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Click here to view this topic in its original format Forum > Western Front (1944-1945) > Sangeorgiu hill, Soviet imposed operations plan.

Posted by: luciang April 25, 2012 06:09 pm
As a new registered member on this site I am not sure how appropriate this topic may be, but I suppose that the Admins may close it if it's not suited.
While searching for informations related to a previous topic I found an article from a nowadays military press publication available here:
The article - with an English translated title "Two tears of pain" - describes two unfortunate instances occured after 23 Aug 1944 which led to very high losses sustained by certain Romanian army divisions due to Soviet imposed operations plans.
One instance is related to the 4th Infantry division trapped in the Szolnok bridgehead - a subject mentioned to some extent in a previous topic. The other instance focuses on the fate of the 9th Infantry division during the battle for Sangeorgiu hill, which the article states that it accounted for 4794 lost people out of a grand total of 11000 Romanian losses in that battle.
As mentioned, the article states that this high loss rate was due to the Soviet "recommended" operations plan which asked for a frontal mass attack to be performed against the heavy fortified positions of the German 8th SS Cavalry division.
In another topic from this forum - "Article on gen. Avramescu's death" - there are informations concordant with this statement ; I quote - in English translation - from an article referenced in that topic:
" the clashes on the slopes of Sangeorgiu hill, during September-October 1944, when the obstinacy of general Trofimenko, commander of the 53rd Soviet Army, to conquer the powerful german position by frontal attack of Romanian divisions led to high losses sustained by these units. By practically assessing the situation, general Gheorghe Avramescu stood ferm, both against the abuses of Soviet high command, but also against the mistakes of Romanian troops."
There is a certain twist in the above quoted text - "mistakes of Romanian troops" are also mentioned, besides the "abuses of Soviet high command".

So, I propose for debate here these points: What degree of freedom had the Romanian high command versus the Soviet high command to devise their own operations plan ? Was there any chance, in the circumstances of September 1944, for the battle of Sangeorgiu hill to be conceived and/or fought from the very beginning without turning so bloody for the Romanian troops ?

Some additional references regarding the fightings of Romanian troops on the Sangeorgiu hill: there is on this site the "Sergeant Manole Zamfir - War memories" article ; the sergeant served during WW2 in the 36th Regiment of the 9th Infantry division.
Also I found another memories article on this link:
which describes the battle from the perspective of another Romanian unit, the 3rd Dorobanti Regiment.
Finally, in a potentially less reliable source, the communist era "Radio Donau nu mai transmite" book - from which I quoted in a previous topic - there are detailed descriptions of two episodes from the Sangeorgiu hill battle. The book's author was at the time captain in the 34th Regiment of the 9th Infantry division personally leading in battle the 6th Infantry company.
One episode describes the assault on a group of two machine gun nests positioned on the slope of height 495, which was performed by close quarters combat, including hand grenades and bayonets - a group of soldiers (one third of a platoon) physically approached the German trench by using terrain cover and covered by fire from the rest of the company which engaged also other supporting ennemy positions; the end result - the two machine gun nests are destroyed but most of the Romanian soldiers attacking the position are also killed or heavily wounded.
Another episode describes the assault on a German bunker positioned between heights 495 and 463 of the Sangeorgiu hill. The 6th company was accompanied by a group of pioneers whose mission was to place by hand trotyl charges near the bunker in order to blow it up; they were to approach it on a side path while the 6th company provided cover by performing a direct assault on the bunker. During this assault the 6th company loses half of its men, due to strong ennemy mortar and automatic weapons fire, but also due to dive bombing performed by German aircraft (here there is a puzzling assertion - that the planes threw also "bags filled with grenades" besides regular bombs on the attacking infantry !?). The pioneers group is also heavily decimated during the approach ; two of them manage to reach the bunker, the group commander sergeant Nicolae Manoiu and one pioneer ; they manage to mine it and blow it up but eventually both of them die, the group commander during the explosion and the last pioneer later, due to his heavy wounds.

Best Regards,

Posted by: 21 inf April 26, 2012 11:02 am
Bags full of hangrenades were not something so rare to be used by aircraft crews in WW2.

Posted by: Florin April 27, 2012 03:41 am
Frontal mass attacks were something done by the Soviets themselves, with their own troops. While not totally indifferent to high losses, the Red Army did not value too much the life of the individual soldier.
I agree with you that when they had the occasion, they would rather push the Romanians to do something they would not like to do. This also happened in Czechoslovakia, something you didn't mentioned.
Regarding your first question, I think the Romanian high command had more freedom when the ally was Germany. The Germans were aware that they need us, while the Soviets had the feeling that they win the war anyway, with or without us on their side.

