missing). 500 Russian military were captured, 20 tanks destroyed, 50-60 trucks captured. The number of Russian dead and wounded is unknow, as they were evacuated during retreat.

Posted by: dragos March 02, 2004 07:25 pm
Translation of the text above:

"For too much time the Romanian has waited to reestablish his rights. At the signal rocket we jumped like it was a tactical maneuver, like we were madmen. We came down towards Pietris, running, evading the enemy fire, we entered a depression and started to climb the Bull’s Hill. The slope was gentle to the left, and steep to the right. The more we approached, the deadlier was the enemy fire. Everywhere we tried to break, we were met with fire of rifles, automatic weapons and mortars. Then we pushed on the entire company. As we approached at 300 meters, the hell was unleashed. The slope to south-east was covered with high grass, but opened enough to be razed with fire. From their hidden holes, the enemy was firing remarkably. Our automatic weapons were imediatelly spotted and fired at. A machine-gun section replaced three times its gunners, all of them wounded, one by one. One of the machine-guns was entirely covered in blood. And our wave was advancing still. Each one of us was determined to go on. Of the 12 gunners at the company’s automatic rifle, five were wounded and two were killed right away. The Russians were firing remarkable, picking the most important target. The assault was commited by sections, starting with the squad of 3rd platoon (in the right). At the squad in my right fell wounded private first class Ilea Iordan: “I’m wounded, take the automatic rifle, take the ammunition”. Corporal Munteanu, suqad commander, jumped and grabbed the automatic rifle, he became gunner. “What am I to do with the rifle, captain sir?” he asked. “Give it to me” I answered. And the assault went on. The entire company was climbing winded, but it kept going. The first defense line of the Soviets was reduced, I learned this by the silence of their weapons. Not even 40 minutes have passed since we started the attack, and we claimed their first defense line. And the attack kept going on through the forest clearing, carrying the Romanian hope beyond the cursed border."

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