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> 75. The Romanian Strategic Conception, the German Riposte
Posted: June 03, 2011 08:49 pm
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by Colonel dr. Alesandru Dutu

The analysis of the documents and of the measures taken by the High Romanian Command shows the fact that it had its own strategic conception concerning the military actions which were to be carried on the Romanian front. The main elements consisted in: the liquidation of the German’s military presence within the Romanian national territory (the part of which was, at that time, under the jurisdiction of the Romanian State); the regrouping of the 3th and of the 4th Romanian Armies on the Moldavian front; an action destined to cover the borders and the temporary demarcation line in the Transylvanian plateau; also, the liberation of the north-western part of Romania, occupied by Hungary in 1940.

Initially, King Mihai I assured Manfred Von Killinger, at about 21.00 p.m., that Romania will not declare war to Germany, in spite of the fact that the diplomatical relations were interrupted. Also, the new Foreign Affairs minister, Grigore Niculescu-Buzesti, confirmed to G. Stelzer, German Legation counsellor, that “the German troops will not meet any difficulties in their way, provided they won’t undertake any hostile action”. On his turn, General Gheorge Mihail, through the Order No.678 563, disposed that all Romanian units were bound to cease immediately “the subordination of the Romanian Command and of the Romanian units to German's command”s orders” and, in the same time “any act of aggression against Soviet troops”. Concomitantly, the 3rd and the 4th Romanian Armies from the Moldavian front were given the order to withdraw “with all the armament at their disposal” on the alignment Focsani-Brăila and in Dobrudja, south of the maritime Danube river, “opposing any resistance against any attempts to disarm them”. So, in the first moments after Antonescu's arresting, the Romanian authorities tried to avoid a direct confrontation with the German troops which withdrew out of the national territory under Romanian control, or, at least, to gain time, with the view to reinforce their troops and to consolidate the combat dispositions.

Taking over a part of the “scenario” planned by Marshal Antonescu, General Gheorghe Mihail purposed to create “a truce's alignment” on the line between Focsani-Nămoloasa-Brăila and the maritime Danube river, wherefrom, in the Romanian Plain, “neither German, nor Soviet troops should have entered”; by this alignment, an action destined to annihilate the German forces within the internal zone of the country was to be carried out, thus keeping an area wherein no foreign troops should enter. In accordance with this view, on August 23, 1944, the chief of the Romanian General Headquarters asked to General Dumitru Dămãceanu, just before he was leaving Bucharest for Moscow, where he was going to conclude truce's terms, that he would demand to the Allies not to intervene with Soviet troops in the zone under the Romanian control (east of the line between Predeal-Ploieşti-Bucharest-Giurgiu); in case such an action was to be carried out, this would have happened “if only it is absolutely necessary and only after the Romanian High Command will have demanded for it”. In General Gheorghe Mihail”s view, the Soviet troops were to be directed westwards, through the Oriental Carpathians Mountains” passes. On the same occasion, the General asked for that the Romanian representative should obtain Soviets' agreement for taking the Romanian forces' actions only in agreement with Romanian Supreme Command's orders, in their own sectors, within the Romanian national territory.

In spite of the fact these precautions and demands were not to be fulfilled in the end, the way they were conceived shows that the Romanian High Command did not capitulate on August 23, 1944, in face of the Soviets; on the contrary, it had proved a lot of courage and initiative, trying to direct the massive group of one million Soviet warriors towards the Oriental Carpathians Mountains' passes, for the purpose of avoiding their overflowing upon the southern parts of the country, which were to be liberated very soon by the Romanian troops. If this task was fulfilled, the new Romanian Govemment freedom of action should be assured, both from the military and from the political point of view.

The fact that the Soviet Government and the Soviet troops ignored the proposals made by the Romanian Government and Romanian General Staff Headquarters representatives concerning the presumptive truce's alignment, also the fact that they continued to treat the Romanian forces as they were still their enemies and the overpassing of the maritime Danube river's line in several places has determined the Romanian High Command to try to find new solutions; thus, on August 25, its officials ordered that Romanian troops should begin the second phase of the strategic withdrawal towards Ploieşti-Bucharest region “as fast as they can, with the view to avoid to be depassed by the Russian troops' advance”.