Regarding your mentioning of planes throwing bags with grenades, I would say, why not? They improvised... I read in a topic on something even more ohmy.gif . They discussed a "legend" about German planes not having enough bombs for the battle of Stalingrad, and occasionally they dropped scrap iron objects (including a bath tub laugh.gif), just to throw something.

Posted by: 21 inf April 27, 2012 06:09 pm
In this interview I took to a romanian ww2 veteran, he mentioned how russian aircraft crew throw handgrenades from plane.

Posted by: mabadesc April 27, 2012 06:19 pm
Lucian, the Romanian high command did not have much freedom at all although its commanders did protest vehemently and obtained minor concessions. With respect to the Mures series of battles, 4th Army was assigned the role of a breakthrough unit (unitate de ruptura). The war correspondence and reports by Generals Mihail, Avramescu, and (later on) Radescu shows that they protested to Malinovski and Trofimenko on multiple occasions, asking repeatedly and firmly to correct the following:
1. Allowing Romanian Air Support by Corpul 1 Aerian to be provided to 4th Army. Romanian Air support was inexistent, having been diverted to aid Soviet forces at Turda.
2. Lack of artillery, communication, and especially anti-tank/armored equipment/support which had been promised by Soviet forces for offensive actions but which were not delivered or provided.
3. Lack of sufficient artillery due to Romanian equipment confiscated in Moldova after August 24, as well as due to the devastation of Romanian supply/equipment depots throughout the country.
3. The takeover of rail transport by Soviet transport authorities, which resulted in quite inadequate supplies for the 4th Army. Supplies were either diverted to Soviet units or most available trains were utilized to transport supplies for Soviet units.
4. Protesting against the internment of Romanian troops in Moldova after August 24 and asking for their liberation so that they may join or complete the ranks of the remaining Romanian units fighting in Transylvania. Additionally, the point was also made to Malinovsky that the internment of these troops negatively affected the morale of the remaining fighting units.
5. Fourth Army also asked General Headquarters to have assigned to it a number of available, experienced staff officers and commanding officers which were available for combat duty but were stationed inside the country in non-combat roles.
6. Both General Headquarters as well as 4th Army Command openly questioned (and internally criticized) the Soviet order to attack frontally in situations such as portions of the Mures River where the Northern Bank was on higher ground and could be efficiently defended. They also pointed out that Soviet efforts at Turda and Reghin, to the left and right of 4th Army point of effort, made little progress.
7. 4th Army also reported and expressed its discontent to General Headquarters that Soviet battle orders often involved moving entire divisions belonging to 4th Army along the front line within 24 hours of their scheduled combat actions. At times this included major shifting of these units’ direction of effort just prior to engagement.
I am sure similar discussions were held at 1st Army.

Posted by: luciang April 28, 2012 05:03 pm
Thank you all for your insightful and knowledgeable comments !
Incidentally I also noticed yesterday this month's issue of Ion Cristoiu's Historia magazine where a feature article about general Avramescu touches also some of these points.

I find interesting how things are adding up, starting for instance from the "Radio Donau..." book, which selectively presents only certain aspects - in line with what was permitted in communist times. For instance, although not explicitly written, the general impression that I got from reading the descriptions of Romanian infantry attacks on WW2 western front from the tactical perspective of a captain is that most of the time they were outgunned and had to resort to all sorts of difficult maneouvres in order to try to achieve their objectives without suffering too many losses. When two self-propelled guns accompanied them later on - while crossing the Somes river, this was considered exceptionally helpful. Rubber boats were seldom available when forcing river crossings and, in one case soldiers improvised rafts from barn doors tied together with their leg ties (romanian - "moletiere").
And when Romanian air support was eventually available this was reason for much celebration - here it may be worth mentioning the method of "front marking" (romanian - "jalonarea frontului") they were using: a few minutes before the plains arrived in the area every soldier from the first line took out whatever piece of white cloth they had, including handkerchiefs, thus instantly marking the front line beyond which bombs could be freely dropped.

Regarding the dropping of "bags filled with grenades" point - I was puzzled because I thought that this would be difficult to achieve from a WW2 plane. Such a plane generally had a closed cockpit and I suppose that the bag had to be thrown by hand from the cockpit, because I don't think it could be hanged on an external "hard-point", could it ? So, I guess that the maneuvre was rather awkward.

Posted by: 21 inf April 28, 2012 07:51 pm
The bags with grenades were not hanged externally, but throw by hand by the airmen. Maybe the aircraft types were not so modern, allowing this maneouver.

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