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Click here to view this topic in its original format Forum > Romania in World War II 1941-1945 > 73. August 23, 1944 – A Major Event of the War

Posted by: dragos February 18, 2007 04:43 pm
by dr. Florin Constantiniu

The German journalist Siegfried Kogelfranz wrote that the August 23, 1944 act remains unique in the history; never any other event has had as result, in such a short time, such big losses of effectives and of vaste territories, as the German Reich suffered, because of the Romanian action carried out in August 23, 1944.

The evaluation is correct and it is confirmed also in the analysis made by the military experts and by the political analysts, by the historians, too.

For Germany, the Romanian land had a double importance, both strategic and economical. According to the opinion of the experts in the military geography domain, "Focsani Gate" represented one of the strongest positions of strategic defence on the continent. Having a width of 160 km, it was provided with 1,600 concrete casemates and with a great number of anti-tank ditches, mine fields etc. The Soviet High Command did not think that this fortified line could be overpassed, when it planned the offensive operation "Iassy-Kishinev", as results from the Directive signed on August 2, 1944 by I. V. Stalin. In accordance with its stipulations, the II and the III Ukrainean Fronts should have occupied the alignment Bacau - Leova - Tarutino - Moldovka and launched new attacks on the direction Focsani - Galati - Ismail.

The Red Army met the "surprise" to find "Focsani Gate" open, thanks to the determined action of the Romanian military forces, which have made impossible the execution of the provision included in Hitler's Directive, given in the night of August 23/24 and on August 26, assigning the Army Group "South Ukraine" to keep under control this alignment. The main concern was that the opening of "Focsani Gate" would give the Red Army the opportunity to advance towards Balkan Peninsula.

Through his Directive of August 26, Hitler, resigned himself to the loss of the alignment Focsani - Namoloasa - Braila, ordered the Army Group "South Ukraine" to retreat its forces on the Carpathians and to take the passes of this mountain chain. In the German High Command's view, the defence of this natural obstacle, of a very large width, was to be assured for a very long time, by using a small number of troops. The success represented by the Wehrmacht's resistance during the fights at Monte Cassino (February-May 1944), when the German troops inflicted such great casualties to the Allies, so that ones told it was a "Verdun of the Second World War", enforced the German High Command's conviction in the possibility of a prolonged defence.

The borders covering operation and the maintaining of the bridgeheads in the southern Transylvania and also in Banat by the Romanian Army made useless Hitler's Directive. The offensives launched in September by the German-Hungarian forces have had as main objective the taking under control of the Carpathians peaks, but they also failed.

As the Romanian Army kept the passes of the Meridional Carpathian Mountains, Red Army's way to the Hungarian Plain and towards Vienna was wide opened.

Compared with other strategic operations of the Anti-Hitlerite Coalition, an analysis shows that, through the opening of "Focsani Gate" and through its actions that have assured the Romanian passes, the Romanian Army shorted the war with at least six months.

An important contribution to the hastening of Reich's collapse was the fact that Wehrmacht was deprived of the Romanian oil resources. Their special value has been repeatedly underlined by high military German officials and by Hitler himself. On the beginning of August 1944, the Fuhrer was saying to Gestenberg that they won't gain the victory in the war without having at hand the Romanian oil. In a "motorwar" as the World War II was to be considered by the experts — the oil plays an essential role.

For the purpose to understand the ampleness of the consequences which the August 23 act has had we must take into account Hitler's vision at the mentioned period. It has resulted from the nearly incredible achievements of the Reich's war industry, as the following dates make obvious:

Period: July 1944
Totally: 322
Ammunition: 319
Weapons: 384
Tanks: 589
Aircrafts: 367

Globally, July 1944 represented the highest point in the field of the armament production, and if we analyse the different sorts of armament, we shall see that the highest level was registered in the aircraft industry (for the ammunition, the highest level remains Septem-ber 1944, and for weapons and tanks, December 1944).

Being encouraged as result of the achievements made in the aircraft domain (one must not forget that the Germans built the first jet-planes before the Allies did), Hitler wanted to create over the Reich and the territories conquered by the Wehrmacht an air shield, which had to permitt the production of some new weapons by the war industry; several of these weapons were by far superior to those produced by the Allies. So, having at his disposal these new weapons — Hitler thought — the Wehrmacht would have regained the strategic initiative. But, for the purpose that this vision would become a reality, two conditions were absolutely necessary: the Reich needed time, to produce, in large quantities, the new perfectioned weapons, and enemy must have been kept at distance from the vital centres of the industry — in other words, another vital need of the Nazi Reich was space. The Romanian action had as a target these two basic elements — according with Hitler's strategic view. It took away over 180-200 days from Germany's time capital, this meaning a decisive strike, which brought to ruin the mentioned "scenarios". At the same time, by eliminating the two big strategic obstacles which the Red Army had to overpass through ("Focsani Gate" and the Carpathian Mountains chain), the Romanian change brought the Red Army closer to the area Hungary - Czechoslovakia - Austria, where an important part of the German war industry had been shifted, with the view to protect it against British-American air bombings. In the same zone big undergrounded industrial units had been built, as the one of Modling (near Vienna), where the water of the big subterranean lake Hinterbriihlsee has been evacuated, for the purpose to be replaced by a jet-plane factory.

Taking into account the above mentioned facts, one can easily understand why great historians, as B. H. Liddell Hart, John Erickson, Henri Bernard, Roger Gheysens and others, military experts, as Field-Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt or General Hans Kisiel, technocrats as Albert Speer, Reich's War Industry minister, considered all that August 23, 1944 was one of the biggest events in the World War II - or, as John Erickson wrote: "23 August 1944 proved to be one of the decisive days of the entire war".

Posted by: Petre April 20, 2017 06:16 pm

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