Also, on August 25, as a result of the aggressive attitude of the German troops and of the violent bombings executed by the Germans to Bucharest, General Gheorghe Mihail declared, at 9.50 a. m., that “the German Army has become our single enemy”, asking the Romanian troops to undertake “immediately, a general action against all German units, commands, logistical formations, for the purpose of disarming them or pushing them over the Romanian border, in the shortest time”.

This way, the spreading of the fights against the German troops had became a fait accompli; this fact was determined, first of all, by the reaction of those who tried to apply Hitler's order, given in the night of August 23/24 “to annihilate the putsch, to arrest the and his camarille and to instaure a new Govermnent, led by a pro-German General, in case that Marshal Antonescu is not disposable”. For this purpose the German forces available in the Romanian territory, and even those disposed nearby this area, proved to be insufficient. But the German plan failed, firstly, because of the determination of the Romanian Army, of its command corps not to cede in face of the German's riposte.

Both Führer's Directives, from August 26 (when he asked the German forces to resist on the line “Focşani Gate" and to take under their control Dobruja, the Romanian Plain and the Brasov region, including the Predeal Pass) and August 29, 1944 (which contained the order to keep the line of the Romanian Carpathians) proved to be chimeric. Also, the political measures assured by Hitler (the attempts to instaure a German Govemment, led by a General and the propagandistic ones (radio broadcasts, war communiqués etc which tried to misinforme the public opinion and to conceal the defeats registered in Romania) were irrealistic.

In spite of the measures it had carried, the German High Command did not succeed to repeat in Romania the partial success registered in Italy in 1943, When it managed to re-establish the control upon a part of the Peninsula.
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Posted: September 12, 2011 02:49 pm
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Although history does not operate with "What if...?" I am inclined to believe that in case the German mechanized and armored units retreated from the moldavian front to Poland in july-august 1944 would have remained in place, the faith of both the Iasi-Chisinau Operation and 23 august coup could be very different (in favour of the germans)! I only express a thought...
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Posted: September 13, 2011 04:50 pm
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QUOTE (ANDREAS @ September 12, 2011 09:49 am) case the German mechanized and armored units retreated from the moldavian front to Poland in july-august 1944 would have remained in place, the faith of both the Iasi-Chisinau Operation and 23 august coup could be very different (in favour of the germans)! I only express a thought...

If those units you mentioned wouldn't be sent to Poland, by mid August they would be sent to the Western Front. The Romanian "coup" happened at the right moment. Any earlier attempt could end in disaster.

Continuing the "What if...?" game, things were so bad for the German armies at the beginning of September, that if Hungary would succeed to betray in that moment, that could end the war, as Russians would reach Austria, like a wedge between north of Italy and south of Bavaria. I have to be first saying I am not sure about this, because sometimes Stalin had the strange habit to extend the agony of his enemy, and postpone the mortal blow. Returning to the German mechanized and armored units diverted to Poland, it was logical for Germans to assume that the Red Army will throw everything available to reach Berlin. That simply was not the case.
  Posted: September 14, 2011 08:14 am
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QUOTE (Florin @ September 13, 2011 07:50 pm)
sometimes Stalin had the strange habit to extend the agony of his enemy, and postpone the mortal blow.

Really? When did that happen? The "Polish delay" was awarded to the Germans in order to better crash the Polish resistance movement, so as the post-war communizing would be eased!
The advance towards Berlin was made as fast as it could be made, because Stalin had the interst to occupy as much as possible of Germany, keeping in mind the German troops left behind in the Kurland salient.
The speculations we make here are quite pointless, because, apart from the fact Hitler would've lost the war anyway (and the Eastern Europe was to be Sovietized...), almost every battle and event from summer 1944 onwards could have been different!

This post has been edited by MMM on September 14, 2011 08:14 am
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